"Go ahead, B’Elanna."
"I can get the engines back up, but it’s going to require a complete re-fit. That alien crap Arturis integrated into Voyager is incompatible with our systems. Unfortunately, I can’t start the refit until we’ve landed because I’ll have to shut everything down."
"Understood," Kathryn responded looking for the bright side. "I guess that gives you four hours to help ensign Kim with the com systems. I’m sure he could use a break by now."
Ensign Kim had been working on the com systems for nine hours, ever since he had informed her of the systems failures. So far he hadn’t made much headway deciphering the jumbled logs but she was sure he would figure it out eventually. She had full confidence in his abilities, but two heads were better than one.
"I’m on it, Captain. Torres out."
Janeway glanced behind her as the lift’s pneumatic doors swished open.
"What are you smiling at?" Chakotay asked conversationally as he walked across the command center and plopped down in his chair.
"Sorry," Janeway chuckled touching him briefly on the arm. "I was just thinking that with B’Elanna’s can-do attitude, she could have the whole ship fixed by herself in the next twenty minutes if the rest of us would just get out of her way."
"I wouldn’t doubt it," Chakotay smiled. "She’s the best engineer I’ve ever seen. It’s in her blood."
Kathryn nodded in agreement, and then realized there was something in his face besides amusement. There was a shadow in his eyes. That coupled with his earlier atypical behavior prompted her to ask, "Is everything all right?"
The smile evaporated from his face and he didn’t need to respond for her to have some idea what was going on.
"Got a minute?" He asked quietly.
"As a matter of fact, I have about four hours. But why don’t we talk in my ready room?"
"Sounds good," he smiled. "Hopefully I won’t need that much time."
"Mr. Tuvok, you have the con," Janeway said as Chakotay followed her to her office.
~ ~ ~
"This can’t be right," she mumbled to herself. B’Elanna had been helping unscramble the communications fiasco for three and a half hours. Most of the systems had been sorted with the exception of the crew’s personal logs since they really weren’t a priority. Most of it was pretty mundane stuff anyway; letters home, complaints about work, and Neelix’s cooking. But this…this was something else. And as much as she didn’t agree with the contents of this recording she felt the rightness behind the wished-for pairing.
Now she had two choices. One was to do nothing. If she did, Chakotay and Seven would eventually marry and three people could end up miserable. Two, she could let Seven or Chakotay know of the recording. If Seven and Chakotay truly loved each other nothing would change.
B’Elanna didn’t believe for a moment that Seven really loved Chakotay. The ice queen didn’t have the capacity to love anyone. One thing she just couldn’t fathom was why two of the people she respected most in the universe were drawn to the unfeeling woman.
Of course Janeway would have her hide if she found out, B’Elanna thought feeling ready to pass out at the thought alone. On the other hand, it was really none of her business. Not sure what to do at this point, B’Elanna downloaded the information onto a padd and tucked it into her pocket before stepping back from the computer console.
"What’s that?" Harry inquired curiously.
"Nothing, it’s personal," she replied deliberately misleading him. It was personal, just not personal to her. "Well, we’re done here. I’ll let you fill Janeway in. I’m going to grab some chow. I hear Neelix has a new, better chili he’s wanting us to try." Laughing at the grimace on his Asian features she left him standing at the console.
Maybe she would try the chili, she decided, but she wanted to see Chakotay first. She still wasn’t sure what she was going to do, a lot of it depended on his mood.
The turbo lift took her to her destination entirely too quickly. Frowning she wondered if the controls were working properly. She was about to ring for admittance when the doors to Chakotay’s office opened and she came face to face with Seven of Nine.
"Lieutenant Torres, Commander Chakotay is not present. How may I assist you?"
As if, B’Elanna thought rudely. Just the sight of six feet of female perfection was enough to make her blood boil. A snarl matched the frown and she stalked up to the other woman.
Seven kept her expression carefully neutral when dealing with the fiery hybrid. She knew the other woman barely tolerated her, but she had the greatest respect for the engineer’s abilities.
Taking the padd from her jacket B’Elanna looked at it one last time. Tapping against her other hand she weighed her options before meeting the blue, icy stare.
"Look, I don’t like you and you don’t like me. But Janeway means a lot to me. She believed in me and gave me a chance when no one else would. That’s the only reason I’m doing this. If I’m right, then her happiness pretty much rests on the contents of this padd."
B’Elanna tossed the padd across the space separating them and wasn’t surprised when the former drone caught it without losing eye contact.
"All I ask is that you have the honor not to leave that lying around or discussing it with your friends. Not that you have any other than Chakotay or Naomi."
The last comment stung, but Seven was practiced at keeping the hurt out of her eyes. She wasn’t as good at keeping the anger out of her voice. "I am not in the habit of gossiping, especially if the captain’s welfare is concerned."
Seven waited until the engineer had left before glancing at the padd, but Captain Janeway’s voice interrupted her before she could read it.
"All hands this is the captain. Report to code blue stations and prepare to land the ship. Find something to hold into. With half of our systems on the fritz this could get bumpy."
Curiosity called to Seven to read the padd, but landing the ship took priority. Tapping a few keys, she blacked out the screen and programmed it to respond only to her authorization. She would read it later.
"What are you going to do?" Kathryn asked her pacing first officer.
Raking his fingers through his raven hair in frustration Chakotay answered, "There’s really nothing I can do." Stopping in his tracks he looked down at his friend and captain with no idea that this conversation was tearing her heart out. "You know how Seven can be when she wants something."
Kathryn’s lopsided grin and brief chuckle answered the question for him.
"Honestly, Kathryn. How do you explain to a Borg drone that we just can’t get married yet? I thought I’d be ready but with everything that’s been happening I haven’t had time to finish my vision quest or meditations. Until I can, I just don’t feel comfortable going through with the ceremony."
Kathryn was torn in her reaction. The man was a good friend and she had almost reconciled herself to his union with Seven, but if he truly loved her then why would he still be referring to her as a drone? As for the rest, Voyager had been pretty quiet since the incident with Arturis. That had been a week ago. It was true that systems on board had been compromised, but that was a job for the repair crews. Surely he could have found some time to perform his rituals, if he wanted to.
Still, it wasn’t really any of her business. If the couple was having problems it was up to them to work things out. All she could do was provide support.
"All I can say is talk to her, Chakotay," Kathryn recommended. "I have found Seven to be a remarkably logical young woman. And if she’s still impatient, just try to give her some time. She’ll come around."
Thinking about it for a moment Chakotay finally grinned and plopped down in the chair beside her desk. "You’re right, of course. I’m sure it’s nothing. So what do you say we figure out our next move after we land?"
Janeway knew he was trying to change the subject but she felt compelled to add, "Are you sure? You know that I’m always here for you, right?"
"Sure," he answered. "But this is something I have to work out by myself."
"Okay, where do you want to start?" she relented as she leaned forward and pulled up the L-class planet on the computer. "Unlike the planet where we found Amelia Earhart and the other 37’s, this one reads as a little more uncomfortable for anything other than plant life. Readings also indicate that the planet is seismically active, much as Earth was several million years ago."
"So, no shore leave."
Grinning she answered, "Not unless you’d like a heavy dose of argon to breathe."
"No thanks. I’ll pass."
"Right. So, only essential personnel on the planet. I just hope with all of this vegetation Neelix can find us something palatable to eat. Maybe we’ll even get lucky enough to find some mineral deposits, possibly some dilithium or uridium to replenish our torpedoes. Out here in the Delta Quadrant the last thing we want is to be caught defenseless."
"Agreed," he answered seriously. "I don’t think there’s any doubt that most of the species we’ve run into out here have been hostile."
"Hirogen, Vidiian, Malon, Borg, Species 8472…" Kathryn agreed dryly. "On the other hand it doesn’t leave us much time to get bored."
Sending their remaining time while approaching the planet, the two compiled a list for two away teams in addition to the repair crews. One team’s purpose was looking for useful plant life for consumption or medicinal use. It consisted of Neelix, the doctor, two botanists from the hydroponics bay, and two security personnel. Kathryn felt the security personnel were extraneous but it was protocol, and it was better safe than sorry especially when pairing the outgoing Delta Quadrant native and the emergency medical hologram on the same away team.
The second team’s assignment was to look for always needed mineral deposits. It also consisted of six crewmembers; Seven of Nine, Tom Paris, Tuvok, Jennifer Delaney, and two security members. Technically Tuvok made the security personnel count three, but his knowledge made his presence invaluable. Janeway hesitated to send Seven on the mission, but there was really no reason not to. The scans of the planet revealed no life forms other than vegetation, but she just had a bad feeling.
Shake it off, she told herself. Seven is a perfectly capable member of the crew, and it’s important that everyone contribute. Hoping Chakotay hadn’t noticed her lack of concentration; she was relieved when Tuvok hailed her.
"Captain Janeway to the bridge. We are entering the planet’s orbit."
"On my way."
The planet was fast approaching on the view screen as the two stepped onto the command center.
"Prepare for code blue, Mister Tuvok," Janeway said smoothly taking her seat. "Chakotay, please advise the members of the away teams as soon as we’ve landed. All hands, this is the captain…"
As soon as Janeway made her announcement the ship began an eventless, albeit slightly shaky, decent to the planet’s surface. Tom Paris landed the ship with barely a bump. Running lights were shut off and most of the ship’s systems were powered down. Only environmental controls and minimal power was maintained. Kathryn stood up glancing around the nearly deserted bridge. Tuvok and Tom had left for the away team as soon as the ship landed, and Harry was helping out in engineering.
Taking advantage of a rare opportunity Kathryn stood and pulled down the hem of her black and red tunic. "Mister Chakotay, you have the con. I’m going to take a walk."
