DISCLAIMER: This Star Trek Voyager story utilizes characters that are copyright © by Paramount Pictures.  No infringement on their respective copyrights is intended by the author in any way, shape or form. This is an original story. The story and non-trek characters belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Feedback and constructive comments are always welcome. You can reach me at rjnolan@gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Unexpected Arrival
By RJ Nolan


Chapter Five

Del rolled over groggily opening her eyes wondering what had woken her from a sound sleep. The sound of her door chime provided the answer. She glanced at the readout in her headboard; it was just after midnight.

Rising, she headed for the door and pressed the com button next to it. "Who is it?"

"Seven of Nine," came the quiet reply.

Del immediately hit the control to open the door. Seven was standing on the other side; what worried Del the most was the fact that she actually 'looked' upset. Her emotional state was so jumbled Del instinctively reached out and wrapped an arm around Seven and pulled her into the cabin. Without thought she enveloped Seven in a warm hug.

"What's wrong?" she questioned softly.

All coherent thought had fled from Seven's mind when Del embraced her. She struggled to get her emotions under control.

Sensing Seven's surging emotions, Del stepped back away from her, giving her some space to compose herself.

Seven took a deep breath and seemed to notice Del's attire for the first time. Realizing how late it was she began to stutter. "I interrupted your sleep cycle, I am… I…it is late…I should go…I am sorry for disturbing you." Seven turned to flee.

"Whoa…" Del said, reaching out to wrap an arm around Seven's shoulder urging her over toward the couch. "You came here for a reason and something is obviously bothering you. You didn't disturb me. I'd be more disturbed if you were to leave and not tell me what's wrong."

Seven stared into Del's eyes seeing nothing but concern. She allowed herself to be led over to the couch.

"What happened?" Del asked, once they were situated side by side on the couch.

"I am unsure…I started my regeneration cycle at 2200. At 2355 I experienced a disturbance in my cycle…I can't explain it…" Seven looked at Del, her brow furrowing as she tried to explain. "It… it felt like someone was touching me, the sensation was unpleasant and…threatening somehow… my regeneration cycle was disrupted before it completed. When I became fully aware the doors to the cargo bay were just sliding shut."

Del didn't like the sound of this. "Has this ever happened before?"

"No, not like this. I have had the sense of someone being present before and the fleeting sensation of being touched but it wasn't disturbing enough to interrupt the regeneration cycle. I thought it was just an aberration of my alcove. This is the first time my regeneration terminated prematurely."

"You mentioned before that people come and go from the cargo bay while you regenerate. Are you aware of them?"

"No, not unless they approach my alcove directly. It's located to one side of the bay and supplies can be retrieved without coming near my alcove."

"So the other times you've felt someone near they would've had to have been very near your alcove?"

"Yes," Seven confirmed.

"Were you able to see anyone before the door closed?" Del asked hopefully.

"No." Seven sighed in disappointment.

Del thought about all Seven had told her for several moments. The fact that Seven had come to her showed not only how much it had upset her but also how much Seven had come to trust her. "I'll tell you what. How about you stay here tonight and in the morning I'll go back to the cargo bay with you and we'll see what if anything the security logs show."

Seven was surprised she hadn't thought of that herself. She'd been so disturbed when she came out of the regeneration cycle her first thought had been to come to Del. She didn't even stop to think why that was; she had just headed for her cabin. She was confused and uncomfortable by her uncharacteristic behavior. "I should have thought to check the logs myself. I apologize for disturbing you. I will check them now," Seven stated, though the thought of staying with Del was an appealing one.

"Wait…I don't want you to go back into the cargo bay alone tonight. If you won't stay with me let me change and I'll go with you," Del said, rising to head for the bedroom.

"I'll stay," Seven decided suddenly. She really didn't want to go back to the cargo bay. The experience had been disturbing in a way she couldn't quite explain.

Del smiled in relief. "Great, I'll make up the couch for you if that's okay?"

Seven looked at Del obviously puzzled.

"I don't have a spare bedroom. I'm going to make up a bed for you on the couch so you can sleep here."

"I don't require sleep," Seven reminded.

"Yeah, I know you don't but why not give it a try? This is a nice quiet place and the couch is pretty comfortable. I've already fallen asleep on it a few times myself. You said yourself it would help lessen your dependence on your alcove. That's something you want…right?" Del inquired. Realizing suddenly it was something she'd never actually asked Seven and had just assumed it was what she wanted.

Seven hesitated before answering, she was afraid of failing again but did not want to disappoint Del. "Yes, I wish to be as independent of my alcove as possible," she finally acknowledged.

"Come on…" Del said, taking Seven by the hand and leading her into the bedroom. "I'll get some bedding and replicate you something to sleep in."

Seven stood at the foot of Del's bed while Del accessed the replicator set in the wall on the far side of the bedroom.

Del was picking up the bedding off the platform when a thought occurred to her. "You can remove your biosuit…right?" she asked, without turning to look at Seven. She remembered Seven explaining why she always wore the tight fitting garment and it's function.

"Yes," Seven responded.

Del decided a pair of cotton pajamas like she was wearing would be perfect for Seven. She ordered Seven the same size she normally wore and keyed in what she wanted into the replicator. She turned with the pajamas in her hands and gasped. Seven was standing at the foot of her bed in the process of removing her biosuit; it was currently pooled at her waist. Del got a brief glimpse of beautiful full breasts and several implants before spinning back to face the replicator. She was stunned by the strength of her arousal just a brief glimpse of Seven's body had caused. Trying to catch her breath and gain control of her libido she missed the flash of searing pain her reaction caused.

"I'll just leave these and let you get changed," Del stuttered, heading for the door and trying to keep her back to Seven.

When Seven saw the look of shock on Del's face she immediately assumed the worst. She jerked up her biosuit and quickly refastened it intent on escaping back to her cargo bay.

Del got her emotions under control and was then bombarded by Seven's. The intensity of Seven's emotions almost brought her to her knees. Not yet realizing what had caused Seven to react so strongly Del turned to face her.

"What's the matter?" Del questioned, surprised and relieved to find Seven dressed but confused as to what had so upset her.

"I must return to my cargo bay," Seven stated, turning to leave, her face set in stone.

Del stepped in front of her stopping her retreat. Seven refused to meet her eyes and flinched when Del reached out to touch her.

"Tell me why you want to leave? I thought you were going to stay?" Del questioned, her brow furrowing in thought. Seven stood silently, refusing to lift her eyes from the floor. That's when it hit Del and she mentally cursed herself.

"Seven…look at me." Del reached out and placed her fingers under Seven's chin tipping it up and forcing eye contact. The pain in Seven's gaze was palpable. "Do you know why I turned around when you started to remove your biosuit?" she questioned, already having a good idea what Seven thought.

Seven nodded, seemingly unable to speak then she straightened her shoulders and her features became cold and her voice flat. "You were repulsed by my implants. I understand… I tried to tell you… I am not human."

Del was again blasted by the pain behind Seven's response and reached out taking Seven's mesh covered hand between her own, refusing to let go when Seven tried to pull away. "Seven, you are as human as anyone aboard this ship. Yes, you do still have implants and always will but it doesn't make you one iota less human than me or anyone else for that matter."

"I am Borg," Seven said sadly.

"No, you're NOT! You are a human who was assimilated by the Borg. You were a Borg, but once you were severed from the collective you became a human with Borg implants. You are not a Borg!" Del avowed fervently. "Now I want to hear you say it. I am a human."

Seven was amazed by Del's passionate response.

Del stared at her waiting.

"I…am…a…human…" Seven stuttered.

Del stepped forward and pulled Seven into her arms, placing a soft chaste kiss on her lips. "That's my girl," she praised.

Seven's heart seemed to do a strange flip in her chest at Del's words and the kiss.

"Now, as to why I turned around… I wasn't repulsed by your implants."

Seven quirked her eyebrow waiting with interest for Del's explanation.

Del took a deep breath; this part was going to be difficult but she had promised herself she would always be honest with Seven regardless of the consequences to herself. "I was aroused by the sight of your body and bare breasts. I turned away so that I wouldn't act inappropriately or stare at you," Del explained, a hot blush coloring her cheeks.

It was obvious from Seven's expression that this was something she'd never even considered. Del's heart tried to leap out of her chest when a full-fledged smile appeared on Seven's face and stayed there.

"You were aroused…by me?" Seven asked a little breathlessly, finding the idea exciting.

Del squirmed a bit then unable to stop herself she grinned. "Very definitely," she assured. Del picked up the discarded pajamas and handed them to Seven. "I'm going to go out and make up your bed. You get changed then come join me."

Seven took the pajamas in one hand and reached up with the other for the catch on her biosuit. "You could stay…" Seven offered shyly.

Del gulped. "No I can't…" she groaned, fleeing the room.

Seven smiled to herself. The thought that the sight of her body didn't repulse Del and in fact aroused her made her insides tingle. Just thinking about removing her suit and letting Del see her body made that tingle return with a vengeance. She tried to push aside the unfamiliar feeling and quickly changed into the pajamas.

Del's hands were trembling as she made up the couch for Seven. She played back in her mind the events in the bedroom. The memory of the brief glimpse she had gotten of Seven's bare breasts was causing considerable dampness in a decidedly southern region of her body. She still couldn't believe Seven suggested she stay while she changed. Maybe she's not as innocent as I think… But that didn't jive with the conversations they'd had and the type of questions Seven had asked.

Del finished the bed and turned at the sound of footsteps behind her. She turned and her mouth fell open in amazement. There stood Seven framed in her bedroom door. She was wearing simple short sleeve cotton pajamas; their blue color intensified the already vibrant color of Seven's eyes. She was barefoot and had taken her hair down allowing it to cascade over her shoulders. In a word she was stunning. Del swallowed the saliva that had pooled in her mouth and approached the beautiful blond.

"Is this acceptable?" Seven asked nervously, aware of Del's scrutiny.

Del cleared her throat twice before getting her voice to work. "You look great. Are you comfortable?"

Seven looked down and ran her hand over the material covering her stomach. "It's very different from my suit, but I like it," she said, smiling at Del.

Del smiled down at Seven who was now several inches shorter having removed her customary heels. She tore her eyes away from the distracting sight of Seven's breasts pressing against the soft cotton and urged her over to the couch. "Climb in," she instructed, flipping the covers back on the bed she had created on the couch.

Seven slipped under the covers and lay stiffly on her back with her arms at her sides. She looked expectantly up at Del.

Del chuckled softly and knelt down next to the couch. She reached up and gently cupped Seven's cheek. "Relax, this isn't your alcove. Your muscles need to be relaxed if you're going to fall asleep." She watched as Seven tried to do as instructed but her body remained tense. "Tell you what, I'd like to try something to help you relax. Just tell me if you don't like it and I'll stop…okay?"

Seven looked a bit hesitant but agreed.

"Close your eyes." Seven's eyes slowly slid shut. Del reached out with both hands and slipped her fingers into Seven's hair. She began to massage her scalp and temples. "Think of something pleasant and just let your body float." Del coached.

Seven couldn't believe how wonderful Del's fingers felt as they stroked through her hair and circled her temples. She didn't have to think hard because she had never experienced anything as pleasant as the sensations Del was currently providing.

Del smiled as the tension left Seven's body and grinned outright when a soft sigh escaped Seven's lips. Del continued her gentle massage until Seven's breath had taken on the deep even rhythm indicating sleep. Carefully removing her hands and standing she looked down at the peacefully sleeping woman for several long moments, the longing to hold her intense. With a heavy sigh she made her way to her own lonely bed.

Del sat up in bed wondering what had awakened her. She glanced at the readout set in her headboard. She had left Seven peacefully sleeping on the couch less than an hour ago. Her ears perked up when she heard it again, a faint whimper coming from the living area.

She quickly threw back the covers and headed for Seven. She found her curled up on her side on the couch. In the dim light coming in from the viewport she could see her eyes moving rapidly beneath her eyelids; she was dreaming. Seven whimpered in her sleep again. Del knelt next to the couch and reached out to gently shake Seven's shoulder awakening her.

Seven's eyes slowly blinked open and her body stiffened. She was disoriented from the unfamiliar sensation of awakening and the disturbing images she had been subjected to. Seven smiled in relief when she spotted Del.

"What happened?" Seven asked, confused. The last thing she remembered was Del massaging her temples, then nothing.

"You were having a bad dream."

Seven looked momentarily confused then the import of what Del said sunk in. "I was asleep?"

"Yeah, you sure were," Del said, smiling gently and unconsciously reaching out to stroke Seven's hair.

Seven leaned into the touch. "I don't remember falling asleep. The last thing I remember was you rubbing my temples…then I was in my alcove regenerating but awake somehow… I wasn't alone but I couldn't see the person's face and I couldn't move…then… I woke up?" she added, with a question in her voice.

