Ownership Disclaimers: Voyager and the characters don’t belong to me, more’s the pity. I think they belong to Viacom/Paramount. I’m making no money off this. This my first completed (though by far not the first one I’ve started) Voyager fan fic, and I haven’t written a fan fiction disclaimer in years… I think I hit the important bits.
Love/Sex: We’re a go for both, folks. It’s Janeway/Seven, so if you don’t like that pairing, or lesbian sex in general, or you’re too young, or it’s illegal where you live, you probably don’t want to continue past this point.
Violence: Not really, amazingly enough. There’s a very short ‘fight’ scene, but not so much as a console blows.
Angst/Hurt/Comfort: Yeah, there’s some, but it ends happily. I hate stories that don’t.
Feedback: Please! This is the first Voyager fic I’ve let anyone other than my beta read, and I’m nervous. Let me know if I should keep
giving Voyager a go or stick to original fic. You can reach me at email@example.com>
I have a mailing list for my Xena/Original fic --http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SBerrysStories/.
Kathryn Janeway was not a happy camper. Of course, nobody was particularly cheerful after being assimilated, but that wasn’t her only problem. She was frustrated, confused, and had no idea how she was going to fix any of it. Seven had a virtual reality boyfriend, but was in love with her. And Seven didn’t know it. She’d sensed it during the bridging of their minds that allowed her to join Seven in Unimatrix Zero. It hadn’t been hard. Kathryn wasn’t sure if Seven had deliberately allowed her to see the feelings she didn’t have the words to express, or if it was an accident she didn’t try too hard to stop. It had been hard to control her own thoughts, and she was uncertain how successful she had been. The depth of emotion had startled her. She had always suspected Seven felt things far more deeply than she showed, and she’d known that Seven loved her, but she had thought Seven knew it and had just not been ready to take the next step. It made her feel better in a way. She had thought they had an unspoken understanding that when Seven was ready for romance, it would be with Kathryn. Seven had initiated it. “The child you spoke of? Her favorite color was red.” Hadn’t Seven’s eyes made a short tour of her body when she said that? Seven could be so subtle; there could be layers of meaning in the simplest comment or twitch of a lip or ocular implant. Kathryn had interpreted it as ‘You are my favorite person, but I am not ready to say that yet. Be patient with me until then.’ A thousand other things had convinced her she had not misinterpreted the simple comment. Seven let her get closer to her than she did anyone else. Seven came to her with her pain and confusion and grief; sank into her arms and cried when with practically everyone else she tried to pretend she had no emotions. Came to her with her confusion and asked for her help. Would do things she didn’t like just because she asked. She had been content to wait until Seven was ready, safe in the knowledge that it was she that Seven loved. It had hurt when she’d experimented with dating with Chapman, and now that she’d somewhat rekindled her relationship with Axum, though had abandoned that when she’d had to destroy Unimatrix Zero and had discovered he was on the other side of the galaxy. She had no idea how to lead Seven to the truth of their hearts, or even if she should. She was not sure what would hurt Seven worse in the long run.
Seven had looked gorgeous as Annika, though she missed the exoticness of her implants. She wondered if she could get Seven to dress and wear her hair like that again. Even if they were never together, at least she could enjoy the view.
God, how the hell had Seven managed to walk after having most of her implants removed? Her whole body ached and her head was killing her. Where was Seven, anyway? After her earlier brief visit, she’d said she’d be back after she’d talked to the Doctor and taken care of a few things. That had been half an hour ago. Kathryn was looking forward to a deeper conversation with her. Perhaps she’d be able to gain information that would help her lead Seven to the truth. Like how did she feel about never being able to meet Axum in the real world? How had they gotten together in the first place? And how hell did she manage to walk in those damn heels with perfect posture after major surgery?
Seven came in pushing an antigravity chair. “How would you like to convalesce in your quarters?”
“The Doctor has to monitor me,” she said confusedly.
“After you severed me, as much as I told myself location was irrelevant, I wished I had someplace else to recover. Someplace far from the Doctor,” Seven confided quietly. “The way he hovers and pokes and prods made me very nervous and irritated. I know you do not like being in sickbay either, so I convinced him that since the physical danger is over, I was the most qualified to help you and the others recover. After all, who else knows what it’s like to be assimilated and severed from the Collective?” she asked reasonably. “I will speak with Cmdr Tuvok and Lt Torres tomorrow.”
“I never knew that. I would’ve found you some place more comfortable if I’d known it made any difference to you,” Kathryn said sorrowfully.
“It was more comfortable than the brig,” Seven said with a faint smile. “I did not want to admit to any weakness. I did not want you to know anything about how I was feeling other than I was angry. But I was more afraid than angry, and I was angry with myself for being scared and weak. Most of all, I was lonely. I did not really remember being without the voices. I am glad that you do not have to go through that. It was very unpleasant. Necessary, and ultimately satisfying, but it was very unpleasant for a long time,” she continued softly.
“I knew you were mostly afraid. It was the strength of your emotional responses that convinced me I had made the right decision. Of all the decisions I’ve made in my life, that’s one I’ve never, ever regretted. Even during your ‘terrible twos’,” Kathryn grinned cheekily.
Seven smiled her rare full smile. “I prefer to consider it my ‘teenage rebellion’ period,” she said loftily.
“Do you think there’d be a mutiny if I tried one of those?” Kathryn mused playfully, thoroughly enjoying Seven being playful and wanting to continue the exchange.
“I would offer to assimilate anyone who tried, but that would be counterproductive. No one would know what to rebel against.”
Kathryn laughed. “Get me out of here before I wake up B’Elanna or Tuvok.”
Seven removed the blanket and Kathryn was suddenly reminded she was in her underwear. At least she was wearing the gender neutral Starfleet issue boxers and not the racy lacey’s she liked to wear under her uniform normally. She was further reminded of her state of undress when one long arm slipped gently behind her back and the other eased under her bare knees. The fabric of Seven’s biosuit was slightly rough and scratchy against her skin. Then she was being gently lifted and cradled carefully against Seven’s slender body before she was eased into the antigravity chair and released. “I could’ve gotten into the chair by myself, but thanks for the lift,” she said wryly to cover how much she’d enjoyed the brief experience. It wouldn’t do for anyone to know that the indestructible Captain Janeway loved to be carried.
Seven solicitously tucked one of her pillows behind her back and folded and tucked the blanket over her lap and bare legs. “I know you *could* have, but since we are the only ones conscious, it was unnecessary for you to suffer for the sake of appearances,” Seven said calmly. “It would’ve been more efficient to simply carry you to your quarters rather than unearth an antigravity chair from the depths of ship’s stores, but that would have discomforted you greatly.”
“Yes, it would have. Not very captainly at all. An antigravity chair isn’t much better, but I’d rather recover staring at my own ceiling where not just anyone can come in,” Kathryn admitted.
“I know. I do not like being on display when I malfunction either. I will leave you to recover in peace once I have gotten you settled. I will be in Astrometrics catching up on my work if you need anything enough to admit to it. I have regenerated entirely too much lately.”
“You don’t have to go. You don’t hover. I’m not sleepy. I’d like to have a philosophical discussion. I miss them,” Kathryn confessed.
“I do, too. I did not realize you enjoyed them, or I would not have stopped coming by. I thought you were… disappointed I could not solve my dilemmas myself and irritated that I questioned your decisions. I do not enjoy being in conflict with you,” Seven admitted as she pushed Kathryn through the silent corridors.
“Seven, everyone needs help figuring things out sometimes, and I’ve never expected you to figure everything out alone, no matter how it might seem. A lot of times it would’ve saved a lot of time and heart ache if you’d just talked to me. I don’t like being in conflict with you either and I don’t like it when you shut me out. I know that’s mostly my fault. I don’t listen as much as I should. I haven’t been a very good friend,” Kathryn admitted. “I get so focused on being the Captain, I forget sometimes I need to be Kathryn just as much.”
“You have faced the Borg Queen for me twice; once to rescue me, once to save my friends. I believe that would count as being a ‘good friend’,” Seven objected. “And insane, but the two are not mutually exclusive.”
“You sacrificed yourself to the Borg Queen to save me and the crew, and you were in danger of being killed to save your friends just as much as I was,” Kathryn pointed out. “And you knew exactly what you were facing. I only had an idea of how unpleasant it was to be assimilated. I can’t imagine how frightening and painful that had to be at six. My admiration for you has increased substantially after today.”
“I only did what you taught me to do. If there is anything admirable about me, it is only because of your guidance and example,” Seven said, voice ragged with emotion.
“I don’t think so. I think it’s all you. I just gave you a chance to discover it.”
Seven was quiet for the rest of the trip to Kathryn’s quarters and Kathryn could almost hear the gears grinding as she thought. “Like you did for Lt Paris,” she said finally as she was lifting Kathryn out of the chair in her living area. “He possessed the qualities that would make him a good officer and a good person, but until you, he did not have anyone who believed in him, no matter how badly he erred.”
“Pretty much, yes, but you hadn’t done anything to cause your problems,” Kathryn conceded, more comfortable with that parallel. “Would you set me on the couch, please? I don’t want to go to bed yet.”
Seven did and took a few minutes fiddling with the blanket and pillow, looking troubled. “Someone else believed in me,” she said quietly, not looking up. “I was taken to be groomed to be the next queen of the Borg. That is also why she let me go with you originally. She wanted me to experience being an individual so I could lead properly. When she thought I had been an individual long enough, she came for me to continue my education in the way of the Borg. I am sorry I never told you. At first, I did not know, then I was too ashamed to tell anyone.”
Kathryn absorbed the news quietly. “I thought it was only because she’s in love with you, but it makes sense. No wonder you have so much trouble adjusting to being human. I won’t let her have you, though. I may be outnumbered and outgunned, but I’ll never stop fighting for you.” Kathryn stopped, realizing that might be misinterpreted -- or rather, correctly interpreted -- and she didn’t want to add to Seven’s confusion.
“I do not want her to have me. As confusing and sometimes painful it is to be an individual, I do not want to stop. Where once I felt belonging -- as much as a drone could feel -- now I only feel fear. In some ways, you and the Queen are similar -- you are both formidable women who are utterly convinced you know what is right, you are both convinced you know what is best for me, and you are both willing to fight for me, but while I fear and loath the Queen, and sometimes that tendency in you annoys me, I feel safe and… cared for with you,” Seven said as if she were thinking aloud. “You are usually willing to at least listen to my wishes, if I am forceful enough in letting you know I have them, but the Queen does not care what I want.”
Kathryn wanted to ask her if she wanted Kathryn to ‘have’ her, but she repressed the desire. “I’d like to say that it’s just a captain’s thing, but the fact of the matter is, I always thought I was right long before I was a captain. I was always this damn stubborn, too. I’ll try to listen to you more, but sometimes I can’t accommodate everyone’s wishes as much as I’d like to. That *is* often a captain’s thing. But I can promise that I’ll always keep you as safe as any human can in this galaxy, and I do care for you very much -- as both the captain and the person under the pips,” she said softly. “No matter how human or Borg you are.” It felt good to say that aloud, and she decided that it wasn’t too much too soon.
“I care for you very much as well, and I understand. I do not expect you to act contrary to your nature and your position. I have discovered that it is not good to always get what you want. What would you have to strive for if you did? It is the flaw of the Collective. They seek perfection, but the method they use necessarily makes that goal unachievable, even if such a thing as perfection existed. What would they do if they got it? Yet, I still seek perfection. I keep trying to be perfectly human while clinging to my Borgness, despite knowing that I cannot be both, and no longer liking the Collective.”
Kathryn hugged the soft words to herself. She knew how Seven felt, of course, but Seven had never said the words before. “Not everything about the Collective is bad, Seven. Loyalty, working together, exploring, gathering knowledge for knowledge’s sake, patience, and tenacity are positive traits. Seeking to improve your society is a good thing. It’s just how they do it that’s wrong. Those are traits that Starfleet and humanity has espoused as well. You’ll always be both, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Your Borgness has saved all of us so many times. I’m just sorry that your road is so hard because so many people don’t understand that,” she finished softly, giving in and reaching out to hold Seven’s Borg hand.
Seven was looking at her in amazement and wonder. “You really think that?” she asked quietly.
“Of course I do. I’ve never lied to you. I know I’ve pushed you to embrace your humanity, but I never intended you to abandon your Borg half entirely, and I’m very sorry if it seemed that way. You’ve far surpassed any expectations I had in the beginning,” Kathryn said sincerely, realizing that maybe she hadn’t been nearly as communicative as she might have been. “Have you been thinking that I’m disappointed that you’re not one hundred percent ‘normal’ human?” she asked in dismay.
“Yes,” Seven admitted. “It’s not just you -- everyone expects me to be totally human, or totally Borg. I have been trying, but it’s so hard,” she sighed.
“I just want you to reach your full potential, no matter how human or Borg or neither that ends up being,” Kathryn said, squeezing the hand in hers.
“Axum and my other friends were upset because I retained many of my Borg mannerisms and my implants. He professed to love me still. It was disturbing to discover that I had carried on a romance for six years that I could not remember. I did not think I was capable of romance. Later, I remembered how I used to feel. I am uncertain if I was in love, or if I still love him, or only the idea of having someone out there. The longer I am away from Unimatrix Zero, the more I think it was only the idea I am not a failure,” Seven confided quietly, looking troubled and uncertain.
“Seven, do you think I’m a failure?” Kathryn asked.
“No, of course not,” Seven said immediately, shocked.
“I’ve never had a successful romantic relationship, though,” Kathryn persisted to make a point. Seven was thinking about that, she saw. “Romance is not some sort of prerequisite to be human, Seven. You won’t suddenly be perfectly human if you have a romantic partner. Most relationships just don’t work out, especially the first one. People change, circumstances change, it’s Tuesday, there’s a million reasons,” she continued. “It doesn’t mean you’ve failed anything.”
Obviously, that was a new concept to Seven. “It doesn’t?”
“No, it doesn’t. I’d think him not liking such a major part of you would indicate he just wasn’t the right one for you,” Kathryn said and wanted to kick herself. It was true, but she probably shouldn’t have said it.
“That’s what I thought,” Seven said, clearly relieved. “But then I thought that perhaps I was being too picky.”
“Honey, wanting to be loved for who you are is *not* being overly picky; it’s inefficient and illogical to settle for anything less,” Kathryn said, trying to phrase it in a way that Seven would understand, and not noticing her verbal slip.
“‘Honey’; that is a term of endearment. No one has addressed me with an endearment since before I was assimilated,” Seven said wonderingly. She looked down at their linked hands. “You really do care for me as I am.”
“Yes, I do,” Kathryn affirmed. “You’re an extraordinary individual.”
Seven leaned forward and awkwardly hugged her. Kathryn was shocked; there had only been a handful of times Seven had initiated any physical contact, and it had been a while since she’d given any indication she desired an embrace at all. She put her arms around her and held her close an extra moment when Seven went to pull away. “Did I damage you? I apologize, I forgot your condition.” Seven asked worriedly.
“No, Seven. As a matter of fact, my back feels better now. You must’ve pressed my spine into a better alignment.”
“Good,” Seven said, pleased. “Would you like a massage? I remember it helped me after my exoplating was removed. Of course, I was not used to having exposed skin and the damage to my human circulatory system was far more extensive.”
Kathryn frowned. “I don’t remember the Doctor mentioning massage therapy.”
“I wondered if it was truly therapeutic myself when I discovered he was in love with me, but I checked my medical records, and I believe it was medically based. He did not touch anything inappropriate. I did not want to ask because I do not want to be forced to reject him,” Seven said.
“I didn’t know you knew that. I’ve been wondering if I should say something,” Kathryn commented. If she hadn’t known better, she might have wondered if Seven knew how she herself felt and was doing the same thing.
“I didn’t until after my failed date and I overheard some crewmen discussing the situation. I discounted the notion at first, but then I began to pay more attention and realized he was looking at me like Ensign Kim when I first came on board. I realized there had been signs, but since we were friends, I did not place any significance on them. How do you tell the difference between friendship and love?” Seven asked curiously.
“I don’t know if I can be any help. I haven’t really figured it out myself,” Kathryn admitted. “It’s very easy to mistake friendship for love. That’s what I did with Mark, the man I was engaged to when Voyager set out, but it wasn’t until probably our third year out that I realized that. I’m an idiot when it comes to love. We grew up together and after my father and Justin died, I guess I just needed someone and there he was. I convinced myself that grand passion didn’t work, and what I really needed was someone comfortable and stable. He was pretty quick to decide I was dead and move on, so I guess *that* didn’t work either. I guess you need both passion and comfort,” she said thoughtfully. “You know, I think we had the same trouble that you and Axum have. We were just too different. He was happy on Earth and didn’t like space, and I’m happiest in space and don’t like to be planet side too long at a time.”
“I do not think I understand passion,” Seven said reluctantly. “How do you know if what you are feeling is passion?”
Kathryn tried to think of how to explain it. “It’s hard to explain, but if you have an intense desire to kiss and sexually touch someone frequently, it could be passion. If you have an intense desire to know every thing about someone and spend every minute possible with them, plus wanting to kiss and sexually touch them, it very well could be love.” It was inadequate, but she couldn’t think of a better explanation.
“Doctor to Seven of Nine. Lt Torres is agitated. Could you come to sickbay and give me a hand?”
Seven tapped her com badge. “Acknowledged. I will be right there. Seven out.” She stood up reluctantly. “Do you want me to help you to bed first?”
“No, just hand me the book on my chair. Hail me when you’re finished.”
“All right. Goodnight, Captain.”
“Kathryn,” she corrected impulsively. “We’ve been friends for three years; it’s about time you call me by my first name.”
Seven flashed her that rare full smile again. “Goodnight, Kathryn. Hail me if you need anything.” She left.
Kathryn sat quietly, savoring the way Seven caressed the syllables of her name, for long minutes before trying to immerse herself in her book. She had the happy feeling things were looking up.
Seven walked into sickbay to find Lt Torres behind a force field. She nodded to herself. “You may deactivate yourself, Doctor. I can handle this.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he said worriedly.
“Do not worry, I know what to do. I have been through this before,” Seven said gently.
He looked at her, and nodded before deactivating himself.
Seven deactivated the force field. “Your mind is in chaos. You do not know if you hate the Collective, the Captain, me, or yourself the most. You are a warrior, you should have been able to resist longer. You should not have been so easily overcome. What ifs are running wildly through your mind. What if you hadn’t had the neural inhibitor? What could you have done differently? What if Voyager and my friends hadn’t been able to rescue you? You are so filled with rage and fear you feel like you will explode with it,” she said gently. “You want to strike me for all that I stand for. Go ahead. Hit me until you cannot lift your arms any longer. I will even resist if that will help.”
The fight went out of the other woman, as Seven had suspected, though she would’ve allowed herself to be attacked. “Is this what you felt when Janeway severed you?”
“Very similar, though I was angry at the captain for taking me from all that I knew and not letting me go back. It was not until later that I became angry at the Collective and began to hate myself for what I had done while I was part of it,” she allowed. “I do not allow myself those emotions very often or for very long. I have channeled them into seeking redemption instead,” she admitted. “You have done nothing to require redeeming, so that will not be a helpful course of action for you. I really do not mind if you strike me. We can repair the damage ourselves and no one ever has to know.”
“It’s no fun if you volunteer,” Lt Torres grumbled. “And if you’re gonna be *nice*.”
“I will insult you and defend myself if that would help.”
“No, I don’t want to hit you now. I’m sure that’ll change the next time you reroute power, though.”
“I do not do that any more unless it is vital. I understand why it’s wrong now,” Seven said a bit defensively.
Lt Torres grinned. “I was teasing you, Seven. How are you doing? I heard that you had a boyfriend in Unimatrix Zero, but he’s on the other side of the galaxy.”
She genuinely wanted to know, Seven noted in surprise. “I am confused. I did apparently have a six year relationship with Axum, and he is on the far side of the Beta Quadrant. I remember how I felt, and I did allow the relationship to be somewhat rekindled, but I believe after discussing the matter with the captain and thinking about it, I merely talked myself into it for the experience,” she admitted. “It seemed so romantic and I want so badly to fit in. It seemed like if I could only understand romance and be successful at it, then I would finally have succeeded in being human. Captain Janeway said it doesn’t work like that.”
