Seven’s Awakening:

Disclaimer: Paramount owns all Characters from the Voyager universe and no profit was made from this story. It was written only for the enjoyment of Star Trek Voyager fans spanning the world.

Codes, Pairing: J/7

Rating: NC-17, Explicit and graphically detailed sexual content between two females. You’ve been warned! There are references and scenes alluding to J/m sex, and 7/m sex, and of course J/7, so if any of this offends you in anyway, please leave now and no harm will done.

Please be responsible, if you are under 18 or if this is illegal in your part of the world, go elsewhere. There is some violence in this story too, so please beware.

Note: Special thanks to my beta reader, Jay for her input.

Summary: Realizing something in her life is missing, Seven takes steps to fill it, having no idea just how complicated her journey of the heart would be.


Seven's Awakening

by Scar

 

I lived my life in shadows,

Never the sun on my face

Now I long for a mate,

But I feel so displaced

 

Day One:

Seven of Nine listlessly ran computations on her computer terminal in the Cargo Bay where she resided. Despite her inner confusion, it was an important task, one that Voyager's entire Engineering team had not been able to solve even after two weeks of trying.

An unknown anomaly was affecting the warp core, despite finding no external readings to suggest any strange phenomenon existed. There were no ships or planets particularly close to their flight path yet they could find nothing to explain why Voyager could not exceed Warp Six and although this was Voyager's normal cruising speed, such a limited top speed would add years if not decades to Voyager’s already long journey.

Unfortunately, the need to uncover the cause of the disturbance was not enough to help the young woman's concentration. She was distracted by errant thoughts that she could not get under control and it was making her inefficient, a condition she abhorred.

Thinking back, Seven now realized just how complicated her goal really was. Still emotionally a child with very little practical experience in romance, she had no idea her decision would come to this. Thinking logically falsely led the young woman to assume that all she needed was more knowledge on the subject. Therefore she researched the database thoroughly only to be confounded even more by the abundance of contradictory information located there.

Love was apparently more subjective than logical depending on an individual's viewpoint. Yet love seemed to make the majority of humans happy or, at the very least, content with their lives, both of which she did not feel, but wanted to.

If only I could only experience this first hand, if I could feel the emotion, then I would completely understand human love.

In her estimation, success would have allowed her to grasp the essence of humanity, so she devised a hypothesis that logically required testing. In light of her hypothesis, Seven had sought out with the computers help, a suitable mate by entering her requirements into a search parameter. Surprisingly, but based on her criteria, the search algorithm decided this individual to be none other than Voyager's first officer, Commander Chakotay.

Based on that result, Seven asked him for a date and upon his acceptance, she had been dating him ever since. During the first month of their partnership, they did things together that Seven had not done before; things she had once considered trivial, but now thought otherwise. She even took the initiative by inviting him to a picnic in the Cargo Bay, serving him a light wine with the midday meal and one evening, after bringing him a bouquet of flowers, Seven made a bold move by touching his lips with her own in anticipation of her first kiss.

At first, the newness of dating was enlightening, but after a month, Seven knew something was missing. She had to admit that she had grown to care for Chakotay, yet Seven cared for many of the individuals onboard Voyager only that was not her goal.

To make matters more complicated, the past week Chakotay had animatedly discussed coming 'out of the closet', with regards to their relationship. Initially, Seven was adamant that they keep their relationship quiet, but Chakotay argued that disclosure would elevate their relationship to another level. How making their partnership public did that was beyond her comprehension, yet she capitulated for his benefit even though she found herself not quite ready for that kind of publicity. Chakotay’s grand plan was to 'officially announce' it during a celebration that was scheduled for this evening, at approximately 18:00 in the Mess Hall.

Yet regardless of his plans, Seven had to make her own decision and she honestly did not know if she should continue or end their affiliation. She speculated that breaking up with the Commander before he announced anything, would keep the embarrassment of her failure down to a minimum, but the blonde was uncertain if she should conclude her research so soon and admit defeat.

Seven knew she did not comprehend all the possible repercussions of her actions, but ever since her recent experience from Unimatrix Zero, she had to acknowledge a strong growing inner need to mate. This emptiness fueled Seven to recreate the emotions she had once felt on the holodeck, yet after the dangerous and far reaching conclusion to that experiment, she had to put romance and any instinct for mating on the back burner… until the Doctor had successfully corrected her cortical node malfunction.

That was over a month ago, and up until this point, Seven had been incredibly impatient with her progress, but she was now examining if she would ever able to connect with someone on a personal, intimate level. She could no longer deny being lonely. Seven wanted someone to love, wanted someone to belong to; in essence, Seven wanted a small collective of her own.

Arriving on Voyager against her will forced Seven to adopt the vessel and its crew as her new Collective, but it no longer seemed to be enough. She needed a new Collective, a smaller more intimate one… especially before they reached Earth, which to Seven was only a matter of time. Not if, but when that happened, Seven knew everything would change and not necessarily for the better for her. The crew would disband and naturally go their separate ways, but where would that leave her, a former Borg drone? Would she have the same accessibility to Janeway; her Captain, friend and mentor? Seven would probably not be able to see her every day, would not be able to serve her or learn from her anymore. That possibility already produced a sense of loss in the young woman forcing Seven to acknowledge that she had much to do before that occurred.

First and foremost, the blonde had to prove to her Captain that she could regain her humanity to its fullest potential. The Captain's opinion of her was very important. Seven felt a strong need to please her and it was more than just duty. Seven owed Captain Janeway and wanted to make her proud. After all, it was Janeway's lone decision to keep her onboard Voyager when no one else wanted to that gave Seven a life worth living. The auburn haired woman was ultimately responsible for giving Seven a second chance that very few former Borg drones get and she didn’t want to waste it.

So, should I make my affiliation with the Commander public knowledge or terminate the relationship?

Indecision made the young woman antsy and her concentration on the computational analysis did not improve. Finally after spending some time debating the pros and cons, inspiration entered her cortical node. She could discuss her problem with the Captain. Her mentor rarely refused her and Janeway's advice was invaluable in all things regarding humanity. To Seven, Janeway was unequaled in wisdom and compassion.

At the corner of her lips, a small smirk became visible on Seven’s face.

Yes, a philosophical discussion with her Captain was exactly what she needed. It would give her some much needed clarity on the subject, since her inability to develop intense feelings for Chakotay was a puzzling enigma she couldn't seem to solve on her own.

The Captain has been engaged to be married twice. She will have the answers I am seeking.

The only problem was finding time in the Captain's busy schedule.

 

*****

 

It was actually five minutes past the Alpha shift, yet no one moved to leave their posts.

All was quiet on the bridge as Janeway and Chakotay sat at ease in their command chairs. Tom was at the helm position sitting comfortably before the large viewscreen. The fair haired helmsman had the best view, which showed nothing spectacular at the moment, only the ordinary blackness that was deep space with a few dust clouds and some distant stars and planets sporadically dotting the area.

Lt. Torres manned the starboard Engineering station, while Ensign Harry Kim was at operations. Seven of Nine occupied the secondary ops station on the higher level located directly behind a railing and the two command chairs. Tuvok was faithfully stationed at his security console monitoring their current position.

Despite still being on duty, the mood was light and festive.

Captain Janeway had a smirk on her face as she looked at the viewer. "Well, Mr. Tuvok?" She spoke up merrily. "Are we there yet?"

"No," He replied tolerating their needless human display of joviality.

"Well, don't keep me in suspense, Mr. Tuvok. How long?" She teased.

"Approximately, one minute." He responded evenly with extreme Vulcan patience.

"Excellent."

Tom and Harry smiled as the ship moved closer to what they were all waiting for.

Finally, down to the last few seconds, Janeway stood up to embrace the moment.

"Captain," Tom called out joyfully from the helm position. "We've just crossed into the Beta Quadrant."

With a wide smile, she opened a ship wide communications channel. "This is your Captain speaking. I just wanted to inform everyone that we've entered the Beta Quadrant. In light of all we've been through, I just wanted to say that I couldn't be more proud to serve with such a fine crew… As we traverse the next 30,000 light years to get home, I know we will find more shortcuts to shorten our trip. I have every confidence that we will get home... There will be a small celebration in the Mess Hall this evening. Please find the time to stop by and join in on the celebration of being 30 years closer to Earth. Thank you for your hard work and dedication. Janeway out."

"Only 30 more years Kathryn?" Chakotay remarked playfully.

"It's better than 75." She returned happily.

Seven raised an eyebrow at their playful banter, knowing how necessary it was for humans to partake in it.

"I agree." He replied warmly.

Janeway stood up resisting the strong urge to stretch her limbs in front of her bridge crew because of the stiffness in her muscles. "Well Commander, my shift has long been over, so I'm going to my quarters to change before I head to the Mess hall. I intend to celebrate and enjoy some R & R for a change."

The tattooed man chuckled. "I'll be attending a little later with a surprise announcement." Chakotay finished with his eyes shining.

"I look forward to it Commander." Janeway replied before heading towards the turbo lift.

As the auburn haired officer passed by Seven's station, the young woman followed her to the turbo lift door. "Captain, may I speak with you for a moment?"

Janeway turned around, putting her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Would you mind if I talked to you later, Seven. There are a few things I need to take care of. Besides, I'll see you at the celebration tonight… right?" She finished, with a sparkle in her eye.

"Yes," Seven answered with a nervous edge. "but--"

"Good, I'll see you--."

"Uh, Captain?" Harry called out tentatively. "There's a ship approximately 500,000 kilometers off our port bow on a parallel course."

Tuvok studied his readings. "Their weapons have been activated." He informed her as his hands moved over the controls.

"Shields," Chakotay ordered, not taking any chances.

Janeway turned a sourful face towards her first officer as she reached the lower deck. "So far the Beta Quadrant doesn't look any more promising than the Delta Quadrant." She commented quietly.

He pursed his lips, giving her a regretful, but hopeful look.

"We're being hailed." Ensign Kim divulged.

The Captain moved towards the viewer. "On screen."

An alien's face came up staring at her sternly. His stare did not faze her as much as the pure silver emanating from his pupils. It was rather pretty giving her a moment's extra pause.

He appeared to be a male alien, she estimated, with long, dark, straight hair and a Fu Manchu mustache similar in style to what most Klingons wore. His face was similar in structure to humans with a slightly elongated jaw line and from what she could see on the viewer, he wore a neat blue and gray two piece uniform.

"I am Commander Trezlar of the Kazarr Alliance, state your purpose here." The alien spoke gruffly.

Janeway acknowledged that the less than stellar greeting could be the alien's natural vocal cords and not necessarily any predisposed attitude.

"I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. We're explorers on our way home."

"And just where is your home Captain Janeway?"

"In the Alpha Quadrant."

His eyes widened. "You're explorers from the Alpha Quadrant?!"

"Yes, we seek knowledge of new species, such as you."

The alien seemed to meditate on that for awhile. A sound that Kathryn could only guess to be a guffaw came from the alien, but she couldn't decide if it was a laugh or a snort, good or bad.

"An interesting notion Captain Janeway, but I'm afraid this isn't a very good time for exploring. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to leave our space immediately."

"My apologies, we didn't realize this area of space was occupied, I--"

"It is owned by the Kazarr imperium and spans the next 65 light-years. You have been duly warned."

Janeway became annoyed. "What exactly does that mean?"

"I will not be held responsible for any loss of life pertaining to your crew while in our space…"

Was that a threat? Janeway's brow lowered.

"…And if you expect compensation for your losses you will be denied any petition from our government."

Janeway blinked. "Come again?"

"I assure you Captain that I have no malice towards you or your crew. I am simply being polite by asking you to leave now or the consequences could be severe."

Even in her confusion at what he was trying to say, Janeway didn't like threats. "Trezlar, I don’t appreciate being threatened. My crew and I have been traveling through space on route to my home planet for over seven years and I have no intentions of turning around to avoid your sector of space unless you give me a better reason than 'just leave'."

"You refuse?"

Janeway put a hand on her hip speculating if this would lead to a confrontation, but something was off by this encounter. Despite his earnest tone, the alien Commander didn't act like he wanted a fight. She was missing a piece of the puzzle.

"Yes." She gambled.

"You insist on traveling through our space?"

"I wouldn't unless it was absolutely necessary." She waved a hand through the air. "I assure you Commander we are no threat to you."

"Very well. I am sending you a copy of our laws and regulations. You will adhere to them while you are here. You must accept the conditions before proceeding. Do you understand?"

Startled, Janeway held her tongue to the plethora of questions that were forming in her mind. This was most confusing.

"I'll take a look at it." She responded diplomatically.

"I will await your reply."

Intrigued, Tuvok waited for the data to upload.

"Transfer the data to my Ready Room when it's complete." Janeway ordered as she headed there herself.

 

*****

 

"So are you going to the celebration in the Mess Hall?" Harry asked Tom as they were walking to the Ensign's quarters. Both men had just left the bridge after a slightly extended Alpha shift because of the non-confrontational, alien encounter.

"Of course, B'Elanna would have my head if I didn’t." He gave a knowing smile. "I asked the Doc to watch Miral while we were there."

"I bet he loved agreeing to that."

Tom laughed, "So who are you going to bring?"

"Me?"

"Yeah."

The Asian man slumped in his gait. Obviously the young man didn't have a date.

Tom gripped his friend's shoulder to stop his progress. "Wait a minute. Don't tell me you don't have anyone to bring?"

Harry shook his head innocently. "I honestly didn't give it much thought." He fabricated.

Tom sighed. "Harry, when are you going to live it up and get yourself a girlfriend?" He waved his hands in the air.

"Maybe there isn't anyone on Voyager compatible?" Harry defended himself. He didn't really want to have this chat with Tom again.

"Compatible?!" Tom stayed in stride with his friend. "You sound like Seven."

"I'm not asking her!" Harry replied a bit harshly, giving the sandy haired helmsman a frustrated look. Even if Seven could develop feelings for him, Harry knew he couldn’t handle the severity of her personality and although she was quite beautiful, he speculated that a relationship with her would be less than passionate because of her Borg past. Of course, at times, he still fantasized about her, but that was only in his dreams, mostly.

Tom's expression changed to contemplation as he studied Harry's facial expressions. "Hey, you're not still in love with her are you?" Tom jibed.

"Excuse me!?" Harry spoke sternly. "For the record, I was never in love with her."

"Oh I know, it was purely a one way affair." He teased.

"That's not true!" Harry denied.

"Oh?"

"I was only attracted to her, ok!! She is a beautiful woman in case you haven't noticed."

Tom chuckled sarcastically. "Of course I've noticed. I'd be dead not to!!

"I admit I was infatuated with her for awhile, but I got over it. She's not ready for a relationship anyways… So I never got the chance for anything more." Kim waved his hand dismissively signaling that was all there was to it.

"Ok," Tom conceded. "How about Megan?"

"What about her?"

"You still like her, right?"

"Yes… " He drawled out waiting for Tom to get to the point.

"Well, ask her!" Tom stated annoyed that he had to spell it out for his practically virginous friend.

"If you don't mind, I'd rather not talk about this."

"Fine," Tom replied realizing he had upset his friend. They were silent for the rest of the way to Harry's quarters, but by the time they arrived at the entrance, Tom had an excellent idea on how to make his friend feel better.

"Listen Harry, we all want and need companionship to some degree… and although my carefree days are long over, I have a holo-program that could help you if you want. I wrote it years ago before I met B'Elanna." He paused, looked down both ends of the hallway before leaning forward. "It's called Madame E." He said in a lowered voice. "It stands for Madame Erotica--."