"You fell asleep about an hour ago, then I went to sleep as well. I awoke just a few moments ago and heard you whimpering in your sleep. You were having a bad dream so I woke you up." Del explained the sequence of events.

"Do you have these…bad dreams? It seemed so real."

"Sometimes, but not too frequently. Don't you dream when you regenerate?"

"No, regenerating is not like sleep. A small portion of you remains conscious and aware. There is no period of total unawareness as there is with sleeping. I do not like these bad dreams," Seven stated firmly.

"No one does but you can also dream of pleasant things and events." Del tried to reassure. Her fatigue at being woken twice in one night was starting to show and she couldn't hold back a big yawn.

"I have interrupted your sleep cycle enough. I will return to my cargo bay."

"Oh Seven, don't do that. You did it, you fell asleep, don't give up now," Del urged, remaining kneeling by the side of the couch.

Seven hesitated. "I do not wish to experience a …bad dream… again."

Del could sense Seven's fear and knew it was unlikely she would fall asleep again without some assistance. "I could give you a massage, like I did before and help you fall asleep."

Seven's fear warred with wanting to please Del. She didn't fear falling asleep but what would happen once she was asleep. She didn't want to be left alone. Unwilling to meet Del's eyes Seven shook her head.

Del racked her brain trying to come up with some way to alleviate Seven's fears and get her to try sleeping again. She had made such a great stride by sleeping for the first time and Del didn't want her fear to keep her from trying again. I must be out of my mind! she thought when the solution came to her. It made sense if you took into consideration the fact that in Seven's case it was like a child awakening from their first nightmare. Del only hoped she wouldn't live to regret what she was about to suggest.

"Okay, how about you come into the bedroom and you can rest with me. I'll rub your back; that can be very relaxing. If you fall asleep great, if not you can just rest 'til morning. How's that sound?"

"We can sleep together?" Seven questioned innocently, immediately taken with the idea.

Del groaned internally as her mind filled with images of her idea of sleeping with Seven. She forced the arousing images away and concentrated on the reason she was doing this and her desire to help Seven adapt.

"Yes, we can sleep together in the same bed…if you'd be comfortable with that."

Seven tossing back the covers and quickly standing answered that question. Del stood up and led the way into her bedroom. She took several deep breaths trying to calm herself for the ordeal to come.

Del slipped back into the bed and looked up to see Seven waiting on the other side of the bed. Del reached out and flipped the covers back.

"Come on, climb in," she encouraged Seven.

Seven complied immediately her eyebrow going up as she registered the softness of the mattress and the difference in feeling than the much smaller couch. She turned her head and looked into Del's smiling face. The bed was a queen but since neither was a small woman there wasn't a lot of space between them.

"Comfortable?" Del questioned softly.


"Ready to try and sleep?"

Seven immediately tensed and Del felt her fear.

Del stroked Seven's cheek, "It'll be okay, I promise. Turn over onto your stomach," Del instructed, helping Seven get situated in a comfortable position on her stomach with her arms around her pillow. "Comfy?" Del asked again.

Seven squirmed a bit then nodded.

Del smiled at her. "Okay, I'm going to touch your back. If you don't like it tell me."

Del made contact with Seven's back and felt her jump. She held her hand in place and waited for her to get used to her touch. Once Del felt her relax she began to gently knead the tight muscles of Seven's shoulders. She chuckled when a big sigh slipped from between Seven's lips.

"Like that?"

Seven nodded enthusiastically. The sensations flooding her body were incredible. This was nothing like being touched through her thick biosuit. The thin material of the pajamas allowed her to feel every stroke of Del's hand. She gasped suddenly when Del's hand moved down and came into contact with the metal bands of her abdominal implant where they wrapped around her back.

Del immediately pulled back. "Did I hurt you?" she asked in concern, sensing Seven's fear and shock.

Seven shook her head adamantly, though her heart was pounding in her chest. When Del didn't resume her touch she looked over and found her watching her intently. Seven realized she was waiting for an explanation.

"I did not think you would…I mean I thought…" Seven broke off, trying to explain her feelings. "I did not think you would want to touch my implants," Seven said, still convinced that Del must find her implants repulsive.

Del sighed; they were back to this again. "Seven, your implants are part of you, touching them is touching you. They're not a separate part of you not connected to the rest of you. They are part of who you are. I admit I enjoy touching you. It's no different if I touch your skin or the implant…do you understand?"

Seven struggled, wanting to believe Del but held back by her own feeling of inadequacy. "You enjoy touching me?" She questioned in a hopeful tone of voice.

Del slid over closer to Seven until her body touched down the length of Seven's. "Yes, Seven, I enjoy touching you very much. I hope you enjoy my touch as well."

Seven swallowed past the lump in her throat amazed at the incredible gift the woman next to her was offering… to be accepted unconditionally for who she was, not who everyone wanted her to be.

"I do enjoy your touch," Seven whispered shyly.

Del put her hand back on Seven's back and stroked down its length through her shirt from the top of her shoulders and down over the implant to her waist. Seven was a little tense at first but quickly relaxed into the wonderful sensation. Del kept her hand moving in long languid strokes over Seven's back. Seven's eyes eventually slid closed.

"That's right…just relax, let your body float and your mind drift…" Del whispered close to her ear.

Del smiled realizing Seven had managed to fall asleep again. Resisting the urge to cuddle close to the other woman Del moved back over to her own side of the bed and sleep quickly claimed her.

Del woke to the sound of the computer announcing the time. She was disoriented by an unaccustomed weight pressing her into the bed. She looked down and her eyebrows shot up in shock at the sight of a blond head resting on her chest. The events of the night came flooding back but for the life of her she couldn't figure out how she had ended up in her current predicament.

When she'd fallen asleep Seven had been sleeping peacefully on her own side of the bed, but obviously she hadn't stayed there. Del was laying on her back with Seven sprawled half over her. Seven's head was resting in the center of her chest, her arm wrapped securely around Del's waist. She had one of her long legs resting over the top of Del's thighs effectively pinning her in place.

Del groaned at the flash of arousal the intimate position caused even as she savored the feel of Seven's breasts pressing against her. She knew she had to extricate herself and fast. She tried to slide out from under Seven only to have her tighten her grip and press closer. Del bit her lip as Seven's thigh pressed against her mound.

Del couldn't take much more of this. "Seven," she whispered urgently trying to wake the woman, "Seven," she called again, gently shaking Seven's shoulder.

Seven mumbled in her sleep pulling Del closer into the curve of her body and pressed her leg between Del's.

Del growled in arousal. She has no idea what she's doing, she's asleep… Del tried to tell her screaming libido fighting what her body was demanding. Knowing she was seconds away from tossing her good intentions out the window Del shook Seven sharply. "Come on, Seven…you have to wake up now!" she insisted, trying to push Seven away. But the woman weighed more than Del thought because she barely budged her.

Seven's eyes blinked open, the confusion in them apparent. She could not ever remember feeling so wonderful, all warm and comfortable. She unknowingly grumbled at being disturbed and tightened her grip on Del.

"Wake up Seven," Del pleaded again.

Becoming aware of her entwined position with Del, Seven's implant over her eyebrow arched and she pulled away. "I fell asleep?" Seven asked in confusion.

Now that Seven had put some distance between them Del managed to get a hold of her raging libido. "You sure did. It's 0600; we're due on duty in an hour," she informed a stunned Seven. "I'm going to grab a shower," a very cold one, she added to herself, "then I'll make us some breakfast," she said, before heading for the ensuite.

Seven sat up in the bed trying to piece together the jumbled sensations from when she'd awakened. The last thing she remembered was Del rubbing her back then being rudely jolted awake.

She consulted her internal chronometer and confirmed that they had indeed been asleep for almost five hours. It was a disconcerting feeling. She was always aware of the passage of time and to have a five-hour gap in her memory was disturbing. Those thoughts were overridden by the memory of the feel of her body tangled with Del's. She wondered how that had happened. Though she had to admit the feelings had been extremely pleasing and she'd happily sleep like that again with Del.

The computer announcing the time pulled her out of her thoughts. She quickly changed out of her pajamas and back into her biosuit. She left the pajamas on the end of Del's bed not knowing what the protocol was after sleeping with someone. Del stepped out of the ensuite dressed in her uniform just as Seven finished putting her hair back up in its customary bun.

Del smiled at Seven. "Ready for some breakfast?"

Seven readily accepted looking forward to experiencing a new food.

Del knew they didn't have a lot of time so replicated blueberry muffins and juice for her and Seven. She replicated herself a cup of coffee but already knew Seven didn't care for the drink. She couldn't help the broad smile on her face as she watched Seven enjoy her breakfast. All the fear and tension from the night before seemed to be gone. Suddenly remembering what had led to Seven being in her cabin in the first place she turned to her.

"I have to meet with Captain Janeway to discuss my permanent assignment this morning but afterwards I'll meet you in Astrometrics and we'll go to Cargo Bay two and go over the security logs together."

"That is acceptable," Seven mumbled around a bite of muffin.

Del chuckled at the familiar phrase said in such an unfamiliar way. She gathered up their dishes and they both headed for the door. Seven to the Astrometrics lab and Del to her meeting with the Captain.

Del stopped Seven before the doors to her quarters opened. "I'll see you later," she said warmly.

Her eyes widened in pleasant surprise when Seven leaned over and initiated a brief kiss on her lips. Del grinned in pleasure and stepped out the door.

Del had barely taken a step from the door when Captain Janeway rounded the corner.

"Good Morning, Commander," she greeted pleasantly then noticed Seven standing behind the Commander. Her eyebrow arched in surprise at the sight of her Astrometrics officer.

"Good Morning to you too, Seven," Captain Janeway greeted. "What're you doing on Deck Three so early this morning?"

Seven stepped up next to Del before answering. "I have taken another step in regaining my humanity," she informed Janeway proudly, "I slept with Commander MacMillan."

Del felt the air leave her lungs in a rush at Seven's declaration.

Janeway turned her force ten glare on Del; she was furious.

Seven looked back and forth between the two women. "Is something wrong?" she finally asked in confusion. She had thought the captain would be proud of her for finally managing to sleep.

Janeway fought down her anger and surprisingly jealousy at the thought of the Commander and Seven together. How could she take advantage of Seven's innocence like that! Determined not to make Seven ashamed of what she'd done Janeway cleared her throat and tried to keep her voice calm.

"Nothing's wrong, Seven. I need to get to the bridge." She turned and glared once more at Del. "I will see you in my ready room at 0700 sharp," she said in a cold hard voice before stomping away from the two women.

Del didn't need to be an empath to know how angry Janeway was and exactly what she thought. She was surprised when she sensed the sudden surge of what could only be jealously at Seven's words. Maybe the Captain had more than just feelings of friendship for Seven. She suspected as much listening to Janeway talk about Seven in sickbay but had passed it off to Janeway being Seven's mentor. Del had a bad feeling she was about to get a piece of the Captain's mind when she reported this morning.

Seven looked over at Del who still had a stunned look on her face. "What's wrong? Why was Captain Janeway angry?" she asked, knowing Del would give her an honest answer since Captain Janeway obviously had not.

Del wondered just how to explain this to Seven. "Come on," Del said, heading for the turbolift. "I'll explain on the way. I don't want to be late." Once they entered the turbolift she cleared her throat before beginning. "Captain Janeway misunderstood what you said. She thought that you were inferring that we had sexual intercourse."

Seven looked totally baffled. "But… I did not say that. I told her that we slept together…"

"The term sleeping together can also be a euphemism for sex."

"But why would that make her angry?"

"I don't know, maybe she felt I was taking advantage of you."

"I don't understand," Seven admitted.

"I'm sorry. I don't have time to talk about this now. I have to meet with the Captain but we'll discuss it in detail later," Del promised.

If it had been anyone else Seven would've thought they were just trying to get out of explaining things to her but she knew Del wouldn't do that.

"That is acceptable," she acknowledged before stepping out of the turbolift and heading to Astrometrics.

Del slumped against the turbo shaft wall as the lift doors slid shut dreading her meeting with Janeway.


Chapter Six

Captain Kathryn Janeway paced her ready room. Seven's words just kept reverberating in her head…I slept with Commander MacMillan… I slept with Commander MacMillan… She stopped in front of her desk, her hands turning white where she gripped the edge of the desk in agitation. Janeway knew she had to calm down before Commander MacMillan arrived. "I'm just angry she took advantage of Seven's innocence. That's all it is." She spoke out loud to the empty room trying hard to convince herself. Sure Katie…you just keep telling yourself that, piped up a little voice that sounded suspiciously like her sister Phoebe.

Janeway glanced at the chronometer and realized the Commander would be there any minute. She headed for the small ensuite and splashed cold water on her face. Slapping her command mask firmly in place she returned to sit down behind her desk and wait for the Commander's arrival.

Del squared her shoulders as the turbolift doors opened. She stepped out onto the bridge her face showing none of her internal agitation. She sighed in relief when she spotted Chakotay in the center seat.