Kathryn rarely had the chance to explore her beloved ship. Explore was the appropriate word, she thought stepping onto the turbo lift. She had memorized Voyager’s schematics prior to ever leaving Utopia Planetia, but wandering corridors and looking behind sealed hatches was another thing. It made her feel closer to the ship and crew somehow. And if nothing else, that extra bit of knowledge might save their lives someday during a chance encounter with a hostile invasion force.
Wandering and nodding to the occasional crewman Kathryn couldn’t help wonder how Seven was doing on the away team.
"Probably being very efficient," she joked aloud to herself.
~ ~ ~
The away teams had been given hypo-sprays of the Doctor’s anti-itch serum, and been ordered to spend no more than four hours on the surface of the planet. Although their time was limited the use of tricorders made the respective missions easier. Unfortunately neither team could use transporters, as all non-essential systems were offline. Standing outside the ship both teams identified areas within walking distance that seemed to offer promise, and struck off in opposite directions.
Seven’s team headed for the hills looking for mineral deposits while the Doctor and Neelix struck off toward the valleys and more dense vegetation. Both groups discovered some amazing things within just a few hundred feet from the landing sight.
"Do you see that?" Tom Paris asked in amazement.
They were walking through high grass that was waving slightly in the breeze, making it difficult to see at first what he was talking about. Then Seven saw what he was no doubt referring to, and thought briefly that her cortical implant had gone offline. In all of her assimilated experience and in her brief human existence she had never seen anything like it.
It resembled a terran octopus, but stood only one half meter high. The top of the thing was rounded like a large bulb and white in color. Eight green legs gave the curiosity movement and it wandered through the grass, pausing here and there as it quested for something unknown. There was no reaction to their presence, just a continuation of its mysterious journey.
"I’m not detecting any signs of sentience," Jennifer Delaney stated aiming her tricorder at the thing. "Although I am reading chlorophyll, and hydrogen dioxide in the cellular makeup."
"It’s a plant?" Tom asked in astonishment as the security guards lowered their phasers feeling slightly foolish.
Tuvok provided a logical explanation that reassured the former drone that she was not, in fact, losing her mind. "Mister Paris, we are on an alien world in an unknown quadrant of the galaxy. Surely there are plants and even animals that would seem unbelievable from our point of view."
"Supernatural, you mean," Jenny corrected.
"Indeed," Seven agreed disturbed by the entity for some unaccountable reason. "Undoubtedly, we will encounter other such flora throughout our search. I suggest we move on."
"Agreed," Tuvok said preceding the group up the hill. "We have less than four hours to complete our mission."
Other wonders continued to surprise them as they moved into the low foothills. For the most part the journey seemed mundane; the sun was shining overhead and clouds moved in the blue sky. But there were other sights that continued to remind them that they were on an alien world. Tom began to itch after only fifteen minutes, a reminder of the atmosphere, and there were strange growths on the stones of the hills.
"Wait a minute," Tom said scanning a growth thriving in the shadows of a large boulder.
"Mister Paris, I fail to see how a fungus is pertinent to finding raw ore," Seven stated with disdain.
"It may look like a fungus Seven, but it’s reading as iron ore with a small trace of nickel."
S. Y. Thompson
Dedicated to my good friend Kat.
The song mentioned in this story was recorded in the early 1960’s by Don Williams.
Coffee black, cigarette, start this day like all the rest.
First thing every morning that I do is start missing you.
Some broken hearts never mend, some memories never end.
Some tears will never dry, my love for you will never die.
"Personal log; Captain Kathryn Janeway recording. It is a song that I can’t get off my mind lately, courtesy of Tom Paris’ fascination with 20th century history. Funny how the fair-haired helmsman’s hobbies always end up being a pain in my ass. Prime example is his monochromatic holodeck program, Captain Proton. The holodeck malfunctioned resulting in the evil tyrant, Chaotica, wreaking havoc on Voyager. I had to dress up as Queen Arachnia of the Spider People to help thwart the evil villain. I would take to my grave how much I enjoyed that experience. What I don’t enjoy is this heart-rending country song that I can’t get off my mind. I much preferred a nice Tchaikovsky or Chopin but considering the circumstances this is the best I can do.
"She is supposed to marry him tomorrow, my angel, the woman-child that I rescued from the Borg. The first time I saw her she was a Borg drone, and had been activated to act as an intermediary between the collective and us. Even then with the exoplating, implants, and cold, emotionless dialogue I knew there was something special about her and I couldn’t leave her on that cube. I could no more have left her behind than I could get out and push this ship home.
"Chakotay was against her from the beginning, reminding me on countless occasions that she was like the scorpion that couldn’t resist its true nature; that eventually she would turn on us. I guess somewhere along the way she changed his mind. No, that’s not fair. Chakotay is a dear man, honorable and brave. While it is true that he didn’t trust Seven at first, he has always believed that people can change. She won his heart, nothing more, nothing less. It isn’t really his fault that an aging captain fell in love with a woman twenty years younger."
Some broken hearts never mend.
"Well, that is certainly true. With Seven’s marriage tomorrow, all hope for my own future happiness is gone. She is everything, but a captain’s duty is clear. The ship must always come first and Seven, true love of my heart, deserves so much more. Maybe Chakotay can give her that. I'll kill him if he hurts her."
"Computer, delete that last sentence."
"Of course, I’ll do the only thing I can do…suffer in silence and perform the ceremony. Since I’ll never be able to tell her how I feel, I guess I’ll just have to say it here and then try to leave it behind. I love you, Seven. I have always and will always love you. My love for you will never die."
"Computer, end recording."
Kathryn had barely finished her recording when the lights dimmed and Voyager dropped out of warp, listing heavily to port.
"Captain Janeway to the bridge," Ensign Kim requested over the ship’s con.
"Acknowledged," she responded just a little too loudly, almost ridiculously grateful for the distraction.
The red glow of the emergency lighting was enough to navigate by and seemed to fit her mood. Shadows danced across the planes of passing faces making them seem not quite real, sounds seemed muted and Kathryn knew it was just a reflection of her own misery. What she needed was a distraction to avoid the downward spiral of depression she could feel looming on the horizon.
Rushing just a little faster for the bridge Janeway wondered if it was too much to hope for a Borg armada.
"Captain on the bridge," Harry announced formally as the turbo lift doors swished open.
The energetic young man was in charge of the con during the night shift and sprang to his feet ready to relinquish command to a senior officer.
"Relax Harry, you’re still in command. Where’s Commander Chakotay?" she asked wondering if the young man hadn’t troubled the first officer since it was the night before his wedding. She could certainly understand, but it was entirely against protocol.
"He’s on his way, Captain."
At that moment the turbo lift doors opened and the man in question stepped onto the bridge. Still in his command uniform, Kathryn guessed he must have been working in his office.
"What’s up?" he asked glancing worriedly at the intermittently blinking computer lights and darkened interior. A crewman muffled a curse as he barked his shin on a sharp edge in the dark. Chakotay bit the inside of his cheek to keep from chuckling as Ensign Kim responded.
"Sorry for disturbing you, but since we used the slip-stream drive to pursue Arturis we’ve been experiencing some computer problems."
Arturis was the alien linguist who had helped them de-code a message from Starfleet. The message had been garbled after being caught in a Hirogen communications network and for a time had seemed irretrievable. Arturis’ people had a knack for languages and helped unscramble the message. Of course it had all been an elaborate ruse to ensure the Voyager crew was captured by the Borg.
Arturis blamed the assimilation of his species on Voyager because of the temporary alliance they had forged with the Borg to resist Species 8472. Unknowingly they had shifted the balance of power in the quadrant that spiraled into his quest for vengeance.
During his time on Voyager the engines had been refitted with an experimental slipstream drive that had proved effective enough to rescue the captain and her Astrometrics officer from the maniacal alien just in the nick of time. Unfortunately it had also proven to be unstable and had to be dismantled.
"What kind of computer problems, or should I ask what additional computer problems? And why does it require a red alert?" the captain asked drawing a frustrated hand through her auburn locks.
"Well," Harry answered nervously, "it’s hard to know the full extent of the trouble until the diagnostic is complete, but so far every system is affected. We just lost all sensor data, the main deflector is off-line, and all communications systems have been scrambled; personal logs, mission logs, even Neelix’s Good Morning Voyager program. Life support is being supplied by emergency power, and warp engines are dead."
"And that’s the preliminary report?" Chakotay asked dryly.
To Kathryn things were a little more serious. "So we have no engines and with the deflector dish not working a photon grenade could breach our hull."
"Yes, ma’am. That’s about the size of it." Harry hated delivering bad news especially during his own watch. It made him feel responsible even if there was nothing he could have done to prevent it.
"Wake the senior staff," Janeway ordered not really caring which of the two men made the call. "Get Tom to find us a planet where we can make repairs. If we don’t have sensors working then get them working. Get engineering on those engines. Harry, those com systems…I want you to take charge of unscrambling them, personally. Get B’Elanna to help you if you need it. I’ve never seen anything she couldn’t fix. No one else has access to those systems until you finish. We don’t want to invade anyone’s privacy. Discretion…right?" she prompted thinking of the log she had recently recorded.
"I want a full systems report every hour. As soon as I change into something less comfortable," she said indicating her white blouse and jeans, "I’ll be in my ready room."
As Kim shuffled off to carry out his orders Kathryn turned to her second in command. "I’m sorry, Commander," she said with true regret for his dilemma.
"It’s all right, Kathryn. I know that until this is over the wedding will have to wait."
Kathryn frowned as the man walked away. Was it her imagination or was there a bounce in his step? He didn’t seem to be very upset. She knew that Chakotay usually took things in stride believing that the spirits of his people allowed all things in their own time. She just wished she had that same ability.