“Love is confusing at the best of times, Seven. Kahless knows I’m no good at it either. Relationships based on fantasy probably aren’t the best choices, though. Unimatrix Zero sounds like the holodeck and falling in love with a holo character. It’s possible, but probably not something you should hold onto,” Lt Torres said more gently than Seven had ever heard her speak.
Seven sat beside her on the biobed and thought about that. “When I first appeared in Unimatrix Zero, it was as I am. Axum did not like that I retained my implants and Borg mannerisms. After that, I changed my appearance to be fully human. I did not even think about it, but he could have vastly changed his appearance as well. I do not even know what he looks like. I believe you are correct. It was not real. He did not like who I am, only a fantasy of me, and I cared only for the fantasy of him,” she realized. “But how do you know if you love someone? Captain Janeway said that if you think about someone constantly and want to spend all your time with them, it could be love, but she also said that it is easy to mistake friendship for love.”
“That sounds right. It’s equally easy to mistake love for friendship. It took me a long time to realize I loved Tom as more than just a friend,” Lt Torres said.
Seven thought of the captain -- Kathryn. “I have been wondering about something, but I have been afraid to ask the captain. The Doctor said I had to chose a male for my date, but I have seen two female ensigns kissing in the corridors. Is it permissible to date one’s own gender?” she asked tentatively.
Lt Torres looked at her oddly. “It’s fine, and some people think it’s the only way to go. Most people have no gender bias, though usually people slightly favor one sex over the other. A few people think it’s wrong, mostly religious fundamentalists, but that opinion is considered even more unenlightened than xenophobia. It varies by race, but it’s perfectly acceptable for humans. It’s not very acceptable for Klingons, but I favor my human side in that. I had a female lover or two years ago, though don’t tell anyone that. I’ll take a look at the Doctor’s program; Dr Zimmerman must’ve been one of those throwbacks. No wonder you’ve had so much trouble with romance.”
“Do you think perhaps that I am merely one of those people who only like their own gender and that is why I cannot assimilate romance?” Seven asked.
“You could be. Is there one woman in particular you think you have feelings for, or women in general?”
“I think I may love one woman, but I am uncertain. I have found I function better in her presence; I feel lessened when she is angry with me; I think about her all the time; my heart rate and respiration increase when she is close to me; I find myself making excuses to see her. When we touch, I feel electrical current go through my body. Holding her hand was far more pleasant than kissing Axum. Does that sound like it might be love?” Seven questioned hopefully.
“It sounds like love to me. Who is it? I swear on my honor I’ll never tell anyone, even Tom. It’ll be easier for me to help you figure out if she feels the same if I know who it is.”
Seven hesitated, but Lt Torres was an honorable woman. “It’s Captain Janeway,” she whispered, though she had no idea why. Cmdr Tuvok was unconscious, and he would never tell anyone even if he heard. He undoubtedly already knew after mind melding with both of them.
“I thought so. I’m pretty sure she loves you, too; the problem will be getting her to admit it and act on it. There’s an unwritten rule in Starfleet that captains don’t get involved with their crew, and then there’s her guilt over getting us stranded in the Delta Quadrant. I think she feels that she doesn’t deserve happiness until we get home,” Lt Torres warned her gently.
“It is that obvious? I felt love and longing from her when we mind-melded, but I thought it was the love of a friend and a wish that I could be that human in reality. She thinks I am beautiful, and I think I saw her project an image of us kissing, but I thought it was merely an appreciation of aesthetics. Do you think there is any hope she may allow us to be involved?”
“It is, if you’re paying attention. I thought you thought of her more as a mother figure like I do, though. The way she looks at you when she thinks no one is looking, the way she invades your personal space and touches you casually more than she does with everyone else, and the occasional almost flirtatious comment to you lead me to believe that she loves you. What you felt from her just confirms it. How did she react to Axum?”
Seven recounted the conversation and how the captain had held her hand, feeling hopeful, excited, and nervous. Could love have been right under her nose all this time? Would it work out this time?
Lt Torres was quiet and thoughtful after she finished. “I think the signs are very positive that she’s ready or almost ready to admit it, if she thought her attentions would be welcomed. I wouldn’t just tell her, especially not for a while. Just try to spend more time with her off duty. The fact she asked you to call her Kathryn alone is a very good sign. We’ve been friends for years and she’s never invited me to use her first name. She only lets Chakotay and Tuvok, and I think she only lets Chakotay because he’s her first officer. I’ve never even heard her use an endearment with Naomi.”
“A sound plan. I will utilize it. Do you think it would be too obvious if I was slightly more tactile when we are alone? Not anything overt, but returning the casual touches she offers?” The risk of opening herself emotionally to the woman who did not like her had paid off. She thought perhaps they may even be friends someday.
“Slightly. Touch her with your Borg hand. Be a little more vulnerable with her. Keep showing her that you trust her with the parts of yourself that you keep hidden from the rest of us. It wouldn’t hurt to let go of a little of your reserve with more of the crew. The more she sees you adjusting, the more likely she is to approach you,” Lt Torres suggested.
“I will try, but it is difficult when hardly anyone seems to *want* to socialize with me,” Seven confessed. “Plus, when I am nervous, I tend to act more Borg-like.”
“Come by Sandrine’s; I’ll teach you how to play pool and darts; I bet you’d be great at those. We can bet on games and clean the men out of their rations, though no fair keeping Tom’s. You know… I bet the captain would teach you how to play. It would be a good way to spend time with her. She likes to teach you new things, but it’s more casual than the usual things you do together.”
“An efficient plan. Having a set activity would make socializing easier and give me something to talk about other than work. I will ask her to teach me privately so we can ‘surprise’ the others. Though I do not think I will mention that part to her.”
“Good idea. I think I can sleep now. You should hail her before she falls asleep waiting for you.”
“If you are sure. I will be ‘up’ if you need company. I have regenerated so much the last two days that I will not need to regenerate again for many hours,” Seven offered.
“Thanks. Night, Seven.”
“Goodnight, Lt Torres.”
“B’Elanna,” Seven repeated, trying out her smile. B’Elanna smiled back and laid down. The day had been full of revelations and successes. Perhaps she had made progress in becoming more human after all.
Kathryn looked across her dining table feeling a little bemused. Seven was eating blueberry pancakes in a Starfleet issue undershirt and boxers with her hair down and unbrushed and her feet bare as if it were something she did every morning instead of an entirely new situation. She hadn’t seemed that shaken by sharing her bed last night either. Kathryn was not quite sure how that had happened, even though nothing *had* happened. It had been completely platonic.
Kathryn had been thinking about her conversation with Seven and wondering what kind of help the Doctor had needed and when Seven would hail her. Their interaction had been different -- Seven more open and affectionate than usual. Her hands were still tingling from being clasped in Seven’s, and she tried to pretend for about thirty seconds that it was an effect from the faint electrical current that powered the implant. When Seven hailed her to let her know that B’Elanna was fine, she’d invited her to come back and talk a little more. Seven had accepted. They had sat on the couch and Kathryn had found herself leaning against her and asking Seven to put her arm around her. Seven had done so a little awkwardly, but very willingly and she hadn’t seemed to think there was anything odd about her request. She’d explained that when she had been severed, she’d wanted to be held, but hadn’t felt able to admit it. They’d discussed B’Elanna for a bit, but she felt there was something Seven wasn’t telling her.
After a while, Kathryn had started to yawn and Seven had insisted that she go to bed. She hadn’t wanted to be alone -- or more accurately, without Seven. Seven had offered to sit with her until she feel asleep. Somehow, she’d invited Seven to spend the night. In her bed. Seven had been intrigued by the idea of sleep and had agreed. Seven had carried her to the door of the en suite and left her to ready herself for bed in private. Kathryn had taken a quick sonic shower and recycled her clothes before putting them back on. A nightgown hadn’t seemed appropriate for a platonic sleepover. She had called to Seven that it was safe to enter as soon as she was in bed. Seven had came in wearing a Starfleet issue t-shirt and shorts with her hair down and barefoot. She looked absolutely breathtaking. Kathryn had realized she’d never seen Seven’s legs before. She had a delicate silver implant that came out from under the leg of her shorts all the way down her thigh that terminated in a starburst just above her ankle. She’d wondered what it was for, but hadn’t asked. She assumed the starburst enhanced her strength, but what the rest of it did, she had no idea. Seven had laid down awkwardly and lain still on her back. “If you get bored and can’t sleep, there are some blank pads in my desk drawer. You can work at my workstation or on the couch or come back to bed,” Kathryn had offered just before succumbing to sleep.
She had awakened in Seven’s arms with her head tucked under Seven’s chin. Seven had already been awake and unbothered. Kathryn had apparently had a nightmare and had snuggled up to Seven for protection. Seven had dismissed it as a natural instinct for comfort and assured her the experience had not caused her any discomfort and urged her back to sleep -- and hadn’t let go of her. She’d allowed herself to doze for a while, lulled by the steady heartbeat under her ear and the warmth of the covers and Seven. Seven’s abdominal implant had dug into her, hard and unyielding, but she hadn’t minded. It was part of Seven, and everything else was pleasant. She hadn’t slept that well since she was a child.
The next time she had awakened, Seven had shaken her shoulder and told her breakfast was ready. How Seven had figured out that she was hungry for waffles, eggs, and bacon, she didn’t know. It wasn’t something she ate often. Her first cup of coffee was at the perfect temperature and it was the best coffee she’d had since the last cup her sister had made for her. Seven didn’t drink coffee, so how she had managed that miracle was also a mystery. “How did you get my replicator to behave?” she asked finally.
“I promised it I wouldn’t tell,” Seven said seriously, looking up from her pancakes and politely putting down her fork to give her her complete attention.
“I’m going to have to invite you over more often. This is the best breakfast I’ve had since my last morning at my mother’s,” she smiled. “The coffee is spectacular.” Too late, she realized that had sounded rather flirtatious. At least she hadn’t said she’d have gotten herself assimilated years ago if she’d known it’d rate this kind of service, or asked Seven if she’d threatened to assimilate her replicator. Flirting was better than reminding her of bad memories or hurting her feelings.
Seven looked very pleased and flushed slightly. “I hoped my adjustments would improve the taste, but I could not be certain since I do not like coffee at all.”
“You’ve tried it?” Kathryn asked.
“Once. I was curious. I do not understand the appeal,” Seven admitted.
“It’s an acquired taste, especially black. A lot of people think it tastes better with milk and sugar or chocolate.”
“I did not know that. I like milk and I like hot chocolate. I will attempt that permutation the next time I require liquid nutrition,” Seven said looking intrigued.
“I’d offer to fix it for you, but my replicator obviously likes you better.” Great, just assume that the next time she wants a drink, she’ll be with you.
“I am part machine; perhaps it thinks I am its cousin,” Seven replied, just a hint of a grin quirking the corner of her mouth.
Kathryn almost choked on her coffee. “Maybe I should’ve had the Doctor leave a few implants then. Some of them were kinda cute.”
“I had never considered that they had any aesthetic value,” Seven said quietly.
“They do on you, but you’re a beautiful woman to start with,” Kathryn said without thinking.
Seven flushed. “I thought I might be a little pretty, but I did not know I was beautiful,” she said shyly.
Kathryn snorted. “Seven, calling you a little pretty is like calling the Collective a little obsessive. I’ve seen several men and even a few women walk into bulkheads because they were so busy looking at you.”
Seven was actually blushing. It was absolutely adorable. “I had not realized that was why. I thought they were afraid I would assimilate them. But why would the women look at me like that?” she asked in confusion.
Kathryn stared at her. Seven didn’t know…? That would explain why Seven didn’t know she loved her. She didn’t know it was possible. “The same reasons the men do. Seven, are you under the impression that only men and women can be together… sexually?” she asked gently.
“Yes. You mean that is not the case? B’Elanna said something about it, but I thought she was ‘setting me up’ for a practical joke. When the Doctor was giving me social lessons, he never said I could chose a female, and I assumed he would know. Besides, two women or two men cannot procreate.”
Kathryn pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes. She knew she should’ve sat Seven down and given her The Talk, but she had assumed that Seven knew the facts and only lacked the emotional context and that she’d learn that as she went. “Seven, I’ve really let you down. I should’ve talked to you about these things instead of letting you figure them out on your own or with the Doctor, especially after I realized he had a crush on you. Now I wonder if he gave you any practical advice at all. I should’ve taken more of a hand in your socialization lessons in general and with dating in particular. I’m really sorry.”
“You had little enough time for the responsibilities you already had; you could not be expected to teach a drone how to be human, too. You have taught me plenty already; it was not unreasonable to assume that I would figure out socializing on my own in time. It is not your fault I am not good at it. Perhaps I would not have been even if I had not been assimilated. I do not think my parents were concerned about my socialization,” Seven pointed out.
“You were never just a drone to me, Seven. I didn’t really think of you as a drone even when you were. Why do you think I severed you in the first place? I always saw an individual looking back at me,” Kathryn said intently, leaning forward and covering Seven’s hand with her own.
“I have always assumed that you severed me to punish Chakotay for disobeying your orders. You could not put him in the brig or demote him without damaging your command, so you severed me and kept me on your ship as a subtle reminder of his failure, and the fact I was human was just a justification. It was only later that you started to like me,” Seven said matter-of-factly.
“Annoying Chakotay was just a side benefit, albeit a satisfying one. I severed you because you were human and equally because… well, I liked you already. I wanted to get to know you better. I wouldn’t have forced you to stay if I hadn’t been honestly convinced it was the best thing for you, though. I would’ve left you on a planet somewhere with supplies and a locator and let you go back to the Borg if I’d thought you honestly wanted to after having a taste of individuality. Fortunately, I was right,” Kathryn finally confessed. “I have to admit, I’ve always been surprised that you’re so polite to him considering it was only luck that he didn’t kill you, too.”
“He is irrelevant and not worth wasting any emotion on,” Seven explained coolly.
“I’d almost pay you to say that to his face, if I wasn’t the captain,” Kathryn chuckled. “He does have his good points. He doesn’t mind doing the more routine reports or working extra shifts. But I’ve never really forgiven him for that situation. He could’ve gotten us all killed or assimilated, and that was not really how I wanted to get to know you better.”
“You would have had everyone in Unimatrix Zero organized into a rebellion within a week,” Seven said. “The Doctor would have lead the battle from the outside.”
“I would’ve tried at least,” Kathryn conceded.
“I am not certain if Annika would have helped or not,” Seven said reluctantly.
“Maybe not. She wouldn’t have known me as well as you do or known what being an individual was really like. It might have frightened her,” Kathryn allowed.
“I think it might have. She was… lesser,” Seven said slowly, as if thinking aloud. “She was too quick to change herself to fit in, would not voice a contrary opinion, was too passive. Yet Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of the Unimatrix Zero One was too reluctant to change at all, was too convinced she was always right, too arrogant and forceful when she did not need to be. And Seven wants to be somewhere in between, but cannot figure out how. Is it normal to feel like more than one person?” Seven asked in frustration.
“To a certain degree, everyone does. I know I do. There’s Captain Janeway and Kathryn. I haven’t figured out a balance between the two either,” Kathryn said reassuringly. “Then again, I’ve spent most of my life concentrating on being the Starfleet officer and not taking the time or effort to be just me.”
“It is easier,” Seven said understandingly. “Until we get to the Alpha Quadrant, you must always be the captain to some degree.”
“Right. I overdo it, I know. After six years together, I don’t think the ship would fall apart and the crew would mutiny if I spent a few evenings in Sandrine’s drinking beer and telling dirty jokes, yet I don’t,” Kathryn admitted.
“Perhaps we could practice together. It seems to be going well so far,” Seven suggested a little timidly. “I trust you, and I believe I have proven my loyalty over the last three years. No matter how much I may ever disagree, I will never, ever mutiny. Though I could understand how you could doubt that. I have worked against the Borg Queen, and I knew her for quite a bit longer.”
Seven was babbling. It was so cute. “I was going to suggest the same thing. That we practice together, not that you might mutiny. I know you won’t.”
“Good,” Seven said, relieved.
“Computer, state the time,” Kathryn ordered. Shouldn’t it be about time for alpha shift to start?
“It is ten hundred hours.”
“Are you working beta shift today?” Kathryn asked, trying to remember the schedule. She always had Seven’s schedule mirror her own, and she didn’t remember deciding to take a different shift. Chakotay did all the scheduling, so he could’ve slipped something past her.
“No, Captain. Cmdr Chakotay ordered me to help the Doctor with you, Lt Torres, and Cmdr Tuvok today and tomorrow. The Doctor told me he would hail if he required assistance and to partake of leisure activities otherwise. Apparently, I require time to recover myself. I apologize, I thought the commander was relaying orders you had given him. I will dress and report to Astrometrics immediately.” She started to stand.
“Belay that. Sit,” Kathryn ordered from force of habit. “Sorry. I mean, you don’t have to go. You don’t normally take time off, and I didn’t want to keep you from anything.”
“I am unaccustomed to leisure and have yet to learn how to be idle. In the Collective, we worked until it was time to regenerate, then we worked some more after our cycles. I become uneasy if I do not have a set schedule,” she explained.
“I get bored if I don’t have work to do after a while. Maybe later we can rescue B’Elanna from sickbay and go to the holodeck for a socialization lesson,” Kathryn offered. “You could be working and having fun at the same time.”
“Acceptable. As long as it is socializing where you can sit down.”
“Okay. What do you normally do when you’re not working, regenerating, watching the children, and neither Naomi or I are making you spend time with us?” Kathryn asked curiously, realizing she had never asked that before. “For that matter, who *is* watching the children? I didn’t even think of them when I asked you to stay with me last night.”
“Icheb and Neelix are taking care of them outside of their lessons with Naomi. I research the database.”
Kathryn waited for her to continue. “Is that all you do other than work or regenerate?” Kathryn finally prompted.
“You don’t have any hobbies?”
“Sometimes I sing with the Doctor or play the piano if the holodeck is free when I desire to play,” she said shyly. “I listen to music sometimes while I am researching.”
“Mother made me take piano lessons when I was young, but I wasn’t very good at it. I like to sing, but I’m no good at that either. Would you play something for me sometime?”
Seven hesitated. “I am not very good.”
“Seven, usually what you consider ‘not good’ and what most people consider ‘not good’ don’t mesh. If you really don’t want to, I won’t force you, but I’d really like it if you would.”
“I will show you my program. Next week,” Seven conceded.
Kathryn was already wondering how many replicator rations a piano would cost. She *did* have three years’ worth of birthdays to make up for. Maybe she could talk a few people into chipping in. They’d never even attempted to celebrate it, even Neelix. Kathryn didn’t even remember her birthday most of the time; she couldn’t remember when Seven’s was or how old the woman was. She made a mental note to look it up and program the computer to remind her.
B’Elanna had eagerly accepted the captain’s invitation to join her and Seven in the holodeck for lunch and a social lesson. The Doctor had protested until Seven had assured him that she would not let either of them do anything remotely taxing and that it would be extremely helpful in their emotional recovery. It was clear that she was speaking from experience, and though there was no hint of reproach in her tone or a silent ‘unlike what you did to me’, B’Elanna could see both the Doctor and the captain wince. Seven had too and she had looked stricken. B’Elanna would never forget what Seven had said. “I did not mean to imply that your treatment of my severance was deficient. You were all too busy with important things like fighting the Borg, Kes’s ascension, and repairing the ship to be bothered with one insignificant drone. But the ship was not as badly damaged, the Borg are not pursuing now, and the recovery of the captain, chief engineer, and the chief of security is vital for the whole of this col -- crew, and I have time to help.” She’d been completely sincere. “Plus, I was too Borg to know how to socialize; that is not the case here.”
B’Elanna had spent the night and morning thinking about her conversation with Seven. She was not given to introspection and that and her temper had gotten her into trouble more than once. She had taken Seven at face value and assigned the worst motives to every action. She had never stopped to think that Seven was merely being the only way she knew how to be and she truly believed that she was being helpful when she rerouted power or fiddled with things. That Seven had come as far as she had was amazing when B’Elanna truly stopped and thought about how she and most of the crew treated the poor woman. B’Elanna had read the biographical information about Seven which had been thankfully cross referenced because she hadn’t remembered what her name really was. Annika Hansen. It was a name that suited her -- feminine and strong. Her parents had been exobiologists who had studied the Borg, she’d remembered that from when the Borg Queen had blackmailed Seven into returning to the Collective. Her feelings for the Borg had started to change then. It had been an incredibly brave and selfless thing to do, if stupid. The admiration had gotten lost in the petty, everyday annoyances. She hadn’t remembered that Seven had been an only child, alone on a small research ship with only self-absorbed parents for company from the age of three until she was six and had been assimilated. She was a few months younger than B’Elanna. That had put it into perspective for her. Seven had likely never learned how to get along with people to begin with, and she’d been so young when she’d been assimilated, it was unlikely she really remembered being human at all. She couldn’t imagine how difficult it had to be to be Seven. They had all expected her to act like a normal human adult right from the start except for the captain. No wonder Janeway gave Seven so much slack.
