DISCLAIMER # 1: This story is an original work of fiction set in the pre-existing universe of Star Trek: Voyager. As such, many of the characters and references used within belong solely to Paramount Pictures. I have borrowed them for the purpose of creating this scenario and promise to return them unscathed, and smiling, as soon as I am done. No gain, monetary or otherwise, is expected from their use and no copyright infringement is intended or should be inferred.
DISCLAIMER # 2: All original characters and storylines contained herein belong to the author. (Like anyone else would claim them! J ) This story may be archived upon request with the stipulation that it must be posted exactly as it was written, with all disclaimers intact.
DISCLAIMER # 3: This story depicts a romantic relationship between two women. Some scenes may be graphic, but lovingly so. If you are under the age of 18, either stop reading now or find a really good place to hide it. I don't want to hear from your mother! (And clean up your room would ya??) If this is illegal where you live, then please advise your local government to pull its head out of its ass or at least put a window in its belly button.
WHO TO BLAME: Massive Huge Thanks must go out to Shatterpath, for helping me pound out the outline to this so long ago Thanks also to the women of HerCaptain, Ladies of the Stars, The Janeway/Seven Faction, The Voyager Conspiracy, Passion and Perfection, Ralst, and Sazzy for just being wonderful in general, to G.L. Dartt, for showing us all how it's done and to Andrea, Ky and Shawn for beta reading and thumping me on the head when I needed it.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is dedicated to Kristen, for gracefully putting up with hours of Trek babble and J/7 lust while trapped in the backseat of her own car. You truly were a lady in every sense of the word…
ONE LAST NOTE – PLEASE READ: This story was written with tongue planted firmly in cheek. I recommend that you read it the same way. It came about from taking eight trips to Vegas in one year. And yes, I know it's an inane concept, but I just couldn't resist! I did not care about the probability or possibility of it. The only thing I tried to adhere to were the personalities of Janeway and Seven themselves. If you are a fan of purely logical stories, you might want to skip this one. Oh, and yes, the story about the ring is true. Someone told me they thought it would be cathartic…<<shrug>>. I apologize if it seems rather melodramatic.
This is a first time story. With all the first time jitters. I have found that I dislike wasting pages describing the antics of Voyager up till the point before the story begins. We all know where they are and why, and how Seven ended up with them, so I am going to leave that out, other than very briefly. The best time frame for this would be sometime later in the series. LOL Sorry, that's as exact as it gets. I welcome all comments, suggestions, criticism and compliments. Please email them to either of the above addresses. Flames concerning the lesbian content will be promptly laughed at, printed, and used to line my cats litter box. No half Borg blonde goddesses or velvet tongued ship jockeys were harmed during the writing of this story. However, my water bill has risen accordingly.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Viva Las Vegas
By Patricia L. Givens


What did you want, How could I guess
You wanted more, I gave you less
A miracle is all I need,

A bush to burn, A stone to bleed
Walking on water, Water to wine
Love lasts forever
Wish you were mine

-Melissa Etheridge


Chapter One: What the hell?

Tom Paris stifled a yawn as he scrolled through the programs on his PADD. He had seen them all before, but he still lived in hope that maybe he had missed something in his perusal of Voyager's 20th century entertainment database. It wasn't that he was tired of Captain Proton or his '57 Chevy, a guy just needed something new every now and again.

Sipping his coffee, he glanced around the mess hall, taking in the various people who were milling about, waiting for Neelix to serve breakfast. He waved at a few of the cuter Ensigns who wandered by before returning his attention to his search. If he hadn't looked down at exactly that moment, he might have missed it.

"What was that?" He mumbled to himself. The screen had gone out of focus for a second and when it realigned itself, there was something there he had never seen before. Walking over to the replicator he punched in the program code, using three of his precious ration strips in the process. He was slightly disappointed when a traditional 20th century book appeared instead of a holochip. Picking it up, he wondered briefly at the title before turning it over.

The coffee cup fell from his fingers as his jaw dropped.

"All senior staff will report to the conference room."

Tom stared for a few moments longer before tucking the book under his arm and heading for the staff meeting.

"What's the status of the warp core?" Captain Kathryn Janeway turned her attention to her half Klingon Engineer. She almost didn't need to ask. After being lost in the Delta Quadrant for the last six years, she had come to trust B'Elanna with her precious ship's engines to the point where the query was merely procedure.

B'Elanna looked up from her PADD. "The overhaul is complete. We're just doing a standard inspection of the plasma injectors and then we're good to go."

"Thank you." Janeway turned her attention to the far end of the table where her head of Astrometrics sat patiently. Half Borg, Half human, Seven of Nine had been severed from the Collective two years earlier. At six feet tall, with white gold hair and clear blues eyes, she was as stunning as she was intelligent. Even her remaining Borg implants seemed to add to her beauty rather than detract from it. Or, at least, the Captain thought so. "What do we have ahead of us, Seven?"

"There are several interesting phenomena in the next sector, Captain. Including a small planetoid that is showing a high concentration of dilithium ore. If we divert our course slightly, the addition to our current stores would be well worth the delay."

"Agreed." The Captain took a drink from her favorite mug as she looked at each of her senior staff in turn. "If there's nothing else, you're dismissed."

"Uhm…Captain?" Tom Paris looked at her oddly. "I'm not sure how important this is but I thought I should bring it to your attention."

"Yes, Mr. Paris?"

Standing, Tom placed the book on the table and slid it over to her.

Janeway raised one eyebrow. "Starting a book club, Lieutenant?"

"Not exactly. I found that in the entertainment database. The weird thing is it wasn't there before this morning."

Janeway reached out and drew the book towards her. "The Problem With Temporal Mechanics…" She read out loud. "Not exactly what I would name a novel, but each to their own. I'm sure you just missed it, Tom."

"Uhm, no, Captain. You don't understand." He hated to contradict her but he had no choice. "I was looking through the database and the screen sort of…went out of phase and when it came back in line that was there."

"Computer glitch." She said stubbornly.

"There is also the fact that it was in the 20th Century entertainment database."

That got her attention.

"And then there is also the matter of the back cover."

Janeway sighed and flipped the book over. Her look of astonishment must have been immense as every member of the senior staff suddenly leaned forward. "Damn it!" She breathed.

"Captain?" Chakotay looked at her curiously. "What is it?"

Slowly, she turned the book so that they could all see the picture on the back.

There, dressed in blue jeans and a white button down shirt, laughing into the camera, was Seven of Nine.

The silence was deafening.

Finally, the Captain cleared her throat. "Obviously this is something we need to investigate." She flipped the book open and read the first page out loud.

A Note From The Editor

Lauren Scott was many things to many people. She was a mother, a friend, a lover, an accomplished writer and poet, as well as respected scientist and mathematician She was also a mad dog lobbyist for the rights of AIDS and cancer patients, even going so far as to head many different task forces aimed at changing the structure and policies of several of the larger American insurance companies.

And yet, I have found, that none of the work she has left behind in print, rivals the manuscript you now hold before you. It was found at the bottom of a bureau drawer ten years after her passing. Simply reading these pages made me miss her with a profound ache that I have never experienced before, or since.

This book…this history…of the beginning of the rest of her life, shows a side of Lauren Scott that only a very lucky few were blessed to know. I have always thought that rather unfair, as she had so much to offer to the world, in so many different ways.

For that reason, I have decided to publish this, her last known unreleased work, under the name she herself gave it. While I have yet to figure out what the title means, I can only assume it is part and parcel of the unflappable spirit that was Lauren Scott, as is the rest of this unforgettable novel.

But don't take my word for it! Read on!

And if you can finish this book without laughing, crying, and smiling from the wonder of it all… then you are a bigger man than I am.

And I will never envy you for it.

ASH – 2063

She went to turn the page only to be interrupted by Tuvok.

"Captain, I believe that we must approach this situation carefully." He reached out and took the book from her hands. "While it is obvious that this could not be a picture of our Seven, as this woman has no implants, I do believe precautions would be prudent. There is the Temporal Prime Directive to take into consideration."

"Agreed." The Captain shook her head slightly to clear her thoughts. "What do you recommend?"

"I believe that the book does need to be read, to ensure that we do nothing to interrupt the timeline. However, it is my feeling that it would best be investigated by a less emotional mind."

Janeway smiled. "I presume you mean yourself?"

"Yes, Captain. I would be able to dissect the information in an appropriately objective manner. If, as I suspect, the novel is nothing more than the fanciful imaginings of a human mind, I will declassify it and allowed it to be accessed by the rest of the senior staff. If, however, it does warrant our involvement, I will act accordingly."

"All right." She ran her fingers through her hair, wondering when the headache would start. "Get back to me, Tuvok. Dismissed."

Her senior staff filed out silently, all curious about what had just happened but knowing better than to ask. All except one.

Seven of Nine came to stand next to her. "Captain?"

"Seven," Janeway smiled up at her. "How did I know you'd want to talk to me?"

"I find myself vaguely unsettled by the picture on the back of the book. I do not know how such a thing could exist."

"Neither do I, Seven. But I am sure Tuvok will get to the bottom of it." She raised her hand. "I do not want you to do any investigating into the matter until we hear back from him."

"May I ask why? The picture did seem to be one of me."

"Pictures can be deceiving. And if it is, by some colossal cosmic joke, a picture of you, the last thing we need is more people mucking around and cluttering up the landscape. It's safer to let Tuvok carry out his investigation and wait to hear his recommendations before we do anything. Understood?"


When the Borg did not leave, Janeway craned her neck to look up at her. "Was there something else?"

"I wanted to inquire as to your plans for the evening."

"My plans?" The Captain blinked, shifting gears. "I don't have any."

"Would you care to join me for dinner?" The younger woman watched her intently. "I have been experimenting with several recipes I located in the database and I need feedback as to my success in their preparation."

"I'd love to. When and where?"

"I would 'invite you back to my place' but I do not have the facilities for such an undertaking. Would it be acceptable for me to prepare the dishes in your quarters?"

This is new. She just invited herself to spend the evening with you in your quarters.

If it had been anyone else, Janeway might have been a little put off. But Seven never meant any disrespect, she merely voiced the most logical course of action, if not the most appropriate. The Captain's lips quirked into a smile. "You're certainly welcome to come feed me anytime."

Okay that didn't come out quite right…

Seven didn't seem to notice. "I will arrive at 1830 hours. Dinner will be at 1900. Please do not be late." Without another word, she turned and left the conference room.

Janeway watched her go, aware that tonight she would be in a position of envy to more than half the ship… and the one least likely to take advantage of it.

"How could you not look at it?" B'Elanna glared at Tom. "I can't believe you didn't even take a minute to flip through it!"

"I'm sorry!" Tom sighed. He had just picked up his lunch tray when the engineer had cornered him and dragged him to a table. "I had just replicated it when we were called for the staff meeting. Besides, I really didn't want to be involved, especially if the T.P.D. is in question. I happen to like the extra pip."

The Klingon snorted. "All that time you waste on 20th century crap and when you finally find something interesting, you don't even look. Sometimes I wonder about you, Tom."

"C'mon, B'Elanna. If it does have something to do with Seven do you really want to know about it? You know how protective the Captain is."

"Yeah I know." The Klingon frowned and settled back into her chair. "She has a definite weak spot where the Borg is concerned. Why do you think that is?"

"Oh, no." Tom put his hands up. "I told you before the last thing in the galaxy I would ever gossip about is the Captain, and especially how she feels about Seven."

"But don't you think it's odd? All the time she spends with her? I know you have to have seen the way she looks at her. I'm telling you, the Captain likes her. And from the way Seven follows her around like a puppy dog, I would have to say it's mutual."

"What does it matter?"

B'Elanna sighed. "She's given us so much, Tom. Don't you want her to be happy?"

The helmsman did a double take. "Wait a minute… are you saying you would actually approve of a relationship between them?"

"Honestly? I can't say I understand what she sees in the ice queen, but if Seven really could make her happy, I'd be the first one to give them my support. I would hope you would too. You know there are people on the ship that wouldn't take to it. It's important that the Captain knows her senior staff supports her."

"Well, I would agree with that. But I think we had better wait until we know there's something to support before we start supporting it. And I for one, am not about to ask her."

"Are there any other crew requests?" It was late in the evening and Captain Janeway had spent several hours going over shift rotations with her First Officer, Chakotay. He was a tall, robust man, whose Native American heritage left him with a well tanned complexion and a rather interesting tattoo over his left eye. Many of the female members of the crew thought him quite a catch. Janeway thought him to be attractive as well, but only in an analytical way. He was her good friend. That was all.

Chakotay smiled. "We have another transfer request to Astrometrics."

The Captain sighed. "How many is that this month?"

"Five. This one is female."

"Well, that's different. Who's the candidate?"

"Ensign McNamara."

Janeway pursed her lips. "Wasn't she the one dating Jennifer Delaney?"

"Yes." The First Officer rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Apparently they broke off the relationship a few weeks ago."

Leaning back in her chair, the Captain sipped from her favorite coffee mug. "Does she have an aptitude that would justify this transfer?"

"Actually? She hasn't ever shown an interest in that department before."

"Honestly, Chakotay. I know we're a long way from home but we can't just move crew members around because they have a crush on the head of the department."

"Is that what you think is driving her?"

"Do you think any differently?"

"No. In fact all of the requests we've received seem to be generated by a desire to be closer to our resident Borg. I suppose it's better than when everyone avoided her like the plague."

"Not by much." Janeway ran her fingers through her hair. "Request denied. Please inform Ensign McNamara that she is needed in Logistics. She'll just have to work up the courage to talk to Seven herself, outside of her duties."

Chakotay studied the Captain out of the corner of his eye. At least two of the transfer requests might have worked out, but she had dismissed them summarily. He wondered why. "I'll keep looking for a suitable candidate to help out in Astrometrics."

"You do that." Suddenly, Janeway stiffened. "Computer, state the time."

"The time is 1910 hours."

She shot up out of her chair, stacking the PADDs on her desk quickly. "I'm late. Can you finish this up?"

"Got a hot date?" He teased.

Janeway shot him a poisonous look. "Dinner plans."

"No problem. Have a good time." He smiled at her broadly.

Ignoring him, she left her ready room quickly and headed for the turbolift. When she arrived at the corridor outside her quarters, she was saddened to see that it was empty.

How long did you expect her to wait for you, Katie? Her little voice asked snidely.

Unwilling to delve into the many meanings of that particular question, she sighed and keyed her door, walking inside only to stop dead in her tracks.

Seven of Nine sat on her couch primly, her knees together with her hands folded on top of them. "You are late."

"I'm sorry, Seven. Chakotay and I were going over crew rotations and I lost track of the time. I didn't mean to make you wait. It was thoughtless of me." She tried not to think about how many times her father had had used a similar approach with her mother, trying to placate his spouse every time he arrived home late for a meal or a family function.

Spouse? Get your head together, Kathryn. She's a member of your crew.

She straightened and slid into her command stance. "I see you let yourself in."

Seven ignored the change, standing gracefully to walk over to the replicator. "I anticipated your tardiness and have timed the food preparation accordingly. You have time to shower and change your apparel before dinner if you begin now."

Janeway's lips quirked into a half smile. "All right then. I'll be out in a few moments."

Heading into her bedroom, she laughed to herself at Seven's commanding demeanor. Slipping into the hydro shower, she allowed the hot water to wash away the stresses of the day and emerged in a much better mood. Going to her closet, she fussed over what to wear for several moments before she realized that Seven could probably care less. She could walk out in a fuzzy pink robe and bunny slippers and the Borg probably wouldn't even bat an eyelash. Choosing a pair of comfortable grey slacks and a black t-shirt, she padded barefoot back out to the other room, surprised when she saw the lights had been lowered.

The table had been set with china and crystal wine glasses, accompanied by two gaily flickering candles in the center. Swallowing, she suddenly felt a little less sure of herself. Was this… could Seven… possibly think this was… a date?

Jeez you're all over the place today. It's probably just part of the Doctor's social lessons. Get a grip.

"This looks nice, Seven." She sat down at one of the place settings, gratified when the Borg filled her glass with a generous amount of wine. Sipping it settled her very empty stomach and calmed her somewhat strained nerves. "What are we having?"

"I have prepared several courses, Kathryn." Seven paused for a moment. "It is appropriate to use your given name is it not? In a social setting?"

Janeway thought about it for a moment. "It is acceptable when you're in my quarters, Seven."

