DISCLAIMER # 1: This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. I have borrowed them for the purpose of creating this scenario and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.
DISCLAIMER # 2: All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them! J ) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.
DISCLAIMER # 3: This story does depict a relationship between two women. If that bothers you, then you then you must be stuck so far back in the closet that your mail goes to Narnia. If you are under 18, three cheers to you for being interested in the love lives of older women. (Call me!), if this is illegal where you live, it must be hard to read from behind that veil…
WHO TO BLAME: Thanks must go out to Ky, for only IMPLYING that she told me so As well as to Anne for beta'ing this mess. (Is that a word?) This is a response to the following challenge made on the Voyager Conspiracy Boards that came about because of a screen cap from The 37's:- J/7 (doh!), first time (if possible) - a heavy dose of Chakotay bashing - a crisis on board - the hand cap scene - you can decide whose hand it is - as the pivotal scene that solves the crisis (in whatever way you see fit)
This one is dedicated to Beep (Aka Berlinpup), because it was her challenge. I WILL STUMP YOU EVENTUALLY! The time frame for this is…pretty much anywhere after fifth season. No imaginary phalanges were harmed during the writing of this story, although the phrase "finger licking good" suddenly meant something entirely different! To all that makes us unique! DAx =/\=
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Seven Seconds
By Patricia L. Givens


"Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius."

-Fulton J. Sheen


Captain Kathryn Janeway climbed slowly to her feet, only to find herself thrown backwards into her command chair as Voyager was once again rocked violently to the side.

"Report!" She barked.

"Shields have failed, Captain." Tuvok gripped his console tightly. "Inertial dampeners are offline. That last blast caused structural damage to our port nacelle. We are unable to jump to warp."

"Captain!" Harry called out. "The Tirali are hailing."

"On screen!" She growled.

The view screen was immediately filled with the image of a stern looking alien. They were a reptilian race, with skin that luminesced in different colors depending on their mood. This particular alien was glowing a faint orange; something she had recently learned was a very bad sign. "Kol, this is an outrage! Cease your attack on my vessel at once."

Kol inclined his head to one side. "I truly regret the need for my actions, Captain. But you leave me little choice. You, however, have an alternative. There is no need for the destruction of you or your crew Release the prisoner and you will be allowed to go on your way in peace."

She shook her head slowly. "You know I can't do that."

The alien sighed. "Then I regret to inform you that your ship will be destroyed. You have thirty seconds to acquiesce."

The screen went dark and Janeway's shoulders slumped. They were no match for the much larger Tirali vessel.

Turning around, her eyes locked momentarily with Seven of Nine's. The warmth and emotion she found there made her heart catch painfully before she looked away.

"What a mess." She mumbled under her breath. "How did we get ourselves into this?"

Her gaze fell on the empty chair that belonged to her First Officer.

Oh, right. She closed her eyes in frustration. That's how…


36 Hours Earlier….

"So what information do we have about this race?" Janeway sat back in her chair and sipped her coffee, looking expectantly at her senior staff which was gathered around the conference table.

"They are known as the Tirali." Seven stood and walked over to the computer panel on the wall, pulling up an image of a medium sized red planet before returning to her seat. "We entered their space two days ago. They are not a species that the Borg are familiar with."

"And for good reason." Neelix chimed in. "They're pretty insular, Captain, but not Xenophobic. While they don't actively look to intermingle with other races, they've always been welcoming to peaceful envoys traveling through their space."

Janeway tore here eyes away from her Astrometrics officer and looked at him thoughtfully. "I take it you've had some experience with them, Neelix?"

The colorful little man smiled. "My people enjoyed open trade with the Tirali for many years. There were a few misunderstandings early on, mostly because they mistook some of our friendly gestures as…" He waved his hand. "…something else. But once they knew we meant no harm, they were very accommodating."

"I see." She pursed her lips. "Well, it looks as though their space stretches across several upcoming sectors. I think it would be wise to declare our peaceful intentions upfront."

"I agree." Neelix nodded.

"Then let's hail them." She stood. "We can use all the friends we can get out here."

"Captain?" Chakotay looked up at her. "Weren't you scheduled for a few days of personal time?"

The Captain's lips quirked into a smile. "Yes, but it won't be the first time I've had to reschedule."

"Why should you?" He asked pleasantly. "All of the information we've been able to gather indicates that this is a peaceful race. I'm sure the senior staff and I can handle this."

"Of course you can." She smiled. "But as Captain, it is my responsibility to be present for the initial contact."

"Understood, but once first contact is achieved there's no reason for you to reschedule your holiday. I can take Tuvok and Seven as an ambassadorial delegation to visit the planet and secure permission to traverse their territory. By the time your vacation is over, we should be halfway through their space."

Janeway bit back her initial dismissal of his suggestion. While her sense of duty dictated that postponing her Holodeck trip to Tuscany was the correct course of action, she also knew that doing so might translate as a lack of faith in her First Officer to the crew, especially after the strain that had been apparent between them for the past few months.

"All right." She agreed slowly, holding up one finger. "We'll make first contact and, if that goes well, I'll turn over responsibility for trade and travel negotiations to you to handle as you see fit."

He smiled broadly. "Thank you."

"No, thank you." She grinned. "I've been looking forward to a massage on a little Italian veranda for quite some time. "

There was a sharp intake of breath from across the table and Janeway glanced at Seven curiously only to see the blonde staring intently down at the table top. "Is there anything else?" When no one responded she nodded and straightened her uniform jacket. "All right, let's go say hello."

"Oh my!" Captain Janeway purred happily as soft female hands slid firmly across her naked shoulders. The oil that coated her overheated skin mixed delightfully with the light film of perspiration that was being drawn from her pores by the brilliant Tuscan sunshine. She wiggled in appreciation as the hard ridges of the metal bands encasing one of her masseuse's hands scraped over a particularly sensitive spot on her neck, making her smile at her own ingenuity.

It might be against her principles to use the specific likeness of a crewmember in the Holodeck, but she had decided that her sense of honor would survive the incorporation of a tiny bit of fantasy.

And, oh how that little piece of creative programming was paying off now!

In fact, if she kept her eyes closed, she could imagine that that hand was attached to someone else altogether; someone taller, with eyes that rivaled the beauty of the Italian sky itself.