A few hours later their situation hadn’t improved much. Kathryn had moved to her command chair on the bridge simply for a change of scenery while Lieutenant Paris attempted to find a suitable planet to make repairs. Chakotay was in his office working on duty rosters, and time was passing slowly.
"I’ve got an…"
"Mr. Paris?" Janeway prodded when the helmsman fell silent.
Thumping on the side of his console in the age-old way to make something work against its will he tried again. "Sorry, Captain. This thing keeps cutting out. I’ve got an L-class planet six light years ahead. It won’t be comfortable but I think it’ll work in a pinch."
"Great," Kathryn replied. "ETA?"
"Four hours at current speed."
Current speed, she thought, was limping along. At least things were finally going their way. They could sit down to make repairs and scans didn’t show any humanoid life-signs. Hopefully they could finish and be space-worthy before anyone or anything threatening came along.
"Torres to Captain Janeway."
Frowning she asked, "How can that be? It is obviously a form of vegetation."
"Looks like a big mushroom to me," Jenny added with a shrug of her shoulder.
Squatting down in front of the growth, Tom took a closer look. The fungus was dark green mottled with yellow along the edges and throughout the cap. It was very large and obviously healthy. Maybe the source of the ore was underneath the mushroom, he pondered. Reaching to his side Tom pulled a long knife from his bag. It was standard issue for scouting missions, but he had personally never had to use one before.
His excuse was that he was looking for signs of the ore, but the truth was that he was fixated on the growth. Something about it drew his attention, and he simply had to see what this thing was.
Using the tip of the blade Tom sliced diagonally across the cap, cutting deeply into the meat of the mushroom. Air rushed from the cut sounding like a balloon that was quickly loosing air.
"Ugh, what is that smell?" Jenny asked staggering back from the noxious fumes.
Tom, Seven and Tuvok didn’t respond as they wrinkled their noses and pressed closer to see what was happening. The security contingent and Jenny backed up a few paces to get away from the offending odor.
"What’s it doing?" Tom asked in awe, ignoring the smell that reminded him of bile, and excrement.
Leaning closer Seven said, "It appears to be repairing itself."
Indeed, inside the object was a mass of slithering appendages resembling serpents twining around each other. They were moving faster and faster and suddenly a red growth shot out and latched onto one end of the cut. Slowly the incision began to knit itself back together until in only a few seconds the gash was completely mended.
"Fascinating," Tuvok remarked.
"Yeah, just great," the Delaney twin remarked. "But if anyone is interested, I’m reading a dilithium deposing roughly two kilometers from here."
Seven was fascinated by the mushroom discovery, but was grateful to continue their search for minerals deposits. The sooner they completed their task, the sooner she could read the padd Lieutenant Torres had given her.
Twenty minutes later they had unloaded their packs and were gathering the ore with portable extractors. Tom Paris had begun to flirt shamelessly with Jennifer Delaney and was beginning to annoy Seven of Nine. She was convinced that the captain had sent him on the mission to keep him occupied and out of trouble, but if Lieutenant Torres could see the way he was behaving trouble was exactly what there would be.
At least Commander Tuvok was present to assist her properly, and no doubt ensure Paris did not completely ignore his duties in his pursuit of the young Ensign. Jennifer wasn’t exactly receptive to his attentions. The entire ship knew that the young woman had romantic feelings for Harry Kim. Unfortunately he was interested in her twin sister, Megan.
Seven, able to perform her duties efficiently while thinking, and was wondering what was on the padd she had been handed earlier. She had been too involved in securing ship’s operations for landing and then immediately assigned to the away mission to have a chance to read it. Prior to leaving the ship she had secured the padd behind her alcove so that it would not be found. Not that she was concerned anyone could break the encryption code, but she could not fathom what could be on it that would affect the welfare of Captain Janeway.
Frowning slightly, she hoped it was not anything that would delay her marriage to Commander Chakotay further.
The alien Arturis may have deceived the crew by tempting them with the prospect of returning to Earth, but he had brought one truth home to the former drone. They would eventually return home. The thought of returning to sector 001 had terrified her. She had wanted to discuss it wit the captain, but in this case did not think it would be appropriate. Instead she had spoken with Commander Chakotay and in the end they were in agreement. He was the only suitable mate for her on board and she had insisted on an immediate ceremony. He had agreed.
Seven noticed some of the octopus-like plants a few feet away, but was not concerned about them as she followed her train of thought.
Lately, however, he had begun to balk. She did not want him to change his mind. She wanted to marry him. She had to marry him!
"Seven, your assistance," Tuvok requested, forcing her to concentrate completely on their mission as she helped remove the extractor from the earth.
They had just pulled the full extractor from the dirt when small rocks began to fall from the mountainside around them and the ground began to shake.
Seven held on to the canister trying to maintain her balance on absurdly high heels while Tuvok clung determinedly to the other side. Tom had been showing how masculine he was for Jenny by approaching the ambulatory plants, saying that he was going to ‘pet’ them. For the last several minutes he had been chasing the thing in circles trying to accomplish that goal. The herbage almost seemed to be teasing him, allowing the helmsman to close within a foot of him and then scooting away on quickly moving green legs.
Jenny Delaney had been almost doubled over in laughter, her hands on her knees as she watched the show. Now Tom and the young woman were waving their arms around trying to keep their balance, along with the security team.
Jenny lost her balance and her slick soled boots slid on the shale, causing her to tumble backwards and land in a heap amidst the tentacled plant life. She cried out as she landed, and a few seconds later the shaking stopped.
Recovering quickly Seven ensured that the commander had control of the canister before she rushed to assist Ensign Delaney. "Ensign, are you injured?"
Stepping amidst the crushed plants she grasped the young woman’s hands to help her up. "Ouch, wait!" Jenny said in obvious distress.
Unexpectedly, sharp spikes had shot out from the bulbous top of the plant and had stabbed into the young woman’s calf and her tender backside where she had landed on the vegetation. Jenny thought the spikes resembled the thorns of a terran rosebush although they were slightly longer. Several of them had ripped the material of her uniform trousers and it took her a moment to free herself. Pollen from the surrounding foliage was also floating heavily in the air.
"I’m all right," she said when she was loose. "Just some scrapes," she added staring at her abraded palms. Jenny had braced her fall with her hands when the ground started shaking, but the injuries were minor.
"Here, I can treat that," Tom said, rushing in with a med-kit.
Seven hid her amusement when Jenny replied, "Uh, that’s okay. I’ll have the Doc fix me up when we get back to the ship. Right now we’re running out of time and, uh…" scanning with the tricorder she added, "there’s another mineral deposit right up the hill. Can’t tell what kind from here, I’m getting a little interference, but we should check it out."
"Are you sure you’re all right, ma’am," Jimmy Sloan, the youngest security officer on board Voyager asked as he helped her brush off the worst of the dirt from her back, and checked her injuries for himself.
He was definitely no medic, but he was a sweet young man. His concern was genuine, with no ulterior motives. Jimmy had seen the Ensign’s discomfort with Paris’ attention, and sought to intervene on her part.
"She is correct," Seven said, distracting Tom further. "The injuries are not life-threatening. Our orders are to remain on the surface no more than four hours. If we are to complete our task we must continue."
She was already walking away, giving her companions little choice but to follow her. Sloan suddenly sneezed explosively, and Seven looked at the young man over her shoulder. Responding to the question in her eyes he said, "Must be all of this pollen floating around."
Tom took a deep breath refraining from pointing out that while they had discussed the issue he could have already treated her. He hoped the other team was doing better.
The Doctor took a deep breath and refrained from rolling his eyes as Neelix continued extolling the virtues of an apple-like fruit he had found. At the moment he was carrying a full pack of the treasure.
"It’s a very well-known fruit called a espalier. It has a slightly tart…"
He was interrupted mid-sentence by the sudden shaking of the ground. The second team began flailing their arms and stumbling around in an effort to keep their balance. Only the doctor was unaffected.
"I think it’s time to head back," Ensign Cantrell volunteered hopefully. He had been the guinea pig that had tried Neelix’s new prized fruit and thought it was foul. Tart hadn’t even begun to describe the strong lemon flavor. It had made his stomach roll, but the Talaxian insisted that it was high in nutritional value. They had collected other foodstuffs that were infinitely more palatable, and he wasn’t fond of earthquakes.
One thing he had noticed was that the vegetation of this world certainly had its share of thorns, cactus and barbs. The espalier fruit’s skin was literally covered in spines and would have to be peeled before it could be prepared.
Chakotay’s voice suddenly came to life over the com system and Cantrell was relieved to hear him say, "All away teams return to the ship. Your time is up."
"Great timing," the EMH mumbled under his breath, gratefully heading back toward the ship.
Back on board repairs were underway. Panels were pulled off, circuitry exposed and tools scattered all around the ship. Impulse engines had been restored, but it would be another day before they could even start on warp power.
Janeway had been receiving updates every hour, and was pleased at the rate of repairs. When the away teams reported back to the ship she ordered them all to sickbay just as a precaution. Her stroll around the ship had gone well, she’d even had the opportunity to get her hands dirty for a while in engineering. Feeling self-satisfied she’d given Chakotay a break from the command chair and finally decided to adjourn to her ready-room.
There was really no reason to man the bridge with the majority of their systems shut down. Deciding to face the burden of monthly personnel reports she left the command center.
"Computer, a pot of coffee, black," she ordered from the replicator prior to beginning, but hadn’t even taken her first sip before being hailed over the com system.
"Sickbay to Captain Janeway."
"I regret to inform you that Crewman Sloan reported to sickbay a short time ago. He was complaining of allergies. When I examined him I discovered that he had contracted a virus."
Alarmed Kathryn asked, "What kind of virus?"
"The closest I can figure at this point is it’s some alien strain closely related to meningitis."
