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.


>>> Continued from page 1

Seven's Awakening

by Scar

 

Her lips would be warm

Her skin would be soft

Her touch would be tender

Underneath my fingertips

 

Day Four, Morning:

The male gently took the beautiful blonde by the hand and led her to his bed. Carefully peeling off the biosuit, he ran his hands down her perfect skin causing a deep reverberated moan that he felt through the tips of his fingers. After thoroughly teasing her into a higher state of arousal, he lowered her to the bed.

She trembled… waiting nervously, yet wantonly…

Slowly, he hovered over her, placing an arm on the left, then the right, settling comfortably on top of her, then… reaching down he gently touched her thigh and instinctually she spread her legs wide open for him. Moving his hard member into position, he wiggled his buttocks and slipped his penis into her virginal world, causing his beloved to cry out, unprepared she was for his girth.

Developing a slow rhythm within, he touched her lips, slipping his wet tongue in-between them. Enthusiastically, he rolled her over on the mattress placing his large hands firmly on her hips. As he guided her undulations, the back end of his rear end muscles tightened with the effort of each upward thrust.

Groaning out her pleasure, the woman arched her back, jutting out her engorged breasts in the process. He palmed them, enjoying their plump fullness. Leaning in, he covered the hardened tips with his mouth, first tasting the left breast thoroughly then sucking on the right mound until…

The pressure filled their loins to bursting strength. The male encircled his arms around the woman possessively and with hearts pounding, their genitals exploded in release.

An animated grunt came from the man as he cut loose planting his seed inside her. An enchanted cry came from the woman as her spasming sex accepted it. Their Fluids mixed thoroughly during the finishing movements.

Only… they didn’t stop.

…Their hips kept thrusting…

And thrusting…

Noooooo!!!

Waking in a film of sweat, Janeway gasped out loud as the images of the dream seared her mind. Gasping for air, she covered her mouth with her hands not wanting to wake up her sleeping companion, who unlike her was still in a deep slumber.

Janeway sat up in bed, breathing deeply as the sex stained sheets crumpled down in-between her legs, evidence of her previous evening’s activities.

What will it take to forget her?! To move on!?

The dream was so vivid… so awful, from her perspective… and it wasn't Seven's fault. The young woman had the right to be intimate with anyone she chose… had the right to give her heart to whoever could capture it. No, this was completely Janeway’s problem and getting over it was her battle alone… Only she was losing the war.

Swallowing through a parched throat, she ran her hand through her ruffled red hair contemplating how she got to this point.

It all started the evening before…

Sitting relaxed on the living room sofa, they had talked for hours. Janeway was content discussing the recent adventures she had been through, until Jaffen asked her if she had a significant other in her life. Although, she didn’t appreciate being reminded of Seven, he had every right to ask. Even so, the truth served no purpose so she lied and told him there was no one.

After that announcement, he looked at her with intent, making his desire known in the form of a light kiss. Seeing the intense desire for her in his eyes, yet wishing they belonged to someone else set Kathryn’s ire to the boiling point. Her heart was attempting a coup and she rebelled against the feelings that tried to continually dominate her. Not being in total control was unacceptable and it was this rebellious thinking that started her down a path against her heart’s true desire. It was this pain, this non stop torment that decided for her to take what was being offered.

Beyond fed up with herself, heartsick and sexually frustrated, she kissed him back with the intention of instigating a whole lot more. Taking the lead, she kissed him deeply and after a bout of heavy petting between the two, Kathryn took his hand and brought him into her bedroom.

Once there, she ravished an excited, but astonished Jaffen, who could barely keep up with her sudden fervor. Pushing him down onto the bed, she straddled him dominantly and after struggling with his shirt, ripped it in the extrication process. Then came the pants and with a quick unzip, she was shoving them down his legs. Although she was rough, no protests came, so she avidly continued having her way with him.

Their sexual joining wasn't slow or tender, but she didn't want it to be nor did she require it. Passion and emotion had been outlawed by her heart. Janeway simply needed good old fashion sex, hard and fast until she got off.

So finally after reaching her first climax in ages, she let her body surrender to the pleasure she had denied herself for so long. Then as she came down off her natural high, a visual of a nude blonde entered her mind in perfect clarity and Kathryn became pissed off.

Do NOT think about whom you’re NOT having sex with, dammit!! Stay in the moment!

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. She had to have more of a distraction. “Come here!” She growled, demanding more. Coupled with her tenacity and fervor, Jaffen easily brought her to orgasm three more times before he had trouble keeping up. Kathryn unknowingly pushed Jaffen to his manly limits in pursuit of her goal; to find release and some respite from always thinking about her. And it worked reasonably well until working them both to utter exhaustion she had to stop. Thankfully, spent and sore from so much vigorous sex, she fell soundly asleep in mere minutes.

Then morning came… along with regret and guilt.

As she sat listlessly in bed, Janeway suddenly realized how unfair she was being to him. Do I even love him?

Although the physical aspect was satisfying it was still sex without love, still only a desperate attempt to quench the persistent voice inside her soul that burned for Seven of Nine than any conscious love for the man sleeping next to her.

Shaking her head, Kathryn knew the truth. Not like I do her! I’m committing an act of defiance against a woman I haven’t even told I’m in love with?! Kathryn’s features turned suddenly severe. Love is overrated anyways! She told herself not wanting to care. So what if I’m not in love with him, Kathryn Janeway of Quarran was. Why can’t that be good enough?!

Either way, she had a function to attend to after her shift and needed to clear her mind of any frivolous stray thoughts. It was a momentous occasion that was a long time coming and she had to be in high spirits when the time came.

With that, she got out of bed without regards to the sleeping figure and headed to the ensuite to take a long hot shower.

 

*****

 

Day Four, Afternoon:

A security guard escorted Axum to the Astrometrics Lab, allowing him to enter alone since Seven of Nine was present.

He found her studying a visual of Earth on the giant forward view screen.

“It’s a beautiful planet.” He commented.

“Personally, I find it unremarkable.” Seven replied.

He came up next to her. "I take it you don’t share in this crews' desire to return to Earth?" This gave him the perfect opportunity for a discussion he initially didn’t know how to bring up.

"That is correct. Even though my parents lived there for a short time, I am not from Earth. I have simply adapted to the needs of my current collective... " she paused. "and Earth has always been their goal since they were first stranded in the Delta Quadrant."

"I understand that, and… " his face conveyed false concern. "I probably shouldn't say anything, but when I was discussing traveling to Earth with your Captain, she mentioned that because we are former Borg, we might not be welcome there."

Seven frowned. "You must have misinterpreted her." She refused to believe that Janeway would have said such a thing.

"No, I didn't. She said because of the incident at Wolf 359, that she couldn't guarantee some people wouldn't still feel hatred towards the Borg. She implied that we might not be treated very well and… remembering those events as WE do, I have to agree with that assessment."

Seven was miffed at this, but knew it was true. She knew how hard it was for the humans on Voyager to accept her. Imagine billions having to adapt to her presence. "I suppose she cannot guarantee your safety--."

"You mean our safety. You're Borg as well."

Seven gave him an implausible look. "Yes, but I am a member of this crew."

"That does not make you an exception, Annika. Do you honestly think, they're going to treat you differently just because you've help this crew survive a few skirmishes. Regardless of what you've done for this crew… you ARE still Borg and… " He looked upon her sympathetically. "Unfortunately, you don't quite pass as completely human."

"I AM aware of my appearance." Seven stated piqued at the implications. "The Doctor cannot remove the remaining implants." It was a fact that could not be changed. "I will always be Borg." Although not pleased with his assessment, Seven definitely needed to ponder the possibilities. It was true the crew didn't actually adore her and that she was tolerated because her intellectual expertise made her valuable, but would they defend her if needed? Against even Starfleet? Then one person's name popped into her cortical node, whom she explicitly trusted.

"Captain Janeway accepts me as I am." Seven stated proudly. “and I know she would defend me against the Federation and Starfleet if necessary.”

"Is that what you want for your future? Defending your right to be free? Don’t you see? It won’t matter what anyone tells them. You’re still Borg and thus you will not be accepted by the majority of humans on Earth."

Fear filled her eyes that she valiantly tried to hide. "What other choice do I have?"

Axum received the response he was looking for. Tilting her chin up with his index finger, he spoke to her in a soothing voice. "You can always come with me."

Seven blinked. Are my auditory systems functioning correctly? The impact of the suggestion shook her equilibrium.

"You mean… leave Captain Janeway?!" She blurted out.

Axum was surprised at the intensity of Seven's response, but he had to allow for some close personal attachments over the course of four years.

"And go where?" Seven inquired strongly. “Have you found a planet here in the Beta Quadrant?”

Seeing the initial resistance in her eyes, Axum laid his left hand over her right one in a show of comfort. He had to prove that he could take Janeway’s place as a mentor, in time.

"We want a home other than a Borg ship. A lot of us want to raise families and I... I want you to come with me Annika. Consider it a chance to grow and expand your knowledge. You'll be with your own kind, people who understand exactly what you've been through. There will be no pretenses. No reason to hide who or what you are."

Seven stared profusely at him. It was disturbing to even think about leaving the only people she had ever known in her adult life, especially the one responsible for giving her that life.

"I left Voyager once," She stated quietly. "but the Captain risked her life to bring me back. Captain Janeway needs me… my technological skills are invaluable."

"Is that truly why? Or do you feel you need your Captain’s support? I can tell you're close to her. She's become like a mother to you."

Seven's head shot up. "No," she returned decisively. The association seemed unsuitable and woefully inadequate. “the Captain is my commanding officer and my friend. She has assisted me in regaining my humanity and I would not be who I am today without her guidance and her patience." Seven stated with astounding clarity.

"I sense you've outgrown her though."

Seven's upper lip twitched and her brow crinkled in resistance. "I do not believe so."

"Can you really do what you want in this environment? Is there any room for personal growth? You're so gifted Annika, brighter than any of them, including your Captain. Your intellectual talents are wasted here. All of us have to move on sometimes, leaving familiar things behind in order to grow. We get stagnant if we don't accept that change is inevitable."

"That does not mean that I have 'outgrown' my Captain." Seven challenged him.

"You sound sure of that."

When Seven opened her mouth to interject, he rose his hand up to forestall her statement. "Consider this Annika.” He stated seriously. “As much as your Captain says she is an explorer, she is and always will be a Starfleet Officer, part of a military organization. As long as you remain here, you are subject to their laws, their philosophies, their rules… And you know I'm not lying to you because we've assimilated enough Starfleet Officers to know. You have to think about just how ‘free’ your future will be."

Not pleased, Seven met his eyes somewhat pensively. “I have work to do. If you will excuse me, I am on duty.”

Seeing the strong reaction, he relented quickly. "It's nothing you have to decide now.” He called after her. “We have plenty of time to discuss this further."

“Of course.” Seven stated.

 

*****

 

Hours later, Axum entered the Cargo bay leaving the customary guard waiting outside. "Annika," he greeted.

A slightly raised eyebrow was her only response. Seven was not sure she liked being called by her given name, but acknowledged that it was the appropriate custom for dating couples. Still, she was slightly irritated with him.

"Is your… shift over?" He asked with skepticism, wondering if their earlier discussion still bothered her.

"Yes." She responded evenly, shutting down her terminal. “It ended 53 minutes and 47 seconds ago.” She informed him. “I was simply studying the database…” while waiting for you. She left unsaid, but Seven was sure he was going to make her late.

Axum met her gaze. “Listen, I wanted to apologize about what I said earlier. I didn’t mean to come on so strong. It’s just that… I care about you a lot and since I plan to live on a planet instead of a ship, I thought I should ask you, to see how you felt about it.” He looked away. “I mean there’s really no sense you getting involved with me, if you won’t even entertain the idea. It would be… “ He choked back the discomfort. “painful for me to leave you now that I’ve found you.” He cleared his throat. “I just wanted you to know that.”

Seven eyes became misty. He was a very thoughtful individual. “Your apology is accepted and I will ponder your words… later. Right now, there is a meeting in the Mess Hall in approximately five minutes that I must attend," Seven sighed lightly. "I believe the Captain will be disappointed if I do not, but I would be grateful for an escort. Will you accompany me?" Seven asked politely.

"It would be my honor." He entwined his left arm inside her right one and escorted her out of the Cargo Bay. In return, he received a guarded, but pleasant smile for his efforts.

When they entered the Mess Hall, Axum immediately noticed the formality of the meeting. A large oval table had been placed in the center of the room filled with senior officers in their dress uniforms.

The Captain sat at the head of the table with Jaffen on her right, then Chakotay, B'Elanna, Tom and Harry. On the opposite side was Tuvok and the Doctor along with two more empty seats, making Seven suspicious that they had expected her to bring Axum.

To their right, Neelix was in his kitchen meticulously preparing a full course meal for everyone. The flames, from his burner were high as he worked to finish up.

"You sure they will not mind my choice of clothing?" Axum whispered. "I really don't having anything formal to wear."

"I always wear one of my biosuits to these types of functions." Seven turned to him. "We are not in Starfleet. They will not mind." She clarified in a subdued tone.

"I'll take your word for it." He remarked quietly.

"Seven! Axum! Come on over and have a seat." Janeway called out, spotting them. Kathryn witnessed their arms entwined when they had entered. Forcefully, she told herself she had Jaffen, and that her feelings for Seven didn't matter anymore, yet it still affected her. She couldn't help but wonder what this display meant for Seven and Chakotay's relationship, especially since he hadn't said anything to her to the contrary.

Seven studied their faces as she approached. Janeway's countenance appeared deceptively bright, as if forced. Tuvok was his normal placid self, Tom and Harry were almost jovial in their mirth, B'Elanna seemed content to watch them and Jaffen appeared tired, but content to be there. When, her eyes met with Chakotay's, she nodded to him politely, but he quickly looked away.

After Seven and Axum seated themselves, Janeway spoke up. "Now that everyone is here, I'd like to explain why we're gathered here so formally."

"Yes what is all this for?" Tom asked curiously. "We're dying to know."

After a small grin in the pilot's direction, Janeway continued in a serious tone. "It has come to my attention… that someone has been negligent in their duties and I intend to rectify that oversight today." She glanced at their suddenly apprehensive faces, except for Chakotay, who was trying to hide a smirk because he knew what this was about. Seven and Tuvok simply arched their eyebrows questioningly.