“Are you all right, B’Elanna?” Seven asked, looking faintly concerned.
“I’m fine, just thinking. Seven, do you remember your childhood at all?”
“With my parents? A little, mostly just flashes when something reminds me of it. I remember sitting on Papa’s lap and asking him if the Borg would assimilate us, and he hugged me and said that the Borg were just curious about us like we were in them and they were just people like we were and nothing to worry about. I remember when they boarded and took us, and watching my parents be assimilated, and my own assimilation,” she recounted softly. “I could have saved him, but I did not because he and my mother betrayed me,” she added even more softly.
“You were only six, what could you have done?” B’Elanna protested.
“Not then. He was in the Queen’s chamber when I was rescued after I had gone back. I could have grabbed him and taken him with us, but I did not. I could say I did not because he would have fought and slowed us down too much to escape, but truly, I did not because I was and still am angry because he stole my life as surely as if he had assimilated me himself,” Seven revealed. “Parents are supposed to protect their children.”
“You have to try to let it go if you want to move on, Seven. Trust me, hanging on to hate and hurt and anger doesn’t do you any good. They were self-absorbed and misguided as hell, and you paid the ultimate price for it. But they were just human. People make mistakes. I know that doesn’t really help much. But you never would’ve met the captain, or Naomi, or the Doctor, or the children if you hadn’t been assimilated. Try to think of that instead of all the years of possibilities that were stolen from you,” B’Elanna said gently. “It took nearly killing myself to figure that out.”
Seven was looking thoughtful, and the captain was looking at her approvingly. B’Elanna basked in it. Kathryn Janeway was not a mother figure to B’Elanna, but she had resigned herself to never having her years ago. Any hope had died when Seven came aboard. She was keeping that to herself, however.
“You are right, B’Elanna. I should consider my childhood as I do my time in the Collective -- an unfortunate event that cannot be changed and that I am learning to overcome. The Hansens are dead and there is no point in being angry with corpses,” Seven said finally. “This is not fun. I believe you mentioned drinking and dirty jokes, Kathryn?”
“Got room for three more?” Tom asked from behind the captain and Seven. “Chakotay gave me and Harry a couple hours off because he’ll need us partway into beta shift when we’re ready to go back to warp. We decided to take the time to visit while we had it. We stopped by sickbay and found Miss Naomi here trying to pry information out of the Doctor. I thought you’d like to reassure her yourself that you’re fine, Captain,” he explained.
“Don’t you have lessons, Miss Wildman?” Janeway asked mock-sternly.
“No, Captain, my tutor is going over material I’ve already studied, and she said I could go and she’d hail when she was finished,” Naomi said, adopting Seven’s favorite stance. It was cute how she mimicked Seven.
“Well, then, pull up a chair, Miss Wildman, gentlemen, and join us,” Janeway said graciously.
Harry and Tom quickly pushed another table against theirs and brought over two extra chairs. Tom and Harry sat on either side of her and Naomi sat beside Seven. B’Elanna was surprised when Seven hugged the young girl and apologized for missing their kadis kots game the day before. Seven was not affectionate and she didn’t apologize.
“It’s okay, Seven, you were busy. I didn’t expect you to make it. I didn’t expect to get to see you today, so that makes up for it,” Naomi said understandingly. “What’s a dirty joke?”
B’Elanna wasn’t going to volunteer to answer that and stared at her cup like it was the most fascinating thing she’d ever seen.
“I am uncertain myself. Perhaps jokes dealing with biological functions,” Seven answered. “Why don’t you tell one of your favorite jokes? Perhaps today will be the day I remember how to laugh,” she suggested smoothly.
“You don’t know how to laugh?” B’Elanna asked. She’d always assumed Seven either didn’t have a sense of humor or was too restrained to laugh, not that she couldn’t.
“No, I do not. I sometimes wish to, but it has yet to happen. Perhaps I will remember how eventually. It does not appear difficult,” Seven said.
“We’ll tell you all our best -- and worst -- jokes until you have to laugh in self defense to make us stop,” Tom promised with a grin. “I’ll start with an old style of joke called a ‘knock knock’ joke. They were told back when homes had wooden doors that had to be opened manually and there were no entrance chimes. One had to knock on the door to request to come in,” he explained. “Knock knock. Someone say ‘who’s there’.”
“I remember knock knock jokes,” the captain said. “Who’s there?”
“Orange you glad I didn’t say ‘knock knock’?”
Everyone groaned except for Seven who raised her ocular implant. “I assume that was one of the ‘worst’ ones?”
“Yep. Some jokes are so bad you have to laugh, but I guess that one isn’t.”
“This is a really old, bad joke, but I loved it when I was five. Why did -- Oh, wait, I can’t tell that one. Never mind,” Harry said hastily. He mentally smacked himself in the forehead. He liked Seven and didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Sometimes he wished he’d think before speaking.
“You knew dirty jokes when you were five?” Naomi asked with interest. “How come I can’t hear any then?”
“It’s not dirty,” Harry said quickly. “It’s about numbers,” he added reluctantly.
B’Elanna frowned, whether in warning or because she didn’t know what joke he was talking about, he wasn’t sure, but Tom and the captain were looking at each other and nodding. The captain looked slightly apprehensive.
“Ah, you do not want to offend me. Go ahead and tell it, Harry, before B’Elanna and Naomi explode from curiosity. I will not be offended,” Seven said, smiling slightly.
“Okay. Why was six afraid of seven?” Harry asked quickly, hoping she wouldn’t be.
“I could offer a suggestion, but please continue,” Seven said, actually appearing interested in the answer.
“Because seven ate nine,” he blurted and winced.
Seven’s lips twitched and she started to laugh. It was quiet and rusty, but definitely a laugh. Seven was so shocked she stopped for a moment, but then she started again louder. It transformed her face and suddenly she looked very young and human. He wasn’t the only one transfixed; everyone else was staring at her. Harry grinned, feeling like he was the king of the universe. Captain Janeway was looking at her with eyes filled with joy, wonder, and love. Any hope he’d ever secretly harbored that someday Seven might fall for him died, but he didn’t mind. He hadn’t really expected it to ever happen, and the captain would make a much better partner for Seven than he ever could. He was happy enough just being the first person to make her laugh.
“Seven’s not a cannibal,” Naomi protested reproachfully.
“No, but Six was,” Seven gasped between laughs, laughing even harder. She bent over and clutched her stomach with both arms.
At that, everyone cracked up. Her laughter was infectious to start with, but the idea of a cannibalistic drone was hilarious. Naomi giggled a little, but she still looked offended.
“How does one stop laughing?” Seven choked out, clearly alarmed.
It set them off again. Harry tried to gather himself enough to answer seriously, but he couldn’t. It felt too good to laugh. Seeing Seven laughing and happy was strangely healing. If Seven could learn to laugh after the life she had been forced to live, then there was hope for them all.
Seven did not remember ever feeling so relaxed and happy. It was not entirely because of Kathryn’s head on her shoulder and the narrow, strong shoulders under her arm. She had laughed. “I was wrong,” she admitted quietly to Kathryn. “It is not romance that makes you human. It is sharing laughter with friends.” She felt like Tom, Harry, and B’Elanna were her friends now, too. They had laughed with her and looked at her with friendly eyes like she was part of them.
“I think you may have something there. Friends are more important than a lover in many ways, and sharing laughter is an elemental aspect of social interaction,” Kathryn said thoughtfully. “I’m glad I was there to see your first laugh. You have a wonderful laugh,” she added softly.
Seven flushed. She loved it when she made Kathryn happy. How could she not have known why? “Thank you, Kathryn. I was pleased you witnessed the event, too. I like sharing new experiences with you.” Was that too obvious? B’Elanna had told her to be subtle and go slow. Since she was in a successful long term relationship, her advice was likely sound.
“So do I. You make me see the world with new eyes. Being your friend and helping you rediscover your humanity has helped me rediscover my own. I hadn’t even realized I was losing it,” Kathryn revealed in that husky emotional tone Seven so adored.
Seven considered that with some shock. She had not known that. It pleased her to know that she had helped her captain with more than data and her engineering skills. “We have been learning together all along then. I… I lack the emotional vocabulary to express how I feel,” she said, frustrated.
“I know how you feel about me, Seven. I could sense your emotions while we were mind melded,” she confessed very quietly, stiffening slightly.
Seven was afraid and braced herself for the gentle, understanding rejection she was sure was coming. “You… You did?” she questioned nervously. “I did not realize I was… projecting,” she added awkwardly.
“I suspected you didn’t, and I hadn’t intended to mention it until you were ready to tell me. I feel much the same about you, so you can relax before you strain something,” Kathryn teased gently.
“You… you do?” Seven asked, hoping they were talking about the same feelings.
“Yes, I do. I thought you knew all along and were just waiting to speak of it until the mind meld, or I would’ve tried to be more obvious,” she explained. “We don’t have to discuss it any more until you’re ready.”
“It never occurred to me that you might have felt the same until last night. I knew you cared for me, but I did not know how. I did not know how to categorize my own feelings until after talking with you and B’Elanna last night,” she explained. “It relieved me greatly. I thought I was defective when I felt more holding your hand than I did kissing Axum,” she admitted shyly.
“I’ve tried to convince myself more than once that the reason my hands tingle when we touch is because your implants give off some sort of energy despite knowing better,” Kathryn revealed with a crooked gin.
“They do, but not enough that it should be noticeable,” Seven said, frowning. “Perhaps we should have the Doctor make sure you are not merely unusually sensitive to it.”
“If it would make you feel better, but we’d have to explain why we wanted testing done,” Kathryn pointed out.
“Do you not want anyone to know about the change in our interaction?” Seven asked uncertainly. She had not considered that.
“Have we changed it? Do you want to be a couple?” Kathryn asked, sounding almost as uncertain as Seven felt.
“Is that not the next step after admitting that we love one another? Did I miss something in my research?”
“Yesterday you were kissing someone else and didn’t know you loved me. I don’t want rush you,” Kathryn explained.
“I have loved you for some time, and I will not kiss anyone else. I do not require more time to know that I wish to be your romantic partner, but I will be patient if you do.” Seven was uncertain what the problem was, but she was sure Kathryn would tell her eventually.
“You’re positive you’re ready to try dating again?” Kathryn asked, searching her eyes for any sign of doubt.
Seven faltered. “Dating? I am no good at dates. We already know each other. Can’t we skip that part?”
“Seven, this afternoon could be considered a date. We went together to spend time with our friends. It went well, didn’t it?”
“I will not have to consume any thing with an exoskeleton or dance, will I?” Seven asked resignedly, knowing she would if Kathryn asked.
“No exoskeletons, but I would like to teach you how to dance properly. It’s a good way to be able to hold each other in public without making anyone uncomfortable,” Kathryn promised.
“You do not ‘play fair’,” Seven grumbled. “If I damage you, do not blame me.”
“We Janeways are much sturdier than Chapmans, and besides, dancing is all about nonverbal communication and we’re pretty good at that already,” Kathryn said reassuringly.
That was true. She often knew what Kathryn wanted without her having to say a word. “I will try again. After you are fully healed,” Seven acquiesced.
“Good. How about kissing? Are you ready to try that again?” Kathryn asked hopefully.
Seven considered it. She had enjoyed holding hands, and she was enjoying holding Kathryn. Kissing would likely be much more pleasant with Kathryn as well. “Yes. Do you wish to try it now?”
“I wouldn’t mind,” she conceded, grinning.
Seven stood and offered Kathryn her hand, taking a deep breath to steady her nerves. She would succeed. Kathryn looked slightly confused, but allowed herself to be drawn up. Seven put her arms around Kathryn’s waist and drew her close. Kathryn willingly put her arms around her neck and tilted her face up. Seven bent her head and tentatively kissed her. It was very pleasant. Kathryn’s lips were much softer and warmer than Axum’s, and her smaller and softer body felt far better against her own. It felt right. “This is what I was missing. Love must be the missing variable,” she said in wonder, barely pulling back enough to look into Kathryn’s eyes. They were warm and blue which indicated Kathryn was happy. They were gray when Kathryn was angry, worried, scared, or bored. Kathryn liked her kiss and wasn’t sorry she had allowed it. It relieved her greatly. It was only the forth time she had done it as an individual, and the first in reality. She decided the others didn’t count. “Was I sufficient? I have never kissed anyone outside my mind before,” she asked because she wanted Kathryn to know how important it was to her.
“It was the best kiss I’ve ever had. Love must indeed be the missing variable. If you get much more sufficient, I won’t be able to stand up,” Kathryn praised her sincerely. “I hoped I’d get to participate in your first kiss, and I guess I have,” she said, looking quite pleased.
“It is the only one that counts,” Seven said firmly. She blushed. “And I have never… done anything else,” she revealed shyly.
“In six years you and Axum never…?” Kathryn asked, clearly shocked.
“I never wanted to which should have been a clue,” Seven admitted. “I always ended my cycle when his hand started to wander. He merely assumed that I was a very important drone with very bad luck.”
“So should I be suspicious if there’s a red alert every time I try to get to second base?” Kathryn teased.
“‘Second base’?” Seven asked, confused.
“An old teenager’s way of differentiating levels of intimacy based on an old Earth game called ‘baseball’ where one scored by reaching four bases -- first, second, third, and home -- without being touched by the ball. You pick up odd things growing up as a Traditionalist,” Kathryn said wryly, shrugging. “Kissing is first base, second base involves touching breasts, I forget what third involves, and sliding into home is sex,” she explained further.
“I would not program the computer to call a false red alert. If I am not ready, or if I am nervous, I will tell you so. I feel safe enough with you to be honest,” Seven promised. “Besides, you always know when I am not telling you something. I am not very good at deception in reality.”
“No, you’re not. Don’t worry, I won’t try anything any time soon,” Kathryn promised.
Seven made a mental note to ask B’Elanna how long she had to wait before she could ask Kathryn to teach her about ‘second base’.
Kathryn snuggled closer to her girlfriend -- for once, incredibly happy to be overruled. Seven had insisted on spending the night with her again, even though they were dating now. Kathryn had argued more from a sense of propriety than actual desire. She was content to move slowly; at least they were moving forward. Seven was already awake again; Kathryn wondered if she had even slept. Someday she’d catch her at it. She was sure Seven would sleep with her again. In both senses of the word. Especially since Seven knew she slept better in her arms, and Seven often worried she didn’t sleep enough. She wondered how soon she could ask Seven to sleep with her every night she didn’t have to regenerate. Seven didn’t really have to be with the children during their cycles; Icheb was a very responsible young man and they could always hail Seven if necessary. Perhaps they could have social lessons together. Hopefully they would find Mezoti’s people and Rebi’s and Azan’s, and learning how to be part of a family would be helpful for all of them. Did Seven want children of her own someday? Could she even have children? She made a mental note to ask the Doctor before bringing the topic up with Seven. If Seven wasn’t able, she didn’t want Seven to be upset that she couldn’t provide something that Kathryn wanted. Kathryn wasn’t sure she did want children, and she certainly didn’t want them soon. The ones they had were enough.
“Sleep, Kathryn. Tonight I must regenerate and tomorrow we will both return to duty,” Seven said soothingly.
“Have you slept at all?” she asked.
“Yes, for two point thirty-two hours,” she said rather proudly. “It was an intriguing experience. Not as efficient as regeneration, but not a waste of time as I have suspected.”
“From you that’s a ringing endorsement,” she said fondly. “Aren’t you bored just laying here being my pillow?”
“Holding you is not boring, Kathryn. It is the second most pleasurable activity I have ever experienced, though admittedly watching the Omega molecule stabilize is a close third,” she said apologetically.
Kathryn blinked. This was one for the logs. Seven was apologizing because holding her was only the *second* biggest religious experience of her life, only a little more so than the thing she had spent nineteen years of her life yearning to see. “What is the first?” she asked curiously, though she thought she already knew.
“Kissing you,” Seven said as if it were the only choice.
“Seven, if I ever imply that you’re not romantic enough, remind me of this moment,” she said quietly.
“I did something romantic?” Seven asked in confusion.
“You said holding and kissing me were better than watching the Omega molecule stabilize. I saw how much that affected you,” she explained.
“That was merely the truth,” Seven said, still sounding confused.
“I’m even luckier than I thought. Very few people are loved as much as you love me,” Kathryn said, thinking she must be dreaming.
“I am the lucky one. You love me,” Seven countered.
She was definitely dreaming. She didn’t want to ever wake up.
Seven put the finishing touches on the table and checked her inner chronometer. It was still too early to wake Kathryn. She slipped back into bed and turned her attention back to her pad while Kathryn returned to her favorite sleeping position without waking up. It made her feel special to know that just her presence in Kathryn’s bed helped her beloved sleep deeply. Kathryn required romance and she was determined not to fail. She would do her best this morning, then ask B’Elanna for help later. She could not believe she had forgotten about romance until she had accidentally said something romantic. This would not do. She had to assimilate romance and never forget to let Kathryn know how much she was loved. She had decided to write a list of all the things she loved about Kathryn in hopes she’d stumble across another truth that was romantic. She had also decided to attempt to write a poem. She understood from the database that was very romantic, and she knew Kathryn loved poetry. She’d never attempted any kind of creative writing, but she didn’t think it was required to be *good*. Kathryn would undoubtedly be extremely pleased that she had thought to try. She liked it when Seven tried new things, especially creative pursuits. She would ask Kathryn to recommend poets to research to give her an idea what a love poem was supposed to be like. Perhaps Kathryn would like to read poetry together. She would work up to sharing her music. She was not sure why she didn’t mind if Kathryn thought her poetry was bad, but she was very afraid Kathryn wouldn’t like her music. She had composed many pieces about and for Kathryn which she supposed should’ve been another clue that she was in love with her. She hadn’t written anything else, or thought of sharing them with anyone but Kathryn. She did not like to share her emotions. Only Kathryn made her feel safe enough, and often she could not even with her.
“Icheb to Seven of Nine. Mezoti has had a nightmare and requires your reassurances you are well.”
Seven felt Kathryn regain consciousness. “Acknowledged. I will be right there.” She did not want to leave Kathryn, but she did not want the young girl to be afraid either. Kathryn would understand. Romance had to wait.
“I’ll keep your spot warm,” Kathryn said, moving off of her.
“I will return as quickly as I can. May I kiss you ‘goodbye’?” she asked hopefully.
“How about waiting and kissing me hello and good morning? I need to brush my teeth before we kiss and you have a child waiting for you.”
Kathryn sounded embarrassed, though Seven didn’t understand why. She would ask later. She would not attempt to persuade her. “Efficient. I will return shortly to ‘claim my prize’.” She was in the turbo lift before she realized that not only had she forgotten her com badge, she’d forgotten to get dressed. She decided her t-shirt and shorts covered her sufficiently, and walking through the ship barefoot wouldn’t harm her. It was unlikely she would run into any crew at 0500.
The turbo lift stopped and Ensigns Jenny and Megan Delaney stepped in reeking of alcohol and something else unpleasant Seven couldn’t quite place. Seven tried not to breath deeply. She nodded politely. “Good morning, Ensigns.”
“Morning, Seven. Looks like you’ve had an interesting evening, too,” Jenny said with a friendly grin.
“I was sleeping with the captain when Icheb hailed to say Mezoti had had a nightmare and his efforts at reassurance had proven insufficient. In my haste, I completely forgot I was… out of uniform,” Seven explained, not wanting to give the gossip-prone sisters any ‘ammunition’.
“The captain didn’t come after you to let you know?” Jenny asked.
“She had more important things on her mind,” Seven explained, pleased with herself for being discreet and not mentioning that she was in the en suite. She had done that once and Kathryn had been very embarrassed.
