Seven strode purposefully into sickbay. She was early for their pre-arranged dinner, but she needed the Doctors opinion.
"Please state the nature- oh hello Seven. Is it time already?"
"No Doctor. There are still 26.2 minutes until our designated time to meet. I arrived early because I do not...feel well." She admitted as she sat on an exam table.
He immediately put a medical tricorder to work scanning.
"I have completed my internal diagnostics three times since my last nutritional supplement this afternoon. Each time with corresponding results. I am functioning within normal parameters." She informed him.
"The scans don't indicate anything's wrong, either. You said this started after lunch, did you eat something different? A Neelix special, perhaps?"
"No. I ingested nutritional supplement number 14." She replied.
"Of course you did." Food was one area she was having trouble adapting to. Somehow, he persuaded her to try a new meal once a week. That's why they met for dinner. Well, that and to enjoy her company.
"Ok. Describe your symptoms to me and we'll go from there."
Seven thought for a moment how best to describe the information her body transmitted.
"My internal temperature, cardio-vascular rate, and respiration fluctuate. There is a strange sensation in my mid-section. I am agitated without being angry, and it is difficult to concentrate on my duties."
The Doctor observed Seven as she listed off her symptoms. He couldn't narrow it down completely, but there was something different about her. Physically she hadn't changed from the last time he'd seen her, but he knew it was there. An idea dawned on him as he reviewed what she'd said.
Could Seven be in love?
He'd accepted long ago that he could only ever be her friend, nothing more. And, he found that her friendship was more valuable to him than he expected. Now, he would do anything to help her find happiness.
I wonder...did the Captain finally make a move?
"Seven, it sounds like you're nervous or anxious. Has anything out of the ordinary happened lately?" He asked hopefully.
She didn't know if she should allude to her secret Valentine, or not. The Doctor was the closest thing she had to a best friend. Neelix had witnessed it, so it was simply a matter of time before the whole ship knew.
It was possible the Doctor's feelings would be hurt if he did not hear it from her. That was unacceptable.
"I received a secret Valentine." She announced. Then proceeded to give him all the details, including her history lesson with Neelix. When finished, she looked at him expectantly.
This is intriguing he thought, his mind a whirl of possibilities.
"So, it appeared when you ordered from the replicator, and you have no clue who sent it to you?"
"You are correct, Doctor."
Well, somebody certainly took a chance, but is it the person we're pushing for?
"How about we go to dinner and see what else shows up?" If they were lucky there would be another present, only this time with a card signed 'Always yours, Kathryn Janeway'.
At his suggestion, all of Seven's symptoms came rushing back. It would seem the Doctor was right. She was nervous. From the timing of her reaction, she inferred that her secret Valentine was the cause. Another human trait she did not comprehend. Presumably the Doctor would explain this in more detail during their date.
"Very well." She agreed.
They originally planned to go to Sandrine's, but opted for the mess hall instead. It was less crowded, and Seven was already feeling out of sorts.
Once she stood in front of the replicator, she wasn't sure she wanted to order. What if she didn't procure anything this time? What if she did? Would it indicate who it was from? Seven did not like this being nervous aspect of human nature. It was inefficient.
"Lasagna and a small side salad with Italian dressing." She finally requested. Normally she would antagonize the Doctor for 'tricking' her into this ritual, but not tonight.
They watched raptly as the order materialized. It was only the two dishes.
"Maybe they have something planned for the party tomorrow night, and didn't want to over do it." The Doctor posed as he picked up the lasagna. Seven quirked an eyebrow at him, and retrieved the salad.
The sound of something else being replicated made them both turn back.
"Oh my." The Doctor gasped.
The bouquet of multi-colored roses bulged in all directions from the slot. It practically hid the wrapped item tucked in the corner.
Together they moved everything to their table, but neither were interested in eating. Their attention alternated between the small present and the flowers that took up almost half the table.
Noticing the card first, the Doctor flipped it open to see if it was signed. To their disappointment, it wasn't.
It simply read, 'Seven of Nine, be my Valentine?'.
"Well, Seven, you definitely have a secret admirer." He grinned, still pleased. After all, 'secret' didn't eliminate Kathryn from the running, it merely didn't identify her as the bestower.
Seven didn't know what to think. Her entire being felt like it was being transferred through a wormhole the size of a nanoprobe. She had never been in this position. As a result, her nervousness was back, and more intense than before.
The Doctor, suspecting her need for a distraction, handed her the other present to open. Turning the thin square item over, she examined it carefully.
"It appears to be covered in some type of protective material."
"I believe it's to hide the nature of the gift in order to be a surprise when it's finally revealed." He explained. "You have to tear the wrapping off."
Carefully, Seven poked a hole with her finger. Then, she meticulously pulled the material away from the object inside.
It turned out to be a holovid frame. When Seven activated it, an image of Kathryn appeared. Suddenly, Kathryn smiled breathtakingly and held her arms out for someone. Seven gasped audibly when she saw herself swept into Kathryn's waiting embrace.
She positively blushed when it showed them merge into a heated kiss. Despite his pestering, she let the scene play several times before allowing the Doctor view it.
He was shocked at first, but then he smirked mischievously. Maybe the card was signed after all.
When he glanced back at Seven, she was staring blankly at her lasagna. She looked lost, and it dawned on him just how out of her element she was. Dealing with all these new emotions had to be difficult enough. But, for someone who spent the majority of her life being insignificant, to unexpectedly be singled out like this must prove unbalancing.