"A member of my crew has put in long hours with very little reward… has worked diligently at every task assigned… has proven to be a reliable and outstanding officer despite how… green he was when he first came to us…" She smiled widely at Ensign Kim. "and he deserves to be rewarded for all the years of his unwavering dedication."

Harry's eyes bulged. Tom snickered, B'Elanna grinned.

"Ensign Harry Kim," she said mockingly serious as she approached him. "I hereby promote you to the rank of junior grade, Lieutenant. Congratulations."

He stood up nervously at full attention. The Captain affixed the new pip to his collar.

Still in denial, Harry was astounded that this was really happening. "Thank you ma'am." He replied nervously. I actually got promoted!?

"It's not crunch time yet, Lt." She teased using his new rank.

He laughed with her.

"Way to go, Harry." Tom slapped him on the back.

In good spirits, they all sat down and ate dinner while enjoying an easy banter. Afterwards, everyone broke into small groups to chat.

Seven went to the counter to order one of her nutritional supplements after Axum excused himself to join Tom and B'Elanna who were currently teasing Harry about his promotion.

She hadn't eaten much of the meal served, not feeling particularly indulgent to satiate her human appetite the way her colleagues did, so she decided to order a nutritional supplement to properly take care of her nutritional needs.

Receiving her drink, Seven went to congratulate the young Asian man. She knew he would make an excellent Lt. even if his behavior was predictable. On her way across the room though, an odd sight caught her peripheral vision and she turned her head to gaze upon the distraction.

What she saw would forever change her perceptions.

Jaffen carefully took the Captain's hand in his own and smiling brightly, kissed her fully on the lips... and as if that was not bad enough, Janeway reciprocated enthusiastically, more so than Seven thought was appropriate while in front of her crew.

The blonde knew something was seriously wrong with her when supplement #35 slipped out of her hand and crashed to the floor sending the cream colored liquid all over the plush carpet.

Staring at her metal encased hand dumbfounded, she saw nothing visually wrong with the appendage. Physically, she was warmer than usual, as she clenched and unclenched her hand. She surmised that she was disoriented, and a sudden tightness engulfed her chest making breathing more difficult. She was clearly upset by what she saw, but why?!

Marveling at her strong reaction, Seven reviewed the available data stored in her cortical node. She was under the impression, having heard the rumor many times that the Captain couldn't and wouldn't fraternize with members of her crew… nor did she with passing aliens either. Yet it appeared that her theory had been wrong much to Seven's current dismay. It was common knowledge that Jaffen had asked to stay onboard permanently, but she did not realize that the Captain had decided to renew her previous relationship with the alien. Even so, Seven could not fathom why this would bother her so much. The Captain had the right to date and court any individual of her choosing. She had the right to mate. So why did Seven suddenly not like the idea one bit?

A cascade of raw emotions fell upon her. Anger coursed through her veins and unexplained feelings of betrayal. Seven truly wanted to do harm to the individual that instigated these chaotic feelings in her, despite being fully aware that it would be grossly inappropriate.

Jaffen… Her eyes narrowed. She knew the source of her disdain, but not the why. What was happening to her?!

"Seven?" Neelix called out to her from behind the counter. "Is something wrong?" He studied her confused features and coming around the bend of the counter saw the mess on the floor. Luckily, no one had seemed to notice the spill since the carpet had muffled the sound of the falling glass.

"I dropped it," Seven declared in a small voice.

"We all do eventually. Hold on while I clean this all up and then I’ll get you another one."

Neelix went back in his kitchen to get a towel, but when he came back out, Seven had apparently come to her senses. "No," She stated in a mechanical voice. "That will not be necessary. I have work to do." She hesitated before leaving. "Thank you… for cleaning this up for me."

"Uh, sure no problem." He contemplated why dropping a glass would upset her so much.

Fifteen minutes later, Axum hadn't even realized that Seven had left the gathering until he started looking for her. Asking around, a fuzzy alien named Neelix, told him she had left earlier looking disturbed.

Axum looked around, wondering why she would have felt that way. Jaffen was talking with the Captain. The pilot, Tom was joking with Harry's friend, a polite, but shy young man named Lt. Chapman, and Commander Chakotay was conversing animatedly with a young female Ensign, but nothing was unusual or provocative about it.

However, if Seven still had feelings for him, then perhaps this display would have bothered her.

Axum was coming to realize that his Annika was a complicated naďve young woman who didn’t quite understand what she wanted emotionally or what she felt internally and as much as it disturbed him to think that she still harbored any feelings for the Commander, he had to accept her infancy in regards to intimate relationships. He had to acknowledge that it would take time for her to forget him and move on.

Therefore, Axum decided to give Seven some time to herself just in case she was upset with seeing her former boyfriend with another woman. Besides it was late in the day and he could always talk with her tomorrow.

He would just have to be patient, because losing her was not an option.

 

*****

 

Seven headed back to Cargo Bay Two so fast that she almost ran into Lt. Torres who was coming around the bend of the corridor on deck 8.

"Whoa!" Torres exclaimed moving out of the way just in time. "Where's the fire?" She joked.

"Excuse me, Lt." Seven remarked coldly, continuing to briskly walk towards her destination.

Did I say something wrong? B'Elanna did a double take, but she wasn’t fazed by the blonde’s attitude and she needed the warp core data that Seven had accumulated, so Torres promptly followed the blonde into the Cargo Bay.

Seven turned around abruptly. "Is there a problem, Lt.?"

"No, I just wanted to know if you had a chance to finish those computational analyses on the warp core fluctuations, because I still can't figure out what's causing it."

"I have not finished them. I have had a… difficult day."

"Sorry to hear that." B'Elanna replied. She heard the gossip about the disagreement between Axum and Chakotay, but she had no advice regarding it. Chakotay was her friend so she was biased in not wanting him to get hurt.

But the blonde had seemed distracted lately. The half-Klingon speculated that it must be difficult for the inexperienced young woman to be dating for the first time, actually taking part in a full-fledged relationship. Chakotay was a good choice only B’Elanna wasn’t sure if he was the right match for Seven’s strong personality.

Seven stared at Torres impatiently. "Do you require my assistance with the project right now?"

Torres countered, annoyed. "No, I just need whatever data you've uncovered."

"Very well, I will transfer whatever I have to your station in Engineering." Seven went to her terminal and starting keying in sequences.

"Did you find anything we can work with?"

"No," came the only reply.

"Would you care to elaborate?"

"I found nothing of value Lt." Seven answered truthfully. Of course, she had been so distracted lately, she hadn’t done much research to find anything to begin with, but Seven did not want to announce that.

Annoyed, Torres put a hand on her hip. "Want to talk about what's bothering you?" B’Elanna couldn’t pass up on the chance to get the inside info on the ice princess’ personal life, could she? Especially now that it was public knowledge she was dating Chakotay? B’Elanna couldn’t help but wonder if Chakotay had what it took to melt the ice queen.

"No."

"Trying to hide your emotions won't solve anything." Torres continued, watching Seven's jaw tighten.

"I am not hiding," Seven retorted sharply, keeping her eyes fixed on her calculations.

"You don't know how to handle it, do you?" Torres stated bluntly, trying to get a reaction.

"Is there a point to this line of questioning?" Seven remarked with irritation.

“Chakotay hasn’t been the same since Axum’s arrival. He’s acting unsettled and although he personally hasn’t said anything to me, I can tell when something is bothering him.”

Seven cast arrogant eyes on the Klingon. "It is none of your concern Lt."

“So what’s happened between you two?”

“It is nothing.”

Torres frowned. The Borg was being intentionally cryptic. "He's my friend Seven and… " she paused. "I don’t want to see either of you get hurt."

"I appreciate your concern, but it is not warranted."

B'Elanna became impatient. "Will you stop hiding, just once! I'm trying to help you Seven, but if you don't want it fine." She briskly walked to the exit. "I'll be in Engineering, transfer all the data there and I'll finish the analysis. One way or another we've got to find out what is causing this!"

Quickly, Seven moved from around her console. "Lt. Torres!" She stood unsure, her hands clenched tightly behind her back, her posture rigid yet… fear was clearly etched on her facial features.

This level of trepidation is unusual. Sensing a significant change in the Borg, Torres waited for her to continue.

"I am no longer dating Chakotay." Seven declared bashful.

"What happened?" B’Elanna asked earnestly.

"I wanted to explore my past relationship with Axum, but Chakotay did not… appreciate that."

"I wouldn't think so." Torres folded her arms across her chest not pleased so far with the Borg. Yet, seeing Seven so visibly disturbed made her keep her judgments to herself.

"I am more confused now than ever and I am afraid of interpreting all these new emotions. I am not sure I even want to know what they mean."

"I can understand that, but if you don’t, you'll never know what it means to love someone. Whether that's Chakotay or your friend Axum." Torres commented trying to remain neutral.

"I do not believe it is either one of them." Seven’s stance shifted.

"Oh?" That bit of information shocked B'Elanna.

"I had a strange reaction to one of the crew being kissed by another individual and it made me… angry, almost to the point of wanting to harm the instigator of the kiss. I knew it was illogical to feel that way, yet I could not stop it."

Oh great! B'Elanna thought. A jealous Borg? Who could possibly make Seven jealous to the point of violence? This could be serious.

"Uh well, you probably have strong feelings for this individual," Torres assumed. "You should probably talk to the person… in private." Torres stated as a matter of fact, not sure if she was giving good advice or not.

"It is too late. From the act I witnessed, I firmly believe she is already engaged in a physical relationship with him.” Seven’s hands clenched and unclenched. The young woman was clearly distressed.

She?! Is Seven attracted to a woman?! “Um maybe you misinterpreted things, Seven--”

"I have not! They obviously have a mutually exclusive partnership that involves intimacy!" Seven shouted vehemently making B’Elanna actually flinch back, something Klingons’ rarely did.

Looking down at the floor, Seven tried to calm the inner rage that tore at her. “What… disturbs me,” embarrassed at her outburst, Seven continued in a quieter tone. “is that I was under the assumption that she would not avail herself to anyone under her command.” In her distress, the blonde was totally oblivious to the fact that she gave away the identity of the person she was infatuated with.

She?! Under her command?! Oh shit! She has to be referring to the Captain and Jaffen! Oh how do I get myself into these things?! Torres chastised herself.

With a stricken expression, Seven spoke disdainfully. “It appears I was grossly mistaken."

Clearing her throat, Torres asked delicately. “Are you certain you have romantic feelings for the Captain?"

Seven looked up, abashed. "How did you know I was referring to the Captain!?"

"You mentioned that she had been alone and she couldn't date anyone under her command? It was pretty obvious who you were talking about."

Seven sighed heavily.

“So explain these emotions you’re referring to? Maybe I can help.” Maybe Torres could help if she understood exactly what Seven was going through.

"I do not know how to describe all the variety of emotions that have assaulted me within the last five minutes, but the most prevalent emotion appears to be jealousy. I am envious of Jaffen’s relationship with the Captain and I wish to…” She tightened her mesh hand into a fist. “damage him because of it.”

“Just don’t act on that impulse.” B’Elanna interjected knowing Seven had an impulsive side. A world of hurt was heading Seven’s way if she couldn’t channel her jealousy into something positive, especially since B’Elanna doubted Janeway could return her feelings.

Poor Seven.

The blonde frowned. “I understand the concept of jealousy Lt., the meaning of the word is clear but until now I did not understand why anyone would choose to feel it. Now I realize it does not give you a choice. It is illogical and yet… I am a victim of it… and I do not know how to stop!” Seven exhaled, letting some of the tension out with it. “I can only conclude that I must be in love with Captain Janeway.”

"Uh, I don't mean to be rude Seven, but jealousy is not necessarily a preclude to being in love.”

“I do not understand.” Seven’s nose flared.

B’Elanna sighed. “Ok, tell me exactly what happened that precipitated all this… from the beginning.”

From the kiss to the dropped glass, Seven reiterated the entire incident in the Mess Hall from her unique perspective. Torres listened thoughtfully, admitting that Seven most likely had a serious crush on the Captain, probably had it for awhile and didn’t even know it. The question that remained was why would it take witnessing a kiss in person for her hidden emotions to finally manifest themselves?

“Well,” the Engineer spoke up. “you most likely have a crush on our illustrious Captain.”

“It is not a crush.” Seven replied adamantly.

“I know, but from what you’re telling me, she is already involved with Jaffen. And you already understand that Janeway is the Captain of a Starship. She won’t date members of her crew.”

“I am not a Starfleet Officer.” Seven stated as if that made all the difference.

“You’re still under her command.”

“So is Jaffen! What is your point?”

This next part was going to hurt, but B’Elanna had to tell Seven the truth. “I honestly don’t know if there is anything you can do about it… I’m sorry Seven, but you might have to live with it.”

Seven’s eyes went wide fury. "LIVE WITH IT! That is your advice!!" She shouted.

Torres became unnerved at how distressed Seven quickly became. "Calm down! Most crushes go away Seven. You just have to be patient. I know it’s difficult--"

Seven refused her advice. “Lt. Torres, I have not asked you for much, but I need your assistance in this.” The former Borg pleaded. “This does not feel like just a crush."

Torres scratched the cranial ridges on her forehead feeling extremely skeptical about Seven’s chances with Janeway. “Are you asking me what I think you are?!”

Seven grimaced. “I am not asking you to help me seduce the Captain, but I must be able to interpret and understand what these emotions mean to me and what I should do about them.”

Torres shook her head. Am I actually considering helping her?!

“I do not wish to remain in this mentally chaotic state for my foreseeable future." Seven remarked humorlessly. "Please…” Seven begged. “I must know if I am in love with her!"

The wheels inside B'Elanna mind churned in thought. "Okay, Let me discuss this with Tom… and I'll get back to you as soon as I come up with a plan."

Seven hesitated. "A plan?"

"Yes, do you trust me Seven?"

Seven speculated that although they weren't close friends, she did indeed trust Lt. Torres. "Yes, will you contact me tomorrow?”

"Yes, I will get back to you… I just need some time to think about it." She headed for the exit. "Oh and don't forget to transfer those computations… maybe tomorrow you can assist me with them in Engineering."

