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Sleepless in Space

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Regeneration cycle incomplete.” The resonant voice of the starship USS Voyager’s computer interrupted Seven of Nine’s third attempt at regenerating. She stepped off the dais, and slammed her Borg-enhanced left hand onto the panel next to her alcove. Frustrated, and reluctantly admitting she was close to exhausted after two weeks of constant alcove malfunctions, Seven punched in Borg-encrypted commands.

“Computer, run new diagnostic, Seven-alpha-gamma-alpha-six.”

Running diagnostic.” The panel lit up and Seven took a step back, drumming her human fingers against her thigh. She felt a curious sensation of tremors and an alien feeling of something fluttering in her midsection. This might well be what Naomi Wildman called ‘the jitters’. “Diagnostic inconclusive.” The computer’s indifferent words were hardly surprising.

Seven sighed and sat down on the dais to her alcove. This was worrisome, but she knew only one way of dealing with it. Had it been last year, she would have turned to the Doctor, or Captain Janeway, but after three years aboard Voyager, she was not as inclined to ask for assistance regarding personal matters. The Doctor had lectured her more than once about the risks of succumbing to false pride, but for Seven it was an important change, or evolution, even, for her quest to regain her humanity. After eighteen years as a member of the Borg collective, she had a lot to overcome and atone for, but she also had a lot to catch up and reclaim, when it came to all the stolen years. Seven was determined to do that on her own, and if that was false pride, so be it. Suddenly the vision of Captain Janeway flickered through her mind, her even blue-gray eyes, so focused when they looked at Seven, and her auburn hair, always so tidy, framing her elegant features. Seven reluctantly admitted that deep down she wanted to hail her captain, to turn to her for advice as she had so many times before.

She sighed, exasperated at her own weakness. The alcove problem was starting to become a serious problem, but nobody on Voyager was more equipped to handle it than she was herself. The tiny voice inside her that the Doctor referred to as her ‘conscience’, tried to tell her she was making a mistake. If the alcove weren’t up and operational within a few days, there would be irreparable damage to her system.

Xxxxx

“Janeway to Seven of Nine. Report to my ready room.” Janeway tapped her comm badge a second time, frowning as Seven’s normal curt reply was not instant. “Seven, respond.” 

“Seven here, Captain. On my way.”

Janeway wondered at the muted tone in Seven’s voice. She tried to remember how long she had seen Seven, as the ex-Borg had worked the gamma shift for several weeks now. Going back to the alpha shift perhaps had been a bit strenuous for her?

Five minutes later, her door chime rang.

“Enter.” Janeway looked up from her computer screen. Seven strode inside, clasping several data PADDs.

“Captain.”

“Seven.” Janeway glanced at her face and thought she could see signs of fatigue on Seven’s beautiful features. “Are you all right?”

“I am functioning at acceptable parameters.”

“Acceptable? That’s pretty far from your usual strife for perfection, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” Seven looked uncomfortable, shifting where she stood and clasping her hands behind her back. “I will make an effort to maximize my performance.”

Janeway sighed. “That’s not at all what I meant, Seven. I just want you to know that I’m here; ready to listen to you, if there is anything I can help you with.” Janeway regarded Seven with growing concern.

“Thank you.” Seven avoided Janeway’s glance for a moment, something that made the captain even more certain that something was truly amiss.

“I mean it, Seven.” Her voice sinking an octave, Janeway circled the desk and stopped well within Seven’s personal space. She leaned against her desk and gently cupped Seven’s elbow. “I know I often state that I’m first and foremost your captain, but remember that I’m also your friend.” To Janeway’s dismay, her last sentence made Seven recoil.

“You paged me, Captain?” Seven reminded her, taking a step back.