"Commander Chakotay," she greeted politely. She'd had very little contact with Voyager's First Officer.

"Ready to start work?" Chakotay asked, with a friendly smile.

Del nodded. "Yes, I'm meeting with the Captain to discuss my assignment."

Chakotay stood and approached Del leaning close to her so they wouldn't be overheard. "Fair warning, she's as prickly as a bear with a sore paw this morning," he warned. "Maybe we could meet later and go over the duty roster. Join me for lunch?" he invited, smiling winningly at Del. Chakotay had heard the absurd rumors of her supposed relationship with Seven but had dismissed them as idle gossip.

A beautiful woman like Del wouldn't waste her time on someone like Seven of Nine who couldn't possibly understand the concept of friendship, much less anything else. He had never understood Kathryn's interest in trying to integrate the woman into the crew. She had always seen a potential in her that he never could.

Del groaned internally, knowing very well what the invitation was really about. "Maybe some other time," she hedged, not wanting to alienate a possible ally. "Excuse me, I don't want to be late for my meeting."

Chakotay nodded in understanding but couldn't suppress a sigh of disappointment at the Commander's polite refusal of his invitation. He watched her walk away determined to try again later.

Del took a deep breath and pressed the chime to Janeway's ready room.

"Come." Came the command over the com as the door slid open.

Del walked into the ready room. Janeway was sitting behind her desk with her command mask firmly in place. However, Del was quite aware of her seething emotions beneath the surface and both of them knew it.

"Have a seat, Commander," Janeway ordered.

Del sat down and waited for Janeway to begin. She met her eyes directly knowing she had nothing to be ashamed of.

The Captain wasted no time getting down to business. "I've considered your request to be assigned as Science Officer. It's appropriate with your training and I'm sure you'll be an asset to Voyager. You'll report to Commander Chakotay and as the Science Officer you'll work with him on duty rosters and crewmen evaluations for everyone assigned to the Science sections."

Del kept her expression as blank as Janeway's. She knew there was more.

"However, your talents could be better utilized on the Bridge; your request to be assigned to Astrometrics is denied," Janeway stated, unable to keep the faint edge of satisfaction from her voice.

Del nodded, seemingly accepting the news placidly, very glad that Janeway wasn't able to sense her emotions. She'd half expected this after her run-in with Janeway outside her cabin.

Janeway stared at Del for several moments, as if expecting some reaction. The woman continued to stare at her blandly, as if her decision did not effect her one way or the other. Janeway gave Del one last hard look. "You're dismissed. Report to Commander Chakotay," she ordered, returning her attention to the data pad on her desk.

Del stared at Janeway incredulously. The woman had just dismissed her as if she was some lowly cadet. Del had felt waves of anger rolling off Janeway since she walked in the door and knew damn well Janeway knew she was aware of it. She couldn't believe Janeway wasn't going to mention what had happened that morning, since she was obviously still so angry about it.

Janeway finally looked up at Del. "You were dismissed, Commander," she said sternly.

Del turned on her heels to head for the door, her anger at her dismissal apparent. She was just about to step into sensor range of the door when Janeway halted her.

"Wait, Commander," Janeway ordered.

Del turned back to face Janeway.

"I know you haven't been on Voyager long but I have to admit I'm very disappointed in your behavior. I expected much better from you," Janeway stated, unable to stop herself. She cursed under her breath. She had sworn she wasn't going to do this, but just didn't seem to be able to let it go.

Del walked back over and stood in front of Janeway's desk staring down at her. "And what have I done that you're so disappointed in?" Del challenged, determined to make Janeway spell it out.

Janeway got up from her chair and walked over until she was toe to toe with the much taller woman. She knew she was quickly losing control of her temper but couldn't seem to help herself.

"Seven may look like an adult but mentally she's still a child. To take her innocence and manipulate her for your own end is in my book reprehensible," Janeway declared angrily.

Del clenched her fists at her sides; she couldn't remember the last time someone had made her so angry. It was taking every bit of self-control to keep from reaching out and striking Janeway. She stared at the woman who stood before her so condemningly. Unable to believe she had just insinuated she was a child molester.

"Seven is an adult regardless of what you think and she is quite capable of making her own decisions. If you're so concerned about my relationship with Seven, I suggest you ask her about it. She's nothing if not known for her honesty. I won't discuss her behind her back. However, I might remind you, Captain, that Seven doesn't always understand the nuances of speech and that things can have more than one meaning. She wanted to share something very important to her this morning and you just blew her off without bothering to explain things when she asked you." Del furiously informed her. " Maybe that's why she comes to me with her questions. I always tell her the truth."

Janeway was stunned by Del's reaction. She expected her to be angry but now wondered if there wasn't more going on than she'd realized and that she might have jumped to conclusions by allowing her own feelings to interfere with her judgment. Janeway felt her own anger wane at the possibility. Trying to regain her composure and salvage some of her dignity she took a deep breath and stepped back looking up into Del's angry face unsure what to say.

"I'll take that under consideration Commander. You're relieved for the rest of the day. Report to the bridge at 0700 tomorrow to begin your duties."

"Aye, Captain," Del responded, quickly turning and escaping from Janeway's ready room.

She stopped just outside the doors trying to regain her composure. Quickly straightening and forced her face into a blank mask when she noticed the curious stares of the bridge crew.

Making her way to the turbolift, she stepped inside without making eye contact with anyone on her way across the bridge. She slumped against the wall when the doors closed, her body shaking from her encounter with Janeway. Del knew she had to calm down before she went to meet Seven vividly remembering how much it had upset Seven the last time she appeared in Astrometrics angry.

Del was on a treadmill in the holodeck gym trying to burn off some of her residual anger from her confrontation with Captain Janeway. It was an open program that anyone could enter. She found it already up and running when she arrived outside the holodeck earlier. A crewman had been running the program when she arrived but he had left a short while ago.

She glanced over when the door to the holodeck slid open. Paul Grimes entered. She nodded to him and returned to her workout. She soon became aware of his rising emotions. She looked over to see him sitting on a weight bench watching her intently. He made no attempt to look away when he saw she noticed. Del glared at him and he finally picked up some free weights and began to workout.

She finished up on the treadmill and shut it down. Going over to her gear she grabbed her water bottle and took a long drink then used her towel to wipe the excess sweat from her face. Del again became aware of Grimes's attention but chose to ignore him. She looked up when he stepped over close to her.

"Hey, Commander MacMillan," he greeted with a bright smile. Grimes knew he was handsome and was confident in his approach. "I can see you work out with weights." His eyes slid appreciatively down her well-muscled body. "I'd be more than happy to spot for you. I spend a lot of time here and have a good routine myself. We could work out together. It'll be nice to have someone of my caliber around to lift with for a change." He flexed his biceps and pecs for her to enjoy.

"No thanks, I prefer to workout alone," Del responded, trying not to bristle at the emotions coming from him.

Not so easily dissuaded Grimes tried again. "How about having lunch with me? We could share workout strategies. Maybe get to know each other better," he added with a confident smile.

"Thank you but no. I already have a date for lunch." She didn't just yet but had every intention of inviting Seven to lunch. Without giving him a chance to suggest anything else she quickly grabbed her gear and exited the gym.

Seven glanced up hopefully when the doors to Astrometrics slid open; it was almost 1100 and Del had still not shown up. She didn't think her meeting with the Captain would be quite so long and was starting to worry. She sighed again this time in disappointment when she spotted her visitor.

"How may I be of assistance?" She asked her Captain.

"Hello to you too, Seven," Janeway returned with a smile.

Janeway wasn't surprised when Seven didn't respond and just stared at her expectantly. Janeway hesitated, not quite sure how to bring up the subject she wanted to discuss.

Stalling for time she asked. "So how are things in Astrometrics?"

Seven looked at her with a perplexed expression on her face. For some reason she thought maybe Janeway had wanted to discuss what had happened earlier in the day. Realizing that wasn't the case she launched into a detailed explanation of her current project. Janeway listened trying to stay focused on what Seven was saying but kept going over in her mind what she was going to say to Seven. When Seven finally finished Janeway was jerked out of her thoughts by the sudden silence.

"Umm… that's good Seven, that should be very helpful, we always need fresh food stuffs."

They stood staring at each other for several moments.

"Was there anything else you wished to know?" Seven asked. Janeway shook her head and started to speak. Seven beat her to the punch.

"I wish to discuss our encounter in the corridor this morning."

Janeway gulped shifting uneasily. "Sure, Seven, what did you want to talk about?" Now that Seven had brought up the subject Janeway was having second thoughts about the whole thing wondering if she had made a mistake coming to Astrometrics.

"I wish to know why you were angry when I informed you I had slept with Commander MacMillan." Seven had thought about this quite a bit. She knew Del had promised to explain but now that the Captain had arrived decided to ask her instead.

Janeway's face flushed red. "I wasn't angry," she stammered in denial.

Seven's implant over her eyebrow arched and she gave Janeway a disbelieving look. "I do not believe you."

Janeway felt her anger rise then realized she was being ridiculous; she had been angry. Taking a deep breath, she looked Seven directly in the eye. "I was angry because I felt Commander MacMillan had taken advantage of you sexually. I know you've come a long way in regaining your humanity but in some ways you're still a child. I know what happened was not your fault and you have nothing to be ashamed of, but what she did was wrong."

"I am not a child! Commander MacMillan said you misunderstood what I said this morning. If you had asked me I would have explained," Seven said angrily.

Janeway's eyebrows shot up at Seven's tone. She hadn't heard so much emotion in her voice since she'd demanded to be returned to the collective. Janeway attempted to explain further but Seven cut her off.

"I slept with Commander MacMillan but we did not have sexual intercourse," Seven informed her matter of factly. "She offered her help in my quest to learn to sleep. I fell asleep on her couch but was awakened by a bad dream. I was afraid to go back to sleep. She suggested I sleep in her bed with her. I did and slept for five hours. I thought you would be proud of me, instead you tell me I am just a child, and accuse her of doing something wrong. Is she wrong to want to be my friend and help me?"

Janeway wished for a nice red alert about now. She felt about two inches tall and prayed the floor would open up and swallow her. She had never heard Seven speak so passionately about anyone. She'd obviously come much further in her quest to regain her humanity than Janeway had realized. Now she understood what Commander MacMillan had been trying to tell her that morning and felt badly for how she'd misjudged the woman.

Janeway stepped over to Seven and placed her hand on her arm. She was shocked and hurt when Seven pulled away from her touch. "I'm sorry, Seven. I owe you an apology."

"I am not the one you should apologize to."

Janeway hated to admit it but Seven was right. "You're correct. I owe the Commander an apology."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course you can," Janeway assured.

Seven looked skeptical. She knew how the captain reacted to questions about sexuality but decided to ask her anyway. "Do you not approve of couples of the same gender engaging in copulation? Is that why it is wrong for me to have sexual intercourse with Commander MacMillan?

Janeway felt her face flush red; this was not a conversation she wanted to have. She squirmed uncomfortably trying to think of a way out when she clearly heard Commander Macmillan's voice in her head. 'Maybe that's why she comes to me with her questions. I always tell her the truth'.

Janeway had thought long and hard about the Commander's comments that morning. She realized that Seven had stopped asking her questions after she dodged awkward subjects several times. Janeway squared her shoulders and took a deep breath before attempting to answer Seven's question. "No, Seven, there is nothing wrong with two people of the same gender engaging in intimacy."

"You mean copulating?" Seven interrupted.

"Yes," Janeway's color was high and her eyes flickered around the room trying to look anywhere but at Seven. "As far as you and Commander MacMillan…it's not that it's wrong. I umm…I just don't think you understand or are ready for that type of relationship. You may think you have those type of feelings for her but you might be mistaking the feelings women can have for each other in a close friendship." She glanced up to see how Seven was taking all this. "I didn't realize you were interested in exploring that side of humanity."

Seven nodded in understanding. "Del said very much the same thing. She suggested we take things very slowly until I am sure of what I am feeling."

Oh it's Del now, she thought acerbically before what Seven said sunk in. "She did?" Janeway asked, sounding amazed and just a bit embarrassed. Seems she had misjudged the Commander even more than she thought.

"Yes, I have begun to experience many strange and thrilling sensations when I am around Del. She likes me," Seven said almost reverently, looking at Janeway with her eyes glowing with emotion.

Janeway gazed in amazement at the look on Seven's face. She felt a swift twinge of something she refused to identify. This obviously was not a case of the Commander pushing Seven into something she wasn't ready for as she assumed. Seven seemed to have feelings…strong feelings, if she read her face right for the Commander. She cleared her throat before responding. "Of course she likes you Seven, you're a valuable member of this crew," Janeway assured. She knew in her heart it was more than that but unwilling to admit it.