Seven complied, not appreciating her new weakness for distraction, but at least now she had assistance. Maybe Torres would be able to help her. The alternative was incomprehensible. She had too much chaos in her mind as it was and she craved order.

Sweet order.

 

*****

 

Chakotay watched Axum with envious, resentful eyes.

He lost track of how many times he had ordered the computer to give him synthesized alcohol with all the delirious effects included, but he wanted to be numb and he had the command authority to do it.

He knew he shouldn't be feeling quite so jealous, but…

The way she had treated him was so… nonchalant as if she didn't care… as if his feelings didn't matter. The audacity! She was the one who sought him out! And for what, just to dump him once a long lost lover happened to come along!?

When Axum left the gathering with his assigned security guard, he had been watching with cold eyes. Chakotay did not appreciate Axum’s presence. What hold did he have over Seven? What did he say to make her leave me so easily? He probably lied to her, no doubt manipulated her against me.

Chakotay growled and against his better judgment had he been sober, went in hot pursuit of the man who had stolen his girlfriend.

At first, when Axum got into the turbo lift at the end of the corridor, Chakotay was sure he was going to Deck 8 to see Seven, but he realized his mistake after he queried the computer.

“The turbo lift has stopped on deck 4.”

Realizing the alien wasn't heading towards Cargo Bay Two, but most likely to the Transporter room and back to his own ship didn’t change the tattooed man’s mind. Determined, Chakotay ordered a site to site transport and beamed into an adjoining corridor to avoid being seen.

He watched Axum and Lt. Mulcahy, pass him and after they disappeared into the Transporter Room, the Commander promptly followed.

“Ensign,” Axum started speaking to the transporter officer on duty as he stepped up onto the pad. “would you please--”

Chakotay swiftly entered the room.

“--transport me to my vessel.” He attempted to finish.

"Belay that," Chakotay countered.

The Ensign’s hands froze.

"Is there a problem Commander?" Lt. Mulcahy asked, confusion etched on his face.

"No, I'll handle it from here." Chakotay replied. “You’re dismissed.”

The Lt. nodded obeying readily, even as his mind was curious as to why the Commander was needed to handle a simple transport. However, the young Ensign behind the terminal hesitated not sure if the order applied to him. "That goes for you to Ensign." Chakotay stated, his eyes glowing with impatience.

"Yes Sir!"

After the door slid closed, Chakotay stood ridged, his stormy eyes focused on Axum.

The young alien sighed. He knew what this was about.

"So what did you say to her, huh?" The Commander’s tone was sarcastic and although this confrontation surprised Axum, it wasn't entirely unexpected. He had stolen the man's girlfriend and despite the fact that it was not Axum’s fault, but in fact Seven’s decision, the man has a right to be angry.

Stepping off the dais, Axum purposely appeared demure, resting his hands calmly at his sides. "You are referring to Annika, I take it?"

Chakotay narrowed his eyes. She never let him call her by her given name. Rather he didn't think she let anyone onboard Voyager call her Annika!

"Of course, who else would I be talking about?! Don't play naďve with me Mister. Admit it, you've wanted her since the first day you stepped onboard this vessel! Don't deny it!"

Axum met Chakotay’s intense gaze. "I hid nothing from you. I have loved her for years and she lov-."

“So what did you tell her? Did you promise her some fantasy of living happily ever after on some world here in the Beta Quadrant!? In the middle of nowhere!?"

"I gave her choices, something to consider for her future!" Axum glared back. “And if you truly loved her, you would let her make her own decisions.” Which is exactly what she did when she chose to be with me!

“You coerced her!" Chakotay spat.

Axum was not guilty of subterfuge. “I assure you Commander, I did not have to resort to such measures because it is obvious that Annika is still in love with me."

This goading was the last straw. “Liar!!” Chakotay swung a right jab connecting with Axum's chin before moving in with a left uppercut striking the younger alien in the gut. Axum doubled over in pain falling to the carpeted floor.

As a rebel in the maquis, Chakotay had been a respectable fighter and even drunk was a formidable opponent. The inebriated first officer grabbed the alien by the collar of his shirt and dragged him to his feet.

"I know your finding us was not a coincidence! You came for her, didn't you?!"

"What if I did?" Axum raised his chin up in defiance even as his cut lip trickled blood down onto his uniform.

Chakotay slammed him into the far wall and pulled his left fist back in preparation for another strike.

"Are you so in love with her Commander," Axum stated carefully through a split lip. "that you would kill for her? Is that your plan to win her back?"

Stunned at the concept of where his actions were going gave the enraged Commander reason to pause. This was not who he was, beating on a helpless alien over a woman; a woman who admitted to not being in love with him.

Although he cared about Seven a great deal, this confrontation was more about his pride, his honor as a man than any real love he felt for her. Their relationship never really had the chance to progress to anything more.

Regret filled his features. As angry as Chakotay was, this was wrong. Releasing Axum, he turned and left without another word.

 

*****

 

That night just before going to bed, B'Elanna told Tom of the entire conversation she had with Seven earlier.

"You have got to be kidding me?!" He exclaimed staring at his wife, who was propped up against three pillows.

"No Tom," B'Elanna asserted. "I'm not. Our resident Borg has the hots for the Captain."

Standing before B’Elanna in his boxer shorts, he folded his arms across his chest. "So what did you tell her?"

"That I would discuss it with you and get back to her with a plan."

"A plan?! What exactly are we supposed to plan, the seduction of Captain Janeway by a former Borg drone? It's hopeless. Captain Janeway is in love with Jaffen. Haven't you seen her lately? Ever since he asked to stay onboard, she seems happier and I’m glad to see her enjoying life for a change."

That information didn't help B'Elanna's case. "Do you really think she's that involved with him?" Seven was adamant that Janeway was involved intimately with Jaffen, but she hadn't believed it at the time. She simply assumed, it had been Seven's jealousy talking and making erroneous assumptions.

“Don’t you remember? She was involved with him before on Quarran when all of us had our memories altered." He elaborated. "It's only been five months since we left that planet, but I bet her feelings for Jaffen are just as strong." Tom finally sat down on the bed.

“I do remember that,” Torres protested. “but she’s not the same person anymore, maybe…”

Tom snickered.

“What?”

"You didn't see them in the Mess Hall, did you?"

"No, after congratulating Harry, I left to catch up with Seven. What was I supposed to see?" She asked dubiously.

"She was flirting with him almost the whole time. He even kissed her in front of everyone and she kissed him back. You know the Captain likes to keep her personal life very private, but she didn't even try to hide this."

"Why would she need to, she's human like the rest of us."

"Yes, but she's the Captain and because of that she doesn't show boat her relationships even when their serious. I'm sorry B'Elanna, but Seven has nothing to offer Janeway." Tom added lightly.

Torres frowned.

“Did you think Janeway would be interested in a romantic relationship with Seven?” Tom questioned.

“I… ” Sitting up, Torres faltered. “I’m just not sure.”

"Listen I know she's intelligent and beautiful." He finished nervously when B'Elanna eyed him suspiciously. "but she's still part Borg and who knows how many more implants she has or where…" His face turned red, he couldn't believe he thought that.

"Tom! That's not nice."

"My point is she will always be Borg! Arrogant and overconfident with an annoying tendency to frequently disagree with the Captain in public staff meetings. I just can’t see them together B’Elanna… not that way."

Flopping back down on her pillows, Torres put her hands on her head. "What am I going to do? I gave her my word! I told her, I'd help her come up with a plan to understand her emotions, to sort out her feelings." B'Elanna stated with hopelessness. Her Klingon honor would take a serious blow if she didn't keep her word.

Tom gently put a hand on her shoulder. "Wait a minute!"

"What?!"

"That's what you promised?"

"Well, sort of. It was an implied promise, but never the less, she expects me to help her. Why do you ask?"

"Because we can help her understand her feelings, I thought you promised her you'd get her a date with the Captain… or more…"

"Tom!? I didn't promise her that, but I think that’s what she wants. If Seven comes to believe without a doubt that she is love with the Captain, life is going to get really complicated for her on Voyager... especially if the Captain finds out."

"I know, but that's not our problem." He started to get dressed. “Besides it's probably just infatuation… a passing crush.”

"Where do you think you are you going?"

"Come on," He put on his uniform then sat down to tug on his boots. "I have a plan. Get dressed, you're coming with me."

"I just worked a 16 hour shift; both on Voyager and that Borg sphere, on top having to be at the gathering in the Mess Hall, so I’m kind of tired Tom."

He met her stare, with challenge in his eyes. "Oh? I thought you made a promise. Don't Klingon's have to keep their promises to retain their honor?"

She growled throwing the bed covers aside, "Damn Borg!"

Tom smiled. His wife complained a lot, but that didn't mean she didn't care.

After asking their neighbor, Nicoletti to watch Miral for a few hours, they left their quarters in an attempt to help an emotionally distraught ex-Borg.

 

*****

 

Day Five:

The next morning, Seven awoke promptly at 07:30 hours. “REGENERATION CYCLE COMPLETE,” The computer toned monotonously signifying the end of her cycle.

Seven stepped off the platform of her alcove, disturbed. Normally regeneration was extremely efficient in replenishing her energy reserves, but the stability of her last cycle was less than ideal.

Startling images of two people; a male and a female being intimate passed through her mind and it did not please her. Trying to discard the distasteful thoughts, Seven headed for her terminal to make her usual log entry when she noticed a memo from Lt. Torres.

Seven,

Meet Captain Janeway in the holodeck during your lunch break at 12:00 hours. Tom and I made the program so everything should be set. Don't be worried, we didn't tell her anything about what you feel for her, we only mentioned you were having trouble with the two men courting you and that you needed to talk with her about it. Maybe this will help to assess your feelings towards her, then we can discuss it later."

B'Elanna.

The young woman suddenly became nervous, but had no time to contemplate it as the Cargo Bay doors opened to reveal Axum and a security guard. As custom, the tan uniformed escort waited outside.

"Annika."

"Yes?" She greeted him, closing her memo before he came around to her side of the terminal.

Standing before his girl friend without a single mark on his lip made Axum more that grateful, for the gift of the medical supplies from Voyager. He certainly didn't want to explain to Annika what had happened, he just wanted to let the matter go. And with the way the situation had ended, he didn't think the Commander would be bothering him again.

"You left the Mess Hall rather quickly yesterday. Are you all right?"

Seven immediately wondered if he saw her reaction to the Captain’s kiss. If he did, what am I going to tell him?! How will I be able explain it to him when I cannot explain it to myself!? Blatantly lying was not something Seven was accustomed to yet she was not prepared to acknowledge anything else at this stage.

“I usually do not stay long at social gatherings.”

This excuse convinced Axum that his initial assessment was correct.

"You know it's going to take time to get over Commander Chakotay. I wouldn't expect you to like seeing him with another female so soon, but he has the right to move on." He tried to say it delicately, but it only served to irritate Seven that Axum would believe her jealous of him.

"Chakotay can date whom he likes. I have no problem with that.” She retorted. “I simply do not enjoy socializing for extended periods of time. It makes me uncomfortable."

Axum figured she was in denial, but decided not to press her on it. Eventually, he knew she would come around and deal with it.

"Now if you will excuse me, I have bridge duty." Seven was about to leave when he called out.

"Annika?"

"Yes," she responded impatiently.

"We've found an M-class Planet about 20 light years from here."

"You found a planet? So soon?" The news shocked her.

"Actually, we've been looking at it for awhile, but our scans were inconclusive. Now that we're closer, we can tell it looks very promising."

Seven lifted her implant. “That is good news. I am… happy for you." She turned to leave, to resume her duties.

Axum could only blink, stunned. "Annika!” He shouted after her. “I want you to come with me! Don’t you remember? We discussed this just the other day."

Seven faltered a moment. She had just discovered a wealth of emotions involving Captain Janeway. How could she leave now?!

He watched intently, seeing reluctance crossed her face. “I realize our relationship is new and I’m asking a lot of you on such short notice, but I know what I want.” Reaching for her, his left hand lightly landed on her right shoulder.

"It has only been one day. I am still considering it." She capitulated for his benefit, but in her heart, she knew it to be a falsehood. She had no such intentions of leaving Voyager now.

Axum had his doubts at the sincerity of her words as he watched the love of his life leave the Cargo Bay. He couldn’t fathom the complexity of the situation as he ruminated on just how much of a hold the Commander had over her when it wasn’t about him at all.

 

*****

 

Standing in front of the double doors to Holodeck One at 11:55, Seven carefully checked the status of the Holodeck grid.

During the morning hours of her shift, they had passed through what was thought to be a relatively harmless nebula until a large bolt of electrical energy decided to use Voyager's outer hull as a lightening rod. The sudden influx of energy shorted out all of the major systems on deck 8 for over an hour before power could be restored and since this meeting was important to Seven, she decided to make sure the power grid hadn’t suffered any serious damage so she would not have to postpone her meeting with the Captain.

It was during her perusal of the system that she noticed a program was already running. Seven checked the computer finding the Captain already in attendance, so assuming she must have checked the systems before entering, Seven curtailed her examination and entered the holodeck.

Going through the double sliding doors, Seven faltered not expecting the type of setting that greeted her. Although, Seven had never been there, her assimilated memories estimated the location to be Paris, France.

It was a small quiet café elegantly decorated with small-carved wooden tables sporting fancy white tablecloths. There were numerous couples engaged in subtle conversation. On her left, one particular pair, she noted, were looking at each other suggestively. Seven was intrigued with the display when she spotted the Captain four tables down. Yet as Seven approached her stomach began to flutter uneasily and despite wanting to spend quality time with the Captain, Seven did not know what to expect, now that she was ‘aware’ what Janeway meant to her.

"Seven," Janeway greeted warmly. "Please have a seat."

Seven nodded, complying readily.

"What do you think of this place, Seven?"

"It is different from our usually settings."

"Oh?" Janeway returned. "Does it bother you?"

Glancing around, Seven noted a couple leaning in for a kiss while another couple were smiling at each other drinking wine and enjoying light conversation. "It appears to be conducive to romantic intent." Seven looked at her quizzically.

"Actually, it’s a new program I found in the database, but I think it’s quite relaxing. Don’t you agree?”

Seven raised an eyebrow.

Looking at Seven’s surprised features, Janeway grinned. Raising a glass of wine before her, she indicated to the young woman to do the same.