The Borg nodded, apparently pleased she had judged the situation correctly. "The first course will be a Caesar salad, accompanied by several pieces of 'french' bread. That will be followed by a dish called Chicken Marsala over penne pasta with garlic bread. Finally, I have programmed a dessert called 'Tiramisu' As I have never sampled these dishes before I will be relying on your honesty as to the adequacy of their preparation." She brought two plates of the salad over and set one in front of her, taking her much smaller portion over to the other side of the table. Sitting down, she looked at the Captain. "How was your day?"

Janeway could almost hear the 'dear' on the end of the sentence and her pulse quickened. "It was fine, Seven. A little boring but I'll gladly take that over the alternative. How was your day?" She smiled to herself as she watched the Borg thinking intently for the correct way to answer.

"It was acceptable. We are still understaffed in Astrometrics. I could use a crew member to assist me with data entry."

"Anyone in mind?"

"Ensign McNamara approached me today suggesting she might be able to help."

I bet she did.

"What did you say?"

"I informed her that she lacked the necessary training to be a suitable candidate."

Janeway laughed. "I thought the same thing."

When they finished, Seven removed their plates and brought over the main course. The Captain took her first bite and looked at the Borg in amazement.

"Seven, this is phenomenal. How did you learn to do this?"

"I have been researching traditional Earth recipes. After studying their components carefully, I chose one that I felt I could prepare satisfactorily. I am gratified that you find it adequate."

"It's more than adequate." Janeway took a sip of her wine. "Why did you decide to learn how to cook?"

Seven flushed slightly. "It is my understanding that food preparation is often 'the way to someone's heart.'"

The Captain choked, barely able to keep from spewing her wine across the table. "What?"

"Was my utilization of that colloquialism incorrect, Kathryn?"

Janeway dabbed the wine from her lips with her napkin. "No, it was correct. I just wasn't aware you had heard that expression before."

"B'Elanna Torres has used it on several occasions when she is expressing her dissatisfaction with the food available in the mess hall."

"Ahh." The Captain said noncommittally. "Well, I am sure you could win her heart with this meal."

"I am uninterested in acquiring B'Elanna's affection."

Just who's affection are you trying to acquire?

Janeway kept the question to herself, choosing instead to dig into her meal, gratified by the comfortable silence between them.

The dessert was just as magnificent as the rest of the food, and when she was done, the Captain pushed her plate away and patted her belly in satisfaction. "That was outstanding, Seven. Maybe you could prepare something for the entire senior staff sometime."

"If you wish."

Janeway helped her clear the rest of the dishes and then settled onto the couch with her glass of wine. She was a little flustered when Seven joined her, sitting much closer than she normally did. "So," She searched for something to say. "Was there something you wanted to talk about?"

The Borg cocked her head to one side and looked at her intently. She noticed that the Captain seemed to fidget slightly under her gaze. "Are you nervous, Kathryn?"

"Nervous?" Janeway laughed weakly. "Why would I be nervous? Nothing to be nervous about." Then why do you sound so nervous? Her little voice asked gleefully.

"I wished to discuss with you the traditional Earth practices of 'dating' and copulation."

The Captain had just taken a drink of her wine and this time she could not stop it from going down the wrong pipe. As she choked and coughed, the Borg leaned forward and patted her gently on the back.

"Kathryn, are you all right?"

"Hmm? Yes, yes I'm fine." Why wouldn't I be fine? My stunning Astrometrics officer has just made me the best meal I've had in the last six years and now wants to talk about my mating habits Her palms began to sweat. "What did you want to know?"

"I would like to know that standard amount of time two individuals must 'date' before they begin to copulate and what that procedure entails."

Janeway sighed. "I thought the Doctor was helping you with your socialization."

Seven looked irritated. "He did attempt to do so, but I have found his information and experience inadequate. I fail to see how I can learn something so… human… from a hologram."

"I see. Was there something specific you were interested in?"

"Yes." Seven took a rather large drink of wine and if Janeway didn't know better she would swear she was trying to work up her courage. "Ensign McNamara informed me that it is acceptable for members of the same sex to engage in romantic activities. The Doctor was either not aware that this behavior was appropriate or left it out of his lessons intentionally. I wanted to know why."

What did I get myself into here…

"Well, as you have said, the Doctor is a hologram. He may have just assumed that you wouldn't be interested in this particular area of humanity While it is completely acceptable, the urge to mate with a member of the same sex only occurs in about 27% of the human populace."

"I see." Seven considered that for a few moments. "Are you a member of that 27%?"

RED ALERT!! RED ALERT!! She tried to think of a way out of the question but couldn't seem to find an available exit.

"Well," She said carefully. "I've never really thought about it. All of my partners have been male." She knew it was an equivocation but she really did not want to talk about her own feelings on the subject.

"So you would never choose a female partner?" The Borg looked at her intently.

"I didn't say that, exactly." Careful here Katie. "It just isn't something I've ever considered."


"I suppose the situation has just never come up." She tried to turn the topic away from herself. "What about you? Is it something you think you would be interested it?"

"In truth I had never considered it either, since I was unaware that it was acceptable. If I had known, I believe I would have factored it into the equation when I made my selection for my 'first date'."

Janeway remembered hearing about Seven's abortive dating attempt. She had been off ship at the time, engaged in a trade delegation with the Kadi. She knew the young woman had seen the experience as a failure, but she had not approached her about it for…various reasons.

Exactly what reasons, she wasn't sure.

Seven seemed not to notice her discomfort as she continued. "I believe I find myself more comfortable in your company than the company of anyone else on Voyager."

The Captain felt her heart flutter and squelched it. "That's because we're good friends, Seven."


That single word sent chills running up and down Janeway's spine. She knew she had always found the young woman attractive, but this conversation was making her study that attraction more closely than she wanted to. Feeling slightly childish, she faked a rather large yawn.

It worked.

"I apologize, Kathryn. You are weary and should rest. Thank you for having dinner with me. I hope we can continue this conversation at another time." She stood to go and Janeway walked her to the door.

"Of course. Anything to help."

Without warning, the Borg turned and wrapped her arms around her. It was a light embrace, innocent and sweet, and she returned it carefully. "Good night, Seven."

"Good night, Kathryn."

After the young woman had left, Janeway collapsed on the couch, her heart beating wildly and her pulse racing. No matter how innocent the hug had been intended, it had affected her more profoundly than she wanted to accept.

This is inappropriate. She is a member of my crew. I can't have these feelings!

Sadly, she realized there was only one way to stave off what she was feeling and keep it from getting worse.

She would have to stop spending time alone with Seven of Nine.


Chapter Two: Red Alert! Headache Incoming!

Captain Janeway sat in her ready room drinking her coffee. She had been trying to go over departmental reports but every time she settled in to read them, images of Seven sprang unbidden into her head.

This is crazy! She's been on board for two years. Why would I feel this way now?

But if she was honest with herself, she had to admit that these feelings were not all that new. She had just kept them buried beneath so many layers of denial that they hadn't surfaced until Seven had started discussing the possibility of being attracted to a female. And if her pointed remarks were any indication, there was at least one specific female she was considering for her affections.

She sighed when her door chimed.

"Come in."

Chakotay entered, handing her a PADD. "B'Elanna finished the inspection on the plasma injectors. She's given the engines a clean bill of health."

"Thank you." She set the PADD aside absently.



"If I may, you seem a little distracted today. Is everything all right?"

She looked up at his concerned face and forced a smile. "Everything's fine. I think I'm just a bit bored."

"Oh," He sat down. "Well, if you're looking for something to do, Tom, Harry, Neelix and I are going to be playing poker later. You're welcome to join us."

Janeway hesitated. She knew she had a game of Velocity scheduled with Seven at 1700. This might be just what she needed to get out of it. "I think I'd like that. What time?"

"1700 in the Mess Hall. Bring your ration slips."

"You know, as Captain, I can't condone gambling for actual stakes, Chakotay."

"Then leave your pips at the door." He grinned. "Because I intend to clean you out."

"You're on!"

The rest of the day progressed rapidly. She had just begun shutting down her desk PADD when she was hailed.

"Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway."

"Go ahead, Seven."

"Captain, I would like to inquire if we could continue our conversation tonight after our Velocity match."

Janeway swallowed, trying to interject embarrassment into her voice.

"Oh, Seven! I'm sorry. I forgot I had a previous engagement tonight. I promised Chakotay I would join his poker game."

There was a pause. "I see." Her voice definitely carried a hint of disappointment. "What about after?"

"I think it's going to be a late night with the guys, Seven. Again, I apologize."

"Very well. Good night, Captain."

Janeway told herself it wasn't exactly a lie. It almost made her feel better. She headed to her quarters where she changed into comfortable clothes before contacting Chakotay and pleading tiredness. He accepted it with good grace and she promised she would attend next time.

Then she curled up with a book of poetry and spent the evening reading.

Several hours later, her door chimed.

"Computer, state the time."

"The time is 2327 hours."

Who the hell would be calling this late? "Come in."

The door slid open and Seven of Nine walked into the room. She was not happy.

Janeway swallowed her initial pleasure at seeing the ex-drone and looked at her expectantly. "Seven. It's late. What can I do for you?"

"You can explain your deception, Captain."

"I beg your pardon?" She felt her ire rise.

"You informed me that you could not meet me for Velocity because you would be playing poker. Unless you have been playing with yourself here in your quarters, you lied."

The Captain flushed at her choice of words. "I did have plans to play poker with Tom and Chakotay, Seven. I was tired so I canceled. Sometimes I do prefer to spend time alone!"

The Borg's jaw twitched. "I see. I apologize, Captain, that my attempts to interact with you have impinged on your personal time. I assure you I will not burden you in the future." Without another word, the tall blonde turned and left.

"Seven!" Janeway called after her but the young woman did not come back. "Damn it!"

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway."

She slapped her commbadge hard in frustration. "What is it?"

"I apologize for the intrusion, Captain. But I require your presence in the shuttle bay."

Sighing, she grabbed her jacket. "On my way."

You really handled that well.

She berated herself all the way to her destination where she found her Chief of Security standing next to a shuttle, a medium sized container in his hands.

"What's all this about?"

Before he could answer, the shuttle bay doors opened and Seven walked in. She faltered slightly when she saw the Captain but then lifted her chin and joined them. "Commander." She addressed Tuvok. "You wished to see me?"

"I needed to speak with you both. I have finished my analysis of the book Tom Paris found in the databanks and I have come to the conclusion that your participation is necessary to maintain the integrity of the timeline."

"What?" Janeway stared at him. "What are you talking about, Tuvok?"

"I cannot go into much detail, as it may unduly affect the events which must transpire but I must ask that you follow my instructions, trusting that what I am going to ask you to do is in the best interest of all."

"Tuvok you know that I trust you implicitly." The Captain laid her hand on his arm. "What is it we need to do?"

He handed her the case. "It is imperative that you enter the shuttle and proceed to the coordinates programmed into the computer under flight plan Alpha Omega. Once there, you must wait."

"Wait for what?" Seven asked.

"Just wait. You will know when it happens. Once it does, you may then open the case and the rest of the instructions will be supplied to you."

"Tuvok," Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers, feeling a huge headache begin behind her eyes. "You're certain you can't give us any more information than that?"

"I am sorry, Captain. All I can tell you is that you both must go and you must go now."

"All right." Turning to Seven she looked at her apologetically. "I guess we have to go."

Seven turned and walked into the shuttle, ignoring her consolatory look.

Sighing, she addressed Tuvok again. "I trust you will make the necessary adjustments to cover our absence."

"Already handled, Captain." He then did something she had only seen him do on very few occasions previously. He laid his hand on her shoulder. "I know you dislike any activity regarding temporal inconsistencies, but this is a matter of utmost importance. Please take care to follow my instructions precisely and only access the areas the information relevant to your current situation."

"Of course." She nodded. "I'll see you soon."

She climbed inside the shuttle and closed the door, not hearing his response.

"I am hopeful that you do."

Janeway settled into the pilot's chair, glancing sideways at the woman sitting silently beside her. "Ready to go?"

"All systems are functioning normally, Captain." Came the cool reply. "Ready for launch."

The Captain guided the shuttle out of the bay and into space. Accessing the indicated flight plan, she activated the auto pilot and sat back.

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Seven."

"Nonetheless, you have." The Borg refused to look at her.

"You know you are very special to me." Janeway tried again. "And I know I handled myself badly this evening. Can we agree to continue this conversation when we're back on Voyager? I would welcome the opportunity to explain myself after the mission is over. Right now I think we need to keep our minds on what lies ahead."

She could feel the uncertainty in the younger woman as she nodded slowly. "Acceptable."

They spent the rest of the trip in silence, both of them occupying their attention with the computer readouts. After they had traveled approximately two light years, the shuttle came to a stop and powered down leaving only life support operational.

"It seems we have reached our destination, Captain."

Janeway looked out the windows, not seeing anything out of the ordinary. There wasn't even a planet in view. "I wonder what's so special about these coordinates."

Fifteen minutes later, they got their answer as a small rift appeared directly off their port bow. They watched in silence as it grew. Suddenly, the shuttle lurched and they began slowly sliding towards the tear.

"Get the engines back online!" Janeway demanded quickly.

"I cannot, Captain. I am locked out."

"Raise shields!"

"Systems are not responding!"

There was another huge lurch as the shuttle slid into the rift. They were tossed about hard as the spatial anomaly tried to rip the hull apart. A bright light filled the cabin and the last thing Janeway saw was Seven being thrown forward into the instrument panel before everything went black.

"Oh my god." Janeway cracked one eye open. Her muscles screamed out in protest as she lifted herself from the floor. She moved quickly to check on her companion, relieved when the young woman opened her eyes at her touch. "Are you all right?"

"I am operating adequately." Seven mumbled. "What just occurred?"

"I'm not sure." The Captain slid into the pilot's chair and started trying to power up the shuttle but it stubbornly refused to respond to her instructions.


There was a breathless quality to Seven's voice that made her look at the young woman in surprise.

Seven was staring out the front window, her eyes wide. Turning to see what had captured her attention Janeway felt the air in her lungs leave her quickly.

There, hanging right in front of them, was Earth.

For a moment she could only stare. Then her wits returned and she grabbed the case Tuvok had sent along with them. "I guess this is where we find out what the hell is going on."

Inside the container, there were several items. She pulled them out one by one and set them on the console. "A medical tri-corder, a site to site transport control, several hypo-sprays, an envelope," She handed that to Seven. "And a PADD."

Accessing the PADD's controls she was relieved to see Tuvok's face staring back at her.

"Captain," he said. "At this point I am sure you are greatly confused. I will try to alleviate your apprehension. The planet you see before you is, indeed, Earth. It is not your Earth however. You have returned to the planet in the year 2005. Leave the shuttle in orbit. It is positioned so as to avoid any detection from the planet below. It is imperative that you use the site to site transporter to beam down to the planet at the exact coordinates specified. Inoculate yourself with the hypro-sprays before proceeding. Once there, you will make contact with Lauren Scott, the author of the novel. You must allow the course of that meeting to happen without the knowledge as to why or how at the moment. After the initial encounter, it will then become imperative that you acquire accommodations and funds to facilitate the rest of your mission. In the course of your activities you will gain some insight as to why you are there. Please access this PADD again once you have attained that information. Take the rest of the contents of the case with you." The screen went dark.

"That's it?" She growled in frustration. "No matter how often I swear not to get caught up in temporal messes I always seem to find myself hip deep." She turned to Seven. "What's in the envelope?"

Seven tore the container open and slid the contents into her hand. "It appears to be several forms of identification, Captain."

Janeway reached over and picked them up. "An I.D. card, a social security card, and a passport." She looked at the picture on the I.D. It was clearly Seven of Nine, but the name on it was Lauren Scott. "I will assume this will allow you to function on the planet. I wonder why there aren't any for me."

"I do not know, Captain."

Frowning, she stood up. "I guess there's no time like the present." She took each of the hyprosprays and pressed them, one after another, against the Borg's neck and then did the same to herself. "Ready to go?"

Seven nodded and stood. She swept the remainder of the contents back into the case and slung it over her shoulder.

Janeway stood next to her and held up the transport device. "Let's hope Tuvok knows how to keep us out of sight."

She pressed the control and watched the shuttle shimmer out of existence.