"Madame Erotica!" Harry exclaimed.

"Shh, keep your voice down. I don't want anybody else finding out about this. I have a reputation to uphold."

"What reputation?" Harry jibed.

"Very funny. You know I'm a family man now. My wife might not appreciate the artistic value such a program has… but you my friend are ready to experience the divine Madame E." Tom slapped him on the back. "It relieves tension quite nicely."

Sighing, Harry took a deep breath.

"It'll teach you a thing… or two." Tom gave him a wide mischievous smile. What do you say?"

Harry understood that his friend was only trying to help his blues, but holo-suites weren't his cup of tea. "Sure thing Tom, I'll consider it."

Tom slapped him on the shoulder jestingly. "Great, just let me know when, because I've encrypted it so you'll need a password, ok."

Harry had no intention of trying one of Tom's sexual fantasy programs.

"I'll do that." He replied entering his domicile.

Tom grinned from ear to ear as the door slid shut.

Shaking his head, Harry couldn't help but smirk to himself.

 

*****

 

The Captain leaned back in her chair to review the PADD she held in the palm of her hand as she read about Kazarrian law.

The Kazarr had strict regulations in regards to interstellar war, such as; any of their ships found guilty of attacking any vessels traveling through their space were subject to severe penalties and infractions. In addition, casualties or damage inflicted by any of their ships, by accident or otherwise was compensated for if reported to the Kazarrian government within 30 days. Apparently, survivors of an attack were entitled to reparations and even had legal recourse in the Kazarrian judicial system if the initial compensation was not deemed adequate by the injured party.

The data contained some history as well. Apparently the Kazarr were at war with a species called the Grefahl and had been for over two decades. The Kazarr laid claim to an area of space that was disputed by the Grefahl and had been ever since.

It was no surprise to her that one of the main stipulations of her crossing their area of space was if she agreed not to sue in case of damage to her ship or accidental fatalities and especially if they were incurred by the Kazarr's enemies.

In a private communication, they ironed out a few more details before both were satisfied. He wanted her to avoid all of their populated planets unless an absolute emergency occurred. He stipulated that she should stay on a steadfast course through their space not stopping for curiosity. In other words, taking time for exploration was highly discouraged.

Having little choice, Janeway agreed to abide by those demands hoping her ship would not be attacked by mistake. Trezlar agreed that his people would not, but he could not promise that the Grefahl would not. They were ruthless in his opinion and without honor.

So Janeway did the only thing she could to keep her ship on the proper course without an extended delay. She electronically signed the document and sent the data back to Commander Trezlar.

Thankfully, after the negotiations were over, Voyager continued unhindered on course for Earth.

Two hours later, well past the end of her shift, Janeway finally left the Ready Room to go to her quarters to freshen up and prepare for the Mess Hall celebration.

The chance meeting with the Kazarr tapered her earlier elevated mood somewhat, but she had other things to be grateful for and refused to let it get her down.

Janeway dressed quickly already having picked out her outfit earlier. For the past few weeks she had been warring internally with duty and her emotions and how they could co-exist somewhat peacefully without tearing her apart. She had put it off for years, but recently she just couldn't seem to shut it out of her mind and the internal debate was wearing her down.

Janeway sat down on the edge of her bed, and retrieved an item from her nightstand table. Opening up the small box that she held in the palm of her right hand, she peered inside and a small smile crossed her face. It was a ring. A friendship ring only, but it was the thought that counted. It was a gift and she hoped the conversation it invoked would turn into something more.

Pondering the possibilities, she stuffed it into her pocket leaving her quarters with a bounce in her step.

 

*****

 

Back in Cargo Bay Two, Seven waited nervously for Chakotay's arrival.

The decision having been made to announce their affiliation tonight did not alleviate her tension. She was still not sure this was the correct course of action. On an intellectual level, Seven knew she was not 'in love'.

Wasn't she supposed to feel something more? Especially when they pressed lips together?

Seven just figured there would have been more to the dating experience now that she was an actual participant. Yet, no matter how hard she attempted to feel something significant while being with him, it did not happen.

Would copulating with him solve her problem?

She did concede that they had not yet copulated, but her research also indicated that she should feel more of a physical connection before engaging in intimacy.

Seven remembered studying the database about human intimacy and related interactions, discovering that copulation in conjunction with emotions involved complex biological manifestations that she did not understand. It was this lack of comprehension that challenged Seven's nature to be perfect in all things.

Having nothing better to do while she waited, Seven pressed a few keys on her console and brought up the database she bookmarked at the location labeled, 'Sex education'.

Seven stared at the words on the console, a frown entering her delicate features as once again she became confounded. 'A physical act meant to bring about a series of…?'

She still did not understand the word. What did it mean?

What exactly was an orgasm?

The meaning hounded the perfectionist in her and to make matters worse some of the explanations were not explanatory at all. 'Brought on by mating.' Seven sighed. That much was obvious even to her. 'Sexual excitement leading to a climax.' Seven analyzed that. A climax is considered a peak, a high, or possibly an apex… but of what?

One definition had said; 'the orgasm is like a strong sensation that engulfs the entire body until the lower extremities explode, spasming into an orgasmic release'.

Explosion?!

Explosion of what? That did not seem particularly healthy. She reread the scientific explanation.

'Sexual gratification occurs when the accumulation of omycotin is enough to trigger a series of biological processes thus resulting in the orgasm, which in turn releases fluids for the sole purpose of procreation… '

There were so many verbal definitions, but none of it could tell her what she wanted to know.

What did it actually feel like!?

Frustrated, Seven became severely annoyed at herself for not understanding such a basic and normal biological function.

Thankfully, the sound of the double doors opening revealed her date's arrival so Seven quickly shut down her terminal, fathoming that comprehension was not meant to be as of yet… or at least, not until she experienced it firsthand.

Until then Seven would just have to be patient.

 

*****

 

Dressed in khakis pants and a white blouse, Janeway walked into a booming celebration of loud chatter and laughing crewman as she strolled through the double doors to the Mess Hall. Carefree faces greeted her as she mingled about. Janeway was pleased they were relaxing and having a good time for a change. It was a positive sign that morale was rising. She just hoped traveling through the Beta Quadrant would be a more positive experience than their Delta Quadrant experience had been.

Spotting Tom and B'Elanna conversing with Harry and Megan Delaney, the Captain pondered briefly if Harry was on an actual date with the young woman. Janeway tried to keep informed about the ship's gossip, especially when pertaining to a certain blonde member of her crew. She was well aware of Harry’s crush on Seven from the moment the Borg stepped foot on Voyager. Nonchalantly watching the young man, Kathryn questioned if he still had a thing for her or if he managed to get over it…

After all, I haven’t, she noted ironically.

Surveying the room, Janeway noticed Tuvok’s absence before remembering the Vulcan volunteered to command the skeleton crew on the bridge during the second and third shifts.

Moving about, Janeway said hello to Ensign Samantha Wildman who was conversing with some crewmembers from the lower decks. Since Janeway couldn't remember their names on such short notice, she stuck with a quick hello and a quicker goodbye.

After thoroughly searching all the faces in the room, Kathryn realized a certain tall, blonde was not present. Yet since Seven was not particularly fond of socializing, it wasn't unusual for the former Borg to skip attending these types of social events. Still, this evening's event would continue well into the early morning hours of the next day, per Neelix's request so everyone would have a chance to stop by if they wanted to. Janeway just hoped Seven would stop by before she left because Kathryn had a lot to say to her charge… in private.

Feeling a tad nervous, Janeway pecked at the snacks as she waited, but thankfully, she didn’t have to wait long. Just as she dipped a carrot stick into the ranch dip, the doors to the Mess Hall slid open to reveal Chakotay’s arrival along with his arm looped within another more feminine arm.

All eyes turned on the couple for an instant before going back to what previously held their attentions. Some inquisitive eyes lingered longer, but one pair of oceanic eyes belonging to a certain redhead became fixated on the couple for the longest time.

As her mind filled with unpleasant ideas of what this joint arrival could signify, Janeway's eyes momentarily hardened.

Didn’t Chakotay mention something about a surprise? Vigorously, she bit down on the rest of her carrot stick, almost clipping her index finger with her teeth in the process. Slowly, she exhaled taking a moment to clear her pessimistic thoughts. Then taking in a deep breath, Kathryn speculated that she was probably making more out of this mutual appearance than what was warranted. Seven was most likely nervous and simply asked the Commander to escort her, since Tuvok, Seven's preferred choice of conversationalists was on duty. They probably met in the hallway on their way here. A harmless, innocent coincidence, which probably had nothing to do with Chakotay’s surprise announcement.

Willing herself to relax, her eyes latched onto the elegant form of the blonde as it glided closer to her position. The woman's gorgeous aurora sent minor palpitations through Janeway's heart. The young lady on Chakotay's side wore a loose dark red, satin blouse with matching slacks and high heels. Her golden mane was worn down for a change loaded with waves of curls just begging to be touched. The fair skin of her face shined, powdered with a light dusting of makeup and a generous application of ruby red lipstick on the plump lips which made Kathryn suddenly weak in the knees. The glint of the shiny Borg metallic object above her crystal blue eye resembled exquisite jewelry making her all the more attractive, like a finely sculpted work of art. As the lovely vision approached, the fluidity with how the taller woman walked towards Kathryn sent goose bumps tingling down her spine.

"Seven, Chakotay," Janeway forced a calm greeting.

"Captain," Chakotay sported a jovial smirk on his lips.

"I'm glad you both came," Janeway observed her first officer’s modestly dressed appearance; a brown marquis vest with a white dress shirt underneath and tan marquis leather pants. It was a severe contrast to Seven’s outstanding look causing the redhead to smile inward.

"So,” Chakotay winked affectionately at Seven. “What do you think of my surprise?"

"Pardon Me?" Janeway prayed she interpreted him incorrectly until glancing at the taller woman revealed cheeks tinted a pinkish hue.

"Seven and I have been dating," he clarified proudly.

The shy, young woman looked at Janeway with a guarded, but expectant expression.

"We have been for a few weeks now," he added smugly.

Innocent happenstance my ass!! An intense emotion she had not felt for quite some time passed through her; jealousy… and never quite so strong, she noted, but it certainly wasn't the only emotion, just the most prevalent so far.

She purposely remained bright faking a smile as her disappointed heart did flip-flops. Only with years of command training under her belt was she able to contain her facial expressions despite her distress.

"Congratulations," she offered, pretending to be happy for them. "I honestly had no idea," she added truthfully. Much to her chagrin, no rumors had ever reached her ears about this.

"We decided to keep it quiet. Seven is new to this type of relationship, so we didn't tell anyone," Chakotay explained with a wide grin, “until now that is.”

"I understand," Janeway lied, NOT comprehending their need for secrecy; not with her.

"Would you care for something to drink Seven, Kathryn?" Chakotay asked them.

Raising her implant, Seven noted his usage of the Captain's birth name. It was interesting because she could not recall ever hearing another crewman speaking with such familiarity. And even though the blonde was aware that they were both off duty, it irked a small part of her because she had never been given that privilege.

"Perhaps, a light wine would be acceptable." Seven really did not want any liquid supplements at this time, but acquiesced to appease him.

"I'm all set Chakotay, thank you." Kathryn answered politely.

He smiled generously at the blonde, "coming right up."

After he departed, Seven looked at Janeway apprehensively. The blonde regretted not being able to speak to the Captain before this gathering, therefore deciding to give the relationship with Chakotay more time. She figured it would only delay her inevitable failure if it continued along the same emotionless path. Yet, despite her possible failure, it was oddly important to have Janeway's approval. The young woman desperately wanted to know what her mentor thought of her new union.

"Captain--"

"I'm truly happy for you, Seven." Janeway interrupted, the words sounding forced. Swallowing her pride, Janeway reached out to touch Seven's right hand. I have to be an adult about this. "Chakotay is a good choice." For a few seconds, she relished the warmth of the human appendage. If only I had done something sooner. Kathryn silently chastised herself.

"Thank you," Seven replied politely. "It is certainly a new experience for me."

"I can imagine," Janeway agreed. Glancing about, she appeared to be more interested in the conversations of other crewmen, when in fact she wanted to vacate present company.

Seven couldn't tell for sure, but something was off in her Captain. Although the older woman smiled at her, it never made it to the eyes. The vibrant, deep blue orbs started turning to a shade of steel gray shortly after her and Chakotay's arrival and the crimson coloration in the ears lobes suggested that Janeway might not be feeling well.

"Are you functioning acceptably Captain?" Seven asked with concern.

Janeway turned back to her pupil. “I’m sorry?”

Seven elaborated, "The surface temperature of your outer epidermal layer has increased by 5.2 degrees in the last 2.4 minutes along with your heart rate at 24.2%. Your eyes have dilated 5.7%, changed from their normal azure to grey and your ears are decidedly--."

"I get the idea Seven," Janeway's cheeks became hot from her temperature rising in embarrassment. She's been monitoring my vitals!? "Really… I'm fine." She asserted forcing herself to calm down.

The Captain is disappointed in me, Seven reasoned. "I… apologize if I have committed a social error."

"No, it's not that… " Janeway exhaled, trying to relax. "I just didn't know you had such an ability… to that degree of accuracy."

"It is because of my Borg enhancements."

"I... ah… didn't know that." It was good that Seven didn't ask her why she reacted that way. Janeway could only fathom that as of yet, the blonde was none the wiser in understanding bodily reactions with regards to sexual attraction. Never the less, Seven's enhanced ability bothered the older woman. Now that she was out of the competition for Seven's love, Kathryn did not want her charge uncovering the truth.

Calling upon her command persona to control any errant emotions lingering at the shock of discovering Chakotay had stolen Seven from her, Kathryn made full-eye contact with the blonde. "If you need to discuss anything… regarding your new relationship, my door is always open." She mentally refused to alienate her friend because of her feelings of jealousy.

"Thank you Captain," Seven tilted her head, relieved. "I appreciate that. In fact, I wanted to speak to you earlier regarding some questions I had, but you were occupied with other duties."

"Oh?" Janeway asked curiously.

"Yes, you were unable to speak with me at that time." Seven informed her, a trace of regret lingering in her voice.

"I'm sorry I wasn't available Seven." Again, Janeway touched Seven, this time putting her hand on the woman’s left arm, near the bicep, purposely letting it linger before sliding down and pulling away. This was her only joy, being able to touch Seven casually and it was something she wouldn't give up unless forced to.

"Your free time is often lacking, but it is understandable because you are the Captain of a Starship."

"That can certainly be true."

"However, in the foreseeable future, I am sure I will have other questions."

"I'm sure you will." Janeway agreed, and realizing her throat was rather dry, she gave the blonde a nod before excusing herself. "Perhaps I will get something to drink after all." One of many she would be consuming this evening, but she would wait on the hard stuff until after she retired to her quarters.

The Captain hadn’t been in the Mess hall for long, but already she really wanted to leave. Despite being in the Beta Quadrant and closer to home, celebrating was out of the question. Even with her ability to successfully fake being upbeat, the festive mood turned sour, engulfing her into a black pit of emptiness. Obviously, Kathryn had underestimated just how much Seven meant to her now that the woman was unavailable. Yet, like all catastrophes she would deal with this turn of events with maturity and dignity because she was the Captain and needed to lead by example regardless of her lonely, broken heart.

After getting herself a synthetic drink, Janeway caught Chakotay rejoining Seven with their drinks so Kathryn wisely stayed at the bar, knowing the younger woman would seek her out if she wanted to.