"Mmmmm…" She groaned as the hands slid down, moving in strong circular motions over the small of her back. "Lower…" She whispered.


Janeway sat up quickly, grabbing the towel on the chair next to her to cover her nakedness as she glared at the person standing behind her. "B'Elanna??" Her face flushed bright red when she realized that her half Klingon Chief Engineer was staring at the holographic masseuse. "Computer end program!" She snapped, only to have her teeth close painfully across her tongue as the table beneath her disappeared and she landed heavily on the floor. "You had better have a damn good reason for barging in here!"

"I'm sorry, Captain! But I didn't have any choice! I would have hailed you on the comm but our communications are being jammed!"

Janeway took in B'Elanna's panicked appearance and quickly jumped to her feet. "What's wrong?"

"Our delegation has been taken into custody by the Tirali constabulary!" The Klingon explained quickly as she handed the Captain her uniform. "The Tirali leaders are demanding to speak with you immediately. They won't speak about the charges with anyone but you."

"Oh for the love of…" She grabbed the clothing and waved for B'Elanna to turn around as she changed. Pulling on her jacket, she fastened it as she headed for the door. "What the hell happened?"

"I don't know." B'Elanna hurried to match her stride. "But whatever it is, apparently it's major."

Chakotay peered at the force field that blocked the doorway in front of him. Reaching out a hand, he poked the shimmering wall with his finger, only to pull it back quickly as pain shot up to his elbow. "Damn it!"

"That is the third time you have attempted physical contact with the energy field, Commander." Seven sighed. "Are you aware that the definition of mental instability is the repetition of action with the expectation of differing results?"

He stared at her blankly. "What?"

She rolled her eyes. "Are you insane, Commander?"

Chakotay glowered at her. "Well, excuse me for trying to see if I can figure a way out of this mess."

"I believe the best course of action would have been avoidance of the situation in the first place. Which would have been easily accomplished had you not felt it necessary to engage in intimate conversation with the Chief Magistrate's wife."

"How was I supposed to know she was his wife?"

"I could point out that keeping your libido in check would have sufficed."

Chakotay turned to Tuvok. "Are you going to help me out here?"

The Vulcan raised one eyebrow. "While Seven of Nine's tone does seem overly adversarial, I must agree that her argument is logical. When acting as Ambassador's of the Federation, Starfleet protocol specifically dictates that personal interaction is to be kept to a minimum to avoid this very situation."

"Come on, Tuvok!" Chakotay complained. "It's not like I made a pass at her."

Seven roll her eyes. "No, you merely shared your juvenile 'angry warrior' scenario with her, followed by an explanation of your belief in 'sprit animals'."

"How do you know that?" His face clouded with anger. "You were eavesdropping?"

"I assure you, Commander, the use of my Borg enhanced auditory senses was not needed. Your 'braying' could be heard from across the room." She cocked her head to one side. "I have personally heard you use this approach on six different female members of Voyager's crew. Tell me, Commander, has it ever been successful?"

Chakotay flushed. "I was just trying to share some human history with our hosts. I don't see how they could have taken it as inappropriate in any way."

Tuvok frowned. "While I admit that the motives behind your behavior are questionable, I also fail to see how your words could have been considered so offensive as to warrant our incarceration."

"Unless the infliction of boredom is a crime." Seven interjected.

Chakotay's chest puffed out, causing Seven to think of an earth lizard she had seen while perusing Voyager's databases. "I'll have you know that women find my Indian heritage very interesting." He smiled darkly. "I happen to know a certain Captain who was fascinated by my stories. In fact, if we had had more time together, I'm pretty sure our relationship would be very different today."

Seven's eyes flashed fire. "You lie."

"Seven!" Tuvok's voice dropped dangerously low. "Regardless of the current situation I must remind you that the Commander is still your superior officer."

The Borg rolled her eyes. "As I am not officially a member of Voyager's crew, I am not required to acknowledge the Commander as an officer at all." She raised her chin. "I also feel compelled to state that he is in no way my superior."

Chakotay laughed. "You just hate it that the Captain actually enjoyed time she spent with someone other than you."

"If you are referring to the situation when it was required that the two of you remain behind on New Earth, then I must point out that the Captain never ceased in her attempts to free herself from that planet."

"To get herself back to Voyager and the crew she felt responsible for, sure. But you weren't there." He said smugly. "She appreciated me."

"So the conclusion of this irrelevant anecdote is that, when faced with the reality of having you as the only possible candidate for personal interaction, Captain Janeway chose to spend her time with bugs and a monkey?" Seven raised one eyebrow sarcastically. "I can see how you might consider that a victory, Commander."

"I didn't know that sarcasm was a Borg trait."

"It is not." She eyed him disdainfully. "However, having been exposed to your presence on a continual basis, I have found it a natural by-product of my environment."

Chakotay's face bunched in anger for a moment then went slack as understanding slammed home. "You have a thing for her!"

"A 'thing'?" Seven snorted. "Is it your limited intelligence that causes your deduction to be so vague or simply your inability to form coherent sentences?"

He rubbed his forehead. "Don't try to change the subject." He poked her in the chest with a finger. "You're in love with her!"

Seven crossed her arms and turned away.

"See? You can't deny it!" He laughed. "That's truly pathetic. You're just some stray she picked up along the way. You can't possibly think she would even be remotely interested in you!"

"My feelings for Captain Janeway are irrelevant. If she had the inclination to become involved with you I can only surmise that the situation would have already occurred. As it has not, logic dictates that you are not an individual with whom she would ever have a personal relationship."

"Is that a challenge?" He straightened his broad frame.

"If it were, I sincerely doubt that you could rise to it."

"Ha! We'll just see who gets there first!!  And I'm warning you now; I'm not the kind of guy that accepts sloppy seconds."

Seven stepped closer and stared defiantly into his eyes. "And I assure you, Commander, were I to become involved with the Captain, there would be no 'seconds' for you to accept!"

"Enough." Tuvok stepped between them. "This dialogue serves no useful purpose."

Chakotay opened his mouth to argue, only to slam it shut when someone cleared their throat behind him. The three of them turned their attention to the door to see the Master of the Guard watching them expectantly.

"We have contacted your ship and requested council with your Captain. You are to be held here until further notice."