They reappeared in a very small space. She found herself pressed up against Seven tightly and felt her pulse quicken. Looking around, she saw a toilet behind them. "It looks like we're in a sanitary unit." Turning to the door, she pulled it open with some difficulty and they stepped out into a small bathroom complete with two sinks and an overflowing trashcan. The walls were covered in graffiti calling out the physical attributes of several differently named parties. "Well this is attractive. It's a good thing the stall was unoccupied."

Moving to the door, she cracked it open, looking out. The area outside was somewhat dark and she could hear loud music emanating back to her. There was the distinct smell of alcohol in the air. "I think we're in a bar."

Seven said nothing, merely raising an eyebrow in response.

"All right. Here we go."


Chapter Three: Luck Be A Lady

They ventured out of the small room and into a hallway that led to a very crowded outer chamber. Idly, she noticed that most of the clientele were male. There were lights flashing in all directions and raucous music blaring loudly out of huge speakers scattered throughout the room. A long bar occupied one side of the establishment, while on the other side there was a stage elevated to the height of her waist. Looking up, she saw three, long brass poles that reached from the stage to the ceiling. Attached to the wall was a huge mural, surrounded by twinkling lights that flashed 'THE VEGAS STRIP'.

"Oh my god." She closed her eyes in frustration. "He's sent us to a nudie bar!"

"A what?" Seven looked at her in confusion.

"It's an establishment where women take their close off…for money."

The Borg's nose wrinkled in distaste. "This does not seem a logical place for Tuvok to have sent us. Perhaps his coordinates were in error."

The moved quickly through the room, but not fast enough to avoid the shape the stepped in front of them. "Hey there cutie pie!" A large figure of a man looked down at them. He was ignoring Janeway and centering his attention on the blonde at her side. "What's your name?"

"Seven of Nine." She replied, lifting her chin to respond to him with her normal grace. "Now please step aside."

"Well, Heaven of Mine." He leered, grabbing her arm. "I'm not going anywhere until you let me buy you a drink."

"I do not require liquid refreshment at this time." She tried to twist free from his grasp but he would not let go. "Please removed your hand from my arm or I will remove your arm from your body."

"Ooo." His breath was thick with alcohol. "Little spitfire aren't you? I like that in a woman."

"Perhaps." Seven did not raise her voice. "But I find little that a woman might like in you." Grabbing him with her Borg enhanced left hand, she lifted him bodily from the floor and slammed him down into a chair. "Do not accost me further."

Shocked at the display of her strength, he quickly turned away, much to the glee of his companions who teased him mercilessly. "Gonna let a little thing like that get the better of you?"

"Seven," Janeway took her arm and led her away. "We're supposed to blend in."

"There is nothing here I wish to 'blend' with, Captain. This is obviously a mistake. I do not believe anything here warrants our attention." She kept walking, unaware that the Captain had stopped. Finally realizing it, she turned back to see Janeway staring at the stage.

"I think you might be wrong about that." She breathed.

Following her line of vision, Seven caught sight of what had drawn her companions attention. The music had changed tempo as the curtains at the back of the stage opened. Gliding across the stage to swing lithely around one of the brass poles was her doppelganger.

The woman wore a small strip of clothe across her breasts, practically see through, and an equally small pair of shorts. She had her eyes closed and was swaying rhythmically to the music.

Janeway looked over at her and laughed. Seven was standing with her hands behind her back, her body held in its normal graceful pose, but her jaw hung open slightly and her eyes were as wide as saucers. Stepping closer, she used her fingers to gently close her mouth. "Blend, remember?"

Flushing, the younger woman could only nod.

At that moment, the woman on stage opened her eyes and caught sight of them. The shock on her face was apparent and she faltered for a moment before throwing them a nod and continuing her performance.

The Captain took Seven by the arm and led her to the bar. "May I have a glass of water?" The barkeep looked at her dourly but placed the drink on the counter. She handed it to Seven, who looked like she was in shock. "Drink this."

She did so automatically, feeling the coolness of the water help to center her thoughts. "Thank you, Captain."

Janeway patted her gently on the arm. "I think you'd better get used to calling me Kathryn for the time being. Captain would cause a lot of questions."

"As you wish."

The Borg's voice was so soft that she had to lean in to hear her. There was a somewhat sad expression on her face and the Captain realized the last time she had utilized her given name had led to consequences they had not yet worked through. Sighing, she moved closer, well into Seven's personal space and whispered, "Bear with me, Seven. We'll figure this out."

Seven wasn't sure if she was referring to their personal situation or their mission so she kept silent.

They waited together quietly as the show finished. Twenty minutes later, Lauren Scott exited a back room and walked up to them, an expectant look on her face.

"Well," She smirked. "I can't wait to hear this."

Janeway stepped forward. "My name is Kathryn Janeway." She held out her hand.

"Nice to meet you." Lauren shook it firmly and then turned to Seven. "And who are you?"

"Seven of Nine."

The Captain cringed inwardly, but Lauren seemed to take it in stride.

"You're parents too, huh?" She winked at the startled Borg.

"Explain." Was all Seven could manage.

"Your parents? Hippies right? They sure didn't do you any favors with that name. What, do you have eight brothers and sisters or something? My husband, Jeff, he had an unhealthy obsession for Star Wars. My son will be paying for it the rest of his life."

"Yes," Seven faltered slightly but recovered quickly. "I was the seventh of nine children."

Lauren laughed. "I guess they didn't feel like being very creative. So, what are you, some long lost cousin? I know we have to be related somehow." She circled the Borg with a smile on her face. "What's with the uniform? You guys in the military?"

"Something like that." Janeway chose that moment to jump into the conversation. "We're only here for a few days and when Seven heard she had family here, well, she just couldn't resist stopping by."

"I see." The inflection was so close to the Borg's own that the Captain did a double take. "Where you from?"

Seven didn't hesitate. "Indiana."

Janeway looked at her in surprise. Not bad, Seven!

"I wasn't aware I had any family in Indiana." She looked at them both closely. "But I guess there's no denying that we are definitely family." She glanced at her watch. "Listen, I do want to hear more and visit with you, but I'm running late. I have class."

"Class?" Seven raised on eyebrow skeptically.

Janeway leaned closer and nudged her in the ribs, whispering, "Not that kind of class, Seven."

"Yes," Lauren went on. "I'm taking extension courses at UNLV. English and creative writing. I need to get going before the professor tears my head off. He has a thing about punctuality."

"Of course." The Borg nodded. "Punctuality is something I myself appreciate."

"Glad to hear it." She flashed a crooked grin. "But listen, we're having a birthday party tomorrow afternoon for my son. He's turning ten. It's in the kid's area at Excalibur."

"Excalibur?" Janeway asked.

"Yeah. You know the big white castle with the colored turrets? You can't miss it. Come by around two o'clock. He's gonna love meeting you!"

"We'll be there." The Captain returned her smile.

"Great. Seeya then."

They followed her out, waiting until she got into a rather dilapidated car before Seven turned to her. "Star Wars?"

Janeway shrugged. "No clue. I don't remember any interstellar war this far back in Earth history. We're going to need to find out what it is." She looked around, noticing extremely bright lights further up the street. "From what I remember of this place, that area up there should be the Strip."

"More scantily clad individuals?" Seven asked in distaste.

The Captain laughed. "No, the Strip was what they called the most active area of Las Vegas. Lots of Casinos, restaurants, and consumer areas." She suddenly stopped and looked at the Borg. "Seven…how are you going to handle not being able to regenerate?"

"I completed a lengthy cycle before coming to your quarters I will not need to regenerate again for seventy two hours. If I ingest solid nutrients and… sleep… I should be able to extend that period if necessary."

"Good." She took Seven's arm and began walking. "Now we have to find funds and accommodations as Tuvok suggested."

They walked in silence, both of them taking in the incredibly bright lights and multitudes of people around them. It became a normal occurrence to see people stop and watch them as they walked by.

"I think another thing we are going to have to do is find different apparel. I can't walk around in this uniform and you…" She smiled. "If you continue to walk around looking like that I expect we'll run into a whole different set of problems."


"You're a little… provocative in that attire, Seven If we're going to blend you're going to have to tone it down a bit."

They reached the heart of the Strip and began looking for a suitable place to investigate. Janeway turned away from several of the more tawdry looking spectacles until her eyes caught on a beautiful structure with a huge pool of water in front if it. As they watched, fountains jumped up and the water chased itself from one end of the pool to the other, creating an enchanting display for the people standing around the edge.

"The Bellagio." She read, noticing that the sign also called out a museum experience revolving around the works of Van Gogh. "That sounds like my kind of place. Come on."

The entered the building and after moving through a gorgeous entry chamber, were assaulted with the loud sounds and flashing lights of the casino. Seven coughed slightly as the acrid scent of smoke invaded her nostrils.

"That smell," She complained. "It is vile."

"I know." Janeway patted her on the arm. "In the 20th century, gambling, smoking and drinking went hand in hand. Will you be all right?"

"Certainly, Captain. I will merely adjust my nanoprobes to counteract and neutralize the harmful aspects of this experience. But what of you?"

"I'm sure I'll survive, Seven." She said absently as she studied a bank of slot machines. "These machines are gambling devices. You insert money and the wheels spin. Hopefully they land on a combination that rewards you with more money. More often than not, you just end up broke. But I wonder…"



"Of course, I apologize. Kathryn?"

"Seven... do you think there's anything you can do with the Borg technology left in your system to tip the scales in our favor?"

The Borg's eyes widened. "You wish to 'cheat'?"

Janeway flinched. "Normally I wouldn't suggest such a thing, but our situation requires that we obtain a large amount of money quickly. Can you do it?"

"Of course." She responded with asperity. "It would merely require me to create an electrostatic pulse from my implants. That would disrupt the turning of the reels and allow me to stop them at my desired location."

"Would the casino be able to detect anything of that nature?"

"I find that highly unlikely. These machines are crude in nature."

"All right, let's see what we can do." She started walking up the wildly colored carpeting. "We need something out of the way. I think if we start small and move around from casino to casino we should be able to get what we need without drawing too much attention to ourselves. What do you think, Seven?"

There was no response so she turned around. "Seven?"

The Borg was no where to be seen. She walked back the way they had come but caught no sight of her. How the hell can a six foot blonde in a burgundy cat suit be so hard to find?

She had just started to feel a degree of panic when a loud stream of music, accompanied by wildly flashing lights and a ringing sound came from the side of the room. It was quickly drowned out by the sound of cheering from patrons in the area. Pushing her way through the gathered crowd, she saw her Astrometrics officer standing in front of a rather large slot machine. It was the source of the music and the lights. As she watched, several casino personnel crowded around Seven and began to shake her hand.

"What's going on?" She asked a man standing to the side.

"The blonde just hit the jackpot." He shouted over the noise. "Talk about being blessed. All those looks and now money besides!"

Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers. She should have known. As she watched, two security guards approached Seven and led her away. She tried to follow but when they went through a door leading out of the casino, she found her way blocked by more security.

"This area is off limits ma'am." One of them said politely.

"But my friend was just taken in there."

"I'm sorry. You'll have to wait out here. There's a lounge right around the corner where you can get a drink and relax. I'm sure she won't be long."

Janeway sized him up and decided it was better she followed his suggestion. She took a seat at the edge of the bar and ordered a whiskey and soda, hoping she would have some way to pay for it soon.

After two hours, Seven emerged and walked over to join her. "Kathryn."

"Seven!" The Captain stood and hugged her fiercely. "I thought something had happened to you."

The Borg's look softened. "Your concern for my wellbeing is… touching. Thank you."

Janeway let her go and sat back down. "What the hell happened?"

"I did as you instructed, Kathryn. I secured the funds to facilitate the completion of our mission."

"How much did you win?"

Seven calculated the numbers in her head. "After the removal of a grossly large amount for something called 'taxes' I have been left with the sum of nine hundred eighty two thousand, six hundred forty seven dollars and sixty nine cents."

Janeways jaw dropped. "Are you telling me you won almost a million dollars?"

"Apparently." The Borg handed her three cards. "The casino has also allocated us a suite on the top floor as accommodations and they have provided us with something called 'charge cards' which allow us to purchase items without carrying large sums of cash. My winnings are being securely held in their vault. They have assured me that they will deduct any charges we incur before releasing the rest of the funds upon our departure."

"Seven." The Captain looked at her in concern. "How did they handle the taxes? Surely they asked you for some kind of identification."

"They did." She held up the ID cards that Tuvok had included in the case.

"Nicely done." Janeway smiled at her proudly. "Did they say anything about your implants?"

"They initially wondered if they were some kind of electronic device, but after careful inspection, they believed they were as I stated: a metal brace acquired after an accident crushed my left hand and… jewelry."

The Captain laughed. "And I was worried you might feel out of your element."

"I am Borg. I adapt."

"Of course." Janeway felt an almost overwhelming surge of affection. "So, I guess we go shopping."

"The hotel manager has assured me that there is a consumer area on the upper mezzanine that will fulfill any needs we might have."

"Then let's get started."

They left the casino floor behind and headed up an escalator. At the top, Janeway smiled enthusiastically at the multitude of shops available to them.

"Something amuses you, Kathryn?"

The Captain turned her infectious grin on the Borg. "It's just been so long since I've gone on a shopping spree. We may be on a mission, but there's nothing wrong with enjoying the experience."

"Indeed." Seven returned the smile tentatively. "Where do you suggest we begin?"

"Clothes!" Janeway grabbed her arm. "What else?"

They meandered through the shopping center, stopping in front of a large storefront with subtly decorated windows.

"Banana Republic." Seven read the name. "Why would someone name a clothing establishment after a fruit?"

Janeway shrugged and pulled her inside. She perused the shelves with obvious enjoyment, pulling down a pair of jeans and holding them up to Seven to gauge the fit. "You and those long legs." She tried to keep the admiration out of her voice but the Borg picked up on it nonetheless, feeling a strange warmth in her stomach. Putting them back, she chose another pair and then grabbed a deep blue sweater. "This should do for a start. Let's go try them on." She led Seven to a small changing room. "Oh wait, I forgot the undergarments."

Heading to the back of the store, she looked over their selection of delicate underwear, knowing she should pick something simple but going for a lacey white pair of briefs instead. She chose a bra as well, feeling her palms begin to sweat as she tried to guess what size the Borg would need.

Rejoining her companion, she handed the additional items to her and pushed her inside. "Put these on."

Seven stood inside the small room and stared at the clothing. "Kathryn?"

"Yes, Seven?"

"I am unfamiliar with this type of apparel."

Janeway felt her pulse quicken.

"Can you assist me?"

Groaning inwardly, she straightened her spine and entered the room to find that Seven had already removed her biosuit. The sight of all that pale, smooth skin with delicate bands of metal wrapped around the midsection elevated her body temperature and she was slightly embarrassed to find her salivary glands working overtime.

Seven had figured out the panties on her own but was holding up the bra, looking at it suspiciously. "You wish me to wear this… harness?"

"It isn't a harness, Seven." Isn't it? Her little voice giggled. Something to keep those bad girls reigned in? "It's a bra. It keeps you from… uhm…" Seven was looking at her so intently she blushed. "It keeps your breasts in place."

"I do not believe my breasts will be going anywhere without it."

"Fine." The Captain gave up. "Forget the bra." She grabbed the sweater and pulled it quickly over the Borg's head trying desperately to get her heart rate under control. "Now, the jeans button up the front."

Seven slid them on and fumbled with the closure until Janeway reached out and helped her, trying not to notice the intoxicating scent of the Borg's skin or the way the metal bands felt incredibly soft and warm under her fingertips. "There." She stepped back. "What do you think?"

She turned Seven so she could look in the mirror. The Borg stared silently, amazed at the difference the apparel made. She started slightly when the Captain reached up and pulled the pins out of her hair, using her fingers to pull the white blonde tresses down over her shoulders. "Kathryn?"

"I think having your hair down will help to take the edge off your implants. It pulls attention away from them."

The Borg looked at her reflection again. "Agreed."

"All right, now that we know your size, we can do some serious shopping." She chose several garments for herself, changing out of her uniform after firmly declining the Borg's offers of assistance. When she emerged, a clerk was waiting for her. She handed the woman both of their uniforms and the tags from the items they were wearing and asked her to hold them at the front counter.

They then proceeded to choose several different outfits of various colors. Seven generally gave way to the Captain's choices until she picked up a light pink t-shirt and held it up to her.


Janeway looked at her in surprise. "I would think that color was irrelevant."

The Borg wrinkled her nose. "That color is not irrelevant, it is revolting."

Laughing, the Captain put it back and they proceeded to the checkout with the rest of their purchases.