Janeway lowered her hand, the feeling of being rejection stabbing at something secretly soft and tender in her soul. Annoyed at her own reaction, she set her jaw and nodded briskly. “Yes. I’ve gone over your latest scans of the upcoming sectors. No matter which route we take, and we’ll take that up on our meeting tomorrow morning, Lieutenant Torres will need your assistance in engineering, fortifying Voyager’s deflectors, shield emitters, and the warp core. Harry will join you intermittently. I want you to start right away by helping B’Lanna plan a duty roster for the engineer staff. This will mean more and longer duty shifts for all of us.”

“Very well, Captain. I will join Lt. Torres immediately.”

“Before you go…” Janeway couldn’t get over the fact that something seemed, well, off, with Seven. “Remember what I said, Seven. No matter what, I’m ready to listen…and help, if I can.”

Seven only acknowledged Janeway’s words with a polite nod. “I will be in engineering, then.”

Janeway slowly rounded her desk again and sat down. Glancing briefly at the stars creating lines outside her view port as Voyager hurled through space at warp six, she couldn’t shake the ominous feeling.

Xxxxx

Seven crawled further into the Jeffrey’s tube, pulling her tool box with her. It was highly illogical, but it was as if the tool box was twice as heavy as it normally was.  She had been in and out of one Jeffrey’s tube after another for the last eight hours, doing a job she was highly over qualified to do. Several of the crewmen assigned to engineering had become ill and B’Elanna was understaffed.

Seven blinked repeatedly. The last hour she had battled against a strange sort of visual impairment. Seven had heard about tunnel vision, but never experienced it until now. Not even her ocular implant seemed to function properly.

Seven reached the junction where the failing circuits needed replacing. She scooted close and removed the hatch. Unprepared for how heavy it felt, she nearly dropped it. She changed her grip quickly, and felt the sharp edge dig into her human hand, cutting her palm.

“Oh.” The pain wasn’t surprising. Unlike some rumors among the Voyager crew, Seven wasn’t immune to pain, but she was more resilient than most. To react this much to a mere cut was not like her. Clearly her fatigue made her more vulnerable.

B’Elanna to Seven of Nine.

“Seven here. Go ahead.”

I’m going off my duty shift now. How much do you have left to do?

“Merely one more set of circuits, Lieutenant.”

Good. Thanks, Seven. You’ve been a great help. I know you weren’t prepared to actually crawl through Jeffrey’s tubes.

“It needed to be done.”

So true. See you later, then. B’Elanna out.

Seven sank back against the wall, pressing her bleeding hand against her chest, while looking for a derma fuser in the tool kit. She knew that most of the crewmen kept personal ones, even if it the Doctor disapproved, for minor cuts and bruises. She was out of luck; apparently this crewman was minding the Doctor’s orders.

So tired she could hardly see, Seven closed her eyes and leaned her head against the wall behind her. It felt quite good, and she decided to rest for just a moment before she installed the last circuits.

Suddenly she flinched, nearly falling sideways, not sure what woke her, or how long she had been asleep. Her internal chronometer must be malfunctioning, she decided, as it would suggest that four hours had passed since she cut her hand. She examined her palm and realized the cut was deeper than she thought.

“Seven! Are you there?” A distinct female voice, easily recognizable as Captain Janeway’s called out from a distance. “I see a light, Tuvok. I think she’s up there. Seven, are you all right?”

“I…” Seven coughed, appalled at how weak her voice sounded. “I am…not well, Captain,” she managed to reply.

“I can’t hear you, Seven, but don’t worry. I’m on my way.”

Xxxxx

Janeway crawled toward the slumped form at the end of Jeffrey’s tube four. Seven sat cradling her right hand, and to Janeway’s dismay, coagulated blood covered most of it.

“Gods, Seven, what happened to you?” She turned to the Doctor who was right behind her. “Look at her hand.” She managed to squeeze by Seven to give the Doctor room to work.

“It’s a superficial cut,” he said.

“And?” Janeway didn’t like the deepening frown on his photonic forehead.