The blonde eyed it questioningly.

"Don't worry, its holographic wine."

Seven was relieved to hear that, since alcohol impaired her optical implant. Picking up the drink, she tapped Janeway's wineglass lightly having researched the custom.

"To romance," Janeway commented in a customary toast. “may your journey in finding love be as fruitful as the end result.”

Confounded, Seven merely nodded acceptance meeting the Captain's intense blue eyes again. Gingerly, the young woman sipped the wine.

"Do you like it?" Janeway inquired.

"It has a sweet tartness to it, but I believe I like it."

"It's a very old wine, but the longer it's aged the better it tastes." Janeway twirled the wine in her glass looking down at the liquid with a crooked grin. "So did you want to discuss anything in particular?"

"What did B'Elanna say to you?" Seven inquired curiously.

"She informed me you were having some… difficulties with your current situation."

Seven truly did not want to discuss them, but the Captain’s time was not infinite and this opportunity might not come again for awhile.

"I feel it has become very complicated." She informed her Captain.

“How so?”

“I have apparently developed feelings for someone else.”

“Someone else?” Kathryn repeated surprised. “You mean other than Chakotay or Axum?”

“Yes,” She responded timidly.

“Well that’s nothing to be embarrassed about Seven. You’ve only been dating for a month, so it’s to be expected that you won’t be in tune with your emotions just yet. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, they will come in time. Trust me, all this will make sense, eventually."

"I am not so certain." Seven stated resigned.

"Tell me what’s bothering you. You know I'll help if I can."

"I appreciate that Captain, but I do not think that you will be able to assist me in this." With sad eyes, Seven took a small sip of her wine. “I do not know how to inform the person or if I should.”

“You haven’t told him?”

Seven noted the gender error, but chose not correct her Captain. "No,”

“Why not, are you afraid he won’t reciprocate?”

Seven sighed. “Yes, but that is only part of the issue. This person has many responsibilities and might not be available, even if reciprocation was possible.” The blonde found genderless neutral sentences rather challenging.

“Duty is always important, but if he is attracted to you, he’ll make the time. Don’t assume this man is unavailable or unattainable until you’ve asked. You have a lot going for you Seven, so don’t sell yourself short.”

The former Borg couldn’t take the inaccuracy any longer, “She, Captain. The individual I am interested in is female.”

“Ah, I see.”

Seven witnessed the high arch of the auburn eyebrow, noted a sharp increase in respiration and a significant increase of facial flushing, but those reactions could simply be from surprise. Silently, she hoped her mentor wasn’t disappointed in her.

“So does the prospect of dating a woman frighten you more so than dating a man would?”

“I do not believe so.” It is more so your rank, availability and willingness that concerns me, not the fact that you are a woman.

“Are you sure? After all there are more heterosexual couples onboard Voyager than homosexual couples and you don’t have a lot of experience with either, so I would understand it if the prospect of courting a woman made you more nervous, but I can assure you the anatomical differences are minor when it comes to intimacy.”

Did the Captain think I was completely ignorant? Did she think I would be inept at making love to a woman?! Coming from her, Seven found the words irksome and responded accordingly. “I am aware of the obvious anatomical differences between females and males Captain.” Seven responded curtly.

“I meant no disrespect.” Janeway swiftly countered, continuing to observe her protégé. The attitude was obviously borne out of frustration with her lack of progress towards the individual she was infatuated with more so than what Kathryn had accidentally implied.

Still feeling somewhat defensive, Seven calmly continued. “I know I must learn the various aspects of dating and intimacy with regards to females and I intend to do so… on my own."

“Oh I’m sure you can learn anything Seven and subsequently do it quite well.” Kathryn’s deep cerulean blue eyes explored the woman before her causing Seven to squirm a bit in her chair under the scrutiny. “but you don’t have to do it alone.”

Seven’s heart rate sped up. “Why are you saying?” She asked in a small voice.

“I’m saying there are ways to explore your humanity,” the redhead began, “if you're willing. I may not be able to help you emotionally, but…” Sipping the wine, Kathryn’s mouth caressed the edge of the glass, her eyes never deviating from the blonde’s. “Physically, I know I can.”

The blonde’s heart beat nearly doubled in speed. "C…Captain?" Seven questioned abruptly. “I… I do not understand.”

The older woman laughed in surprise, expecting the confusion. "I can teach you what you want to know." Her eyes floated over Seven's body. “about dating and such.”

"Like what?" The young woman asked nervously under Kathryn’s gaze.

"Whatever you wish. Did you know that making love to a woman can be just as intense as being with a man? Or more?” Janeway returned her appraisal to the now ashen face.

Seven watched stunned because Janeway spoke as if from experience. The Captain also never looked at her in such an obviously sexual manner before. The young woman’s face flushed to a deep crimson once it dawned on her that the Captain was actually propositioning her. Seven then began to panic. Everything was moving way too fast for the ex-drone.

She stood up abruptly. "Captain, perhaps I should leave."

"Have I made you uncomfortable?"

"No, I have work to finish in Astrometrics.” A necessary falsehood, Seven estimated.

"Forgive me for being so bold, it's just that I care for you… as more than just a friend."

“Our lunch time has almost expired." Seven needed another excuse. "And I do not wish to make you late for duty." She added lamely.

"Nonsense, you’ve only been here a few minutes. Besides I’m the Captain so we can be as late as we want." Smirking, Janeway reached out and put her hand on Seven's arm. The touch was warm; warmer than Seven ever remembered Janeway's touches to be. Tingles reverberated all along her body, especially down through her spine leading to the juncture between her legs. She tensed up, not understanding her own body's responses. When she dated Chakotay, her body had not responded this way; even when she kissed Axum, she had not responded like this.

"You look a little pale." Janeway frowned. "Is something wrong?

"No, I am... fine. But I… I really should go." She stammered, weakly attempting to pull away, but Janeway stood up, grasping the young woman's arms firmly.

"Seven," The Captain started. "I think I know what is precipitating this fear. You're attracted to me aren't you?" She asked quietly. “And it scares you.”

Severely damaging B'Elanna came to her flustered mind. "How did you know!?" Seven babbled out.

Janeway put her hand on Seven's cheek. "I've always known."

Seven was speechless. How could she know how I felt, if I didn’t know until recently?!

"Haven't you ever wondered what it would be like to touch someone intimately?" The back of her hand stroked Seven’s face.

The blonde froze… mesmerized by the heat generated on the surface of her skin by the unexpected touch.

"How it would feel?" Janeway remarked softly, running her hand slowly down Seven's left arm before reaching the implant hand, stroking it carefully causing small bumps to rise up on her skin everywhere Janeway caressed.

“You must be curious about your sexuality." Janeway asked seductively. "Haven't you ever thought about what it would be like to kiss someone?"

The fine hairs on the blonde's arm began to stand up straight. Coming to her senses, Seven responded. "I… I have and it was not always as enjoyable as I was led to believe it should be."

Janeway blinked, acknowledging that perhaps it was Seven’s lack of experience in understanding that it could have been who she was with instead of the act at fault.

"I'm talking about really kissing someone that you love Seven, putting all you feel into the act, all that you are."

Seven swallowed. "I have not experienced that."

Janeway lifted her chin. "Then you were not with the right person."

Lost in the moment, Seven could only agree with Janeway by giving her a small nod.

"Perhaps what you need is a small demonstration."

Eyes wide with anxiety and anticipation, Seven watched astounded as the older woman moved in to press her lips lightly against her own. The touch was delicate and tentative as Janeway waited for acceptance. The blonde's body, so full of tension earlier, slowly began to relax under Janeway's gentle lip massage.

Only the need for oxygen made Kathryn break away to take a deep breath. Purposely, she leaned her forehead against Seven's and the ex-Borg could feel Janeway's breath on her mouth causing her to be overcome with a feeling she had never thought she would experience. However, she could not pinpoint whether it was love or lust, before Janeway kissed her again forestalling any attempts at further analysis. On this second touch, Janeway gave into the desire and molded her fine lips completely to Seven's. Reaching behind the blonde’s head with one hand, Kathryn held her in place.

As her body became alive, heat spread everywhere and the blonde lost herself in all that was Janeway. Instinctually, Seven enfolded her arms around the smaller woman, pulling her closer. Caught up in the sensations, she pressed into it, letting out a small groan. Taking Seven's groan as a sign of acceptance, Kathryn prodded her lips carefully with the tip of her tongue. With a newfound desire, the blonde parted them voluntarily letting the older woman's tongue easily slipped in-between full lips.

Gasping at the contact, Seven's body caught on fire. Feeling such an intense euphoria coursing through her was overwhelming, but she did not want it to stop. Upon hearing Janeway moan, moisture seeped out from between her legs damping her biosuit.

When air, once again became an issue, the prolonged contact of their moist tongues came to an abrupt end. Seven's chest was heaving uncontrollably as she stared in awe into Janeway's desire filled eyes.

The Captain smiled widely, grasping Seven's hand. "Well, what do you think? You seemed to enjoy that." She remarked, bringing up Seven's hand and pressing her lips to the pulse point.

Seven's blood raced, but all she could do was look dumbfounded into Kathryn's eyes. "I… feel the need... for something… more."

“Of course you do.” She patted Seven’s arm. “Come, follow me." The older woman gave Seven a feral grin and dragged her out of the restaurant across the cobblestone street to a fancy hotel next door. It was just as luxurious as the café setting with beautifully broidered carpet and a large crystal chandelier hanging from the cathedral ceiling in the main hall.

"Captain?!" Seven exclaimed once she got her bearings.

"We're almost there." Janeway led Seven up an elegantly designed spiral staircase and down a short hallway until she reached a room. Quickly, she keyed in a code, pulled Seven in passed the living room area and into the bedroom before stopping before a King sized bed.

"This in my bedroom, exquisite isn't it?"

Seven blushed hard. "Captain I do not know if I --"

Janeway swung Seven around by the arm and latched onto the blonde's full lips again ardently kissing her in a sensual game of tongue tag, only to leave the young woman dazed and wanton when she broke apart.

"This is your chance, Seven… Do you want to experience intimacy? With me? Or do you want to conclude this and forget the whole thing?"

Janeway walked her fingers enticingly up Seven's arm causing more goose bumps to break out all along the fair skin.

"Y-You… wish to copulate?!" She asked feeling déjŕ vu. Heaving for air, Seven knew exactly what she wanted to do, what her body was demanding she do, yet something told her it wasn't supposed to be like this. She had not gone through the proper courtship ritual and wasn't even on a date, thus Seven had no idea what Janeway felt for her. Kathryn said she cared but what did that mean exactly? Was her Captain in love with her or just infatuated enough to want to copulate? Seven could hardly believe the situation she found herself in and yet...

"Why not? I know you enjoyed kissing me Seven. You're attracted to me and I'm attracted to you." Janeway removed her command jacket swiftly, tossing it aside. She sat on the edge of the bed and parted her legs. Grabbing hold of Seven's hips, she brought the taller woman in-between her slim thighs.

Immensely distracted, Seven was in deep contemplation, trying to find a logical reason to resist since her body was not cooperating.

"You're not going to tell me you've never thought about sex with me, are you?"

Seven sucked in a sharp breath not comprehending why those words made her tingle all over. "I… I…" Her vocal cords staggered.

"I can teach you everything you've ever wanted to know about intimacy. I can show you the pleasure you've been missing, Seven." The voice was soft and alluring.

Without consent or resistance, Janeway started to carefully peel Seven's biosuit down. "You're so beautiful… "

Carefully, she worked hard to peel the tight fabric, inch by inch, ever lower. "…mind, body and spirit, yet even with those things in perfect harmony… "

After the tips of the twin mounds bounced free, the older woman licked her lips. "…you need love and I want to be the one to teach you."

With two hands, Janeway engulfed each mammary gland, relishing the fleshy pliability and size, thus proving they were indeed ‘more’ than a handful.

“I want to be the one to teach you passion!”

Shoving the suit down passed the blonde's waist, she lifted her salivating mouth to fasten around a perked up areola, sucking it into her mouth.

Engulfed between Kathryn's hot loins, Seven couldn’t help but whimper as an exquisite tugging sensation filled her chest, overpowering even her enhanced mental abilities.

Still Seven tried to form words. “I… I… fffeel."

"Then go with it." Janeway whispered burying her face in Seven's mounds. “Let me love you.”

Abruptly, the internal debate ended. "YES!" Seven squawked, instinctually running her fingers through Janeway's fine auburn hair.

"Your wish is my command," Janeway dropped back onto the bed taking the larger woman down with her while continuing to ravish the incredibly aroused young woman.

For the next few hours, Janeway showed Seven the intricate pleasures of the flesh; all the erogenous zones, the various ways to stimulate one another as well as a variety of pleasure enhancing positions that increased sexual sensation exponentially.

Seven eagerly learned it all with an energetic but tender Janeway and during the informative sexual encounter, neither Chakotay nor Axum's name ever crossed her mind. For the first time in her life, Seven experienced what she could only describe as joy… It was so much more than mere copulation proving her research had been flawed and inadequate. She marveled how many different ways she could arrive at the pinnacle, the final threshold at which time she couldn't help but arch her back and cry out the Captain's birth name deliriously as a sudden tension filled her body to bursting. This is an orgasm! The climax of a sexual joining. The intensity of it was completely unexpected, yet now she understood what it felt like.

The explosion of sensation happened for both of them and more than once during their heated encounter, but Seven didn't mind at all. She was oblivious to any other consideration except her partner and what they were doing to each other.

In her newfound euphoria, Seven was completely surprised when she awoke to an empty bed with the silk sheets thrown haphazardly around her body. Looking around, Janeway was nowhere to be found. Then aghast Seven realized it was 16:15 by her internal chronometer!? She was not only late for duty, her shift was over!?

"Computer, locate Captain Janeway."

"Captain Janeway is on the Bridge."

Figuring the Captain let Seven sleep and returned to active duty earlier, the blonde got dressed and was about to leave the holodeck when she saw a piece of paper resting on the nightstand with a type of scribbled archaic writing on it.

Seven pick it up and read it.

My dear golden angel, you are an exquisite lover and a fast learner. I look forward to teaching you more tricks of the trade. In the meantime, tell no one, I will contact you when I'm available again.