"Would you like these items sent up to your suite?" The clerk asked.

"Please." She looked at Seven. "Makes it easier, not having to carry packages all over the place."

"I have enhanced strength, Kathryn. I assure you carrying the items would not have caused a hardship."

Janeway had a mental image of Seven trailing behind her like a put upon boyfriend, laden with her purchases. A nervous laugh bubbled out. "I'm sure. But we'll do it this way anyway."

Seven acquiesced and they left the shop. They made several other stops, purchasing sundry items as well as formal attire for both of them, Janeway answering the Borg's questioning look by saying, "You never know."

As they turned a corner, they found their path blocked by a group of performers. They were engaging in feats of acrobatic wonder and Seven found herself greatly amused by them. Janeway watched with her for a few moments before the shop next to them caught her attention. Keeping a watchful eye on the Borg, she went inside and was immediately transfixed by something in one of the cases. She was still staring at it when Seven joined her.

"Kathryn?" The Borg looked around. They were in a jewelry store named K. Norris and Associates. She followed the Captain's gaze to a particularly stunning ring sitting in a display all by itself. As they studied it, a female clerk walked over to join them.

"I take it you see something you like." She smiled.

"It's beautiful." Janeway breathed. "It doesn't look like anything else you have here."

"No, it wouldn't." The clerk pulled it from the case and handed it to the Captain who slid it onto her finger to admire it. "It's a platinum filigree raised band with a half carat flawless diamond in a floating setting." She smiled. "It has a wonderfully romantic and tragic story attached to it."

Janeway looked at her eagerly. "I'd love to hear it."

The woman took the ring back and looked at it thoughtfully. "This ring was commissioned from our California office in 2001 by a young woman. It was created from a tightly licensed 1930's mold that only allows a certain number of rings to be made. She wanted it for the love of her life, another young woman by the name of Kristen."

Seven perked up at this comment, leaning in to listen intently.

"Because only platinum would do for the woman who had won her heart, the request was sent to our New York office, which is where all of our platinum rings are created. The diamond was kept in California This is actually the second minting of this ring. The original was destroyed on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center. Our offices were on the bottom floor of the American Express building. This happened four days before she intended to propose. Our California office managed to have a white gold version of the ring created and set with the diamond so that she could propose on schedule. She later returned to have the diamond reset into this ring once it was complete."

"That's incredible." Janeway breathed.

"Now comes the tragic part. It turned out that her lover was sick. She had cancer. They were, unfortunately, unable to treat her. The young woman cared for her for a year before Kristen died in her arms one month shy of her thirtieth birthday. They were never able to have the ceremony. The young woman was inconsolable. She disappeared shortly after that and we reacquired the ring from the estate at her request. She wanted it to continue the legacy of love that it was created for."

The Captain swallowed, visibly moved by the story. Seven placed a hand on her shoulder. "Thank you." Picking up her bags, she led the younger woman away.

"Kathryn?" The Borg stopped her. "If you desire the ring why did you not purchase it?"

Janeway sighed. "We're not on holiday, Seven. It isn't necessary to our mission to purchase such a thing. It would be frivolous." She smiled wistfully. "Besides, that's not the kind of ring a woman buys for herself. Come on."

They walked further, coming across a massive toy store.

"FAO Schwarz." Seven looked at the Captain quizzically.

"It's a birthday party tomorrow, Seven. Since the boy is ten years old, I think a few toys would be a welcome present."

Each floor held every type of entertainment a child could want, from roller skates to video games. They reached the top floor to discover it held a theme all its own.

"Star Wars!" Janeway said with a smile. "Well, that mystery is solved. Apparently it was a science fiction movie. This looks like a good place to find something."

She went to look through the selection of action figures as Seven moved to a large glass display against the back wall. Inside were a multitude of weapon replicas. One in particular caught her attention. It had a cylindrical handle and a long glass tube that housed an internal light source. It looked vaguely Borg.

A clerk came out of the back room and approached her. "Is there something you would like to see?"

"Yes," Seven pointed to the item. "What is the purpose of that item?"

The clerked smiled and unlocked the case, pulling out the weapon. "This is an exact replica of Luke Skywalker's light saber. There are only one thousand of them in existence. It is fully functional and creates the sounds of an authentic saber battle when it is lightly struck against another surface." He pushed a button on the handle causing the light to flicker off, then pushed it again to cause it to illuminate. Slapping it against his hand, the glass blade made an interesting hissing sound. "So, what do you think?"

"Would it make a suitable gift for a ten year old boy?" She asked.

"Oh, definitely."

"Very well. I wish to acquire it."

"It's a little expensive." He pulled the glass case and stand from the cabinet. "$2200. Is that all right?"

"The cost is irrelevant." She handed him her charge card and he completed her purchase.

"You said it was a gift, would you like it wrapped and sent to your suite?"

Seven nodded. "That would be efficient. Thank you."

She rejoined the Captain who was looking a little lost.

"I have acquired an appropriate gift, Kathryn. They are wrapping it and will be sending it directly to our room. We may continue."

Janeway blinked in surprise. "Ok. Guess you didn't need my input."

As they left the shop, Seven stopped, placing her hand on her stomach which was rumbling oddly.

"Seven?" She heard the sound and laughed. "You're hungry. I'm feeling a bit peckish myself. Let's go somewhere that I can get a margarita."

The Captain chose a rather festive looking restaurant and followed the host to an outdoor patio where they could watch the people going by. She ordered them each a margarita and then looked over the menu. "Is there something you would like to try or would you like me to order for you?"

"You may order for me."

"All right. How is your stomach doing? Do you think you would have any problems with something mildly spicy?"

"Kathryn, I have been eating in the mess hall for the last year. I somehow doubt that anything I ingest here could do any more damage than Neelix's cooking."

Laughing, Janeway ordered their food as their drinks arrived. She sipped at hers, enjoying the flavor. She noticed that Seven hadn't touched hers and was instead staring at it suspiciously.

"Try it."

"It smells of alcohol. Alcohol inhibits my cortical function."

"A little won't hurt you. Go ahead, try it."

Seven complied, her eyes going wide at the tartness. "It is good!"

They ate quickly, both of them feeling the lateness of the hour. When they were done, the Captain steered the slightly tipsy Borg towards an elevator. "Let's head up and go to bed."

Her words caused a slight flush to creep into her face and as the doors closed, Seven reached up and laid her palm against the Captain's cheek.

"Your skin is warm."

"It's an affect of the alcohol." Janeway lied.

"And is your increased respiration also a result of the alcohol?"

The Captain didn't answer. When the elevator stopped, she flashed her room key to the security officer standing guard and then continued on to a large set of double doors. "I think this is us." She swiped the key and they went inside.

The suite was huge. There was one main room with doors off to either side which Janeway assumed led to separate bedrooms. Than goodness for small favors! She didn't want to explain why they shouldn't be sharing a bed.

The room was tastefully decorated and she led Seven across it to a set of double French doors. They opened out to a large veranda overlooking the fountains they had seen earlier in the evening.

"Incredible." She leaned up against the railing and took in the view. "This place sure knows how to treat its guests. It's beautiful."

"Indeed." Seven whispered and Janeway was a little nonplussed to notice the Borg was looking at her and not the scenery.

She cleared her throat. "It's late. We should turn in."

"Turn into what?"

"No, I meant…" She began and then caught the twinkle of amusement in Seven's eyes. "Very funny." She moved to go back inside but the Borg grabbed her hand and pulled her back.

"Are you certain we must wait until we return to Voyager to continue our conversation?" Seven felt somewhat bolder than she had during their previous encounters and assumed it had much to do with the alcohol she had imbibed. "I wish to speak of it now."

Janeway sighed. "I'm not sure what you want me to say, Seven."

"I want you to explain to me why my questions caused you to behave so erratically. In all the time I have known you, you have never been dishonest with me, until now. Why did my inquiries cause such a response?"

"I guess I was concerned that you were asking them in regards to me."

"I was." The Borg answered honestly. "From the moment Ensign McNamara informed me of the possibility of sharing love with another female, you have been foremost in my thoughts."

"Why, Seven?"

"I find you… fascinating," Seven swayed a little as she moved closer. "As well as quite aesthetically pleasing."

The Captain smiled. "That's probably the nicest thing anyone has said to me in six years. Thank you."

"Do you find me attractive?"

There was an undercurrent of doubt in the Borg's voice that made Janeway instinctively raise her hand and place it on one smooth alabaster cheek. "I find you very attractive, Seven, both in appearance and intellect. I think you're fascinating too."

"Then why did you react negatively to my advances?"

The Captain dropped her hand and turned to look out at the water. "I'm your Captain, Seven. You're a member of my crew. I can't take advantage of you that way."

"Take advantage of me?" The Borg took on an obstinate look. "I believe you are forgetting that after assimilating thousands of species I possess a life experience which vastly eclipses your own. I find it vaguely insulting that you would think I could be swayed by something as irrelevant as your rank."

"Then what is it, Seven? What makes you think that we would be a good pairing?"

"We are already a good pairing, are we not?"

Janeway found she couldn't argue with that.

"We work well together, we 'play' well together, we enjoy each other's points of view and conversation. You understand me in a way that no other could. And I, in turn, understand you."

"You do?" The Captain felt a small amount of resistance creep into her tone. "What makes you say that?"

"You take your responsibilities to Voyager very seriously, often to the detriment of your own well being, you constantly put yourself last in regards to anything you may wish for yourself, you sublimate your need for human interaction by replacing it with casual touches signifying friendship or pride, you are desperately alone and do not wish it to continue and yet you turn away from the opportunities presented to you. Your duality is… disconcerting."

"Such is the life of a Starfleet Captain."

"Perhaps," Seven intentionally moved into her personal space. "But ours is not an ordinary situation and you are not an ordinary Starfleet Captain. You can not possibly intend to remain alone for the rest of our entire journey. You would be forsaking a life and happiness merely to maintain an appearance that no one expects of you."

"Oh, I'd say there are plenty of people who expect it of me."

"If you are referring to the crew, you are mistaken. I have overheard one hundred and thirty nine different comments made by various members of the crew stating that they wished you would take a mate. That they feel you deserve some measure of happiness of your own after everything you have given them."

Janeway felt her heart swell and was surprised to find herself near tears.

"You are respected beyond measure, Kathryn. Is it so hard to allow yourself to also be loved?"

Without warning, Seven leaned in and pressed her lips gently against the Captain's. It was brief, and very sweet. When she pulled away, she could feel the regret in the smaller woman's body. "Good night, Kathryn."

Janeway watched the Borg make her way to one of the bedrooms, her form a lithe shadow in the darkened room. She stayed out on the veranda for quite a while longer, hoping the cool night air would help slow the rapid beating of her heart.


Chapter Four: Ten The Hard Way

It was a lovely ceiling.

That much Janeway had decided after staring at it for two hours as she lay, unable to sleep, in her very comfortable hotel bed.

She had tried every technique she could think of to induce slumber but she had failed. Failure was not something she was used to. It wasn't all her fault though. At least she could feel a little bit better about it knowing that Seven's words, not to mention her kiss, were primarily to blame for her sleepless night.

Groaning, she threw the sheets back and grabbed the fluffy white robe the hotel had so generously provided for their VIP guests, pulling it over the t-shirt and briefs she had worn to bed.

Maybe I just need a drink. She groused to herself. She had seen a fully stocked bar when they had arrived yesterday. Maybe that was just what the doctor ordered.

Opening the door quietly, she put out her hand to feel her way towards the minibar, not wanting to turn on the lights. She stubbed her toe on the packages the hotel staff had delivered the day before and bit down on her tongue to keep herself from uttering something obscene.

Reaching her destination, she sniffed at each bottle until she found the whiskey. Pouring three fingers into a tumbler, she brought it to her lips, anticipating the burn she would feel as it slid down her throat.

"Can you not sleep, Kathryn?"

The voice came out of the darkness and scared the hell out of her. Jumping slightly, she dropped the glass on her other foot and this time she did say something obscene.

"What did you say?" Seven's voice was curious.

"Nothing." Janeway picked up the glass and refilled it before turning to look towards the couch. "What are you doing up?" She could almost hear the Borg lean her head to one side.

"I am still unfamiliar with the concept of sleeping. I find that it is more difficult to shut down my memory functions than I had anticipated."

The Captain laughed. "Can't shut off your brain either, huh?" She limped over and sat down next to the young woman, noticing she was wrapped up in the same type of robe that she had on. "I think my problem is that I miss the hum."

"The hum?"

"Yes. The hum of the ship. When I'm in space I hardly notice it. But when I'm not… It's like something is missing, some voice I'm used to hearing all the time in my head."

"Ahh," Seven shifted towards her. "Like the voices of the collective."

"Something like that." She swallowed the whiskey quickly, trying not to think about the fact that Seven was sitting so close she could smell the sweet scent of her skin. Absently, she wondered what the Borg was wearing under her robe. Shaking the thought off, she glanced towards the windows and noticed a faint pink light. Standing, she took Seven by the hand. "Come with me."

The Borg allowed herself to be led out into the chill morning air where Janeway positioned her at the rail, sliding one arm around her waist as she pointed towards the horizon. "I want you to see this."


"An Earth sunrise. I'm sure you probably have a memory of one in there somewhere but there is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes."

They stood quietly as the sun started to peek over the top of the mountains, flooding the sky with a brilliant pink hue. The pink gradually gave way to a deep, smoky blue, one that almost matched the Captain's eyes when she was amused.

Seven gently wrapped her Borg arm around the smaller woman when she felt her shiver and pulled her in closer. The warmth of her was intoxicating and she found herself lowering her head to nuzzle into the auburn colored locks, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair.

Janeway knew she should move, that she should put some distance between the two of them, but it was so wonderful to be held like this that she couldn't make herself do it. Sighing, she circled Seven's waist with her other arm, holding her loosely as the sky continued to lighten. As they stood there, she heard the Borg's breathing become more regular and felt her sway slightly.

"You're still tired."

"Yes, I am." Seven turned in her embrace and tightened her arms. "I believe I could sleep if you were to hold me like this."

The Captain swallowed. It's a bad idea. It's such a bad idea. So why does it sound so heavenly? "Just sleep?" She felt Seven smile into her hair.

"Yes, just sleep. I give you my word, Kathryn."

Janeway stepped back and looked at her, finally nodding ever so slightly. Taking Seven by the hand, she led her back inside and into her bedroom. She tossed her robe over a chair and pulled back the sheets, sliding between them and over to one side of the bed.

The younger woman watched her get comfortable and then pulled off her own robe.

The curtains were drawn and it was so dark in the room that Janeway had a hard time seeing her. It wasn't until Seven was right beside her, pulling her close to wrap her long form around her that she realized the Borg wasn't wearing anything at all.

"Seven!" She squeaked. "You're naked!"

"Yes, Kathryn. You failed to purchase any pajamas for me earlier and I find the undergarments uncomfortable."

"I don't think this is such a good idea."

"Why?" She could hear the humor in Seven's voice. "Are you frightened that you may not be able to control yourself? I promised I would. I do not believe I asked for any promises from you."

"Go to sleep." Janeway growled, rolling onto her side. She held her breath when Seven slid one arm around her stomach, pulling her back until her buttocks were cradled into the Borg's groin and her legs were tucked up under her knees. I'm never going to get to sleep…

She was surprised when she heard Seven's breathing even out almost immediately and felt the arm around her loosen slightly. Somewhere in her chest she felt something break and finally give way, allowing the peace and the joy of the moment to wash over her. She listened to the steady beating of the young woman's heart until she finally drifted off to sleep.

"Mmmm…" Captain Kathryn Janeway sighed contentedly, feeling more relaxed and well rested than she had in the last six years. She was comfortable and cozy, kept warm by a soft weight that was draped over the top of her and kept content by a sweet pressure resting deliciously between her legs. Flexing slightly, she shivered at the friction the movement provided and she luxuriated in it for a full five seconds before her brain registered that it probably shouldn't be there.

Opening her eyes, she looked down to see Seven of Nine sprawled out across her, her left hand snuggled up under one of her breasts and her left leg entwined between her own. Blushing furiously, she realized her own arm was wrapped around the sleeping form, pulling the young woman tightly against her in a traitorous act of sleepy treason. She turned her face slightly to the left and her breath caught at the beautiful sight of full, ruby red lips and delicate blonde eyelashes that gave her Astrometrics officer the look of an angel who had fallen asleep after being scolded.