“I bet,” Jenny smirked. Megan elbowed her in the ribs. “I mean, she must have been worried about Mezoti, too.”
“You should wear your hair down more often. It looks really nice,” Megan interjected.
“Thank you, Ensign. The captain prefers it down as well,” Seven replied, smiling and feeling very proud of herself for managing small talk so well.
“If you’d ever like help styling it or fashion advice for a date, Jenny and I would be happy to help. We’re pretty good at makeovers. Not that you need one; you always look great. But sometimes it’s nice to surprise a date with a different look,” Megan offered.
“Thank you. The Borg never assimilated fashion sense,” Seven joked.
Both ensigns laughed. “You should… sleep… more often. It agrees with you,” Jenny said with another friendly grin.
“It is not nearly as inefficient as I thought, and the Doctor says I should start doing it more often. I am hoping that the captain will allow me to share her bed more often on nights I do not have to regenerate. There are no free quarters and it *is* an important step in regaining my humanity, after all.”
“I wish the Doctor would write *me* notes like that,” Jenny said.
“Here’s our deck. Hail us any time you want some help, Seven,” Megan said hastily.
“I will, thank you.” Seven would never understand the fascination with alcohol. It made people act so strangely.
Kathryn shook her head when Seven came in the door. She was going to have to stake her claim publicly immediately if anyone saw Seven. “How does someone with an eidetic memory forget to get dressed and put on shoes?” she teased.
“I am unused to needing to get dressed. I never remove my biosuit. My regeneration cycles remove the bacteria and dirt from it as well as my body,” Seven explained. “Plus, I was distracted by thinking of being allowed to kiss you when I returned. I did not even notice until I was on the turbo lift and the Delaney sisters got on, and after that, it seemed a bit pointless. Megan offered to give me fashion advice, and complimented me on my hairstyle. I told them that the Borg had not assimilated fashion sense. They laughed.”
Kathryn chuckled. “Is Mezoti all right?”
“Yes, she is fine. She dreamed that I had died when we destroyed Unimatrix Zero. She overheard someone say that I had almost died because I was there just before it was destroyed. I told her that she should not listen to private conversations, but if she could not avoid it, she should tell Neelix if I am unavailable and that he would likely know the truth or could find it out. Then I gave her a hug to prove that I was very much alive and sent her back to her alcove. I wish the crew would desist discussing such things around the children.”
“I agree. I’ll have Chakotay send a memo reminding them that we have three children with Borg enhanced hearing and some topics do not need discussing in front of them,” Kathryn promised.
“Thank you. You look especially aesthetically pleasing. I should have said that sooner, I am sorry.”
“Thank you, Seven. I saw the candles and the roses and decided I’d better dress up for my very first candlelight breakfast. I took the liberty of replicating and laying out an outfit for you.” She hoped Seven liked it. She was giving up three days’ worth of coffee.
Seven’s eyes lit up and she beamed. “You got me a present? I haven’t had one since my fifth birthday, but I remember I like them. Thank you!” Seven gave her an enthusiastic, but gentle hug and hurried into the bedroom.
Kathryn felt like an absolute jerk and the world’s worst captain and friend. Seven had been with them for three and a half years and *no one* had *ever* given her a present? How could no one have realized? Why the hell had she considered coffee more important than her best friend until they started dating? She couldn’t manage one birthday or even just a Christmas present? Finding a dilithium deposit and planning one hell of a birthday/unbirthday party just became top priority.
“All the garments are beautiful, and you remembered my favorite colors,” Seven said excitedly, coming back out of the bedroom. “I love you.” She hugged Kathryn again and kissed her on the cheek. “I am going to have a sonic shower, then dress.”
“Okay. I’m going to send Chakotay a memo to take care of our crew problem, so take your time.”
“Wouldn’t hailing him be more efficient?” Seven suggested.
“No, because he’ll want to talk,” Kathryn said, thinking fast.
“Ah, yes, of course. I retract my suggestion.”
Kathryn sat down at her workstation and called up the intraship message center.
We have some situations. First, Mezoti heard some of the crew discussing the destroying of Unimatrix Zero and had a nightmare that Seven had died. Could you send out a memo reminding the crew that little pitchers have big ears? And most of them are Borg enhanced?
The second and third involve Seven. Rediscovering Unimatrix Zero had led Seven to realize she’s in love with me -- and no, it’s not a crush. I felt her emotions while Tuvok was performing the bridging of minds. I’m just as in love and we’ve came to a tentative understanding. I wanted you to be the first to know. Did you know that in three and a half years no one has ever given Seven a present? We’ve never once even attempted to celebrate her birthday, or included her in Christmas or anything. Obviously, I’ve been incredibly remiss myself; I’m the woman’s best friend and I could never be bothered until this morning. She hasn’t had a present since her *fifth* birthday. She was assimilated after her sixth birthday. I replicated her a plain cotton blouse, a pair of socks, and a pair of uniform pants, and had a pair of boots sent up (yes, I know I need to work on my romance skills), and she’s practically bouncing off the bulkheads in excitement and delight like I just gave her a ton of stabilized Omega molecules. Yes, Seven is excited. Get Icheb to scan for dilithium, and have Neelix start planning a party. I know Seven doesn’t like social gatherings, but I think she’d like a birthday party. To make it even worse, I can’t even remember when it is, but it doesn’t matter. We owe her. She’s saved us so many times; she’s sacrificed herself to the Borg for us, and we couldn’t even give her a damn cake once in three and a half years. I’m beginning to wonder how the hell she’s turned out as well as she has. She’s coming out of the shower… I want this to be a surprise, so be discreet.
Capt K. Janeway
“Kathryn, what do I do with these?” Seven asked curiously, holding up the white cotton socks.
“You put them on your feet. They’re socks. You need them with boots to regulate the temperature of your feet,” she explained, thinking fast.
“You got me boots too? I did not think to look for footwear,” Seven said ducking back into the bedroom happily. “They are just like yours. I have wanted to ask if I could have a pair because they look so much more comfortable and practical than the footwear the Doctor gives me, but I thought they might be only for Starfleet personnel and I do not want to join Starfleet.”
Good god, she had failed Seven. “You can wear the whole uniform if you want to. The Marquis do, and many of them don’t want to join Starfleet either. Neelix could have one if he wanted, but he doesn’t. At least, I don’t think he does. Maybe I should remind him he can have one if he wants. I’ll even approve a provisional rank insignia like the Marquis if you want. You’re head of Astrometrics, so you’re entitled to the rank of lieutenant,” Kathryn said. “You can resign it when we reach the Alpha Quadrant or if Starfleet tries to give you orders here.”
“Could we still be together? I know there are rules against fraternization,” Seven asked uncertainly.
“It’s more of a recommendation than a hard and fast rule, and Admiral Paris gave me permission to relax that protocol at my discretion in the first data stream anyway. I didn’t think to tell anyone since I’d already been doing it,” Kathryn explained. “So you can join Starfleet itself if you really want, and they won’t break us up.”
“I will consider the rank insignia. I’d like one, but Borg designations do not lend themselves to ranks, and I am not ready to consider retaking my human designation. I would like to have a uniform. I have realized that I want to look like everyone else, and I believe it may make it easier to socialize. Could I wear science blue?”
“I suppose they don’t. Can you do without your biosuit? I thought you had to wear it to regulate your implants.” She crossed to the replicated and ordered a blue shouldered tunic and the sweater and tank top version of the uniform shirt anyway.
“I can wear a modified version under the uniform instead of undergarments if I cannot, but I believe I can.”
“You can try it on after breakfast. We’ll stroll down to sickbay to check with the Doctor and show off how fantastic you look,” Kathryn said.
“I will show it off tomorrow. If I put mine on, you will put yours on. But checking with the Doctor is a good idea. Shall we eat now?”
“Good idea. You know, you didn’t need to replicate tableware. I do own a set,” Kathryn said.
“I did not; I borrowed it from the mess hall… Oh, no, I did not ask Neelix for permission first,” Seven said, looking distressed. “I am sorry, and I will apologize to him, too. I know I must ask permission before appropriating things that do not belong to me; how could I forget that?”
“Well, the dishes are there for the crew’s use; I think we can skip the flogging this time, but apologizing to Neelix would be a good idea, just to smooth over any possible ruffled feathers. And you need to be examined; that’s the second thing you’ve forgotten today.”
“I will comply, although I do often subconsciously ignore minor things when I am focused on performing a task, but I have made not borrowing things without permission a priority after Cmdr Tuvok explained the concept to me.”
“Everyone does it occasionally, especially among friends, thinking that the other person won’t mind. Neelix himself permanently borrowed my private dining room for his kitchen without asking me because he honestly thought I wouldn’t mind since cooking from scratch would save on power for the replicators. I think he’ll forgive you,” Kathryn reassured her. Seven was doing a far better job of punishing herself than any lecture she could have given her, not that one was even really warranted. Borrowing a couple sets of tableware was hardly a big deal.
Seven looked a little less upset and she nodded before removing the stasis domes off the food on the table. There was a large bowl of fluffy scrambled eggs, a plate of sausage, another of bacon, and another of ham, and a tall stack of buttered toast. “My research indicated that this is a widely popular traditional breakfast for the area of Earth you are from,” Seven said with a hint of uncertainty.
“Seven, it’s uncanny how you manage to always pick my favorites. Just when I think you couldn’t get more perfect for me and I couldn’t love you more, you do something else incredible,” Kathryn said happily. She’d have to increase her workouts if Seven kept feeding her like this, but she didn’t care. It felt good to have someone care enough about her to research something minor like breakfast just to make sure it was perfect. “I’d be happy with just a cup of coffee, but this is fantastic.”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You often do not eat lunch either. It is unhealthy. I cannot make you change your habits, but I can make sure you consume adequate nutrition when we are together at traditional mealtimes,” Seven said in a tone that brooked no dissent.
“You’re not supposed to nag me about my bad habits until after we’re married,” Kathryn teased.
“You would marry me?” Seven asked, clearly surprised.
“I assumed that was what we were working toward,” Kathryn said cautiously.
“I want to, when we have progressed sufficiently; I merely did not think you would want to,” Seven said hastily.
“I do. I admit I haven’t before, but I want to be with you,” Kathryn said sincerely.
“Are we ‘engaged’ now?” Seven asked eagerly.
Kathryn considered. “I feel about engagements what you feel about dating. I haven’t had much luck with them. I remember an old tradition where couples exchanged ‘promises’ which was like becoming engaged to become engaged. Would that be sufficient?”
“Yes. We can be ‘promised’ to one another until we are ready to perform the marriage ritual,” Seven agreed. “That means we do not have to ‘date’ and can merely spend time together in furtherance of that goal,” she added, pleased.
Kathryn smiled and made a mental note to pick up a promise ring at the earliest opportunity.
Seven leaned slightly against Kathryn as they waited for the results of Seven’s scans. She had an uncomfortable feeling something was wrong. The Doctor was taking too long to say anything. Kathryn put her arm around her in silent reassurance.
“Your cortical node is slightly misaligned, likely due to your time in Unimatrix Zero when it was being destroyed. I think we caught it early enough I can repair the damage, but I’m not sure. I need to run some simulations. I want you to regenerate for ten hours a night in hopes that the extra cycles may allow your nanoprobes to fix the damage themselves meanwhile,” he said ordered. “Give it a week and if it doesn’t work, you can try sleeping and eating again. It may have kept the damage from being worse, I can’t tell.”
“Understood,” Seven said, trying to hide her fear. Cortical nodes were virtually impossible to fix. Replacement was the best option, but it was not an option in her case. The nodes removed from the others had been deactivated too long. She likely could not live without one.
“What happens if you can’t fix it? Can you replace it with one of ours? Can Seven live without one?”
“I’ll run simulations on that as well; I don’t know. They may have been deactivated too long. If her node can’t be repaired or replaced, she’ll die. Her human systems are too dependant on her implants, and her implants can’t be controlled without a node,” the Doctor confirmed Seven’s suspicions heavily.
“Janeway to Chakotay. Try to find General Korvok’s sphere. We need some Borg help,” Kathryn ordered immediately.
Seven relaxed slightly. She had not considered them. Perhaps they had a Borg medical technician or someone willing to ‘donate for the cause’ as she’d heard Lt Paris say once.
Seven was dying and no one could do a thing about it. Seven was being stoic and calmly settling her affairs; she had even written a will, although she had pitifully few possessions to dispose of. She had asked B’Elanna to watch over Kathryn for her. B’Elanna had barely kept herself from crying as she swore on her honor that she would. Seven was working tirelessly to chart as much of the route home as she could before the end. B’Elanna thought she was the bravest, most dignified person she knew next to Janeway. She hoped she could face her death with even half as much honor. She wasn’t giving up; merely facing reality. There was still hope; it had only been two weeks, and the Doctor estimated she could live another month, maybe six weeks before her body completely rejected the node. On top of it all, they had found the twins’ family and they had agreed to take Mezoti as well, so all three children were gone, never knowing that Seven was even sick.
“B’Elanna, I have prepared a pad with all the Borg algorithms I have used and several other useful ones, specs on Borg technology that may prove useful, several suggested improvements, and everything I know about slipstream and transwarp,” Seven said from behind her.
“Thanks. I’m still hopeful I won’t need it, but it’ll be nice to have if a miracle doesn’t occur,” she replied as calmly as she could. Seven needed her to be stoic and accepting. The captain was angry that Seven was giving up.
Seven handed her a second pad. “I would like your opinion on this. I have been attempting to write a love poem, but I am ‘stuck’,” she admitted shyly.
B’Elanna keyed the entry, bracing herself to be tactful. She didn’t have high hopes for Borg love poetry. It was short, just four lines:
You are the captain of my heart,
The Omega of my soul.
I did not live until I looked into your eyes
And saw my purpose for existing looking back at me.
“It’s not bad at all. I’d love to get something like this,” she said sincerely. “The captain will love it, just as it is.”
“I hope so. I have been so busy being practical for her, that I have forgotten that she requires romance and tokens of my love just as much. I do not want to die without making sure every day I have left that she knows how important to me she is and has always been. She is the sole reason ‘I’ am at all. I want her to remember that. I want to get married. I want to spend whatever time I have left as her wife, but I have been reluctant to tell her that. Do you think it would make it harder on her when I am dead?” For just an instant, the strain of the last two weeks was plainly visible before she slammed down her mask again.
If Tom was dying, what would she want? “I think if I was her, I’d rather have a few weeks or even days of happiness to remember for the rest of my life, rather than a lifetime of regret about how it might have been,” she said slowly, swallowing hard.
Suddenly, Seven was hugging her a little awkwardly. “Go ahead and cry, B’Elanna, I will not think less of you. I admire you nearly as much as I do Kathryn. Finally becoming your friend has made me nearly as happy as finally becoming Kathryn’s promised. I am sorry I never told you that before. I find discussing or showing emotions difficult and avoid it far too often,” Seven said softly. “Sometimes I wonder if I have Vulcan blood somewhere in my family tree.”
B’Elanna laughed a little, but allowed herself to be held, burying her face into a strong uniform clad shoulder as she allowed herself to cry at the unfairness of the universe. Seven was finally finding happiness and acceptance, and it was likely that soon it would all be gone. “I’m sorry I never really gave you a chance. I never tried to look below the surface. You’ve become such an extraordinary individual in the face of so many difficulties. I admire *you* more than Janeway in many ways and you know how remarkable I think she is.”
“She is your Omega as she is mine. That is why I asked you to look after her for me. When she has mourned me enough and is ready to live again, I wish you to help her learn how. I know you will treat her heart as gently as I do.”
“I hope I never have to keep that promise. I’ll let you go with all the dignity and honor you deserve, but I still hope we’ll pull off another miracle.”
“As do I, but it is best to be prepared for the worst and hope it proves unnecessary.”
“Captain, I’m detecting a Borg sphere and it’s hailing,” Harry said excitedly.
“On screen,” she ordered through the lump in her throat. Could this be their salvation?
General Korvok appeared looking concerned. “We received your subspace message. Are we in time?”
“Yes, thank god. Can you help?” Kathryn said, allowing her command mask to crack a bit.
“We don’t have any spare cortical nodes, but our medic thinks that we have several drones who are newly assimilated enough that your doctor may be able to remove their implants so that they can safely live without theirs. Nearly every drone, including me, have volunteered themselves so that she may live. We owe our lives to her and Voyager,” he said simply.
“We can’t take a life to save hers, but the Doctor would be happy to remove implants from anyone he can safely, whether they can help Annika, or Seven as she prefers, or not,” Kathryn said.
“It’s not taking if it’s offered, Captain, though I agree, it is better if both parties live,” he said. “But Annika -- sorry, Seven -- is a symbol of who we can all be now that we’re free from the Queen. To let her die would be to kill hope and ourselves anyway. It would be an unforgivable stain on my honor to not do everything in my power to save her, including sacrificing my own life.”
“Well, we don’t want that. Can I transport the Doctor onto your ship to scan your crew, or would you prefer to beam over a few volunteers at a time?”
“I apologize for arriving unannounced, but I wish to apologize for my inexcusably illogical behavior for the last two weeks,” Seven said calmly when Tuvok bid her to enter his quarters.
“I do not require an apology. You are human; you cannot be inexcusably illogical. But thank you for acknowledging it.”
“I wish to explain. I have looked to you almost as… a father. You have provided me with an example of how to deal with the illogic and chaos of humanity. You are aware of my background and how I came to be assimilated, so I am sure you have deduced what my difficulty has been. It was most illogical of me. You did not betray anyone; you resisted more than anyone ever has. There is no parallel,” Seven said as calmly as she could, although she was incredibly nervous and ashamed of herself.
“We are ‘all right’, Seven. I have understood and I knew you would reach the logical conclusion eventually. I think of you almost as a daughter. Spending time with you over the last few years has been… gratifying. You will be remembered and honored for as long as my family line exists.”
“I am glad we are ‘all right’. I will depart before I discomfort both of us with a display of emotion,” she said.
“I have been enduring Kathryn’s emotions for twenty years; I can endure yours for a few minutes. I am… gratified the two of you have finally came to an understanding.”
“We have you to thank for that. I am glad that I have lived long enough to experience her love, no matter how briefly. The illogical behavior of humans finally makes a little sense. I will take my leave; Kathryn wishes to speak with me about something and I do not want to be late.”
“Seven, we may have found a replacement node,” Kathryn said happily. She reached out for Seven a little tentatively. Seven had been busy preparing for her death and it was almost like they had never attempted to get closer. She wasn’t sure her affection would be welcomed. Seven looked regretful and wrapped her arms around her tightly.
“Tell me about it in a moment. First I need to apologize. I have been too busy being your efficient officer; a practical partner that I have forgotten that you still require this. I have been so busy trying to make my end as painless for you as possible in practical ways that I had not considered that you require reminders of my love in emotional ways as well,” Seven said regretfully, ducking her head to give her a gentle, loving kiss.
Kathryn responded eagerly. It was only their fourth kiss and she tried not to be too demanding, but it had been nearly ten days since Seven had withdrawn from her and she needed to reconnect. Seven had the softest, fullest, warmest lips she had ever had the pleasure of kissing. Seven was so strong, but so gentle. And so responsive, feeling Seven responding to her more intense kiss awkwardly, but oh so willingly. She slipped her hands into Seven’s hair, removing the pins that held it up and dropping them haphazardly onto the table before running her fingers through the thick fall lovingly. She adored Seven’s hair. Hell, there wasn’t anything about Seven’s body she didn’t like, not even the abdominal implant that jabbed into her stomach. Metal tipped fingers tentatively touched her cheek and cautiously explored the contours of her face. It added a very pleasantly intimate dimension to the kisses they were sharing, and she was quick to bring her other hand to Seven’s cheek to stroke the starburst implant. She was very careful to avoid the area where her subdermal facial structure was uncovered, though she was curious. She thought it might hurt. Seven gasped into her mouth and awkwardly deepened their kiss still further. Kathryn made a mental note of the implant’s sensitivity as she taught Seven without words how to tilt her head and move her lips to kiss properly. She had a lot of natural skill and would undoubtedly have picked it up on her own in time, but it was fun and Seven wasn’t objecting in the least. Kathryn stopped only when her knees felt too weak to hold her up any longer and she was incredibly aroused. Seven’s eyes opened slowly and were dark with desire. She looked confused. “I need to sit down,” Kathryn explained.