Thanks for a memorable time, and hoping for more.

Love Mme Kathryn.

Seven never felt so elated. I have found my mate, she mused. Reluctantly putting the message down, she ended the program and headed for Cargo Bay Two. Seven found herself exhausted and in dire need of an extended regeneration cycle. Even with her enhanced Borg systems, she was physically depleted, despite how content and satisfied she was.

 

 

*****

 

Day Five, Midnight:

Lying restlessly in her double bed, Captain Kathryn Janeway tried desperately to sleep, but it would not come. It had been over thirty minutes since they ended their sexual activity, so her body was relaxed. Why couldn't her mind follow?

Stop thinking about Seven, you're not betraying her!? Go to sleep!

"Kathryn?" A voice next to her called out.

"Hmm?"

"We need to talk."

"Now?" She asked exasperated.

"It's important."

"About?" She mumbled.

Jaffen sat up in the bed. "Something is not right between us."

She opened her eyes but did not move. "What's not right?"

"You've changed?"

"Have I?"

"Yes."

"I really need to get some sleep Jaffen." Janeway asserted quickly. "Can’t we discuss this tomorrow?"

"I need to discuss this now," he disputed. "We've had sex almost constantly the last few nights and as wonderfully satisfying as it is, I have the distinct feeling that something important is missing."

Exhausted from her recently concluded sexual activities, Kathryn just wanted to sleep. She didn't want to reflect on the ramifications of anything.

"What's missing?" She spoke irritated.

"Do you… love me?" Jaffen stated testing her.

"You want me to tell you that I love you?" She was truly peeved at him now. Those were just words that held no deeper meaning within her. Sometimes you couldn't always have the one you professed to love. Why the big deal?

"No! That's not all, but it is an important part of a relationship don’t you think!? You want sex so much I can hardly keep up and it's a bit rough from the way we used to do it… lacking tenderness and passion."

“I didn’t hear you complaining at the time.”

Jaffen blinked, astounded at her blunt crassness and insensitivity.

“Jaffen, it is normal for a relationship to go through periods of adjustment." Kathryn rationalized.

"Periods of adjustment?!" He rose his voice exasperated. "Oh I don’t think so. Does the name Annika ring a bell?!" He asked disgruntled.

Janeway paled. "Why do you ask?" She inquired in a small voice.

"Because tonight, you called out her name as you reached climax, not mine!"

Kathryn became deathly silent. Oh my god!! No… Janeway rolled over slightly and reluctantly looked into his eyes with guilt laden ones.

"I'm so sorry… I never intended… " Kathryn had fresh tears in her eyes at what she had done and there was no denying the truth now. Although she hadn’t intended this, Kathryn Janeway had fallen off the moral track.

"You used me?!" He stood up and threw on his robe. "I know you care for me, Kathy, but even this is beneath you. I should've known something was wrong. You wanted it so much." His face reddened. "but you were just trying to forget her. You weren't making love to me at all."

"I… " Her face turned bone white. As a disciplined Starfleet Captain, she should have stopped this before it got so out of hand, only Kathryn didn't know how to get over Seven… did not know how to make peace with the idea that the blonde was never going to be hers.

"You're not in love with me any more, are you?" Jaffen's bereaved expression said it all. "You're in love with her!"

"Oh Jaffen… I'm not the Kathryn Janeway who fell in love with you," she declared honestly.

“I refuse to believe that!” Angry eyes glared at her.

“It’s true,” she told him quietly.

He stewed under the words, but tempered his reply. “So why aren't you two together then?” His tone was firm but less severe. "I don't remember you introducing me to any of your crew with that name."

She turned to Jaffen with regret. "You've met her." Janeway spoke under her breath, the shame eating away at her gut.

He waved his hand dismissively. "It doesn’t matter. It's obvious I'm too late. She's captured your heart." Despite his own pain, he pitied her. “Let me give you a piece of free advice, Kathy. Drowning your pain in sex without love will only harden your heart in the long run." He tightened the robe around his waist, shaking his head. "Goodnight," He stated tersely before heading back to the VIP quest quarters for the night, leaving Kathryn Janeway all alone to face her internal demons.

 

*****

 

Day Six:

Janeway slept horribly and to make matters worse, woke up late. When the alarm sounded informing her that she had only 15 minutes before she would be late for duty, she yelled at the computer to shut up.

Flinging the bed covers off, Kathryn trudged into the ensuite to take a quick shower. After finishing, she came back out, got dressed and found her uniform jacket in the living room. About to leave her quarters, she sighed deeply noticing a missing pip, then the chime to her quarters sounded just as she started looking for it. Grumbling to herself, Janeway gave a quick verbal command allowing whomever it was to enter.

Jaffen walked in and finding the Captain kneeling down perusing under a couch, he stood patiently waiting. "Missing something?" He asked curiously.

Hearing his voice, Kathryn craned her neck around to look at him, culpability still clearly etched into her grey eyes. "Yes, a pip." She replied softly.

"I think I heard it go under here." He pointed to the other section of her sofa.

"How do you know that?"

"That's where I thought I saw it bounce off the carpet when we were… " his face blushed a pinkish tint as he remembered the previous evening’s activity. "…I mean when you were frantically trying to remove your jacket last night."

Standing up, Janeway immediately remembered how it happened. "Jaffen, I have no excuse for what I did to you."

"I know," he answered kneeling down to look for it. "and I’m not going to lie by saying I’m not hurt or angry about it."

She rubbed her hands together thinking how she would have felt if the situation was reversed. "You have every right to be."

Finding the small round pip, he stood up. "Maybe," he conceded.

"I don't know if I'd be so forgiving."

"It's funny the things you can forgive when you really love someone." His voice became thick as he presented the pip to her.

“Would you do the honors?” She replied lightly.

“Of course,” He proceeded to affix it to her collar.

Inside Janeway cringed from guilt. She didn't deserve his compassion and was about to say something to that effect when a chime sounded at her door.

"Come!" Janeway called out with irritation at the interruption.

As he finished fastening the pip to her collar, Janeway whispered to him. "I do love you Jaffen." Then she clasped his hands between her own for one brief moment until he cleared his throat to signify that they were no longer alone.

Seven of Nine walked towards them her ice blue eyes widening in disbelief with each step. "I… " The blonde suddenly blinked, her brow creased severely. "I did not mean to intrude, I will come back later."

"Seven?" Not realizing that it was her protégé that entered, Janeway looked up blushing. "What can I do for you?"

"You are… obviously busy and it is not important. I will return when it is more convenient." Seven responded hastily moving quickly to leave.

"Wait, Seven!" but it was too late, the young woman had already scooted out past the closing door.

"Damn, I know she heard me." Janeway muttered to herself. She would just have to try and make time after her duty shift to see what Seven wanted.

After some speculation, Jaffen recognized the blonde. "She was the efficiency monitor at the power plant," then it dawned on him. "It's her you're in love with! She’s Annika Hansen."

Janeway closed her eyes to a headache that was fast approaching.

"This all makes sense now." He remarked confidently. "You can't have her because she already has two men courting her."

"I'd rather not discuss it."

"You've never told her how you feel, have you?"

"No," came the quiet reply.

"Why? Because you don't think she would reciprocate?"

Janeway gave him a wounded look. "Does it matter?"

Jaffen stayed silent, realizing by the sudden change in her demeanor that this was a delicate issue.

After gaining her composure back, she asked him the inevitable question. "When are you leaving?"

"I haven't decided that I am." He responded smugly.

Janeway took that as a statement meant for her as a woman, not as a Captain. Otherwise… "I don't want you to think you're not welcome here, but in light of how I feel it would seem… a mistake when you could have so much more on Quarran."

“I know,” he said with regret.

 

*****

Your love never was and never will be

Just an Act of self indulgence to have me

I gave you everything,

And reaching for your heart,

Received nothing

 

Upon arriving in Cargo Bay Two, Seven quickly locked the area down with Borg encryption codes before letting the flood gates open on her reserve. Plopping down on the cold hard dais in front on her alcove, she cried in disbelief over what she had heard.

"--love you Jaffen." Whispered words that destroyed everything. Why?! Why would the Captain be intimate with me if she was in love with him!? She thought angrily.

Thinking back to what she had seen, Seven, still in disbelief could not fathom what she witnessed as her eidetic mind played back the images in perfect clarity. Jaffen had been pinning a pip to Janeway’s collar, something Seven had the pleasure of doing only once, believing it to be a special privilege at the time, a shared intimacy that helped to bond them as friends. Yet now, it bothered her that Kathryn had allowed him to do it also, and then there was the clutching of his hands in-between Janeway’s tender palms. The Captain had never clutched her hands that way while professing her love!

The audacity?! And what was he doing in her quarters so early in the morning in the first place?! It didn’t take long for Seven’s mind to think the worst. Because they copulated!! And they probably copulate on a regular basis!!

Overwhelmed with jealousy, Seven stood up rapidly, chest heaving with wet tears staining her rose colored cheeks. She had been taken advantage of by her closest, most cherished friend. Enraged, Seven started pacing up and down the length of the Cargo bay. In her rapid stride to vent what she felt, she passed the alcoves four consecutive times, but the expenditure of energy only increased her vexation. Her rage was so acute, the betrayal so deep, that the anger had no where to go as it recoiled within her, sending her cortical node bristling with acrimony.

If only I had never been Borg!

Her trembling fists clenched tightly together.

This never would have happened if the Borg never assimilated me. If I had been human from the start, I would have functioned like a normal individual and I would be more acceptable to my crewmates. Then I would take a mate, one who could love me in return…

Perhaps even… Kathryn…

Yet even with all her wishing, Seven couldn't escape the reality.

BUT I AM BORG!! I will always be Borg!!

Her momentum halted. Turning her head, narrow eyes full of blame landed on the metal construct with utter contempt.

I am insufficient and not worthy of her love, that is why she has chosen him!!

Feeling as if her world had collapsed, Seven snapped. Her Borg enhanced fist smacked into the side panel causing it to explode, sending sparks flying into the air. Having no restraint left, she hit it over and over with all her strength until a dozen strikes later left her mesh hand, damaged and bleeding along with one non-functioning alcove now in numerous pieces.

Seven hadn't realized the extent of the violence she was unleashing until she felt the sharp throbbing in her hand. Attempting to move her fingers only caused her to hiss in discomfort. Casting a glance at her meshed appendage, she surveyed the damage knowing the nanoprobes would repair it soon enough. This must be rage, Seven estimated as she heaved for a fresh breath of air. Another human lesson she would rather not have to experience.

It took awhile before Seven calmed down enough to clean up. Picking up the stray pieces, she tossed them onto the damaged alcove's dais then pushed a large storage container in front of it. She had no intentions of having to explain this to the Captain. The blonde had enough humiliation for one day and didn't want anyone noticing the damage for now.

How could I let all this happen?

Thinking back, Seven wondered why Jaffen’s initial arrival didn’t affect her more. She only started resenting him after witnessing the kiss in the Mess Hall. In her youth and ignorance, the blonde had not realized the depth of her own feelings towards her Captain until that very incident. It was as if, she had been blind and now could see.

If only I could have realized all this sooner! Seven now thought she understood love, jealousy and betrayal. I have made a grievous error.

Finding love was not the height of being, Seven realized. No, as important as love was, it made one vulnerable and fragile. It was having that love returned that made one feel truly special. Something she did not have and with that came the painful lesson.

Not normally known for rash decisions, Seven, never the less, made one swiftly. With a renewed determination, she briskly walked to the transporter room and beamed over to the Borg scout ship quickly finding Axum in the makeshift Mess Hall without any assistance.

"Annika!" He motioned her over to his table to join him and Laura.

"I need to speak with you,” she insisted, her tone severe. “alone."

"I'll be back in a minute." He offered to his breakfast companion.

"Of course," she replied glaring at Seven as they walked away together.

As soon as they went around the corner of the main entrance, Seven wasted no time giving him the update.

"I wish to go with you." She stated concisely.

Momentarily stunned, Axum couldn’t think of what to say.

"Axum?"

"I heard you. I just… didn't expect you to make a decision so soon." And not in my favor…

"I have decided that Voyager is no longer suitable for my needs. My reason for staying…" A feeling of loss suddenly hit her making her appear visibly distraught. "… is no longer valid."

"Hey, come here." Axum sensed her distress and wrapped his arms around her. "If you need more time.--"

"No," Seven asserted. "I wish to join your diverse collective. I want to come with you."

"I love you Annika." Axum stated joyfully, holding her close. "In time, I hope you'll come to remember that."

"I know," she stated with little emotion. “but… even if I do not we will build new memories.” She added optimistically for his benefit.

He cupped her cheek, kissing her passionately and Seven allowed the intimacy despite not being in the mood as her nerves were on edge, a jumbled mess. Thankfully her lack of participation seemed to go unnoticed. Pulling back from his embrace, she asked. "How far are we from the planet?"

"Once we plot in a course… around 10 hours I believe."

"That is sooner than I thought." Seven commented quietly pleased. The sooner the better.

"We're not really in a hurry, but now that you’re coming with us, we can leave as soon as you’re ready… but I suspect you’ll want to inform Captain Janeway of your decision and say goodbye to your crewmates first."

Seven tried to hide the trepidation. "I will say goodbye… to some of them." She broke his embrace to regard him. "Please do not tell anyone, I will take care of announcing my departure."

"I won't."

"I will see you later."

After she took her leave, Axum went back to the breakfast table with a wide grin on his face.

"She's agreed to come with me." Axum excitedly told Laura as he sat down.

Laura's eyes twinkled.

 

*****

 

Seven couldn't have been more grateful for not having bridge duty. After what happened, even just seeing the Captain, would be painful and she wasn’t sure she could pretend as if nothing happened. A heated altercation was extremely possible, so the young woman made every effort to avoid the Captain.

Walking along the hallway, Seven now understood why Chakotay had spoken such colorful metaphors to her when she broke up with him to pursue another male. There was something inherently cold and calculating about her actions despite the fact that she had not lied to him. Even in her ignorance, she was unfaithful and her words, although truthful, could not change the outcome. He had every right to be angry with her, like just Seven was furious with Janeway.

Arriving on Deck 8, Seven chimed the Wildman's quarters and Samantha greeted her within a few seconds. "Seven? What brings you here at this time?" The Ensign asked surprised.