“That’s what worries me. Her nanoprobes should’ve taken care of this instantly. She’s also physically drained and her blood pressure is merely 90/55.” He ran the tricorder over Seven again. “As I thought. Her nanoprobes are dormant. Something is very wrong.”

“Seven? Can you hear me?” Janeway cupped Seven’s pale cheek and shuddered as the blond head lolled to her side.

“Captain?” Seven murmured and opened her eyes. “I apologize. I am not well.”

“It’s all right. We’ll get you to sickbay and the Doctor will figure out what’s going on.”

“Do you think you can move, Seven? The computer is having a problem locking on to your comm badge in this part of the ship.” The Doctor administered a hypospray. As soon as we’re outside in the corridor, we’ll initiate a site-to-site transport.”

“I will attempt my best effort.” Seven wobbled as she tried to crawl. Janeway quickly wrapped her arm around Seven’s waist, holding on to her as she crawled side by side.

“There you go. You’re doing fine.” Janeway steadied Seven as the Doctor opened the hatch leading to the corridor on deck eleven. “Damn, there she goes!”

Seven staggered to the side and fell, pinning Janeway to the wall as the captain tried to keep her upright.

“Computer, site-to-site transport of Seven of Nine, the Doctor, and myself to sickbay.” Janeway held on firmly to Seven who was starting to slip.

Initiating.”

Janeway felt herself rematerialize and to her surprise, the computer had transported her and Seven directly onto the main biobed. Seven was lying half on top of her, and Janeway was afraid to let go of her, in case she fell onto the floor.

“It’s okay, Captain, you can let go. We’ve got her.” Tom Paris’ voice, for once without its usual mirth, spoke close to them.

“All right.” Janeway slipped out from underneath Seven and grimaced as she felt a group of muscles in her back protest against having crawled in Jeffrey’s tubes, and then being squeezed by Seven’s much heavier body. “All right, Doctor. Report.”

“As I said,” the Doctor said smartly, “her Borg implants, her nanoprobes, and her cortical node, are more or less dormant. She’s depleted, which would suggest that her alcove has not been able to sustain her lately. We’re going to have to perform a diagnostic of it to be sure, but I think my deduction is a pretty safe bet.”

“Very well. I’ll have Harry do it. B’Elanna has her hands full in engineering.” Janeway regarded the pale face of the woman who had acted so defiantly in her ready room last time they spoke. “So, what else can we do?”

“She needs nourishment. She needs rest. Frankly, she needs what any human needs who doesn’t have Borg technology throughout their system.”

“I do not want to remain here.” Seven fought to sit up.

Knowing how stubborn her astrometrics officer were, Janeway placed an arm around Seven’s shoulder and helped her up. “You have to stay here until you feel better.”

“You heard the Doctor. I need sustenance and rest. I do not have to be here to eat and sleep. I can do that in Cargobay Two.”

“That’s hardly a restful environment,” Janeway objected. “People come and go there all the time. When you regenerate, you are oblivious to it—“

“I am not.”

“What?”

“I am not ‘oblivious’ to it. When I regenerate, I am fully aware of crew members entering and exiting. You often come to keep me company, for instance.”

Janeway froze. “Oh.” Seven knows?

“Still, the captain is right. You need calm and restful surroundings, with a replicator handy.” Tom spoke gently. “We have to figure out where to set up your own quarters until the Doctor and Harry have figured out how to…eh…repair your systems.”

“There’s only one viable solution.” Janeway spoke hastily, perhaps so she wouldn’t chicken out. “I don’t think Seven should stay anywhere alone when she’s this vulnerable. She will stay with me.”

Xxxxx

Seven heard the voices floating around her. The Doctor, Captain Janeway, and later Tom Paris, they all seemed concerned. After a while, Seven realized they were worried about her. She couldn’t understand why, at first, until she remembered her malfunctioning alcove. Or perhaps it is my Borg implants that are causing this?