Seven shook her head adamantly. "No. She likes me for myself," she declared. "We are…"

The doors to Astrometrics slid open and the topic of their conversation walked in.

Janeway watched with something akin to envy when a full smile graced Seven's face. Seven had never looked at her like that. Janeway forced away the disturbing thought and greeted Del.

"Good afternoon, Commander," she greeted blandly.

Having successfully spent the morning in the gym working out her resentment of Janeway's treatment, it immediate flared to life again with Janeway's greeting. She forced it down and was surprised when she sensed no anger coming from the captain.

"Captain," Del responded with a respectful nod before turning to Seven. "Hey Seven," she greeted with a warm smile.

Seven nodded in greeting and stepped over next to Del so close their shoulders touched.

Janeway was surprised to see another sweet smile cross Seven's face. She had seen her smile more in the last hour than she had in all the time Seven had been onboard. She watched the interaction between the two women with interest. She had never seen Seven so at ease, nor willingly stand within such close physical proximity to anyone, not even herself.

Del addressed Seven. "I came down to see if you could get away for lunch."

"That would be acceptable," Seven replied warmly. "Would you care to join us Captain?"

Janeway's eyebrows almost shot off her forehead in shock. Seven had just issued a polite invitation to lunch! Seemed the Commander must have been helping her with much more than just her ability to sleep. Janeway couldn't quite explain to herself why she found that so unsettling, but she did.

"Umm…thank you Seven but no, I need to get back to the bridge." Janeway nodded at Del and headed for her ready room. She had a lot to think about.

Del waited until the doors shut behind Janeway before turning to face Seven. "What did she want?" She asked, a bit more harshly than she meant.

Seven looked concerned but quickly relaxed when Del smiled reassuringly at her. "She wished to know about my current projects. I told her about them." Seven paused before adding. "Then I asked her about our encounter in the corridor this morning."

Del looked at Seven curiously. "And what did she have to say about that?"

"At first she denied being angry." Del snorted. She wasn't surprised. "I told her I did not believe her." Del snickered knowing how that must have gone over with Janeway. Seven repeated verbatim the conversation she'd had with Janeway.

Del burst out laughing; she would have loved to have seen Janeway's face when Seven posed her questions. From Seven's description the Captain had been very ill at ease with the conversation. Serves her right! Del snickered to herself. Now she knew why Janeway hadn't been angry any longer but also noted she had not bothered to apologize to her either.

Seven was puzzled by Del's reaction. She did not see anything amusing in her conversation with the captain.

"I do not understand…it was not a humorous conversation."

Del sighed, knowing that the explanation for her behavior was going to make her look bad but she had promised Seven always to tell her the truth. "It's not the conversation that's funny, Seven, it's Janeway's reaction to it. You were right. She is very embarrassed when discussing human sexuality and even more uncomfortable admitting when she's wrong. She made me angry earlier when she insinuated that I'd taken advantage of you. So though it's not very nice, I enjoyed the fact that you made her uncomfortable," Del explained patiently.

It was obvious Seven didn't understand but she accepted Del's explanation without comment.

"Do you want to go to lunch first or check the security logs in the cargo bay?" Del questioned Seven in a quick change of subject.

Seven hesitated for a second thinking about it. She was not for some reason looking forward to going back to the cargo bay. She had come directly to Astrometrics from Del's cabin that morning.

"Lunch first," she requested.

"You got it, let's go." Del placed her hand in the small of Seven's back as had become her custom and they headed for the mess hall.

Seven and Del had shared lunch and Del had broken the news that Janeway had denied her request to be assigned to Astrometrics. Though Seven appeared to calmly accept the information, Del was able to sense how disappointed she was. Del silently cursed Janeway but knew there was nothing she could do.

One pleasant surprise during lunch were two crewmembers who stopped by to congratulate her on being made Science Officer. The surprise hadn't been that the word was out and they stopped to congratulate her but the fact that both of them had greeted Seven politely with no hidden discomfort or hostility.

They were currently headed toward the cargo bay to check out the security logs of the night before. Del paused just inside the doors of the cargo bay taking in her surroundings. The room was very large. On one side were containers stacked almost to the ceiling and extending out into the middle of the floor. On the other side was a console, a large workstation, and several Borg alcoves lining the far wall.

Del tried to picture this as the place Seven had lived for the past year. No wonder she thinks she's not human; this place must make her feel like she's still a Borg. It looks like a damn Borg cube. What could Janeway be thinking. She's supposed to be her mentor and friend but doesn't even bother to see that Seven had decent quarters to live in? She thought angrily. Del became even more determined to see Seven installed in her own quarters. She was drawn out of her thoughts by Seven.

"I have the security logs from last night."

Del stepped over to the monitor next to Seven; at her nod Seven keyed up the logs to the appropriate time frame. Del watched the scene for several long minutes then turned to Seven. Seven had a frown on her face and was studying the monitor intently. It showed the main area of the cargo bay as well as three of the alcoves. In the sequence they watched there was no activity in the bay what so ever. Seven was nowhere to be seen. Del didn't realize what was wrong until Seven pointed it out.

"The security monitor does not show my alcove. See here?" she pointed to the very edge of the screen. "You can see just a small edge of it."

Del's brow furrowed in thought. The monitors were normally set to provide a complete overview of an area. She glanced over at the large area not seen by the monitor. It included Seven's alcove and the area surrounding the cargo bay door. Her suspicion was immediately aroused; the area not shown was just too convenient considering what Seven experienced the previous evening.

"Do you have access to older logs, going back say a month?"

Seven called up the appropriate logs. They were the same. Seven's alcove and the cargo bay doors couldn't be seen. Del wasn't ready to give up yet.

"Go back another month," she instructed. When the logs came up on the monitor Del cursed. "Son of a Bitch, someone changed the alignment of the security sensors." On these logs the full cargo bay was seen including Seven's alcove and the bay doors. Something is definitely going on, Del thought. "Can you realign the sensors without anyone knowing it?"

Seven's implant above her eyebrow quirked in question. "Yes, I can."

"Go ahead and do that then," Del ordered. With what Seven had told her of the previous evening events she had a bad feeling about what was happening in the bay during Seven's regeneration cycle. If it was what she thought, she would catch the bastard in the act, using the same security sensors he thought he'd disabled.

When Seven had completed the modifications she turned back to Del. "It's done."

Del could sense Seven's curiosity about why she had her change the sensors back.

"When's the next time you're due to regenerate?" Del asked, already formulating a plan.

"My cycle was interrupted last night but I spoke with the Doctor and he felt because I had managed to sleep five hours plus the meals I have been consuming I wouldn't need to regenerate again until tomorrow. I normally regenerate for six to eight hours every forty eight hours."

"And you remain awake the other forty hours?"

"Yes," Seven said hesitantly, waiting for Del's reaction.

Del accepted the information without a visible reaction. Most people expressed either amazement or discomfort at Seven's abilities. Seven felt a warm glow at Del's ready acceptance.

Del glanced at Seven curiously, wondering at the brief flash of emotion that she felt coming from her. "Come on, I know you have to get back to Astrometrics." Del turned to head toward the door.


Del stopped in her tracks and turned back to Seven.

"What does my regeneration cycle have to do with the security logs of the cargo bay?"

Del grinned, for a change Seven hadn't prefaced her question by asking if she could ask a question.

"I want the logs to record your alcove while you regenerate because I think someone is coming into the bay while you regenerate that doesn't belong here and interfering with your cycle."

"You think someone came in and actually touched me?" Seven looked upset by the thought. She had never even considered that; she assumed it was a problem with her alcove.

Del quickly stepped over to Seven and wrapped an arm around her shoulders drawing her close. "I don't know for sure that's why I wanted you to realign the sensors." Sensing how upset Seven really was Del came to a quick decision. "Don't worry, I'll come stay with you in the bay the next time you regenerate in case someone comes in…okay?"

"You would?" Seven asked, her amazement apparent in her voice.

"Of course, that's what friends do Seven, they help each other. Now you need to get back to work and I have some things I need to do. How about we meet later in my cabin for dinner?"

"That would be acceptable," Seven replied, drawing a quick smile from Del.

Del lay in her bed staring at the ceiling. She had enjoyed a quiet dinner with Seven. They had discussed Seven requesting quarters and made the decision together to approach Captain Janeway at the earliest possible moment.

Seven had left over an hour ago when Del hadn't been able to hold back her yawns any more. She had invited her to spend the night on her couch but Seven had insisted she didn't need to sleep again so soon. The concept of sleeping every night was just too new to her. Del groaned, it was after midnight and she had been tossing and turning trying to fall asleep. She had not wanted Seven to leave. Seven might not need to sleep but unfortunately she did. Rolling over onto her stomach she tried to force herself to relax but couldn't help being worried about Seven. She hated the idea that she was spending the night in the huge cargo bay alone.

Growling in frustration she reached up and hit the com button located in her headboard. Maybe if she just heard Seven's voice she could relax and sleep.

"Del to Seven."

"Seven here," she answered immediately. Though she had left Del only an hour ago she was happy to hear her voice. Wondering why Del would be contacting her so soon after she left her quarters she felt a quick flash of worry. "Are you alright?"

Del smiled at the concern in Seven's voice. She was still amazed at the change in Seven over the last week. "Yeah, I'm fine. I couldn't sleep and just needed to hear your voice," she admitted sheepishly. Silence greeted her admission and Del wondered if she'd been too honest and pushed too far.

Seven at first didn't know how to respond. Her body's response to Del's admission was startling to say the least. Her heart started to pound and she felt an increasingly familiar tingle travel down her body. She had never had someone need her before. She remembered Del's actions of the night before when she couldn't sleep.

"Seven?" Del said quietly, concerned Seven had broken the connection.

"Would you like me to come rub your back so you can fall asleep?" Seven offered shyly.

Del's first reaction was to say… Hell yes! But then she worried about her ability to control herself with Seven. Her memories of awaking entwined with Seven that morning were very vivid in her mind as well as her resulting arousal.

"I appreciate the offer Seven, but that's not necessary. I'll see you in the morning."

Seven was surprised at the stab of disappointment and rejection she felt at Del's refusal. She hadn't realized how much she was looking forward to the prospect of touching Del. "Good Night, Del," Seven said quietly, unable to hide her disappointment.

Del could hear the disappointment in Seven's voice and even more concerning she was able to sense her pain at the perceived rejection. Del cursed herself for her stupidity.

"Wait, Seven," she called, stopping Seven's hand midway to her combadge. "I would really like it if you'd come rub my back and help me fall asleep. I'm really beat and have a long day tomorrow." Del felt the burst of elation her words caused and smiled to herself.

Seven felt her heart swell; she was going to be able to do something for Del. Not to mention the excitement at the idea of touching Del.

"I will come now," Seven stated and broke the connection.

Del groaned at Seven's choice of words and tried to prepare herself for the coming ordeal. She could already feel the dampness pooling between her legs at just the thought of Seven touching her, no matter how innocently.

It seemed mere moments before the chime sounded for admittance. Del walked over and keyed the door. Seven stood on the other side and although her expression was placid Del could sense her underlying anticipation and excitement.

"Hi, Seven," she greeted the blond smiling brightly. No matter how difficult the coming events were going to be Del knew she'd made the right decision in accepting Seven's offer of a backrub. It was obvious from her emotional state how much it meant to her to feel like she was needed. Del realized this was probably the first time since joining Voyager's crew that Seven actually felt needed for herself and not her knowledge of the Borg.

Del and Seven stood staring at each other neither quite knowing where to go from here. Del ended the stalemate with a huge yawn.

"Sorry," she apologized, embarrassed.

"Should I rub your back now?" Seven questioned shyly.

Del took a deep breath. "Sure, Seven, that would be great, come on," Del said, turning and heading for her bedroom. She laughed to herself when she realized she was nervous. It had been a long time since she experienced that particular emotion when inviting a woman into her bedroom. Del slipped under the covers then looked up to see Seven standing in the doorway. She slid over a bit and patted the side of the bed next to her. Seven came over hesitantly and gingerly sat down on the side of the bed. Del couldn't miss Seven's nervousness.

"You don't have to do this if you're uncomfortable," Del told Seven, reaching out to clasp her hand between hers.

"I want to," Seven whispered.

Del turned over on her stomach presenting her back to Seven. Seven reached out carefully noting with some surprise that her hand was shaking and gently touched Del's back stroking down its length. Del's eyes slammed shut and she couldn't help the moan that escaped from her lips as her hips jerked.

Seven pulled back in fear, worried that she had hurt Del.

Del forced her eyes open feeling the blast of fear from Seven. She met Seven's eyes. "It's okay, that felt good."

"Really?" Seven said, looking deep into Del's eyes.

"Yes, it feels good when you touch me." Del reassured Seven, projecting calm acceptance toward Seven and allowing her to feel some of her pleasure.

A brief beautiful smile lit Seven's face and she reached out with more confidence to stroke Del's back again.