"Ensign Wildman," she greeted. "Is Naomi Wildman here?"

"Yes, but she's getting ready for math class. Is something wrong?" Although Seven spent a fair amount of time with Naomi, she rarely visited so early in the morning.

"No, I just want to speak with her for a moment."

Samantha wondered what could be so important so early in the day that Seven would need to visit in person instead of just hailing her daughter, but she didn't have the time to contemplate it further as she had duty in less than five minutes.

Naomi!" Her mother called into the bedroom. "Seven is here to see you!” Samantha knew how much Naomi adored the ex-Borg and vice versa. Despite their obvious cultural and age differences they developed quite a friendship and Samantha was proud of her daughter. Her little girl held no grudge against the former drone right from the start and subsequently befriended the blonde, bringing the humanity out of the aloof woman that nobody else seemed to be able to do. Her daughter was truly special.

Samantha turned to the blonde. "I have to go on duty, but I'm sure she'll be out in a minute or two."

"Thank you."

Ensign Wildman nodded on her way out.

Moments later, Naomi came out from her bedroom. "Hi Seven!"

"Naomi Wildman." Seven stated, her gaze softening perceptibly. Having grown fond of the young Katarian, she did not like disappointing her, despite the necessity. “I apologize, but I must cancel our Kadiskot match at 18:00 today.”

“Can we re-schedule it for tomorrow?” She asked innocently.

“I am very busy,” Seven tried to keep her voice from wavering. “but we will see.”

“Ok,” Naomi replied. “I have some school projects to catch up on anyways.” She added unable to keep the disappointment from her tone.

“It is important that you keep up your studies, especially if you wish to become the Captain’s assistant.” Seven smiled genuinely. “And if you require any assistance, Icheb will be available. He is… almost as fond of you as I am.” She suddenly found it difficult to continue. "I… also wanted to inform you that I value your friendship… immensely. You have made me feel welcome without any expectations in return and that has meant a lot to me.” And I will always cherish it.

"You’re my friend too Seven, always." Naomi ran to her and gave her a big hug.

Seven stroked the child’s hair regretting her actions deeply, acknowledging she would miss the precocious child.

Naomi squeezed her fiercely then detached herself. "I have math class on the computer in a minute, but you can watch if you like!"

"Perhaps another time, I have my duties as well."

"I'll see you later, Seven!" The child scampered into her room.

Yes, later.

Leaving behind a small piece of her heart, Seven exited the Wildman’s quarters.

Continuing on her rounds, she visited Icheb wanting to see the young man one last time. She visited his domicile briefly, telling him to assist Naomi if needed since she would be busy in Engineering for the next few days. She also informed him casually that she valued his friendship. Dissembling was a verbal tactic that Seven was not particularly good at because she did not like it. But, if the young man thought the conversation was odd or misplaced he gave no indication of it.

Seven would have preferred leaving Voyager right after visiting with Icheb, but she had a better chance of not being missed if she left after the alpha shift, since it was known by most of the crew that she often regenerated after her duties. It was the ideal time to theoretically disappear.

On that morbid thought, Seven reluctantly made her way to engineering since there was no one else she needed to see personally.

Entering Engineering revealed B'Elanna in the middle of her twentieth Warp core analysis. Hand on a hip, the half-Klingon stood at the Warp Core diagnostic assembly staring heatedly at the blue slush in the anti-matter reaction chamber.

“What the hell is causing this?!” She grouched before seeing the blonde. "There you are," she remarked watching Seven stroll up next to her. “Where have you been? You’re late.”

"I had matters to attend to.”

“Oh?” B'Elanna eyed her as the young woman started studying her diagnostic readouts.

“Yes, besides it is not likely a few minutes will make a difference in our findings.”

Borg Pessimism? Torres shrugged it off. "So how did your meeting with Janeway go?"

"It went well," Seven answered without looking up.

"Really?"

"Yes, it was… enlightening."

Torres wasn't convinced though, Seven sounded remotely distant and carefree causing B’Elanna to question the honesty of her statement. "You sure?"

“Yes, I am sure.” She answered in clipped tones.

Was that irritation in her voice? "Seven," Torres was getting rather impatient. "If it didn't go well just say so. I mean… She is the Captain and we all know she can be even more stubborn than you when she wants to be so you can’t expect--"

Seven’s features became a myriad of protest. "I am fully aware of her stubbornness and I do not need to be reminded of that."

"Hey, you asked me to help you remember?!" B'Elanna stated heatedly.

Their eyes met and Seven subsequently realized in her hasty reply that she had misspoken. Her anger should be directed at someone else, not B’Elanna. This was not the Engineer's fault. She had only been trying to assist and Seven did not want to burden her with the truth or deal with the shame.

"You are correct, I apologize."

Torres didn’t take the outburst personally. She had a feeling that Seven didn't quite know how to handle everything she was going through. "Good, now do you want to tell me what actually happened?" B'Elanna asked delicately for a Klingon. "I'll help if I can."

"I appreciate your assistance, but there is no need to elaborate further. Captain Janeway explained everything during our lunch conversation; therefore, I now understand the concept of infatuation in comparison to the emotion of love."

Ok? Torres thought somewhat puzzled. What exactly did that mean? "So… does that help clarify your emotions?"

Seven stared at the console, attempting to hide the pain of betrayal that was etching a permanent mark into her heart. "Yes."

"Well… have you come to a conclusion then?" Torres asked extremely curious.

"Conclusion?"

She lowered her voice so no one else could hear. "Do you think you’re in love with her or what?"

"I do not see how that is possible." Seven protested adamantly. "I have come to believe that love is more frivolous than anything else and should be avoided."

Torres frowned, not expecting such a negative response and she couldn’t help but wonder what had been said between the two women. "And that's a good thing?"

"Like I said, I firmly believe it was simple infatuation, nothing more."

B'Elanna didn’t know what to believe, but infatuation wasn't what she saw the other evening. The young woman was distraught and desperate in what she thought she was feeling. So what changed overnight?

"Well, we can discuss it later if you want. Right now, we really need to figure this out. This enigma is starting to get on my nerves."

"Agreed." Seven answered relieved to get her mind on anything else.

 

*****

 

Day Six, Afternoon:

"I've decided to leave," Jaffen stated studiously watching the aloof faced Captain standing before him.

She had just entered the VIP quarters, having been notified by Tuvok that Jaffen wanted to speak with her. But this was not a surprise. In light of her lack of feelings towards him, she figured he would decide to leave. There was nothing to keep him on Voyager any more. "I'll have my people prepare your ship." She informed him, her voice devoid of emotion.

Leaning back on the turquoise sofa, he folded his arms across his chest. “I must admit… I was hoping my departure would bother you more than this."

Looking away from his accusing stare, Janeway answered. "What do you want me to say? That I've changed my mind and I'm really hopelessly in love with you?"

"That would be a start."

Calmly, she lifted her gaze to his to reveal a painful truth. "My heart is taken, you know that."

He jumped off the sofa. "Yes, by a woman who doesn't even know you exist!"

The statement stung. "Are you intentionally trying to hurt me because of what I've done to you!?" Janeway eyed him sharply.

"No,” He moved to stand before her. “I'm trying to help you see the truth!" He shook his head. "She will never reciprocate, but we…” he slapped his chest with his hand. “we had something back on Quarran!"

"That was a result of lost memories or I wouldn't have gotten involved with you in the first place!" She retaliated not wanting or needing his personal insights.

"So you're saying you regret it?" He crossed his arms.

Janeway’s eyes narrowed. "You’re not listening, Jaffen. I was taken against my will. My identity was stolen! You have to understand that our relationship wouldn't have happened otherwise." She strongly affirmed.

"My memories weren't stolen. Am I supposed to just forget what I feel for you?!"

Janeway cringed inside. "I’m sorry, but I don't know what to tell you," she empathized with his emotional difficulties, unfortunately it changed nothing.

“If I stay,” he offered quietly, “in time, could you learn to love me? Do you think you could you forget her… eventually?”

“I don’t see how,” she told him honestly.

Mulling over the rejection, Jaffen snapped. "How could you possibly be in love with her?!"

"How am I supposed to answer that?! I just am! Why are you in love with me?! I can't give you my heart! All I can give you is… ” Janeway rubbed her forehead in distress. “sex… and I shouldn't have done that."

Jaffen backed away from her. "Yes, that's right, I almost forgot how you used me."

"That statement doesn't even deserve a dignified response." She rebuked, already feeling enough guilt for a lifetime.

"Looks like we both know all about unrequited love." He stated harshly.

She cast a pained, cold face towards him. "Are you finished?"

"I don't want to be," He pleaded.

"Well I am,” Janeway replied firmly. “I'll have my Engineer contact you when your ship is ready."

Watching her turn away, he finally recognized that this was most likely the last time he would ever see her. This was the end. Sighing, he relented despite his inner turmoil.

"I'm sorry. This is obviously painful for both of us. I wish…” He took in a deep breath. “the best for you Kathryn. I hope you find what you're looking for."

"Thank you," She replied stiffly yet politely. "Once your ship is ready, you can contact Tuvok when you are ready to leave. He will escort you to your ship."

 

*****

 

Strolling into Engineering to get an update on the status of her warp core, Captain Kathryn Janeway halted upon seeing Seven at the diagnostic console with B'Elanna.

The Captain hadn’t forgotten about the young woman’s earlier visit to her quarters, but hadn’t gotten around to seeing what she wanted either. Frustrated with herself, Kathryn had to come to terms with her unrequited emotions if she was to lead her crew effectively, because by default, that included Seven and she couldn't afford to walk on egg shells while in the blonde's presence simply because she loved her and couldn't act on it.

"Lt. Torres, Seven," the Captain greeted professionally. "Have you found anything yet?"

Seven stiffened upon hearing the Captain's voice behind her, immersing herself in their work as B'Elanna responded.

"We still can't find out what's causing it. The diagnostic reveals nothing. Every system appears to be working at optimal levels. I can't explain it."

The Captain did not want to hear that. "And you've checked everything?"

"Yes, whatever is causing our warp core to fluctuate and prevent us from exceeding warp six is definitely not coming from any of our systems."

"Then the problem must be coming from an outside source."

"I just don't know." B'Elanna offered frustrated. "Scan after scan reveals nothing."

The Captain eyed her sternly. "That's not good enough Lt. We've been at Warp 5.9 for over five days because of these fluctuations. We need to figure this out or it will take us another 75 years to get home instead of 30."

B'Elanna sighed, understanding. "Yes Captain."

"What about you Seven? Any other ideas on what could be causing this?" Janeway asked hoping for some ingenious Borg insights.

"No," Seven stated succinctly.

Janeway did a double take. 'Just no?'

"You have no other ideas or suggestions?" Janeway inquired noticing the Borg kept her back to her. “Not even a working hypothesis?”

"You heard correctly. I have no working theory at this time, but I will endeavor to search for the answers you require." The voice held brashness and defiance.

B'Elanna looked cautiously at the ex-Borg wondering if Seven knew how rude she sounded.

"Would you excuse us for a moment, B'Elanna?" The Captain asked politely. The use of the Engineer's first name suggested it was more of a personal request than an order, making Torres briefly wonder if Janeway was aware of Seven's feelings for her.

Did the Borg tell her?! Torres hurriedly scampered to another terminal. If so, this could get ugly!

Janeway crossed her arms while staring at Seven's backside. "Is something bothering you Seven?" She asked keeping her voice low.

"No," Seven continued to work.

"I know there is something on your mind because you came to my quarters earlier today."

Seething inside, Seven quietly managed to deliver the words. “It is not important.”

“Listen, if your having trouble with Chakotay and--

"I said, it is unimportant." Impatience crept into Seven's tone. “I am fine.”

Annoyed, Janeway moved right up to the console to peer at the younger woman. “I heard you,” she stated under her breath. “but I don’t believe you. Something is going on with you, talk to me Seven.”

"Captain," Seven dared a contemptuous glance into the Captain's eyes. "I am trying to find the solution to the Warp core problem and this pointless conversation is only serving to distract me from that goal."

A few heads turned for those crewmen who heard Seven's acerbic reply. The Captain chose to ignore their reaction knowing they would return to their work soon enough. Too bad, she couldn’t ignore what she was feeling. To be on the receiving end of Seven's severe gaze coupled with the attitude more than irked Janeway in her current state of mind.

You think this is easy for me!? Watching those two court you?! Watching you respond?! With tension building, part of Janeway wanted a verbal scuffle with the former Borg. She certainly had her own share of pent up frustration to relieve, but taking it out on a friend wasn’t the answer. Only by utilizing what little reserves she had left in will power, did Janeway rein in her steadily growing temper.

"Fine, you do that." Janeway replied resolutely, refusing to start an argument over Seven's bad attitude. This was neither the time, nor the place and Seven obviously needed some time and space to herself. Probably had a fight with Chakotay over Axum, no doubt.

The Captain called out to Torres. “Are you finished assisting Axum with repairs?”

“Yes, Captain. After repairing what we could, he said he would take care of the rest.”

"Good, I want you to use whatever personnel and resources you need to get this warp core problem fixed. Keep me informed."

Torres was fully aware of the change in the Captain’s mood. “Yes, ma’am.”

 

*****

 

Disturbed, Janeway headed for the bridge pondering exactly what had her residential Borg so uptight. After some reflection, she came to the realization that Seven was probably just as unsettled by the two men courting her as Janeway was.

Still why take that out on me? She complained as the turbo lift opened to reveal the Bridge. Moving to the lower section, she sat down in her command chair and became lost in disturbing thoughts of her Astrometrics’ Officer until what became hours later, her operations officer spoke up breaking her troubled musings.

"Captain," Harry Kim announced from his station. "The Borg ship is hailing us."

Janeway blinked, momentarily coming to her senses. "On screen, Lt."

Axum's visual came up. "Captain, I regret to inform you that we will be diverting from your course in an hour. We've found an M-class planet we'd like to investigate. You're welcome to join us if you like, however, if we decide to settle down I’m afraid we won't be joining you en route to the alpha quadrant." He smiled warmly.

"I understand and I appreciate you keeping me informed. Would you send us the coordinates of this planet?"

"Of course."

"Janeway out."

"That was fast." Chakotay remarked casually.