Seven stepped back and took her hand and led her to the couch. Kathryn snuggled up against her, resting her head on Seven’s shoulder and smiling contently when the long arm took its familiar place around her shoulders. It felt like home. She hoped the familiarity would relax Seven; she should’ve moved more slowly; Seven had possibly never really been aroused before. She probably had no idea how to handle it, and Kathryn wasn’t sure what to tell her. Normally, she’d suggest a cold shower since she was pretty sure Seven was normally waterproof, but she had no idea about now, and she was afraid to risk hurting Seven’s feelings by asking.
“I have never felt like this before,” Seven said finally, sounding a little confused and uncertain.
“You’re aroused, honey, I’m sorry. I went a little further than I meant to,” Kathryn explained gently.
“I know. I recognize the hormonal and chemical changes. I am merely uncertain what I am supposed to do now since I assume you are not ready to… ‘go further’.”
“It’d be a bad idea, as much as my body disagrees,” Kathryn acknowledged. “Sometimes a cold shower helps, or thinking about something boring, or distasteful, or sad, or doing physical exercise.”
“Perhaps now would be a good time to tell me about the possible replacement node,” Seven said.
“Well, it worked for me,” Kathryn quipped wryly. “General Korvok answered our subspace message. His sphere has no spare nodes, but they have several crewmembers that may be able to have all their implants removed so that they don’t need theirs. The Doctor is working on that now.”
“A sphere has no suitable place that could be converted into quarters, or food storage, or a food replicator. The volunteer would be very uncomfortable at best,” Seven said in concern.
“We’d help them get set up, or take him or her with us, or to their home world,” Kathryn said reassuringly. “We’ve already given them a copy of our medical database to help their medic deal with damage to biological systems, and help them learn how to remove their own implants if they ever need or want to. The medic is observing the Doctor as well.”.
“They are all volunteers who are aware of the risks?” Seven questioned.
“Yes. Nearly the entire eleven thousand of them have volunteered their cortical node, even if they had to die to give it, but I won’t let anyone kill themselves for you,” Kathryn said, mentally crossing her fingers. If it came to that, and it was a willing sacrifice, she wouldn’t stop it. “Three quarters of the crew have volunteered to be assimilated if that doesn’t work,” she added, proud of her people. “I didn’t tell them about your medical condition; I don’t know how they found out.”
Seven looked overwhelmed and speechless. “I cannot allow anyone to do that,” she said finally. “I’d rather die than cause anyone to go through that kind of pain.”
“Seven, having you die and being able to prevent it would hurt a hell of a lot more and a hell of a lot longer,” she said flatly. “You’ve saved the life of every last one of us on both ships. Let us save your life now.” She was starting to lose her temper, and she counted to ten. “There is such a thing as being too independent, my love,” she said, sighing.
“I wonder where I picked that up?” Seven asked in amusement.
Kathryn laughed, willing to admit to herself that she was far too stubborn for her own good sometimes. Okay, most of the time. “You weren’t supposed to pick up our bad habits. Please, Seven, just let us help you. Who’s going to help me learn not to be so stubborn and self-destructive if you die?” She knew it was a low blow, but she’d rather have an annoyed and breathing Seven than a dead happy one.
“I am uncertain I will live that long even with a functioning cortical node. The Doctor predicted that I would only live two hundred years at best,” Seven teased. “I do not want to die, Kathryn. I want to grow old and die with you, many, many years from now. But you have taught me that there are some lines that must not be crossed. Extending my life at the cost of another’s is one of them,” she said seriously.
Kathryn sighed. “It hasn’t been established that anyone *would* die. The Doctor was able to remove all our implants without much risk at all. It’s quite possible he’ll be able to do the same with someone from the General’s ship. I need you, Seven, personally, professionally, in ways I didn’t even know I could need someone. I haven’t let myself need anyone since my father and Justin died because I failed to save them. I don’t think I can survive it if you don’t let me save you, Seven. I’ll fall into depression so deep, I’m not sure I’ll ever find my way back. I’d like to say I’d try, but I haven’t lied to you yet and I don’t want to start now.” It wasn’t emotional blackmail; it was the honest truth. That just happened to *sound* like emotional blackmail.
Seven shifted and studied her face intently for long moments. Whatever she was looking for, she apparently found because she nodded to herself and got up and crossed the room to the replicator where she input several commands. She returned with a tray of vegetable soup, a cup of coffee, and a nutritional supplement. “If I am to live, we had better consume nutrition and help the Doctor.”
Kathryn stared at her. She would never figure out the woman if she did live to be two hundred, and suddenly her course of action was clear. “Marry me. Now,” she blurted out. Well, that wasn’t quite the romantic proposal she *intended* to offer.
“Can it wait until after we consume nutrition?” Seven asked politely, raising her ocular implant questioningly.
“Was that a ‘yes’?” Kathryn asked uncertainly.
“I have already said I would marry you; the question has only ever been when. After we have consumed nutrition is acceptable,” Seven replied. “Though perhaps tomorrow would be better; undoubtedly the crew would be upset to miss it.”
“You’re right,” Kathryn conceded. “Everyone knows I’ve been engaged twice and have never made it to the altar. Mother and Phoebe will require witnesses.” She tapped her com badge. “Senior officers, Samantha and Naomi Wildman, and Icheb, report to the Captain’s quarters immediately,” she ordered. “We’ll need a planning committee to pull off a wedding in less than a day,” she explained, seeing Seven’s puzzled expression. “Those are the people we’re closest to.”
“Indeed,” Seven said, nodding.
Kathryn sat down and tried to eat her soup through her nerves as they waited for everyone to arrive. She didn’t want Seven to be nagging her to eat in front of everyone.
Seven tried to hide her nervousness. Kathryn had asked her to marry her immediately. She had expected to have to persuade her and agree to wait a few days. She had not expected a ‘planning committee’ either. Kathryn’s quarters -- and hers too, tomorrow, she presumed --were filled with the senior officers, Icheb, and both Wildmans, all looking puzzled about why they had been summoned.
“You’re probably all wondering why I called you all here. Recent events have made me do a lot of thinking. I realized I’ve been letting fear and propriety get in the way of something I’ve wanted since I was standing on a Borg cube over three years ago. A few minutes ago, I asked Seven to marry me and she consented. We want to be married tomorrow. I know it seems awfully sudden, but we’ve been building toward this moment all along, and it seems pointless to wait any longer,” Kathryn announced firmly. “We want you to help us get everything ready.”
“Wouldn’t you rather wait until after Seven’s recovered from surgery?” the Doctor asked, smirking.
“You have found a… donor?” Seven asked in amazement.
“Thanks to Icheb here, yes I have. He found a way to genetically resequence a Brunelli woman to allow her control her few remaining implants with very low risk to her and even lower risk to you,” he announced smugly. “I can begin the surgery first thing in the morning if Mr. Paris gets a good night’s sleep.”
“How low is the risk?” Seven asked, swallowing convulsively, her pulse racing. Could it work? Would Kathryn still marry her if she would live?
“Nine point two percent she won’t survive; six point three percent you won’t. I’ve performed thirty successful simulations,” he answered.
“That’s fantastic!” Kathryn exclaimed. “How long would Seven have to recover?”
“Eight days… one day in sickbay directly afterwards, six days regenerating, then one more day of bed rest just to be safe. You could be married in ten days if you took it easy on the honeymoon,” he said.
“I can wait ten days if it means you’ll be in top form,” Kathryn said.
“You will still marry me?” Seven asked, needing reassurance.
“I won’t change my mind. I’ll marry you right now if that’s what you need. Most of our friends are here; I’ll transfer command to Chakotay and he can perform the ceremony. We can hold a second proper ceremony for the crew in ten days,” Kathryn promised.
“I would feel easier going into surgery if I was already your wife. It is the only thing I do not want to die without experiencing,” Seven admitted. “I know six point three percent is a very low risk, and the Doctor will not fail, but….”
“Then we’ll do it now. We’ll have to renew our vows when we reach the Alpha Quadrant, anyway, we might as well start practicing now,” Kathryn said, leaning over and kissing her cheek reassuringly.
“I could use the practice myself; I’ve never performed a marriage ceremony before,” Chakotay said. “I know I’ll think of a dozen things I should have said in the middle of the night, and this way, I’ll have a chance to actually use the material.”
Seven appreciated his attempt at levity. She knew he still loved Kathryn and he must be hurt, but there was no sign of it in his expression. She didn’t think she’d ever like him, but she disliked him a little less now.
“Does anyone object?” Kathryn asked.
Everyone shook their heads. “Why don’t you both change into something a little more formal? Give Chakotay a few minutes to think of something profound, and I’ll run down to Engineering and replicate a couple of rings?” B’Elanna suggested.
“I cannot wear a ring,” Seven said sadly, raising her left hand. “It would interfere with my implant.”
“You could wear it on your right hand instead,” the Doctor said to her surprise. She would have expected him to wish she wouldn’t wear a symbol that she would never be his.
“That would be acceptable?” she asked Kathryn.
“Perfectly. I don’t care if you wear it through your nose as long as you marry me,” Kathryn said.
“I will wear it on my right hand then,” Seven decided. She’d never worn jewelry before and she was excited to start with Kathryn’s wedding band.
“I’ll go with you, Lt Torres, I need to grab my holoimager to preserve the event for posterity,” the Doctor said.
“Do you want to wear a dress uniform? A dress? A tux?” Kathryn asked her.
“A dress uniform. With the rank insignia you said I could wear,” Seven answered immediately. If she was going to be Kathryn’s wife, she should have a rank. She could always resign it later if she did not like it after all. As Kathryn’s wife, she would be able to go with Kathryn if she got another ship when they returned home regardless. It would please Kathryn if she took this step.
“You’ve decided on a name?” Kathryn asked in delight.
“Lt Annika Janeway has a certain ring to it, do you not think?” Seven asked nervously. She was not sure Kathryn would be agreeable to sharing her designation.
Kathryn beamed. “It does indeed. I didn’t think you’d want to take my name, so I didn’t dare to even suggest it,” she said huskily.
“You are the one who gave me back my individuality; who gave me back my name. It seems fitting to take your name as I enter a new collective,” Seven explained. “I still prefer Seven, but I do not see why I cannot continue to use my ‘nickname’ amongst the crew.”
“No reason at all,” Kathryn agreed. “I’ll replicate you a dress tunic and insignia and leave them on the bed while you take a sonic shower and recycle your uniform. Might as well go all the way if we’re going to dress for the event.”
“Acceptable,” Seven agreed, excusing herself to the en suite. She could use the extra few minutes to regain her composure.
Kathryn tried not to fidget as she stared at Seven and didn’t hear a word Chakotay said. She was really getting married. To Seven. Phoebe was going to have a field day when she found out that Kathryn had traveled halfway across the galaxy and severed a Borg drone before she finally made it to the altar. Well, her coffee table. Close enough. There’d be an altar later. Seven looked fabulous in her dress uniform with her provisional insignia on her breast. Seven had allowed her to pin it there and she’d guiltily enjoyed a little grope while she was at it. Seven hadn’t minded -- had even gasped in pleasure at the slight touch -- and had returned the favor while pinning her pips on for her. She wondered how far Seven would let her go after everyone left. Would Seven want to make love? Should she wait until after their ‘official’ ceremony? Seven had surgery in the morning and required sleep. Maybe she could just touch those amazing breasts a little and kiss her for a while. Seven liked kissing. Would Seven take her shirt off? Surely it was all right to look at her wife half naked?
“Kathryn? Kathryn! You’d better say ‘I do’ before poor Seven has a heart attack,” Chakotay said insistently.
Kathryn shook herself from her happy place and managed to look up past Seven’s breasts to see that the woman did look awfully nervous and frightened. “I do,” she said hastily. She was never going to live this down.
“Before we lose her again, Seven, do you take Kathryn as your lawfully wedded wife and all that?” Chakotay asked teasingly.
“I do,” she said immediately. Obviously, *she* had been paying attention. Kathryn looked at their hands. They were both wearing their rings. Kathryn didn’t remember exchanging them.
“Then by the power invested in me by the United Federation of Planets, I pronounce you wife… and wife. Kathryn, you may kiss your bride. And remember there *are* children present,” he teased.
Oh, god, he knew what she had been thinking about. Had she really been that obvious? Seven took her in her arms and kissed her lovingly, but briefly, obviously trying to be child-friendly. She’d change that later.
“Ladies and gentleman, Kathryn and Annika Janeway,” Chakotay announced, ending the ceremony. “Allow me to be the first to congratulate you, Kathryn, Seven.” He shook his head. “I knew I’d mess up. I should’ve said, ‘Captain and Mrs. Kathryn Janeway.’ ‘Kathryn and Annika’ is too informal for a captain’s wedding.”
“But perfect for a spur of the moment ceremony with our friends. Besides, you’re the captain until the day after tomorrow,” Kathryn reassured him, grinning. Seven’s hand was firmly clasped in her own and Seven was her wife at long last. And she’d live. Kathryn didn’t think anything could wipe the smile off her face.
“It was a beautiful ceremony, Commander. If I did not know better, I would have assumed you had been practicing it for years,” Seven praised sincerely. “You are a very eloquent man.”
Kathryn was pleased Seven had thought to give him a compliment and she wondered what the heck he had said. Chakotay smiled genuinely at Seven. “Thanks, Seven. I’m glad *someone* was listening,” he said with a teasing grin at Kathryn.
“I am able to multitask more efficiently than… my wife,” Seven joined in the teasing.
“Hey! You’re supposed to be on *my* side,” Kathryn grumbled.
“Congratulations, Captain, Mrs. Captain,” Neelix said, beaming. “It’s about time you two tied the knot. I was beginning to think I’d have to try a Talaxian love potion,” he added congenially.
“Does it actually work?” Harry asked curiously. “Congratulations, Captain, Seven.”
“After a fashion,” Neelix grinned. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
Kathryn didn’t want to know. Right now, she was wondering how long she had to be polite before she could kick their guests out. Seven had to go to bed early, and she’d undoubtedly be nervous. Kathryn wouldn’t have much time to make her move. Kathryn kept her eyes off Seven’s chest with an effort.
Seven said goodbye to the last of the guests and stood nervously in the middle of Kathryn’s quarters with little idea what was supposed to happen now. She understood that ‘the wedding night’ was a traditional time to copulate, and Kathryn’s hormone levels were elevated, but Seven was uncertain if Kathryn would ‘follow through’ since she had not wanted to earlier. Or what exactly female-female copulation entailed, or if they’d go straight to Kathryn’s bedroom or engage in some form of pre-copulation ritual first. Now that the time may have come, she was not quite sure she wanted to copulate. Of course, she was not quite sure she did not, either. She had thoroughly enjoyed the kisses they had shared earlier, and the light caresses they had indulged in while putting on their dress tunics, but that was before she was Kathryn’s wife. She had no idea how to be a wife; she hadn’t really known how to be a girlfriend.
“You look as nervous as I feel,” Kathryn said from the door.
“I find I do not know what to do now. I was so focused on the goal of becoming your wife, I did not think to research what I was to do afterwards,” Seven confessed.
“First, why don’t we get more comfortable, then we can talk for a while and see if we can figure it out together?” Kathryn suggested.
“Acceptable.” They spent a few minutes stripping off their tunics and removing their boots, and then settled onto the couch in their familiar cuddling positions. Seven felt slightly less nervous with Kathryn leaning against her.
“Are you sorry we rushed into marrying?” Kathryn asked, tensing against her.
“No,” Seven said immediately. “I want to be married to you. I merely realized I do not know *how* to be married. I know it is different than being single or being a girlfriend, or a friend, but I am not entirely certain how different.”
“I don’t know how either. I don’t think anyone really does; everyone just makes it up as they go,” Kathryn said philosophically. “I think we can pretty much continue doing what we’ve always done, but we have to try harder to consider how our decisions affect the other and make major personal decisions together. It’ll be hard on both of us because we’re both very strong-willed, and added to that is the fact I’m the captain and professionally our relationship can’t really change. I know I’ll probably continue to make decisions for you without thinking to ask you what you want. It’s hard to turn off the captain part of me because I’m never truly off duty. We’ll have to both try hard to keep talking about issues as they come up.”
“I knew that part. Are there special things I need to learn to be a proper Captain’s wife? I do not want to embarrass you,” Seven asked.
“Ah, you meant more etiquette. Not in the normal day to day here on Voyager. Diplomacy and good social skills help at official functions in the Alpha Quadrant and when we deal with aliens, but you’re already getting better at that. I love you how you are, but if you’re really worried about it, why don’t you write Mother for advice? She was married to Daddy for over twenty years successfully and most of that time he was a captain or admiral. But don’t change too much. The brass could use a little shaking up.”
“I will do so. She will undoubtedly be curious about me when she learns of our marriage and wonder what I did to actually get you to ‘go through with it’. Does she know anything about me?” she asked, wondering if Kathryn had ever mentioned her in her letters home.
“She knows all about you. I’m surprised she hasn’t already written you. Just try to underplay any dangerous situations we’ve been in if you must mention them at all. She worries about me too much as it is. Don’t tell her anything that you wouldn’t tell Naomi.”
Seven nodded, pleased with the specific advice and that Kathryn found her worth mentioning in the limited space they were allowed.
“Anything else you want to talk about, or can I interest you in another kissing lesson?”
“I am insufficient?” Seven asked in dismay. She thought she was performing adequately and Kathryn enjoyed their kissing.
“No, not at all. You’re very good. I only meant I wanted to try something we haven’t done together yet,” Kathryn explained hastily.
“Oh. That would be acceptable,” Seven said in relief. “I wish to bring up one more thing, then you may teach me. Normally married people live together. Will we?” Seven asked nervously.
“I assumed we would. I’ve been meaning to clean out my closet to clear up space for your things. I’ll do that when you’re regenerating,” Kathryn said.
“I do not have very many possessions -- the blouse you gave me, my biosuit, my uniform, a brush, a dozen hairpins, and five pads. I do not require very much space at all.”
“You’ve been living with us for three and a half years and that’s all you own?” Kathryn asked, sounding shocked and… was that sorrow?
“I do not require very much, and there really is not any where to put anything in the cargo bay without it being in the way of the crew,” Seven explained.
“Seven, some days I really wonder how you’ve managed to turn out so well and manage to love me,” Kathryn sighed. “We can redecorate to reflect your tastes as well. We can rearrange the furniture, get rid of some of it, replace it with things you like better, whatever you want within reason.”
“Presently, I like it as it is. If I find anything I want to add or subtract, I will let you know,” Seven said, rather confused. “Why does my lack of possessions bother you? Do you think you have failed to provide for me sufficiently?” It was the only thing she could think of, and it was hardly true. She received just as many replicator rations as anyone, even considering she did not have to eat nearly as much. She had a warm place to regenerate, and no matter how low on energy the ship was, Kathryn always made sure she had all she needed to regenerate as much as she required.
“Haven’t I? You live in a *cargo bay*. You have no privacy, no place to put anything. I’ve never even gotten you a cake for your birthday, let alone a present. You should have things,” Kathryn said disgustedly.
“Kathryn, if it bothered me that badly, I would have told you. I have always had everything I required, and most of what I merely wanted. I do not require very much and want very little in the way of objects. I want things like friendship and love and acceptance which you have always provided. I will attempt to cultivate a desire for objects if it will make you feel better. I do like wearing different clothing…”
“Maybe if we’d treated you like a person consistently you’d have already done so. Maybe you will naturally now that you have quarters. Just don’t go too far the other way,” Kathryn sighed.
“It is hard because I am unique. As you have told me repeatedly, let go of the past and embrace the future. Mistakes were made, but humans are not perfect. We are together now and I have quarters now. It will only take 4.8 minutes for me to move in. Those are positive things.”
“You really are the most extraordinary woman, my love,” Kathryn said softly.
“Will you show me this new form of kissing now?” Seven was tired of talking. Actually, she was just tired, but she wanted to be intimate before her surgery. She wanted to show Kathryn her more invasive implants and give her a chance to change her mind if she survived. She believed that Kathryn didn’t mind her visible implants and even found them attractive, but that might not extend to the ones covered by her clothes.
“I’d like to lay down to do it. Is that okay? If I do anything you don’t like, all you have to do is say ‘stop’ and I will immediately, okay?” Kathryn looked nervous and serious. It was an attractive combination.