Del tried hard to force away her growing arousal and just concentrate on Seven's touch. After several long minutes Del finally relaxed and just basked in the feel of Seven's hand stroking her back through her shirt. She felt herself starting to drift.

A sudden thought occurred to her and her eyes popped open suddenly startling Seven. Seven had been lost in the incredible sensation of touching Del. Her hand running gently up and down Del's back had ignited a barrage of sensations through her body.

"I know I'm about to fall asleep but you don't have to go. You could spend the night here. You don't have to sleep, stay… work here," Del offered, struggling to stay awake.

"I can?"

"Umm hum," Del murmured sleepily as Seven resumed her gentle backrub.

Seven stayed by Del's side for a long while after she was sure she was asleep. She had so many strange emotions running through her mind. For a reason she couldn't explain she wanted to crawl into the bed with Del and press against her body. She quietly slipped out of the room and headed for the door. Remembering Del's invitation she looked around the quiet room and realized she had no interest in returning to the cargo bay. Taking a seat, she called up the files she was working on using Del's computer console and set to work, somehow comforted by the sound of Del's soft breathing coming from the other room.


Chapter Seven

Del growled in protest, trying to burrow into the pillow and block out the sound of the computer's wakeup chime. She had been in the middle of the greatest dream. She rolled over and blinked in surprise at the light shining in the door from the main cabin area. Normally after a set period of time of no movement the computer automatically lowered the lights. That's when it hit her, the events of the previous evening came flooding back… Seven!

Tossing back the covers, she jumped out of bed and headed for the door. She stopped in the doorway of her bedroom and smiled broadly at the sight before her. Seven was sitting at her computer console with several pads spread out working. Del was pleased beyond measure that Seven had felt comfortable enough to accept her invitation to stay.

Seven hearing footsteps glanced up to find a sleep tossed Del watching her with a big smile on her face. She rose from the desk and approached her.

"Good morning," she greeted, a bit nervous about Del's reaction to her having stayed the night in her cabin.

Del couldn't resist and enveloped Seven in a warm hug. "Good morning to you too. I'm so glad you stayed."

As happened previously when Del had hugged her, Seven's body surged into Del of its own accord, her arms wrapping instinctively around Del's waist.

"Easy," Del soothed, stroking Seven's back, well aware of her reaction to her touch. Del looked into Seven's eyes and this time she wasn't able to resist the unknowing invitation when Seven's lips parted slightly. Leaning over slowly, giving Seven plenty of time to pull back, Del brought their lips together in a sweet, tender kiss that quickly caught fire and became passionate. Del pressed the tip of her tongue against Seven's lips silently urging them apart. When her mouth opened slightly in reaction, Del's tongue slipped into Seven's mouth and began a gentle exploration. She almost lost control when Seven moaned softly against her lips and pressed closer. Del slowly pulled away, breathing hard. Seven's eyes remained closed and she could feel her body trembling.

Del placed a light kiss on Seven's forehead. "You okay?" she questioned tenderly, knowing how new all this was for the other woman.

Seven's eyes slowly fluttered open, her pupils were dilated and her cheeks were slightly flushed. She nodded slowly seeming unable to speak. Del started to pull away wanting to give her time to get control of her surging emotions but Seven shivered and tightened her arms around Del's waist when she tried to move back. Del was more than content to hold Seven for as long as she needed.

Seven finally managed to regain her composure and slowly pulled away from her. Del was getting a little worried, as Seven still hadn't spoken though she could sense her pleasure at the kiss and the embrace.

"Good morning kisses are even better than good night kisses," Seven murmured in a shaky voice.

Del chuckled and pulled Seven back into her arms hugging her tight. Seven stared at her in open invitation. "Yes, they are," Del husked, unable to resist placing one more soft kiss on Seven's lips before moving away toward the replicator. She had to put some distance between them in hopes of cooling her overheated libido. She didn't want to push Seven into doing something she wasn't ready for.

"What would you like for breakfast?" She turned back toward Seven when she didn't receive a response. Seven was still standing seemingly rooted in place where Del had left her after the second kiss. Del grinned to herself; her kisses had never left someone speechless and motionless before. She keyed up some scrambled eggs, toast and juice and placed them on the table before making her way over to a still silent Seven.

Del reached out and gently stroked Seven's cheek. Seven leaned into the touch. "Was that too much for you?" Del asked in concern. She smiled in relief when Seven adamantly shook her head. "Come on then, let's have some breakfast, we both have to report to duty soon.

Seven was quiet during breakfast trying to absorb all the new and thrilling sensations she'd experienced that morning. A strange damp feeling between her legs distracted her along with an uncomfortable pulsing sensation there as well. She wasn't sure what was happening to her. It was a very disturbing feeling, she felt like she wanted, needed, something but didn't know what it was. She kept going over and over the events in her head trying to make sense of the new feelings.

"Are you sure you're alright?" Del asked as breakfast concluded. She had sensed Seven's confusion and if she wasn't mistaken, arousal during breakfast. Worried she had pushed the beautiful blond too far she was starting to regret her impulsive kiss.

Seven tried to pull herself together, for the first time she heard the worry in Del's voice and read the concern on her face. She forced the distracting images and thoughts away and turned her attention to Del.

"I am...I…" Seven struggled for what to say looking over at Del helplessly.

"It's okay Seven, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable," Del apologized, trying to hide her disappointment. She cursed herself for letting the kiss flame out of control.

That got a reaction out of Seven. "No! You didn't…I liked it…what you did…I mean the kiss. I just feel very strange and am not sure what is wrong."

"Strange how?" Del asked, concerned.

"My body is reacting strangely. I feel a unusual dampness between my legs and it throbs," Seven said, sliding her hand down between her legs and cupping herself. "I feel like I need something but I don't know what." She looked up at Del beseechingly. "I think my implants might be malfunctioning."

Del gulped, her arousal soaring at the sight of Seven unconsciously stroking herself. "I umm… I umm…" Del gulped again, trying to calm down so she could explain things to Seven. "I don't think there's anything wrong with your implants. The symptoms you're describing are those of sexual arousal. The feeling of needing something is your body expressing the urge for sexual release."

"I have read about these things but never experienced them. Do you feel these things too?" Seven asked innocently.

You have no idea! Del groaned. "Ah…yeah Seven, I sure do," she admitted as calmly as she could.

Seven cocked her head and appeared to appraise Del. "Then should we not copulate?"

Del's breath whooshed out in shock and her heart slammed in her chest. Seeing her reaction Seven tried again.

"I mean make love," Seven corrected, remembering Del's preference for the phrase.

"Just kill me now," Del muttered under her breath, forgetting about Seven's very acute hearing.

"I don't understand why would I wish to kill you?" Seven asked, obviously confused.

Del resisted the urge to bang her head on the counter. She wasn't quite sure where she had lost control of this situation but knew she needed to clarify a few things right now. She reached out and took Seven's hand, leading her over to the couch.

Seven was both nervous and excited; she misunderstood and thought Del had decided that they should copulate. The throbbing between her legs intensified. She reached back to release the clasp of her biosuit.

Del stopped her as soon as she realized what Seven was doing. Del struggled with her own raging libido wanting so much to just allow nature to take its course but knowing that she couldn't.

"Should we not remove our clothing?" Seven asked, confused.

Please just let me get through the next few minutes and not screw up, Del begged any entity that might be listening. This was a very delicate situation, and that a mistake on her part could destroy all the progress Seven had made, as well as end their budding relationship.

"We aren't going to make love, Seven." Del tried not to react to the strong sense of disappointment and rejection she felt coming from Seven. "Come sit down here on the couch by me."

Seven hesitated then finally complied.

"First, I want you to know that I do very much want to make love with you." Del held up her hand to stop Seven from interrupting. "But we're not going to; it's too soon in our relationship to take that step. Just because two people are sexually attracted to each other and become aroused doesn't mean that they have to act on those feelings. There needs to be more than a physical attraction. There has to be an emotional connection as well before we make love for the first time. Do you understand what I mean?"

"But it hurts," Seven whimpered, her hand going back between her legs again.

Del groaned, fighting her own painful arousal.

"I know, Seven, believe me I know. Remember we talked about people developing feelings for each other, falling in love? I know you have feelings for me but I don't think you're in love with me. I need to know you have those emotional type of feelings for me as well as the obvious physical attraction."

Seven looked stricken. "What if I am incapable of love? I feel amazing things when I am with you that I have never felt before with anyone. They get stronger every day but I have no basis of reference to know if what I feel is love," she complained vulnerably.

"I know you're capable of love, Seven. The fact that you're not sure is why we need to wait before engaging in a physical relationship. I know it's hard. I admit I feel deeply for you. I've experienced these emotions before so I am sure but it has to go both ways." Del prayed Seven would understand and not think she was rejecting her.

Seven gave a frustrated sigh realizing Del was not going to give in. A thought suddenly occurred to her. "Are you in love with me?" Seven asked bluntly, seemly astounded by the very idea.

That's my girl, Del chuckled. Amazingly, she wasn't even surprised by the question. Del hadn't wanted to admit to herself that she was in love with Seven; emotionally she knew it but just hadn't been ready to admit it intellectually. Yet one look into Seven's hopeful face and she knew she couldn't be anything but totally honest.

"Yes, Seven, I am. I love you very much."

It was a good thing Del was sitting down, otherwise Seven's emotions would have brought her to her knees. Seven was clearly stunned. That someone could love her was just almost beyond comprehension. The chiming of the computer announcing the time interrupted.

Del growled at the interruption but knew after yesterday's confrontation with Janeway she couldn't be late for her shift. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart, we have to report to duty. We'll talk more about this later." Del promised, totally unaware of the endearment that had slipped out.

Seven got slowly to her feet, reeling from Del's revelation and trying to cope with the residual arousal she was still experiencing. Del took Seven's hand and headed for the door. She stopped them just before they reached the sensors to open the door.

"Are you okay with all this?" she asked with concern, knowing it was a lot to take in in one morning. She could sense not only Seven's jumbled emotions but her lingering arousal as well. Del smiled at Seven's answering nod. "Would you like to meet for lunch if I can get away?"

"That would be acceptable." Seven managed her customary response with only a slight stutter.

"Great, I'll meet you in the mess hall at 1200." Del smiled and took a step toward the door. She was stopped by Seven's hand on her arm. Seven didn't speak and Del stared at her curiously until it dawned on her what Seven wanted. She leaned over and quickly brushed her lips across Seven's. When Seven leaned forward trying to intensify the contact Del stepped away and caused the doors to open smiling at Seven's unknowing pout.

They headed off toward the turbolift and their respective posts.

Del sighed with relief happy to be off the bridge even temporarily. The morning had been trying to say the least. She'd felt like a specimen under a microscope for the first part of the morning; everyone on the bridge seemed to watch her every move. Janeway had spent the first half of the shift on the bridge then gone into her ready room leaving Chakotay in command.

As soon as Janeway left Chakotay had approached her and found an excuse to hang over her shoulder for most of the remainder of the morning. He'd repeatedly stepped into her personal space forcing her to step away. Trying not to alienate him Del had remained polite and skillfully dodged all his personal questions keeping things on a professional level. The man was nothing if not persistent and had again invited her to lunch using the excuse of going over personnel records. Even without being able to sense his emotions Del would have seen it for the ploy it was. She again refused stating she already had a lunch commitment.

Del pushed away all thoughts of the bridge and Chakotay as she stepped into the mess hall and looked around for Seven. When she finally spotted her Del's eyes widened in surprise. Seven was seated at their customary table but she wasn't alone. Sitting next to her was B'Elanna Torres. Del made her way over to the table.

"Ladies," Del greeted, sitting down opposite Seven.

B'Elanna looked up in relief at Del's arrival. She wasn't quite sure how she ended up at the table with Seven of Nine. As she was finishing her lunch she'd watched Seven enter the mess hall and take a seat at the table she and Del normally sat at. She had thought a lot about Seven of Nine after joining her and Del for lunch recently.

B'Elanna had watched for several minutes as people entered and left the room greeting their friends and colleagues but not a single person approached Seven or even acknowledged her presence. For reasons she couldn't quite explain even to herself, that bothered her. The next thing she knew she found herself sitting at the table with Seven trying to make small talk.

"Hey Del," B'Elanna greeted, immediately standing up. "I was just keeping Seven company 'til you got here."

Del tried not to grin at B'Elanna's obvious relief at her arrival. Small talk was definitely not Seven's forte. But she was surprised and very pleased B'Elanna had even made the effort. She'd have to ask Seven how B'Elanna had ended up sitting with her. She couldn't picture Seven approaching B'Elanna.

"You're welcome to join us," Del invited.

"Thanks, Seven already invited me, but I've already eaten and I need to get back to engineering," B'Elanna said, unknowingly shocking Del.