Tuvok walked over to the door and inclined his head in a show of respect. "May I request the opportunity to speak with my Captain personally?"

The alien studied him for a moment and then nodded. "We will allow it, but only you." He nodded to the guard behind him and the force field disappeared. As Tuvok exited the cell, the reptilian security officer bowed slightly in Seven's direction. "I apologize for the necessity of keeping a Grand Lady in such lowly accommodations. Please forgive me."

Seven's forehead furrowed in confusion but she nodded in recognition of his statement.

"Rest assured that we will attempt to conclude this unfortunate episode as quickly as possible." He bowed again and the force field shimmered back into place.

"Hey!" Chakotay called out. "What about me?"

The alien turned cold dark eyes on him. "Do not waggle your putrid tongue at me, dog; lest you lose it even faster."

The First Officer swallowed and remained silent.

When they were gone, Seven eyed him sarcastically. "Apparently you can 'teach an old dog new tricks' after all."

Captain Janeway stepped onto the bridge and went immediately to her command chair. "Report."

"I have the Chief Magistrate standing by, Captain."


"Captain Janeway." The alien bowed slightly. "Our first meeting was most gratifying. I can only state that I find the situation surrounding our second, troubling."

"As do I, Magistrate Kol." Janeway sighed. "Can you please explain to me why you are holding my officers against their will?"

"I regret the necessity of such actions. But Commander Chakotay has been found guilty of serious violations of our Morality Statutes."

"Chakotay?" She said in disbelief. "There has to be some kind of a misunderstanding."

"I am afraid not, Captain. There were numerous witnesses to his atrocious behavior. As such, he will be held in confinement until his punishment can be carried out as dictated by our laws."

"And what punishment might that be?"

"His tongue is to be removed."

The Captain's jaw dropped. "That's barbaric!"

"Perhaps. However the extent of his transgression against the Grand Lady was most severe. He must be punished in accordance with our traditions."

She took a deep breath. "Magistrate, I concede that, as we are visitors in your space, your laws do govern us. However I maintain that my First Officer could not have been aware that his actions would be so offensive. I respectfully request the opportunity to investigate these charges myself."

"As I knew you would." Kol nodded. "We will forestall the implementation of his sentence for twelve hours. During that time, you are welcome to visit our planet's surface and question the witnesses present when the crime occurred."

"And my other two officers?" She asked. "Surely your laws do not require that they be punished as well."

"Of course not. Commander Tuvok and the Lady Seven will be returned to you. They, themselves may be able to offer some insight into what has transpired. Commander Tuvok is waiting to speak with you now. I will have my Master of the Guard open a channel from the Imprisonment Center. When you are ready, he will also facilitate the transfer of your crewmembers back to you."

"And Chakotay?"

"You have my word that no harm will come to him during the twelve hours you have been allotted to investigate his crimes."

"Thank you, Magistrate."

The alien nodded. "May our next meeting be under better circumstances."

There was a pause as the screen went dark, and then Tuvok appeared.

Captain Janeway threw her hands up in the air. "What happened?"

"I apologize, Captain." The Vulcan shifted uncomfortably. "As of now, I am still unsure. What I do know is that Commander Chakotay engaged in a personal conversation with the Lady Veron, Magistrate Kol's wife. During the course of the conversation, the Lady became extremely offended, as did many others who were close enough to overhear. Even after speaking with the Commander, I have not been able to discern what portion of his discourse could have been considered so completely insulting. I feel that information can only be obtained from the Lady herself."

"Then that's where I'll start." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "They have agreed to release you and Seven. I'll make the arrangements for you to be transported back to the ship, but I think it would be better at this point if I speak to the Lady on my own."

"I would have to agree, Captain. The Tirali appear to hold the females of their species in very high regard. From what I have seen in their interactions with Seven, this respect transfers to the females of other races as well. You would be the best one to handle this particular situation."

"Very well." She gave him a pointed look. "When I return, I will expect a full update on our available options."

Tuvok nodded. "Understood."

"Ask the guard to transfer this link back to the Magistrate."

The screen went blank for a moment and then Kol reappeared. "There are procedures we must follow to facilitate the transfer of your people back to you. They should be available for transport within two hours."

"Thank you Magistrate." She squared her shoulders. "In the meantime I must request an audience with the Lady Veron."

"Of course." He inclined his head. "I will transmit the coordinates for you to beam down immediately. The Lady is understandably upset by this whole situation, so I must insist that if you intend to bring a security detail, it consist only of females."

"I'm sure that can be arranged"

As the transport beam dissipated around them, Captain Janeway and B'Elanna turned back to back, studying their surroundings. They were alone in a large, beautifully appointed room. From the couches and low tables surrounding them, Janeway concluded that it was a private residence.

A few moments later, a door at the end of the hall opened and two regal looking reptilian females entered.

"Captain Janeway." The taller of the two spoke, smiling as she gestured towards the door. "The Lady Veron is ready to receive you and your companion."

There was nothing menacing about their behavior and Janeway saw no evidence of weapons. "Thank you." She smiled, walking through the door with B'Elanna following quickly. The door closed behind them and they found themselves face to face with an incredibly beautiful woman.

"Lady Veron?" Janeway's eyebrows rose in surprise.

She was slightly over five feet tall with thick, deep red hair and wide green eyes. Her skin was a shimmering shade of peach and she bore not even the slightest resemblance to her husband's species.

"You're not…" B'Elanna began, only to fall silent when the Captain shot her a warning glare.

"Tirali?" The Lady smiled, showing perfectly even pearly white teeth from between her full red lips. "No. I am Omarian."

"Forgive us." The Captain smiled. "We meant no disrespect."

Veron gestured for them to sit down. "There is no disrespect in honest curiosity, Captain. In truth, it is rare for my husband's people to marry outside of their species. Our meeting was an anomaly. I had been captured by a race that invaded our home world and was being sold in a slave market not far from here. Kol saved me from that fate. What at first was only gratitude… soon became the sweetest kind of love; one born of mutual appreciation and respect." She studied the Captain thoughtfully, a small smile on her face. "Not such an uncommon occurrence."

Janeway blinked. "I'm… I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"I know. But, you have questions to ask."

"Yes, I do." She began gently. "I understand that something my officer said disturbed you greatly."