"I agree, but if they can find a suitable planet for colonization, it’s an opportunity they shouldn’t pass up."

"It certainly is quiet in this region. We haven't been attacked once, since we entered this quadrant." He commented.

Janeway eyed him with a grin. "I'm not complaining."

"Me neither."

"So how are things going with you and Seven?" Janeway asked curiously since they were chatting idly. When Chakotay's face took on a distinct tension, she immediately regretted asking.

“I've decided to give her some space." He responded, with a slight edge to his tone.

That sounded about right given Seven's recent behavior, but did he mean it literally or did he break up with her? Janeway figured something was amiss when she saw Axum instead of Chakotay bring the blonde to Harry's promotion, but she didn’t have the heart to dig any deeper. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry."

"That's ok, how about you and Jaffen?" He smirked. "Looks serious."

Now it was her turn to look uncomfortable. "He decided to give me some space," she managed a small, shy grin.

"Oh?"

"Actually… he decided to leave Voyager."

"I'm sorry Kathryn."

"Feelings change," she commented nonchalantly. "I'll be ok."

Janeway noted ironically how badly they were handling their respective personal lives. Of course for high ranking Starfleet Officer’s that was to be expected. When she decided to become a Command Officer, she was warned that the path to the Captain’s chair is usually a lonely one. Statistics for successfully married Officer’s were less than impressive. Starfleet Captain's divorced 27% of the time, had affairs 19% of the time and if extremely unlucky widowed their wives/husbands over 35% of the time. It was a dangerous occupation with terrible odds for a long, successful marriage.

This is for the best then, she sighed quietly.

When Axum contacted Janeway to let her know his ship was parting their company, she informed him that Voyager would not be joining them and wished him and his people the best of luck.

Chakotay was completely stunned and it showed.

“I can’t believe it,” he mumbled. He’s actually leaving without Seven? He shook his head.

“Commander?” Janeway questioned.

He couldn't believe Axum would willingly leave Seven behind... Surely he must have asked her to go with him. Did she actually say no?! He had to concede that Voyager had been her home for over 4 years and maybe she wasn't ready for that drastic of a change… Could she have been afraid to leave Voyager? Or was she just too damn stubborn to take a chance.

All that arguing for nothing.

“Maybe you can patch up your relationship with Seven now?” Kathryn stated in a quiet voice. She had a flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe after all this, Seven could be available.

“Yes,” he said, not really listening to her, as he continued to stare absently at the viewscreen.

With a disappointed look on her face, Kathryn accepted his answer handing the bridge over to him, which Chakotay vaguely heard.

 

*****

 

A lone figure stood gazing through a one-foot diameter portside window, her eyes glazed over as she stared at the retreating vessel.

The green tinted USS Voyager was getting smaller and smaller as it accelerated away at one-quarter impulse, but it wasn’t the vessel that was foremost on the woman's mind; only a unique redhead, who had hurt her more than she thought any human could.

Thus Seven brooded, wondering if Janeway would even miss her. Would she cry? Would she feel her world had forever changed and not for the better? What of the Voyager crew? Would they regret my departure? Unlikely, Seven thought. The crew would not be unduly upset by her departure, she fathomed. Surprised maybe, but they would not weep for her. Some would even be relieved, she estimated.

Although her face appeared placid, loose droplets of salt water cascaded down her cheeks, the only visible sign of her inner pain. Even as her mind fumed, Seven's heart muscle grieved and even among her own kind, she was not at peace. Loneliness and isolation were her constant companions, conditions Seven knew all to well. Right after being severed from the hive mind, she nearly went crazy from the deafening silence. There were no voices to give her instructions, no verbal chorus to sooth her troubled mind. She was truly alone, a single drone cut off from the only family she ever knew for 18 years.

And it terrified her…

In a lesser form it still did, yet for all that mental connectivity and supposed belonging, Seven now realized she had been utterly alone among millions. There was no need for companionship in the collective, because no one was conscious enough of their individuality to need it. The Borg eliminated all sense of self and individuality, therefore emotional expression of any kind, such as loneliness… or love… was not possible and as a drone, not realizing what you were or how you felt about it was actually a good thing.

Along with the unbridled loneliness was a longing for something she did not have and even with some of the crew befriending her, it was constantly inside her… and lately, it was growing. The blonde did not feel whole and did not know if it was something all humans had to contend with or just her.

Truthfully, Seven felt flawed, imperfect and incomplete and she did not know how to correct it, her only understanding of how to alleviate this ache was to find a suitable mate and create a Collective of her own.

Axum will make an acceptable mate. Her mind paused. Acceptable? What of Kathryn? Would she not be acceptable? Don’t I love her more?

Emotion flooded her and Seven began imagining what she could have had with Kathryn if things had gone differently, but like a coward, in her fear and anger she left quietly without demanding an explanation when she should have. The young woman analyzed if she would come to regret not knowing why Janeway had used her. Of course then again, that would have given the Captain the chance to tell Seven that she was truly in love with Jaffen and that she was sorry she couldn’t reciprocate.

So in the end, it would have changed nothing.

Seven had been betrayed, yet in light of all that, why was it still so hard to leave?

Why is there a hole in my heart? What happened to my ability to adapt?

 

*****

 

B'Elanna strolled into her quarters finding Tom busy preparing a meal for the two of them. "Have you heard from Seven today?"

"No, I haven't seen her," He said rubbing his hands together. "but I'm sure everything went well." How could it not? He thought mischievously. Nothing could really go wrong and the only thing that mattered was how Seven reacted to the experience.

"Did you talk to her?" He poured some replicated wine into two glasses.

"Yes, but only for a few minutes. We were busy in Engineering pretty much the whole day."

Finishing, he put the bottle down. "There's something I should probably tell you B'Elanna."

"What is it?" She kicked off her boots.

"I made Captain Janeway a holographic representation of the real thing," he informed her.

"You did what!!?" She folded her arms slowly across her chest. "When the hell did you do that?! We programmed it together!"

"I did it after you left. Remember, you had worked a long shift that day. You were really tired so you left before I did. That’s when I changed some of the character parameters."

"What about my memo to the Captain?! You were supposed to send it after you finished."

"I only sent the one you made for Seven."

"Tom! What were you thinking?"

"B'Elanna it's really not tha--"

"Just what exactly did you program her to do?" She paced the quarters in pure Klingon fashion; vehemently before she turned sharply.

"Um, nothing bad darling. I just programmed her to be a little more flirtatious…"

"Tom! You didn't!"

He put his hands up. "Just so Seven could see if she was attracted to her or not! A harmless test."

B'Elanna slapped her forehead. "A harmless test?! I've got to find her, make sure you didn't make things worse."

"its 23:00 hours, why don't we wait until morning."

Torres glared at him.

"She's probably regenerating." He entreated.

Torres stared at him hard. "All right, first thing tomorrow, early before our shift."

 

*****

 

Day Seven:

Upon leaving their quarters the next morning with Tom on route to Cargo Bay Two, B'Elanna did a computer check as to Seven's location.

“Seven of Nine’s COM badge is not registering as active.”

“What?” She was more than shocked by the computers' response. “Computer, track any life signs with a Borg bio-signature.” She asked, but was completely befuddled when the computer replied that only one Borg bio-life sign was currently being detected on Voyager instead of two.

"Computer, identify life sign."

"Icheb." It responded monotonously.

Stopping in mid-stride on deck 9, Torres turned to glare at her husband. "So where the hell is Seven?!"

Tom quickly came up with an idea to divert her attention. "Why don't we split up and search the ship. Maybe she's deactivated her COM badge on purpose." Tom started to worry that his plan backfired.

His wife turned an exasperated look at him. "Why would she do that?"

"I don't know! Maybe she's upset or something."

"Wonder why?!" She pointed a finger at him then in deep thought added.

“Listen, why don't we take the time to search with a tricorder, before we jump to conclusions. Ok?"

Drumming her fingers on her hip, Torres wanted to smack him for his stupidity. "All right, I'll search the lower decks, you search the higher decks."

"Good," Tom responded and immediately headed for Holodeck One after his wife departed him down the hallway.

Since he was directly responsible if something went awry, Tom arrived quickly to investigate exactly what happened. After initiating the program, he rubbed his hands together nervously and entered the simulation. "Computer, replay holodeck program, ‘Janeway flirt’ from the time it was originally initiated, and include a representation of all biological life signs present in the playback." He was glad he added an algorithm that recorded everything that went on when the simulation became active.

Beeping, the computer started playing back exactly what had occurred during Seven and the Captain's meeting.

Witnessing Janeway's initial responses, Tom saw nothing wrong and was beginning to congratulate his superior programming skills until the two women French kissed. Instantly, he knew something was seriously wrong and that he made a horrible mistake in programming the Janeway hologram. Then to make matters worse, from what he saw, it really looked like Seven had fallen for the Captain.

Pulling at his suddenly tight collar, Tom followed them to the hotel but quickly shouted for the computer to shut down the entire program once he got to the part where Janeway started to seduce Seven quite effectively by undressing her and…

Blushing, his face red and hot, he rapidly thought about where he could hide from the Captain once she found out. Unless, he thought haphazardly, she didn't find out. There must be an explanation as to why this happened?! Something must have malfunctioned for the Janeway hologram to behave that way. He did NOT program that and he didn’t want to think about what they most likely ended up doing after he shouted for the program to discontinue.

Immediately, Tom enlisted Harry's help to study the program's parameters inside and out and within forty five minutes they figured out the true culprit; a malfunction caused by an electrical surge apparently damaged the main character's personality sub-routines. Reviewing the code more thoroughly made things quite clear for Tom, who became horrified at his discovery.

“Madame E!!” Harry exclaimed, upon seeing the code. “Tom what have you done!?”

Oh, why did I use HER template?! There was no other evidence to support a different explanation and suddenly, Tom couldn’t breathe very well. My God!! Did it take advantage of Seven?!?!

“Oh my god. I’m so dead!”

Harry could only stare at him with sad knowing eyes.

If Tom thought thirty days in the brig was bad, he was looking at about thirty years once the Captain found out about his blunder, which involved her being intimate with a member of her crew. And unbeknownst to them, a member of her crew that the Captain cared about immensely. Even Harry didn't realize the true implications of what had happened.

Tom and Harry, quickly concluded their search in Cargo Bay two, finding B'Elanna sitting slumped over at the far end of the alcoves.

Rounding a cargo container, they saw the damaged alcove before her.

Harry gasped.

"What happened?!" Tom inquired.

Torres shook her head back and forth. "I wish I knew, but something tells me it has something to do with her meeting with Janeway." She glared at him thrusting out her hand so he could see what she had.

“What’s that?” Harry asked first.

“The remains of a COM badge that’s been thoroughly crushed.”

Tom blinked, “I take it you didn’t find her?” he asked somberly.

"She's not any where on Voyager." Torres commented sadly.

"Maybe she took a shuttle," Harry suggested.

"No, I checked. All shuttlecrafts are accounted for."

"Where'd she go then?" Tom asked befuddled.

"She must have left with Axum, there's no other possible explanation."

Tom's face turned a deep red. "Uh, there's something else I need to tell you before we inform the Captain."

 

*****

 

The fiery auburn haired woman was not pleased.

Captain Janeway glared at each member of her senior staff as she leaned over the conference table wondering how they managed to miss a member of her crew for almost an entire two shifts.

Earlier, she had ordered a full stop dispatching Tuvok to do a quick investigation before she even called this staff meeting. It was a good idea because Janeway was steaming mad at their carelessness, including herself and she needed time to cool off.

"So who talked with her last?" She asked piqued.

"I believe that would be Lt. Torres." Tuvok stated.

Janeway's deep countenance shifted to peer at the half-Klingon. "Did she say anything to you that would suggest she intended to leave Voyager?"

B'Elanna looked at her Captain considering how much she should reveal. "She seemed unsettled, but I just figured it had to do with our current visitors."

"Axum," the name rolled off Janeway's tongue harsher than she intended. "you think she left with him?"

"I don't see where else she could have gone."

"Did she say anything to you Chakotay?" Janeway asked him hoping he had spoken with her.

"No," he answered pointedly, looking down at his neatly folded hands on his lap.

After the blunt, unhelpful reply from her First Officer, Janeway moved on to Tuvok. "Anything on transporter logs?"

"A transport did take place at approximately 18:00 hours last night."

"And why didn't you detect it?"

"At that time, there was no activity on my console to indicate that any transport took place. Tuvok replied calmly. “I found out during my investigation that she masked her transport with Borg encryption codes."

The shock registered quickly on the Captain's face. "Why would she need to disguise her transport? If she wanted to leave she could have simply informed us. I would have let her go if that's what she wanted." There was an extended silence as Janeway sat back down to contemplate Seven's actions.

With more information to divulge, Tuvok spoke up. "I found out that Seven of Nine also spoke with Naomi Wildman and Icheb yesterday before her morning shift. Apparently, she had a conversation with both of them regarding how grateful she was to be their friend. Both found it an odd topic of conversation so early in the morning, but they did not question Seven on it."

"That suggests that she didn't want to leave." The Captain commented. “but perhaps intended to.”

"I would say a crushed COM badge and a severely damaged alcove suggests that she was rather upset." Tuvok declared.

Janeway's brow crinkled in thought. "I don't believe she left by choice. I think she was coerced."

"That is not completely implausible." Tuvok concurred.

"How much of a head start do they have?" She asked rubbing a knot in the back of her neck.

"18 hours and 16 minutes Captain." Tuvok informed her.

"Set a rendezvous course,” Janeway commanded. “Thankfully, we have the coordinates Axum so kindly gave us."

*****

 

Day Eight, Morning:

Almost a day after their arrival, Axum, Seven, Laura and a dozen other residents of the Borg sphere beamed down to the M class planet designated ‘Eden’.

They landed in an open plain, full of tall green grass. The sky above was a bright blue with the local sun shining brightly down on them forcing Seven to squint to see.

They walked in companionable silence for a few hundred feet as Seven surveyed what was to be her new home; Mountainous ranges were to the North, a forested area to her West and a hilly plateau to the East. Ecologically speaking, the planet had all the beginnings of a perfect class-M settlement.

So why am I feeling such trepidation?