"Meningitis! What are his symptoms?" Kathryn knew that terran forms of meningitis could be fatal. How much worse would an alien strain be?
"The usual," he responded sounded almost cheerful. "Nausea, fever, neck pain..."
"Suggestions?" she asked frowning.
"I’ve already tried conventional treatments with no effect; pneymoccoccal, and MenC vaccines. Swelling of the lining around the brain and spinal cord is severe. I’ll have to run more tests, and I recommend that everyone that’s been on the surface report back to sickbay. They were all given a clean bill of health earlier, but any symptoms may have been merely delayed."
Thinking about the welfare of her crew Kathryn asked, "Is this contagious?"
"As I’ve said, I’m just not sure. Meningitis on Earth is highly infections and life threatening so it is very likely. I recommend quarantine of any affected crewmembers until I can devise a course of treatment."
"Understood, Doctor. Keep me advised. Hopefully it’s just one sick crewman, but to be on the safe side perhaps you should find out who the members of the away team have interacted with since their return.""Understood, Captain. Sickbay out."
Scared, but trying not to show it the captain sat in her chair wondering how bad the situation really was. Plan for the best; expect the worst she told herself silently. Repairs would continue, stores would be collected and the routine would go on. But if this thing turned out to be contagious it could sweep through this ship like a fire through a tenement. Worse, the crew was not large to begin with. If there were deaths involved Voyager would be hard pressed to continue their journey.
Panic fluttered at the edges of her vision, but she swallowed it back. Starfleet Captains do not panic, she reminded herself.
The opening of the lift doors distracted her, and Chakotay walked onto the bridge quietly taking his seat beside her.
"How are duty rosters coming?" she asked with little curiosity.
"Fine," he grinned, his black eyes shining merrily as he added, "boring. Actually I decided to take a break, and just finished lunch in the mess hall."
"Anything interesting?" she asked politely.
Shaking his head Chakotay said, "Not really. Leftovers mostly since Neelix was on the away team. Tom and Harry said that I missed a really interesting chili earlier. Evidently it was pretty good since there was nothing left."
"Tom? Paris, you mean?" Janeway asked worriedly.
"Yes, why? Something wrong?" he frowned.
"Follow me," she said getting up and heading for the ready room.
After he had followed her into the room and the doors had closed Kathryn swung around to brief him. She was scared enough that she had already begun pacing.
"The Doctor just informed me that Crewman Sloan has come down with a virus very similar to meningitis. He is calling the away teams back in to do more tests and see who they have interacted with since returning to ship. This is very important, Chakotay," she said seriously raising both hands to grasp his forearms. "Who did you have lunch with?"
The dark first officer knew as much about Earth infections as she did, enough to know that she was not overreacting. "Paris, Harry Kim, B’Elanna," after a pause he added, "Tuvok was at another table, the Delaney sisters were in the corner. I guess a lot of the away team members were there."
Closing her eyes and turning around Janeway let out a breath. Finally she walked slowly toward the view port. "If there is a contagion, you realize that you may have been exposed?" she asked softly.
After a moment he added, "And by interacting with you, you have been exposed."
Turning to face him their eyes met in a brief moment of silent communication.
"What are we going to do?"
Shaking her head Kathryn said, "I don’t know. I guess we just hope that it’s not as communicable as the terran virus. Until then, we limit the crew’s activities. No one is allowed to gather in common areas, meals should be taken in quarters, and we may have to insist that the crew remain in their quarters when not on duty."
"With sixteen people involved on the surface they could have interacted with half the crew by now," Chakotay pointed out. "Maybe we should have the Doctor examine everyone before we start confining people to quarters."
"Good idea," the captain agreed. "Please take care of notifying all departments, and Chakotay, do me a favor and go by sickbay, hmm? Better safe than sorry."
With a nod of his head the man agreed and quietly left her to her thoughts.
Placing a hand over her mouth, Kathryn closed her eyes and lowered her head. Inside she was frightened, but she was also determined. They hadn’t come through all of this in the Delta Quadrant only to be stopped by a damned bug!
Seven of Nine had returned Voyager and completed storing the ore they had discovered in cargo bay two. After completing that task, she had let the Doctor examine her and then returned to work in Astrometrics to complete several projects she had been running before they had landed the ship. Finally she was free to return to the cargo bay. While the others headed for the mess hall she decided it would be the perfect opportunity to read the data padd.
At first she had believed the words on the padd to be a hoax, perpetrated by Lieutenant Torres in an attempt to hurt her. It wouldn’t be the first time the volatile Klingon hybrid had gone out of her way to alienate Seven. But it didn’t make sense. Why would the engineer involve Captain Janeway in such a scheme?
Eventually she was left with no alternative but to reject such a thought. Lieutenant Torres believed in honor above all else. This would not have been the honorable thing to do. Therefore, this was indeed an entry from the captain’s personal log.
Completely out of character for the stoic young woman, Seven of Nine sat down at the edge of the dais leading to her regeneration alcove. She was stunned. The captain had never indicated that she had romantic feelings toward Seven. It was true that they played velocity once a week, and occasionally shared a meal in the mess hall. Captain Janeway had been instrumental in returning Seven’s humanity to the young woman, but she interacted with several members of the crew on a personal basis, and wouldn’t hesitate to assist anyone with a problem. Seven did not believe herself to be unique in this instance.
Glancing down at the padd she re-read one of the lines in amazement.
My love for you will never die.
The captain loved her.
But this was impossible. Seven was supposed to marry Commander Chakotay in the morning, and she could not reconsider for several reasons. She had given a promise to the first officer that she would be his wife, and although not Klingon, she did not give her word lightly. Added to that fact, being with the captain would not be appropriate.
On the one occasion she had attempted to date a member of the crew, the Doctor had made it clear that she was only to choose among males. Captain Janeway was a female, and therefore unavailable to her. Could it be that the captain was unaware of such a restriction?
"Doctor to Seven of Nine."
Still gazing at the padd in wonder Seven opened the com channel and responded absently. "Proceed, Doctor."
"Report to sickbay at once."
"On my way."
A short time later she discovered what was happening. Two other crewmembers were showing symptoms of viral infection besides Crewman Sloan. Jennifer Delaney and Harry Kim had both come in complaining of nausea, and fever. The Doctor had re-examined all other members of the away team and thus far were symptom free.
"How is that possible? Ensign Kim was not among the original away teams," Seven pointed out logically.
"True, but he has interacted with several others since their return. Symptoms manifest at varying rates based on the individual. Unfortunately, it confirms my original suspicion that this virus is contagious," the Doctor answered as he prepared another hypospray to relieve the symptoms of nausea in his patients.
"What is their prognosis?"
Appearing to sigh with dread even though the hologram had no need to breathe he answered, "If left unchecked the virus would prove fatal."
"They will die."
The Doctor flinched and looked around to make sure no one was in hearing distance. "And they say I have no tact."
Seven was just as concerned as the others although it was hard to tell since her expression never altered. She had once told Captain Janeway that Voyager had become her collective and she would do everything in her power to save any and all of them, including Lieutenant Torres. "How long will it take before the virus progresses to this stage?"
Shrugging the Doctors said, "I’m really not sure. If I had to hazard a guess I would say a matter of hours. Twelve at the most."
"What may I do to assist?" she asked calmly, sure that she was being called down to assist the EMH due to her Borg background.
"I have been ordered to examine all of the crew, and restrict those not on duty to their quarters."
"You have already examined me," she stated with a frown of confusion.
"True," he returned. "But as I said before some people have a delayed response to the virus. Symptoms manifest at different rates for different individuals. Crewman Cantrell only reported five minutes ago with complaints of a stiff neck and he returned to the ship more than two hours ago. I’m waiting on some tests to see if he has the virus, or it’s just a pulled muscle."
Seven allowed the Doctor to re-examine her. Again she proved to be symptom free and was ordered to return to the cargo bay. "It’s imperative that you try not to interact with anyone else until this crisis is over," he stressed as he finished up her exam.
"Doctor, I am Borg. My nanoprobes make my physiology highly resistant to any disease, whether bacterial or viral," she offered.
"You are only one individual. With a crew compliment of one hundred forty three it would be difficult for you to examine each individual in a timely manner. I will assist you."
"Seven, you’re not a physician. What can you do to help me?" Although he appreciated the offer, he didn’t really think it was possible.
"I assure you that I am more qualified to assist you than Tom Paris. I do know how to run a medical tricorder. I can gather information on each individual and enter the data into the computer to begin compiling the medical information you require."
The Doctor smiled, "I think that’s a wonderful idea, Seven. Let me speak with the captain about it. In the mean time you should still wait in the cargo bay. I’ll let you know what she says."
"That would be an inefficient use of time," she pointed out strongly.
"Ah ah," the pseudo man said cheerfully holding up a finger. "Protocol. I promise to let you know as soon as I get an answer from her. It shouldn’t take long."
"Very well," Seven said and turned away, walking out of the medical bay in what the doctor could only term a huff.
~ ~ ~
Kathryn felt the beginnings of a monster-sized headache as she listened to the Doctor’s report over the computer system. Sitting in her ready room she absorbed what could only be termed the worst possible scenario.
"I’m afraid Ensign Cantrell succumbed to the disease a few minutes ago. He’s dead, Captain. I have sixty-three other crewmembers exhibiting symptoms. Sickbay is filled to capacity so I’ve confined the affected personnel to their quarters."
"How can you care for them?" Janeway asked worriedly. "For that matter, I don’t know how you could care for them even if they could all fit in the medical bay."
"That’s the good news. The illness doesn’t seem to affect everyone. Humans, and Bolians are affected. Bajorans aren’t, even Lieutenant Torres’ half-Klingon physiology seems to have protected her. As a result I have recruited several individuals and pressed them into medic duty."