Tenderly, he placed a finger under her chin and raised it to meet her eyes.
"Seven, how does all this make you feel?"
Without breaking their gaze she replied in her monotone drone voice, a sure indicator she felt vulnerable.
"My feelings are irrelevant."
"No, Seven, they're not." He insisted. "Clearly the Captain has feelings for you. But, you're not obligated to return them. It's your choice whether to proceed, or not. How you feel about the Captain is a big part of that decision."
Seven regarded the floral arrangement. Reaching out with both hands, she softly grasped a petal in each and closed her eyes.
Her Borg hand calculated scientific details of chemical elements, resilience, and such. Her human hand absorbed the essence, beauty, and the frailty.
It was similar to how she perceived herself. One part controlled by the superiority of her mind and body. Borg. The other part guided by her longing to experience the emotions of the world around her. Human. Only Kathryn saw the balance between the two.
"I am in love with her."
They were bittersweet words for the Doctor to hear. Though his mind knew the truth, his heart still ached with the loss.
She folded her hands neatly on the table, and faced him. In the blink of an eye, her expression went from gentle adoration to stony determination.
"What I feel, what I choose, is inconsequential. The Captain does not love me in return."
"What?!" He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "How can you say that? She spends more time with you than any other member of this crew. She goes out of her way to be there for you!"
Without warning Seven stood and retreated to the viewport. Her posture stiff, hands clasped tightly behind her back.
"I am well aware of my status as the Captain's 'pet project', Doctor. Her compulsion to help those who need it most does not equate to a predilection for intimate relations." Seven knew she sounded harsh. In truth, her retaliation stemmed from the pain she felt every time she relived that moment on Hashri.
Pet project? He puzzled.
"I'll admit that Janeway can't resist helping others, it's an integral part of who she is. But, do you honestly believe that's all you mean to her? What about the gifts? She doesn't strike me as the type to send these to a 'pet project'."
"There is no evidence that anyone sent them. Is it not equally logical that someone is attempting to 'play a joke'?" She parried.
The Doctor regarded Seven silently. Didn't she notice how much her reputation amongst the crew had grown? How they exhibited more respect, and even some admiration, towards her?
Then again, Seven wasn't one for subtleties, or dealing with the intricacies of interrelations.
He searched for the right words to help her understand.
"You know, quite a few people had to re-evaluate their misconceptions of you when you came aboard Voyager. Now you're accepted as part of the family, wouldn't you agree?" He asked quietly.
Seven considered this. It wasn't completely accurate. However, it was as truthful as when she called Voyager her collective. She nodded in the affirmative.
He walked to her side, and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Perhaps it's time for you to re-evaluate your misconceptions of them." With a light squeeze, he headed out of the mess hall, but stopped as he reached the doors.
"Oh, and Seven?" He waited until he had her attention.
"Forget about the presents. If you love her, then pursue her." He left, then, hoping he hadn't blown the whole situation to space dust.
Captain Kathryn Janeway, brave leader of the starship Voyager, known throughout the Delta Quadrant as a fearless risk taker, was immobilized. Eyes wide with shock, lips parted but breathless, her mind clambered to figure out what was going on.
It had happened so quickly.
The padd said to place the device on the ground. When she did, the letters on the screen flickered and morphed into the next instructions. That step gave her pause.
To activate the unit, she had to speak the phrase provided. The words, coupled with not knowing what would occur, made her question whether or not to say them. Curiousity got the better of her, though, and with those two little words she flipped her world on its axis.
"Kiss me." She had actually blushed when she said it.
Now, here she stood rooted to the floor, all her faculties frozen, and gaped at a life size image Seven of Nine. Who stared longingly back at her with an alluring smile she'd never seen on the Borg.
Janeway struggled to pull her eyes from the hypnotic gaze, and noticed three things in rapid succession.
Seven's hair fell seductively in loose curls about her shoulders. She wore a long black coat, buttoned, her bare legs and feet suggesting that was her only apparel. And, this was no mere hologram.
Unable to muster the will to move, Kathryn let her vision follow Seven's hands as they buried themselves in her hair. Slowly, fingers pulled through golden locks, down her slender neck, and along the inner edge of the coat's collar to stop at the first button.
Janeway swallowed audibly.
Seven stepped towards her, the sexual intensity radiating off her in waves. Instinctively, Kathryn attempted to keep equal distance between them.
In a low, throaty voice that sent chills rushing over Janeway's body, Seven spoke.
"Roses are red." She undid the button at her cleavage. Kathryn fixated on the newly exposed flesh.
"Violets are blue." Fingers slid to release the second button. A glimpse of bright red lace showed through the gap. Janeway tripped around a chair.
"The Borg Queen had her chance." Another button unfastened. Seeing the lingerie more clearly, Kathryn's libido shifted into overdrive. Unexpectedly, she stumbled back onto the couch.
Seven continued her advance.
"Now I belong to you." The final button unhooked, the coat slid to the floor, and Kathryn's mind no longer had to conjure the beauty of a nude Seven. The sheer cloth hid nothing, and the way her Borg implants melted into her Human skin was exotic.
She was so caught up in visually mapping all the lines and curves in front of her, that Seven straddling her lap surprised her. She opened her mouth to protest, but Seven seized her face in both hands, crushed her against the sofa, and descended with slightly parted lips.
She felt the ghosting touch of hot breath, the barest tickle of a kiss, then it was gone.