“Acceptable,” she agreed. She had no intention of saying ‘stop’. She would allow Kathryn to touch her however she wanted. She had enjoyed everything so far. “I… I would not object if you wished for us to remove our clothing,” she added awkwardly. She wished she knew the proper romantic phrasing.
Kathryn’s expression went from shock, to arousal, to nervousness, back to arousal before she regained her composure and her command mask. “Are you saying you want to make love?”
“I am not sure, but I do want to show you the rest of my implants and I wish you to… explore… my body above my waist at least,” Seven said shyly.
“You’re going to be worried until I demonstrate my acceptance of them,” she said understandingly, nodding. “That’s one human trait I wish you didn’t have to experience. Most people, especially women, are very concerned that their lover won’t find their bodies attractive. Including me,” she admitted. “I’m ten or fifteen years older than you and gravity is starting to affect my breasts and my stomach isn’t as flat as it was fifteen years ago. I’m starting to gray, too.”
“This is normal?” Seven asked, shocked. Kathryn was just as worried about her approval of her body as she was about Kathryn’s?
“Perfectly. Seven, I thought you were pretty as a full drone. The statistical possibility of me finding your body unattractive is so low as to be impossible. We’re more likely to wake up in the morning in my old bedroom at Mother’s, it’s so low,” Kathryn said sincerely.
Seven relaxed slightly. “I would still like you to touch me,” she said shyly.
“I still want to. Let’s retire to our bedroom and see how we feel in a little while, okay?” Kathryn asked.
“Acceptable. I like how that sounds -- ‘our’ bedroom.”
“So do I -- though I like the sound of our bed better,” Kathryn said huskily.
Seven was quick to concede that *did* sound much better.
Kathryn was sure she had to be dreaming. She was laying on top of Seven -- her *wife* -- in her underwear in her -- now their -- bed kissing the daylights out of her in the starlight. And she probably wouldn’t have to stop. Seven had given her permission to do anything she wanted. She was paying careful attention to Seven’s responses and she paused every few minutes to check in and make sure Seven still wanted to continue, just in case. The last thing she ever wanted to do was abuse the trust in those big blue eyes. Seven was still shy and hesitant, but there was no sign that she did not want to continue. She just needed a little guidance and confidence like any virgin. At least, Kathryn remembered that was what she needed all those years ago during her own first romantic involvement. She’d never been with a virgin before -- or even a woman -- and hoped she wasn’t making any major mistakes. She wasn’t really used to being the aggressor either. Seven was a quick study; she was sure within a month, that would all change. Kathryn carefully trailed her kisses along Seven’s strong jaw and cautiously gave the starburst beside her ear a lick. Seven moaned. Kathryn stopped. “Did I hurt you?” She didn’t *think* so, but Seven had never made any noise before and she didn’t want to misinterpret anything while she was learning Seven’s responses.
“No! It was… very pleasant,” Seven said hastily.
“So, I’m still making you feel good and you don’t want to stop?” she asked huskily with a hint of seduction.
“I do not want to stop. Please continue.”
Kathryn grinned and lowered her head to continue her new quest to illicit more of those delightful moans.
Seven now understood why love and intimacy made humans act so illogically. Kathryn hadn’t even touched her breasts yet, and already she was ready to do anything to experience all these new sensations again. There were too many to truly process, but they were all very pleasant. Kathryn was clearly a superior kisser. Seven bit her lip to keep herself from making another of the involuntary sounds that made Kathryn stop to ask if she was causing discomfort. Kathryn was tracing her ocular implant with her tongue and Seven desperately did *not* want her to stop. Ever. Her body was sending unfamiliar signals that it required… more, though Seven was uncertain what exactly that might be. She knew she wanted them to both disrobe. She was feeling an ache between her legs and her hips wanted to arch into Kathryn’s thigh. Her private area was feeling even hotter and wetter than it had during their earlier kissing session when Kathryn had explained she was aroused.
“Seven, may I put my hand on your breast?” Kathryn asked suddenly.
“Please,” Seven blurted out. “Kathryn… Is it normal to ache between your legs?” She was very embarrassed that she didn’t know. None of the information she had discovered that mentioned any emotions or sensations, just dry, clinical detail. None of it had prepared her for reality, and she was a little worried she was malfunctioning.
“Do your hips want to move against me?” Kathryn asked tenderly.
“Yes,” she admitted.
“Then it’s normal and the same ache I’m experiencing. It means you’re very aroused and your body wants to make love. Do you want to stop?” Kathryn explained calmly.
Seven opened her mouth to say something sarcastic, but stopped herself. Kathryn was just being Kathryn. She opened her mouth to say ‘no’ when the ship jolted alarmingly and the red alert sounded. She suddenly understood the desire to utter profanity. Which Kathryn was doing very loudly as she got up and started dressing. She got up and started to dress herself. Perhaps she would have information that could solve the problem quickly so that they could finish what they had started. She didn’t even bother to point out that they were both on ‘vacation’. Kathryn could no more make love through a red alert than Seven could push the ship back to the Alpha Quadrant.
Kathryn could not believe that fate could be so cruel as to allow a red alert when she was a second from being given the all clear to make love to her wife for the first time. She’d been waiting for that moment for three and a half years. She strode onto the bridge with Seven and barked, “Report!” to a tense Harry Kim.
“A Borg cube appeared out of nowhere and fired on us. I was about to order return fire when we were hailed. It was Seven’s friend, Laura. Seems she has a weapon’s master with an itchy trigger finger and a malfunctioning ocular implant. He was trying to hit the General’s sphere, thinking it was part of the Collective and about to attack us. I assured her we were fine; the sphere was severed and contained allies. Then she asked to speak to you and Seven, and I said neither of you were available currently. She asked to speak to the highest ranking officer available. I said I would hail Cmdr Chakotay and he would contact her when he arrived. She cut the channel to hail the sphere. They have taken their weapons offline and I hailed the commander who should be arriving any minute,” he explained crisply, standing at attention.
“How did no one detect a Borg cube until it was in firing range?” Janeway asked furiously.
“I allowed the bridge crew to pay more attention to the conversation than their jobs,” Harry replied. “It was a severe breech of protocol and common sense, and I take full responsibility.”
“I’ll decide what to do with you all later. Consider all holodeck privileges cancelled and your rations docked until further notice, and pray like hell I get in a better mood very soon,” she said, giving them all a force 12 glare for good measure. “Why was I not hailed immediately?”
“I ordered Mr. Kim not to disturb you for any reason,” Chakotay answered walking on the bridge.
“There are three things I always want to know about immediately -- Q, the Borg, and a way home -- no matter what I’m doing. Is that understood?” she demanded, looking at both men.
“Yes, Captain,” they said nearly in unison.
“Okay, let’s see what they want. Hail the cube.”
Seven’s head hurt, and her throat was dry, and for the one of the few times in her life, she desperately wanted liquid refreshment and an analgesic. She noted both of her hands were being held, and there were familiar voices. Kathryn. B’Elanna. Someone else she could not place. She opened her eyes with an effort and looked at Kathryn. She was looking at someone beside her out of her line of sight. “Did you get the call letters of the shuttle that hit me?” she asked weakly. She’d heard Tom say that once and everyone had laughed.
Kathryn started. “You’re awake! How are you feeling?” she asked, concerned.
“My head hurts and my throat is dry.”
“I’ll get the Doctor,” B’Elanna said. “It must be bad if you’re mentioning it at all.”
The Doctor gave her a hypospray and he and Kathryn helped her sit up to drink a glass of water. She felt much better after that. “How long was I unconscious?”
“Two hours. The surgery went much better and much more quickly than expected. You’ll only have to regenerate for three days, and then you’ll be better than new,” the Doctor explained.
Seven ran an internal diagnostic and had to admit, the newly redesigned node was very efficient. She still had the feeling there was a catch; Laura had given them not one, but three cortical nodes so that they would have spares in case of another incident. Plus, the Collective had not redesigned the cortical node for thirty years. The timing seemed too convenient, but she, B’Elanna, Harry, the Doctor, and Kathryn had all examined them and they did not seem to be anything but what they seemed. Nor did the new cube seem to be anything other than what they claimed to be -- a group of freedom fighters. Still, Seven was uneasy. “How soon do I have to regenerate?”
“As soon as possible, but another hour or two won’t cause undo harm,” the Doctor replied. “You can return to your quarters for that time, if you want.”
“I have a project I’d like to finish on my console, then I will regenerate. Is that acceptable, Kathryn?”
“I’ll come with you and tuck you in. The sooner you go in, the sooner you’ll be finished and we can get married properly,” Kathryn said agreeably. She did raise her eyebrow, and Seven knew she knew something was wrong. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t accommodate your request, Laura, but I’d like to discuss it further with my senior staff and my wife when she’s feeling herself again before I make my final decision. I’m pretty dead on my feet, and I don’t like making important decisions when I’m tired or worried if I can avoid it. But you’re welcome to stay on board for the next three days as a trial run. We can turn on another alcove for you if you don’t mind sharing the cargo bay with Seven and Icheb. Someone will be monitoring Seven constantly, too, just as a precaution. I tend to be a little overprotective and over cautious when it comes to my wife’s well-being,” Kathryn said with friendly diplomatic smile.
Seven relaxed slightly. Kathryn was suspicious as well. She would share her suspicions with her wife and B’Elanna.
Kathryn settled into the comfortable chair she’d had placed in front of Seven’s alcove for the crewmembers who had been ‘monitoring’ Seven. Seven’s cycle would be over in an hour and she wanted to be there to greet her wife. Kathryn had been busy planning a proper wedding and attempting to confirm or disprove her suspicions of Laura’s true motives. No one had found anything to indicate that the situation was anything other than what Laura professed -- she owed her life to Seven and wanted to help her, and she just wanted to go home, even if it took another thirty years. She was inclined to grant Laura’s request to join the crew. Laura was Starfleet; it just wouldn’t feel right to leave her behind. She wouldn’t make her final decision until she’d discussed the matter with Seven and given her wife a chance to go over their findings. Her wife did often see things that no one else did, and her instincts were often right in the long run. She didn’t want anything interfering with her second wedding night. She hoped Seven still wanted to make love, or at least would let her touch her breasts.
Kathryn chuckled. Most of the crew thought they’d already been intimate for quite a while, thanks to Seven’s innocent conversation with the Delaney sisters and some surprisingly accurate, if misinterpreted, speculation. She had surprised herself by not minding being the center of gossip. Poor Seven had been mortified that she’d accidentally fueled the biggest gossip fest of Voyager’s history. Perhaps she would have minded if she had not known her beloved was dying. But she was rather enjoying being one of the central players of “the most romantic love story since Romeo and Juliet”, as one crewman had put it. How Romeo and Juliet was romantic since they both ended up dead within three days of getting together, Kathryn didn’t quite get, but she understood the sentiment. The best thing was it had forced most of the crew to reevaluate their opinions of Seven and finally realize that Seven wasn’t the enemy or the cold emotionless drone they had thought. She had a cargo container full of pads with letters of apology, congratulations, and wishes for Seven’s speedy recovery from almost all of the crew for Seven when she was ready to read them. There was even a brief note of congratulations from the crew’s most anti-social member. One hundred twenty out of one hundred forty-five crewmembers had offered to undergo assimilation so that the Doctor could remove their cortical nodes to replace Seven’s. She thought that most of them had been genuine and not just ass kissing. She was extremely pleased that it seemed that finally Seven was accepted, and moreover, was making leaps and bounds toward fully integrating with the crew -- of her own volition. She had asked to wear the uniform, had willingly accepted a provisional rank, and had officially retaken her human name back -- well, half her human name. Kathryn still couldn’t believe that Seven had taken her name, even if she did still prefer Seven. Kathryn didn’t mind; it would be confusing for the crew -- and herself -- to suddenly switch to calling her a new name after three and a half years. Seven suited her -- it was strong and unique just like her wife. Still, it would be a thrill to introduce her to strangers as her wife, Annika.
She imagined the look on Admiral Paris’ face when he received the marriage license and her letter in the next data stream. It was not as amusing as she imagined Phoebe’s expression would be. All her friends and family had despaired of her ever actually marrying, she’d put off setting a date with Mark so often. They’d be amazed she’d actually done it twice, if with the same woman. The woman part would be a big shock as well, not to mention the former Borg drone part. She wished she could see it for herself.
“I’ve missed you, darling. Our bed feels huge when you’re not in it with me,” Kathryn sighed into Seven’s neck.
Seven held her more tightly, relieved that Kathryn didn’t seem to have changed her mind about staying married now that she would live. “I have missed you as well, and I am very much looking forward to laying in our bed with you tonight. You do not sleep properly unless I am there.”
“No, I don’t. It’s probably purely psychological, but I find the sound of your heartbeat under my ear and the sound of your breathing very soothing and when you hold me, I feel safe. Like you’re watching over me and nothing bad can happen as long as you’re there,” Kathryn admitted, sounding a little embarrassed.
“I feel the same way when you watch me regenerate,” Seven said softly.
“You know when I watch you?” Kathryn asked, sounding embarrassed again.
“Regenerating is not like sleep; I retain a level of awareness of my surroundings, although it is not like being ‘awake’ either. I do not think humans have anything similar to compare it to. With effort, I can control my level of awareness, even to the point of ‘waking up’ although it is very difficult and takes several minutes. I ‘rouse’ slightly whenever the door opens to access if anything dangerous or illegal is going on that I need to pay attention to or defend myself against. I feel… vulnerable… during regeneration because I cannot act quickly. When you come to check in on me, I do not always maintain a high level of awareness. Your presence… sooths me… and I can fully ‘relax’ knowing that you’re watching over me. In truth, that is why I never requested quarters. I did not want your visits to end,” Seven revealed her most closely guarded secrets. She was fairly certain that one was not supposed to have secrets from one’s mate, though she knew Kathryn could not and would not tell her all of hers. Starfleet captains had to keep some things secret, and she did not totally mind. “Please do not tell anyone else of this. You are not the only one who would be very embarrassed to know I am aware,” she added.
“I’m sorry for invading your privacy, and I promise won’t tell anyone. It’ll be our little secret. What kinds of things have you heard? I promise I won’t tell anyone that either,” she asked curiously.
“Sometimes people will confess their feelings for me, or sing silly songs, or will engage in socially unacceptable behavior,” Seven said. “That is actually how I knew Harry was in love with me; he came to watch me regenerate and practiced asking me on a date and telling me how he felt. My offer to copulate with him was calculated to ‘scare him off’; I had no intention of actually doing it. I do not know what I would have done if he had ‘taken me up on my offer’. Suddenly realize that I had not received a bioinhibitor, perhaps, although I cannot have children anyway.”
“You can’t? I didn’t know that,” Kathryn said in an odd tone.
“I do not have a uterus, or fallopian tubes, and only one ovary. All female drones were allowed to keep one because some hormones are necessary and no implant can produce hormones effectively. Males were not altered because their reproductive organs are external and do not limit the amount of internal space for implants. I have implants that regulate or mimic several biological functions where my reproductive organs once were,” she explained sorrowfully.
“Oh, god, I’m so sorry, Seven. They took your eggs, too?” Kathryn asked sadly.
“No, but I do not have any where to put them,” Seven reminded. “And I have no desire to copulate with a male anyway.”
“Well, I do have a uterus that’s not doing anything,” Kathryn said wryly. “For a while longer, anyway. Seven, you don’t have to have sex with a man to have children. You don’t even need sperm any more. The Doctor could splice our eggs together and implant the embryo in me, or a surrogate mother, or even a mechanical womb, similar to a Borg maturation chamber. I’m not ready to add children to our family yet, but we do have options if you want them someday.”
That was news to Seven. “I did not know that. I would like to add children to our family subunit someday when I have a better grasp of humanity,” Seven said happily. It made her feel better about losing the Borg children, whom she missed more than she would ever tell anyone. At least she still had Icheb. “How is Icheb?”
“He’s worried about you. I’ve been thinking. What would you think about adopting him? I know he’s nearly grown, but having official family ties may help his return to being an individual,” Kathryn suggested. “He’s already attached to you as his guide to individuality.”
“I’d like that, if he agrees. I know belonging to you has given me a sense of stability I had been lacking. It would not be the same sort of belonging, but I believe if I had been severed as a teenager or child, a family would have been helpful,” Seven agreed. “Would he live with us when neither of us had to regenerate?”
“I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I wanted to see if it was something both of you would like and I thought we could work it out as a… family,” Kathryn admitted.
“I could bring it up during our duty shift and see if he would find it acceptable. We are both capable of carrying on a conversation while working efficiently,” Seven offered.
“I’ll come with you. Tuvok has the bridge and I’m caught up with my reports for once. I’d like to go over the data we’ve found over the last three days. We can’t find any evidence that Laura is anything other than what she says.”
“Acceptable. There is one thing I am uncertain about. Now that we are married, what is the protocol for addressing you on duty and when we are not alone off duty? I do not wish to be disrespectful, yet I do not want to be overly formal either.”
“You should probably call me Captain on duty if we’re not alone or doing something official, but any other time, Kathryn is acceptable. If you’re not sure, call me Captain and if it’s appropriate, I’ll correct you, okay? Or I could call you Lieutenant if ranks are required. Neither of us are officially on duty right now, so Kathryn is okay.”
“Acceptable. I do not want to do anything to damage your command, but I did not want to hurt your feelings by being too formal either. Thank you for clarifying,” Seven said in relief.
“I think the crew will survive hearing my wife call me by my first name, but thank you. Most of the crew seem to think we’re carrying on the biggest, most romantic love affair since Romeo and Juliet and somehow, that seems to be *improving* my command,” Kathryn said with the crooked grin Seven adored. “You have letters from most of the crew -- apologies, congratulations, wishes for a quick recovery when you feel like reading them. I’m not sure whether it was you being deathly ill or being willing to hook up with an old stubborn captain that made a lot of people do a lot of reevaluating.”
Seven was shocked, but pleased. “Everyone knows about us, and few mind?”
“Yes. I don’t think more than one or two truly object, but there’s nothing to worry about. It’s impossible to please everyone,” Kathryn said dismissively. “There are a few broken hearts, but time will heal them,” she added a little regretfully.
“The Doctor and Cmdr Chakotay,” Seven guessed. “What should I do? Avoid him until he feels better?” Seven didn’t want to hurt her friend any more than she already had.
“I don’t know. Sometimes people want to be left alone, sometimes they want to pretend nothing is wrong. Just act normally and if he seems uncomfortable, cut your visit short. Chakotay is fine; he’s known for years that there would never be anything between us but friendship.”
“Good; I would not want to spend our honeymoon in the brig for damaging him,” Seven said.
“Darling, there’s no one in the universe that could ever be your rival. You’re my one and only. I’ve never even seriously thought about anyone else, despite rumors to the contrary,” Kathryn said seriously.
“You are the captain of my heart/the Omega of my soul/I did not live until I looked into your eyes/And saw my purpose for existing looking back at me,” Seven recited softly. It felt like the perfect moment to try out her first attempt at poetry.
Kathryn stared at her with a soft loving, wondering look in her eyes. “That has to be the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me. I never knew you could be poetic,” she said softly.
“I have been attempting to learn how. That was my first attempt,” Seven confessed. “It was sufficient?”
“It was more than sufficient. You are such an amazing woman. No one has ever written me a poem before. Quoted others’, yes, but never anything original. I’m the luckiest woman in the universe that I’m the one you love.”
“That is what I was about to say,” Seven said softly, bending down to kiss her wife.
Kathryn groaned as strong, yet gentle, hands massaged her tense shoulders and neck. She couldn’t decide if she appreciated the metal fingertips or the human ones more. Seven’s technique was slightly different with each hand. Marrying Seven had definitely been the best decision of her life.
“Kathryn, how should I handle the situation with Laura? The same as the Doctor?” Seven asked curiously.
“That would probably work. She knows we’re married now, and she promised not to interfere. I’m rather relieved that all we were missing was her world-class crush on you. I was imagining elaborate conspiracies with the Queen. If it bothers you, I’ll deny her request to join us,” Kathryn said.
“It bothers me no more than the Doctor’s feelings. I merely do not wish to hurt her feelings, or do anything to offer her hope. I have no desire to be with anyone but you… ever,” Seven said. “I do not think you should deny her request. She is human and Starfleet and belongs with us. She will be of great help in Engineering and Astrometrics. Perhaps you could finally transfer Tal Celes somewhere more suitable. Mr. Neelix could always use help. She could not cook any worse.”