Alone with her torpid thoughts, Janeway sipped her drink, while leaning against the countertop. Forcing herself to listen to a nearby conversation, Janeway was disappointed when it turned out to be a theoretically discussion involving Mortimer Harrison and his colleagues from the lower decks.

With that and having to watch Chakotay and Seven flirt with each other from across the room, Janeway had had enough. Even though, Seven's flirtation looked forced and unnatural, it was disturbing to witness.

So, after thanking Neelix for a superb job at preparing the celebration, Kathryn quietly left the Mess Hall knowing this was not going to be a good night. She could only hope that over indulgence in alcohol would induce sleep.

 

*****

 

Constant longing for her soul,

Untainted beauty not mine to own,

Fare thee well, my broken heart

 

Upon entering her quarters, Janeway swiftly went into her bedroom, pulled open the nightstand, tossed a small container in it and slammed it shut before slumping down on her bed, depressed.

Emotions swirled over each other; hurt, anger, loss and without a doubt, jealousy.

They were her closest friends yet they chose to conceal this from even her. Janeway knew her feelings of betrayal were irrational, but she couldn’t help it. Seven came to her for everything, so how come the young woman didn't come to her about this?! Why?! Why not tell me?! Didn’t she trust me?! Janeway would not have interfered, not if she chose Chakotay. Kathryn would have accommodated Seven’s needs within reason; as long as it didn't compromise the safety of her ship.

It wouldn't have worked anyways, she tried to convince herself, failing miserably.

Seven…

She was an angel, a golden goddess that Janeway had been fortunate to succeed in rescuing from the evil that was the Borg and blessed with the responsibility to assist the innocent woman in regaining her lost humanity.

Reluctantly, Janeway finally admitted to being in love with her. Unfortunately, she was too late to do anything about it.

Only a few days ago, Kathryn had made the decision to risk initiating a closer relationship. After months of never ending internal debates regarding everything that could go wrong, she threw caution to the wind and decided to do something about her feelings. Of course, Kathryn hadn't planned to declare her undying devotion so soon despite it being the truth, but she was going to find out if Seven had any feelings for her above that of friendship.

That was the plan, but Kathryn never got the chance.

It was going to be difficult dealing with her own feelings and keeping them out of her professional life, but she would try to be happy for Seven…

And her First Officer.

Somehow, she would just have to repress what she felt until it diminished with time. Otherwise, she was damned for the entire trip home, some 30 years and counting.

 

*****

 

Day Two:

"Captain?"

It was early morning when the call came through on the computer's internal communications system waking her from a sound sleep.

Fumbling for her COM badge on the nightstand, Janeway’s tone was raspy from sleep as she replied. "Yes?" She was annoyed at the interruption having consumed too much whiskey the night before and she wasn't in the mood for any scientific curiosities such as a nebula or a cosmic string.

"We have company. You better come to the bridge." It was Chakotay and he sounded serious.

"I'm on my way," Janeway responded. The possibility of a threat to her ship and crew always brought her out of a morose state.

Five minutes later, she was dressed and on the bridge.

"Report!" Janeway announced as soon as the turbo lift opened, but as she glimpsed the view screen, she knew exactly what the problem was. The roundness of the mechanical object even at this distance could not be mistaken.

"Long range sensors have discovered a Borg scout ship." Chakotay informed her.

"How far?"

"Approximately one million kilometers." Tuvok responded.

"And it appears to be heading in our direction." Chakotay added.

Kathryn shrugged. "Red Alert!" Janeway commanded. The bridge was sprayed with roving red lights as the klaxons sounded.

"Janeway to Seven of Nine, Please report to the bridge immediately." She called out to the computer.

"On my way, Captain." Seven responded with alacrity. Mere minutes later, after stepping out onto the bridge, the blonde’s eyes widened in fear.

"Can you tell us anything about this Borg vessel Seven?” Janeway asked. "It's a long way from Borg space.”

Seven kept staring transfixed at the view screen.

Receiving no answer, Janeway turned to look at the ex-Borg. "Seven?" She called out with concern. "Can you hear them?"

Seven seemed puzzled by it all. "No," she said in a small voice. "I cannot. I should be able to hear them." Confounded, she had no clue what it meant. Swallowing down her trepidation, she went to her ops station just behind the command chairs.

"Are you all right?" Chakotay asked his girl friend.

"Yes, I am functioning adequately." She remarked before turning toward Janeway. "I cannot explain this Captain. I have thoroughly scanned this area from Astrometrics. There are no Borg conduits in this area, no aperture exit points anywhere in this sector."

"Well, I'm sure we'll find out soon enough." Captain Janeway sat back down in her chair giving a stern look towards the view screen.

"Mr. Paris, plot an intercept course."

"Ma'am?" Tom questioned.

"Do it Tom."

"Aye Captain." Tom responded.

"Captain?" Seven questioned, startled by the command as Tom was. "Why are you heading towards the Borg vessel?"

"We can't outrun them and since they're already heading for us, I thought I'd return the favor."

Seven did not agree with the assessment. "Captain," the blonde lowered her voice. "that is not a wise course of action."

Janeway was peeved at her recent luck and she certainly didn't owe Seven any explanation for her actions. "Never the less, it is my decision to make and I intend to confront them." She grouched.

Raising an eyebrow at how terse the words had been delivered, Seven scrutinized the Captain wondering why she responded with such irritation. The young woman had only meant to point out that the Captain was mistaken in her tenacity to keep testing the Borg Collective.

Chakotay eyed his Captain suspiciously. Seven was known to openly disagree with her and it rarely caused Janeway to rebuke so strongly. Seven's tone had not been disrespectful, she had merely been stating her opinion the way she always did... point blank.

Rubbing her forehead, Janeway speculated that she might have been more verbally harsh towards the young woman than was necessary and although unsettled by it, she wasn’t about to apologize.

Shifting in her chair, she simply blamed it on the remnants of her mild hangover as she impatiently waited for the rendezvous with the Borg.

One hour later, Harry spoke up first. "Captain, we're being hailed."

"On screen," Janeway moved towards the view screen, expecting the normal Borg greeting, but when a familiar face came up, she heard a subtle gasp from behind her.

"Captain Janeway!" The alien greeted exuberantly, his eyes drifting behind her to land on Voyager's Astrometrics officer. "Annika!"

"Axum," Seven acknowledged, clearly stunned.

Chakotay's gaze passed from Axum to Seven and back, his face stiffening.

"You have no idea how good it is to see you," he offered honestly. "Permission to come aboard with a colleague Captain Janeway?"

She raised her hand. "One moment. Are all of you--"

"Individuals? Free from the Collective?" He finished her thoughts for her. "There are no Borg drones onboard this sphere that answer to the Queen. The central plexus has been destroyed. We only keep the alcoves online for those of us who need to regenerate. I assure you Captain, there is no collective consciousness here."

"I see," Janeway was truly perplexed. "Very well then, I see no reason why you can't join us. Permission to come aboard."

 

*****

 

The Commander followed his Captain into the Conference room with a deep frown etched into his brow as he walked past her to his seat.

"Chakotay…" Janeway called out after seeing his expression. "Maybe you should wait this one out." She suggested.

"I can handle it." Chakotay sat down stiffly.

Pursing her upper lip at his tone, she acquiesced not wanting to start an argument. "All right," The Captain sat down in her chair at the head of the table.

"You know why he's here don't you?" Chakotay asked in a low tone.

Janeway studied her first officer. "No, I don’t."

"I guess you would prefer not to."

"What is that supposed to mean Commander?" Janeway challenged him.

Chakotay eyed her intensely. "Don't you see? He's come for her."

"You can't be certain of that," she responded quickly. It was too soon to speculate on Axum’s intentions, although she knew he could be right.

“I honestly thought this would bother you more." He snorted.

Frowning at his attitude, she retorted. "And I think you're jealousy is doing your thinking for you."

"Oh?" He threw back at her. "And what of you? She's your unfinished project.”

“What?” Janeway felt her face grow hotter. "What did you say?"

"You took her from the Borg, taught her how to become human, but you haven't finished. She still needs your guidance Kathryn… but if Axum coerces her into going with him, she’ll lose that support. After all you’ve done for her, can you let her go that easily?”

“Commander… ” Janeway warned. She didn't need this from him… Not now.

Chakotay wasn’t certain he made his point. “Don’t you even regard her as a valuable part of our crew anymore? Or does your position as Captain absolve you from being her friend and doing what's right for her?"

"That's enough!" The Captain retaliated in anger. He couldn't know how much his words tore at her. Deep down Janeway knew it was his fear lashing out, but as his friend, she didn’t deserve it and as his Captain, his words were disrespectful, therefore, she wasn’t going to take it.

Hard, cobalt eyes landed on him. “Let me make one thing very clear Commander… I don’t appreciate your tone or your accusations.”

Chakotay relented. "I sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, but--."

"Being Captain does not absolve me of anything, but irregardless of that fact, she's an individual now and has the right to make her own decisions! She's earned that and I will NOT make her stay onboard Voyager, if she doesn't want to."

"She wants you to be a friend, not just her Captain--”

Janeway cut him off. “This isn't a civilian ship, I can't always be her friend!"

“I realize that, but your opinion is very important to her and Seven feels she has let you down. She doesn’t believe she has lived up to your expectations.”

"That's absurd!” Janeway's shook her head in disbelief. “She has exceeded my expectations!"

"Well," Chakotay countered. "maybe you should let her know that… once in awhile."

Janeway’s anger melted away as she thought about Seven trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. “I didn’t realize…” She never meant to put pressure on the young woman to be something she wasn’t. Kathryn’s only goal was to help her adjust to life onboard Voyager.

“Now you do.” Chakotay stated.

"I do think of her as a friend Chakotay… but as Captain, I don’t always have the time to see to the crew’s emotional needs."

“I’m not talking about the crew, I’m talking about Seven. Her needs are different.”

Feeling guilty, Janeway rubbed the brow of her forehead. She just couldn’t seem to win no matter what she said or did.

“Seven needs your support and your advice Kathryn. Someone needs to explain to her that what she has here on Voyager is irreplaceable.” Chakotay stated persistently.

As the hidden meaning of his words sunk into her mind, Janeway lifted her head to glare at him. He was using guilt tactics to appeal to her close relationship with Seven because he wanted the young woman to stay onboard for his benefit.

"I see," she responded calmly despite feeling severely aggravated. Only Seven has the right to say what’s best for her.

Thankfully the doors swooshed open to let Tuvok, Ayala, Axum and a dark-haired woman enter the Conference Room. Tuvok stood to the side as the handsome young alien took a seat at the end of the table with the woman seating herself next to him.

"This is Laura,” Axum introduced his companion. “You've met her before in Unimatrix Zero."

Janeway introduced the officer's present. "This is Commander Chakotay, my first officer," she motioned to her right. "and you've already met my Chief of Security, Tuvok." She waved her hand in his direction.

Axum nodded. "It's good to see you again Captain. We haven't forgotten what you and your people did for us."

Janeway smirked. "I'm just glad you reaped the benefits from it. We've come across some Borg cubes recently…” She commented referring to a Borg infested nebula they recently passed. “and they weren't as independent as you are."

"I know, not everyone made it. A lot of us from Unimatrix Zero were put to death. It was an impossible task to mount an effective resistance against the entire Borg Collective, especially with so many of us scattered across hundreds of vessels. Luckily our vessel had quite a few Borg with the recessive gene, so we were able to provide serious opposition, but it wasn’t without cost.”

"I'm sorry to hear that. It must have been difficult."

"It was. We had a civil war just to keep our own scout ship free from Borg influence. Luckily, over time we managed to turn the tides, but it took months of fighting each other before we eventually defeated them. After that we liberated all the remaining drones and plotted a course away from Borg space and Species 8472 as fast as we could.” Axum stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Since then, we’ve been through so many skirmishes I didn’t think we’d ever find a friendly face again. It was blind luck that we found you.”

Janeway estimated briefly that it was probably more of a miracle that they found Voyager. "I was under the assumption that you were bordering the outer rim of the Beta Quadrant at the edge of our galaxy."

"Sort of," Axum conceded. "We were actually hovering between the Beta Quadrant and fluidic space so I wasn't sure of our exact location. Suffice it to say, we were not as far out as I first thought and I can't tell you how glad I am that we weren't on the outer edge, away from civilization. It's a welcome surprise to run into allies instead of enemies for a change."

"I can certainly appreciate that."

Axum chuckled slightly. "You can imagine my surprise when we saw a Federation vessel nearby. Now we have a traveling companion while we search for a home planet--" Axum paused when he saw mild surprise in the Captain’s expression, wondering if he had assumed too much. “That is… of course, if you don't mind Captain? I don’t mean to be presumptuous."

Janeway smiled diplomatically. "Not at all. I don't have a problem with it. There is security in numbers."

"Thank you, but it might not be for long. We’re looking for a home here.”

"You plan to colonize here, in the Beta Quadrant?"

"We would like to. I don't expect to be welcome at any inhabited planets and we certainly do not want to return to the Borg infested Delta Quadrant, despite how many uninhabited M-class planets reside there. Therefore, our only option is to search for an uninhabited planet here. It might not be possible, but we need to try because our ship isn't in the greatest condition after all the battles it has been through."

Janeway understood their predicament. "Is there any way we can assist you?"

"If I may impose upon your hospitality, we could use some assistance with repairs and whatever medical supplies you can spare. Ever since the civil war, we haven't been quite up to par. We have no real medical bay, cramped sparse quarters and makeshift replicators, which barely meet our needs. We’ve even lost people over the last year to implant rejection. We do have a few doctors among us, but only rudimentary Borg tools to work with and with the lack of sanitary conditions it’s nearly impossible to perform complicated surgery. So whatever medical assistance you can give us would be greatly appreciated Captain."

"I'd like to help and you're welcome to travel with us as long as you like, but I do have one request.”

Axum nodded his acceptance with curiosity.

“If you don't mind, I'd like our Doctor to verify the status of your… individuality."

"Of course," he more than understood her concerns.

"As soon as our EMH is finished examining both of you, I'll send him with a medical team over to your ship to check on your people and I’ll inform my Chief of Engineer to take a team with her to check on your vessel’s status."

"I can’t thank you enough for all the assistance you’ve given us, Captain."

"Don't mention it," she stood motioning to the door. "we better get started. There's a lot to be done."

Axum obliged, heading for the door but suddenly, he stopped and turned to Janeway. "There was one other thing I wanted to ask you, Captain.” There was a short pause, by the young alien suggesting he was hesitant to continue. “Do you think we would be welcome on your planet Earth?"

"Your ship will bring back a lot of unwanted memories." Chakotay interjected with a cool tone.

Janeway pierced her first Officer with steel in her eyes before replying. “There is still a lot of emotional residue over our losses at Wolf 359, so I honestly can't say what kind of a reception you would receive.” She hated to admit it, but there was still a lot of fear and resentment towards the Borg.

"And what about Annika?" Axum inquired. "Wouldn’t that apply to her as well?"

"No it wouldn’t," Janeway replied curtly.

"Correct me if I’m wrong,” Axum pointed out. “but because of her visibly remaining implants, she will be perceived as more Borg than I am." When he saw Annika for the first time through the view screen, he immediately noticed the facial implants; a crescent shaped metallic piece of Borg circuitry above her left eye and a spider shaped implant in front of her right ear. Then there was the left hand, which was fully covered with a Borg mesh from the wrist to the fingertips and he knew there would be more under her biosuit. Although it didn’t change how beautifully she was to him, she was clearly still part Borg.