"Seven." She whispered softly, rubbing her hand in circles across the Borg's back. "Time to wake up."

Seven inhaled deeply, opening her azure blue eyes, still heavy with sleep, to look up at The Captain. For a moment, there was confusion there, but the look was quickly replaced by a smoldering desire that took Janeway's breath away yet again.

"Kathryn?" She snuggled in closer, bringing her lips to the Captain's in a long, slow sweet kiss that went on much longer than it should have.

"Seven." She said weakly. "You gave me your word."

The Borg blinked and sat up, a deep flush creeping into her cheeks. "I… I apologize, Kathryn." She stammered slightly. "I thought… I thought you were a dream."

Janeway felt her heart catch painfully and she reached up, brushing the blonde hair out of Seven's eyes. "It's all right." She whispered. "I thought you were a dream too."

Seven nodded and slid out of bed, grabbing up her robe and wrapping it around herself. She looked down at the Captain, who was stretching happily. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For helping me sleep."

Janeway smiled. "Anytime." Well that was brilliant! She has an eidetic memory remember??

Seven gave her a small smile. "If you remain in bed much longer we will be late."

"What time is it?"

"1320 hours."

"I did not sleep that late!" She grabbed the clock next to the bed and stared at it, groaning and then climbed out of bed. "We need to jump in the shower or we're going to be late."

Seven quirked one eyebrow at her in amusement. "Was that an invitation, Captain?"

She threw her a dirty look before pushing her in the direction of her own bathroom. "Twenty minutes." She rushed out the door calling back over her shoulder, "And leave your hair down!"

"I will comply." Seven smirked to herself.

At 1345 they were in the lobby. Janeway was dressed in a pair of light cotton pants and a thin cream colored silk shirt. She allowed her eyes to linger on the Borg as she went to the cashier to withdraw some cash from her account. She was dressed in form fitting blue jeans and chambray work shirt with the cuffs rolled up to her elbows. Janeway thought she looked charming.

They grabbed a cab outside of the hotel and headed straight to the Excalibur where the security guards pointed them downstairs to the children's area. The place was packed with kids laughing and having a good time, but they had no problems spotting Seven's double at a table near the food court. She was wearing jeans and a white button down shirt and, with the exception of the implants, the resemblance was staggering.

"Kathy! Seven!" Lauren smiled and waved them over. When they reached her, she turned to pull a young boy out in front of her. "This is my son, Annikan."

Both women looked at the child in wonder. There was no mistaking the bright blue eyes and the pale shock of thick wavy hair. "Annikan!" Janeway whispered to Seven in delight. She bent lower and held her hand out to the young man. "Hello! My name is Kathryn."

"Nice to meetcha." He said politely, shaking her hand, but his eyes never left the woman at her side. "You look like my mom."

Seven nodded. "I am her cousin, Seven. From Indiana. It is very nice to meet you." She took the package from under her arm and handed it to him. "Happy birthday, Annikan."

"Everyone just calls him Anni." Lauren smiled.

"Can I open it mom?" He pleaded.

"Not until you finish your lunch."

"Awww…" He turned and ran back to the table.

"Come on," Lauren laughed. "Or there won't be any food left for us."

During lunch, Seven studied the boy. He was an attractive child, but she could tell there was something not quite right about his appearance. The cheeks that should have been full and pink were hollow, his color washed out, the eyes somewhat dark and sunken around the edges. He also seemed incredibly small and slight for his age.

"Kathryn," She whispered as he began to unwrap his presents.

"I know." She whispered back, a worried look in her eyes that scent a shiver of fear down Seven's spine.

"MOM! MOM! LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!" He had unwrapped the lightsabre and was waving it in the air, tapping it against his friends and laughing at the sounds it made. "Isn't it great mom?" He ran up to Janeway and hugged her before doing the same with Seven. "Thank you!"

Lauren looked at them, her eyes glistening. "That's some gift. Those things aren't cheap. You didn't have to do that."

Janeway laid a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently. "We wanted to do it. You are family, after all."

Lauren nodded and went back to watching her son, smiling at his enthusiasm, but there was something infinitely sad in her eyes.

"Seven!" Anni waved at her to come over.

The Borg looked at Janeway, catching the amusement in her smile before she went to join him.

"Seven's really good with kids." The Captain took Lauren by the arm and led her over to a bench.

"I can see that." She laughed as Anni tried to teach Seven how to play Dance, Dance, Revolution and one of the other parents waved and snapped her picture. Janeway was careful to lean out of the shot. "How did you two meet?"

The Captain smirked. "I travel around a lot, typical Army brat. We stumbled into each other somewhere along the way and I just had to take her with me."

"You guys seem close."

"We're… good friends."

"Friends." Lauren smiled at her and Janeway felt like she was transparent. "Well, you two do seem to make a good pair."

"Yes we do, don't we?" The Captain smiled fondly at her Borg before turning her attention back to Anni's mom. "Lauren, I know we don't know each other that well yet, but I noticed that Anni seems…"

"Sick?" The word was said with barely concealed bitterness. "Yeah, he's sick."

"Will you tell me what's wrong with him?"

Lauren sighed. "He has cancer. It's in the final stages. He's been on the donor list for a bone marrow transfusion but they haven't been able to locate a match. He doesn't have that much time left."

"I'm so sorry." Janeway put an arm around her shoulder. "What about his father?"

"Jeff died. Six months ago." She angrily wiped away a tear. "Freak accident. He tripped and fell. People fall all the time right? They just get up and brush off their dignity and go on their way. But not Jeff. He struck his temple. Hard enough to rupture a blood vessel. He died almost instantly."

So that's where the timeline diverged…

"I can't imagine how hard it's been for you." The Captain hugged her.

"Yeah, well. It only got worse after that. Once he was gone, his insurance company cut us off. I had to take the job dancing because it paid well. Well enough for a while anyway. Its honest work, I just dance, that's all."

"I understand."

"But it's not enough anymore. Anni's medical bills ate through all of our savings. Even if I work double shifts and stop taking classes, it isn't enough. We got evicted this morning. I'm not even sure where we're going to be staying tonight."

"Mom!" Anni came running up, dragging Seven behind him. "Seven said she would go on the Manhatten Express with me! Can I go? Please?"

She smiled down at him. "Oh, I don't know, honey. Are you sure you're feeling up to it?"

"Mom!" He rolled his eyes. "I'm fine! You said I could go if an adult went with me. Please can I?"

Lauren nodded. "All right. If your Aunt Seven knows what she is getting herself into."

"He has stated that it is a 'thrill ride'. I am sure I am adequately prepared for the endeavor."

"All right. Gather up your presents and we'll walk over." She turned to Janeway. "It's across the street at New York, New York."

They helped him collect his things and left the hotel. They were walking along the pedestrian overpass when Seven suddenly stopped and looked up. Rising above them was a maze of metal tracks and as they watched, a train of cars sped along it, zipping through the turns before flipping completely upside down and then continuing out of site. The Borg looked back at them, feeling slightly queasy.


Janeway laughed. "I'm sure you'll be fine, Seven. You are adequately prepared remember?"

Anni laughed and dragged her along, pulling her up into the waiting area to find a place in line.

"Is she going to be all right?" Lauren looked at her oddly for a moment and then smiled. "She seems a little green."

"Oh, she'll be fine. I think it's just going to be a new experience for her." They took a seat on a bench outside to wait for them and Janeway leaned closer to her, taking one of her hands between her own. "Listen, we have plenty of room. The hotel gave us a ridiculously large suite. You're welcome to stay with us."

"Oh, we couldn't impose like that."

"It wouldn't be an imposition. You and Anni would have your own bedroom. It's already paid for. Please, come and stay with us. I know Seven would really love it if you did."

Lauren couldn't hide her tears as she nodded and wrapped her arms around the Captain. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

Janeway just nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

When Seven and Anni reappeared twenty minutes later, the tears were replaced with laughter at the Borg's slightly disheveled appearance. Her eyes were wide and she looked as though she was barely hanging on to the pizza and ice cream she had had for lunch.

"What was the purpose of that?"

"Its fun!" Anni laughed, pulling on her hand. "Come on, let's go again!"

"No, Anni." Lauren took pity on the young woman. "Once is enough. Besides we need to go pick up a few things from home. We're going to be staying with Aunt Kathy and Seven for a couple days."

"Cool! We can watch movies and tell scary stories."

Seven looked at the young boy fondly, feeling her heart break slightly at how weary he appeared.

"Why don't you let us take Anni back now?" The Captain offered. "He looks kind of tired and the hotel isn't very far. We're staying at the Bellagio."

"Are you sure?" Lauren looked at her skeptically. "He can be a handful."

Seven placed her arm around the child. "I would welcome the opportunity to spend more time with him, if you are agreeable."

"Here." Janeway pulled out her hotel key card and handed it to Lauren. "We're on the top floor. Just wave the card at them and you won't have any problems."

She nodded, whispering, "Thank you. I didn't really want him to hear me arguing with the landlord."

"It's no problem. We'll see you soon."

When she had gone, Anni seemed to lose what little energy he had left. Seven picked him up easily and carried him to a taxi. When they arrived back at the suit, she carried him into on of the bedrooms and pulled off his shoes, tucking him under the blankets where he curled up and went to sleep.

Seven went to the main room and returned with the tri-corder. She ran the probe over his body several times, watching the readout intently. When she was done she motioned for the Captain to follow her into the other room and closed the door behind them.

"Well?" Janeway asked.

"He is dying, Kathryn." The Borg's voice was soft and a single tear slid down her cheek. "The cancer has consumed so much of his bone matter that it will be only a matter of days before he will no longer be able to walk."

"There has to be something we can do." Janeway ran her fingers through her hair.

"There is."

The Captain looked at her.

"I am a close match to his blood type and cell structure."

"Seven, it isn't as if we can walk into a hospital and have them take bone marrow from you!"

"I am aware of that. That would not help Anni in any case. I said I am a close match. He is too far gone for my bone marrow to be successfully transferred to him by medical means."

"Then what are you suggesting?"

Seven led her to the couch and pulled her down beside her. "I believe I can alter my nanoprobes to act as a conduit for the transfer. They will adhere to his bone matter and allow it to adapt to a donation from my own body."

"And then what? We can't just leave him swimming in Borg technology!"

"We would not. The nanoprobes would go dormant after the transfer and be passed out of his system within a matter of days. There would be no lasting danger to him."

Janeway's eyes narrowed. "But there would be… to you?"

Seven looked away. "I do not believe so. It will take me quite a while to generate enough of the nanoprobes to ensure the procedure is a success. They would be created in addition to my own to serve only this purpose."

"How much time would you need?"

"At least thirty six hours. I should be able to make the transfer by the day after tomorrow."

"All right. If you think you can do it."

"I know that I can."

Janeway smiled at her self assurance, allowing herself to hope for the first time since originally speaking to Lauren about Anni's illness. But she could not shake the feeling that there was something Seven wasn't telling her. She knew it would do no good to badger her about it. She would just have to trust that Seven knew what she was doing. "Well, seeing as you are probably going to need your strength, let do one of my very favorite things to do in a hotel room."

The Borg raised one eyebrow seductively. "What would that be?"

The Captain blushed. "Order room service!"

An hour later they were sitting on the veranda, three room service carts around them, picking out morsels from various dishes when Lauren arrived.

"Well, damn." She looked around the room in awe. "You two know how to travel don't you?"

"You have no idea." Seven said dryly, making Janeway laugh.

"How's Anni?"

"He is fine. He is sleeping in the bedroom to the left. After you check on him, please join us for dinner." The Borg said graciously. "And if he awakens, we have taken the liberty of ordering him "macaroni and cheese' and 'hot dogs'."

"A growing boy's favorite foods." Lauren said a little sadly. "I'll be right out."

When she joined them, they opened two bottles of wine and sat together watching the fountains and the stars. Lauren told them about her husband and the life they used to have and all about Anni and the trouble he would get in to.

"He's a great kid." She said softly. "He's had to grow up a lot these past few years. But he never complains. Sometimes I forget that he's only ten years old." She wiped her eyes and smiled. "But enough about that. What about you two? You must have some interesting stories to tell. Kathy tells me she met you in her travels and spirited you away. How did your family feel about that?"

Seven looked at her seriously. "My mother does not approve of Kathryn. My family was not agreeable to my leaving them to join her."

Janeway snorted, trying not to laugh. "That's an understatement."

"So why did you go?"

Seven smiled softly. "I had no choice." She gazed at Kathryn tenderly. "Some things are just destined to be."

Lauren cleared her throat, suddenly feeling as though she was intruding. "Well, it's been a long day. I'm going to bed. Thank you for letting us stay with you" She winked at Janeway. "Sorry to leave you with only one bedroom."

The Captain flushed. "Not a problem. We've shared some tight quarters before."

"I'm sure." Lauren laughed. "Good night, you two."

When she was gone, Janeway pulled the PADD out of the case and sat next to Seven.

"Captain, Seven. I trust you are well." Tuvok looked up at them from the screen. "At this point you should have gained some idea as to why you are there. I apologize for my reticence in providing you with information. However, it was necessary that your actions be sincere and believable. I had every faith that you would discover what you needed to know simply by virtue of who you are. Now, I can tell you this: You must carry out your plan of action as swiftly as you are able. The rift will appear again at your coordinates two days from now and will remain stable for a period of ten hours. That leaves you a total of 58 hours to obtain your objective. Please also be aware that there will come a time when you will be required to share all you know with Lauren Scott. I realize that this direction may seem in violation of the Temporal Prime Directive but it is necessary for the completion of your mission. You will know when that time has arrived and I am certain you will find the most logical means of making her understand. I will expect your arrival at the original coordinates in two and a half days. Our thoughts are with you." The screen went blank.

'"Remind me to never play poker with Tuvok." Janeway sighed. "That man keeps his cards too close to the vest." She glanced at Seven, suddenly realizing how very tired the younger woman looked. She touched her cheek briefly with her fingertips. "So now you believe in destiny?"

"I do where you are involved."

The Captain swallowed, amazed at her candor and ability to always say exactly what was in her heart. "Let's go to bed. You need your rest." She took Seven's hand and led her to the bedroom. "I'm going to use the facilities. I'll be back."

She went into the bathroom and stared at herself in the mirror. Why can't you be as honest as she is? Why do you always have to make things so hard? Why can't you, just once, say exactly what you feel? She brushed her teeth and washed her face, looking at the light wrinkles around her mouth with a sigh. Finally she grew tired of dissecting herself and turned out the light.

Seven was already in bed, lying on her side, watching her. Self consciously, she removed her shirt and slacks, pulling on a t-shirt before removing her bra. She slid between the sheets with a sigh of pleasure, her arms going out automatically to find the younger woman already moving within them.

"Will you ask me for a promise tonight, Kathryn?"

Janeway laughed softly. She rolled over on her side until their faces were centimeters apart. The emotion she saw in those azure blue eyes left her breathless. "No. Not the same promise.' She traced the implant over Seven's eye with her fingertips. "Seven, I am not going to deny that I want you. I don't think it would do me any good anyway, you would know that it was a lie."

"Yes, Kathryn."

"But, I don't know that I'm able to give you what you want. What I do know, is that I want to hold you. I want to kiss you. Would that be enough?"

Seven closed the space between them, kissing her gently. "For now."

Janeway wrapped her arms around Seven, feeling the Captain within her surrender without a fight. She moaned slightly when the Borg's arms tightened pulling her up against her long nude form. Her hands wandered across the smooth plains of her back as they kissed, marveling at the softness of her skin. Seven whimpered at the touch, her breath lost in their kiss which deepened into a passion that she thought might consume them both. She parted her lips and tasted the Borg's tongue, it was sweet and clean, just like the rest of her.

Sevens hands moved down to the edge of her shirt, pausing for a moment before sliding up underneath it. Her long fingers caressed Kathryn's shoulder blades with long languid strokes, only pausing when the Captain raised her arms. Not hesitating, she pulled the garment over her head and settled in closer, fitting her breasts up under Kathryn's gently.

The contact was electric. The soft skin against her own made Janeway's pulse quicken. When Seven brought her hand around to run lightly down her side, she shivered and pressed closer, losing herself in the feel of the younger woman against her.