“I think you could be of great help to Tal Celes if you’d just make the effort. She’s not stupid; you just make her nervous and don’t do anything to bolster her self-confidence. That’s also part of your job as head of the department. Maybe I’ll ask Tal to show Laura around and help her get settled.”
“I will make the attempt, if you insist, but I think it is a waste of time. A less demanding job would do more to bolster her self-confidence, I would think.”
“I don’t want to ‘demote’ her. Just give her a little more time, and if it still doesn’t work, I’ll talk to Neelix. Enough shop talk. More massaging.”
“You are so good at this,” Kathryn groaned. “Where did you learn how to give such fantastic massages? I can’t imagine the Borg finding massage techniques relevant.”
“I studied the medical database after we started playing Velocity. I wanted to be prepared in case you damaged yourself and the holodeck malfunctioned and I could not get you to sickbay,” Seven explained. “I never ‘got up the nerve’ to offer before today.”
“You can give me a massage any time you want. You have magic hands. I’ll give you one as soon as I can move again.”
“That may not be a good idea. I have several subdermal implants, and the implants on my lower back are very sensitive… It would not be… therapeutic… if you used the same positioning,” Seven said, flushing.
“I wouldn’t want to hurt you. Maybe if I was very gentle, you could guide me…? Someday,” Kathryn suggested slightly tentatively.
“I am not concerned you may cause pain; it is the opposite,” Seven assured her.
“Oh! *That* kind of sensitive. Wow. You can… Just from having you back rubbed?” Kathryn asked, sounding intrigued and surprised.
“The Doctor called the reaction a ‘mini-orgasm’ and devised padding to add to my clothing to keep it from happening again. He discovered it quite by accident while removing my exoplating over my receptors,” Seven explained. “Where I connect to the power source in my alcove,” she clarified since she rarely spoke about those implants and she thought Kathryn had likely forgotten about them.
“So we’ll have to be very careful when you’re nude,” Kathryn said. “I’m glad you told me. Too many orgasms are as bad as too few. At least, I’d assume; I’ve never had more than one or maybe two on a really good night.”
Seven made a mental note to find out how many orgasms were too many, but that it was more than two. She wanted to give Kathryn more pleasure than anyone else ever had, and it had never occurred to her that there was such a thing as too much pleasure. She was glad she had found that out before she’d unintentionally damaged her wife. “So far, merely laying on my back has not caused that reaction. It requires friction. The first two nights we shared the bed, I was unprotected.”
“Could I touch them sometime? It doesn’t have to be any time soon. I find your implants fascinating and sexy, and I was hoping to explore all the external ones.”
“I have no objection to you touching them any time you wish to make love. I merely did not want to surprise you by reacting sexually to an innocent endeavor.”
“Seven, massages are not always innocent. They can be a prelude to making love,” Kathryn explained. “I know your offer was innocent, however.”
Seven relaxed. “So it is not inappropriate for me to be aroused then?”
“Not at all. I hoped you would be a little at least since this is the first time I’ve been half naked with you.”
“I have been trying not to look or think about it,” Seven admitted.
“Honey, we’re married. It’s okay to look. If we hadn’t been interrupted, you’d have already seen everything,” Kathryn said gently. “You can even touch if or when you’re ready to. I’m sorry, I should have said that earlier, but I forgot you might not realize.”
“Are you indicating readiness to make love?” Seven asked shyly, unsure if she was interpreting correctly, and not wanting to do anything wrong.
“What time is it?” Kathryn asked.
“0130 hours,” Seven answered, confused.
“As much as I want to, we’d better not. We have to be on duty at 0800,” Kathryn said reluctantly. “I don’t want to ask Chakotay to take my duty shift since we’ll be taking a week off for our honeymoon in a few days.”
“Would you like me to retrieve your shirt?” Seven asked. She was a little disappointed, but she hadn’t really expected they would. Three days was not that long, then they’d have a whole week alone. She was a little apprehensive about that. They’d never spent more than a few hours together alone before; what if she bored her beloved? Kathryn only willingly took more than an afternoon off on two occasions -- during her depression during the Void and the two days that had been the beginning of their relationship. That had been the only time longer than two hours Seven had willingly taken time off, and it wasn’t really time off because Cmdr Chakotay had ordered her to help Kathryn, B’Elanna, and Tuvok recover. Seven often only worked because she didn’t have anything else to do, and she enjoyed being useful to Kathryn, and spending time with Kathryn was always enjoyable when she was not ‘in trouble’, so she thought she would be fine, but she was not sure about her wife.
“Would it make you uncomfortably aroused if I slept without it?” Kathryn asked.
“I do not know. I will get up and take a cold shower after you fall asleep if it does,” Seven said.
“If you’re sure… Computer, lights out. Lay down and let me hold you, love.”
That was one order Seven could not imagine ever disobeying.
Chapter Six: The “Official” Wedding
Kathryn paced as she waited for it to be time to take her place. She had no idea why she was nervous. She had already been married for a week. This ceremony was merely a performance for the crew and Seven’s friends and an attempt to give Seven the wedding she deserved. There. *That* was why she was nervous. She wanted the day to be perfect for her beloved; a day she could relive with pleasure for the rest of her life, the way a bride should. She was not quite sure if Seven really required it or if she was merely going along because it was something Kathryn wanted. Chakotay and Tom were watching her with sympathetic amusement, and she thought she saw a bit of sympathetic understanding in Tuvok’s eyes as well. She was grateful that her best male friends were keeping her company and had helped her get ready. B’Elanna, the Wildmans, and the Doctor were with Seven. She wondered if Seven was as nervous as she was.
“It’s time,” Chakotay said. “Relax, Kathryn, you’ve already survived this once. This is just a formality,” he said reassuringly.
“Tell that to the fleet of Klingon Warbirds in my stomach,” she said wryly. But she took a deep breath and Tuvok and Tom’s arms and allowed them to escort her. She had asked Tom to fill in for his father and he had quickly agreed. Admiral Paris had been her father’s friend and had been her substitute father since her father’s death. She had always imagined walking down the aisle on his arm. Tom and Tuvok were just as good. Tom looked unusually solemn and dignified in his dress uniform, taking his role more seriously than he was wont to do. He had come so far in six years; he was growing into the man she had always known he could be. She couldn’t take all the credit, but she was proud of him.
The church looked beautiful; Tom had done an amazing job programming it. There were a rainbow of roses everywhere and dress uniformed crew filled almost all the pews. Several former drones wearing the dress clothing of their heritage sat in the first two pews on the right. The ceremony was being broadcast onto the sphere, cube, and the rest of the ship for the crew that had to be on duty. Chakotay went ahead to take his place behind the rose covered arbor she and Seven and their attendants would stand beneath. She took her place and waited for Seven to come to her.
“You look like a princess,” Naomi said admiringly.
“Thank you. I must admit I feel like a princess,” Seven said. ‘… the one who slept on a pea,’ she continued silently, remembering the fairy tale Naomi had introduced her to. The dress was beautiful, but uncomfortable. She had wanted to wear her dress uniform, or even a tuxedo, but Ensign Wildman had gone to so much trouble and expense to make the garment, she could not refuse to wear it. It was truly a very thoughtful gift, and Seven was touched by the gesture and thought behind it. Kathryn would like it, she was sure. Perhaps Kathryn would help her take it off and finally touch her body.
B’Elanna grinned at her as she was arranging flowers in her hair. “You look gorgeous, Seven. The captain won’t hear a word of this ceremony either. This time, Tuvok is ready to poke her at all the right moments, though.”
“That was funny. I didn’t know anything could distract the captain,” Naomi said. “I want my husband to be so busy looking at me he doesn’t hear a word of the ceremony, too.”
“Don’t we all?” the Doctor said. “Well, a wife in my case,” he amended quickly.
“There. You’re finished, Seven. What do you think?” B’Elanna asked.
Seven stood and examined herself in the full length mirror. Her hair was loose in the back the way Kathryn liked it and the sides were braided with white roses and fastened at the back of her head with a clip covered with small white rosebuds. Her dress was white and strapless and fell to the ground. The skirt was extremely full and she was wearing several crinkly white ‘petticoats’ to hold it out. She thought she might be a little pretty if it weren’t for the implants. They stood out even more next to the white of her dress. “Are you sure I can’t mask my implants?” she asked. “They ruin the illusion you are attempting to create.”
“Your implants are what make you so beautiful,” Naomi said wisely. “Otherwise, you’d just be really pretty like Mom.”
Seven thought Ensign Wildman was much prettier than she was and said so.
“Thanks, Seven, but I’m ordinary; you’d be beautiful without implants, but it’d be an ordinary beautiful like thousands of other women. Your implants emphasize your features -- you have great eyes and a nice jaw line -- and add a bit of exoticness.”
“It is a reminder that one of them is not real and I am no longer wholly human. I am Borg and the Borg are not pretty,” Seven said.
“Seven, you were still good looking as a full drone. Right, Doctor?” B’Elanna said.
“You were. The Captain couldn’t take her eyes off you. I should’ve told you sooner. Kes was still here, and as you know, she was telepathic and an empath to a degree. She confided in me before she ascended that the Captain falling for you even then and made me promise to do what I could to help smooth the way since she wouldn’t be around to help herself. Believe me, anyone with eyes thinks you’re gorgeous, and anyone with any sense at all knows your soul is just as beautiful. The Captain has both,” the Doctor said.
“It’s time,” Ensign Rodriguez called through the door.
“It’ll be okay, Seven,” Naomi said confidently as she grabbed her basket of rose petals and left.
“We love you as you are, Seven. It took some of us longer than others, but you’re part of our family. You’re perfect as you are,” B’Elanna said sincerely before she left with Ensign Wildman.
Seven took a deep breath to control her emotions. She had not known that anyone but Kathryn, the Doctor, and Naomi loved her. She took the Doctor’s arm and waited for their cue.
Kathryn smiled when she saw Naomi walking up the aisle scattering rose petals. She was a pretty little girl. She grinned when she noticed that she was scattering every handful in a precise pattern with a frown of concentration on her face. Definitely Seven’s influence. She hoped that they’d end up with a little girl like Naomi one day. Naomi stopped at the foot of the steps and turned off to sit with her mother and Neelix. B’Elanna walked up the aisle next looking beautiful in a pale yellow dress much to Kathryn’s surprise. She thought they were all wearing dress uniforms. Hers was pure white instead of red and black, but the same style. Apparently her officers had made some changes to her plans. She didn’t mind as long as they were minor things like clothing. B’Elanna smiled at her as she took her place opposite Tuvok. Kathryn stopped breathing when she caught sight of Seven. Suddenly, she didn’t give a damn what changes her staff had made. Seven was gorgeous normally, but she looked otherworldly in a traditional wedding dress with white roses in her hair. The Doctor had changed his matrix to a traditional black tuxedo and he was escorting Seven with an expression of paternal pride on his face and sadness in his eyes. Kathryn felt sorry for the poor man, but he had handled the whole thing with more dignity and respect than she thought she ever could. He had offered to give Seven away. She could not have done it.
They reached the bottom of the two steps that led to the arbor. Kathryn stepped down and the Doctor solemnly took Seven’s hand off his arm and placed it in Kathryn’s hand. Neither of them said a word, but his eyes said ‘Take care of her as I wish I could’ and Kathryn nodded her promise before escorting her beloved to their places. She was sure she’d probably fail more than once, but she was equally sure she’d try harder to succeed than she’d ever tried before.
“We are gathered today to celebrate the joining of two people who have overcome the impossible to come together in this place to swear their eternal bond before any higher power that may be listening and ourselves. Those of us on Voyager have seen their bond in action many times and I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s no surprise that they have decided to formalize that bond in marriage. If any two people have ever been meant for one another, it is Kathryn Janeway and Annika Hansen. They’ve overcome things together and separately that would kill any normal soul. Alone, they’re formidable; together they’re unstoppable. If anyone has any reason why these two women should not be joined, speak now or forever hold your peace,” Chakotay said solemnly. He paused and Seven could hear everyone in attendance hold their breathes waiting to see if anyone would speak up. After one point six minutes, Chakotay continued. “Kathryn, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” Kathryn said strongly and immediately.
“Annika, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness or health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, no matter how stubborn and impossible she may be, for as long as you both shall live?”
“I do,” she promised. She grinned at Kathryn’s indignant glare at Chakotay.
“I’ll have you know she’s just as stubborn and impossible as I am,” Kathryn interrupted.
“Are you changing your answer to ‘I don’t’?” Chakotay teased.
“Hell no. Who else would put up with my sorry ass for eternity?” Kathryn asked.
Seven laughed. “Kathryn, hush and let the poor man continue.”
“Sorry, honey. Go on,” Kathryn said with an irrepressible grin.
“Let’s see… where was I? Oh, where’s the ring?”
Tuvok pulled it out of his tunic pocket and handed it over.
“Turn and face each other, and Kathryn take Annika’s right hand.” They did. “Repeat after me, Kathryn. I, Kathryn Janeway,” Chakotay said.
“I, Kathryn Janeway.”
“Take you, Annika Hansen, for my lawfully wedded wife.”
“Take you, Annika Hansen, for my lawfully wedded wife.”
“And with this ring solemnly vow.”
“And with this ring solemnly vow.”
“To love, honor, cherish, and provide.”
“To love, honor, cherish, and provide.”
“For you for the rest of my days.”
“For you the rest of my days.”
“You may put the ring on her now.”
Kathryn slid the ring on slowly and carefully. She had never looked so solemn, but her eyes were filled with love and joy.
“B’Elanna, hand over the other ring.” B’Elanna did and Seven carefully took it and Kathryn’s left hand.
“Repeat after me. I, Annika Hansen, take you, Kathryn Janeway, for my lawfully wedded wife.”
“I, Annika Hansen, take you, Kathryn Janeway, for my lawfully wedded wife,” Seven repeated, thankful her eidetic memory because she was busy looking into Kathryn’s eyes.
“And with this ring solemnly vow.”
“And with this ring solemnly vow.”
“To love, honor, and obey whenever it is efficient and logical to do so,” he had to stop because everyone, even Kathryn, was laughing.
“To love, honor, and obey whenever it is efficient and logical to do so for the rest of my days,” she finished, completing the phrase, after the laughter had died down after a playful glare from Kathryn.
“By the power invested in me by Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets, I pronounce you wed. Kathryn, you may kiss your bride.”
Finally, the part she’d been looking forward to. She bent her head and pressed her lips gently to her wife’s. She went to pull away after a moment, but Kathryn’s hands were on her neck and she deepened the kiss. Seven wasn’t protesting if Kathryn didn’t mind being demonstrative in front of the entire crew.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I present Captain and Mrs. Kathryn Janeway. Congratulations, Captain, Seven. And you can stop kissing now. There are children present,” Chakotay said.
Kathryn let her up for air and Seven took Kathryn’s arm. The sooner they left, the sooner they could go on their honeymoon and they could kiss some more. Kathryn might even finally touch her breasts.
Kathryn sat at the head table with her arm firmly around Seven’s shoulders as she listened with half her attention to the long line of toasts in their honor. She wanted to be in their holographic honeymoon suite trying to figure out how to take off that dress, but she knew she had to be patient. With both the reception and introducing Seven to sex. So far, she thought she was doing a pretty good job at both. Seven wasn’t complaining at least. She was sure if she wasn’t being appropriately attentive to the proceedings Seven would let her know. How did the damn thing come off? She couldn’t see any fasteners.
“All right, two more formalities, then let’s have fun for a while before we get formal again to present the wedding gifts and see the happy couple off. First, we’ll serve the wedding supper, then it’ll be time for the Captain and Seven to have the first dance,” Chakotay announced.
God, how many hours were they going to have to stay? Seven looked bored already and Kathryn knew she was.
Seven was apprehensive about dancing. She didn’t want to damage Kathryn. Kathryn smiled at her reassuringly. “It’s very simple. Just take two steps to the right, then two steps to the left. I’ll press your back like this when you should go right, and like this when it’s left, okay?”
Seven relaxed. She could do that. She nodded and let Kathryn guide her. Kathryn was a lot more skilled than Lt Chapman, Seven realized a few minutes later as she noted that they were waltzing without Seven even noticing. Kathryn’s signals were easy to follow and she relaxed still further and began to enjoy herself. She should’ve asked Kathryn for dancing lessons to start with.
“And now for presents… Well, the ones fit for children,” Chakotay announced. “The rest are in your hotel room. From the entire crew, you have Holodeck Two all to yourselves for the next week and a few hours, not three days like we originally planned. Also from the entire crew, a recording of the wedding and the highlights of the reception will be sent in the next data stream to the senior Mrs. Janeway. Harry, Tuvok, and I are going to split command shifts for an additional two days so you can recover from the honeymoon. Icheb and the Delaney sisters are going to cover Astrometrics for the same time period. Neither of you have ever had a vacation, so don’t argue. You’ve both worked more double and triple shifts than anyone else on this ship and deserve it. Now, go on and enjoy yourselves and don’t worry about the ship. The General is going to stay within hailing distance in case of trouble for the next week.”
Kathryn was afraid to find out what else her crew had gotten them, but not so afraid she wasn’t going to grab the chance to leave. She wasn’t going to argue about the extra two days off either. She hadn’t really taken a day off in six years and hadn’t had sex in even longer. As far as she knew, Seven had never done either. They’d find plenty to do for nine days. She stood up and said “Thanks, everyone. See you in nine days.” Then she pulled Seven toward the door as quickly as possible.
“Don’t try to carry her over the threshold, Captain, she’s heavier than she looks!” The Doctor called.
Kathryn internally groaned when Seven immediately stopped and scooped her into Borg enhanced arms. She didn’t bother to explain. She’d just look more idiotic if she argued. Best to just let Seven carry her wherever she wanted. The fact she secretly enjoyed being carried by a lover had nothing whatsoever to do with her decision. Not one bit.
“What do we do now?” Seven asked uncertainly after setting Kathryn down gently inside their hotel room. She was not really sure what one did on a honeymoon. She had gathered it was a vacation and sex was involved, but she was not sure if they were supposed to make love immediately and without stopping for anything but sleep and food, or if there were other things, too. Perhaps there were more rituals. No one had really explained anything to her.
“We can do anything you want,” Kathryn said unhelpfully. She looked very nervous and uncertain.
“There are no more rituals we must complete?” Seven asked.
“No. Um, usually a couple makes love, but we don’t have to,” Kathryn said in a rush. “We could just open the rest of the presents and go to bed. To sleep.”
It was not hard to deduce what Kathryn wanted. She wanted to make love, but she was too nervous to simply take off their clothes and do it. Seven was relieved because so was she. She was a little afraid to make love. She trusted Kathryn completely and knew Kathryn would make her feel very good, but she was not really sure what to expect. She didn’t really know what to do to please Kathryn either. She’d been so busy preparing to die, then worrying about Laura and the wedding to do much research, and what she had found didn’t really tell her anything. She’d been far too embarrassed to ask, and she knew talking about sex made both B’Elanna and Kathryn uncomfortable. “I like presents. B’Elanna said the gifts would likely either be totally practical or something called ‘gag’ gifts.”
“Traditionally, the ‘bride’s’ friends throw her a party before the wedding called a ‘bridal shower’ where she’s given presents to help her in her new life as a wife. Usually, there’s a few useful kitchen items, and often items of nightwear and underwear calculated to capture the ‘husband’s’ sexual attention. Sometimes they also give… more sexual items, usually as jokes or ‘gag gifts’. I assume since some packages are here, they’ve given us items of that nature. Since you don’t like to socialize, we decided to skip all the traditional parties except the wedding reception,” Kathryn explained. “There are two -- one for each person -- where their friends take them out to get drunk and stupid before the wedding and I didn’t want to get drunk and stupid, and you don’t drink. Then there’s the wedding supper the day before the wedding where the family, very close friends, and wedding party get together and practice the wedding and have a meal together to talk. Since we had already gotten married, it didn’t seem like we really needed any practice.”
“Thank you,” Seven said gratefully. She picked up a box and opened it. She pulled out two small bits of red lacey fabric that seemed to be intended to be undergarments. They were too small for her. Seven raised her ocular implant. “These garments are supposed to arouse me?”
“Yes. You don’t like frilly underwear?” Kathryn asked, sounding disappointed.