Janeway had noticed that Axum appeared to be outwardly devoid of implants, so visually speaking he was right, but she would not accept his words.

"None of us would be alive if not for Seven. She is a vital member of my crew and has been for over four years." The Captain exerted her words with firmness in her tone. "So I won't allow that prejudice to affect her or what she's done for us regardless of what she was and..." Janeway inhaled. "I'd do the same for you if you accompanied us all the way to Earth."

"I meant no disrespect Captain." He certainly did not want to insult Captain Janeway. It was quite obvious that she cared for Annika and her safety, almost overly protective it seemed.

"Shall we proceed to your sickbay?" Axum offered lightly.

Annika was lucky to meet up with such a kind and compassionate people. He was very grateful.

 

*****

 

"You have the bridge Commander." Janeway announced, walking to the turbo lift,

Seven stepped in front of Janeway. "Captain, may I join you?"

Janeway eyed the younger woman trying to ascertain her emotional state, yet found nothing in the bland expression.

"Of course Seven," The Captain turned to Tuvok. "You go first. We'll meet you in Sickbay."

Tuvok nodded and joined the other security guard, Axum and Laura in the turbo lift.

As Janeway waited for the next lift, she could see out of the corner of her eye Chakotay's penetrating gaze upon Seven.

A minute later, they found themselves in the turbo lift quietly speeding towards their destination. As awkward as this was for Janeway, she was extremely curious as to the young woman's feelings regarding their new arrival.

"How do you feel about Axum’s arrival?" She asked tactfully.

"I am uncertain.” Seven remarked. “However, I plan to use this opportunity to explore my past relationship with him.”

"What about Chakotay?" Janeway asked stiffly.

Seven heard the change in tone and glanced at her Captain. "Are you concerned I will hurt his feelings?"

Janeway sighed. In her selfishness, it really wasn't his feelings she had in mind, but realistically, she didn't want to see him get hurt either. She had already seen his jealousy up close.

"Perhaps," She allowed.

"Captain, although I am new to human courtship rituals, I am familiar with fidelity. I would not--"

"Seven,” Janeway put her hand up. “you don’t need to explain that to me. I don't need to know the details of your personal life." She certainly did NOT need to hear about Seven’s sex life with Chakotay. "What you choose to do with… Chakotay,” or anyone else for that matter, “is really none of my business."

Clearly noticing her Captain's vocal adjustment, Seven became befuddled as to why. She was only trying to explain that she would not betray Chakotay's trust as long as she was courting him. After several seconds Seven fathomed that perhaps, Janeway had misunderstood since she had mentioned personal life and referred to intimacy.

"I was not referring to copulation." Seven divulged, continuing to study her Captain’s mannerisms.

"Ah, my mistake," Janeway corrected lightly. Exiting the turbo lift briskly onto Deck 5, she purposely walked ahead of Seven, chastising herself all the while for failing to remain impartial. She had made an erroneous assumption.

The rest of the trip to sickbay was quiet as Seven contemplated her Captain's recent behavior.

 

*****

 

Janeway did not plan to stay long in sickbay. She was only there to assess the potential threat of her recent guests to her ship. Once she was convinced there was none, she would leave.

In the meantime, she had to endure the way he looked at Seven. Janeway stood quietly to the side catching his lascivious look more than once towards her charge. Axum kept his eyes on Seven practically the whole time the Doctor scanned him and his obvious perusal of Seven's body already soured Janeway's already precarious mood.

Seven stared at the handsome alien intently, trying to assess how she felt about him. Ideally, Axum would have been the logical choice as a mate considering her past with him, but for some reason, Seven could not establish, could not find the intense feelings she once had for the young alien from before she was severed from the Collective by Captain Janeway.

And now there was Chakotay.

Janeway witnessed the intensity in Seven’s bright blue eyes, the deep stare, the increased respiration and rising chest; all visible evidence that she was affected by Axum’s presence. Seven obviously had feelings for him making Janeway wonder if the young woman could resist the temptation in light of her words of loyalty towards Chakotay.

With nothing better to do, Janeway's mind drifted in absent speculation. Had Seven progressed far enough, to the stage of understanding what it meant to fall in love? It was a wondrous thing to be able to love someone and have that love returned. As if I know? She thought ruefully, forcing her gaze upon Seven. The blonde was simply gorgeous; having a natural beauty that the young woman was completely unaware of, her ignorance borne out of years of conditioning by the Borg. In a sense, Seven herself was just reborn into a completely new individual just over four years ago. During that time, she had adapted to the human condition quite adequately. Although it was inevitable that Seven would become fully human someday, part of Janeway hoped she would never quite lose the pure innocence that she exuberated. Unable to tear herself away from the sight, Janeway held her gaze, her eyes softening. In her biased opinion, there was nothing about Seven that didn’t scream of passion. She just needed to be brought out of her shell. In Kathryn's mind, Seven would be the epitaph of what a lover should be; passionate and loving; but in her own way, when the time was right and with the right person, who could meet her unique needs.

I will not be the one.

Kathryn couldn't stop the stray thought from entering her mind causing a sharp throb to pierce her aching heart. Momentarily overwhelmed at such a prospect, Janeway took in deep breaths struggling to keep her command mask firmly in place.

"I detect no collective conscious here Captain. They're both healthy.”

The EMH’s words broke her thoughts, mercifully. "Um, thank you doctor. When you're finished here I want you to go over to the Borg ship. They have some individuals suffering from implant rejection. Take all the time and personnel you need."

"Of course Captain," the doctor responded avidly being called to duty.

"Keep me informed of your progress."

"Understood."

The Captain excused herself from Seven and her guests, prompting Tuvok to accompany her out of sickbay.

Once outside, she gave her Chief of Security specific orders. “Tuvok, in case the doctor needs to bring patients from the Borg sphere back to Voyager, I don’t want anyone here without a security escort.”

“Of course Captain, however, with regards to Seven of Nine,” Tuvok paused ruminating. “I believe she may want some personal time with Axum.”

Janeway’s eyebrows flinched.

“For reconciliation purposes.” He elaborated.

“You are aware of Seven’s history with Axum?” She asked, not giving him enough credit. Obviously, Tuvok was very perceptive despite being a Vulcan.

“Yes, she has asked my advice on the subject more than once,” he clarified.

The Captain’s jaw tightened. She didn’t know Tuvok had Seven’s council. The blonde never mentioned Axum in any of their conversations, not since that day in sickbay, when Kathryn was recovering from her partial assimilation almost a year and half ago.

How long had that been going on? What else does she talk about with him that she doesn’t discuss with me? Doesn’t Seven feel comfortable enough with me to talk about anything that is bothering her?

“Captain?” Tuvok noticed the inner contemplation.

“Very well,” she reneged, “as long as she understands, that no one is to be alone in any sensitive areas. I’ll be on the bridge.”

The Vulcan nodded, watching her departure with intrigue before she disappeared inside the turbo lift at the end of the hallway.

 

*****

 

"Would you mind if I talked with Annika... alone?" Axum asked the security guard as they arrived in Cargo Bay Two. The security guard seemed reluctant to leave. His orders from Tuvok were specific. Turning toward Seven of Nine, he verbalized his concerns. “You understand that he cannot be unsupervised at any time?”

"I will take full responsibility." Seven informed him.

"I'll be right outside." He reminded her.

After the double door closed on the departing guard, Axum hugged her. "It's good to see you again Annika." He engulfed her within his long arms, squeezing her body firmly against his.

"Axum," she responded uncertain whether to reciprocate or not. The Borg children who had left Voyager were the only ones to ever hug her in a full embrace. Seven had never instigated the action. Even the Captain who touched her frequently on the hand, the elbow or a shoulder never hugged her and Seven momentarily wondered why not.

Sensing tenseness in her body, he pulled back. "This action makes you nervous?"

"I am unaccustomed to it."

He accepted that with ease. There were bound to be awkward moments while they were getting to know one another again. "So how have you been?" He asked awkwardly.

"I am functioning within acceptable parameters." She stated, trying to hide the nervousness she felt.

Axum cringed at her choice of words. "Why do you speak like them, Annika? You're not Borg anymore."

Immediately, Seven took offense. "I have been Borg for over 18 years of my life, how else am I supposed to speak?"

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way. It’s just that… in Unimatrix Zero you were so different, you was just Annika… no implants, no Borg mannerisms. That’s the way I remember you."

The name brought back memories of a life that was long gone and the blonde did not like being reminded of it. "You will address me as Seven."

Her not so subtle request shocked him. "You don't use your birth name?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Annika Hansen was assimilated at six years of age. She no longer exists. I, Seven of Nine, is what has become of that girl. Not quite human, but not quite Borg either. Therefore, I prefer Seven."

"You’ve changed." He commented absently.

"Did you expect me to become fully human, in the short time I have been severed from the Collective?" Seven asked testily.

"No, of course not." Axum said apologetically. "I realize you’ll need time to adjust… It’s just that I fell in love with you while in Unimatrix Zero.”

The emotion packed statement startled Seven, forcing her into a defensive mode. "That woman you fell in love with only existed in Unimatrix Zero." She did not intend to be unkind, but the sudden declaration of love caught her completely off guard.

"YOU ARE the woman I fell in love with! What does it matter that it happened within our minds." Axum affirmed. “The only question that remains now is whether or not you will give us another chance."

Abashed, Seven responded honestly. "I do not know if I can." She thought of her current affiliation with the Commander.

"Why are you so reluctant? You do remember us, right?" Axum asked with trepidation. “What we had?”

"I can recall all of the events from Unimatrix Zero.” Seven responded hesitantly.

"Events?" Axum's heart started to throb in his chest. "but do you remember the intimacy we shared? Our mutual feelings for each other?”

For Seven, the emotion tied to those ‘intimacies’ was gone, almost like a long dream with the memories fading away as time passed.

“My life is complicated right now."

“We were lovers, you know.” Axum declared.

“I am aware of that, but I cannot just resume that life… I--” she stopped the instant she felt a warm, moist pressure on the back of her hand.

He had carefully reached down and upon taking her hand brought it up to his lips kissing the back of it gently. “I’ve pictured seeing your face in my mind for the past year, imagined touching the softness of your skin.” He ran the back of his left hand carefully down her cheek. “In my dreams, I stare into the bright blueness of your eyes as I kiss you.”

Seven drew in a quick breath, not expecting to be affected by the gesture.

“Axum--” Seven’s voice cracked slightly.

A fingertip went to her lips to silence her gently. “Shhh, I won’t hurt you. I promise.”

He drew closer to her, felt her shudder at his proximity, but when she didn't force him away, he grew even bolder. Moving in slowly, he touched her lips delicately with his own. The light kiss rekindled his memories and awakened his body’s more primal functions, making him feel like he was truly home again. Parting his mouth briefly to take in a full breath, Axum covered her mouth again, this time pressing more firmly against her stout lips.

Seven was astounded at how intimate Axum was being and almost pushed him away, but as the sensations increased, spreading throughout her entire body, she became interested in the physiological manifestations that were occurring. Therefore, wanting to experience more of this type of intimacy in order to study her reactions later, she did not stop him.

Feeling Seven’s stiffness waver, he pressed further into the contact. Delicately coaxing her lips apart, Axum slipped his tongue into her mouth to fiddle around with her wet, soft muscle.

He could hardly believe reality, but this was the first time he was kissing Annika in the flesh. Finally… the contact was real and notably more intense that he remembered.

“Hmm...” He mumbled, as his rampaging blood rushed through his veins and loins alike. The intimate flesh of her mouth was so soft and pliable, edging him to push for more, but he knew he had to control his urges. Although he didn't want it to end as he touched her tongue delicately, enjoying the succulent taste of her fresh sweetness, he gave his word to be patient and would abide by it.

She was worth the wait.

Seven hadn't even realized she had been participating eagerly until Axum softened the contact. By the time he broke away from her now clammy mouth, the blonde looked flushed and wanting.

"There is no rush, Annika." He said quietly, before leaving her alone with her confused thoughts.

The touching of lips had produced tingles in her nerve endings that she had not experienced with Chakotay. Breathing deeply, Seven knew she had to analyze what this meant… carefully.

 

*****

 

If I program stormy skies,

Will it wash away the tears in my eyes?

Or will only heart ache remain?

Never to be washed away

 

It didn't have to be this way.

Captain Kathryn Janeway looked up at the grey cloud filled sky as rain droplets began to pelt her face. Beads of water hit her skin forcing her eyes to blink, which successfully covered the tears that had recently formed there, tears that she couldn't hold back any longer.

I could’ve prevented it… If only I acted sooner.

Her uniform was getting soaked, but she didn't care. In fact, Kathryn had purposely altered the weather to how she felt.

Gloomy.

See what your command has cost you?

A loud thunderclap above made her flinch. The clouds darkened and swirled about in chaotic patterns while releasing the moisture held within. It started to pour even harder.

I have no one to blame but myself. She castigated herself. I’m such a fool!!

Janeway enfolded her arms around her torso at the chill that was setting into her bones. Hearing a noise of someone coming from behind her, Kathryn ignored it preferring to numbly stare into the distance.

"Kathryn?" She heard a voice call out. It was her mother. "What are you doing standing out here in the rain?!"

Her mother came out taking her daughter by the arm to coax her inside the house where it was dry and warm.

"You'll catch pneumonia if you stay out here!" Her mother was surprised to find her oldest daughter standing in the rain while staring at the rapidly darkening sky.

"I'm fine," Janeway responded in a quiet, somber voice. "I just need to think some things through."

The response seemed reasonable, but the older Janeway was more worried by the despondency she heard in the tone.

"I'm sure you do sweetheart, but not out here. You can do that where it's warm." Gretchen said leading her now soaked daughter into the house.

As soon as Gretchen got Kathryn inside, she motioned to her younger daughter, who was lazily draped over a couch reading an art book. "Phoebe could you get us a towel please?"

Grumbling to herself, Phoebe extricated her body from the warm spot she had made on the couch and crept upstairs to retrieve a towel for her wet sibling.

Gretchen coaxed Kathryn passed the living room and into the kitchen before sitting her down in a chair near the dining table. She removed the wet red command jacket without the slightest objection.

"Let me make you some coffee dear and you can tell me what's bothering you."

Janeway looked up at her mother for the first time during the simulation. If only she could truly be home. She had really missed her mother and even her annoying sister too.

Phoebe finally came down the stairs and handed her sister a large towel.

"Thanks," Janeway offered to an upraised eyebrow, which she promptly ignored as she dried herself off.

Meanwhile, Gretchen put some water in a pot and turned the electric stove on.

Janeway attempted to make the program as accurate as she could when she initially designed it, adding all the traditionalistic things that her family had. Then whenever she needed to forget about Voyager, or being Captain for awhile she came here. Currently, she needed to mourn the loss of Seven of Nine and get the young woman out of her system. This was as good a way to do it as any.

"You don't look so good sis? Everything all right with Starfleet?" Phoebe pulled out a chair to join her sister.

"Everything is fine with Starfleet." Janeway stated, noting ironically that she had no idea how things were with Starfleet. They only had contact once a month via a subspace link made possible by the Midas array, but she knew the answer would do in a pinch.

The silence grew and Phoebe started tapping the table with her fingers as the minutes passed. Finally, once the coffee was done, Gretchen poured Kathryn a hot cup of her favorite beverage and joined them at the table.

It wasn’t long before Janeway noticed that they were both avidly staring at her, as if studying her closely.