From the looks of the planet, they would have to build a settlement from the ground up and Seven was not used to the outdoors or planet bound life. She had very little experience with living on a planet long term and it frightened her.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" Smiling at her, Axum pulled out a tricorder and began scanning the area.

Seven watched him. "I thought you scanned this planet thoroughly from orbit. Did you miss something?"

"No, I'm just making sure." He responded. Laura eyed Seven from behind before she walked off to survey another area nearby.

"Sure of what?" Seven asked just before a frantic sounding hail came through.

"Axum!" His second in command shouted through the link. "We're under attack!"

"Beam us up now, Korok!" He shouted into his internal communicator.

As soon as Axum returned to the sphere, he headed for the command center. Strolling hurriedly into the chambers, he almost lost his footing as a phaser blast shook his vessel.

"Who's attacking us?" He demanded to Korok.

"They call themselves the Grefahl. They demand we leave orbit immediately. They claim this planet is in their space and belongs to them. Apparently, we are in violation in accordance with their laws." He growled.

"Like hell we are." Axum exclaimed. "We were here first. I don't see any of their people living down there. This planet hasn't been claimed, therefore we have as much right to it as they do."

"That's what I told them."

Axum stared at his Klingon friend, shocked. "You actually tried reasoning with them?"

Korok looked back at his friend exasperated. "I'm Klingon, diplomacy is NOT my strongpoint."

"At least you tried." Axum managed a grin until another volley of blasts shook them.

"Our shields are weakening. Should we return fire?"

Axum briefly ruminated on the possibilities of finding such a planet that naturally cloaked life signs from orbit. This is our only hope. I can’t give it up without a fight!

"Yes," he said firmly. "Commence firing!"

 

*****

 

When Voyager reached a few hundred thousand kilometers from Planet Eden they noticed a battle in progress. Three smaller ships were apparently engaging the Borg sphere.

"Hail them," Janeway ordered apprehensively.

"No answer," Harry responded.

"Target their weapons array and fire." The Captain ordered quickly receiving a raised eyebrow from Tuvok and a quick glance from her first officer.

"Captain?" Chakotay spoke up. "Is that necessary? We do not know what this skirmish is about."

"If Seven is onboard that sphere, I'd like to get her back in one piece."

"You're assuming she wants to come back."

Janeway gazed at him bewildered. "I thought we were under the assumption that she left against her will."

"It was your assumption, not mine." Chakotay said his words almost biting.

Harry looked up from his console to gaze at his two commanding officers and Tom perked an ear. Raising his left brow, Tuvok overheard the subdued conversation clearly with his Vulcan ears wondering if the two officers were letting their personal feelings conflict with their duty.

"You didn't say anything contrary to that assessment during the meeting." Janeway tossed back at him through clenched teeth. Surely he had more feelings for her than that? Didn't he date Seven for over a month?! All she could think of was that perhaps Chakotay and Seven had a fight before she left and that he was acting this way out of bitterness and resentment.

Highly agitated, she glared at him. "We'll discuss this… later." She said caustically. “As for now… whether she wants to come back or not, I’d like her to remain in one piece.”

Her First Officer wisely stayed silent as Janeway scorched him verbally.

The Captain took a deep breath before returning her eyes to the viewscreen. "Tuvok prepare to--"

"We're being hailed." Lt. Kim interrupted.

"On screen."

"You have no jurisdiction here! Leave now and you will not be destroyed!"

"We have no quarrel with you, but your attacking friends of ours."

"Your friends have illegally landed on our planet and refuse to leave."

"Captain!" Kim announced adamantly.

She looked at him, her expression clearing saying, 'what now?’

"There are three more ships entering the outer perimeter of this solar system and they're heading our way."

"Time to intercept."

"Twenty minutes."

"Configuration?"

"They appear to be Kazarr ships." Tuvok answered.

"Kazarr?!” The alien responded nervously. “Where?!"

Janeway hadn’t formerly been introduced, but his reaction told her these were the Grefahl. She turned to the viewer. "Please whoever you are, let’s call a cease fire. I'm sure we can discuss this rationally."

She heard the alien grumble some orders to someone off screen. "This is not over! This is our planet and if you are here when we return, you will be destroyed!"

He cut the channel just as Janeway was about to reply.

All three Grefahl ships headed away from the planet at high impulse and immediately went into warp after they cleared the planetary field.

"Looks like the Kazarr scared them away." Chakotay remarked.

"Wonder why?" Tom spoke up. "Wouldn’t surprise me if they wanted this planet too."

"We'll find out soon enough." Janeway remarked before turning to Kim. "Hail the Borg ship."

A few brief seconds passed before Axum’s visual came up.

"Captain Janeway… once again, I have to thank you for your assistance." He stated his deepening brow betraying the concern he truly felt.

"I wish I could take all the credit, but three ships are on an intercept course… and I have a feeling they're not going to be happy to see either of us. We should break orbit and leave now."

Axum frowned deeply. "I can't do that."

Janeway hesitated. Can't?! "Axum we met up with the Kazarr days ago. This whole sector is in dispute between them and the Grefahl. I don't think they're going to want you settling a planet in the middle of a war zone."

"I don't care. We've decided on this planet." He said adamantly.

"Axum…"

"Captain, I've made my mind up."

If he wanted to risk his people's lives for this planet that was his decision to make as long as Janeway got what she came for. "All right," she conceded. "that’s your decision, but if you don't mind, I'd like to speak with Seven of Nine."

It was Axum's turn to be hesitant. "I'm… afraid she does not wish to speak with you."

Now Captain Janeway became very suspicious. "I just want to make sure she's all right. Surely you can understand that?"

"What are you talking about?" He appeared baffled. "Why would she not be all right?"

She paused briefly trying to gather the right words, but there was no easy way to ask so she opted for the direct method. "Did you coerce Seven into leaving with you?" Janeway asked point blank.

Axum was offended by the question. "No, of course not! How could you think such a thing?"

"She left in a hurry without saying anything to anyone and I have a wrecked alcove in my cargo bay to prove it."

Axum glowered. "You are mistaken. I would never force Annika to do anything she didn’t want to do. I assure you, she left of her own free will."

"I'd like to hear that from her if you don't mind.”

“Captain Janeway, I realize she was your pupil but—“

“I’m not leaving until I get to speak to her."

As irked as Axum was at the accusation, he and thousands of former Borg owed Janeway for the freedom they currently enjoyed. He would not fight her over a simple misunderstanding on her part.

"We will visit you so you can see for yourself." He took in a deep breath before continuing. "Prepare for our arrival, Captain." Despite Seven's refusal to speak to Janeway, Axum knew she would be accompanying him to Voyager one last time whether she wanted to or not.

 

*****

 

Axum briskly entered the briefing room with Seven following a few feet behind. He was not particularly happy to see Janeway this time as compared to the last two times.

Just before Seven sat down at the far end of the table, her eyes quickly landed on the Captain with cold indifference.

Janeway was stunned at Seven's icy demeanor as she waited for them to be seated. She noted, the Borg hadn't even glanced in Chakotay's direction, who sat brooding on the Captain's right.

Seated on her left was Tuvok, the perceptive Vulcan adeptly noted the tension surrounding the guests, his Captain and first officer. He wondered as to the true underlying cause of such apprehension, but surmised that it would not be forthcoming during this meeting.

"As you can see Captain, Seven is fine." Axum broke the silence.

"Seven," Janeway ignored him. "Why didn't you tell us you wanted to leave Voyager?"

Seven's eyes roamed over in her former Captain's direction focusing on the table instead of her face. "I felt it was not necessary."

“Not necessary?” Kathryn could only stare, rattled. “It’s usually a common courtesy to inform someone when leaving.” Janeway seethed, but when the blonde said nothing, she continued. "So why did you destroy your alcove?" She tried to ignore the stab in her chest that Seven's casual dismissal caused.

"That is none of your concern."

"I think it is." Janeway challenged.

"You are in error."

"Am I? Or is Axum telling you to say that. Are you being coerced?!"

Axum stood up appalled. "You are out of line!"

Janeway stood up to meet his eyes squarely. "Look at it from my point of view. A member of my crew leaves without telling anyone, hides her transport and leaves behind a small wake of destruction. What would you have me think?!" Janeway responded heatedly. "I haven't heard a satisfactory explan--"

Seven interrupted before Axum could respond. "I apologize for the way I… departed, but it was my choice."

The redhead momentarily lost the ire she had brought into the meeting, her countenance softened as she considered the possibility. It really was Seven's choice, but why conceal it?

"No one… disputes that it's your choice Seven." Janeway clarified. "but I have a problem with the way you left. There are people onboard Voyager who care for you and you just left without even telling us. Personally, I would like to know why?"

Seven would not let the light tone sway her. She was prepared for Janeway's seductive overtures; prepared for such a deception with half-truths of her own. "Voyager is no longer suitable for me. I was initially angry at the conclusion I came to, but in the end I belong with my own kind… former Borg. Not humans from Earth, but those who best understand me and my past."

"How is Voyager not suitable?" Janeway inquired confounded.

"I am still regarded as an automaton by members of your crew; an unthinking, unfeeling emotionless drone." Seven dared a look of utter contempt at Janeway who appeared to shrink back at her glance. "And that is how I will be perceived if I return to Earth with you."

Aghast at the fierce scornful words coming her way from the blonde, Janeway was rendered temporarily speechless. When exactly did Voyager become unsuitable for Seven's needs? Of course there would be bumps in the road, in the ever continuous quest for regaining her humanity, but… Janeway was under the impression that Seven was adequately content with life on Voyager.

Until now, that is.

Axum must have prayed upon her greatest fears quite effectively. Kathryn assumed not entirely impartially.

"You've been a vital part of this crew. You won't be prosecuted like a criminal." Janeway asserted, refusing even the remote possibility. "I won't let--"

"You cannot guarantee anything!” Seven objected knowing that the Captain could not argue this point effectively to a victory. It was not the true reason, but would suffice in light of the situation. It was bad enough that she was oddly torn between truly wanting to see Janeway and feeling the need to flee back to the Borg ship. “You do not speak for Starfleet. You let your high ideals blind you to the reality."

"I'm not saying they won't have questions Seven, but you're overreacting. I don't think--"

"Kim to the Captain."

Janeway wanted to hit something as she carefully tapped her COM badge with great restraint. "What is it Harry?"

"The Kazarr have arrived."

"I'm on my way Mr. Kim," Janeway responded.

"Korok to Axum."

"Axum here."

"Three ships have entered orbit. They've risen shields and powered up weapons. I think they are going to attack!"

"Hold your fire... unless provoked." Axum ordered. “I’ll be over shortly.”

Everyone followed Captain Janeway quickly out of the Conference Room, with Axum and Seven stopping to stand at the back of the bridge, near her old workstation.

The young woman watched the lithe form of her Captain gracefully take position a few feet in front of her command chair. The blonde swallowed the hollowness that engulfed her. Seven falsely thought Janeway loved her, but her actions proved that she did not. Individuals in love do not seek out other lovers, Seven surmised from her research. If they do, then it is just copulation for physical gratification, with no true feelings involved. Just like the Captain, Seven could get mere sex from a hologram if she truly wanted to. Just because Seven did not know the aspects of normal human courtship behavior and the ways of intimacy, was no excuse for what the auburn haired woman had done.

Seven still had not forgiven her. Probably wouldn't for a long time as she worked through the depths of an emotional pain that she was unused to dealing with. Deep down inside she did not hate her Captain, but the sting of betrayal, of being used, of being taken advantage of… was etched into her cortical node.

I will adapt. I must…

As Seven mused over her regrets, Harry put the visual on screen just as the Captain rounded the railing to the lower level.

"Captain Janeway," Trezlar stated. "I was under the assumption you were passing through our space. Is this not true?"

"Yes," the Captain spewed forth diplomatically. "That is correct, however, we ran into a few complications."

The alien pondered that. "We noticed Grefahl leaving the area. Is that… strange round vessel an ally of theirs? We witnessed weapons fire as we entered this system. Are they threatening you? If so, we will destroy them on your behalf."

Janeway put a hand up. “Please, there is no need to attack anyone. I can explain…"

The alien Kazarr narrowed inquisitively his eyes. "Please do so."

Janeway quickly explained the situation and the dispute over the planet. She was mildly surprised when the alien leader responded so languidly.

"We have no claim over this planetoid. It is too far from our home world to be of any benefit. Your comrades in the 'sphere' can have it. However, since the Grefahl are very territorial and have many worlds in this area, they will not give it up easily. You should leave this area and find another, but we have no dispute with you over this rock."

"Thanks for the warning."

"Good journey to you Captain Janeway." He spoke then closed the comm. channel.

Axum stepped forward, gripping the railing. "I am grateful for your assistance Captain and all you've done for us and I won't forget it… " He paused taking in a breath. "but I also won't deny asking Annika to join me in creating a new world, a new life together." Janeway stiffened as she regarded him. "but she, as an individual made the decision to join me on her own. Isn't that what you taught her to do? Make decisions for herself?"

Almost guiltily, as soon as Janeway's eyes drifted to Seven the young woman apprehensively looked away.

"Yes… " Janeway momentarily felt completely inept at how she had handled this situation. Even though all the available evidence suggested an angry Seven had left Voyager against her will, nothing came about in the meeting to suggest that hypothesis. What else could she say to make Seven stay?

"So… unless you plan to take her back against her will, she will be staying with us… per her choice." Axum clarified.

"I would never do that." Janeway responded harshly in a low tone.

"Good," Axum replied, satisfied to be vindicated. "I hope you reach Earth… someday Captain." He added then headed for the turbo lift with Tuvok following.

Finding courage, Janeway stepped forward and asked the inevitable question already knowing the most probable and heart rendering reply that she would receive. "Is that what you truly want Seven?" Janeway asked in a quiet almost pleading tone as she watched the younger woman enter the lift.

Seven cast a quick glance over her former Captain keeping all emotion to the contrary deeply hidden. "Yes." Janeway heard distinctly before the doors slid shut on her heart, effectively crushing it.

Devastation and sorrow, pressed into Kathryn's soul but she wasn't a Starfleet Captain for nothing.

As the turbo lift descended to Deck 4, Seven swore she had glimpsed a pained expression on the Captain's face for an instant, before it was replaced by the cold, hard mask of command.

 


Continued on page 3 >>>

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