"Yes." She picked up a glass and drank from it slowly. "At first Commander Chakotay's attempts at conversation were mildly amusing. He told me stories of his youth that I assumed were pure fiction. He seemed harmless. But then he began to recite this self-aggrandizing tale of a berserker who came in contact with a warrior queen who managed to capture him but still somehow needed his aid to keep her small, weak tribe from being conquered." She wrinkled her nose in disgust. "It was a ridiculous fantasy and I found it rather insulting. At that point I tried to excuse myself, but he took me by the arm and began to babble about ghost animals and how they spoke to him. And then… And then he said it…"

Janeway leaned in closer. "Said what exactly?"

The Lady swallowed. "I am sorry, but it is not something that should ever be repeated."

"I'm sorry, too." She pleaded. "But I really need to know."

"He called me…" She shuddered. "He called me… a diseased whore."

Janeway's eyebrows shot up until they were almost lost in her hairline. "I beg your pardon?"

The Lady turned away as her face flushed a light blue. "Please do not ask me to repeat it."

"I won't." She moved around to the other side of the couch so that she could look into the Lady's eyes. "Please know that I do not doubt your veracity, but I can only say that does not sound like something my officer would ever say, for any reason."

Veron shrugged. "You will have to seek his reasons from him. I know only the words he used although how he had knowledge of the slaver language is something none of us have been able to fathom."

Janeway blinked. "The slaver language? Are you saying that he spoke in a different dialect?"


The Captain took her hand gently. "I know this is a lot to ask, but could you please tell me exactly what he said, in that language?"

Veron sighed. "It is a vulgar term. I will not repeat it. But I will have one of my ladies in waiting write it down for you. Will that suffice?"

"Yes, it will. Thank you." She stood and bowed slightly. "And thank you for speaking with me."

The Lady looked up at her for a moment and then took her hand. "Regardless of what qualities you believe this man to have, please know that his respect for you, and in truth his respect for all females, is quite lacking."

"What do you mean?"

"There was an altercation between him and your Lady Seven while they were incarcerated together in a holding cell. It has been entered into the public record as supporting evidence in the case against him." She tapped the console next to the couch and a view screen rose from the table. "See for yourself."

As the conversation between her two officers played out before her, Janeway felt her cheeks redden. Part of her was embarrassed that members of her crew had been witnessed behaving in such a manner, part of her was disgusted with Chakotay… and part of her was astounded by Seven's reaction to his comments, her apparent anger that Chakotay would try to claim an intimate hold over her.

Then Seven said something that stopped her heart in her chest.

"My feelings for Captain Janeway are irrelevant."

The rest of the scene played out but her mind would not let go of that one sentence.

Seven has feelings for me?

She was silent for so long that B'Elanna finally coughed to get her attention.

Shaking her head to clear it, she looked down at the Lady Veron to find her smiling back at her. "As I said… Not such an uncommon occurrence. Be well, Captain. Safe journey."

Janeway nodded absently as the Lady left the room. A few moments later, one of the reptilian females entered and handed her a small piece of paper. She stared at it in confusion for a few moments and then groaned, raising her hand so that she could rub her temples.

B'Elanna leaned over and read the two words that were written there in neatly printed letters:

Aku chHa'Moyea

"Harry, hail the Magistrate." Captain Janeway called out as she exited the turbo-lift. She stopped briefly at the security station, raising one eyebrow at Tuvok as she nodded. "Good to have you back, Commander."

When she turned to step down to the command level, she caught sight of Seven standing at the aft science station. The Borg raised her head and the Captain felt the strength go out of her knees.

It was the same Seven, the same penetrating gaze, but it was as though the veil had been lifted from her own eyes and she could finally see the passion, the heat hidden behind the icy blue.

How could I have missed that?

The Borg looked at her curiously. "Captain?"

"Seven," It was neither the time nor the place for the things she needed to say, so she gave the blonde a warm, secretive smile instead. "Welcome back"

Seven nodded in confusion. "Thank you, Captain."

"I have the Magistrate, Captain." Harry cut in.


"Captain Janeway." Kol bowed. "I trust your investigations are going well?"

"I have concluded my investigations, Magistrate, and I must respectfully request the release of my officer on the grounds that he has been imprisoned for nothing more than a miscommunication."

The alien began to glow a faint yellow. "Explain."

"After speaking with the Lady Veron, I have discovered that this incident is the result of a language barrier."

"A language barrier?"

"Yes. What the Lady Veron interpreted as a slur against her was actually the Commander speaking in his native tongue, not the dialect of the slavers that operate just outside of your space. Chakotay did not say aku chHa'Moyea. What he actually said was A-koo-chee-moya, which is the language his ancestors used to call on their spirit guides."

"Spirit guides?" Kol looked less than convinced. "The 'ghost animals'?"

"Yes, exactly!" Janeway agreed quickly. "So you see this is all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. He wasn't trying to insult the Lady Veron; he was merely sharing a part of his culture with her."

"Is that typical Starfleet behavior during affairs of state, Captain?" Kol said pointedly.

Janeway blinked. "Well, no."

"Captain," The alien sighed deeply. "You and I both hold positions of power; power over people who depend upon us to make the choices necessary for their survival. Part of giving us that power, is their pledge that they will abide by the rules set in place by the councils that we keep. On my world, those who represent my house and our law know that they bear the responsibility for their words and actions. Is that not the case with your Federation?"

She straightened, bristling slightly. "It is."

"Then I think we both know that this situation would not have occurred had your Commander been mindful of his responsibilities and not entered into so personal a conversation. That he was unaware of the dual meaning of this word, does not excuse the fact that the offense suffered by the Grand Lady was directly caused by his use of it. The conversation should never have happened, so at the very base of it, the Commander is still at fault."

The Captain ground her teeth together as she tried to come up with another defense, but it was no use. He was right. Chakotay had behaved inappropriately.

"I promised you twelve hours, Captain. You have just under three remaining."

The screen went dark.

"Well that didn't go well." B'Elanna muttered.

"Tuvok." Janeway went to stand beside him. "What are our options now?"

The Vulcan pulled up the scans he had been occupied with since his return. "This is the imprisonment camp where the Commander is being held. There is a wide band dispersement field over the entire area, making it impossible for us to use conventional transporters to beam him back to the ship. However, I believe Ensign Kim has formulated an opinion on this subject."