Del glanced over at Seven and smiled brightly at her. Seven smiled slightly in return. Del could sense her happiness at having done the right thing in inviting B'Elanna. She really was trying to take Del's advice concerning her interactions with the crew.

"Well, I better head out. Seven, if you're free later this afternoon come down to Engineering and I'll go over those sensor modifications with you."

"That would be acceptable."

B'Elanna instead of bristling as she normally would at Seven's response merely shook her head slightly.

Seven looked over at Del once B'Elanna had departed. She cocked her head slightly sideways pondering Del's expression. "Did I not act appropriately?" Seven questioned nervously.

"What?" Del asked, momentarily startled. She had been lost in thought marveling at just how far Seven had come in such a short time. "Oh no, you did wonderfully," Del assured, reaching out to stroke her arm.

That full-blown smile that was becoming more common made a brief appearance on Seven's face.

"Ready for some lunch?" Del asked, smiling at Seven's eager nod.

Del watched Seven as she tried her first piece of cherry pie. Seven had had her favorite grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. Del had chosen a Cobb salad. She had suggested they try cherry pie for dessert.

"I like it," Seven told Del happily.

Del grinned at Seven contentedly, pleased she had chosen something Seven liked. So far there had only been a few things Seven hadn't cared for and she wasn't shy in making her dislike known. She was startled by the sudden look of displeasure on Seven's face then groaned as she sensed him even before a large hand came to rest on her shoulder.

"Hi Del," Commander Grimes greeted. Del bristled at his casual and unwelcome use of her first name. When he sat down uninvited she felt her temper rise.

Del shrugged off his hand that was still resting on her shoulder. "Excuse me, Commander but Seven and I were in the middle of lunch."

Grimes smiled artlessly. "I just thought we could finally have our lunch together." He glanced at Seven then turned his back on her like she wasn't even there.

That was it for Del. She was tired of the crew acting as if Seven didn't exist.

"You're interrupting our lunch, Commander," Del repeated, allowing some of her anger to show. "I'm already having lunch with the companion of my choice. Now if you don't mind, Seven and I would like to finish our meal," she said, effectively dismissing him.

Grimes's mouth dropped open in surprise at Del's tone and abrupt dismissal. He was usually very successful with the ladies. He recovered quickly and tried a new approach. He stood and reached out placing a warm hand on Del's shoulder. "Maybe we could have dinner tonight in my cabin. I make a great pasta primavera. What do you say?" he asked at his most charming, ignoring Del's apparent anger.

Del couldn't believe Grimes's gall. First, he interrupted their lunch then invited her to dinner in his cabin right in front of Seven like she wasn't even there. She shrugged away his hand again. "No thank you, Commander, I already have a date with Seven for dinner." Del glanced over at Seven worried by the blank emotionless look on her face.

"A date with Seven?" Grimes snorted, his tone incredulous, then he started laughing. "Oh, right, a date with a Borg…very funny." He reached out and placed his hand back on Del's shoulder. "Seriously, have dinner with me." He ran his hand down Del's arm stroking lightly. "I promise you'll have a good time," he boasted confidently with a knowing smirk.

Del was momentarily stunned by a blast of emotion from Seven and it took her several seconds to register exactly what Grimes had said. When she finally did her temper soared white hot. She jerked away from his touch and stood up to face the smirking man, knowing this was not the time or the place for this conversation but unable to help herself. The pain and anger flowing off Seven was affecting her judgment.

"Are you that clueless?" Del snarled at Grimes, trying to keep her voice down but well aware of their growing audience.

Grimes looked into Del's angry face. Her eyes had turned silver, glowing with rage and realized he had made a very serious error.

"I just meant…"

"I know exactly what you meant," Del growled angrily, cutting him off. "Just so there are no further misunderstandings, let me spell it out for you. I have a DATE with Seven as in we are a couple. I'm not now nor at any time in the future interested in dating you or anyone else," Del informed him in a low deadly voice.

Grimes stared at Del speechless, a red blush of embarrassment staining his features. He glanced around the mess hall and realized just how many people had witnessed his dressing down and his anger rose. He spun on his heels and stomped out of the mess hall without another word.

Del glared at several people who were blatantly staring before resuming her seat. Her hands were down at her side clenched into fists. Her whole posture radiated rage.

Seven stared at Del with something like reverence on her face. She could not believe the conversation she had just heard. Seeing how angry Del still was Seven slipped into the chair next to her and reached out to stroke her back.

Del felt her rage ebb at Seven's gentle touch. "Are you alright?" she asked worried by Seven continued silence. "I'm really sorry about that. Some people can be so clueless," she said, shaking her head in disgust at Grimes's behavior.

"You told him we are a couple," Seven said in an amazed tone.

Del smiled at Seven. "Of course I did. I told you how I feel about you. We're dating, we are a couple as far as I'm concerned."

Seven listened to the muted buzz around the mess hall. "Many people are discussing us." She indicated several people with their heads together. "It will be all over the ship soon that you are dating a Borg," Seven said, looking suddenly concerned.

Del sighed knowing it would take time to overcome Seven's insecurities. "I'm not dating a Borg, Seven, I'm dating you." Uncaring of who was watching Del reached out and cupped Seven's cheek in her hand stroking the implant at her jaw line gently. "You're a beautiful, intriguing, intelligent woman and I am thrilled you agreed to date me. I don't care who knows we're together. I'm proud to be with you anywhere, anytime, anyplace," Del proclaimed sincerely.

The smile that blazed across Seven's face as well as her emotions caused Del's heart to slam in her chest. It was all she could do to keep from leaning over and kissing Seven senseless. Trying to distract her thoughts she glanced down at her unfinished dessert.

"Why don't we finish our dessert before we have to head back?" Del suggested, picking up her discarded fork. She glanced over at Seven when she noted her sudden distress. "What's wrong?" Then she saw it. Seven's fork was a crumpled lump of metal.

Del wondered what could have happened then remembered Seven's earlier flash of anger and pain during her conversation with Grimes. "Don't worry about it," she instructed Seven and patted her arm consolingly. She could sense how upset she was by her loss of control. Del calmly retrieved another fork for Seven and no further mention was made of the incident. They finished their dessert without further interruption and made their way back to their respective duty posts.

Del flopped down on her couch with a weary sigh. The afternoon on the bridge had been tiring. Her shift had ended at 1600 but she had remained on the bridge until almost 1800 familiarizing herself with personnel records and all her new duties. She was well aware of the underlying emotions of the crew present and realized word of her confrontation with Grimes and the revelation of the nature of her relationship with Seven must have already reached the bridge. Chakotay had been avoiding her all afternoon and the man radiated disappointment. The only person who seemed unaware of the emotionally charged atmosphere was Captain Janeway.

Del was pulled out of her thoughts by the sound of her door chime. She had totally forgotten about her dinner plans with Seven.

"Hi, Seven," she greeted, placing a soft kiss on her lips. She led her back over to the couch before flopping down again with an exaggerated sigh and closed her eyes.

"You are not well?" Seven asked in concern.

Del forced her eyes open and sat up. "No, I'm fine. It was just a long day."

"Do you wish me to leave?" Seven inquired, already rising to her feet.

Del reached out and pulled Seven back down onto the couch. "No, I don't want you to leave. I just need to relax for a few minutes then I'll make us some dinner."

They sat quietly close together in companionable silence for quite some time before Del roused herself to make them dinner. It was a quiet affair with no mention made of the day's events. Both women were more than happy to simply spend time in each others presence.

They had retired to the couch to relax after dinner. Seven told Del about her day and how she spent most of the afternoon in Engineering working with B'Elanna. Seven was clearly puzzled by B'Elanna's apparent change in attitude.

"Maybe she just sees you from a different perspective now, or maybe you react to her differently."

"She has never been so cooperative before. She complained about my presence many times to Captain Janeway telling her, 'keep that Borg out of my engine room.'"

Del had heard plenty from B'Elanna herself concerning Seven's attitude in just the short time she had been onboard. "Umm… well how about today, did you suggest to her possible sensor modifications to improve them or just show up in engineering and do them or demand they be done?" She knew this was how Seven had handled things in the past and the anger it had caused. "Remember we talked about how to approach people to get their cooperation and the reason why it's necessary?"

Seven nodded. "I remember. I told her at lunch about some modifications that might make the sensors more accurate and asked her to look at them."

Del wrapped her arm around Seven's shoulders and briefly hugged her. "That's great, Seven. See how well that worked? There was no conflict and the sensors are now more accurate. Now remember she's not always going to agree with you but you did very well in approaching her with your idea and working together for the good of the ship."

Seven beamed at the praise.

Del stifled a yawn and glanced over at the chronometer. "Isn't it about time for you to start your regeneration cycle?" Del was immediately aware of Seven's rush of anxiety. "Hey, what's wrong? Don't worry, I told you I'd stay with you," she reassured, reaching out instinctively and drawing her close to her body.

Seven looked at Del quizzically as something dawned on her for the first time. She knew most people onboard considered her an emotionless automaton. Being assimilated by the Borg had purged her of the ability to feel emotions but they had slowly returned with the reemergence of her human physiology. But no one, not even Captain Janeway, had ever been able to tell what she was feeling. That didn't seem to be the case with Del, she was always aware of what she was feeling.

"What is it, Seven?" Del asked curiously, seeing the contemplative look on Seven's face.

Seven wasn't sure how to ask; maybe it was part of the dynamic of being a couple that she was unaware of. She was aware of Del's emotions much more than any other member of the crew but most of the time Del's emotions played out openly across her face. At other times, she was totally unaware of what Del was feeling.

Del had no trouble sensing Seven's confusion she just didn't know what was causing it. "Whatever it is just ask me Seven."

"I am confused…how do you always know what I am feeling oft times before I am aware of it? Is this part of being a couple, this ability to know what the other person is feeling?" Her expression turned stricken. "I am unable to do this," she stated, obviously upset by her supposed lack.

Del had assumed, foolishly she now realized, that Seven knew she was an empath. But in retrospect knowing Seven as she did now it would have never occurred to Seven to look at someone's personnel file.

Del felt a flash of concern at Seven's reaction to the coming revelation. Would she think she had taken unfair advantage of her? "I thought you knew Seven, it never occurred to me you wouldn't look at my Starfleet record. I mean I looked over everyone's record when I came onboard." Del babbled nervously. Seven didn't say a word she just continued to stare at her questioningly. Del took a deep breath knowing she was just stalling. "I'm an empath Seven, I can sense people's emotions," she admitted meeting Seven's eyes directly.

Seven's expression never changed she just nodded her head in acceptance at the information.

Del was totally confused. Seven's expression might be bland but she fairly radiated a sense of happiness.

"You're not upset I didn't tell you," Del stated, clearly amazed. "Most people are uncomfortable knowing that someone can sense what their feeling whether they want them to know or not."

Seven nodded in understanding. "People are uncomfortable with my unique abilities as well. You are the first person to ever totally accept me for who and what I am. How could I do any different for you?"

Del smiled lovingly at Seven. After Seven's comment about total acceptance she knew it was time to be totally honest with her. "Ah…Seven there's something else I need to tell you about." Del gulped nervously, hoping Seven took this disclosure as well as she had the last one. "I've never told anyone about this before but I have other mental abilities that aren't documented in my Starfleet record." Del was encouraged by Seven's calm demeanor. "Remember that first time we went to lunch and I tried to get you to try my sandwich and you told me how everything tasted bland to you?" Seven nodded. "Well…umm the Doctor had told me previously that he felt your taste buds had atrophied with disuse and thought if you were to eat more maybe they would come back. So I umm… I umm well I can project to a person; I mean umm I projected to you the correct taste of foods so you could enjoy them. I hoped if you kept eating eventually your own taste buds would take over," Del stuttered, apprehensive of Seven's reaction.

Seven's response was immediate. "Thank you."

Del was floored by Seven's easy acceptance of her abilities, not to mention the fact that she had used them on her without her knowledge. "But…I," Del trailed off, not sure what to say. She expected Seven to be upset if not downright angry.

Seven looked at Del puzzled by her reaction. "You helped me experience something I never have before and furthered my quest to regain my humanity. Is that not a good thing?"

"Of course it is, Seven." Del said, marveling again at the amazing woman sitting beside her. "I do have a favor to ask though. I would appreciate it if you didn't say anything about my abilities to the Doctor or anyone else. It's in my record that I'm an empath but not that I have any other psychic abilities."

Seven didn't understand why it was necessary but was willing to abide by Del's request. She nodded her acceptance.

"I do have a question for you." She felt Seven's pleasure at the role reversal. "I understand that you're not upset that I can sense your emotions but why does it make you so happy?" That had been the thing confusing Del during this whole discussion Seven's underlying sense of happiness she was unconsciously projecting.

Seven thought for several moments wondering how to explain. "Since I have been on Voyager I have felt very alone. The hardest thing to get used to has been the loss of the voices that were my constant companion for as long as I can remember. Just knowing that you know what I am feeling and that I do not have to struggle to express myself with you makes me feel connected to you and for the first time since being separated from the collective, I do not feel so alone."