“I do not think so; however, I could be wrong. I find your standard issue underclothing exceedingly attractive,” Seven replied. “I believe I prefer to be tantalized, not bashed over the head with blatant eroticism. I think it is because of my biosuit. It did not really conceal anything. I feel much more… sexy… in my uniform. But surprise me some evening with these and we can test my hypothesis.”
“I complained about those, but the Doctor insisted they were medically necessary. I think I understand. I’m just the opposite. I like to wear undergarments like those under my uniform because they make me feel sexy and feminine. Now that I have you to come home to, I don’t need them to make me feel that way any more if you prefer the subtle approach.”
“As long as you are in our bed, I don’t think I will give a damn what you are wearing,” Seven said honestly. “I find you attractive in anything, though I can state with certainty, my favorite outfit will be your birthday suit.” She hoped she used the colloquialism and profanity correctly.
Kathryn laughed. “Ditto, my love. Let’s see what sort of small bits of cloth they chose for you to wear.”
“Seven, be sure the Doctor is on standby if you ever wear *this*,” Kathryn said, wide eyed. ‘This’ was a clever collection of leather straps that Kathryn was fairly certain wouldn’t cover a damn thing.
Seven glanced at it in distaste. “Kathryn, you know I love you, but you have lost your mind if you think I will ever put on that garment,” she said firmly.
“It doesn’t look very comfortable,” Kathryn conceded reluctantly. She put it in the recycle pile.
Seven’s face softened. “Put it in the maybe someday pile. I may change my mind in twenty years when we need some ‘spice’.”
“I’ll start taking better care of myself if you promise to wear *that* in twenty years,” Kathryn said. “I want to still be in prime condition.”
“I have been wanting to bring that up. The Borg age very, very slowly. The Queen is four hundred thirty-five years old and still in her prime. I have lost enough of my implants, I will probably not live more than two hundred, possibly two hundred twenty-five years. Humans usually only live one hundred twenty, one hundred fifty years, and you are fifteen years older than I am. I will likely never look older than a young fifty or sixty until very close to the end, if then. I do not want you to worry about me finding you unattractive when you age. I cannot imagine ever finding you unattractive, no matter how gray your hair gets, or how many wrinkles you get. Those things are irrelevant,” Seven said seriously. “I will never ‘replace’ you because you are too old.”
“I want you to try to find love again after I’m gone, Annika. I don’t want you to think you’re tarnishing my memory or cheating on me if you find someone else to share your heart or bed with after I’m dead. Take time to mourn, but eventually move on as best you can. My mother never has, and I saw how lonely she was without Daddy. I don’t want you to be like that,” Kathryn said seriously, knowing these were things they had to talk about.
“I want you to do the same if I die first. Now that we are married, I need to re-update my final wishes. I want to be buried in your family plot if there is room when the time comes. I do not want to be spaced unless there is absolutely no way to get me back to Earth. I know considering I have lived all but two years of my life in space that you would assume that is where I would want to spend eternity, but I don’t unless we die at the same time and you wish to be spaced. I want to end my life the same way I truly began it -- by your side.”
“There’s plenty of room. The Janeways have always been forward thinkers when they’re not busy being reckless and impulsive, and I already own three plots for a spouse and children. It was my first major purchase after I got my commission.”
Seven held up a short thick cylinder curiously. “What is this, Kathryn?”
Kathryn turned a deep crimson. “It’s a sexual aid, Seven. You put it on your… clitoris… and adjust it with this control panel and use it to… penetrate… your partner. Think of it like your Borg hand only for another… appendage,” she stuttered.
Seven was very intrigued. “I could make love to you like a male with it?”
“Yes, kind of. You wouldn’t make love like a man, but with close to the same physical sensations, yes,” Kathryn said, still deep red.
“May I try it someday?” Seven pressed. She wanted to use it right then, but since she was inexperienced at lovemaking, she thought she might accidentally hurt her if she tried before she was familiar with Kathryn’s sexual responses.
“If you want to. It’s very expensive; it’d be a shame to waste it. Maybe someday I could use it on you,” Kathryn said.
“I am sorry, Kathryn, but the Borg badly damaged my vagina during the extraction of my reproductive organs. I did not know until yesterday when I visited the Doctor to check on my ability to produce eggs. The Doctor examined the whole area while I was there. I do produce eggs and he was able to extract and freeze several. He commented it was a good thing I am a lesbian as I am too badly damaged to copulate with a man without extreme pain. I cannot accommodate anything larger than a finger, and even that may cause discomfort. I may be utterly incapable of feeling any pleasure from the act at all; my nerve endings are irreparably damaged, and there is too much scar tissue to allow much stretching and my vagina terminates in a wall of scar tissue three inches in. It seems it never… grew… properly. There is nothing he can do to repair the damage,” Seven said sorrowfully. She felt like a failure. She would never be able to completely satisfy Kathryn now.
“Oh, God. They took everything out intravaginally? Before you were assimilated? Is that when they took your hand and eye, too?” Kathryn asked in horror.
“Yes, to everything. I had not realized I was permanently damaged that badly down there, however. It was… not the most pleasant experience. I was conscious for all of the procedures. I had been assimilated, but sometimes it does not ‘take’ right away. The Borg are not utterly cruel; they attempt to wait until the nerve endings are deadened and pain is irrelevant, but sometimes they misjudge, especially with a new species. My family were among the first humans assimilated. We were unlucky. First, I watched my parents being assimilated, then they started on me. Generally, they do not remove anything in a child until after their time in the maturation chamber. However, the Queen decided to experiment on us. I was taken out of the maturation chamber repeatedly to have my arm and eye refitted. It was painful, but not as. The Queen was quite impressed with my ability to adapt to pain,” Seven explained. She had never talked about her assimilation in any depth before and she realized she felt slightly better telling Kathryn about it.
“That sadistic bitch. If I ever see her again, I’ll kill her,” Kathryn growled. “I don’t know how, but I’ll think of something if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
“Vengeance is not the answer, Kathryn. She should be stopped, but for the good of the universe, not because she hurt me. If you kill her for me, then you will lose your humanity and I am not skilled enough to lead you back the way you have done for me,” Seven said softly. “You are not a killer. I know you have killed, but only in self-defense and in defense of your ship and the Federation. I know it haunts you. Killing for revenge would kill your soul.”
“It will come down to her or me, Seven. It’s gone beyond ‘resistance is futile’ into ‘you stole my woman.’ The Queen is in love with you, as illogical as it seems, in her own sick way. She’ll never stop until she gets you back. And I’m never going to let that happen,” Kathryn said with quiet intensity. “That would kill my soul worse than anything.”
“I think I loved her, too, as much as I was capable as a drone. I missed her voice in my head most of all. It was not until she blackmailed me into returning that I realized that I no longer did. It was your voice that I yearned for,” Seven said thoughtfully. “I apparently ‘have a thing’ for powerful, dominate women.”
As she had hoped, Kathryn laughed and the serious mood was broken.
Kathryn gently unbraided Seven’s hair, carefully putting every rosebud in a stasis tube. She loved how soft her hair was. When she was finished, she lovingly brushed it out. Seven was relaxed for her and seemed to be enjoying the attention as much as she was enjoying giving it. Maybe Seven would let her make it a part of their regular routine. Seven liked routines, she knew. She would have to work on helping Seven create a mutual routine to make her feel safe and comfortable in their life together. “May I help you out of your dress?” she asked. She thought Seven might be ready to lay together in their bed, if nothing else. She’d be content with that. There was always tomorrow.
“Please. It is uncomfortable. If we have another ceremony, you get to be the ‘bride’ and I’ll wear the pants,” Seven said.
“That wasn’t my idea. I wanted to be married in regular dress uniforms again. I had no idea that they were making you wear a dress until you came up the aisle,” Kathryn defended herself. “Though I have to admit, you look exquisite in it. I’ve thought of little else but taking it off of you all day,” she said rather seductively. At least she hoped she sounded seductive and not desperate and nervous as hell.
“I am not stopping you,” Seven pointed out helpfully.
“Can we lay together naked tonight? I won’t try anything,” Kathryn asked a little timidly. She really didn’t want to push, but someone had to make a move and as the more experienced one, she supposed it fell to her.
“Kathryn,” Seven said slowly, patiently, as if speaking to a particularly dimwitted, but much beloved child, “I have offered to take my clothing off for you repeatedly, and I have been very willing to let you ‘try’ anything you want. You are the one who keeps saying ‘no’.”
“Is that a yes?” Kathryn asked, just to be sure.
“Yes, and I wish you would ‘try’ something already. Delaying is not decreasing my nervousness about our ‘first time’,” Seven said in the same patient tone.
“Seven, I’m scared,” Kathryn finally admitted. “I didn’t feel this mixed up before *my* very first time.”
“Unzip me and I will go change into my night clothes while you do the same, then we can talk about what is frightening and confusing both of us,” Seven said gently. “We will create order out of chaos together as we have so many times before.”
“Whatever we do together will set how you think about and respond to sex for the rest of your life. If I’m not good, if I hurt you, you might be totally put off sex forever,” Kathryn blurted out.
Seven tightened her embrace and considered the idea seriously as she lovingly rubbed Kathryn’s back the way she liked when they laid together like this at night in their bed. “I do not intend to be with anyone else for the rest of your life, and since I have no idea what it’s supposed to feel like, I will have no idea if you are any good or not. I can see where that would be both comforting and worrisome. B’Elanna has told me that sex is often painful or at least not very good the first few times until your body gets used to it and you and your partner ‘find your groove’ because everyone is a little different and it takes time to learn what each other likes. But I still find myself afraid I will not be very good or that I will accidentally hurt you and you will be angry or disappointed and not want to let me touch you again. Perhaps we could agree to keep trying for so long before deciding it is not working?”
“I know I won’t be disappointed just by how you kiss, honey, and I know you sometimes have trouble judging your own strength. If you accidentally hurt me, I won’t be mad if you won’t be if I accidentally hurt you,” Kathryn said.
“I won’t be. You’re very gentle; I am certain you will not hurt me,” Seven said reassuringly. Seven got up her nerve and picked up Kathryn’s hand and put it over her t-shirt covered breast. She hoped she wasn’t breaking any social rules, but if one of them didn’t do something, they’d never get past kissing.
Kathryn stopped breathing and she was afraid to move. Seven had just put her hand on one of those perfect breasts. Was she allowed to explore or was that all Seven wanted?
“Kathryn? Was that inappropriate?” Seven asked uncertainly.
“No, I was just startled. Can I take this to mean my kisses and caresses are welcomed?” Kathryn asked, just to be safe.
“Yes, I was attempting to initiate lovemaking. You may touch me in any manner you desire to, and if you want me to undress, I will.”
“You know, Seven, you can touch me, too. I don’t have to go first; I just assumed you’d prefer I did since you’ve never been with anyone. Any time you want to lead, it’s all right.” It hadn’t occurred to her before that Seven might think she had to take the ‘submissive’ role and couldn’t touch Kathryn first.
Kathryn kicked herself when Seven was clearly surprised. “I did not think you would like that, and I was not sure if it was a personal preference or a socio-cultural rule. I will do so if you will tell me what to do past ‘second base’ or after I learn what that is.”
“God, I’m sorry, Seven. I thought you knew that. I’m actually not really used to being the aggressor. I do like to control the action, but from underneath, but I want us to be equal partners in the bedroom.” She blushed. Christ, she was just screwing this up.
Seven considered her thoughtfully for a long moment. The next thing Kathryn knew, she was flat on her back with Seven kissing her intently and Seven’s human hand lightly resting on her breast. Once she regained her bearings, she got into it. Seven’s kisses just kept getting better and better and the strong hand felt pretty good on her breast, though she wished Seven would do something with it already. Kathryn slipped a hand between them and guided Seven’s hand to rub against her. Oh, yeah, that was *much* better. She tried not to like it *too* much. Undoubtedly, Seven would want to explore before giving her release and she didn’t want to rush her. She immediately felt more relaxed and confident, and realized she should’ve done it this way to start with. Kathryn stroked her back and occasionally arched into Seven’s hand to encourage her since her mouth was gloriously busy with more important things than talking. Seven was gaining confidence and after several minutes, Seven tentatively added a gentle squeeze to her rubbing. Kathryn liked it, so she arched into Seven’s hand. It wasn’t the way she was used to being touched, but it was working. Like in every other area of their lives, Seven was making her rethink things she thought she knew. Kathryn had thought she had a good grasp on what made her feel good and what made her feel better, and Seven’s technique was not on the list, but obviously, it should’ve been.
Seven’s hand eased under Kathryn’s shirt and curious fingers explored all the skin in reach. By this point, Kathryn was thinking about Neelix in a thong to keep herself in control. It had been so long and she’d been looking forward to being with Seven so much, she was going to come before Seven even got her hand in her pants at this rate. She’d never really considered innocence a turn on until Kes, and now Seven’s first cautious, curious caresses were making her come undone.
When Seven tugged her shirt up and started licking her breast, it was game over. Kathryn came hard, hands tangled in Seven’s hair.
Seven wasn’t quite sure she wanted to make love after all. Even though Kathryn swore Seven made her feel better than anyone ever had, Seven didn’t think going into convulsions could possibly feel good. She’d gone into convulsions before; it had never felt good yet. Her scalp still hurt from where Kathryn pulled on her hair, too. She’d enjoyed touching Kathryn until then. Now that she knew what to expect, she wasn’t adverse to touching Kathryn again; she just didn’t want to experience those convulsions herself. She thought it was strange Kathryn enjoyed it, but maybe it was something you had to be fully human to like. Maybe her implants reacted differently.
Kathryn began to kiss her and that was very pleasant, too. Her kisses felt different from before -- more confident, just… more. Seven liked it. When Kathryn began rubbing her breast, she enjoyed that very much as well. She remembered Kathryn had rubbed her back and moved against her while making sounds when she touched Kathryn’s breast and that it had given her pleasure, so she did the same. It made Kathryn’s attentions feel even more pleasant, and touching Kathryn was always pleasant, so she kept doing it. She liked this part. It made her feel hot and wet between her legs. She wished Kathryn would touch her there. She hoped it wouldn’t give her convulsions. Maybe it only happened with oral contact to the breasts. Kathryn kissed her ocular implant. It made her jolt slightly and she tensed. Kathryn stopped and rubbed her shoulder for a moment until she relaxed again. She’d been afraid she was about to convulse, but when nothing happened, she relaxed. She’d liked it when Kathryn had done it before, and it still felt pleasant. She was just afraid now that she knew what awaited her. She let Kathryn kiss her neck, collar bones, and shoulders, but when she kissed the top of her breasts through her shirt, she tensed, and said ‘stop’.
Kathryn immediately stopped. “Did I hurt you?” she asked worriedly.
“Not yet, but you went into convulsions when I kissed your breasts, and I don’t want to risk the same thing happening to me. With my Borg physiology, convulsions hurt,” Seven explained. “You can continue as long as you don’t kiss my breasts.”
Kathryn looked like she wasn’t sure if she should laugh or slap herself. Seven realized there was something she was missing. Kathryn only got that expression when something unexpected happened because she hadn’t explained something properly. “Honey, not all women… convulse… from that. I never have before. I don’t know if I ever will again. It had just been so long since I’d been with anyone and I was very excited to finally be with you. Orgasmic convulsions and injury or sickness convulsions are very, very different things. I promise orgasms don’t hurt,” she said gently.
“That was an orgasm? I had one of those before and I did not convulse; merely shuddered slightly,” Seven said doubtfully.
Kathryn was gaping at her in shock. “You must just orgasm more efficiently than I do. I won’t force myself on you, though, if you really don’t want to go any further. Did you like everything else I did?”
“Yes, it felt very good. I felt a jolt when you kissed my ocular implant and I was afraid I was going to go into convulsions, but once I was sure I wasn’t, it felt good,” Seven hastened to assure her partner. She didn’t want Kathryn to think she didn’t enjoy her attentions; she just didn’t want any convulsions. “Not everyone experiences orgasms the same way?” The one she had accidentally had felt very good; if she wouldn’t convulse, she wouldn’t mind continuing.
Kathryn looked slightly relieved, but still bothered. “No, some people have more sensation than others, and some people are far more controlled in their responses than others. I don’t react that strongly when I touch myself; I was just comfortable enough to really let go with you. You’re so controlled, you probably won’t react like that at all. You’re really just afraid of orgasms? You aren’t pretending to keep from hurting my feelings because I’m not a good lover? Be honest. If I’m just bad, I can work on improving.”
“Kathryn, I have *never* lied to you. I have always told you when you’re lacking, and I would not stop now if you were ‘bad’. You are as good at kissing as you are at Velocity. I truly merely don’t want to go into convulsions,” Seven said, shocked Kathryn thought she’d lie to her. “However, I am willing to ‘give it a shot’, if you think I won’t convulse like that. I did enjoy the accidental orgasm I had. I would not mind feeling like that again. If I do convulse, perhaps the Doctor could find a way to keep it from happening again. It must be my Borg physiology that makes convulsions unpleasant.” She felt guilty for denying Kathryn something she wanted when she was fully capable of giving it to her. How badly could it hurt? She had survived having half her arm chopped off and an eye poked out; surely a few convulsions couldn’t hurt *that* much. Maybe she really would be more efficient than Kathryn, and shudder instead of convulsing. It was worth trying.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to push you into doing anything you don’t truly want to do,” Kathryn asked in concern.
“I want to try it once. If it is truly unpleasant, I will stop you. I have enjoyed every thing else you have showed me; it does not seem impossible that I will enjoy this as well. I am only reluctant to convulse, and I trust you when you say that not everyone does. You have never lied to me before,” Seven said, bracing herself for impending pain.
“Okay, but if I hurt you, stop me immediately,” Kathryn acquiesced. “Do you want me to start over, or pick up where I left off?”
Kathryn felt like pinching herself. She was taking Seven’s clothes off. She was finally going to see Seven in all her glory. She’d been too nervous to pause and suggest it earlier. She was apprehensive about what was coming next. Seven had consented, but she seemed a little reluctant and bothered about having an orgasm. Trust Seven to be different; her previous partners had been more concerned about having their own orgasms than making sure she had one. Seven had to be slightly frightened about having her own. Seven was at least giving her a chance to prove that there was nothing to worry about. Now she had to hope she was good enough that Seven would come to enjoy the experience. She put the thought out of her mind for the moment; she did not need a worse case of performance anxiety. She focused on the naked body in front of her. “God, Seven, you’re gorgeous,” she breathed. Seven’s ivory skin was set off by black and silver bands of metal that comprised her abdominal implant. It went from just below her breasts to just above her pelvis. In between the bands was scarred dead white flesh and she didn’t have a belly button. She also appeared to lack pubic hair. Her breasts were milky white and topped by pale pink nipples. She couldn’t wait to feel them in her mouth.
Seven grabbed the railing on the headboard with her Borg hand. Kathryn was sucking her breast and stroking her abdominal implant with one hand, and it felt incredibly good. She was afraid she’d accidentally damage Kathryn if she didn’t keep it away from her delicate flesh. She was uncertain if she could control her strength at all, and was slightly worried she might damage Kathryn with her fully human hand, but she did not want to completely withdraw her touch in case Kathryn took that as a sign to stop. She most definitely did not want Kathryn to stop. She wanted something more, but she was not sure what. She was feeling extremely hot, wet, and achy between her legs, and she instinctively knew that whatever ‘more’ was, it had something to do with that feeling.
Kathryn moved her hand further down to her thigh. “May I touch you between your legs? If I do it right, it’ll give you convulsions.”
“Okay,” Seven acquiesced after a momentary pause to swallow her fear.
Kathryn’s hand cautiously eased into her private place and Seven’s cortical node shut down. Or at least that’s almost what it felt like because she could not process data; all she could do was feel. She was not quite sure what Kathryn was even doing down there; only that it felt amazing. Seven had had no idea that her body could feel like that. Her body had always been a source of pain or merely a tool. Something was building inside her; something hot and electrical. She was a little afraid, but it also felt good, so she didn’t make Kathryn stop. Suddenly, it was exploding and expanding throughout her human nervous system and her Borg sensor network and for a long moment as she started to convulse, Seven of Nine knew exactly what it was like to be wholly, perfectly human.
When she regained the ability to speak and move, she wrapped her arms around Kathryn and smiled widely. “Kathryn, I regret to inform you that holding you is now the third most pleasurable activity I have ever experienced…”
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