Nodding Janeway complimented, "Good thinking, Doctor. Recruit as many as you see fit. Have you come up with anything to combat this illness, yet?"
"As a matter of fact, I am working on a serum. By conducting blood tests on unaffected crewmembers I have localized an antibody common to all of them. With any luck, this antibody will prove to be the answer we’re looking for."
"Very good, Doctor. Please keep me informed. If that’s all?" she asked preparing to end the communication channel.
"Actually, there is one more bit of troubling news, Captain."
Rubbing a hand over tired eyes in frustration Kathryn asked, "How could this get any worse? What is it, Doctor?"
"I’m afraid I’ve had to confine Commander Chakotay to his quarters."
"Not so much. He isn’t showing any signs of illness, but the virus is definitely in his bloodstream. In effect, he is a carrier."
"That’s just wonderful," she said dryly. "What about Commander Tuvok?"
"Commander Tuvok and all of the other Vulcans on board seem to be unaffected."
"Well, at least there’s that," the captain acknowledged. "At least I won’t lose my entire command staff." Harry Kim, Tom Paris and Commander Chakotay were all affected to some degree; that left only herself and Tuvok to run the bridge in an emergency. At least they were at station keeping. "What about Seven of Nine. She’s human, but she still has nanoprobes in her body. Is she ill?"
"No, Captain, her Borg physiology seems resistant to the disease. If the serum fails, we could try modifying some of her nanoprobes to eradicate the disease."
I’m sure the crew would love that, Kathryn thought sarcastically to herself. But, it was a last resort and if she had to do it to save her crew she would. "Very well, let me know when you have more. Janeway out."
At least Seven was safe, Kathryn thought standing up and rubbing her aching temples. She walked over to the replicator for a cup of coffee before walking up the small flight of stairs to stare out of the viewport.
I should have asked the doctor when he was planning on testing the serum, she thought. Then she decided that if he were at that stage he would have informed her.
"Computer, locate Seven of Nine," she asked curious to see if the young woman had been pressed into nurse duty.
"Seven of Nine is in engineering," the computer dutifully responded.
Makes sense, Kathryn thought. With all of the sick crewmen and others being forced into medical service someone had to keep working on the ship. Grinning she also realized that Seven seriously lacked a bedside manner.
Six hours later Seven of Nine was in sickbay acting as a nurse for the EMH. She had accepted the duty reluctantly, preferring to keep working on the warp manifold, but the doctor had made the request an order when he determined that she would not go willingly.
Night had fallen on the planet, but the medical bay hummed busily. The doctor had just finished the serum and handed a hypospray to the reluctant Borg. "Administer this to everyone. It will take a few hours to work and we have several personnel that simply will not survive that long if we wait to test it."
Seven nodded and started to walk away when the doctor’s communications channel was activated.
"Janeway to sickbay. Medical emergency in my quarters."
The captain’s voice was barely recognizable, and it was obvious that she was seriously ill. The timber was even more gruff than usual and the words were so soft the computer could hardly pick up the communiqué.
Panic filled the eyes of the medical hologram as he looked at Seven. The captain simply did not ask for help. "Take that to the captain and stay with her to monitor her vital signs. I have enough crewmen to help me here."
"Understood," Seven returned and strode from the medical bay. Once in the hallway she initiated a site-to-site transport directly to the captain’s quarters. It wasn’t exactly protocol, but this wasn’t exactly a normal situation.
The young woman frowned as she entered the captain’s quarters. The lights were lowered and it took a brief moment before she spotted the woman near the main entrance. Captain Janeway was lying unconscious on the floor, and Seven rushed to her side.
"Captain, can you hear me?" she asked worriedly.
Grasping the smaller woman by the shoulders she turned her over and looked at the pale face. Janeway was burning up with fever and Seven wasted no time in pressing the hypospray into the small neck.
Unsure what to do, Seven knew she couldn’t leave her captain lying on the deck and it was imperative to try and get the fever down. With one recourse Seven scooped the smaller woman up into her arms and walked quickly toward the ensuite. Touching the controls she set the tub to fill with cold water before she sat on the side with Janeway in her lap.
At first Seven didn’t know how to remove the Starfleet uniform, but she quickly got the hang of it and began pulling the clothing off of the lithe form. A part of her intellect registered the fact that it was inappropriate to see the captain naked, but she couldn’t help but look at the form she revealed.
Kathryn Janeway was indeed a beautiful woman, Seven thought as she swallowed loudly. Her physique was small, but with hard little muscles and a flat stomach. Freckles smattered the top of the woman’s chest, and a small mole just over the left breast caught the ex-drone’s attention.
Finally she lowered the captain into the water, keeping one arm behind her shoulder for support. Seven saw a sponge sitting in a receptacle on the edge of the tub and used it to spread water over the other woman’s chest, neck, cheeks and forehead. She repeated this process until the captain was shivering, and her teeth were chattering. Seven didn’t know how long to do this, but since the captain’s skin was beginning to wrinkle from exposure to the water she decided it was long enough.
Looking around she discovered a towel hanging beside the bath. Seven grabbed the towel and laid it across her lap before lifting the captain easily from the tub and laying her on the towel.
Gently she enfolded the other woman and dried her skin before carrying her back into the bedroom. When she had entered the quarters she had seen a blanket on the sofa and discerned that the captain had been attempting to sleep there, but she knew from her research that humans preferred to sleep in a bed.
Captain Janeway had begun to mutter in her unconscious state, but the words were so softly spoken that Seven could not make them out even with her enhanced hearing. By the time she reached the side of the bed, Kathryn was louder and clearer. Seven could hear her own name being mumbled along with a host of other things she couldn’t quite make out yet.
With one hand Seven pulled back the covers and then gently lay the Starship captain on the cool sheets. Pulling the blankets up to Kathryn’s chin she had just begun to back away when Janeway’s stormy blue-gray eyes shot open and the woman half sat to grab onto Seven’s Borg enhanced hand.
"Seven," she said urgently, "don’t leave me. Don’t go. Please, stay with me."
How could she deny this woman? Even in the midst of their most heated discussions she had never had the heart to deny her something she truly wanted. She could certainly not start now.
Sitting on the edge of the mattress Seven gently clasped Janeway’s hand. "I will stay with you," she assured the other woman softly. "But we must attempt to lower your temperature. I will return momentarily with a cool cloth."
Again Seven tried to leave the captain’s side but Janeway held on stubbornly. "You must trust me," the younger woman stated and finally Janeway released her.
She had heard Lieutenant Torres use the expression that ‘the lights were on but no one was home.’ She felt that sentiment was appropriate for this situation.
While Seven walked over to the replicator Janeway resumed her incoherent mumbling. On occasion the blonde understood a name or a phrase, but for the most part the ramblings were incomprehensible. She returned after acquiring a bowl of cold water and a cloth. Sitting the bowl on the table next to them, Seven wet the cloth and began drawing it over the older woman’s heated flesh.
Patiently she treated her friend and captain while listening to the fevered ramblings and watching the other woman trash her head. Sometimes it sounded like the captain was fighting some of the Delta Quadrant species Voyager had faced in the past. Other times the words Seven understood sounded vaguely like snippets of arguments between herself and the older woman.
The night passed slowly with Seven waiting for the doctor’s serum to work. Eventually the thrashing slowed, but Janeway continued to mumble. Reaching out Seven gently brushed back a lock of damp hair from the captain’s cheek. Her hand remained to gently cup the small face.
Kathryn opened her eyes and for the first time in hours Seven felt she was truly seeing her. "Thirsty," she rasped.
"I will bring you some water," Seven said smiling gently.
Although it took only a moment to get a glass of cold water from the replicator, by the time she returned the captain was mumbling again.
Reaching under the slim form Seven helped her into a sitting position and held the glass to her lips. Janeway reflexively swallowed the liquid that the other woman carefully spilled into her mouth. Fearing that she would choke Seven only gave her a small amount of water before sitting the glass down and easing Janeway onto the sheets.
"You must sleep now, Captain," Seven said as she tried to pull the covers up to the other woman’s shoulders.
"No," Janeway argued and threw back the covers. "Here, lay here with me."
"Captain, I do not feel that would be appropriate."
To her horror the older woman burst into tears. "Please, just hold me. I’m so lonely and I don’t want to be alone anymore."
If Kathryn Janeway were not running a temperature well over 103º Seven could not have been more shocked.
Her heart was still racing and she felt as though she had forgotten to breathe for a significant time. The pleading look in the feverish eyes was more than she could stand. Heaving a sigh of resignation Seven leaned over to push her high-heeled boots off of her feet. Then she eased onto the edge of the mattress beside the captain. But that was not good enough for an ailing Janeway. As soon as Seven was settled a naked Kathryn flung herself over the younger woman and clung to her tightly. Not knowing what else to do Seven held onto Janeway trying to keep her from squirming her way onto the floor, and stared resolutely at the ceiling.
"You’re finally here," Janeway muttered snuggling firmly against Seven’s curvaceous form. Her face was pressed between two full breasts and Seven was convinced that the captain was actually nuzzling her. "Do you know how long I’ve waited for this? So long," the captain answered herself.
This went on for quite some time with Janeway ranting almost incoherently. At other times she went on about her feelings for Seven and how long she had waited. She put her head down on the ex-drones chest and actually seemed to sleep for about an hour, when suddenly she picked her head up and continued with what she had been saying when she fell asleep. Seven listened as the captain informed her of several things.
"I didn’t save you from the Borg Queen only to hand you over to Chakotay," the captain asserted as she began to place tiny kisses along Seven’s jaw line. "You’re mine. Do you understand, mine."