Del was overwhelmed by Seven's heartfelt explanation. She reached over and drew Seven into her arms hugging her tightly. "You never have to be alone again," she promised fervently, staring deeply into Seven's vivid blue eyes. Del leaned down and captured Seven's lips in an emotion filled kiss. They were both breathing heavily when the kiss finally broke. Knowing she couldn't afford another kiss like that Del reluctantly started to release Seven. Seven whimpered in protest pressing closer to Del. Del stroked Seven's cheek softly tracing the implant at her jaw line.

"Come on, we need to go, it's past time for you to regenerate. Unless you'd like to stay here and try to sleep?" Del asked hopefully.

Seven had no interest in leaving Del's cabin or her arms for that matter. "My implants require that I spend time in my alcove. They are not recharged as my biological components are by sleep," she admitted sadly.

"Not a problem," Del assured Seven, rising from the couch.

Seven's earlier reluctance to return to the cargo bay resurfaced even though she knew it couldn't be avoided.

"Don't worry," Del wrapped an arm around Seven's waist as she led her toward the door. "I promise I'll stay with you the whole time you regenerate."


Chapter Eight

"So, to interrupt your regeneration cycle, I just hit this pad?" Del confirmed, pointing to a control on the console in front of her. They were in Cargo Bay Two at the control console adjacent to Seven's alcove.

"Yes, it normally takes a sequence of commands to terminate the cycle short of completion but I have overridden that. You can now stop it with a single command."

"Is there anything else you normally do before you regenerate?"

"No, the computer controls my regeneration cycle and it is initiated automatically when my receptors connect with the alcove."

"Alright then, up you go," Del said, motioning toward the dais.

Seven started to step into her alcove then hesitated and turned back to face Del. "Would this not be an appropriate situation for a good night kiss?"

Del laughed. "You're stalling Seven. I promise you, I'll stay 'til your cycle completes. If there's a problem I'll immediately halt the cycle…okay?"

Seven didn't know why she was so reluctant to regenerate. Sighing in resignation, she stepped onto the dais of her alcove. Her eyes widened in surprise when Del stepped up in front of her.

Del leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Seven's lips. "Good night, I'll see you in a few hours," she whispered against Seven's lips, kissing her one last time.

Seven pressed her lower back into the contacts of her alcove. Del's smiling face the last thing she saw before her eyes snapped shut and her regeneration cycle engaged.

Del stood for several long minutes staring up at Seven. She really was an incredibly beautiful woman. She looked like an ancient Greek goddess: standing with her legs slightly spread, arms resting comfortably at her sides, her head back, and her features serene. With one last lingering look Del moved away from Seven's alcove.

Del arranged several crates so that she had a clear view of Seven but she herself couldn't be seen by anyone entering the bay. Taking a seat on the cold floor she cursed her lack of forethought at not at least bringing a blanket to sit on. There was nothing in the bay except large supply crates and Borg alcoves. She considered sitting in one of the alcoves but didn't want to be seen until she found out just what was going on. She still could not believe that this was where Seven lived.

Del set a tricorder down against her leg having set it to sound a silent vibrating alarm when the cargo bay doors opened in case she fell asleep. Pulling out the data pad she had thought to bring along she settled down to wait.

Del glanced at the time displayed on her data pad; she had been sitting in the cargo bay for over four hours. It was just after 0300 and no one had even entered the bay in all that time. She sighed in frustration, there had always been the possibility that no one would show up. Seven had said the experience she had the last time she regenerated had not happened before. Del stood up and started to stretch when she heard the cargo bay door slide open.

She crouched down and peered around the crates trying to see who entered the bay. When she caught sight of the two men, she growled. I should've known! They walked toward the center of the bay and removed several canisters from a storage crate. Even though she had assured Seven she would stop her regeneration cycle as soon as someone approached her alcove, Del hesitated.

As she watched the men, it dawned on her that she needed proof of what they were up to. Though hard to explain, just being in the cargo bay would not be enough evidence if they were doing what she thought they were. They walked back toward the doors and placed the canisters inside the doorway just to the left of it but made no effort to leave. What the hell are they up to?

Del tensed when they made their way over to stand in front of Seven's alcove. She was too far away to hear what the two men were saying but the look on their faces and the lust emanating from them gave her a good idea of what was being said. She felt her anger soar.

She took a step forward when one of the men suddenly stepped up onto the dais with Seven. Before she could react he reached out and grabbed Seven's breasts then began thrusting himself between her slightly spread legs. Del roared in rage, knocking several crates over as she sprinted for Seven's alcove. She leaped the last several feet wrapping her arms around the man who was molesting Seven and slamming him to the ground. Between her weight and the fall the man was temporarily stunned.

Del lifted up enough to slap her combadge. "MacMillan to Security. Send a security team to Cargo Bay Two on the double," she ordered. "Don't even think about it," she snarled at the second man, who was trying to edge his way to the door.

The first man recovered. "Get off me bitch!" he screamed at Del, trying to push her off.

Del looked down into the angry face of Ensign Daniels. "You're under arrest Daniels. I'd keep my mouth shut if I were you," Del snarled. She stood and yanked Daniels to his feet. It was taking every bit of her self-control not to beat the man to a pulp for what he had done to Seven. He tried to jerk away from her.

She tightened her grip on his arm then wrenched it up behind his back causing him to cry out in pain. Never loosening her grip on the cursing man, she hauled him over to the console and slapped the switch to stop Seven's cycle. She had remained locked in her regeneration cycle during the altercation.

"Warning! Regeneration cycle incomplete," the computer intoned.

Seven's eyes opened and she looked around in confusion. Her eyes widened when she spotted Del restraining an angry Ensign Daniels and Crewman Philips standing nearby looking scared. Security burst into the bay before she could speak.

Del took charge immediately. "Take these two to the brig for assaulting Seven of Nine. I'll be along shortly to file formal charges."

Daniels turned to one of the security guards. "She's crazy, we just came into the bay to get some parts and she jumped us. She's the one you should be locking up. You know me Kyle. She's psycho, we didn't do anything," Daniels arrogantly claimed. While Philips was visibly scared, Daniels radiated nothing but cocky assurance.

The security officer looked back and forth between the two officers. Finally he turned to Daniels. "She's a Commander, Bud, I have to take her word. You'll get your say when our report gets filed," he said, apologetically reaching out for Daniels arm.

Daniels jerked away. "This is bullshit. I demand you contact Tuvok, right now!"

Del was furious but knew she had to play this by the book. Before any of the security people could react she reached up and tapped her combadge. "MacMillan to Tuvok."

There was barely a pause before Tuvok answered even though it was the middle of the night. "Tuvok here, go ahead,"

"Tuvok, we have a situation in Cargo Bay Two that requires your immediate attention." Del knew he would come and not ask questions.

"Acknowledged, on my way."

Del glared at a smirking Daniels before turning her back on him. Seven was still standing in her alcove and Del was aware of her confusion and lingering fear. She held out her hand to Seven encouraging her to step down then led her several steps away from the security team and Daniels.

"Are you alright?" Del asked quietly, concerned by Seven's silence.

"Yes, I am now. It was happening again, the same sensations as last time then it suddenly stopped. Several minutes later you must have hit the override to my alcove."

"Yeah, I did. Daniels and Philips came into the cargo bay and approached your alcove. Daniels stepped onto your dais and he… he." Del was finding this very hard to tell as she felt her anger rise again at what Daniels had done. She had thought that someone might be coming into the bay and trying to tamper with Seven's alcove or even playing some game of trying to touch her without awakening her but nothing had prepared her for Daniels's actions. She started in surprise when Seven reached out and gently stroked her arm.

She looked into Seven's eyes. "He was touching you, Seven… very inappropriately. I got to him as quickly as I could and knocked him away. Once I got him under control I overrode your cycle and called security."

Seven glanced over at Daniels where he was talking with the security team. She shivered when he leered at her and unconsciously moved closer to Del. Del drew Seven close to her side and rubbed her back soothingly.

"Will they not detain him because I am Borg?"

"What! Of course they will, but he's claiming I attacked him and that he and Philips were just in the bay getting parts."

"But that is not true," Seven exclaimed.

"I know that, but I'd be willing to bet he was the one who tampered with the security monitors. He doesn't know everything he did was recorded. When Tuvok arrives and reviews the log, Daniels will go to the brig. I promise you."

Their conversation was cut short when the cargo bay doors opened and Tuvok entered the bay. He took in the sight of his security team as well as Daniels and Philips. His eyebrow quirked at Del and Seven standing close together several feet away.

They made their way back to the group in time to hear Daniels launch into his spiel telling Tuvok how wrongly accused he and Philips were and that he was attacked by Commander MacMillan out of the blue.

Tuvok listened impassively. When Daniels finished he turned to Del. "Commander, is this an accurate accounting of the events?"

"No, it's not," Del stated, then proceeded to explain the events leading up to her summoning security.

"She's lying," Daniels insisted. "We never even went near her," he said, dismissively gesturing toward Seven. "We just came in to get some supplies and she jumped us. Isn't that right Paul?"

Philips nodded his head but didn't speak.

"At 0312?" Tuvok questioned.

"I was supposed to get them before I went off duty last night and didn't," Daniels admitted, appearing contrite. "So I thought if I got them now and they were in environmental control when Alpha shift reported I wouldn't get in trouble."

Del had had enough of Daniels posturing. "Tuvok, why don't you review the security logs of the cargo bay for the time period in question?"

Daniels grinned smugly. "Yeah, you'll see, all we did was come in and get some canisters."

Del growled under her breath, now she knew what they had been up to when they first arrived. If the security scanners hadn't been re-aligned all that would have shown were the two men retrieving the canisters. She resisted the urge to smirk at Daniels knowing he was about to get a rude surprise.

Tuvok stepped over to Seven's console and keyed up the security logs. Del gave him the approximate timeframe. He watched for several minutes. Del was surprised. She normally couldn't sense any emotion from Tuvok, his natural shields were too tight, but tonight she had no trouble sensing his disquiet and outright anger, though nothing showed on his face.

Tuvok looked up from the monitor and approached Ensign Daniels motioning for the two security personnel to restrain him. "You are under arrest for assaulting Seven of Nine."

"What! We just came in and got some canisters. The logs don't even show her alcove," he snarled angrily, trying to get away from the security personnel.

"How do you know that?"

"I didn't do anything wrong," he persisted.

"Escort Ensign Daniels and Crewman Philips to the brig," Tuvok ordered his security people. "This matter will be presented to the Captain and formal charges filed."

Philips who had been quiet during all this started to back away when the security guard approached him. "I didn't do anything," he pleaded. "It was all Daniels idea. I never touched her."

"Shut up, Philips," Daniels growled at his friend.

The two men were escorted from the cargo bay, Daniels still proclaiming his innocence and yelling obscenities at Del.

When they were gone Tuvok turned to Del. "Do you wish me to awaken the Captain?"

Del glanced at Seven knowing she was still very upset. "No. It's only three hours 'til Alpha shift, it can wait that long. Seven will be accompanying me back to my quarters." Del glanced questioningly at Seven to see if that was all right with her. At her answering nod she continued. "We'll meet you in the conference room at 0700.

"I will inform Captain Janeway." Tuvok acknowledged. He then turned his attention to Seven. "I should have inquired before now. Were you injured in the attack? Do you require medical assistance?"

Seven shook her head unconsciously taking a step closer to Del. Tuvok nodded his acceptance and exited the cargo bay.

Del wrapped her arm around Seven's waist and escorted her back to her cabin.

As soon as the cabin door slid shut Del drew Seven into her arms engulfing her in a tight hug. Seven had been silent all the way back from the cargo bay. They had both been severely shaken by the mornings events.

Seven stopped Del when she moved toward the couch. "I want to see the logs," she requested in a quiet voice.

Having Seven see what happened was the last thing she wanted but Del knew she would have to see it eventually. Better here with her the first time than in a room full of people.

"I'll key it up," Del agreed, walking over to the monitor set in her desk. Del ran the log that showed the overview of the cargo bay. Seven was clearly visible in her alcove regenerating. It was only a few moments before the cargo bay doors opened and Daniels and Philips entered. Seven watched seemingly stoically but Del knew what she was really feeling. She put her arm around Seven's shoulder drawing her close to her side when Daniels stepped up onto the dais. Del felt Seven stiffen as she watched herself being molested by Daniels. She radiated equal parts anger and shame. Her eyes widened in shock when Del's figure flew into the frame and slammed Daniels to the floor. She turned away from the monitor when the security team arrived. Del reached past her and stopped the playback.

"I'm sorry I didn't stop him sooner," Del contritely told Seven, looking down at the floor and refusing to meet her eyes. "I should've stopped them the second they approached your alcove." Del felt sick seeing what she had allowed Daniels to do to Seven.