Kathryn opened her eyes to find herself alone in her quarters, panting loudly into the solitude. And more aroused than she could ever remember being.
"Damn." She flopped limply on her side, arms and legs hanging off the edge.
That was...that was...but words had deserted her. She laid like that for several minutes until the dazedness faded, and her thoughts coalesced.
With coherency came reality, and like a transporter malfunction, everything got scrambled. Passion made way for confusion, which evolved into frustration, that led to anger.
Her Astrometrics Officer had gone too far.
Janeway jumped up, snatched the holo-imager from the floor, and paced.
It was plain as the ridges on a Klingon's forehead that Seven was responsible for this. Which meant she was behind the other keepsakes, as well. What had she been thinking? Was this her way of trying to reconnect with Kathryn? Why such an elaborate scheme?
The Captain stopped twisting the piece of technology in her palm and studied it with renewed interest.
Seven had the intellectual capacity to build such technology. She was Borg! The question was, would she? A niggling in her gut told Kathryn this was all too inexpedient for the young woman's approval. Which begged the question, if not Seven, then who?
Janeway clinched her jaw. This had better not be someone's sick idea of a prank. Because, they would think life as a Vidiian test subject more preferrable to what she would do to them.
Before her emotions got the best of her, Kathryn took herself to bed. Tomorrow was soon enough to get the answers she wanted.
The last thing she did was whisper, "Kiss me."
On the Bridge, Alpha shift quietly went about their business. Tuvok scheduled training sessions for his people. Harry and Tom ran diagnostics on their respective stations. Chakotay did whatever it is that Chakotay does. Everyone was enjoying the peaceful start to the day when the Captain arrived.
"Good morning Gentlemen." Unbeknownst to them all, trouble brewed in her wake. Pleasantries were exchanged as Janeway headed for her chair.
She paused, hovering halfway into her seat, when a sultry female voice greeted her. And by name, no less.
"Good morning Kathryn."
Janeway reversed direction and scanned each person, fairly certain that she was the only woman on the bridge at this time. Once confirmed, she raised an eyebrow to the Commander, asking.
He too studied those present, then shrugged his shoulder in response.
"Is there anything I can do for you, Kathryn?" All eyes rose to the ceiling, where one subconsciously looked when addressing the ship's computer.
The Captain furrowed her brows in concentration.
Chakotay also stood, feeling oddly exposed sitting with Voyager's computer on the fritz. Harry shot a panicked glance in Tom's direction, but it was ignored. That question sounded all to familiar to him, and he knew exactly where he'd heard it before.
"Ma'am?" Harry jumped to attention. "Oh, uh, sensors show nothing abnormal, Captain."
"Nor do they indicate any breaches in security, or intruders, Captain." Tuvok intoned.
What the hell was wrong with her ship? Ever since they obtained the Hashrian crystals, engines were malfunctioning, people were acting strangely, and now the ship itself was misbehaving. Was there something in the water?
"Check for viral, neural, biological, and anything else you can think of." She commanded.
"Yes Kathryn?" It purred.
"Run a level 4 diagnostic on all of Voyagers communication systems, including...yourself." Maybe the computer would actually tell them what was going on. After all, it's not like it could lie. Then again, computers didn't typically flirt with Commanding Officers.
"Anything for you, Kathryn."
Tom and Chakotay chuckled at the display. Janeway glared at them, but her smirk belied her own humor.
"Captain." She turned to Harry for an update.
"Aside from a minimal increase in power usage in Astrometrics, and that looks to be from a high level maintenance program they're running, all systems are within standard operating parameters."
Janeway wasn't worried about Astrometrics. Seven's proclivity for perfection was well known. But, how could all systems read normal when there was an apparent breakdown somewhere?
"Kathryn? I'm back. Did you miss me?" Janeway rubbed the bridge of her nose. She swore she even heard Tuvok amid the snickers. They had to end this, and soon, or she might be forced to silence the computer. Permanently.
"Of course, and the results?"
"I am in perfect shape." It growled lustfully. "Wouldn't you agree, darling?"
That was the last straw. Unable to contain themselves any longer, the people she had sworn to guide and protect out right laughed at her predicament.
Janeway called for an emergency senior staff meeting.
The turbo-lift doors parted for an unhesitating Seven. A high degree of agitation pushed all propriety out the airlock, and her curtness settled the crew instantly.
"I need to speak with you now." She informed the Captain and pivoted toward the Ready Room, fully expecting Janeway to concede.
The Captain was taken aback and prepared to give Seven a severe dressing down for the impropriety, when without warning, the bridge was enveloped in darkness, halting everyone in their tracks.
A second later, music played as the lights brightened and dimmed in a pulsating pattern that made it look like they were swirling around the room.
This was so surreal that Kathryn was momentarily struck with the feeling she was losing her mind.
"Captain, please, I cannot stay-" A soulful male voice interrupted Seven.
"I've been really tryin', baby. Tryin' to hold back this feelin' for so long. And if you feel like I feel, baby. Then come on, oh, come on. Whoo, let's get it on. Ah, babe, let's get it on. Let's love, baby. Let's get it on."
When the familiarity of the song registered, Tom met Harry's terror-stricken expression with one of his own. He wondered if he could convince the Captain this was purely coincidental. Odds were not in his favor.
Janeway realized the message behind the words, and flushed a light pink.
"I'm sorry, Seven, but this will have to wait. Senior Officers, Briefing room. Now." She desperately needed coffee, and hurried to her Ready room while the rest made their way to the conference room.