Kathryn rose up to claim Seven’s full lips in a searing kiss, but the ex-drone raised her head just enough for the kiss to land on her chin. The illness seemed to have generated a carnal response in the captain, but Seven would not take advantage of the woman in this weakened state. Staring fixedly at the ceiling she ground her teeth as she held on to the other woman. She had told the doctor that she would stay with the captain until she was feeling better, and even though things were certainly becoming interesting she would not abandon her because of it.
The captain’s eyes became riveted on the bountiful breasts and she pinched the right nipple through the suit with her thumb and forefinger. At the same time Kathryn dipped her head and began trying to suck the entire right breast into her mouth. She seemed not to notice that Seven was still completely dressed.
Seven grunted at the sensations coursing through her body and squinted her eyes tightly shut as she tried not to moan aloud. After a moment she was able to open her eyes and stare again at the ceiling while the captain tried to chew on her nipple.
"Oh, Seven!" Janeway mumbled around the mouthful. "I’ve wanted you for so long."
Suddenly the captain carried things even further and Seven fought the urge to bolt from the bed. Janeway pressed her mound firmly against Seven’s right thigh and began grinding into her, undulating the drenched, swollen folds against the muscular leg.
Moisture was soaked in by the biosuit and transferred to Seven’s leg, wetting her thoroughly with Kathryn’s juices. The smell of sex permeated the air and still Seven held tightly to the smaller woman’s back.
"Oh, yes!" Kathryn cried in pleasure. "Oh, oh! Seven!"
It took only a few moments before Seven felt Janeway suddenly stiffen, and then she began to convulse in orgasm. A few moments later Kathryn subsided and laid her head against Seven’s breast, falling asleep with a loud, reverberating snore.
The former drone never moved as the captain slept heavily on her. Somewhere toward morning watch Janeway’s fever broke. A flood of fever cleansing sweat gushed from the captain’s form and drenched the young woman still lying beneath her. Then the captain’s sleep became heavier, and more natural.
When Seven was convinced that the captain would recover she finally rolled over and eased the woman onto her back. Janeway had been thrashing restlessly in her sleep, but now she was quiet. For a moment Seven gazed at the pale features beneath her.
She knew this was the only night she would ever spend with the magnificent woman and took the opportunity to gaze at her in this intimate setting. She hadn’t allowed herself to take advantage of the woman’s fevered advances, but she couldn’t just get up and walk away. Looking down at her now she was not above licking the beads of sweat from the upper lip before pressing her full lips to Janeway’s.
Only this once, she told herself.
Pulling away she whispered, "Goodnight…Kathryn."
Wanting nothing more than to flee to her alcove Seven just couldn’t leave the captain until she had reported to the doctor.
"Seven of Nine to the Doctor. Report to the captain’s quarters at once."
Within seconds the EMH materialized in the living quarters. "Seven?" he asked worriedly.
"I believe that the captain is showing signs of recovery. You will examine her," the young woman stated imperiously.
After the way she had summoned him, the photonic man had feared the worst. "That’s wonderful news, Seven. The rest of the crew is showing signs of improvement as well."
Seven nodded once and headed for the door.
"Uh, Seven. Is there something wrong? You look a little worse for wear," he observed curiously.
"It was a long night," she hedged. "I must report for duty."
"Of course," he relented turning to examine the captain as Seven walked out of the room.
Captain Kathryn Janeway sat wearily in her ready room. Although hardly fit for duty, she couldn’t remain in her quarters for another moment. Thinking back to her awakening only two hours before Kathryn buried her face in her hands and shook her head. What had happened in there?
She didn’t really remember calling sickbay, but apparently she had. She certainly didn’t remember Seven of Nine showing up in her quarters to care for her, but apparently she had.
Janeway had awakened a few hours ago with the EMH leaning over her bedside pronouncing that she was recovering quite nicely and ordering her to rest.
"Thank you for caring for me, doctor," Janeway had said politely. "Although I’m surprised you had time to personally attend me with so many others sick."
"Oh, I didn’t care for you personally, Captain," the hologram responded absently as he continued to fiddle with his tricorder. "Seven of Nine stayed with you until just a few moments ago. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have several other patients to check on."
"Of course, Doctor," she had answered calmly, but silently she was wondering why Seven had left before she had awakened.
After being left alone Kathryn had thrown back the covers only to discover that she was completely naked. Eyes widened in surprise as she thought furiously back to the previous evening. She had definitely been clothed in her quarters. Wandering around she discovered a hypospray on the coffee table, and a damp towel discarded by the bedside. Then she spotted the bowl of water and cloth on the bedside table.
Checking the bathroom she found a full tub of water still standing, and deduced that Seven must have given her a bath. Kathryn’s cheeks burned as the images of Seven bathing her filled her head. Groaning she covered her eyes with one hand. It was not only inappropriate for a crewmember to give their captain a bath, but why did it have to be the one she was in love with?
To say that the mere idea caused a surge of sharp desire to shoot through her was an understatement. Kathryn did garner a certain guilty pleasure from the implications, but refused to let the thoughts go any further. Seven was involved with her second in command, and she couldn’t even remember the only night she would ever have with the other woman. It was completely unfair. Knowing that Seven had spent the night in these quarters Janeway could almost detect Seven’s scent in the room. Shaking her head she decided she needed to get out of her quarters.
Still exhausted from her illness, she dressed and retired to her ready room. She left the bridge in Commander Tuvok’s capable hands saying she had paperwork to do, but so far she hadn’t gotten much accomplished. At least the crew was on the mend.
According to the doctor’s latest report over sixty-five percent of the crew had been infected there had only been one fatality. The remaining infected were on the mend.
A second later Voyager’s first officer fairly flew into the room like a big black crow. His mood was as black as his hair, his eyes furrowed in a tight frown. "Kathryn, do you have a minute?" he asked without looking at her. It was obvious that something was seriously wrong from the way he stared at the floor and continuously rubbed one hand across his forehead.
"Of course. What’s wrong?" she asked worriedly, half rising to her feet.
"It’s Seven," he said almost angrily as he began pacing in front of her desk. "She says she can’t marry me. After all of this time she’s been hurrying the ceremony, now she calls the whole thing off? I just don’t understand."
"Whoa, slow down. Did she say why?"
Coming to an abrupt halt, the tattooed man looked her in the eye and said, "Yes, she said she can’t marry me because she has ‘engaged in sexual relations with another’".
"Wha…" Kathryn felt all of the blood leave her head as she slowly sank back down in her chair. She kept hearing those words over and over in her head…sexual relations.
"When could that have happened?" she asked tightly, hoping that Chakotay didn’t hear anything unusual in her voice.
Shaking his head in frustration he sat down heavily in the chair next to her desk. "It could only have been last night. Before that she acted like everything was fine. I just can’t figure out who it could have been. Most of the crew was sick, and I was confined to my quarters until the doctor came up with that serum."
"Well, that seems a little inappropriate. I just can’t see Seven doing something like that in the middle of a crisis," Janeway argued, very aware of the fact that Seven had been with her all night. But how could anything have happened between them? Kathryn couldn’t remember anything of the previous evening. Except for some very erotic dreams…
It couldn’t have been real, could it?
Well, this was certainly getting worse by the second. Now she thought her head would explode as all of the blood in her body rushed back into it. Standing and turning away from Chakotay as she feigned the need for activity, Kathryn hoped he wouldn’t see the furious blush covering her face.
"I’m sure it’s not what it seems to be," she said, sure of no such thing. "There’s got to be a misunderstanding. You know how she gets confused by the nuances of human behavior at times."
"Maybe," he allowed, obviously not convinced. Standing he said, "I’m not sure it really makes a difference though. I just feel bad for being so relieved."
"Relieved?" Kathryn asked astounded as she whirled back around to face him. "How could you be relieved? The woman you love just told you that she couldn’t marry you."
Chakotay grinned and asked, "Kathryn, you don’t really think that we were getting married because we’re so perfect for each other. You do, don’t you?" he suddenly realized as she just stood there staring at him.
Sitting back down Janeway said, "I think maybe you’d better explain."
"All right," he shrugged. "A few months ago Seven came to see me. She was worried about returning to Earth because she thought they would only see her as a Borg drone. Now, you know I’ve never been fond of Seven for that very same reason, but as we talked some of the things you’ve said to me over time began to sink in. I started to see her in a different light, and realized that maybe she wasn’t as much of a threat as I’ve been saying. By the time we finished talking I was feeling sorry for her, and had to admit that she did have a point."
"So you decided the way to take care of the problem was to marry her," Janeway added.
Nodding he said, "The marriage would have been in name only. That’s why we asked for a two-year contract. Should we arrive back on Earth in that time frame we wouldn’t have to renew the marriage."
"I don’t get it, Chakotay," she asked frowning. "There’s no guarantee when we’ll get home. What if we didn’t get there within two years, or what if one of you developed romantic feelings for someone else?"
"The contract is always renewable so the two years wouldn’t have made a difference," he countered. "And we talked about it and decided that if one of us became interested in someone else, we would nullify the agreement."
Fighting the urge to throttle him she said slowly, "It sounds like you had all of the bases covered."
Grinning he said, "I thought so, but I guess Seven had other ideas. At least we don’t have to marry someone we don’t love."
And that was exactly why Kathryn was so angry. Seven had no basis for reference; she couldn’t know that marriage was supposed to be a sacred promise of love. It was not to be used as a negotiating tactic. She was furious on the young woman’s behalf, and although he argued compassion she was not unaware of the benefits he would have, marriage of convenience or no.
"Well, I have to check with the department heads and see how repairs, and the recoveries are coming," he joked standing up. Oblivious of his captain’s fury Chakotay sauntered out of the ready room.
Kathryn shook her head at his attitude. She had assumed from the way he had entered her office that he was upset. Now it turned out that he was just excited. He was a free man.