Surprisingly this time it was Seven who initiated the embrace. "I understand why you did not. Until he actually touched me there was no proof."

Del looked up in relief, her guilt had been tearing at her. "But I should have…"

Seven pressed her finger to Del's lips stopping her. "No."

Del led Seven over to the couch. "Would it be okay if I held you 'til we have to go to the conference room," she requested vulnerably. The events of the last hours had shaken her more than she realized.

Seven for the first time since being abruptly awakened from her regeneration cycle smiled. She nodded eagerly to Del's request.

Del motioned for Seven to wait while she positioned herself on the couch. She rested her back against the rolled armrest and stretched her legs out straight in front of her. Seven regarded her quizzically. Del spread her legs and beckoned for Seven to take her place between them. Seven lowered herself gingerly between Del's legs and reclined hesitantly back against her.

"I'm going to put my arms around you now." Del informed her before wrapping her arms securely around Seven. Spreading her hands out over her abdomen, she pulled her back more securely against her. Seven tensed when Del's hands came into contact with her abdominal implant but quickly relaxed. "Lay your head back against me," Del encouraged Seven.

Seven gave an unknowing sigh of contentment when she was settled comfortably in Del's loving embrace. For the first time since entering the cargo bay hours earlier she felt safe, secure.

"Are you comfortable?" Del whispered close to Seven's ear, her warm breath causing Seven to shiver. Seven nodded. "Then just close your eyes and relax," Del instructed placing a soft kiss on Seven's temple.

Seven's eyes slid closed and the lingering tension slipped from her body. Del closed her eyes as well, savoring the feel of Seven in her arms.

They remained that way until the computer announced its morning wakeup call.

Del stepped into the conference room at exactly 0700 with Seven at her side. She was surprised that not only were the Captain and Tuvok present but Chakotay and B'Elanna as well.

Janeway immediately approached Seven, reaching out to clasp her hands.

"Are you alright, Seven."

"I was uninjured," Seven stated flatly, her Borg persona firmly in place.

Janeway's eyebrow arched at Seven's tone. She gazed at her worriedly.

Pushing her concerns for Seven away for the moment, Janeway addressed the assembled staff. "Let's get started," she ordered, motioning everyone toward the conference table.

The Captain took her seat at the head of the table. Tuvok, Del and Seven sat on one side of the table. B'Elanna took up a seat next to the Captain and opposite Tuvok. Chakotay sat at the foot of the table opposite Janeway. Two empty seats remained at the table.

Janeway got right down to the matter at hand. "I've taken the liberty of informing Chakotay and B'Elanna of the incident that took place in the cargo bay early this morning. B'Elanna is here as the direct superior of the men involved. Before we review the security log I have a few questions."

Janeway turned to Del. "Commander, how did you come to be in the cargo bay at the time of the incident?"

"Two nights ago Seven came to my cabin and informed me that her regeneration cycle had been interrupted before completing. She was upset and said she felt as if someone was touching her. She didn't see anyone but stated that the cargo bay doors where just closing when she became aware again."

Janeway's eyebrows rose at this but she didn't interrupt.

"Seven and I reviewed the security logs of the cargo bay and found that the sensors had been tampered with. The alignment had been changed so that neither the cargo bay door nor Seven's alcove was visible in the recording. We…"

"Why didn't you come to myself or Tuvok when you discovered this?" Janeway interrupted.

"There wasn't any proof; all I had were suspicions. Seven didn't know what had occurred, only that her cycle had abruptly terminated and she felt somehow threatened. I had Seven realign the sensors to cover the whole bay and arranged with her to be present during her next regeneration cycle, which was last night."

"Thank you, Commander. I wanted to be clear on the sequence of events before we reviewed the security log. There is ample evidence to support your claim that the two crewmen involved assaulted Seven of Nine. However, there was no way to determine who tampered with the security monitors of the bay.

"What about the fact that Daniels admitted he knew the logs didn't show Seven's alcove?" Del demanded angrily.

"That in itself is suspicious but Tuvok was unable to recover any proof that Ensign Daniels was directly involved in tampering with sensors," Janeway explained calmly.

Del sensed Chakotay's and B'Elanna's surprise upon learning of the tampering of the security monitors. That's when it dawned on her that neither of them had seen the security logs. She had sensed unease from them and worry but not the anger she expected. Now she understood why.

Ever since entering the conference room, Del had easily sensed the anger that Janeway was being careful not to show; she had obviously reviewed the log. Del was pulled out of her thoughts when Janeway activated her combadge.

"Bring them in," she ordered.

The doors to the conference room slid open and two security personnel led in Daniel and Philips.

"What are they doing here?" Del snarled, rising from her chair.

"Stand down, Commander," Janeway ordered sternly. "It's their right to see the evidence against them."

Del wanted nothing more than to reach across the table and throttle Daniels. It was Seven who finally managed to reach her through her anger. She reached out and took hold of Del's arm, stroking it gently before pulling her back into her seat.

"All right, now that all the parties are present." Janeway turned to face the two men who had taken up seats opposite Del and Seven. "Ensign Daniels, Crewman Philips, you've been accused of physically assaulting Seven of Nine at 0322 this stardate in Cargo Bay Two."

"Captain, we never touched her," Daniels defended immediately. "We were in the bay getting replacement canisters for environmental control when Commander MacMillan attacked me without provocation. I want to file formal charges against her!" he demanded.

"Your request will be taken under consideration, Ensign."

Del couldn't believe that Janeway was listening to this guy's lies. She was about to erupt in outrage when she felt a restraining hand on her bicep. Her eyebrow shot up in surprise when she realized it was Tuvok. Taking his silent instruction, she subsided and remained quiet.

"Mr. Tuvok, would you please call up the security logs of Cargo Bay Two to the time in question," Janeway instructed.

The large monitor in the room lit up and an overview of cargo bay two appeared on the screen. Seven could be seen in her alcove.

For the first time Del felt a blast of apprehension from Daniels. Everyone watched the unfolding events intently. Del was aware of Seven's renewed unease and slid one hand off the table and onto Seven's thigh in silent support. She glanced over and smiled reassuringly when she felt Seven's grateful response.

When Daniels and Philips approached Seven's alcove Tuvok hit a control that zoomed in the replay to just the area around Seven and her alcove. Both men's voices were clearly audible. Del's stomach churned at the crude conversation. When the playback completed Del noticed that Daniels for the first time looked nervous. There was perspiration beading up on his forehead and his breathing was rapid. Chakotay looked physically ill, as did Janeway.

Del jumped when B'Elanna exploded out of her chair. "You bastard!" she snarled, reaching for Daniels. He flipped over his chair in his rush to get away from the enraged Chief Engineer.

Janeway grabbed B'Elanna and pulled her way from him. Daniels scurried behind the security personnel.

"That's enough, B'Elanna!" Janeway roared.

As soon as B'Elanna subsided Daniels came out from where he'd been cowering. "I didn't do anything wrong. You said it yourself many times, it's just a drone. It's not like she has any feelings," he whined to B'Elanna then flinched when she growled at him baring her teeth. At a warning glare from Janeway B'Elanna resumed her seat. B'Elanna glanced over at Seven and couldn't help wondering, just what, if any part, she had in what had happened in the cargo bay. The very thought made her feel sick.

Janeway took control of the situation. "Ensign Daniels, you're to be confined to the brig for the next 30 days. After you're released you'll be confined to your quarters when not on shift for an additional 30 days. Your movements when you're out of your quarters will be strictly monitored by security. In addition, while you're in the brig you'll be escorted to the holodeck for one hour every day and submit to counseling by the psychiatrist chosen by the Doctor. He will monitor your sessions and provide me with updates to your progress."

"I didn't do anything wrong," Daniels insisted vehemently. "Can't you people see what she is? She's just a Borg drone. Everyone onboard knows she's not even human." He glanced at B'Elanna and Chakotay looking for support. Seeing nothing but the condemning looks of both officers, he turned to face Seven. "Chakotay should have blown you out the airlock like he did the rest of those creatures!" he snarled.

Del and B'Elanna both surged to their feet, their faces flushed with rage.

"Stand down NOW! Both of you!" Janeway commanded sternly. "Get him out of here," Janeway ordered security, watching as one of the men dragged a cursing Daniels away.

"Sit down now…or I'll have you removed." Janeway threatened both women. She waited until they had both regained their seats. She then turned her attention to Philips, who had remained at the table with his head in his hands. "Do you have anything to say for yourself, Mister?"

"It wasn't my idea, I swear. I've never done anything like that before. Daniels told me about what he'd done in the cargo bay before and wanted me to see… I didn't think it would hurt anything. I mean um…it wasn't like we were…doing anything to a real person…he said it was like using a life-size blowup doll." He gulped at the angry reactions around the table, quickly realizing that probably wasn't a good thing to admit. Philips looked up into the livid faces around the table and flinched. "I didn't touch her. I swear!" he declared adamantly.

Janeway stared at the crewman then took a deep breath before pronouncing his sentence. "Crewman Philips, you're to be confined to the brig for 10 days for your part in this. I suggest you use that time to think long and hard about who you associate with and how you've treated a fellow crewmember. After you're released you'll be restricted to your cabin when not on duty for an additional 15 days. I'm sure Lieutenant Torres will have some additional duties for you as well." Philips never looked up, even when Janeway motioned for the remaining security guard to escort him from the room.

Janeway turned back to the remaining occupants of the room. "If there's nothing else… the rest of you are dismissed," she said, the strain of the last hour showing clearly on her face. "Seven, would you please stay."

Everyone filed out of the room except Seven and Del. Janeway raised her eyebrow in question at Del. "Was there something else, Commander?"

Seven spoke before Del could. "I wish her to stay." Seven informed Janeway taking a step closer to Del.

Janeway couldn't help but be a little hurt that Seven would feel the need for the Commander to remain. They had had many private discussions in the past.

"Okay, Seven, if that's what you want. I just wanted to make sure you were all right and see if there was anything I could do for you. Would you like to be excused from duty today?"

"That will not be necessary." Seven looked over at Del and she inclined her head toward Janeway, obviously encouraging her. Seven looked back at Janeway. "I would like to make a request."

"What is it, Seven? What ever you need just let me know?"

"I would like permission to seal the cargo bay doors while I regenerate."

"Of course, Seven. I should've thought of that before. I never thought anyone on my crew would do anything like this," Janeway apologized.

"You are not responsible for the actions of the crew."

"That's where you're wrong Seven, I'm responsible for everything that goes on in this ship. I feel terribly for what was done to you and can't help but feel partly responsible for it. I know some of the crew has been slow in accepting you." Janeway glared at Del when she snorted. "But I was unaware that feeling onboard still ran so strongly." She tried to explain. "Feel free to secure the cargo bay doors in whatever manner you feel is appropriate when you regenerate. I will inform the proper departments that they're to coordinate their access to the bay around your regeneration cycle."

Seven nodded her thanks. "There is one other request…" At Janeway's encouraging look Seven continued. "I no longer wish to live in the cargo bay. I want to be assigned my own quarters."

Janeway's eyes widened in surprise and she was silent for several seconds. "Alright Seven, I'll see what I can do. Quarters are pretty tight onboard, so unfortunately you'll have to share with someone. Maybe we could meet later in my quarters and go over the possibilities."

Del immediately sensed Seven's panic at the thought of sharing quarters with someone. When she had urged Seven to request her own quarters she had not realized space onboard was at such a premium.

Even knowing how difficult it would be, she couldn't stop herself from offering. "No need for that, Captain, Seven can share my quarters." Del fought to keep her expression neutral when Janeway gasped and a flash of jealousy roiled from her.

"That won't be necessary, Commander. I'm sure we can find quarters that Seven will find acceptable."

"I wish to share with Del," Seven stated plainly, ending Janeway's protest. The bright smile on her face left no doubt that she found the solution more than acceptable.

Janeway looked unhappily resigned. "Alright Seven, if that's what you want."

"Great," Del smiled, "then you'll issue the authorization to maintenance?"

"Authorization to maintenance?" Janeway asked, clearly confused.

"To create a second bedroom. I figured if we got rid of the formal dining area and made the master bedroom slightly smaller it would still give us room to add a second computer console in the main cabin and still have room for the second bedroom." Del explained, surprised by the sudden sense of relief emanating from Janeway. That's when she realized that Janeway thought she was not only offering to share her cabin with Seven, but her bed as well.

"Of course, Commander, I'll get Maintenance on it right away." Clearly relieved she had misunderstood Del's offer. "If that's all then… you're both dismissed."

Del and Seven both acknowledged the dismissal and turned to leave. Just as the doors opened Janeway's voice stopped them.

"Commander, why don't you give Seven a hand in Astrometrics today."

"Aye Captain," Del acknowledged with a smile before stepping through the doors with Seven.

Part 9

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