Seven practically ran.
Eyes closed, Kathryn pressed her palms and forehead against the wall. It was times like these she wondered what possessed her to take on the mantle of command. And yet, she knew she wouldn't give it up for anything.
With a deep sigh she pushed away from the wall. Her command mask nearly cracked when she spied the diaphanous red fabric balled up haphazardly beside her mug. One brush of the fabric, and memories from last night blazed through her mind and across her body.
Now is not the time for guilty indulgence she chided herself.
Collecting her drink, she recycled the negligee and left for the meeting.
The Senior staff filed into the room to find Seven with arms crossed in front, and her back firmly planted to the wall monitor. They looked at her askance, but said nothing. Until B'Elanna's inquisitive nature overcame her.
"Seven, what are you doing?"
"I am standing." Was the terse reply.
"I have eyes, Borg. What I want to know is why you are standing there?"
Seven was at a loss on how to respond. She refused to explain the situation, not that she had any answers, but she did not prevaricate well.
"It is personal."
Now the Klingon was seriously intrigued. She'd already deduced that Seven was hiding something on the computer screen, but why display it at all if it was personal? And, what would Seven deem 'personal'? Well, one way to find out, Torres.
Seven tensed as B'Elanna approached her.
"Come on Seven, let me see."
"What's the big deal?" B'Elanna growled. "Why'd you even put it on the monitor if you don't want to show us?"
"I did not." If possible, Seven became more tense.
Chakotay was about to intervene when the Captain breezed into the room. With her came the low lighting and thrumming melody. Those who hadn't been on the bridge earlier looked around in confusion, but the Captain didn't bat an eye.
"B'Elanna, Seven, please take a seat, we have much to discuss." Janeway requested, doing the same.
"I will stand." When Seven didn't budge, B'Elanna folded her arms across her chest in stubborn refusal. If the Borg wanted a battle of wills, then bring it on. Like a cobra about to strike, Janeway rose from her chair. She was not in the mood for an altercation between these two.
"What seems to be the problem, ladies, that you would both choose NOT to follow orders?"
Seven raised her chin in obstinance. B'Elanna's resolution waivered a bit at the low tone from the Captain before her mischievous side kicked in. There was more than one way to skin a targ.
"I just wanted to see what Seven had running on the display. I thought it had to do with our meeting, but apparently it's personal."
The focus shifted to Seven. Though no one else had verbalized it, everyone was curious. Kathryn noticed the rigid stance, and the unyielding set of her jaw. She also detected the apprehension held within those blue eyes. Thinking back on Seven's earlier behavior, she saw what she'd missed before. Fear.
What would cause Seven to be so ill at ease?
With the current anarchy of the ship's systems, personal or not, she needed to know any irregularities with Voyager. Her Astrometrics Officer blocking the view screen certainly qualified as uncharacteristic.
"Have a seat, Lieutenant." B'Elanna sat while Janeway rested her hip on the edge of the table.
"Seven, I called this meeting because, as you can see and hear, we're having a problem with Voyager. So, I need to know if what you're dealing with is symptomatic of the bigger issue. To that end, I need to see what you're hiding."
"I-, it would-. Please Captain. I cannot."
"I see." That was the second time Seven had used the word 'please'. Kathryn didn't know it was in the Borg's vocabulary. Taking a chance, she walked around the table and into Sevens personal space. They might not be as close as they once were, but Kathryn hoped that didn't mean her powers of persuasion were no longer effective.
"Would you show me?" She asked with tenderness.
Kathryn's proximity alone was enough to test Seven's fortitude. Add the imploring blue eyes and smoldering voice, and Seven could no more refuse this woman than she could deny her own human heritage.
Ensuring she obstructed as much of the image as she was able, Seven twisted just enough to her left to allow the Captain to peer around her.
Janeway's skin paled drastically, then burned deep red.
"Sit down, Doctor." She insisted stiffly, before he was fully out of his chair. Forcefully, she shoved Seven back against the wall and looked at her sharply.
"Where did this come from?" She demanded hoarsely.
Here was the test Seven dreaded. Would the Captain be appalled by her answer? Ultimately, it didn't matter since Janeway would find out one way or another, and delaying the inevitable would only make it worse.
"In the course of my past two regeneration cycles, I have experienced...dreams. While initially conservative, they have progressed to a more explicit nature."
"You dreamed this? Us having..." Janeway self consciously lowered her voice. "Making love?"
"Indeed." Seven was filled with disappointment. The Captain did not envision them as a couple.
Although unexpected, it wasn't Seven's sexual dreams that astounded her. It was the scope of the dreams. The things she saw them do, and the places they did them...on her table, against a tree, a wall, in the Captain's chair.... It set her blood on fire, and she had to check herself before she acted inappropriately right here and now.
Oblivious to Kathryn's internal struggle, Seven used all of her borg enhanced strength to keep from bolting. Being in the Captain's presence solely as a subordinate was proving more arduous than she anticipated. Perhaps her only recourse was to leave Voyager.
"Well then." Janeway gathered herself once again. "Why is it being transmitted publicly?"
"I do not know. The depictions recur on all view screens when I enter a room."
Kathryn knew she needed something stronger than coffee when she caught herself plotting ways to get a copy for her own personal viewing.
"It fits the theme of everything else that's going on. I'm assuming you can't shut it off, so do you mind standing for the meeting Seven?"
"I do not." The Captain nodded, then returned to her seat.