She would do anything to be able to ask the young woman to marry her, out of love, and he was practically doing a jig that he had gotten away unscathed. Where was the justice in the universe?
By the end of the alpha shift repairs were almost finished and the crew was responding well to medical treatment. Most of them had fully recovered and were back at their posts. Kathryn had tried to keep herself busy during that time by concentrating on ship’s business, but her mind was assaulted by images of Seven in her bed.
Since she knew for a fact that the younger woman had spent the night caring for her captain, there was only one suspect in the ‘sexual relations’ category. But surely she wouldn’t have forced the young woman to do anything against her will no matter what the circumstances. Seven was easily four times stronger than the captain with her Borg enhanced strength.
What had happened?
Making up her mind that she needed to talk with Seven no matter how embarrassing the conversation might be, Kathryn sent a request via computer for Seven to meet her in her quarters at nineteen hundred hours.
Considering the venue, Kathryn was nervous when the other woman accepted the invitation, but this wasn’t something they could discuss in the ready room. It was too personal for that, and she didn’t want to give Seven the idea that this was something casual.
Waiting in her quarters later Kathryn was a nervous wreck. She had decided to keep on her uniform instead of changing into something more relaxed. Although she thought this was a discussion that required a little privacy she didn’t want to give Seven the idea that she was trying to seduce her. But she was damned if she could figure out what to say. Thanks for the little romp, Seven, but I really don’t remember it so let’s just forget it every happened?
"This is ridiculous," she chastised herself nervously while running a hand through already rumpled hair. "I’ll just apologize and tell her I was delirious. She can even bring me up on charges if she wants." Kathryn shrugged flippantly, but she wasn’t fooling herself. What if Seven decided to do exactly that?
Her door chime rang at exactly nineteen hundred and Kathryn dropped the cup of coffee she had just taken from the replicator. "Damn it," she breathed watching the cup bounce on the carpet as the chime rang again.
"Come in," she said bending in a rush to pick up the cup and stuff it back into the replicator.
Seven of Nine stalked into the captain’s quarters spotting her immediately and striding up to stand in front of Kathryn. "You wished to see me, Captain."
It suddenly struck Kathryn that as nervous as she was feeling, how much more so for the woman that had slept with her the night before? Seven had no frame of reference for this, and now she was being summoned in front of her superior with no idea what the subject of discussion was. No wonder the woman was in full Borg mode.
"Relax, Seven," she said smiling gently, but careful not to invade the other woman’s space. "I asked you here to talk with you about last night, although to be honest I don’t remember much at all."
A small frown rested briefly between the blue eyes and Kathryn fought the urge to soothe it away with her fingers. It seemed that her mind didn’t remember last night, but her body did. Her fingers were tingling with the desire to reach for the other woman, but she distracted it by saying, "Why don’t we sit down?"
Not waiting for an answer she walked to the sitting area and chose the chair next to the sofa. To her surprise Seven didn’t argue about it, but sat next to her at the end of the sofa. "Very well," Seven said. "What is it you wish to discuss?"
Instead of starting with the previous evening Kathryn said, "Chakotay came to see me this morning. He said you decided not to get married."
Nodding Seven said, "He seemed relieved."
"He did at that," Kathryn returned. "How do you feel about that?" Before she began talking about their encounter, she had to determine how the younger woman truly felt about her first officer.
"I feel nothing," Seven stated confirming what Chakotay had already told Kathryn. "I did not love him."
"Then why did you start dating him?" Kathryn asked in confusion. "Why did you want to get married so badly?"
"Commander Chakotay did not tell you the details of our arrangement?"
Shaking her head Kathryn said, "Not all of it, no. I have to admit that I’m confused why you would suddenly feel the need to get involved with a man that you have no feelings for."
Seven was starting to get the impression that she had somehow disappointed Captain Janeway. Such a thought was unacceptable to her and she sought to explain in a way the other woman would understand.
"After our encounter with Arturis I began to realize that the possibility of returning to sector 001 was inevitable. It has been pointed out on several occasions that a former Borg drone would not be welcome on Earth. There is every likelihood that Starfleet would see the drone as a threat and have it terminated."
Kathryn could tell by the way Seven was talking about herself in the third person that she was terrified of that prospect, as unrealistic as it was. "What has that got to do with Chakotay?"
"If I were married, then I would have full rights as a Starfleet citizen. I would be safe. For that reason I approached Commander Chakotay with my concerns. It did not take long to convince him of my logic. Eventually he agreed to marry me, but stated that we must appear to have dated for a period of time so that the crew would not be suspicious. He insisted that when we did marry that we sign a two-year contract. He seemed quite eager at first," Seven finished in confusion.
I bet, Kathryn thought uncharitably. As much as she loved Chakotay, he was still a man. But even though things hadn’t worked out in such a way it still hurt that Seven would go to him with her fears.
"Why didn’t you talk to me?" Kathryn asked softly bracing herself for the response.
"I would have, but you could not help me," Seven returned as though the answer should be obvious. "You are not a man."
Now Kathryn was confused. "What has that got to do with it? I’m still your friend."
"Yes, but you could not have married me."
Seven was definitely caught in a loop, Kathryn thought. But it seemed that this whole fiasco centered on the idea of a marriage. If she could get to the bottom of that, she might understand what was happening. "Seven, are you under the impression that only a man can marry you?" she asked cautiously.
"Of course," the woman answered immediately.
Shaking her head Seven answered, "When the Doctor was instructing me in dating he compiled a list of crewmembers for me to chose a potential mate from. Only the male members of the crew were listed. I gathered from that information that it was unacceptable for me to date a female crewmember or to become intimately involved with one."
"That’s the most ridiculous…" Kathryn began angrily as she surged to her feet and began pacing the living area.
Looking down she realized that she had startled Seven and forced herself to calm down for the other woman’s sake. Sitting back down, next to Seven on the sofa this time, she took the other woman’s hand.
"Seven, the doctor was stacking the deck in his favor," she explained.
"Stacking the deck?"
"The doctor has feelings for you," she clarified gently. "He probably thought that he stood a better chance of you selecting him for this date if he narrowed the list."
Looking down at their joined hands, Seven deduced, "So it is not unacceptable to be involved with a member of the same sex."
"Hardly," Kathryn returned dryly. "Although I have only ever been involved with men, homosexual pairings are perfectly fine."
"So I could have discussed this with you as I initially wanted to do."
"I wish you had," Kathryn assured her. "I’ve always tried to be there for you, and I must admit that it hurts a little that you didn’t feel you could discuss this with me. Even if you eventually decided that I wasn’t the one you would chose as a partner."
"Then again, maybe it’s better that you didn’t," Kathryn continued. "I certainly wouldn’t have agreed to a limited contract."
"For what reason?" Seven asked curiously.
"Oh, I don’t know," Kathryn admitted studying their joined hands for a moment before finally releasing Seven. "I guess I’m just old fashioned. I believe marriage is for life. If I don’t love someone enough to promise them forever, what’s the point?"
"Are you saying that you would have married me?" Seven asked gently.
Caught up in the moment Kathryn almost answered before she realized how neatly she had been trapped. Instead of answering the question she looked into the deep blue eyes and asked, "Seven, what happened between us last night?"
Seven looked ahead at the deck and answered as emotionlessly as she could. "The doctor asked me to bring you a serum that he had just synthesized. When I brought it to you, you were unconscious on the floor with a high fever. I injected you with the medication, and then proceeded to give you a cold bath to bring down your temperature."
When she paused Kathryn asked, "That’s it?"
Looking back at her Seven replied, "I did not know where you keep your sleep clothing so I placed you into the bed after drying you off. I stayed with you until just before morning watch, when your fever broke. Before leaving I called the doctor to examine you."
Kathryn noted the guarded look in the young woman’s eyes and how she carefully avoided any mention of anything questionable. Had she truly traumatized Seven so much that she couldn’t trust her with the truth?
"Seven, Chakotay told me you couldn’t marry him because you had engaged in sexual relations with someone else."
It nearly crushed her when Seven flushed and looked away in embarrassment but this was too important to let go of. "Seven," she questioned gently, "was that someone me?"
After a brief hesitation Seven nodded once in reply.
Kathryn closed her eyes in misery before opening them to reassure the other woman. "Listen to me. You did nothing wrong. I’m so sorry I forced myself on you. I don’t know what to say except that I wasn’t myself. Can you ever forgive me?" she finished quietly.
"You did not force me, Captain," Seven surprised her by saying.
Confused Kathryn finally looked up at her. Seven continued by saying, "You are physically incapable of forcing me to do anything. I must point out that you were ill, and although I did not return your embrace I did not require you to stop touching me."
"What? Seven, what are you saying? That you let me…use you because you knew I wasn’t in full control of myself?"
Standing up again, Kathryn put a hand over her mouth as she thought about what she had just heard. Then she said, "Seven, it’s not all right for me to do that to you. You should have stopped me."
A hand on her shoulder made Kathryn turn around to face the other woman. "I did not wish you to stop. I wished only that you were aware of what was happening, and that it was happening out of desire rather than a sense of ownership."
"What are you saying?" the older woman asked, sure that she was imagining the twist this conversation had taken.
"Yesterday Lieutenant Torres gave me a data padd with a personal recording you had made. In the recording you stated that you loved me, and did not wish for me to marry Commander Chakotay. But last night, when you were kissing me you did not mention love. You stated that you had not severed me from the Borg only to give me to someone else. You stated that I belonged to you. I wish to know if you love me."
So many things whirled through Janeway’s mind that for a moment she thought she would fry a synapse. I’m going to kill B’Elanna! I said I owned her? I was kissing her!
"I…I…" Janeway panicked, unable to respond coherently.