The Captain turned to the communications console where Harry was busy inputting information. "Harry?"

"Well, the dispersement wave is set on a remodulating frequency. Normally this type of safeguard would be next to impossible to crack, but there is a small disturbance in the band field right near the location of Chakotay's cell. I am not sure what's causing it-"

"It is a commbadge."

Everyone on the bridge turned to look at Seven.

She returned the looks impassively. "The Tirali did not take our communication devices when they imprisoned us. For such a careful and regimented species, it would have been a glaring oversight, unless there was some kind of technology in place that would negate the usefulness of such devices. I logically assumed the latter. By removing the internal mechanism, reversing the polarity and then shorting out the transponder, I created a constantly open frequency." She flushed slightly at the intense look she was receiving from the Captain. "I thought that we might be able to use it to converse covertly with the Commander."

"Oh, I think we can do more than that." Harry grinned. "I've created an algorithm that, given enough time, should be able to predict the rotating modulation, granting us a five second window to boost the carrier signal on Seven's commbadge and force a transporter beam through."

"How much time?" Janeway asked.

The Ensign looked off into the distance, calculating everything in his head. "Two hours?"

"That's cutting it close." She sighed. "Are you certain there's nothing we can do to speed up the process?"

Harry shook his head. "Sorry, Captain."

"All right then let's get started. Tuvok, you have the bridge. I have something I need to take care of." She glanced at the Borg. "Seven? Can you come with me, please?"

The blonde nodded and fell into step beside her as the Captain entered the turbo-lift.

"Deck six." Janeway glanced at Seven out of the corner of her eye, trying to decipher the expression on the gorgeous woman's face. "You look like you have something to say."

"It is more an inquiry than a statement." Seven kept her eyes focused on the door in front of her. "Am I correct in the assumption that, having failed in securing the Commander's freedom through diplomatic channels, you intend to remove him from incarceration covertly?"


"And should that fail?"

"Then we will be forced to try a more direct approach."

Seven turned to look at her. "Why?"

Janeway blinked. "I'm sorry?"

The Borg sighed. "Captain, it is my understanding that Starfleet protocols dictate that Federation citizens are to be held to the same legal standards imposed upon the normal citizenry of any alien society we choose to visit. I am curious as to why you are unwilling to follow that protocol in the case of Commander Chakotay."

The Captain bit her lip, trying to hide the small smile that threatened to curve her lips. "Are you asking me if my decision is based on the fact that it's Chakotay down there in that prison cell?"

Seven straightened, returning her gaze to the turbo-lift doors. "Yes."

"You think that my judgment is clouded because of a personal relationship that I might share with the Commander?"

"Yes." The blonde said quietly.

"Well, you're wrong." Janeway replied gently. "My actions are based solely on the fact that the punishment seems excessive for the crime, especially considering that the entire situation is based on an honest misunderstanding. It is the circumstances I am reacting to, not the individual involved." The lift halted and they proceeded down the hallway to Holodeck one.

"Then I must inform you that when we visited the Tirali planet, we were taken on a tour of the capital city. That tour included the shipyards. They may be a peaceful people, Captain, but they are in possession of an impressive fleet of space vessels, many of which are quite capable of disabling Voyager, if not destroying her completely."

The Captain sighed. "I am aware of that, Seven." She punched in her access code and led the Borg inside the Holodeck. "I also saw their fleet when I visited the Lady Veron."

"And you still believe this to be the best course of action?"

"At this point, " The older woman nodded. "I believe it to be our only viable course of action."

Seven's face fell somewhat. "I see."

Janeway reached out and touched her arm gently. "No, I don't believe you do. Computer, begin program."

The metallic grid surrounding them disappeared and Seven blinked repeatedly as bright sunshine poured down around her. When her eyes adjusted, she turned in a small half-circle, taking in the rich Italian marble beneath her feet, the elegant patio furniture around them, and a long wrought iron railing to her left. Stepping closer to it, she peered over the edge of the balcony to see a crystal blue ocean with white tipped waves crashing gently against the shoreline below them.

"Captain?" One eyebrow rose in confusion. "I assumed that you brought me here to engage in a simulation of the upcoming rescue attempt"

The Captain pursed her lips. "No. There is no simulation to run at this point. Either Harry's plan will work or it won't. What we do then, will depend on the Tirali."

"Then where are we?"

"Tuscany." Janeway watched in fascination as the warm breeze caught several strands of Seven's hair, pulling them free from the austere bun to fly gently about her face. "San Vincenzo, more specifically." She unbuttoned her jacket and pulled it off, tossing it over a nearby chair. The gray tank top she wore beneath it left her arms bare to the shoulder and she closed her eyes in contentment as they warm rays of the sun beat down upon them.

Seven linked her hands behind her and raised her chin slightly, trying to ignore the strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. "Why are we here?"

The Captain took her by the elbow and led her over to a long padded bench next to the rail. "Sit with me?" She smiled at the momentary panic that glowed in those deep blue eyes. "Please?"

Nodding, Seven sank down onto the cushion, her hands trembling slightly when Janeway sat down next to her, so close that their thighs were touching.

"Seven, " She began. "I want you to know that there has never been anything between Chakotay and myself, other than friendship. Was there ever the possibility of something more?" She planted her hands behind her and leaned back, turning her face up into the sun. "Maybe once upon a time." She smiled. "But not now…"

Seven looked down at her. "Why then and not now?"

Janeway swallowed. "Because then, there was no you."


"Yes… you." She took Seven's hand gently. "I need you to understand, Seven. As Captain of this ship, I am responsible for every single person on board. Every crewmember is like family to me. But it has always been a family that I could never allow myself to get too close to, for the sake of my own objectivity and sanity. When the opportunity to share more than a professional relationship with Chakotay arose, all I had to do was remind myself of those obligations and the feelings… disappeared." She traced the mesh that covered the back of Seven's hand with her finger. "And then you came along. And you pushed me, and challenged me, and infuriated me to the point where sometimes I just wanted to grab you and shake you. But there were other times…" She linked their fingers together. "Times when I had to admit, if only to myself, that if I did put my hands on you, I wouldn't have been able to stop myself."