"Alright everyone, as you've all seen, we have a dilemma. I don't know how serious or how rampant it is, but we need to figure it out, and soon." The music had remained fairly quiet while she conversed with Seven. Now, the volume increased continually as she spoke. It lowered when she ceased talking. She tried again with the same outcome.
One by one they tried, but each attempt was met with a higher decibel. By the time it got to Chakotay, the sound was at a fevered pitch. Then inspiration hit.
"Computer?" Thankfully, the music stayed in the background.
"Would you stop the music, and return the lighting to it's normal output level?" She asked nicely.
"Are you sure? Does it not please you?" The computer sounded genuinely disappointed.
"It would please me greatly if you put an end to all programs you are accountable for."
There was a long suffering sigh, then, "As you wish. For now." The room brightened, the music stopped, and the screen behind Seven went black.
"In the meantime, I leave you with a souvenir from last night." The computer continued. "So you don't forget." The hum of a transporter drew their attention to the center of the table where a pile of red material appeared. It was out of the Captain's reach, but not Tom's.
"What's this?" He lifted it up for all to see. Janeway dropped her head to the table and groaned as the skimpy see through negligee unfurled. B'Elanna was the first to crack up. Loudly.
"Kahless, Captain," she gasped, "Someone actually wore that?! It doesn't look big enough to cover much of anything!" Kathryn raised her head with an evil smirk on her face.
"Isn't that the point?" she retorted.
The whole table erupted in laughter as Janeway gave up any pretense of avoiding the good natured harassment. Except Seven, who bristled with jealousy over who had donned that outfit for the Captain last night.
At length, they addressed the quandary at hand. Kathryn admitted that Seven's ordeal did seem to be a part of the situation, but gave no details.
Tom and Harry shared their theory concerning the holodeck program they'd been running at the time of the power surge, and along with B'Elanna, agreed to see if they could dig up a connection.
Dismissing the staff, Kathryn decided now was as good a time as any to have that talk with Seven. She just had to be firm, and not take no for an answer.
"A word, Seven."
The ex-drone came to a standstill and waited. The stiffness of her posture reminded Janeway of when Seven was first on board, and the vulnerable little girl tucked away behind the armor of indifference. What did I do, Seven, that makes you no longer care for the woman behind the Captain? And, can it be undone?
"We need to talk, and no excuses this time." To cut Seven off before she could protest, Kathryn said the first thing that came to mind. "I've missed you." Damn. She didn't anticipate that, despite the truth of it. Time to retreat and regroup.
"Meet me in my quarters for lunch in half an hour." Not waiting for a response, she turned on her heel and hastily departed.
"I do not think I will ever fathom human emotions." Seven pronounced to the empty room.
"I still can't believe your holoprogram went haywire." B'Elanna casually stabbed a wriggling morsel, and stuffed it in her mouth. Neelix's lunch special was unusually tasty today.
"When doesn't one of our ventures go awry?" Harry grimaced. How could anyone enjoy food they had to chase around the bowl?
"Hey!" Tom protested. "We're not that bad. Besides, it's not my fault the ship decided to send an extra jolt through the system. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"And running the wrong program." Harry muttered.
"What in Kahless possessed you to create that tacky program, anyway?" Having finished her dish, B'Elanna progressed to Harry's, who handed it over without complaint.
"It wasn't by design." His companions looked at him skeptically.
"Really! I was playing around to see how tasteless I could make it. When Harry showed up, I thought it would be fun to let him think that was the real setup".
"Yeah, well it's not so funny now." Harry pointed out.
"Sure it is, Harry. How often do you see the ship's computer trying to seduce the Captain with gifts and sex holovids?"
"What?!" the other two chorused.
"Seven may not have covered the entire screen." Tom shrugged his shoulders impassively.
"And you saw...that?" B'Elanna was awed. "No wonder the Captain reacted the way she did!" Seven had been right, it was undeniably personal.
"Well, she was in it, too." The absence of sound after that warp core breach was deafening.
"How's lunch today?" Neelix's question startled the trio.
"Delicious. Are you sure, Tom? Do you know this for a fact?" B'Elanna interrogated. Sensing something interesting, Neelix sat next to Harry.
"As sure as I'm talking to you right now." Tom avowed.
This was mind boggling news. Granted, it wasn't the kind of news to gossip about any more than they already had. That was one sure fire way to get ditched on the nearest planet, it's ability to support life not a factor.
"Are you referring to your little holodeck mishap?" Neelix asked. "Because I'm not sure it was such a good idea to deliver those gifts to Seven."
A look of puzzlement crossed their faces.
"What are you talking about, Neelix? What gifts?" Harry prodded.
"The ones she got each time she ordered from the replicator. Let's see, the first time it was candy coated fruit. The second time it was flowers with a picture of the Captain. I think it was a video, but I was too far away to see."
"Neelix, my program wasn't coded to give presents to anybody."
"It wasn't coded to arbitrarily create holovids, or address people by name, either. But we witnessed both this morning." Harry asserted.
"Maybe it's not just Tom's program." B'Elanna said thoughtfully. "If the power fluctuation synthesized some of the encryptions to Voyager's sub-routines, the resulting amalgamation would still 'behave' within the original parameters of the two components."
"Right." Harry picked up the thread. "Since the two systems have response only intuitiveness, the new entity shouldn't be able to initiate any form of communication, but it can."
"Which means, we have a missing piece." Tom summed up.
"Or, you could be jumping to conclusions. We are celebrating a day for love." Neelix chimed in.