Kathryn quickly became annoyed. "What?" She finally spoke up with irritation in her voice.

Phoebe snickered.

Gretchen frowned, "Don’t you take that tone with me." she warned.

"Mother, I don't want to talk about it."

"Then why did you come here?" Her mother asked. "It’s mid afternoon. You're usually working at this time so I know something's wrong or you wouldn’t be here."

Janeway became angry and momentarily forgot they were holograms. Even if they were exact representations of her family to within 98.5 percent accuracy, she needed their understanding right now, not a lecture.

"Do I need an excuse to visit my family?!" Feeling an unhealthy amount of anger and grief from her problems, Kathryn realized it was unfair to treat them like this, holograms or not. In the end, they could do nothing for her except offer solace and she wasn't sure that would be enough.

"I’m sorry, maybe this isn't such a good idea." Janeway set down her coffee, regretting not being able to take it with her. It tasted good even though it was only holographic coffee.

She started to stand up, but her mother put a hand on her forearm. "Kathryn… please."

It wasn't the action that made Janeway stop, it was the compassionate voice and the deep blue eyes that were so similar to hers filled with understanding that made her pause.

Her mother looked at her sympathetically knowing that whatever was disturbing her daughter was taking a significant emotional toll on her normally in control child.

"You're right. We are your family and you can visit us anytime. You don’t need a reason or an excuse. Please stay. You can sit undisturbed in the living room. We can put the fireplace on if you like." Not waiting for Kathryn to reply, she motioned her hand towards the other room. "Phoebe, please light the fire."

The younger sibling did so without complaining this time apparently knowing the situation with her older sister's distress was slightly more serious than normal.

"Thank you mother," Janeway remarked quietly then took her coffee and went to sit on the couch near the fireplace.

Fifteen minutes passed by with Kathryn left to her own morbid thoughts. Her mother was doing chores in the kitchen while Phoebe sat in her reclining chair reading the same book as before.

The silence soon became unbearable. All she could think about was Seven. Kathryn closed her eyes and leaned back on the couch trying to get more comfortable than she felt.

How was she going to get these feelings under control?

She was curious if Chakotay felt as she did about Seven, if he was in love with her or not, after all, she witnessed his jealousy up close. If he did love Seven, it would be difficult seeing Axum again knowing that she had a romantic history with him, a past he might not be able to compete with. Kathryn knew exactly how that felt.

Yet in all honesty, deep down inside, she didn't expect Seven and Chakotay's courtship to last long. It could have been her own feelings muddling her perception too and she felt guilty for thinking that way about her friends, but she truly didn't feel the attraction was there to make a long term commitment last.

On the other hand, she and Seven had chemistry. It was obvious. As far as mutual attraction, she was unsure about that. Janeway knew how she felt, but Seven's true feelings towards her, were a complete mystery. Kathryn had no idea if Seven felt anything for her beyond friendship.

Axum, on the other hand, clearly loved Seven and anyone looking could see the attraction between them. Seven might not be aware of it, but it was there.

They have a history together... An intimate one. Janeway sighed trying to keep the moisture from forming in her eyes.

Unimatrix Zero, was a dream world that Seven had been apart of while she was a Borg drone. A place all drones who had the recessive gene visited while they regenerated. Six years was a long time to be a couple in any environment, real or imagined. No doubt they had made love there as well.

Did Seven remember all that? What did she feel if she did? Was she still in love with him?

"Like I'm in love with you?" Janeway let slip out in a hushed whisper.

Kathryn didn't know her mother had been watching her keenly from the archway between the kitchen and the living room. The words hovered in the silent air before the other two women realized what had been said.

"Huh?!" Phoebe exclaimed almost dropping her book.

"Oh dear," Gretchen exclaimed. "No wonder you're so overwrought. Does this person know how you feel?"

Opening her eyes, Janeway sighed and shook her head negatively, irritated with her carelessness, for she had not intended for them to find out.

Phoebe contemplated this new information. Her older sister usually went for what she wanted, so what would hold her back from going after someone she truly loved? "Is it a member of your crew?" She asked curiously.

"Yes,"

“Is that what is holding you back?” Phoebe asked.

"No, that's not holding me back, not now.” Janeway admitted softly.

“Then what is it sis?”

Janeway decided to come clean. “She has two men currently courting her."

"I'm sorry," Gretchen didn’t know if she heard her daughter correctly. "Did you say… she?"

Phoebe almost turned white. "It's Seven of Nine isn't it?!"

Kathryn quickly turned her frowning face towards her sister. "How could you possibly know that?!"

Her mother intervened. "Dear, you talk about her all the time. It obvious you have a lot of affection towards her and although I wouldn't have expected that much, I'm not entirely surprised." Gretchen informed her as if it was common knowledge.

"What do you mean?"

"It is obvious that she means a lot to you by the way you talk about her."

"Mom is right," Phoebe added. "Your eyes light up and turn a deep ocean blue whenever you talk about her and she seems to be the first person you mention when you tell us about your Delta Quadrant adventures." She paused to snicker. "Need I go on? Cause there's more... if you need convincing."

"No, I see your point." Kathryn slumped in her chair, defeated.

"So what are you going to do about it?" Gretchen inquired.

"Do?" The Captain took a sip of her lukewarm coffee. "There's nothing I can do about it." She said in supplication while looking into the black liquid.

"Why don't you let her make that decision?" Phoebe offered.

"I can't do that to her." Janeway glared at her sister. "She's got to be confused enough as it is. I need to be her friend right now."

"Is it because you believe she can't handle it, emotionally?" Phoebe asked, remembering the stories of Seven's first date that turned out to be disastrous.

"I honestly don't know how she would react to all of this, but I’m not going to add more chaos to her life right now just because I’ve realized I’m in love with her."

"I know you want to do the honorable thing here Kathryn, but that's going to be difficult with how you feel." Her mother asserted. "How are you going to suppress that?"

"I can avoid her whenever possible. I just won't spend as much personal time with her. I'll stop playing Velocity with her… among other things."

"Kathryn!" Phoebe exclaimed. "You wouldn't. She's your friend and you're gonna ditch her because she has other suitor's. That's not fair to her or your friendship. It's not her fault you fell in love with her?!"

"I know that!" Janeway rebuked raising her voice, her hands trembled clutching tightly to her coffee cup.

"Shh, calm down.” Gretchen put her arm out to lightly touch her elder daughter's hand. “It’s understandable that you feel the need to avoid her, but you have to realize it's just a defense mechanism. Withdrawing is not the answer. I know that you're trying desperately to distance yourself from her hoping your emotions will subside, but your heart won't let it go that easily and eventually the young lady will know something is wrong and she will demand an explanation."

Her mother was very wise, but that did not help Janeway's trepidation. She took a final gulp of her now cold coffee.

"She'll wonder if she's done something wrong, which she hasn't." Phoebe clarified.

"Are you sure, she has no idea of your feelings?" Gretchen asked.

"Yes, I'm sure. I've never said anything."

"You need to talk to her Kathryn," Her mother stated clearly.

Kathryn resigned to the inevitable. "All right. I'll try."

 

*****

 

It was evening, almost 18:00 hours when Janeway entered Astrometrics, having no idea how she managed the courage to actually go inside.

"Captain, may I be of assistance?" Seven greeted, hearing the familiar footsteps.

"No I'm just checking up on you."

"For what purpose?" Seven looked expectantly at her Captain as she came up along side.

Janeway’s nerves kicked in. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."

"I am functioning… " Seven paused, "I am fine." She corrected.

Janeway saw the slight hesitation. "Are you sure? Because if you need to talk, I’ll listen." They both knew what the Captain was referring to.

"It is not necessary Captain."

Janeway pursed her lips. "I know it's not necessary, but if you're feeling confused talking about it could help."

Seven pondered this. It was normal for her to keep everything she felt deeply hidden, but the young woman conceded that she could use some advice and she felt most comfortable talking to the Captain. She didn't know why Janeway was the only one besides Tuvok that she felt safe with, but she did. Seven trusted Janeway explicitly, yet something still made her hesitate.

Will I appear inadequate if I speak of my personal difficulties? After all, I am doing this for her, to please her. What if she is… disappointed with my lack of progress?

Janeway saw the indecisiveness. "We're friends Seven, despite my Captaincy." She meant it. "You can tell me anything." Softening her gaze, she touched the young woman lightly on the elbow.

Friends…. Seven repeated. I am her friend. She will understand.

"Thank you Captain. That means a great deal to me. I have been feeling somewhat torn lately and I do not want any one to get emotionally damaged, but I feel it is inevitable."

“Don’t worry about them, they’ll be fine. Men are resilient and persistent, even when you don’t want them to be.” Janeway smirked then continued in a more serious tone. “I think your problem is fear Seven. You’re under the impression that if your first relationship fails, all your relationships will fail, but that’s just not true.”

“How can you be so certain?”

“I just know.”

Seven shook her head. “But how? I cannot comprehend speculation, I need the facts Captain.”

“It’s more like intuition Seven. I just know.”

“Then explain it me,” Seven entreated. “Please.”

“All right,” It was time to test her star pupil. “I happen to know for a fact that there are several people onboard Voyager who would be very interested in having a romantic relationship with you?”

Several? The information was news to the blonde. "Several Captain?"

"Let’s just say I've heard rumors."

“Rumors are inaccurate.”

“Not this one.”

Seven perked up in disbelief. "I find that difficult to believe."

“Well it’s true.” Kathryn asserted.

"You are telling me there are several individuals on Voyager who are attracted to me, but I do not believe that is plausible."

"Why not?"

"No one here has ever expressed any interest in dating me."

"Chakotay is dating you," Janeway corrected.

"Yes, but I had to take the initiative. I had to ask him."

"That doesn't mean other people don’t want to Seven. You have to consider that they might be nervous about approaching you."

"Nervous?" Seven raised her implant brow in concentration, before it dawned on her. "You mean because I am Borg?"

"No, it's because you're an intelligent and beautiful woman." Janeway kept her face as neutral as possible. "And that… intimidates some people."

The blonde stood in quiet contemplation for several seconds. "You believe I am… beautiful?"

"Yes, you are." Janeway stated casually. “in my opinion.”

Although it kindled Seven's insides to be thought of as beautiful by the Captain, Janeway was completely unaware of how unsightly her hidden Borg implants truly were, therefore her perception was inaccurate.

"I do not feel beautiful." Seven voiced, her tone lacking its normal confidence.

Janeway softened her voice. "I'm not talking just about external beauty Seven. I'm referring to internal beauty as well. You are a beautiful person, whether you believe it or not. I know everyone can't see it, but I can. I do." This was as much as Kathryn felt she could reveal comfortably. She had to stop before she went too far.

The young woman felt warm, surprised and quite pleased with her Captain’s statement. Examining the Captain's appearance made Seven wish she looked more like her. The auburn haired woman was fully human, with a soft appealing skin complexion, classically good looking facial features, a toned athletic build that was aesthetically pleasing and what Seven liked most… a strong will to match it.

"Thank You Captain.” The compliment made Seven feel special and she wanted to reciprocate. “You are beautiful as well.”

Startled by the words delivered so eloquently from the former Borg, Janeway looked keenly at the woman. Their mutual gaze held for 4.5 seconds, in which time a spiritual connection had been made, but the affection in Seven’s eyes was almost too much for Janeway and if she let it go on much longer, she’d be on her knees confessing her love to the wondrous being that was Seven.

“Thank you,” she offered quietly turning away to hide the affect it had on her. It was time to bring the focus back on Seven's current problem. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go off on a tangent. You were saying something earlier?"

The Captain wishes to change the subject. My words were inadequate and I have embarrassed her.

“Seven?”

The blonde found her equilibrium quickly. "Yes, I was going to say how disconcerted and distracted I have been lately. I find my efficiency is less than optimal."

"How so?" Janeway asked.

"You are no doubt aware that I have a past with Axum; from Unimatrix Zero?"

"Yes, I remember. You had a relationship with him while there."

"If you can call it that, it only occurred in our minds, like a dream."

"Yet, but it was real to you," Janeway amended lightly.

"Perhaps," Seven granted before continuing. "but… today in the Cargo bay, Axum complicated matters by admitting to being in love with me."

And he's not the only one! Focus! This is not about you. "Does that make you uncomfortable?”

"Yes."

"Because you've developed feelings for Chakotay?" Janeway assumed.

"No," Seven stated clearly.

Janeway blinked confounded.

"You haven't developed feelings for Chakotay?" Janeway asked cautiously.

"I am uncertain."

Kathryn couldn't keep the confusion out of her gaze. "I don't understand Seven."

"In the Cargo bay when Axum initiated the kiss… I felt something… something more than ever before. The way he kissed me, was very different than when Chakotay does and it was more than simply pressing lips… it went deeper than that and it was very pleasant." Seven thought about how it made her tingle inside. "I believe it was… " She searched for the proper word. "arousing."

Janeway forced down the jealousy that hovered around her causing her throat to constrict. It was just a kiss for god's sakes. Yeah, a French kiss, the way she describes it!! Shut up! Just relax!

"A kiss can be… stimulating," Janeway commented quietly. "With the right person."

"I know physical stimulation is a preclude to the act of copulation, but how will I know when I am in love?" Seven inquired intently.

"Love?! Um, well, that's... very complicated Seven." Janeway admitted apprehensively. Unrequited love drives you nuts, I can tell you that…

"Yes I certainly agree with that assessment Captain." The young woman's implant rose slightly above the brow line in that subtle way when she was ruminating on something. "I suppose I could be in the initial stages of the emotion," Suddenly she became disturbed. "but do I have to copulate with both of them to find out?" She asked innocently with concern.

Fighting back the heat that engulfed her, Janeway put her hand up. "Sex won't guarantee love Seven and then there is the emotional repercussions involved that you are not aware of yet.”

Seven frowned, the confusion evident. “My research indicated that having many sexual partners could be beneficial. The more experience the better. Is this inaccurate?”

“Yes, in my opinion it is.” This was getting difficult for Janeway. “Let me just say this. If Chakotay or Axum found out you were being intimate with both of them, you would lose them both."

Seven ruminated on her words. “Do you prefer a monogamous relationship Captain?”

The question shocked Janeway. Is Seven really considering polygamy?! Please tell me no!! Janeway almost started to panic. What if Seven decides to experiment with the entire male compliment onboard Voyager?! How could she be Captain if she was jealous of everyone?!

Yes, Seven I prefer one lover.” You… “I’m the one on one type.” She gently let out a breath. You’re jumping to conclusions, she is just curious, that’s all.

Raising her implant, Seven briefly meditated on why a visual of her Captain on top of a potential mate both excited and bothered her. Shaking away the odd feeling, Seven ruminated on how she herself had changed in the past 6 months. With research and maturity, something intangible happened within her, because she no longer preferred the idea of multiple partners. Yet if she had to explain why, she would not be able to.

"I agree,” the blonde articulated her mental conclusion. “I do not feel comfortable with that scenario." Truthfully, she knew she was not ready to copulate with either of them.

Relief overwhelmed the redhead. “That’s good to hear. Men don’t take well to unfaithfulness.” Of course, neither do us women.

"but I have been unfaithful,” Seven remarked. “in principle.”

Janeway looked puzzled.

“I let him kiss me remember?”

“You can’t blame yourself for that.”

Although, the blonde was still hazy with the concept of being 'in love', she understood fidelity quite clearly because Chakotay had repeatedly talked about it. “I purposely did not inform Axum of my affiliation with Commander Chakotay… and I wonder if he would still claim to love me if he knew."