“Seven? Can you hear me?” Janeway sounded closer and slowly, Seven opened her eyes. Her field of vision filled with auburn hair, blue-gray eyes, and the elegant features of Voyager’s captain.

“Yes.”

“Are you in pain?”

“No.”

“The Doctor injected you with medication and something he hoped would resurrect your nanoprobes, but so far they remain dormant. He’s going to set up an intravenous nutrition infusion and then I’ll come back and take you home.”

“Home?” Seven tried to figure out what Janeway meant. She was home, wasn’t she. Aboard Voyager. “Elaborate.”

“Oh, right.” Janeway’s cheeks colored faintly. “I mean, I’m taking you back to my quarters. You need a place to rest and get used to sleeping and eating the way your body was meant to originally.”

“Your quarters, Captain?” Seven cleared her throat. “I do not wish to impose. I can remain in Cargo—“

“No, Seven. That’s not an option. My quarters are the largest on Voyager, and you’ll have them to yourself some of the time.” Janeway took Seven’s human hand, turning it over to inspect her palm. “I’d be happy to have some company, so don’t think you’re imposing. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Very well. Thank you, Captain.” It was far easier to give in, which spoke more of her fatigue than of anything else, Seven thought. The idea of staying with Janeway, sharing her private time, made her nervous and also instilled a foreign feeling of something that made her tremble.

“You’re welcome. I’ll be back in an hour, Seven. Try to get some sleep.”

Seven nodded and closed her eyes. The voices she had heard before engaged in conversation at a distance, and it was oddly reassuring to hear the familiar voices talking. Suddenly a soft hand stroked her forehead, and for a moment she thought it was her imagination. A soft voice whispered in her ear, making her tremble even more as Janeway’s unique scent wafted over her.

“You’ll be fine, Seven. Sweet dreams.”

Xxxxx

Seven refused to waste ship’s resources on another site-to-site transport. Janeway tried to convince her that she needed to conserve energy until her systems had stabilized or Harry Kim had fixed her alcove, but Seven was her usual stubborn self.

“All right,” Janeway muttered. “I’ll walk with you.”

“I can manage. I am familiar with the location of your quarters.” Seven squared her shoulders and clasped her hands behind her back.

“I’m sure you do, after all our philosophical discussions.” Janeway knew she sounded curt, but her concern for Seven caused her frustration to grow.

“Exactly.”

They left sickbay, ushered by a fidgety Doctor, who offered to escort them as well. Seven declined, which Janeway was oddly grateful for.

“You’re not going to object using the turbo lift, are you?” Janeway joked, trying to lighten the mood as they made their way through the corridor, nodding to occasional crew members.

“No. I do not wish to brave the Jeffrey’s tubes quiet yet.” Seven glanced at Janeway. “You’re being facetious.”

“I am.” Janeway had to smile at Seven’s barely masked exasperation. “Here we are then.” They had reached the turbo lift, and stepping inside, Janeway suddenly felt it was far too small for the two of them. This was of course ridiculous, since a turbo lift could transport several people comfortably. Now the air in the lift seemed thick and humid, and Janeway had to control the urge to have the computer run a diagnostic on the life support system.

“I wish to return to my duties as soon as possible, Captain,” Seven said. At first glance, she looked her normal self, but it was obvious to Janeway, perhaps since she knew Seven so well, that she was not. Small tremors reverberated through Seven’s body, and her alabaster skin was even paler than usual. Her eyes seemed duller, and the human one was still bloodshot.

“I know you do, Seven. Believe me, I’m the first to understand how you feel. The Doctor wants you to find a routine that works first. We still don’t know why your alcove rejects you. Harry Kim can’t find what’s wrong with it. All scans and diagnostics come back flawless.”

“I am aware of this. I have read the reports.”

“You have? I thought you actually rested in sickbay?”

Seven had the good taste to blush faintly. “I woke up and the Doctor was off line. I…I was bored.”