"True." Harry grinned. "Think about who's been affected. It's who we're trying to match up. What if the Captain is using this holiday to let Seven know how she feels?"
The guys accepted this theory whole heartedly. B'Elanna, on the other hand, wasn't convinced.
She had noted, with appreciation, the closeness developing between the Captain and Borg. Then, after Hashri, she felt a remoteness about them. The Captain had tried to reconcile, but whatever happened compelled Seven to shut Janeway out.
From what little she knew, B'Elanna doubted the Captain would go to such lengths to pressure Seven in matters of the heart. No, her sixth sense told her that an unknown influence was at work here.
Mind made up, B'Elanna excused herself and hastened to Engineering. I will find you little bugger, and you will be mine.
Indecision was a busy little bee.
It besieged Kathryn within her quarters, and ambushed Seven at the end of the corridor. The 'should I or shouldn't I' debate careened inside their psyches like a velocity disc.
Seven was almost to the door, and Kathryn ready to pour another glass of wine, when dread intruded with the 'what if' game. Their state of mind was plunging to hell in an escape pod at maximum warp.
Then the door chimed.
Its usefulness protected Seven's traitorous hand from certain death, and only Kathryn's swift reflexes kept her glass from shattering.
Seven marched to the middle of the room and struck her customary pose, a sharp contrast to the pleasure seeking lyrics that triggered at her entrance.
"You wished to speak with me, Captain?"
Janeway had expected this formality, if not the accompanying show. There was so much to glean from Seven's predictability, if you knew where to look.
Like now, her entry and stance, the mandate disguised as a question, and her refusal to make eye contact all signified her insecurity, not arrogance. She didn't know how to handle this situation, so endeavored to set the pace.
Kathryn also knew her close examination unnerved the young woman. Good. Seven tended to let her guard down more around Janeway when she was off balance.
"Sit with me?" A warm hand on her elbow guided Seven to the sitting area.
Seven was discombobulated. Surely her cortical node was damaged. How else could she rationalize this perception of floating outside Voyager without a spacesuit? It was not convenient for her to have this conversation.
"I wish to partake of lunch now, Captain." Conceivably, the nutrients would provide adequate distraction for the time being. Janeway accepted the interruption for what it was, a delay tactic. Placing her hand on Seven's thigh, she leaned closer to stress her point.
"We can't avert this much longer, Seven."
Seven closed her eyes at the contact. The Captain was correct. But she was not ready for her imminent departure.
"I know." She concurred faintly, and followed Janeway to the dining area.
Kathryn stalled for time at the replicator, her back to Seven. They might not have the talk they needed to right now, but there was one thing she was impatient to know. One simple word, and her heart would live for the dream, or shrivel up and die.
Absently she set the food on the table, and gazed at her companion. She had to ask.
"Is there still a chance for us?"
Seven was astounded. Why would the Captain ask a question that was contrary to preceding corroboration? Her assimilation tubules itched with the impulse to bore into the Captain's flesh and resolve this perplexity once and for all.
"You would consider a intimate affiliation with me?"
"With every fiber of my being, yes!" Kathryn sat heavily. How could Seven not know? Had her overtures been too subtle? No, she had no doubts of their mutual attraction. Then what...that damned fight on the planet!
"Seven, tell me about Hashri. What happened during shore leave to change things?"
Tumultuous thoughts consolidated to that singular point in time. The smell of the Hashrian aroma pipes, the surge of bodies when the altercation broke out. The pictures in the live broadcasts had been bad enough, but the words of B'Elanna Torres had disconnected Seven from her surroundings.
And now this? This was too disorienting for her to articulate.
"I do not wish to say at this time." She peered down at her plate so as not to see the dejection on the Captain's face.
In doing so, a tiny glimmer of silver captured her eye. Positioned atop her untouched salad was a solitary leaf. Curled within was a microminiature replica of Voyager strung on a chain.
Another offering. However, she had not utilized the replicator, the Captain had.
"You are my secret Valentine." Seven blurted.
The segue was so abrupt that Janeway replayed the allegation several times in an effort to uncover its meaning.
"Excuse me?" Was all Kathryn could say.
"An individual who dispenses amorous mementos anonymously is denoting a propensity to commence a prurient liaison without risking blatant rejection." Seven explained tolerantly, as if she were educating Naomi.
Janeway raised both eyebrows, but said nothing.
"Over the past two days," Seven continued, "I have acquired three items from a secret donor. You have just indicated your desire to have a sexual partnership with me, and endowed me with my fourth tribute." She lifted the necklace from its spot.
"The logical conclusion would be that you are my undisclosed Valentine."
Kathryn was too dumbfounded to react. Once she regained her composure, her first thought was, Katie, you really should be used to being blindsided by Seven!
"I wish I could claim responsibility, Seven, since you seem to like the idea. But, I haven't sent you any gifts. I assume you aren't the benefactor of mine?"
The green eyed monster extended its fangs and bit before Seven registered the intent.
"I am not, Captain. Perhaps you should refer to your consort from last night." Seven immediately wanted to retract her outburst, missing the smirk Kathryn sported.
Seven was jealous? Janeway tried to stay calm at the encouraging sign. It wasn't too late after all.
"I wasn't with anyone last night. The...outfit...the computer dispensed during our meeting pertained to one of these surprises we've been getting." She assured.
Relief flooded through her at the declaration. Nonetheless, Sevens qualms persisted.
"My apologies, Captain. You do not owe me an explanation."