“He won’t be happy about it, but if loves you, he’ll understand.”

"It is all so confusing."

“I know," Kathryn heartily agreed. “but you have to be patient. None of us master love quickly. It is a unique and confusing emotion." And painful if you happen to be a Starship Captain in love with a member of your crew.

"It is very inefficient," Seven complained.

"Yes it is,” Janeway couldn’t argue with that assessment. “Well, it’s been a long day.” She added slowly making her way to the exit.

"You are leaving?"

“I’m going to my quarters.”

“And… if I have further questions?” Seven asked hesitantly.

“I’m sure I’ll be available.”

“Thank you.” Seven spoke softly, grateful. “I am sure I will need your council in the future.”

The voice was like a sweet symphony to Kathryn’s ears and as tempted as Janeway was to declare her own feelings, she couldn't add to Seven's distress, wouldn't manipulate the young woman into choosing her despite how much she wanted to try.

Beneath all those layers of Borg enhancements, there is love lying dormant in Seven's heart just waiting for a spark to ignite her, a connection to make her aware, that she can feel, that she can love and be loved in return. When she finally gives her heart to another, it will be her enlightenment...

and my curse…

"I can tell you this Seven. Love is the greatest, most complex emotion of all and yet some of us will never truly understand it. It cannot be bought or bartered or mastered. However, when it does hit you, you will know it because it will overwhelm you… and nothing else will seem to matter."

Seven ruminated on the deeper meaning of the words as the Captain quietly slipped out. The older woman’s explanation of love suggested it was a powerful emotion not to be taken lightly and Seven surmised that she was missing something terribly important, a critical piece of the puzzle, but her perceptions were still too underdeveloped to identify the human emotion that seeped out of every pore of a certain redhead.

 

*****

 

Entering her quarters, Janeway threw off her command jacket, which landed haphazardly on the couch, then heading for the replicator, fixed herself a stiff whiskey on the rocks. Taking a few sips, she headed for the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, she unzipped and kicked off her boots, then lied back with drink in hand trying to get comfortable, but all she could think about was her recent visit to Astrometrics.

I tried mother. I did, but I just couldn’t burden her. Not now.

Kathryn had thought visiting her mother and sister in the holodeck would help her gain some equilibrium back, but the subsequent visit with Seven had stirred her up emotionally all over again.

"She who hesitates is lost…" She mumbled to herself while staring at the liquid in her glass. The golden brown liquor could not alleviate her emotional pain, it could only get her drunk, but it was better than nothing, she ruminated downing the last 4 ounces.

Forcing her weary bones to get up, she ended up going back to the replicator, this time ordering a full 32 ounce bottle, with an ice bucket and a glass, to take back into the bedroom.

Wanting a quick buzz, she poured and downed an entire glass, then began sipping on a third one. Grinning to herself as the alcohol spread warmth throughout her body, Janeway laid back down and allowed her mind to drift to greener pastures.

Wonder how it would've felt to kiss her like that? Janeway visualized pressing her lips to Seven's and the thought alone spiked her heart rate. She has such full lips. I would love to run my fingers along them. I bet they're soft to the touch, like rose petals and… if she parted those luscious lips for me!? I would take sanctuary in there… I know her tongue would be delicate and pliable beneath mine as I twirled along with it passionately, surrounding the muscle with the all the passion I feel for her. If she was attracted to me at all, I could win her over. With just a kiss, I would make her mine… and mine alone. I could take care of her so she would think of no other. She wouldn't be able to...

Janeway took a quick gulp of her liquor in a lame attempt to douse her now heated body. Aroused by the vibrant images her mind created with such aching clarity, she found she couldn't stop… and didn't want to. The cascade of Seven's perfectly symmetrical nude figure entwined with hers loomed within her mind's eye.

Moving lower, I would enjoy sampling her twin mounds of flesh. Her breasts are formed to perfection, something even the Borg could never taint nor aspire to. I would touch them fleetingly just enough to excite her, watching them spring tighter and grow hard beneath my fingertips. Becoming firm for me and aching for more, I would take each one into my hot mouth and she would groan deeply from the pleasure I provided. I would worship them with gentle nips, tugs and kisses…

Unless… she wanted it harder, then I would have even more fun, licking and sucking the life from them. Even tender and raw, if she begged for more I would comply willingly, because... she owns my heart.

Small beads of perspiration broke out on Kathryn’s forehead and above her upper lip so she reached into the ice bucket and grabbing a piece of ice pressed it her head. She rubbed it across her forehead enjoying the cool sensation, not paying attention to the melting droplets that were dripping down her hand onto her tunic. Taking a deep, shaky breath, she groaned audibly before putting what was left of the ice, back in the bucket. Still incredibly aroused, Kathryn was completely helpless but to continue in her erotic musings.

Trailing down to caress her stomach, I would accept with equal love, the cool metallic implants that she had remaining. They would only enhance her sexual allure in my lustful mind. Passing her now trembling stomach muscles, I would touch the apex of her heat, stroking and caressing, seeking that pleasure spot as she pleaded for more.

“Oh God…”

Beyond aroused, Janeway sat up quickly, removed her long sleeved blue tunic and tossed off her slacks all the while speaking a customary command to the ship's computer. "Computer, lower room temperature by 15 degrees." With nothing but her bra and panties remaining, she laid back down and closed her eyes.

At that point, I would be hers to command. I would give her anything she wanted... or needed… anything she asked for… Whether penetration or oral stimulation… Whatever her heart desired…

“Oh my love, what you do to me…” Kathryn murmured and began rubbing herself threw her underwear, something she hadn't done in ages, yet felt so right at this very moment. With the other hand, she pinched her left breast. I have to… I need… I must… do this! How far she would take this scenario, she didn't know. All she felt was an unbridled need to be with the one person, she couldn't be with and as the blood rushed to her loins, the fantasy continued.

I would consume her essence and make it apart of my own. Then my lovely blonde would reciprocate, loving me in the same thorough way she does everything else.

“Oh Seven.” Janeway increased the pressure, stroking along the crease, hitting the clitoris that was rapidly becoming engorged with each pass.

She would make an excellent lover.

"Oh Annika!" On the verge of release, an unwanted thought came unbidden.

Oh yes, she would… just not for you…

Her hand stopped.

For Chakotay or Axum, perhaps…

Her eyes flew open.

but her love is not for you...

“No!” The mood was ruined.

She doesn't even know you exist!!!

“No no no!” Covering her face with both hands, Janeway sobbed mercilessly for many minutes, until upon releasing her face, red rimmed eyes and anger were revealed. Janeway's mind reeled at the cold hard edge of reality. Enraged at her helplessness, Kathryn saw the glass and chucked it at the wall, watching it shatter into dozens of fragments as the small pieces flew all over the carpet. The light brown liquid stained the wall dripping down to soak the carpet at the base.

She stared at the mess she had made. Physically, she felt better at getting some of the frustration out, but it did nothing for her emotionally. Shrugging, she got up to retrieve another glass and poured herself yet another drink.

Not bothering to change into her customary nightgown, she laid down on the bed and got under the covers. Tilting her head up, she gazed at the stars going by. It helped to soothe the emotional turmoil in her soul. After finishing her fourth drink, she managed to doze off.

Then thirty minutes into her hard earned nap, she was rudely interrupted.

"Bridge to the Captain?"

Janeway's eyes snapped opened and she sat up groggily, groaning at the migraine pounding in her head.

She tapped the COM badge sitting on the nightstand and spoke into it grumpily. "Yes?" She had lost track of how many whiskey’s she had and was not in the mood for anything less than a full fledged red-alert emergency, with claxons blaring.

"What is it?" She asked with extreme impatience.

"We have company."

“Are they a threat?”

“No, I don’t believe so.”

“Can you handle it then?”

“I… “ after a moment’s pause. “can, but I really think you’ll want to handle this one personally, Captain.”

“Fine, I’ll be there in ten minutes.” After a terse reply, she closed the channel and quickly got dressed. Having to sober up fast, she made a quick black, overly strong lukewarm coffee and guzzled it before heading for the bridge.

 

*****

 

Janeway was in shock and literally couldn't believe her eyes, blurry as they were from alcoholic consumption. Staring at the familiar face on the forward viewer, she noted his hair was a tad bit grayer at the bangs, but other than that he looked as handsome as she remembered.

"Kathryn," the man greeted. "It's good to see you."

"How did you find me?" Janeway asked perplexed.

"You're heading for the Alpha Quadrant. Earth... right?"

Chakotay had an amused look on his face. It was her turn to receive a long lost lover, but he shrugged to himself. At least she wasn't currently dating someone else.

"Yes," Janeway conceded. "Why?"

"Can I discuss that with you in private?"

Janeway glanced over her shoulder to witness the twinkle in Chakotay’s eyes.

"Of course." Diplomacy took over despite her slight inebriation. She turned to her Chief of Security. "Tuvok will you escort our guess to my Ready Room... at his convenience."

"See you soon," he answered, looking forward to it.

"Commander you have the bridge." Janeway said before entering her Ready Room to wait for his arrival.

After Janeway left the Bridge, Commander Chakotay handed over control temporarily to Ensign Kim. The growl in his stomach forced him to go get a quick bite to eat, so he might as well find Seven and have a quick chat with her. It had been bugging him all day and he needed to know where exactly she stood with this Axum fellow.

 

*****

 

Chakotay entered the Mess Hall with the simple intentions of getting something to eat, until he saw Axum chatting merrily with Neelix at the counter. Once he saw the young alien, his mood took a dive as did his appetite.

Irritated at having him onboard Voyager, Chakotay couldn't help himself. He had to go over and find out exactly what his real intentions were toward his girl friend.

"So why are you really here?" Chakotay asked pointedly, standing behind Axum.

Axum turned to meet the face behind the deep unruly voice.

"Commander Chakotay,” He greeted. “Why do you ask?"

"Let's just say I have an interest in Seven's well being."

"As do I," Axum clarified. “I’ve known her for a long time. We were lov--”

"I'm aware of that,” Chakotay interrupted rudely. “but I'm dating her now, so if you think she's going to leave Voyager just because you’re here now… well, you've got another thing coming."

Axum was stunned. "I… did not know she was currently involved with anyone." Seven had not told him that… or conveniently forgot.

"Now you do, so stay away from her." He warned.

Axum stiffened. "Do you choose her friends for her as well Commander?"

"No," he rebuked. "but you don't want to be just a friend do you?"

"I won't lie to you. I still have feelings for her." He conceded. "But that's between me and her. You have nothing to do with that."

Chakotay moved to within inches of Axum's face. "I have everything to do with that!"

Axum remained silent and calm. He would not be the one to instigate an altercation.

"I don't have the ability to keep you from her, but if I find out you've manipulated her for your own selfish agenda, you'll regret it."

Chakotay swiftly turned and left heading back to the bridge. He was too angry to talk with Seven at the moment so he would have to speak with her later after his shift.

Axum was now fully aware that he was in a fight for Seven's attention. A fight he intended to win.

 

*****

 

Tuvok brought Jaffen to the Ready Room and the Captain politely dismissed her security officer so she could have a private chat.

"So," She started off. "What brings you so far from Quarran?" Janeway knew that was at least a two month journey at high warp. It had been over five months since the crew of Voyager was tricked into abandoning their ship and subsequently had their minds altered to think they were part of a workforce on the planet Quarran; all done illegally to alleviate a major labor shortage.

He stared at her emphatically. "I missed you."

"What about your job?"

"I'll admit it was a good one. The Administrator even offered to double my salary to keep me after I told him I was leaving."

"Why would you give that up?" Janeway asked surprised.

"I've come for you," he said easily as if the decision was no contest.

Abashed, yet flattered, Janeway tried to joke about it. "You've come for me? What makes you think I need a knight in shining armor?" She smirked. When what I really need… No, she corrected herself. What I want is a valkerie, tall, blonde… and beautiful. To tell me I am her world as she is mine.

Jaffen laughed lightly. "I know you don't Kathy, but I just couldn't stop thinking about you."

This wasn't a good time for her to get involved. She already had too much emotional baggage to sift through.

He moved quickly to her and grasped her hands delicately within his own. "Kathy please… I know your responsibilities to this ship come first and I accept that because I’ve come to realize that I need you in my life."

"Need?" Janeway repeated nervously.

"Yes, I'm in love with you and I want us to have another chance. Please think about it."

Janeway stared abashed into his eyes as he leaned in for a gentle kiss to her left cheek.

"Is that your way of asking me permission to stay onboard?" She asked him afterwards, with a shy grin on her face.

"I would love to.” He smiled expectantly.

"Let me think about it," Janeway responded to a disappointed face. "The last few days have been… difficult. I also need to bear in mind the effect on Voyager's resources and living space."

"Do you… want me to stay, Kathryn?" Jaffen asked hesitantly.

Janeway had doubts and it wasn't because she didn't feel anything for him. On the contrary, she had feelings for him, but weren't they past tense? Hadn't her heart moved on as her current torpid emotions attested to? Perhaps, as Kathryn Janeway of Quarran, she fell in love with him, but as Captain Janeway of Voyager, she wasn't.

He brought his hand up to rest on her cheek, stroking it.

"I have to consider other issues." She answered vaguely. "How will this affect my command along with the welfare of my ship and crew?"

"I understand." He removed his hand. “but please let me know before my transport ship leaves. My ship is being held in one of Captain O’ron’s shuttle bays."

“I’ll let you know within the hour.”

Kathryn wondered if she could rekindle her past relationship with Jaffen, but in her grief over losing the opportunity with Seven, she believed her heart had been already been taken against her will and she didn’t know how to get it back.

 

*****

 

With fatigue and alcohol wearing her down, making her feel exhausted, Janeway went back to her quarters to rest, but as the evening progressed, she quickly found the solitude difficult to bare in her current state. So Kathryn decided to remedy her condition by utilizing a hidden hypospray she kept for emergencies.

Then to alleviate her isolation, she went back to the Ready Room to concentrate on some work instead of her loneliness. Janeway had a number of routine reports to sift through and the work would be an acceptable distraction. Usually she loathed having to do reports. It was the boring, downside of a Starfleet Captain's life, but she needed to keep all her logs and data files up to date just in case the day came when she and her crew made it back home.

Then just as she sat down, leaning back in her chair to get some work done, a beep sounded.

Sighing, Janeway called out to the computer, "Come."

Lt. Commander Tuvok gracefully stepped into her Ready Room.

"What can I do for you Tuvok?"

"I wanted you to be aware of a potential problem. I overheard crewmembers discussing a conversation that took place in the Mess Hall, approximately one hour ago."

Janeway grew concerned. "Go on."

"It involved Commander Chakotay and our guest Axum."

Her brows came closer to together. "What happened?"

"From what I overheard, there were raised voices and a possible threat."

"A threat? From who?" Janeway became angry. She would not tolerate this kind of behavior, especially from a member of her crew.

Tuvok's left eyebrow rose. "Since I overheard the information from a third party source, I cannot verify--"

"Who made the threat?"

"I cannot confirm its accuracy Captain."

"What name did you overhear Tuvok? Was it Chakotay or Axum?” She grew increasingly impatient. Sometimes excessive accuracy affected efficiency.

"It was rumored to be Commander Chakotay."

Janeway folded her arms and thought about it. "I'm glad you brought this to my attention. I don't like to pry into the crew's personal affairs, but I like to prevent any possibility of violence before it happens."

"I agree, it would be wise to discuss this with the individuals involved before it becomes something more."