Through it all they kissed, the lips never losing contact. The kisses changed from being tentative and soft to being demanding and slightly rough, full of barely restrained passion and intent, all the more wild for having to be kept in check. She wanted to feel Seven everywhere, wanted her skin to touch every part of her and she reached down, sliding her briefs off so that she could feel the hair between their legs tangle together. She spread her legs slightly, allowing Seven to slide her thigh between them. The younger woman cupped her buttock then slid around it, pulling Janeway's leg more firmly over her own. But she did not move it, did not try to increase the friction between them only rested it there firmly, possessively, as their tongues danced together.

It was the most erotic thing the Captain had ever experience. To be this close to Seven, to know she was ready and willing and controlling herself simply because she had been asked to was almost enough to make Kathryn forget everything she had said, almost enough to make her give in to the emotions running wildly through her, almost enough… almost enough.

Kathryn woke slowly, feeling wonderfully relaxed. She brought her fingers to her lips, realizing they felt swollen and sore. Smiling, she reached out beside her, disconcerted to find only smooth empty sheets.


There was no answer. Sitting up she looked around the room. It was empty. She climbed out of bed and pulled a robe over her nude body, surprised at how sensually the fabric caressed her, aware that her skin was slightly sensitive as well, as though every inch of her had been touched over and over for hours. She smiled to herself when she realized that was exactly why she felt that way.

Moving out to the main room, she opened the veranda doors, letting in the air that was already warm from the late morning sun. "Seven?"

Still no answer.

She was about to call out again when the door to their suite opened and Seven walked in, dressed in the pair of black leather pants that Janeway had bought her just to see what she would look like in them and a black t-shirt with a pair of glowing cat eyes on the front. Her hair was pulled back in a loose pony tail and she smiled brightly when she saw her.

"Kathryn. You are awake."

"Yes I am," She purred happily, raising her hands over her head to stretch, faintly amused by the look of desire that was apparent on the younger woman's face. "And where did you wander off to?"

Seven smiled again and walked towards her, holding out a large cup with a plastic lid. As she got closer, the unmistakable scent of rich, hot coffee reached her and she thought she had gone to heaven. "Oh, Seven." She took a long drink. "This is wonderful. You are too good to me."

"Agreed." The Borg said playfully before sliding her arms around her and kissing her deeply. When they separated, she looked at the Captain thoughtfully. "Curious."


"I find the taste of coffee from your lips so much more enjoyable then when I have tried to drink it from a cup."

"Are you saying I might be able to get you to appreciate it?"

"If you were to always offer it to me like this, then yes." She kissed her again and Janeway welcomed the slight pain in her lips, remember the night before as she curved into her embrace.

They stayed like that for several minutes, losing themselves again in the feel and the taste of each other until they heard movement from the other bedroom. The separated regretfully, a small smile on each of their faces.

"Good morning!" Lauren smiled as she entered the room. She stopped short for a second when she caught sight of them, a smirk curling the corners of her mouth. "So how did you sleep?"

"Quite well." Janeway answered, throwing the Borg a cautioning glance, but Seven only nodded in agreement with her. "How about the two of you?"

"Oh we were great! The beds they have here are amazing." She picked up one of the bags she had brought the night before. "What are you two up to today?"

"I don't think we had any plans yet. Although I was hoping to visit the Van Gogh exhibit."

"Oh, I've heard that it's fantastic."

"Would you like to join us?" Seven asked.

"I'd love to but Anni has a couple of doctor's appointments today. We're going to be gone most of the afternoon." She glanced down at Seven's pants. "Wow, did you have those painted on?"

"No," The Borg looked confused. "Kathryn showed me how to put them on."

Janeway flushed as Lauren laughed. "Well, whatever works. We'll be out of your hair shortly."

"No worries." The Captain smiled at her. "You not in the way."

Lauren took the bag back into the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

"You did that on purpose." Janeway said suspiciously.

"Kathryn?" Seven gave her an innocent look.

"Mmhmm." She traced her fingers along the younger woman's jaw. "So, what do you think? Would you like to visit the Van Gogh exhibit with me?"

"I would go anywhere with you, Kathryn." The Borg said simply and Janeway felt another chink in her armor fall away.

"Ok." She smiled softly. "Let me get changed and we'll head down there."

The gallery was quiet when they arrived and they were able to move about at their leisure. Janeway found she was excited by the idea that she would not only be able to see these paintings first hand, but that she would also be able to share them with Seven.

"Do you like art, Seven?"

The Borg tilted her head to one side as she gazed at a painting. "I have found that some artwork has interesting mathematical properties. The angles and the perspectives are intriguing."

Kathryn put a hand on her arm. "Art isn't about that, Seven. I mean, I am sure it could be and your views are just as valid as anyone else's, but what I love about art is the way it grabs me. It catches my attention and makes me truly study it, feel it in here." She placed her hand on the younger woman's chest. "It's seeing a thing through another person's eyes, in a way you might not have looked at it on your own. Do you understand what I mean?"

"I believe so."

"Here, like this one. This is considered Van Gogh's first true masterpiece. It's called The Potato Eaters. It was completed in 1885, when he had just first started painting. If you think about it logically, there is really nothing interesting about people sitting around a table eating potatoes. But if you truly study it, you can see the character in each of the subjects. You can almost hear their voices, their conversations."

She led her to another wall. "And here, these two paintings, you almost wouldn't know they were by the same artist. The Church At Nuenen was done early in his career. You can tell by the way the colors are darker, more earthy, by the way it actually looks the way such a structure might in real life. But then, The Church At Auvers was painted after he moved to Paris in 1886, where he became influenced by the Impressionist and Post Impressionist movements. They're fascinating, don't you think? Seven?"

She looked back, surprised to see the Borg lost in contemplation of another painting. Moving to her side, she watched as Seven leaned in closer, a look of wonder on her face as she studied the artwork before her.

"Tell me about this one, Kathryn."

Janeway smiled. "This one is called Starry Night Over The Rhone. Van Gogh painted this one in Arles in 1888. It was actually the predecessor to his much more popular Starry Night which he painted in an Asylum at Saint-Remy in 1889. I've always like this one much better. I think it's warmer and more human in that it has a couple walking along the river in the bottom right hand corner." She glanced at Seven, amazed at the look of fascination on the young woman's face. Reaching out, she took her hand. "Tell me what you see."

"When I first noticed it, I saw only shapes that resembled nothing. But the longer I looked at it, I began to see the stars, the way they shine down on the water, the boats pulled up on the shore, a pier, and buildings in the distance. It has no discernable pattern, no quantifiable equations and yet… I can see it. I can feel… what it might feel like to be there looking out at this river.

The Captain kissed her gently on the cheek. "That's art, Seven."

"Show me more."

Janeway took her around the rest of the gallery, holding her hand the whole time. She introduced her to Van Gogh's Sunflower Series, his Olive Trees and Boats at Saint-Maries. The last painting she brought her to was Starry Night itself. "What do you think of this one?"

Seven's brow furrowed. "It is dark. The stars are there but the do not convey the light the way the other painting does. It feels as though the large object in the forefront is casting a shadow over the village beyond it It does not make me feel the same way."

"There are many that feel this one is far more beautiful. But I feel as you do, that the darkness that was gripping him at that time truly came through in this painting."

"May we go back to the other one? I would like to look at it again before we leave."

"Of course." She was delighted by the fascination Seven had for the painting. She left her standing in front of it while she went into the gift shop at the back of the gallery. When she rejoined her, she held out a stiff tube of cardboard, smiling when the Borg stared at it in confusion.


"I bought you a print, Seven. Of Starry Night Over The Rhone. Now you can take it with you."

The young woman's face lit up with a brilliant smile and the Captain felt her heart catch in her chest.

"Thank you, Kathryn." She sobered slightly. "Would this not be considered frivolous?"

"Art is never frivolous, love." Love? Oh, Katie… You're falling… hard. She knew Seven had heard the endearment and was grateful when she did not comment on it. She cleared her throat. "Are you hungry?"

"I believe that I am."

"Then let's go find something to eat."

The found a charming little café right outside the gallery, done up to look like Van Gogh's Café Terrace At Night. The food was fantastic and the wine was even better and Janeway found herself completely enchanted by the experience. She was leaning back in her chair, watching the people come and go when Seven spoke very softly.

"Kathryn. Will you do something for me?"

"Of course, Seven. What is it?"

The Borg looked up at her, her eyes soft, the color vivid against the paleness of her skin. "I would like for you to take me out dancing tonight."

"Dancing?" She blinked. "You want to go dancing?"

"Yes. I would like to be able to hold you in public, to feel you within my arms and to have people see us. It is our last free night here. I want to have one moment in time with you that is not for any other reason than what we wish it to be."

Janeway felt a lump in her throat and swallowed, trying to get her emotions under control. In truth, if Seven had asked her to go sky diving the way she had asked her to go dancing, she would be strapping on a parachute gladly. "Of course, I would love to go dancing with you."

Seven smiled at her shyly and in the loveliness of it the Captain realized that she wasn't falling. She had already fallen. The only question was where they would land.


Chapter Five: A Natural Seven

The Captain studied her face in the mirror again as she finished brushing out her hair. The lines she had seen just the night before didn't seem so apparent now and there was a glow about her features that she hadn't seen in a very long time.

It's love, Katie. You love her, more deeply than you ever thought yourself capable of.

She smiled at her reflection as she realized that the thought no longer frightened her. She could do this. She could love Seven and be the richer for it and still be who she needed to be. All that it would take was the willingness to do so.

She touched perfume lightly to her pulse points, feeling the dress she was wearing move over her skin in an almost sensual caress.

Smiling one last time, she turned out the light and headed into the outer room.

She saw Seven standing on the veranda. She was wearing a long red dress that clung lovingly to her curves, plunging low in the back while dipping somewhat more demurely over her breasts. The sleeves hung slightly off her shoulders, covering her arms to the elbows and the matching shoes had heels that were slightly more manageable than the ones she normally wore. All together the effect was stunning.

Janeway walked over to join her noticing that the young woman's attention was caught by view. "Seven?"

At first the Borg didn't answer.

"Seven?" She repeated softly.

"Yes, Kathryn?"

"You seem a million miles away."

Seven turned to look at her, her pupils dilating slightly as she took in the black dress, the earrings, the sandals laced up her calves. "You look very appealing."

"Thank you," Janeway blushed slightly though she tried hard not to. "What were you thinking about?"

"I was thinking how oddly this location is decorated. Pyramids, towers, castles, waterfalls. It would appear that the creators of this city wished to be anywhere but here."

The Captain laughed lightly, the sound a warm caress in Seven's mind. "It's not so much that they wanted to be elsewhere. I think they just realized that there are many people who would love to see the wonders of the world but never seem to make it that far from home." She watched as the incredible water fountains outside of their hotel began their show yet again.

Seven wasn't paying attention to the view anymore. Instead, she was lost in the look of joy on Kathryn's face as she watched the waters chase each other. "Beautiful." She whispered.

"They are, aren't they?" She turned to see that the Borg was not looking at the fountains, but at her instead and her breath caught in her throat at the expression of adoration quite apparent in the younger woman's features. Sighing, she reached up and cupped Seven's face in her palm, drawing her forward to taste her lips.

Seven complied eagerly, enveloping the smaller woman in her arms as she lost herself in the kiss. Lips touched briefly and retreated only to come together once more. Slowly, their lips parted to allow the mutual tasting of mouths and tongues.

They were so lost in themselves that they didn't hear the door open.

"Whoa, nelly!" Lauren laughed. "I knew it!"

Janeway and Seven parted quickly. The Captain blushed quite charmingly as Seven brought her fingers up to touch her lips.

"Ewww." Annikan made a face.

"Anni, stop it." His mother pushed him towards their room. "So sorry to intrude. We'll just be... going in here." Her eyes sparkled as she walked passed them. "What is it you military types say? As you were?"

"Wonderful." The Captain laughed. "Come on, let's get out of here."

After a brief stop at the VIP desk, they climbed into a cab and, at Seven's direction, headed for the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. When they arrived, Seven grabbed her hand and led her through the lobby to another VIP booth where they were given a pass and directed to a private elevator.

"Seven, where are we going?"

"It is a surprise, Kathryn."

The elevator deposited them on the top floor. They walked down a long hallway until they came to a door with red curtains on either side of it. Stepping inside, Seven showed their pass to the doorman and they were allowed entry into the main room.

"Oh, Seven!" Janeway breathed. It wasn't like any night club she had ever seen. One entire wall was occupied by a large, roaring fireplace and there were plush upholstered couches and intimate booths where a normal bar would have had stools and tables. The walls were adorned with all manner of artwork and sculptures and she found herself fascinated with the entire aesthetic of the place.

Seven smiled at her, pulling her gently towards a large outdoor patio, complete with a small bar and an intimate dance floor off to one side. She led her over to the railing and the Captain was astonished to see a view of the entire Strip stretching out beneath them.

"Where are we?"

"The Foundation Room." Seven circled her arms around her, using her body heat to ward off the chill night air.

"How high up are we?"

"Forty three stories. This establishment purportedly has the best view in Las Vegas and is also the most exclusive nightclub in the city."

Janeway grinned, leaning back into the welcoming warmth behind her. "So how did we get in?"

"I have come to learn that in this city, monetary means opens many doors that would otherwise be closed. I asked the hostess at our hotel where I could find an intimate place to dance and she directed me here." Seven hugged her tightly. "When she described this location I knew that you would appreciate it."

"Oh, Seven I do. Very much. Thank you."

"Thank you, Kathryn, for spending this night with me."

Janeway turned in the embrace, rising up onto her toes to place a brief kiss against Seven's lips. "Dance with me."

"It would be my pleasure."

Seven stopped to whisper a few words to the DJ before she led Kathryn to the small dance floor, wrapping her up in her arms as the music began to play.

It wasn't a song Janeway had ever heard before, but the tempo was intoxicating, with a rhythm that made the slow, grinding motion they moved in seem more than appropriate. She closed her eyes and laid her head on Seven's shoulder, listening to the words as they played out softly into the night.

Well I have lived ten years plus ten
And ten and ten again
I have seen too much to pretend
Then you wanted to come in
I have survived all of the lies
They made me wise
The locks and walls and the peace it buys
Still when I look into your eyes
It's a surprise when you say

It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
Just hold on tight
Let it all go away

Oh mercy mercy baby
What do you want from me

Well I plead mercy mercy baby
I do not know what this all means
It's been awhile since I been stylin'
In just my jacket and my jeans
It hurts to walk it hurts to talk
It hurts to think about it
Shout about it
Could I be sure without a doubt
That you could never live without me

It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
Just hold on tight
Let it all go away

Oh mercy mercy baby
What do you want from me

It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
Just hold on tight
Let it all go away

Oh mercy mercy baby
What do you want from me

I want to fall in you crawl in you
Surrender all in you now
Could I be sure in you pure in you
Finding the cure in you
Now I plead have mercy on me

Now I am kneeling at the alter
In the temple of your eyes
And I am asking for a miracle
I have been too long paralyzed
When you say get up and stand up
And climb the rope of hope
And open up again
Oh the peace you say is promised me
Seems too much to comprehend

It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
Just hold on tight

Well can this girl believe?
Let it all go away

Oh mercy mercy baby
What do you want from me

It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be okay
Just hold on tight
Let it all go away

Oh mercy mercy baby
What do you want from me

As the music faded away, Kathryn hugged Seven fiercely. "You were busy this morning weren't you?"

The Borg's eyes widened. "Kathryn?"

"The song, Seven." Janeway quirked her lips into a grin, wondering what had gone through the Borg's mind at that moment. "How did you find that song?"

"I asked someone for a recommendation. After listening to it, I deemed that it was relevant."

Smiling, she dropped her head back onto Seven's shoulder, content to remain in her arms, swaying slowly to whatever song came next.

It was well past midnight by the time the returned to the suite and they moved quietly through the outer room, not wanting to wake up Lauren or Anni. When they were safely behind the closed door of their bedroom, Seven pulled Kathryn into her arms, holding her tightly as she kissed her with a slow, heated passion that made her toes curl.

They didn't say anything, but then, no words were necessary as Janeway slowly slid the dress down Seven's body, her pulse quickening when she realized that the Borg was nude underneath.

Seven stepped out of her shoes, her hands finding the fastening at the back of Kathryn's gown and slid it down and off her hips. She pushed the Captain back onto the bed and slowly untied the sandals, her hands warm against the older woman's calves as she ran her fingers up and down her legs. She removed her undergarments slowly, almost reverently, and then pushed her back, laying her body fully on top of her as they kissed, slowly and deeply.