"I wanted you to know, Seven. And, I thought we'd agreed on 'Kathryn' given the circumstances." Janeway corrected gingerly.
"Of course, Kathryn." Secretly, Seven relished the way it felt to say that name. And Janeway loved to hear her say it.
They still had a great deal to discuss, but the knowledge that Seven wasn't lost to her put Kathryn at ease. She could wait until they unraveled the mysterious ailment afflicting Voyager, which she anticipated before tonight's party.
The party. It was probably too soon to ask Seven to be her date, and after recent events a gift wouldn't be as meaningful. That left only one thing for her to do. Dress to impress.
Plans laid, Janeway dug into her salad. The fork missed piercing the pendant by a micron.
It was a diminutive Borg cube.
The detail on both lockets was amazingly intricate. She wondered if the replicators were capable of manufacturing to that caliber of specification.
Accidentally depressing a hidden clasp, the cube split in half from front to back. Two small portraits emerged, one on each side, and Kathryn forgot how to breathe.
On the right, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Uni-Matrix Zero One in full Borg regalia. To the left, a beautifully smiling Seven as Voyager knows her. Janeway was captivated by both aspects of the woman she loved.
Who would know how eloquent this would be to me?
"Evidently, someone has taken extensive measures to set this up." It was a mixed bag for the Captain. While she didn't like the manipulative angle, she couldn't fault the intentions.
"Indeed. However, I do not understand the significance of the Borg. Borg do not inspire fondness."
"It's not just any Borg, Seven, it's you. It's part of what makes you who you are. There's a poetic balance in all of us. And, to truly love someone is to accept them for who they are."
Intrigued, Seven disengaged the mechanism on her accessory. Her vascular organ palpitated as two depictions of Janeway rose from each half.
First, there was Captain Kathryn Janeway, strong and proud in command red. Next to that, a relaxed Kathryn Janeway, head tilted back in an all out laugh. Seven found the likeness to be...seductive.
She then recalled the Doctors parting advice. Should she disregard everything except her pursuit of Kathryn? The inclination to do so was overwhelming. Particularly now that Kathryn had verbalized her desire for Seven. But, there was one facet she could not discount.
The Captain already had a mate.
"Penny for your thoughts." Kathryn offered.
Seven lingered in the swirling blue gaze. A multitude of emotions broiled within their depths, and she adeptly identified them all. Right now, the light blue-gray denoted the Captain was happy, but concerned. The color shaded darkly as they held the look, revealing her burgeoning arousal.
Janeway glanced away, breaking the spell. How was she supposed to maintain any semblance of control with Seven giving her those looks?
"My thoughts were of Hashri."
"Oh. Do you want to talk about it?" Kathryn wanted to ask for all the details, but didn't want to rush Seven.
Seven deliberated on what she wanted. While researching human emotions, she had read an excerpt in the database that anything worth having is worth fighting for. Clearly, this nameless mate was not acceptable to the Captain, or she would not have approached Seven.
Kathryn was unquestionably worth having, fighting for and precisely what Seven wanted.
Locket in hand, Seven retired to the sitting area, Kathryn in tow. She queued the time frame in her eidetic memory, and without preamble, relayed the events.
"We were ingesting liquid refreshments at a corner table when an image of you in an intimate embrace with one of the officials was broadcast."
"What?" Janeway was confused. She knew the situation that Seven referred to, but it wasn't like that. The Official tripped, lost his balance, and tumbled into Kathryn. It was instinct to wrap her arms around him to try and keep them both upright.
"You're telling me that the whole bar saw me on the vidcam supporting one of their officials? And, this is why the fight broke out and you started avoiding me?"
"Your assumptions are inaccurate. Every establishment in the city viewed the transmission, not strictly the one we inhabited. The dissension occurred when an Ensign disputed a Hashrian's claim that you were going to cohabitate with the official."
Now the Captain was dismayed. The Hashrians hair trigger emotions wouldn't have required more than that to explode. Knowing how honorable her crew was she could see how things had escalated. And, with a warped kind of sense, everybody clammed up to protect her.
This also shed light on the oddness of the celebration the Hashrians planned that last day. They were expecting some type of joining ceremony!
"It wasn't an 'intimate embrace', Seven. It was an accident." Kathryn laughed at the absurdity. "Is that what upset you? Did you think I was going to marry him?"
"The Hashrians are irrelevant."
"Then what, Seven?" They might only last for no longer than a nanosecond, but Janeway had learned enough of Seven's tells to know how to read her. She was finally going to have her answer.
"Your 'cat has been let out of the bag'."
The Captain looked at her, one eyebrow arched.
"Seven, I have no 'cat in a bag'."
The Borg sighed.
"Very well. I heard someone say-"
"Tuvok to the Captain."
Of all the rotten timing! Janeway flounced back in her seat, arms limp and head lolled to the side before slapping her commbadge.
"Janeway here. Go ahead Tuvok."
"Please report to Engineering. We have a situation that requires your presence."
"On my way."
As she turned to apologize, Seven was also paged to Engineering. Kathryn vowed, if she had to lock them on the holodeck, they would finish this conversation.
The forcefield cast a faint blue glow around the Chief Engineer, who fumed within her confines. It was little consolation at this point, but she was right. She hadn't been able to nail it down yet, but she was hot on the trail of an inconspicuous, self-mutating intruder. Based on her current impasse, she must've gotten too close for comfort.