Janeway tapped her COM badge. "Chakotay report to the Ready Room… now."

 

*****

 

"So," Janeway started the conversation with her First Officer standing before her. "What's the situation between you and Axum?"

Chakotay stood rigidly, his face tight and brooding; a rare look for a man of his normally calm nature. "Nothing, we had a… disagreement."

She knew that wasn’t the entire truth. "I would call raising your voices a bit more than a disagreement."

"Everything was going fine until he showed up," he spat out.

In YOUR opinion, she thought, distastefully. All is fair in love and war eh?

This was a hard conversation to have with him because of the personal nature of it. She was the Captain, but she was not neutral. She was in love with the same girl who was being disputed over. Such wonderful irony.

"Did you threaten him?"

"No, I only warned him."

Janeway exhaled exasperated. "I realize this is difficult for you Chakotay, but he is a guest onboard this vessel and you need to respect that. I can't have you going around threatening… " She inhaled a shallow breath and corrected herself. "or warning him. If Seven chooses to see him, she has that right."

He faced her, his countenance serious, but he didn’t reply right away.

“Well?”

"It won't happen again."

"Good," Janeway hoped he meant it, because she would throw him in the brig if he didn’t. "See to it that it doesn't," she enforced.

"Yes Captain," he responding waiting to be dismissed.

"Chakotay," Janeway softened her gaze. "Seven is new to humanity period, let alone a relationship of an… intimate nature. She doesn't understand emotions like you and Axum do… and I don't want to see her get hurt over this."

"I don't want to hurt her, but I'm not going to stand by and let him take her from me either." He stated decidedly.

Janeway couldn't help but smirk internally at his words. She just wished it was her doing the fighting.

"I would expect no less, but don't force her to make a decision in your favor too quickly. She needs time to adjust so I suggest you give it to her."

"I will, but are you going to speak to Axum about his behavior?" Chakotay asked haughtily.

The Captain folded her arms across her chest. "He hasn't done anything wrong that I'm aware of, has he?"

Chakotay shrugged realizing the truth even in his jealousy. "Permission to be dismissed."

Janeway nodded.

 

*****

 

With hands steepled together, Janeway ruminated over whether or not to speak with Seven's other suitor. She supposed she should get both sides of the dispute although she would rather sleep... for 30 years or so. She felt so weary lately.

"Computer," she called out. "Is Axum currently onboard Voyager?"

"Negative."

"Open a COM link to the Borg vessel."

"COM link open."

"Janeway to Axum."

The young alien's visual appeared on her terminal. "Captain Janeway."

"Could I have a word with you?"

"Of course. What can I do for you Captain?"

"In person if you don't mind? I will have Tuvok escort you to my Ready Room."

Surprised by the request, he paused in his response. What did she need to speak with me in private for? Then it occurred to him. "Of course Captain, I'll see you momentarily."

After Tuvok delivered Axum to the Captain's ready room, the Captain motioned to a nearby chair.

"Please, have a seat."

The young alien had a bemused look upon his features as he took the pro-offered chair. She sat down as he did examining how to go about starting this discussion.

"This is regarding the conversation between myself and the Commander, isn't it?" Axum assumed correctly.

The culpability showed on her face. "Yes, but I'm not accusing you of any wrongdoing."

His face lost that amusement. "I… truthfully did not know Annika was dating your Commander Chakotay."

After her conversation with Seven, Janeway assumed the young woman was going to inform him. "You mean, she hasn’t told you?"

"No," he stated regretfully. "I was waiting in the Mess Hall for her when your Commander arrived and confronted me. After he left, I felt out of place and thought it best to return to my vessel for the evening. Then I cancelled my dinner engagement with Seven, all because of the incident." He complained mildly.

"I'm sorry for Chakotay's behavior. Despite his relationship with Seven, he has no right to threaten you."

"I assure you I don’t want any trouble."

“I know,” Janeway crossed her arms. "but if you don't mind my asking, just what it is you do want… with regards to Seven?"

"I won't deny that I have strong feelings for her, if that is what you're asking me?"

"I can see that you do, but so does my first officer."

"With all do respect Captain, how long has he been dating her for? Because I've known her for six years before I lost her.”

And I've loved her for over three years, but that doesn't give you any more entitlement to dictate to her heart than it does me! Kathryn's mind shouted.

"That must have been when I first liberated her from the Collective." She stated, NOT regretting those actions either.

"I don't blame you for that. You gave her another chance at life. It's just that…" He swallowed tentatively. "You can't know what it's been like, losing her and thinking she was dead just to see her in Unimatrix Zero after three years of separation, only to lose her again for over a year… until now."

"I do understand."

"I'm still in love with her," his piercing gaze pleaded to her compassionate nature.

That I understand completely. How could I not?

"Certainly you've been in love Captain?" He inadvertently drove a stake through her heart.

"Um," This unexpected questioned caught her off guard. "Yes… yes of course. I have… been in love, that is." Still are, liar!!

"And would you give up so easily on this love, just because this individual was dating another, but hadn't committed their life to that person yet?"

A sharp pain stabbed her in the gut. "Yes, I suppose I would make the attempt… if I were in your shoes." She replied in a quiet voice.

"Then you see my point."

She waved her hand dismissively. "Yes I do, but… but we’re talking about Seven not me. She is still emotionally immature and I don't want to see her get hurt over this." Kathryn reiterated.

"That's the last thing I want to do,” Axum stood up disturbed. “but you are sorely mistaken. Annika is not emotionally immature, she simply needs time.” He lifted his chin confidently. “I firmly believe she will realize that she loves me as much as I love her. It is just a matter of when."

Janeway stared into his intense green eyes. He actually believed what he was saying. What could she say to counter that? As much as she didn't want to admit it, he was probably right. Janeway remembered the day when Seven visited her in sickbay while she was recovering from being assimilated. At the end of their conversation, in a cracked voice Seven reminded her that if she ever denied that Axum was nothing more than a friend, Kathryn should remind the young woman of that day. It was a vivid memory to Janeway because it was incredibly touching to see Seven so emotional, even if it wasn't over her.

"Just be patient," was all she could think of to say while trying to project a calm demeanor.

"I will Captain, I assure you. I've waited this long already. I can wait some more if I have to. I will not pressure her. You have my word."

"Thank you."

"Was there anything else?"

"No."

"Then good evening Captain."

Janeway let out a sharp breath after he left and mulled over whether or not to talk to Seven about the incident.

She should… but she wasn't sure she wanted to. Janeway began tapping the desk in her indecision. There was a fine line between joy and anguish when seeing Seven lately. Still, she was the Captain… and it was her duty to do the difficult things. Seven should be aware of the situation.

Breathing out a tentative breath of air, Janeway spoke. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is currently in Astrometrics." The computer stated.

Janeway headed for deck 5.

 

*****

 

Entering the lab, the Captain found the young woman as usual, hard at work at the main console.

"Seven," Janeway greeted en route to the terminal.

Seven stopped her scans and turned to her commanding officer, her face brightening at Janeway’s appearance. Seven knew her Captain was concerned for her emotional well being lately as she was visiting quite often. The Captain usually did not indulge in that much sentiment, but Seven rather liked being on her mind. It tickled her insides for some reason.

"I am touched by your concern for my emotional well-being Captain." She announced unexpectedly.

"Um... Thanks…"

“And I want you to know that I care for your emotional and physical well being… although I might not verbalize it.” She hoped that made up for her inadequate statement in their last conversation.

She just admitted to caring for you!! Yes, but caring isn't the same as saying I love you. It's too risky!!! Kathryn turned to look at the star charts on the screen, a delaying tactic to give herself time to gather her thoughts.

Out of the corning of her eyes, Janeway saw the lithe neck bend towards her. Turning her head, she watched those marvelous icy blue eyes gaze upon her so innocently. God she's so beautiful. Janeway's cheeks became flushed. Why won't I fight for her? Why can’t I take a chance? Unknowingly, Janeway's inner battle was starting to show externally.

Frowning, Seven inquired. "Are you ill Captain?"

"No," Janeway rubbed her temples. "It's been a long day. I'm just tired."

"Then you should regenerate."

"I will, in a little while."

Seven's face showed protest. "It would not do for Voyager's Captain to become overly fatigued."

"I know but, there is a reason why I came here." Finally, she got to the point of her visit. "I was wondering why you still haven't told Axum about your relationship with Chakotay?"

The blonde's face crinkled. "I have not had the chance. I was supposed to meet him in the Mess Hall today after my shift, but he cancelled unexpectedly."

"Did he tell you why?"

"No, he did not elaborate. Is there a problem?"

Taking the time to gaze effortlessly upon Seven's beautiful features, Janeway leaned her small frame against the back of the console as she brought her charge up-to-date on the misunderstanding between the two undeserving suitors.

At the conclusion, the blonde was anything, but pleased. "He is feeling jealous, is he not?"

He's not the only one. Janeway rested her hands across her abdomen. "Most likely, but that’s a normal reaction in this instance."

"It is illogical."

Janeway was baffled by Seven’s casually dismissal of someone else’s feelings. "If you felt it, you wouldn't think so."

"Why would I feel such an emotion?" The young woman asked presumptuously.

Was Seven really that naďve?! Kathryn stared into her unflinching eyes. "If you don’t know, then perhaps you should do some research on it, Seven."

"If you think it would be beneficial, I will comply."

"It's not an order, just a suggestion, but it might give you a better understanding as to why suitors behave the way they do."

The optical implant lifted slightly in contemplation. "I will research it. Perhaps it will enlighten me, since despite my sincerest intentions I appear to have upset Commander Chakotay enough for him to make irrational threats."

Janeway became angry. “Has he threatened you!?”

“No, I am referring to his threatening Axum.”

Janeway immediately relaxed, but Seven did not. She was highly agitated at all the trouble she was causing. "Perhaps I should give up on romance. Maybe it is not possible for me." Somberness crept into her tone.

“I don’t believe that, not for an instant and neither should you.” Came the firm reply.

"You do not understand. My emotions are incomprehensible at best… sometimes even chaotic…" The young woman was flustered at how inept she was at the fundamentals of humanity. "And I do not truly understand what I feel for either of them."

"You have to be patient Seven. Take the time to get to know them both. If they love you, they'll understand that this is what you need to do."

"And if they do not?"

"Their loss." Kathryn barely suppressed the wicked smile that wanted to shine through.

Pleased with the response, Seven managed a small smile in return.

"Well, I should… regenerate." Janeway joked.

"Yes Captain, you should." Seven remarked, unfazed and with that Janeway bid Seven good night.

 

*****

 

"You requested my presence?" Seven stood at attention waiting for a reply. Truthfully, since it was late, she had not planned to see Chakotay, wanting the additional time to regenerate for an extended cycle in order to clear her mind. Then he had hailed her moments before she was about to initiate a regeneration cycle.

"Interesting day, huh." Chakotay offered lightly, despite his apprehension.

"Indeed."

"Would you care for something to eat or drink?"

"No, I do not require nutrition or liquids at this time."

"If you don't mind, I'm going to make myself a drink," he headed for his replicator. "It's been a long day."

"Not at all."

He took a quick sip of his drink immediately after replicating it. "So how do you feel about our new guests?"

"You are referring to Axum?" Seven guessed correctly.

"I know you have a past with him." His tone quickly became edgy.

Seven had hoped she would not have to discuss this so soon. She was disturbed between the kiss she enjoyed with Axum and her vow of fidelity to Chakotay, although the former was not her fault and the latter was almost moot since she did not love him, Seven wanted to avoid both topics.

"I heard of your disagreement. I did not know that a partnership with you meant that I was forbidden to socialize with other males." Seven was not pleased by the incident he instigated in the Mess Hall and did not comprehend his propensity for jealousy. It was highly illogical behavior.

"It's not what you think."

"Then why did you threaten him?"

"It wasn't a threat!" Chakotay glared at her. "It was just a warning. I don't trust him. He's not here just to travel with us until he finds a planet."

"Why else would he be here?" Seven did not believe that Axum would have intentional sought her out, wasting valuable resources in the process. It would be illogical, not to mention the odds of actually finding Voyager were infinitesimal.

He looked incredulously at her. Was she that naďve? The burly man headed for the portside window and gazing out into space, he took the time to gather his thoughts. "His presence disturbs me," Chakotay divulged. "because I believe he's come for you. In my opinion, that's why he's traveling with us." Turning around, Chakotay studied Seven carefully, then took a large gulp of his drink. "I’m being silly aren’t I? It’s not like you want to explore a relationship with him right?" He asked avidly.

Seven stared at him, understanding the need for a white lie at this very moment, but all her research indicated that a relationship could not be built on subterfuge. "You are correct in assuming he has feelings for me and you will not be pleased, but he kissed me earlier today, in the Cargo Bay at approximately 11:00 hours… I did not realize his intentions until after it happened."

Chakotay crossed his arms across his burly chest. “So did you slap him?”

Seven blinked, pondering. “No.”

His brow crinkled slightly. “So you pushed him away.”

“Not exactly…”

Chakotay scowled. "Then how did you indicate that his attentions were NOT welcome?"

Instantly, the blonde regretted her actions that at the time seemed so appropriate. "I must apologize for my lack of discipline."

She kissed him back!? Gawking at her, Chakotay became livid. "So much for fidelity!"

"I did not instigate it." Seven became angry at his attacking tone. “It is not entirely my fault?!”

"But you didn't resist did you?" He accused her. "How far did it go huh?"

"We did NOT copulate!" Seven responded flustered. "I have not been entirely unfaithful."

"Oh so you've been just partially unfaithful! Well that makes it alright!" He mocked her. He'd be damned if he was going to alleviate her guilt from such an encounter. "So much for being in a mutually exclusive partnership!" He started pacing back and forth, then suddenly he stopped and slammed his drink down on the table. "As long as we're dating, I forbid you to see him!" Chakotay ordered hotly.

Seven took exception. "You forbid?" Her voice was dangerously low.

"Yes!"

Seven lifted her chin. "With all due respect Commander… That is not your decision to make. He is my friend."

All of Chakotay’s instincts had warned him when Seven first asked him for a date. She is Borg, an emotionless drone, stability will not be found within her, don't risk it! But no, his eyes could not deny the external beauty, her sexy, lean figure. And well… he was a man! With needs! What could it hurt? Yet, that very thinking got him into serious trouble before. The truth was he had terrible luck with women and unfortunately that bad luck was holding much to his disappointment.

"I do not want you to see him!" He demanded.

Seven knew from her research how illogical humans became when angry. "I do not believe we should discuss this matter any further until you have calmed down!" She went to leave.

“Wait!”

Reluctantly, Seven halted.

"Listen," he stated in a low pensive voice, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I care for you.” He paused, taking in a deep breath. “I’m willing to try and work through this because I believe we can have a future together."

In light of their argument, Seven did not think it was a good idea to continue. She did not mean to hurt him, but after Axum's kiss she was truly curious to see if she could feel more with him.

"Well?" Chakotay exhaled audibly, rubbing his forehead. "What about us? Or are you going to tell me you don't have any feelings for me?"

Seven honestly knew that verbalizing the truth in this instance would be severely inadequate. Her cheeks grew hotter as her anxiety increased. "I am not sure how I should respond?"

Chakotay blinked. "How about, I have strong feelings for you… or I'm in love with you… unless…" His jaw stiffened. "…You want to break up?!" He growled.

Seven conceded the truth. "In all… honesty, I have been considering such an action for some time."

His face turned a deeper shade of red. "How could you do this to me?!"