"I understood from the log entry that you felt you would be placing a burden on me by declaring your feelings," Seven said softly. "Understand this; you could never be a burden to me. If I did not return your emotions such a declaration would be irrelevant. But it is not irrelevant. Your feelings are relevant because of my feelings for you."
"You…you…" Janeway stuttered again before finally swallowing and squeaking out, "Your feelings for me?"
Seven stepped in close and leaned toward the other woman until her mouth was beside Janeway’s ear. "My love for you will never die."
Kathryn recognized the words from her personal log and swallowed hard while her heart pounded against her rib cage. Somehow this conversation had gotten away from her. She could still salvage things; get back in control.
When she didn’t answer Seven said stepping back, "Perhaps it was about ownership after all. Perhaps you do not return my feelings."
Looking into pain-filled blue eyes Kathryn realized that only the truth would do. She could never deliberately hurt this young woman even if her rational mind told her that’s exactly what she should do to keep Seven from getting involved with a middle-aged Starfleet captain that was married to her ship.
"You’re wrong, you know," Kathryn said softly while staring at Seven’s high-heeled boots. "Regardless what desperate words my fevered mind spoke, I do love you. I think that I have from the first moment that I saw you. But I understand if you don’t feel the same. How could you? I’m almost fifteen years older than you."
All of her fears, doubts and arguments that she had been telling herself were suddenly blown gently away, evaporating from her mind by the feel of soft fingers gently urging her chin upward. Meeting crystal blue eyes Kathryn didn’t find the rejection or accusation that she expected, but instead found love and acceptance.
"From the beginning Commander Tuvok has asked me why your opinion is of such importance to me. I replied that in a hierarchy the captain’s opinion is important to everyone. That answer was evasive." Taking a small, nervous breath Seven continued. "The truth is that your opinion is the only one that matters. You are all that matters, the only one who touches me. I have loved you since before I fully understood what the word meant. Your age is meaningless."
Stepping closer to the redhead Seven allowed only their upper bodies to gently touch. She hadn’t allowed herself to touch Kathryn in a vulnerable state the night before, but she did understand the art of seduction. Now that she knew how the other woman felt about her, she intended to use it to her full advantage.
Leaning down until their lips were inches apart, Seven could feel the excited rush of Kathryn’s breath against her face. "But you must be sure that you are willing to take this chance. Once we allow this, I will not allow you to back down or attempt to hide the nature of our relationship."
Kathryn’s eyes were heavy with desire. She heard Seven’s words, but didn’t realize she was expected to respond for a moment. Then she answered huskily, "I’m sure. I’ve wanted this for so long."
Her reward was Seven closing the interminably short distance between them and claiming her lips in a searing kiss. Kathryn had dreamed that it would be fireworks, and bone crushing passion between them and was not disappointed. The kiss was sharp and harsh, drawing teeth with the desperation of two women who were finally where they longed to be.
Kathryn’s tongue moved to violate the sanctity of Seven’s lips, but the passage was freely given as they drank deeply from each other. Seven’s hair weighed heavily against her hands as she freed it from its bonds and allowed it to tumble down.
Let me touch you, Kathryn begged silently. Can’t you feel how much I love you?
She felt herself being guided backward as in a dream. But wrapped firmly in the strong arms, it didn’t register how far they had moved until her knees struck the edge of the mattress. Seven pushed her onto the bed and straddled Kathryn’s lap. She was so aroused that Kathryn could feel the heat and wetness pressing against her.
Finally Seven broke the kiss, pulling away to look into eyes reflected in the light of passing stars. But the light in the living quarters was too much. Kathryn wanted to see her silver-lined beauty only by starlight.
"Computer, lights out," she commanded before claiming lips the color of burnt roses.
Then incredibly, Seven’s hands ran up the zippered front of the red and black tunic to brush Kathryn’s breasts. Her breath burst from her in a rush as desire as Kathryn pulled the woman sharply against her. "Yes," she hissed.
Strong hands, one Borg the other human, claimed those soft breasts in a firm squeeze before relenting and unzipping the jacket.
Seven left the tender mouth to explore the delicate shell of an ear with her tongue. Tasting the soft skin and sucking the edge into her mouth before grazing it with her teeth, then moving down to kiss the junction of neck and shoulder.
The jacket was tossed aside before questing fingers grasped the hem of her shirt and lifted it over her head. Tossing the discarded garment onto the floor Seven leaned back to gaze at Kathryn. Letting her movements speak for themselves Seven reached for the zipper at her back, slowly lowering it to allow her own garment to slink suggestively forward.
Kathryn could see the Borg trace work at the edge of one shoulder, then Seven pulled the bio-suit from her upper body and the captain was almost blinded by the beauty of the magnificent woman in her arms.
"Seven," she breathed softly.
The breasts were not bound, and seem not to be affected by gravity as Kathryn touched them reverently for the first time. The nipples were as dark as Seven’s lips in the twilight.
Strong hands restrained Kathryn’s wrists, gently removing her hands. "My turn," Seven whispered pushing Kathryn back against the mattress. Climbing onto the mattress on her knees Seven reached back to remove her boots, kicking them from her feet before removing her bio-suit completely with a rock of her hips.
In the moonlight she was silver, with hair of spun gold. Kathryn longed to touch the quick indent of the navel with her tongue, and explore bands of Borg implants just above the abdomen. She had moved fully onto the bed to watch the other woman undress, and Seven took advantage by reaching for the button at her waist. The trousers unbuttoned, Seven spread the opening before grasping the sides and urging the heavy garment down her hips. Eagerly Kathryn helped by kicking her boots away and pushing the trousers down. Socks went with the trousers leaving her clothed only in bra and panties.
Seven was completely naked when she again straddled the other woman’s lap. Wrapping her arms around her neck, she kissed her face as Kathryn had done when she was sick. Seven knew from experience the effect of the brief, tiny kisses along the jaw line and neck. Tight kisses that left a hint of moisture on the skin.
Kathryn’s breath came in pants of excitement as she refrained from touching the other woman. She knew this was Seven’s time to explore, to map her skin from shoulder to waist to thigh.
Leaning against Kathryn with full breasts resting against the smaller offering Seven growled, "You are mine."
A rush of moisture flooded from Kathryn’s body at the possessiveness of the words, drenching already wet panties. "Yes," she agreed wrapping her arms around the achingly thin frame.
Seven immediately grasped her arms, removing them from her body and causing Kathryn to groan in frustration. "Soon," she promised with a smile urging Kathryn’s hands under the pillows.
Playful? Kathryn was mesmerized by her lover. Although the pillows were hardly a restraint, they were a reminder to let Seven have her way.
Seven’s palms massaged tender breasts before removing the bra even as her tongue left a trail from Kathryn’s neck down her chest to her navel. A quick playful flick of the wet tongue and then Seven was off again, moving farther down. Her wetness bathed Kathryn’s thigh as she moved forcing another groan from the woman that wanted to turn her over and ravish her.
The panties were removed quickly, discarding the last barrier between them.
The smell of arousal and the glistening of wet skin were too much for the overheated Borg to ignore. Settling between the soft thighs she let her fingers slide between the parted legs. Concentrating entirely on the feel of soft skin, Seven parted the folds rubbing gently with the pad of her thumb and smiling when she felt Kathryn tremble in response.
Spreading the moisture in a gently circular motion she whispered almost too softly for Kathryn to hear, "I love you."
Continuing the teasing movements of her fingers, Seven lowered her face to gently swipe her tongue against the trembling bundle of nerves. Kathryn cried out incoherently as her body jerked sharply. "Seven!"
"Please, Seven. I need to touch you," Kathryn breathed painfully.
Relenting in her own desire Seven moved up Kathryn’s body to settle her pale legs on either side of a strong leg while keeping her hand in place. Kathryn raised her leg, pressing it into damp curls and wrapping her arms around the slender body.
Seven penetrated her with the tip of her thumb, effortlessly sliding into the drenched opening. The feeling of a woman’s soft hand was unfamiliar and exciting to Kathryn, causing her to whimper and press back against the pressure.
The tightening of Kathryn’s body increased the pressure against Seven and caused the younger woman to buck slightly and press more deeply with her thumb, sliding inches deeper into her lover. Seven arched her body, rocking her hips and sliding against the strong muscles of Kathryn’s leg. At the same time she began moving her hand, sliding in and out of the other woman, making love to Kathryn.
Kathryn held on tightly, pressing her leg into Seven’s folds and moving her own body against the pleasure generated by the strong penetration. Seven was fairly pounding into her now, both of them grunting in passion, trembling on the verge.
When Seven suddenly came against her, throat arching back as she groaned, she carried Kathryn with her. Waves of orgasm crashed against Kathryn causing her to lose track of time and space. When she could breathe again she realized that Seven was lying heavily on top of her, panting into her hair.
"I love you, Seven. And I’ll never ask you to keep this a secret."
Rising up Seven gazed down at her in the starlight. "Then we shall be able to marry quickly."
Laughing Kathryn urged Seven to lie down beside her. With the Borg’s head on her shoulder she said, "Perhaps we should allow the crew to get used to us as a couple first. But I promise that it will happen very soon, long before we reach Earth."
"And if we should reach Earth more quickly than expected?"
Thinking about the question seriously for a moment Kathryn responded, "Then we shall marry immediately. Whatever happens, Seven, I promise that I will protect you."
"I believe you, Kathryn," Seven answered softly. Leaning over the smaller woman on one elbow she said, "You always have. I love you, my Kathryn."
As passion flared again, gently and more lingering this time, Kathryn gave silent thanks for a strange little planet with virus filled plants that ambled over its surface. If not for her illness, she and Seven might have danced around their feelings until it was too late. Now, the woman of her dreams was where she belonged, and Kathryn would never let her go.
My love for you will never die.