B'Elanna watched as the Captain and Seven arrived. She busted up laughing when "I'm asking you Baby to get it on with me" rang out, and Janeway frantically coerced the computer to lower the amplification.
As soon as she figured a way out of this mess, she needed to talk to the almighty Borg. The brief glimpse of info she'd had right before this "retaliation" had given her a new theory.
That no one could see or hear her was making it a bit difficult.
She tried every trick with her commbadge and phaser that she could think of, but the damn field would morph at the last second and soak it all up. It was as though it knew how she thought. Not in a 'read your mind' way, but knowing what she was going to do and adapting.
It raised the hairs on her neck and set her Klingon senses on edge.
While Tuvok and Vorik brought the Captain up to date, Seven drew next to the barrier. Curious, B'Elanna tracked her circuit as she inspected the field. Something definitely fascinated the Borg which strengthened the Chief's hypothesis.
Through her occular implant Seven garnered multiple readouts. With Tuvok's reports that their sensors did not detect the energy field at all, it would be expected that she volunteer the data she had collected. She refrained from doing so until she had effected her own assessment.
Cautiously, she extended her hand to the field. B'Elanna stepped back, remembering her own recent pain.
Steadily, Seven encroached. The others were too fixated on the sensors to mark her gradual disappearance.
Then she was standing face to face with a gawking B'Elanna.
"Are you unharmed B'Elanna Torres?" Seven performed a quick visual examination to confirm that the Klingon was not in need of medical attention.
"Hot DAMN Princess!" B'Elanna shouted. "You just proved that I'm on the right track! How'd you do that, anyway? Everybody else that tried got zapped, including me. Is there a secret passcode among nanoprobes or what?"
Seven amended her verdict. Lieutenant Torres was in need of a psychological evaluation.
"A 'passcode' was not required. I simply walked through."
"Right. Well, Miss Priviliged, you're the only one who can, so let's break me out of this prison."
B'Elanna described all her unsuccessful attempts. Seven made a few modifications, but they didn't work, either. They were bouncing probabilities back and forth of altering something to emit a beam that would 'cut a hole' for B'Elanna to crawl through when Janeway noticed the Seven's absence.
They took a short intermission for Seven to explicate their strategy and rationalize her actions, much to her chagrin.
B'Elanna understood, though. No matter how it seemed, the Captain didn't need justification, she needed reassurance. She was worried. Why didn't Seven appreciate how much Janeway cared for her?
She would just have to use her natural charm and find out.
Seven returned with the hyperspanner B'Elanna requested, and they set about adapting it for their purpose. Despite the Klingon's discomfort, Seven used her tubules to speed up the process.
"Seven, I know it's personal, but, what happened between you and the Captain?" B'Elanna had never been accused of being subtle.
"Nothing." Seven replied, not pausing in her assignment.
"Why not? It's as glaring as a red alert klaxon that you're in love with her."
Seven did stop then and admired the Captain.
"I am fully cognizant of my feelings toward Kathryn." She murmured.
"Then why are you pushing her away?"
Seven rounded on her and B'Elanna crouched in preparation for a fight.
"On Hashri, you proclaimed loudly that the Captain already had a mate." B'Elanna's eyes bugged in disbelief.
"Human culture does not approve of having more than one spouse, so I inferred that the Captain's interest in me was strictly platonic."
"What?!" B'Elanna cried. Why did her off hand comments always come back to bite her in the ass?
"Sometimes you are so dense, Borg! I said that because I thought if the Hashrians thought she was already married they would stop arguing about her staying."
"They did not." Seven stated the obvious.
Snarling, B'Elanna clinched her fists and stomped a circle around the Borg to keep her bloodlust at bay. Kahless, she longed to pound some sense into the infuriating woman.
"However, your lie is insignificant." Seven declared. "Your concise pronouncement alerted me that I must first 'beat out the competition'."
B'Elanna wanted to yank her hair out and scream like a banshee.
"Seven, you're not listening. There's only you. There is no competition. The Captain does not have a mate. She's yours for the taking."
The Borg deliberated the connotations for five point seven seconds. Then she looked at B'Elanna with a mix of such fierce single-mindedness and fiery passion that the Klingon wondered if Janeway would even know what hit her, much less survive.
About damn time, too!
B'Elanna would swear to her dying day that Seven literally growled her oath.
"She will be mine."
Janeway rubbed her forehead with the beginnings of a headache. Would she ever get her ship back to normal or was this some side effect of being in the Delta Quadrant?
The 'Hostess with the mostest', as Tom had dubbed the computers new persona, was to blame for Lieutenant Torres' captivity. And, had cheerfully informed the Captain not to bother trying to free her.
"B'lanna has been a bad, bad girl and must stay in solitary confinement for the duration. Don't worry, Kathryn, she will be well cared for."
But Janeway did worry.
The computer wouldn't elaborate on what B'Elanna did to warrant her punishment any more than to say "Oh, she knows what she did."
And, duration of what was anybody's guess since the Hostess would simply repeat, "When it's time."
Janeway wanted to cancel the evenings celebration out of concern for her ship, but no one had yet to be harmed and she knew how much the crew was anticipating the party.
So, she elected to stay behind and make every effort to solve their problem.
Then Seven exited the energy field. The incendiary look she gave the Captain, and the equally heated "See you at the festivities", left Janeway shaken and stirred.
Tuvok generously offered to spend his evening in Engineering, and insisted that she go and enjoy herself.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say my crew is trying to play match maker she thought as she headed back to the bridge to finish her shift.
(to be continued)