Seven stared at him befuddled at his accusation. “I have been pondering such a decision long before Axum arrived on Voyager!”

"You expect me to believe that! Why don't you just admit it?! You're still in love with him?"

"I do not know what I feel!" Seven divulged upset.

"But you feel something for him or you wouldn't be breaking up with me so easily!"

"It is more complicated than that!" Seven stated thickly, not expecting this to be so emotionally charged.

"That's precisely what I'm talking about!" In an instant, he was before her, invading her personal space.

Seven instinctually backed up until her back met the wall.

He took in a deep calming breath before speaking. “You've given up on us and we haven't even begun to explore our relationship.” Slowly, he brought his meaty hand up, to stroke her cheek. “I've taken things slowly for your benefit not mine, but maybe that's not the answer. Maybe you need more." Leaning in closer, he could feel her increased respiration on his face. "How do you know what you truly feel when we haven’t even consummated our relationship?”

"You wish to copulate?!" Seven questioned, shaken. “Now?”

Thinking about the possibility of sex that he hadn’t had in ages, the big man’s eyes dilated. “Think about it Seven, we've never been intimate, really intimate with one another and you’re a virgin, so you have no idea what’s it like to be with a man. Sex,” he paused. Bad wording, too crass. “Making love with someone you care about changes everything and it bonds you in ways I cannot describe.”

Seven’s eyes widened, but the Commander couldn’t tell if it was desire or reticence.

“I'm certain it would clarify things for you." He assumed, confident that he could seduce her. “And I assure you, it would be an experience you'd never forget.”

Feeling frantic about the situation, she found herself in, Seven thought rapidly through her available choices. Could he be right, despite the Captain suggesting that copulating was not the answer? Janeway had informed her it would not guarantee falling in love and Seven had no reason to not believe her mentor.

"You know you want to.” He murmured against her lips. Pressing his large frame up against her, he tried to make the decision for her. “You’re only holding back because it’s your first time and you’re afraid." His hands slowly slid down her arms, and one stealthily moved across to her chest. “But I won’t hurt you. I can be slow and gentle until you’re ready for more.” Leaning in he kissed her.

“Chakotay?” Seven breathed out worried.

Boldly, he squeezed her left breast almost painfully and to convince her without a doubt that he was ready for more, shoved his bulge of arousal against her.

Gasping, Seven suddenly became frightened of becoming intimate the Commander. I am not ready for this! This is wrong! Pushing him away, she grabbed his hand, looking aghast. "I cannot do this!"

Keeping his anger reigned in, he gave her an ultimatum. "This is your last chance Seven."

“My last chance?! At what, love?” Seven countered. "Ask yourself if you are honestly in love with me Commander? A love that overwhelms you so much that you think of nothing else."

Looking into her sharp blue eyes, Chakotay hesitated. Was he… in love with her? The way Seven described?

"I don't know, but I'm willing to explore what I do feel with you." He really did want the opportunity to find out, acknowledging only to himself that his motives were not entirely sincere. Sex and time with her could help me fall in love… or at the very least, maybe help me forget the past and I’m not adverse to that. After all, the woman I fell for so many years ago never gave me a chance… and most likely never will.

It was like déjŕ vu all over again.

To Seven, utilizing the Captain’s definition of the word seemed quite effective and it brought out the obvious fact that even Chakotay wasn’t sure about what he felt. "I realize this is my error, but I have tried for over a month, yet I still feel… nothing. I am sorry, but I do not love you Chakotay and I will not copulate with you.”

She feels… nothing?! Damn her?! Damn the both of them! "Then to hell with you!"

Seven quirked an eyebrow up, dismayed by his animosity. "Chakotay--”

"Don't bother, just get out!" What more was there to say? She had made her decision.

Even though this was beyond her control, she knew she had damaged him. Feeling culpable, Seven quietly left.

 

*****

 

Not being able to sleep, Janeway invited Jaffen to have a late night dinner with her. She still wasn’t sure letting him stay onboard was a wise idea, but knew it would be an excellent distraction against the reoccurring thoughts of her Astrometrics officer. The young woman's face just kept hovering in her mind and it was becoming a severe hindrance to her peace of mind. So, obviously needing to move on, the older woman conceded that she now had the means to do so. If nothing else, Jaffen was a gentleman and he would be patient with her. Kathryn just wasn't sure if she would be patient with herself. Just what exactly did she want from him? Love, commitment, sex, marriage, children?

The chime at her door signified his timely arrival.

"Come!" Janeway called out as she took the roast ham from her replicator. Visually, the ham looked well done, but not burnt and inhaling through her nose revealed a pleasant scent. This might be considered one of my rare successes, she thought proudly bringing it to the table.

Jaffen entered her quarters, immediately inhaling the aroma that filled the room. "What smells so good?"

Janeway giggled. "This does. I just hope it tastes as good as it looks." She gave him a facetious warning. "You remember how I cook right?"

Sitting down at the dinner table, he beamed at her. "Of course I do, but it never stopped me from loving you."

The declaration caught her off guard, even as it delighted her aching heart. She laughed nervously. "That's a good thing, because it hasn't gotten much better!"

"Nonsense, this all looks delicious."

She raised her eyebrows. "We'll see," she pointed to the different dishes in turn. "There's ham, asparagus, cooked carrots, wild rice, corn bread and freshly replicated rolls."

"Are these all Earth delicacies?"

"Well, not exactly, but they were traditional foods where I grew up?"

"I'm sure it will be fine."

Janeway surveyed the table to make sure nothing was missing, noting she had set the candles, but had forgotten to light them. Excusing herself, she quickly brought back a replicated lighter.

"Candles?" He asked hopeful. "Is this a… romantic setting?" The custom of dining with lighted adornments was very similar to his culture in that regard.

Kathryn answered with caution. "In all honesty Jaffen, I don't know. I just thought it would be relaxing." Kathryn felt at ease with him and she didn’t want that to change, didn’t want any pressure.

"I'm happy with that."

"Good, let’s eat."

Dinner was acceptable if not up to chef quality, but Jaffen didn't mind, because he was enjoying their easy banter and idle chatter. He was pleased to be spending quality time with Kathy and Janeway was simply glad to have company so she could concentrate on something other than whom Seven was currently with and what they could be doing.

 

*****

 

Day Three, Morning:

At first, being on a Borg vessel gave Seven an eerie feeling. During some of her regeneration cycles, she had unsettling visions regarding her assimilation and although they were infrequent, it gave her an adequate reason not to visit a Borg vessel any time soon. That and the loss of 18 years of conscious independent thought made her dislike what the Borg represented, despite being Borg herself.

Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the Klingon, Croix to escort her to Axum. They found him in a corridor on level 22, section b, kneeling before a wall. He was in the process of repairing a minor malfunction to a circuit node that was causing a dozen alcoves’ energy signatures to fluctuate. Piles of cabling had been ripped out of the wall as he navigated his hands inside the tight confines. There were large, medium and small sized wires, tubes and circuits all wound together in a small area of space making it difficult to effect repairs. But a Borg ship was not designed with human comfort in mind.

"You have a visitor," The Klingon grumbled and left.

Axum seemed ignorant of her presence at first and kept diligently working, but Seven knew he had heard - all Borg had enhanced auditory senses.

Seven willfully suppressed the uncomfortable feeling that she was being unintentionally ignored. "I need to speak with you." She stated attempting to divert his attention.

"Why didn't you tell me you were dating Commander Chakotay?" He asked with his back to her.

"I did not feel it was relevant at the time." She answered honestly.

"Relevant?!" Astounded, he turned to look at her, his brow crinkled. "I told you I was in love with you!”

"I was confused... ” Seven tried to comprehend her actions from his point of view, but there was so much she did not understand. “I did not expect you to kiss me! I was unprepared for that.”

He stood up to face her, moving closer. “Yet you didn’t push me away.” He watched her carefully. “You enjoyed it, didn’t you?”

Seven blushed. “I… I am new to courtship rituals. They are often difficult to comprehend… and inefficient… I am often confused on how to proceed even with the most simplest of romantic gestures."

I suppose that’s a good excuse… Axum folded his arms across his chest, his stance still ridged, his countenance severe.

"If I have damaged you emotionally in any way because of my ignorance, then I--"

"Are you in love with him?" He demanded cutting her words off.

"--apologize." Seven finished her previous statement, her eyes wide. She took only a moment to compose a response. "No, I have discontinued our affiliation.”

"Really?" Axum exclaimed, stunned. It was a rather sudden decision. He was beginning to doubt he had a chance with her, but now? He hadn't expected this turn around so soon. "You broke up with him?"

"Yes."

"And you’re not upset?" He asked somewhat indelicately.

"I am… frustrated with my lack of understanding men and their expectations regarding sexuality,” Axum raised an eyebrow, “but the total experience was… enlightening."

He shrugged off a passing vision of her having sex with him. "Well, I guess you're free to explore other options now." He offered in a strained voice, starting to go back to work on the conduit.

"Yes," Seven tightened her grip behind her back. "but I wish to explore a relationship with you." She added staring at him intently.

He turned around swiftly. "Are you sure that’s what you want, so soon after your breakup?"

"Is that a problem?” Seven asked concerned. “I assure you I will not rush into anything prematurely. I realize I am still new to intimacy, but I would like to court you.” She finished shyly.

“If you think that’s best, I foresee no problem.” He accommodated her easily.

"Then you find me acceptable?"

He beamed at her foolish question. "Of course, Annika. You are more than acceptable."

Satisfied with his reply, Seven surveyed her surroundings noting that they were quite alone. Hesitant, yet needful of something, she closed the distance between them. "May I kiss you?" She whispered.

"Absolutely," He breathed out in anticipation.

As she lowered her head to touch his ascending lips, Axum thought about how the situation couldn't have worked out better.

 

*****

 

Day Three, Evening:

Janeway reclined comfortably on her bed attempting to distance herself from reality by reading a trashy romance novel. Ten minutes into the reading session, a hot sex scene came up turning her thoughts towards a certain blonde, so book marking it, she set it down on her nightstand.

Picking up one of her favorite poetry books, she began to read. Janeway had always liked poetry, found it meaningful and relaxing. Unfortunately after a few unrequited love poems that made her think of soft, smooth, pale skin on a certain feminine form, she slammed the book closed grumbling to herself.

"Computer, play Chopin, No. 19 in E minor, Opus 72, No 1, medium volume level."

It didn't take long before the music swirled around her ears drums soothing her troubled mind. The tones of the mild melody rose and dropped subtly with perfect pitch. The cadence swept her to another place and another time. Through the mid-way point, the movement brought her to tears. The somber composition, with its in-sync rhythms reminded her too much of someone else's perfection.

"Computer halt music!"

She began to pace the room. "This is ridiculous!"

She thought of going back to the holodeck and her holo-family, but no, she wasn't in the mood for that either. Still she needed a distraction! Something to do! Something to occupy her mind!

Without speculating on it too much, she hit her COM badge. "Janeway to Jaffen."

"Captain?"

"Are you busy?"

"No, is there something I can do for you?"

"I could use some company."

"I'll be right there."

"I'll be waiting." She teased, cutting the communiqué.

Less than a minute later, the chime sounded and she ordered the computer to let him in.

He walked in with a colorful bouquet of flowers, roses, violets and petunias, all varieties of flowers she liked and Janeway's eyes twinkled when she saw them.

"How lovely. What's the occasion?" She sniffed the pleasant aroma, taking in a deep breath.

"I'm visiting you, what other reason do I need?" He responded playfully.

"Indeed, should I be… concerned?" She flirted while replicating a vase.

Jaffen was pleased with her response. "I guess you could say I'm just seeing where the moment takes me."

"Sounds like good advice." Janeway remarked lightly, placing them on the table in front of her sofa. She knew Jaffen quite well from her time on Quarran and she did like his company. It helped her to relax which was something she desperately needed.

"It is." His grey eyes burned into hers when she looked back at him.

After, she placed the flowers exactly the way she liked them, Janeway waved with a quick motion of her hand towards the sofa. "Join me?"

His eyes never left her smiling face.

 

*****

 

Standing at the entrance to Axum’s quarters, Laura surveyed the mess before her, silently wishing for better living conditions. They were still working on making more room for their individual quarters, but it was not easy with so much useless Borg equipment around. Many of their crew compliment still needed alcoves to regenerate, but some needed only sleep and others wanted to try it despite having to regenerate, so a need for personal space was becoming a serious issue.

In Laura’s opinion, the sphere could never meet their long term needs and truthfully, she didn’t want it to. As a former Starfleet officer, she hated it and everything it represented. The Borg vessel was beyond redemption and leaving it would be a blessing.

Turning her head, she spied the young alien, Axum as he reclined on his makeshift bed with his eyes closed. Laura cleared her throat to announce her presence. “I heard you had a visitor today?”

Before the voice interrupted his daydreams, he had been thinking about soft ivory skin surrounded by cool, incredibly sexy implants. Reluctantly opening his eyes, Axum sat up, flexing his arms as he stretched on his bumpy mattress.

"Remind me to barter for some decent mattresses the next chance we have?" He grinned at her trying to lighten the mood.

"I will remind you, if the opportunity comes.” She paused intentionally, but the question needed to be asked. “How has your progress been with her?"

He sat up on his lumpy bed and smiled at her. "I've made excellent progress."

"Good because we're only thirty light years from our destination.”

“Are we that close already?”

“Yes, are you prepared to ask her?”

"No, I can't rush her in this. There's still a lot to consider."

"Like what?"

“She doesn't exactly remember what we had, but she’s willing to start again and I don’t want to risk ruining it. Besides, she just recently broke up with her boyfriend."

“She has a boyfriend?” Laura quirked an eyebrow.

"Yes, Commander Chakotay."

“Voyager’s first Officer?!”

He looked up sharply. "She’s not dating him anymore. I told you they’ve broken up.”

“Just like that? Isn’t that kind of sudden?” Laura sounded skeptical.

Axum eyed her intently. “I know what you’re thinking, but Annika doesn’t lie. She wouldn’t do that.”

“Are you sure? I saw her while in their medical bay. She’s quite different in reality, more Borg than I would have expected.”

“I’m sure… ” He replied distastefully. “And she’s human enough for me." He added with absolute certainty.

"Of course, but if she does not wish to join us, you will have a difficult decision to make."

"I am aware of that." He scowled not needing to be reminded.

"Are you?"

"Yes and I've found alternatives.” He stood up, hope brewing in his eyes. “Did you know planet ‘Eden’ has an unusual atmosphere that is filled with energized cloak-like resonating particles?”

Laura frowned. “No, I didn’t.”

“Well, it does.” He replied enthusiastically. “And it can successfully hide our presence from orbit."

"Hide?" Laura repeated.

"Yes!"

"Axum, I know what you're thinking and it won't work. We've been through this a dozen times."

Staring into Laura’s eyes he replied quietly, "I love her."

Seeing his pain made her ache inside, but Laura had no words of wisdom for him. "I know you do, but you have to think this through, leaving your heart out of it."

"I can't… and I won't!” He replied stubbornly.

“Axum?--”

“No!” He rebuked, determination flooding his eyes. “I'm telling you Laura, all of us can make a life on Planet Eden. No one will find us here!"

"And this is your final decision?"

"What other decision could I make?! I have to try this!"

Her eyebrow twitched in response. She could have said more, maybe even what she felt for him, but deep down inside she knew he only had eyes for Annika. Jealousy aside, she hoped it didn't destroy them all.


Continued on page 2 >>>

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