Seven's heart began to pound heavily in her chest. "Stop yourself from doing what?"

"This." The Captain leaned forward slowly, giving the younger woman time to pull away. When she didn't, she brushed her lips carefully across Seven's cheek, leaving a small series of kisses in their wake until they closed sweetly over the full swell of Seven's mouth.

The younger woman gasped softly, her lips opening to feel the softness of Kathryn's tongue against her own. The kiss deepened and Seven moaned at the feel of fingers wrapping around the back of her neck before they slipped up into her hair, releasing it from the pins that held it in place. She was astounded when tiny sparks of electricity began at the roots and travel downward along her spinal column to settle in her abdomen. Not that settle was the correct word. It felt as though a stream of molten fire was being funneled through her limbs to meet with an almost unbearable intensity at the juncture between her legs. "Captain…" She whispered her voice breaking. "I… am not familiar with these sensations… What do you want from me?"

"Seven," Kathryn cupped her face gently. "Annika… I have spent the better part of the last decade living with the consequences of my actions and decisions. The fact that those decisions would be deemed proper by Starfleet has never once eased the feelings of guilt and remorse that I carry around with me every day. Guilt for stranding the crew here, for the families they left behind… for the people we've lost along the way. As Captain, I accept that guilt as part of putting on this uniform." She rubbed her thumb across Seven's lips. "But what I won't accept is the possibility of you becoming one of those regrets. I don't know what's going to happen in three hours. What I do know is that I want to spend those hours with you, if you'll have me."

Seven looked into the gray-blue eyes full of emotion and nodded, unable to speak. She whimpered as the older woman's lips traveled down her chin to press against her throat. Her arms moved of their own accord, wrapping around the much smaller frame and pulling her close.

"Say my name." Janeway begged as her hands slid possessively over the body pressed against her.

"Kathryn…" Seven whispered breathlessly, her fingers slipping under the fabric of the gray tank top.

The Captain's heart swelled at the sound of her name in that breathless voice, at the feel of the warm fingertips trailing across the skin of her back. Reaching down, she grabbed the edge of the shirt and pulled it over her head, her cheeks flushing with heat at the desire that filled the Borg's eyes. "Take off that damn cat suit."

She watched in rapt fascination as Seven released the catch at the back of her neck, allowing the mesh to fall away from her shoulders before peeling it off her body like a second skin. Standing, she stepped out of heels and dropped the biosuit to the floor where it puddled like liquid against the marble tiles.

Janeway's eyes began at the slender, shapely ankles and trailed slowly up lean calves to stare in appreciation at firm, well-muscled thighs. Her cheeks reddened as her gaze traveled over the neat triangle of short, blonde curls to follow the gentle swell of Seven's stomach, the slight bumps of her ribs made even more pronounced by the metal bands that crossed over them. As her eyes passed over full, firm breasts, she felt the palms of her hands begin to tingle; the desire to reach out and touch one dusky hued nipple becoming almost overwhelming.

Swallowing, she lifted her eyes to meet Seven's, only to see the same level of desire reflected back at her. She quickly removed the rest of her clothing and reached out, linking their fingers together and using them to pull the taller woman down on top of her as she lay back across the bench.

The feel of Kathryn's skin against hers was a revelation, a chaotic mix of heat and pleasure that suffused Seven's entire body, causing her to tremble uncontrollably. Closing her eyes, she buried her face in the Captain's neck, her lips and teeth leaving small red marks as the hands on the back of her head directed her lower, down across the small perfect chest, until her mouth hovered over one taut nipple. Slowly, she closed her lips on it, sucking lightly before allowing her tongue to caress it wetly.

Kathryn groaned, arching her back as she used the hair tangled around her fingers to pull the Borg's lips more firmly against her. When she felt Seven's teeth close around the firm nub of flesh, a bolt of pure ecstasy shot through her. Bringing up her knee, she fit it snugly between the younger woman's legs, a low cry erupting from her throat when she felt the evidence of Seven's desire coat the skin of her thigh.

Needing to touch her, Kathryn slipped her hand between their bodies, holding her breath as her fingertips slid into the moisture to find the swollen bundle of nerves at the top of Seven's cleft.

The Borg tore her mouth away and groaned loudly as Kathryn's fingers played over her sensitive flesh. When the older woman slipped two fingers inside of her, she pulled her head back, her eyes closing as her hips began to move in a slow, grinding rhythm. "Kath..ryn…oh…" She breathed the words heavily as her shoulders began to shake. "Oh…oh…yes…."

Kathryn's stared up at the woman above her, her eyes drinking in the passion playing out before her while the pleasure in her own body began to build. Sitting up, she began to ride the younger woman's thigh, matching her speed and tempo, until her nails clawed frantically at the smooth pale back and her eyes closed against the bright stars her rapidly approaching orgasm brought with it. Panting softly, she whispered, "Seven… kiss me... please!"

She did not have to ask twice.

The Borg's lips descended on hers with almost bruising force; her tongue plunging into her mouth to play wetly with Kathryn's as the scent of their passion filled the air around them.

Sweat glistened on their skin, causing firm muscles to slide together and then apart, only to come together again with even more force as Seven climaxed, her body going completely rigid as she screamed out Kathryn's name.

The older woman hung on for a moment more, until Seven's body began to shake uncontrollably, pushing her into her own release. Her heart beating wildly, she bit down on Seven's shoulder as the orgasm tore through her to keep from screaming out; but when the Borg reached between them and touched her gently, her head snapped back, cries of ecstasy falling from her lips as she rocked violently against the hand between her legs. "Oh…yes…yes…oh god yes… like that…yes!" The second wave crashed over her even stronger than the first, leaving her shaking like a leaf as she clung to body wrapped sweetly around her.

"Acceptable." Seven whispered.

Half laughing, half crying, Kathryn wrapped her arms around the blonde and pulled her backwards down onto the bench.

They lay together for a few moments, breathing heavily, as the breeze cooled their overheated bodies. Then Kathryn pulled her hand free and raised it to her mouth, her tongue flicking out to taste the sweetness that coated her fingers.