Janeway wasn't sure when she noticed it, but the younger woman's body seemed to vibrate with a barely restrained energy. She rolled her over gently and looked into deep azure eyes filled with emotion. "Seven?"

"Please, Kathryn." The Borg's voice broke slightly. "Please do not ask me to…"

"Shhh." The Captain placed a finger against her lips, stilling them. "No promises." She brought her hands up to gently cup the full breasts, her fingers grazing across the swollen nipples lovingly. "Not tonight."

Moaning, Seven wrapped her fingers into the auburn hair she adored so much and brought Kathryn's lips to hers in a rough kiss, hearing a low growl reverberate from her lover's throat that sent a shiver through her entire body.

Janeway's hands wandered across the beautiful body beneath hers with joyous abandon. She kissed her way down the long leonine neck, stopping briefly to suck and bite against the pulse wildly fluttering in her throat. Moving on, she brought her lips to the tops of the young woman's breasts, kissing them lovingly until she took one nipple between her teeth, biting gently.

A shock of liquid desire went through Seven causing her nerve endings to sing as though she had touched a live electrical conduit. She brought her hands to the Captain's shoulders, gripping them tightly as Janeway moved to the other nipple, giving it the same attention she had given the first. But she did not linger there long. Kissing her way down a flat stomach and between the smooth metal bands of her implants, she licked briefly at the indent of her navel before nuzzling her nose into the pale thatch of curly hair between her legs.

The affect on the Borg was overwhelming. Her thighs fell open of their own volition and the Captain settled between them, watching lovingly as Seven opened to her like some exotic flower. She breathed in the intoxicating scent of her sex before rubbing her nose softly over the bundle of nerves at the apex of her cleft.

"Kathryn!" Seven moaned.

The Captain smiled, opening her lips to allow her tongue to play in the already copious dew gathered there. The taste was heavenly, sweet and thick. She surrounded the little bundle with her lips and suckled it, flicking it with her tongue as her fingers began to play in the moisture surrounding the young woman's opening. Gently she slid two fingers into the welcoming warmth, feeling the Borg's body stiffen above her and a deep guttural moan fall from her lips.

Slowly, she began to move, timing her thrusts with the movement of her tongue, long languid stokes that were not impeded by the muscles that pulled frantically at her fingers. As Seven's hips began to rise to meet each thrust, she quickened her pace until she was thrusting wildly, her face bathed in the wetness her tongue adored.

"Oh…Kathryn…" Seven's head moved from side to side as the pleasure swept through her. Her thoughts were not analytical, they were not concise or eloquent, they were chaotic, fragmented as her brain tried to make sense of what was happening to her body. She realized she was whimpering incoherent words, sounds of bliss and ecstasy that had no meaning outside of her need to convey how Kathryn was making her feel.

Suddenly, all the chaos solidified, becoming a huge wave of feeling and heat that suffused her entire body. The need in her body became acute; the reactions of her hips wild as her chest tightened and reached a massive peak where she was sure she could not survive any further emotion. Then the wave broke, cascading over her like a torrent of raging water, flowing through her until she couldn't hold on to a single thought, could not concentrate on anything except the exquisite sensations coursing through her nerve endings. "Kath…Kathryn…" She cried out, finding her eyes filled with moisture as her body fell back limply, her skin slick with perspiration and her muscled shaking violently. "Kathryn…"

"Shhh…" Janeway slid up her body to cradle her gently. "I'm here. It's ok." She uttered soothing sounds as the Borg's movements slowly gentled.

"Kathryn." Seven was crying, holding onto to her beloved firmly. "I did not know… that anything could feel like that."

"Wonderful, isn't it?" Kathryn grinned, kissing the tears away.

"Yes." The young woman held her fiercely. "Thank you."

"Thank you." Janeway smiled. "Thank you for letting me be the one you shared this experience with."

Seven smiled at her as she rolled them over, kissed her passionately before sliding down to take one nipple between her lips. The other she brushed gently with the fingers of her human hand before pinching it lightly, gratified by the surge of the Captain's hips beneath her.

She laid her human hand against her lover's stomach, pulling the other one back.

Janeway caught Seven's left hand as she tried to move it away. "I want you to love me. I want YOU to love me."

"I could hurt you." The Borg whispered softly.

"I don't think so. Let me see it…"

Seven held up her left hand slowly, stretching her fingers apart so that Janeway could see all the veins of her implant.

Kathryn reached up and laid her fingers against the Borg metal, wondering how something could look so foreign and be so warm. She stroked down to the inside of Seven's palm and then nodded.

Gently, the younger woman slid her fingers into warmth between Kathryn's legs, the metal tips playing in the moisture, stroking softly before entering her. She went slowly at first, pushing all the way in before flexing, paying close attention to the moans coming from the woman beneath her. She brought her thumb up to rub against the bundle of nerves on the outside as her fingers began to thrust deeper, before pulling out only to slide in even faster. She shuddered when she felt the muscles clench around them and quickened her pace.

Janeway pushed her head back into the pillows, arching her back and pushing her hips forward into Seven's touch. The thrusts met her tempo perfectly and she began to ride them, faster and faster, small moans of pleasure escaping her lips. Then Seven found the high, slick spot that was usually just out of reach and she began to buck wildly, her nails digging into the smooth plains of her lover's back as the ecstasy built up inside her. A molten wave of heat and pleasure cascaded outwards from between her legs, making her muscles freeze and her thighs tremble. She didn't understand how this young woman, so new to love, was playing her like an instrument, her fingers finding all the right places at all the right times in combinations she would never think was possible. "Oh… Sev…oh! Annika!"

Seven felt the body below her being to shake and she slipped her arm beneath Kathryn's back and pulled her roughly forward, grinding her pelvis hard against her as she brought her lips to a swollen nipple. Biting down on it, she felt the body in her arms stiffen, felt the muscles around her fingers flutter wildly as her lover cried out, "OH MY GOD, ANNIKA!!!"

Janeway was held motionless for a long moment as the power of her climax shot through her. Seven did not remove her fingers but she did still them, all except the movement against the slick spot deep inside her. She felt her vision begin to dim as she was pushed up fiercely one last time, to come crashing down limply onto the bed, her body spent and incapable of movement.

Seven slowly released her hold, allowing the smaller woman to recline back fully. Gently, she pulled her fingers from their warm nest and kissed the tears away from her lover's cheeks.

"Oh, Annika." Janeway cried, her arms trembling as she drew the younger woman's body up against her. "That was… well… I don't really know what that was. It's never been… like that. What did you do?"

Seven raised her left hand slowly, bringing it so close that Kathryn could smell her own scent clinging to the metal braces. As she closely watched her lover's face, she extended her assimilation tubules, making them writhe in the air before her.

Janeway's eyes went wide. "You… did that… with those?"

"Yes," The young woman kissed her softly. "I am fairly certain it is one use that the Borg are unaware of."

The Captain laughed, a warm sensual sound that caused Seven's pulse to quicken yet again. "It'll be our little secret."

The young woman looked down at her with eyes full of desire that had not yet been satisfied and Janeway felt her breath catch. Without warning, Seven rolled them over again, holding Kathryn up so that she was straddling her waist. She put her hands on the older woman's buttocks and pulled forward intently.

Janeway allowed herself to be moved until she was sitting on the Borg's chest, her knees on either side of her head. Her eyes went wide when she realized Seven's intent. Rising slightly, she rested her arms against the wall above her as the young woman pulled her down until she could slip her tongue into the cleft between her legs. Throwing her head back, she groaned at the contact. Seven's tongue was rough against her, lapping wildly at the small nub that was engorged with her desire. She looked down and saw the young woman's eyes had closed, saw the look of rapture on her face as she devoured her and felt her thigh muscles begin to shudder. Moving slowly, she rocked back and forth, small, soft grunts of pleasure emanating from her as the Borg's lips moved faster.

The orgasm hit her fast, a huge surging of pleasure that thrummed outwards from Seven's tongue to shake her body to the core. She leaned her head against the wall until the pleasure broke suddenly, turning into a liquid fire that burned through her body and left her too weak to support herself.

Gently, Seven put her hands on Janeway's hips and lifted her effortlessly, settling her onto the bed where she wrapped her long arms around her and held her, waiting for her shivering to subside.

"Oh, Annika." The Captain breathed. "That was lovely."

"I concur." The Borg gripped her tightly, her face buried in Janeway's neck. Slowly, she loosened her hold and moved back, looking at her with eyes filled with warmth and love. "You were mistaken, Kathryn."

"About what?" Janeway purred, running her fingers down the Borg's side.

"There is one promise we must discuss tonight."

"What would that be, love?"

Seven pulled away slightly, reaching over to the end table where she removed something from one of the drawers. Holding it up before Kathryn, she opened it slowly.

A small light blinked on, illuminating the bed and Seven's face, as well as box she held. There, nestled in a bed of black velvet, was the ring.

"Seven!" Janeway gasped, leaning forward to gaze at the platinum band with its sparkling diamond reflecting the small light back towards her eyes. "Do you know what that ring symbolizes?"

"Yes, Kathryn." The Borg took her hand gently. "A 'legacy of love'. One I wish to share with you."

The Captain felt her eyes fill with tears. "Seven, there are so many things that we need to talk about."

"I am aware of that, Kathryn."

"There will be compromises that you will have to make."

"I am aware of that, Kathryn."

"There will be times that I won't even be able to display what I feel for you."

"I am aware of that, Kathryn."

"Then why would you do this?"

Seven took the ring and set the now empty box on the nightstand. Taking her Captain's hand, she slid the band onto her ring finger. "Because none of that is relevant, Kathryn. The only matter of importance is that you know the depths of what I feel for you."

Crying openly, Janeway wrapped the younger woman up in her arms. Seven held her quietly, truly understanding for the first time how tears could sometimes signify joy.


Chapter Six: The Turn

Seven sighed contentedly and tightened her embrace around the small body she held in her arms. Kathryn was sleeping, her breath even, and she did not wish to wake her.

Studying the beloved profile of her Captain, she felt a tightness in her chest. It was an almost sad feeling, a melancholy rush of love and devotion that she was only beginning to understand. She was amazed that this woman who had, in the past, instilled such rage and frustration within her, could also be the cause of such peace and happiness.

If she had nothing else for the rest of her existence, she knew she could find joy in what had transpired between them.

Gently, she brought her lips to the spot below Kathryn's left ear, a place she knew she loved to be kissed, gratified when the older woman stirred, murmuring her pleasure with a smile.

"Good morning." Seven smiled. "You slept well."

"Yes, I did." The Captain pulled the Borg's arms tightly around her. "What time is it?"

"It is time."

Janeway blinked, not understanding.

"The nanoprobes are ready."

"Oh." It was a small sound, but Seven could sense the regret in it. "We need to get up then."

"Yes." Seven hugged her fiercely on last time and then stood, holding out a hand to pull her lover from their bed. "We will need to facilitate a separation of Lauren from Annikan. I do not believe she should be witness to what I will have to do."

"I agree." She pulled her robe on and handed the other one to Seven. "Let's go talk to her."

They went into the outer room, surprised to see Lauren sitting on the couch.

"Have a nice evening?" She smiled.

"Yes, it was lovely." Janeway ran her fingers through her hair.

"Whoa! Wait a minute!" Lauren stood quickly and walked over. She grabbed the Captain's hand and looked down at her fingers. "That's one helluva rock. Is there something I should know?"

Kathryn blushed and tried not to look at Seven, who she knew was standing beside her with a pleased smile on her face.

"I guess congratulations are in order." Lauren threw her arms around The Captain and then Seven as well. "You two make a great pair!"

"Thank you." Seven said seriously.

"Well, this calls for a celebration. I was going to ask you to watch Anni while I went down to get a newspaper, but I think I need to grab a bottle of champagne while I'm down there too. Do you mind?"

"Not at all." Janeway smiled, throwing a brief glance over her shoulder at the Borg behind her."

"Cool!" The energetic blonde headed for the door. "I'll be back!"

Once she was gone, Seven and the Captain entered Annikan's bedroom. The boy was awake, looking at them curiously.

"Hey Anni." Janeway sat on the side of his bed. Your mom had to go out for a few minutes. We wanted to talk to you."

"What's up, Aunt Kathy?"

The Captain smiled, warmed by the endearment. "Seven wants to give you some medicine. We think it will help you to feel better."

The boy frowned. "Is it going to hurt?"

Janeway felt her heart ache at how much the child had already gone through.

"No." Seven moved to stand beside him. "It will not hurt. But I will need you to lie still."

"All right." He straightened his body, an apprehensive look on his face.

"Close your eyes, Anni." The Captain said gently.

Annikan did as he was told and Seven leaned in closer, extending the tubules from their sheath in her Borg hand.

"I forgot my wallet… WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"

They both turned quickly, seeing Lauren standing in the doorway behind them. Her eyes were fastened in horror on the tubes extending from Seven's hand.

"Hey mom," Anni said quietly. "Aunt Kathy and Seven said they had some medicine that would make me feel better."

Lauren face grew dark with rage as she moved to shield her son. "Get the hell away from him." She looked at Seven in revulsion, not noticing that Kathryn had left the room.

When the Captain returned, she heard the disgust in Lauren's tone as she spat out, "What the hell are you?"

Seven blanched and Janeway felt her heart go out to the young woman but there was no time to comfort her. "Lauren," She said carefully. "You need to let us explain."

"Explain what?" The blonde spat. "What the hell were you planning to do to my son?"

The Captain sighed and whispered to Seven, "Wait for us." Then she placed her hand on Lauren's shoulder and, before the woman could knock it away, she pressed the site to site transport control.

Lauren gasped as the room shimmered around her. She felt an uncomfortable tingling in her body and closed her eyes. When it stopped, she held perfectly still, terrified to open them.

"Lauren." The Captain said calmly. "Open your eyes."

The blonde obeyed, cracking them open slowly at first, then they flew open wide when she realized the hotel room was gone. Instead they were in a small van of some sort. "What the hell did you do?"

"Calm down." Janeway knelt in front of her. "There are a lot of things I need to tell you. I brought you here because I thought that it would help you understand that what I am telling you is the truth."

"Brought me where?" She demanded.

"Take a deep breath." She was concerned that the woman was going to hyperventilate. "Look behind you."

Lauren glanced over her shoulder and froze. "Oh my god." She stood slowly and stared out of the front viewport. Her jaw dropped at the sight of the planet hanging in front of them. "I'm dreaming." She said firmly, shutting her eyes again. "I'm dreaming and I want to wake up now." She opened them again but the view did not change. Turning back to Janeway she looked at her, her face frozen with panic and fear. "Who the hell are you?"

The Captain pushed her back gently into the pilot's seat, taking the other seat for herself. "We didn't lie to you, Lauren." She said gently. "Seven is related to you. We just didn't tell you how distantly." She took the blonde's hand in her own, noting that it was limp and clammy. "My name is Captain Kathryn Janeway, of the Federation Starship Voyager."

"Captain." Lauren repeated. "I heard Seven call you that."

"Yes. Seven of Nine is the Astrometrics officer on my ship. We came here for only one reason. To help you."

"To help me? With what?"

"Annikan." She said softly. "To help Annikan."

Lauren just stared at her in disbelief.

"We're from the future." She grimaced as she said the words, thinking how ridiculous it sounded. "Almost four hundred years in the future. Seven is one of your descendents."

"My descendents." Lauren repeated hollowly.

"Yes, yours and Anni's." She touched the console and an image of Voyager appeared. "That's our ship."

Lauren looked at it blankly. "This doesn't make any sense." She said weakly. She wanted to deny it all but the proof in front of her eyes would not allow her to. "If you are from the future how the hell would you even know that Anni was sick?"

"That's the problem with temporal mechanics," The Captain sighed. "They are really hard to explain."

But explain she did, in great detail. She told Lauren about Seven, about the Borg, about Voyager, about the book and about how they had come to be there. When she was done, she waited patiently as the blonde worked through everything in her mind. Janeway was pleased to note that the vacant look had disappeared and her color had returned…somewhat.

"So Seven is human?"

"Yes, well, mostly. When she was assimilated she was just a child. We were able to undo most of what the Borg did to her, but some of her implants still remain, as I am sure you've noticed. Seven of Nine was her Borg designation."

"What's her real name?"

Janeway smiled. "Annika Hansen."

"Annika…" Lauren looked at her in wonder. "Hansen was my husband's last name. It's Anni's last name."

"I know."

The blonde looked up suddenly. "Anni… you really think you can help him?"

"I believe so." She squeezed the blonde's hand. "Seven has 'little machines' called nanoprobes in her body that can repair the damage to his system and make her own bone marrow compatible to his. That is what we were attempting to do when you arrived and caught us."

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

Janeway gave her a gently sarcastic look.

"Right," She laughed nervously. "I would have had you both committed."

"Will you let us try?" The Captain asked.

Lauren looked at her intently and Janeway realized that she was fighting between her own disbelief and her wild need to hope.

"I know you are aware of how sick he is. This could be his only chance."

Finally, the blonde nodded.

"All right. I'll take you back now."

Lauren gazed out the window one last time, taking in the sight of the planet below her. She was still staring at it in amazement when the shuttle disappeared around her and she was back in Anni's bedroom. She went to her son and hugged him tightly, glancing at Seven who sat quietly at the end of the bed.

"Mom!" He hugged her back. "Where did you go?"

"It's a long story, Anni. I'll tell you all about it later. For right now, your Aunt Kathy and Seven are going to try to help you. Can you be brave and let them?"

He looked from his mother to Seven and back again. "I'll try."

Lauren began to cry. She hugged him once more and then stood. Turning to Seven she placed her hand on the Borg's arm. "If you can help him, please…do it."

Seven nodded and moved to the head of the bed. She extended her tubules slowly and then inserted them into the boy's neck. Her eyes closed as she felt the connection between them solidify.

Janeway hugged Lauren to her, holding her tightly when she gasped at the change her son was undergoing. His skin turned slightly pallid and she could see the veins clearly underneath.

The process took several minutes and the Captain noticed that Seven had begun to shake. Suddenly, she convulsed and the connection broke, her body sliding to the floor where she lay much too still. She released Lauren and ran to her, noticing that the tubules had not retracted back into her implant.

"Seven!" She shook her, softly at first and then more violently when the young woman did not respond. "Seven!" She turned to the blonde who was watching her son, witnessing the color return to his cheeks and the sunken flesh around his eyes fill out. "Lauren, help me! She isn't responding!"

Together they lifted the Borg and placed her next to Anni on the bed. The boy was awake and looking at all of them in surprise.

"Mom?" He whispered. "I don't hurt anymore."

Lauren sobbed and grabbed him, feeling his normally frail body become more solid under her hands. "Thank you!" She cried to Janeway. "Thank you so much."

The Captain ignored her. She grabbed the medical tri-corder and ran it over Seven's body, feeling her heart stop when she read the results. Seven was near death. Her bone mass was critically low and her nanoprobes and cortical implant were shutting down. "No!" She cried. "No, Seven, oh god no!" She wrapped the young woman in her arms and began to rock her. "No, don't you do this to me. Don't you dare give me everything I could ever hope for and then take it away. Goddammit wake up!"

Lauren came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. "What's going on?"

"I knew there was something she wasn't telling me and I didn't push her. I didn't make her explain…" Her words were cut off by the choking sobs that stuck in her throat. "She's lost most of her nanoprobes. She said she was making new ones for Anni in addition to her own but she lied. She gave him almost everything she had. Now they aren't regenerating." She felt the body in her arms start to grow cold. "I need something to stimulate her system. Oh god, Seven don't do this to me."

Lauren thought quickly. "What would you need? What would work?"

"A hypo-spray of epinephrine!" Janeway cried. "That's all I would need and I don't have it!"

"You will." Lauren said firmly.

Janeway looked at her, trying to decipher what the hell she was talking about through her shock. Suddenly, her eyes widened. "The case. Get the case. The black one in our bedroom."

Lauren ran to do as she asked, returning quickly to hand the container to her.

Kathryn reached inside it, her eyes going wide when her fingers closed on a single hypo-spray at the bottom. She quickly pressed it to Seven's neck and then wrapped her arms around her again, wildly hoping that it had been in time.

Nothing happened.

Janeway laid the Borg flat and slammed her fist into her chest. "Goddammit, Seven, this is your Captain speaking and I order you to wake the fuck up!"

Suddenly the Borg took in a huge gulp of air. She shook violently for a few seconds and then opened her eyes. At first they were unfocused, staring blankly, but then they cleared and she looked up at Janeway.

"Kathryn?" She said weakly. "My chest hurts."

Janeway laughed, tears coursing down her cheeks as she grabbed Seven to her and held on like she would never let go. Between her sobs she shook the Borg gently. "Don't you ever do that to me. Do you understand? You scared the life out of me."

Seven looked at her seriously. "I will not. Especially if it means that you will strike me again."

"I love you." The Captain showered her face with kisses. "I love you, you obstinate, frustrating, infuriating Borg."

The younger woman smiled shyly. "You… love me?"

"Yes!" Kathryn kissed her hard on the mouth. "I love you with everything in me."

"I love you as well, Kathryn."

"Well," Lauren cleared her throat and wiped the back of her hand quickly across her eyes. "If the melodramatics are over…"

Janeway looked at her sharply and then realized that she was hiding her own relief behind her sarcasm.

"I require nutritional and liquid supplements." Seven mumbled.

"Right. Can you stand?" Lauren moved to one side of her and Janeway took the other. Between the two of them they managed to pull the young woman to her feet and then walked her slowly to the outer room where they deposited her on the couch. "Lauren can you call room service?"

The blonde did as she was told, ordering all different kinds of food, not knowing what Seven needed. Then she sat down beside her and took her Borg hand into her own. "Thank you, Annika Hansen." She whispered, grabbing Kathryn's hand too. "Thank you both, so very much."

Seven nodded, a small smile on her lips.

"Mom?" Anni was standing in the doorway.

"Anni!" She went to him and gathered him up in a hug, kissing him fiercely.

"Yuck!" The young boy wiped his face. "Mom!"

"How are you feeling?"

"I feel great." He smiled. "Can I go play?"

Lauren laughed. "Yes!" She wiped away her own tears, willing to give him anything he wanted in her joy. "Let me just take care of Seven and I'll take you to Circus Circus and you can ride whatever you want ok?"

"YAY!" He shouted and ran back into his room to dress.

"It's ok." Janeway smiled up at her. "Take him to have fun. Seven will be fine now. I'll take care of her." She looked over at the Borg and laid her palm against her cheek. "Always."

Seven leaned into the embrace. "I will recover. Proceed with the fun."

"We'll be back in a few hours. You take it easy, Annika." She hugged the Borg one last time before collecting her son and leaving the suite

"Seven," Janeway said seriously. "Why didn't you tell me how dangerous this would be for you?"

"Because you would have attempted to stop me and I could not fail."

"You can't do this again. If we're going to be together, we have to share everything, even the things that aren't so good."

"Will we?"

"Will we what?"

"Be together?"

Kathryn smiled. "Just let something try to get in the way."

Lauren returned several hours later to find Kathryn and Seven curled up together on the couch. The food she had ordered was long gone and the Borg looked much better than she had earlier.

"How is my savior feeling?" She smiled.

"I am functioning adequately." Seven responded.

"Good to hear it." Lauren sat beside them. "Because there is going to be a party the likes of which you have never seen tonight."

Janeway sighed sadly. "I'm sorry, Lauren. Seven and I have to go."

"What?" The blonde looked at her in shock. "You can't go yet. You just can't. Anni is downstairs with a couple of my friends setting everything up right now. You can't leave without saying goodbye to him. It would crush him."

"We don't have much choice-"The Captain began.

"Kathryn." Seven sat up and gazed into her eyes. "We still have 14 hours left. I do not see the harm in attending the celebration, at least for a short while. I too, would be regretful to leave without saying goodbye." She gave her lover a soft look. "Please."

Janeway melted, realizing that it was going to be very hard for her to ever deny the young woman anything. "All right, if you're feeling up to it."

"I will be fine, Kathryn."

"Great!" Lauren rubbed her hands together gleefully. "It's a come as you aren't party, by the way."

"'Come as you aren't'?" Seven looked at her blankly.

Lauren laughed. "Just wear your uniforms. You'll be fine. Party starts in two hours, downstairs in the bar. I thought they would have a problem with Anni being in there and with closing it for us, but for some reason they seem to be willing to do whatever I want." She gave them a suspicious look. "Any clue why that might be?"

Janeway cleared her throat. "We were going to talk to you about that." She handed the blonde two charge cards and a statement book that said "Bellagio Services' on the outside. "When we got here, Seven had a bit of luck on one of the slot machines. She won quite a lot of money. Money that the casino is holding in their vault. Money that now belongs to you."

Lauren opened the book and read the sum, her face paling. "I can't take this."

"You don't have to take it." The Captain smiled at her. "It's already yours." She handed Lauren the ID cards Seven had used. "All of it is in your name." She laughed at the other woman's look of astonishment. "Don't argue with us about it either. That money will go a long way towards a new life for you and Anni. You'll be able to get a house and go to school full time. Anni will have everything he needs and more. And we certainly don't need it. Money isn't in use anymore where we come from."

"I don't know what to say." Lauren said softly.

"It is not necessary that you say anything." Seven touched her briefly on the arm. "But if I may offer a suggestion?"

"Of course!"

"I suggest that you also investigate courses in science and mathematics along with your writing interests They are areas that the members of our family appear to excel in."

Lauren wrapped her arms around both of them, her tears warm against Seven's face. "Two hours. Do not be late!"

Janeway straightened her uniform jacket as they rode the elevator to the first floor.

"Stop fidgeting, Kathryn. You look wonderful.

"I don't fidget." The Captain protested. "I'm just not used to showing off who we really are."

"As Lauren stated, all the individuals in attendance will assume this is who we are not. I do not foresee any problems with us attending in this attire."

Janeway let her eyes roam down the burgundy cat suit that Seven wore. "I'm sure no one will have a problem with your attire. I'm probably going to be the one with the problem, trying to keep all the men off of you."

"Just look at them they way you look at Tom Paris when he says something inappropriate. I am certain they will implode instantly."

The Captain laughed, taking Seven's hand into her own as they exited the elevator.

The bar was crowded with people and they had to gently push their way into the room.

"Kathy! Seven!"

They both saw Lauren at the same time and their jaws dropped. She was wearing a burgundy leotard, complete with matching high heals. She had fashioned an eye implant and a starburst cheek adornment out of some kind of shiny metal and had them applied to her face in the appropriate places. Even her hair was pulled up into a bun that resembled Seven's own. She laughed at them as they took in her costume.

"And who are you supposed to be?" Janeway smiled at her.

"Me?" Lauren turned in a circle, letting them see all sides of the outfit. "I am Fourteen of Eighteen."

The Borg raised one eyebrow curiously.

"Twice as fine as Seven of Nine!" The blonde laughed.

Seven snorted, causing the Captain to look at her in surprise.

They joined in the celebration, laughing and talking with Lauren and her friends easily. Seven danced with the Captain several times, and even went around the floor once or twice with Anni in her arms.

It was a wonderful evening. One that passed much too quickly.

As the hour approached midnight, Janeway put her arm around the Borg and gave her a sad smile. "Time to go, Seven."

"Yes," She agreed softly.

They found Lauren who was engaged in a lively conversation with several men who seemed quite charmed by her attire. She took one look at them and disengaged herself, approaching them with a sad look on her face. "It's time isn't it?"

"Yes." Janeway hugged her.

"Where is Anni?" Seven asked.

Lauren led them to a booth where the young boy was soundly sleeping. Seven lifted him gently into her arms and carried him back to the elevator and up to their suite. Once there, she laid him on the bed where he awoke, looking at them seriously.

"Mom says you guys have to leave."

"Yes we do." Seven stroked his face with her fingers.

"I don't want you to go!" The boy cried, launching himself into Seven's arms.

She held him tightly for a moment, and then released him so that Kathryn could do the same.

Sniffling, he settled back into the bed. "Am I ever going to see you again?"

Janeway began to answer but Seven cut her off.

"It is not likely, Annikan." She said softly. "But in a universe as vast as this one, the possibilities are limitless."

She hugged him one final time and they left the room, gathering the items they would be taking with them before turning to face Lauren.

"I'll never forget you." She said softly. "I am honored to call you family."

Janeway and Seven embraced her tightly and then stood back, pressing the control on the transporter.

Lauren stood quietly, watching them shimmer out of existence. Then went to join her son, to fall asleep and dream about what the future would bring.


Chapter Seven: Elvis Has Left The Building

The Captain looked over at Seven, who was sitting quietly in the co-pilots chair of the shuttle, lost in thought.

"You all right?"

"I am functioning adequately, Kathryn." The Borg looked at her sadly. "Except for a tightness in my chest and a hollowness I can not identify."

"It's loss, Seven." She took the young woman's hand. "You're going to miss them." It wasn't a question.

"Yes, I will. But I will always have the memories of having known them and the knowledge that Anni will grow up healthy and happy."

"Thanks to you."

Seven smiled at her. "Thanks to us."

They said nothing more as the rift began to appear before them.

Several hours later, Captain Kathryn Janeway sighed happily. She was stretched out on the couch in her quarters wrapped warmly in her lover's arms. Seven smiled as the older woman's hands began to wander down her thighs.

"Was there something you required, Captain?" She teased.

"Only you."

The door chime cut off their conversation and Janeway sat up, frowning.

"Computer, who is at the door?"

"Commander Tuvok."

Leaning back against Seven, she called out, "Come."

The door slid open and Tuvok stepped into the room. He did not look surprised to see them in such a familiar position. "Captain. Seven." He nodded to both of them.

"Hello, Tuvok." Janeway smiled. "I was wondering when you would show up here."

He raised one eyebrow and handed Janeway the book.

"I assume since you read this that you are well aware of the change in our relationship." She smirked, taking it from him.

"Indeed, Captain." He glanced at the ring on her finger but his expression did not change. "I did wish to inform you that I have removed all traces of the novel from the ships databanks. I did not feel it was necessary for members of the crew to read certain parts of it. I am sure you would rather they learn of your new circumstances at your discretion."

"Thank you, Tuvok."

"I did, however, feel that you might wish to retain a copy for your own purposes."

"Why, Tuvok!" Janeway teased gently. "How very sentimental of you."

He ignored the comment. "I also wanted to suggest that you read the final page of the novel, together. I believe it is something that you would find interesting. Good night, Captain. Seven."

When he was gone, Janeway snuggled back into her lover's embrace and opened the book to the last page. Quietly, they read it together.

A Final Note

When I was a young boy, I asked my mother how I had gone from being so sick, to being perfectly healthy.

This was the story she told me.

As that small child, I was able to believe my mother's words with a grace and wonder that have been missing from my life for many years. I took this story and made it a part of my own mythos, often imagining what my life would have been like if my "Aunt" Kathy and Seven had ever walked back into it. I also spent many a childhood afternoon pretending they had taken me with them. Back to their "Federation", as my mother called it.

But in truth, I never saw either of them again.

And so, when I reached my late teens and early twenties, I put aside the things of my childhood, this fairy tale among them. I believed that this story was merely a mother's attempt to gently explain the unexplainable.

I had just been lucky, it was that simple. Somehow, someway, I had defeated a disease that could not be beaten. I had cheated death, and it made me feel invincible, a rationalization that got me through many of the tougher moments in my life.

Now, however, in my later years, I begin to wonder how much of what my mother told me was really the truth. My heart would like to believe that every word of it was. And each passing day, my head can come up with fewer and fewer reasons as to why I shouldn't.

Maybe my cynical years were merely that. The middle age of a man who knew magic in his life, but only briefly. And when it was gone, he found nothing that could compare.

Now, I think I would rather believe.

Believe that there is magic…somewhere out there, that there could exist somewhere two individuals whose love for each other was strong enough to withstand anything. And whose love for a child they had never met was strong enough to transcend time.

Will I ever see them again? I can't answer that.

The only thing I know for sure is that in a universe as vast as this one, the possibilities are limitless.

I have to believe that with all my heart. And I will spend the rest of my days trying to find a way to reach them, trying to find some way to thank them, for what they did.

For saving a little boy and the woman who meant the world to him.

Annikan Scott Hansen

1995 - 2066

Seven held Kathryn as she cried, whispering, "I believe he found a way.

The End

A note for the hopeless romantics:
The box the ring came in really did light up. When I opened it in the dark during a Melissa Etheridge concert, it lit up our entire row. She was singing "I Want To Be In Love" at the time.
Kristen said yes, and everyone around us applauded.

Dance as though no one is watching you

Love as though you have never been hurt before

Sing as though no one can hear you

Live as though heaven is on earth.

"Mercy" Copyright Melissa Etheridge and Island Records

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