"Mmmm." Her eyes closed in appreciation as a low growl began in the back of her throat. Hooking her hands behind Seven's knees, she pulled her forward, not stopping until the younger woman was kneeling above her. She nuzzled the damp curls with her nose before burying her lips in the sweetness of Seven's folds, her tongue finding the delicate ridge of sensitive flesh and playing over it mercilessly as the Borg grasped the railing with her left hand, the fingers of her right closing around one of Kathryn's painfully erect nipples.

"Uh… oh…" The blonde's hips began to move back and forth, pressing her sensitive flesh more firmly against the Captain's questing mouth. As Kathryn sucked the bundle of nerves between her teeth, a second orgasm shot through Seven, the wave of euphoria causing her vision to dim and her head to spin.

But still Kathryn did not stop. Addicted to the essence that coated her lips and ran down her face, she grabbed onto the Borg's thighs, holding her in place when she would have slipped away.

She brought her to climax twice more, her blood racing from the sounds of Seven's whimpering, before she finally released her.

With the last of her strength, Seven stretched her body out beside Kathryn's. Unable to will her limbs to move any further, she lowered her head to the Captain's shoulder, her eyes becoming heavy as she listened to steady beat of her lover's heart.


Kathryn opened her eyes to find her view of the powder blue sky obstructed by a veil of platinum silk. With a contented smile, she reached up and brushed away the long strands of incredibly soft hair that were fanned out across her cheeks. Looking to her right, she gazed tenderly at the beautiful face lying against her shoulder.

Seven's eyes were closed, her vast intellect shuttered away behind thick, golden eyelashes as she breathed evenly, her body a soft weight tucked snuggly against the Captain side.

She was asleep.

Apparently the warm, balmy air of the Tuscan hillside had the affect of a sedative on them both after their exertions in warm summer sunshine.

A delicious shiver ran through Kathryn as she stretched, her body reminding her of exactly what those exertions had been as long unused muscles protested the movement.


Frowning, she realized what had woken her and reached to the chair across from them to grab her uniform jacket. She inhaled deeply, drawing in the Seven's scent, before thumbing her commbadge to activate it.

"Janeway here."

"Captain." Tuvok's voice seemed out of place on the brightly lit verandah. "We have completed our preparations and the ship is in position to proceed with the attempt at extraction."

Janeway sighed. "We're on our way."

"I must advise haste." He continued. "Two Tirali warships have broken orbit and are proceeding to our current location."

"Whatever happened to trust?" She mumbled under her breath. "Understood, Janeway out."

She allowed herself five additional seconds to memorize the beauty of the moment, tracing Seven's cheekbone with her finger, before she took her by the shoulder and shook her gently. "Seven? We have to get to the bridge."

The blonde's eyes opened slowly and she looked at the Captain in confusion for a moment. Then the confusion cleared away and Janeway felt her heart catch painfully in her chest at the adoration clearly present in the deep azure blue.

"Kathryn…" She began.

Janeway smiled and pressed a finger to her lips. "Not now." She whispered. "We'll talk about this afterwards." She sat up and handed the Borg her biosuit before she began to pull on her own clothing.

"And if there is no afterwards?"

The Captain turned to Seven and cupped her face gently with one palm. "I intend to do anything I have to, to make sure there will be." She kissed her gently. "Now get dressed."

As they stepped onto the bridge, Janeway frowned at the image if the Two Tirali vessels that were taking up the primary view screen. "Have they hailed?"

"No Captain." Harry responded. "They're just… sitting there."

Tuvok looked up from his console. "As the two vessels were launched when we shifted to our present position over the imprisonment center, I believe it is safe to assume that they are expecting some form of rescue attempt. Do you still wish to proceed Captain?"

"I don't see that we have any alternative." She glanced back at Communication's, where both Harry and Seven were standing. "Run the program."

Harry nodded and tapped the console. A few moments later, he looked up. "I have the modulation."

Janeway set her jaw in a firm line. "Do it."

"I've got him, Captain!" Harry's excitement was cut short as twin phaser blasts shot out from the Tirali vessels and impacted heavily with Voyager, causing the ship to rock violently.

Tuvok's voice cut through the noise. "Direct hit. Shields at forty five percent."

"Evasive maneuvers!" She barked, heading for her command chair as she slapped her commbadge. "Chakotay to the bridge immediately."

"Uh, Captain?" Kim called out. "They're jamming our transporters somehow. Commander Chakotay is still in the pattern buffer. I can't get him out!"

"Wonderful." Janeway growled, trying to hold as they were rolled to one side by something huge impacting with the hull. "What the hell was that?"

B'Elanna pulled herself back into her chair and scanned her console. "They've hit us with some kind of tractor pulse! It's made up of dozens of small beams." Her eyes widened. "Captain, those smaller beams have created pressure points all over the ship. Hull stress is off the charts!"

"Tuvok, divert all power to the shields. B'Elanna, see if you can find someway to break us free-"

Twin torpedoes shot out from the Tirali vessels. They impacted Voyager solidly, causing a massive shock wave throughout the ship, sending the Captain and most of the bridge crew flying.

Janeway climbed slowly to her feet, only to find herself thrown backwards into her command chair as Voyager was once again rocked violently to the side.

"Report!" She barked.

"Shields have failed, Captain." Tuvok gripped his console tightly. "Inertial dampeners are offline. That last blast caused structural damage to our port nacelle. We are unable to jump to warp."

"Captain!" Harry called out. "The Tirali are hailing."

"On screen!" She growled. The view screen was immediately filled with the image of the Magistrate, his skin glowed a faint orange. Not a good sign. "Kol, this is an outrage! Cease your attack on my vessel at once."

He inclined his head to one side. "I truly regret the need for my actions, Captain. But you leave me little choice. You, however, have an alternative There is no need for the destruction of you or your crew. Release the prisoner and you will be allowed to go on your way in peace."

She shook her head slowly. "You know I can't do that."

The alien sighed. "Then I regret to inform you that your ship will be destroyed. You have thirty seconds to acquiesce."

The screen went dark and Janeway's shoulders slumped. They were no match for the much larger Tirali vessel.

Turning around, her eyes locked momentarily with Seven of Nine's. The warmth and emotion she found there made her heart catch painfully before she looked away.

"What a mess." She mumbled under her breath. "How did we get ourselves into this?"

Her gaze fell on the empty chair that belonged to her First Officer.

Oh, right. She closed her eyes in frustration. That's how…

"The Tirali are charging particle cannons." Tuvok informed her. "Twenty seconds until they are at full capacity."

"Captain," B'Elanna voice was near panic. "Voyager won't survive a single blast from a particle canon, let alone two. The hull stress from the tractor pulse will rip us apart."

"Fifteen seconds to full capacity." The Vulcan's voice was almost calm amidst the sound of exploding conduits.

Janeway cast one heartfelt look at Seven and then settled into her command chair. "Red Alert!" She yelled, somewhat belatedly. "All hands brace for impact!" She took a deep breath.

"Ten seconds." Tuvok continued his countdown. "Nine… Eight… Seven…"

There was a huge shudder that felt as though the side of the hull had been torn away, and then everything went completely still.


Janeway looked at B'Elanna.

"They've released their tractor beams." The Klingon said in amazement. "Hull stress is returning to normal."

The Captain turned to tactical. "Tuvok?"

"The Tirali are powering down their particle cannons." After a second he nodded. "Their weapons are offline."

"Well," Tom smiled. "Looks like you won this game of chicken."

Before she could comment, Harry interrupted.

"Magistrate Kol is hailing, Captain."

"Onscreen." She blinked in confusion when his smiling reptilian face appeared.

"My good captain!" He bowed slightly. "I wish to extend to you our gratitude for your ending of this conflict. It was never our wish to inflict any harm upon you or your vessel. We thank you for being rational about this situation." He inclined his head in respect. "In return, I give you my pledge that your officer will not suffer unduly, and that he will be returned to you with all haste once his punishment is carried out. We will be in contact soon."

The screen went dark, leaving the Captain with her mouth hanging open. "What the hell happened? Harry?"

She swung around to glare at the ensign, only to see Ensign Kim hold his hands up in front of him and shake his head before looking pointedly to his right.

There, standing at the transporter controls with her hand still resting casually on the console, was Seven of Nine.

"Seven?" She gaped. "What did you do?"

The Borg straightened and linked her hands behind her back. "When the Tirali began to power their cannons I performed a thorough assessment of the situation incorporating my knowledge of Starfleet regulations and protocol. Once complete, my assessment provided me with the only logical course of action: To return the Commander to the Tirali."

Janeway stared at her, completely at a loss for words.

Tuvok finally intervened. "And what argument do you intend to enter into the permanent record to defend your behavior?"

Seven faced him, her chin held high. "The fact that the Tirali do not intend to terminate the Commander's life signs; their intentions are merely to remove his tongue, an idea which I must admit, seems somewhat beneficial." The Captain's face darkened and she hurried on. "As the Doctor has had a one hundred percent success rate with stimulating the re-growth of lost limbs in the past, it was reasonable to assume that at most the Commander would suffer only temporary pain and vocal impairment. Weighed against the likely destruction of Voyager and the loss of her crew, including the Commander, I made the only reasonable choice."

The Vulcan's lips twitched and for a moment, Seven was sure he was going to smile. "A most logical conclusion."

"Yes," The Borg nodded slightly. "In the words of a great Vulcan philosopher, 'The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few…'"

"…or the one." Tuvok finished for her. He turned to the Captain and raised one eyebrow. "She has a point."

Sick bay was quiet when Captain Janeway entered, pulling Seven of Nine along behind her. The Borg had a completely adorable look of petulance on her face, one that Kathryn had to keep herself from glancing at otherwise they would just end up kissing again, as they had in the turbo-lift.

Chakotay was laying on a bio-bed, his cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk with the bio-gel necessary to facilitate the re-growth of his tongue while the Doctor proceeded to inject him with several different hypo-sprays.

"Doctor," Janeway nodded at the EMH. "How is our patient today?"

"Grumpy." The Doctor grinned cheerfully. "But I don't mind. It's not everyday I get a patient who isn't able to complain."

The Captain hid her smile, choosing that moment to place her hand in the small of Seven's back and propel the woman forward. "Seven has something she would like to tell you, Chakotay."

"Commander, I wish to inform you that I find it regrettable that the Tirali felt the need to remove your tongue."

Janeway's lips quirked as she poked Seven in the ribs.

The Borg sighed heavily and rolled her eyes. "And I… hope that you are feeling better soon."

Realizing that was the best she was probably going to get, the Captain patted her on the shoulder.

"Doctor," Seven leaned her head to one side as she addressed the EMH. "May I speak to you for a moment, in private?"

Janeway raised one eyebrow questioningly but the Borg merely smiled at her before following the doctor to the other side of the room. She said something to him quietly, something that brought a mildly shocked expression to his face; and then the EMH activated a privacy screen, blocking them both from view.

Janeway leveled a stern gaze at Chakotay. "I hope this entire situation impresses upon you the importance of following Starfleet Diplomatic Regulations."

"Oh my god! Seven what have you done to yourself?" The Doctor's exclamation followed by the sounds of hushed whispering filled the room.

When nothing else followed, the Captain forced her attention back to her First Officer. "Had you followed those regulations and limited your conversation to appropriate topics, we would not have found ourselves in such a potentially disastrous predicament." She softened her expression somewhat. "And you would not have had to undergo the pain and humiliation you've had to suffer. I trust this kind of thing will not happen again in the future?"

Chakotay hung his head in shame and nodded.

Across the room, the privacy shield disappeared and Janeway watched as the Doctor walked over to his medical console to fill a hypo-spray. Her curiosity only grew when she noticed that Seven was straightening her biosuit.

The Doctor returned to Seven's side and tsk'ed softly as he pressed the medical instrument to her neck.

"Everything all right?" Janeway asked as the two of them rejoined her.

"Yes." The Doctor smiled sarcastically. "Apparently the Borg are unfamiliar with the concept of sunscreen." He frowned at her before he walked away, calling back over his shoulder, "May I suggest, Captain, that the next time you decide to take Seven on a 'clothing optional' tour of Tuscany, you do it in the moonlight."

Chakotay's eyebrows shot up into his hairline and his mouth dropped open as he grunted, "WHU?!?!?"

Janeway turned to look at him. "Was there something you wanted to say?"

Her First Officer took in the dark glare and pressed his lips together firmly.

The Captain smiled. "I didn't think so."

The End

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