Janeway regarded Seven closely. “And a little afraid?”

“No.” Seven relented. “Perhaps. A little.”

“Who can blame you?” Janeway stepped out of the turbo lift at deck three, waiting for Seven to join her. “Now, I want you to regard my quarters as our quarters. There isn’t anything you can’t use or look at. We know each other quite well, and I have nothing that is ‘off limits’ in there. Feel free to rummage through the cabinets and the closets.” She smiled at Seven’s baffled look.

“Why would I go through your personal affects?” Seven frowned.

“Human curiousity?”

“I think not.”

“All right. Feel free to disregard any of my things, then.” Janeway stopped at the door. “Computer, allow Seven of Nine access to the captain’s quarters, via voice command or via code.”

Seven of Nine, please enter personal code to the captain’s quarters.

Seven hesitated and for a moment, Janeway thought the tall ex-Borg was blinking away tears, but then she punched in a series of commands.

“Am I going to be able to enter after my duty shift is over, or am I going to have to decipher a Borg algorithm?” Janeway asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You cannot be too safe with security codes…ah…you are being facetious again.” Seven looked as if she was debating her captain’s taste in humor.

“I am, and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t tease you.”

They entered the captain’s quarters and Seven stopped just inside the door, taking them in as if she saw them for the first time.

“What’s wrong, Seven?”

“I am uncertain. I am supposed to stay here to learn to develop a human sleep pattern. I wonder if attempting sleep on the couch will make it impossible.”

“You’re not sleeping on the couch!” Janeway took Seven by the hand, not really thinking about it, pulling her toward the bedroom. “Here. Look. Maintenance couldn’t fit two twin beds, but they managed to install a queen size bed. This way we can share without crowding each other. I hope you don’t mind.” It dawned on Janeway that she had relied on the idea that Seven was so matter-of-fact about things. Perhaps it had been too presumptuous to think she would just accept it, no questions asked.

Xxxxx

“I think this will make sleeping in a reclined position much easier. Thank you.” Seven’s voice hardly carried, and she cleared it, feeling self-conscious because of her own weakness. “I…I was concerned.”

Looking relieved, Janeway returned the squeeze. “I sort of guessed. Want me to replicate you something to eat before I return to the bridge?”

“Eh. No, thank you, Captain. I don’t require any nutrition at this point.” Seven didn’t feel up to trying out Janeway’s infamous replicator attempts just yet.

“Really? Oh, well, perhaps later this evening. I’ll be back in a four hours. Sleep tight.”

“Thank you,” Seven replied since Janeway clearly was waiting for some sort of response. “I will attempt my best effort.”

“You always do.”

“Do not let me keep you, Captain.” Seven took a step toward the bed, but suddenly the idea of laying down on Janeway’s bed felt so intimate, and almost taboo. She stopped and looked uncertainly at the bed and then back to Janeway.

“What’s wrong? Want me to tuck you in?” Janeway stepped up to Seven and placed a hand against the small of her back.

Seven knew her some of her nanoprobes were dormant and a small number of them resurrected by the Doctor, and yet she could not understand why Janeway’s touch would make her tremble.

“You must be exhausted.” Janeway misinterpreted Seven’s reaction and guided her resolutely toward the right side of the bed. “Here. Sit. Let me help you get these boots off. She knelt in front of Seven, inadvertently creating a ‘déjà vue’. Suddenly Seven was back in the Delta Flyer, scared, lonely, and leaving Voyager because of a perceived conspiracy. Janeway helped her get rid of her mind ghosts then, and now she unbuckled Seven’s boots, pulling them off. Her hands were firm, but gentle and warm when they rubbed against Seven’s feet. She could not remember anyone caressing her lower extremities—ever. It felt so good, she wished Janeway could stay and continue this connection.

“There. Up you go.” Lifting Seven’s feet, Janeway helped her to lie down and took a blanket from a chair by the view port. She tucked it around Seven’s trembling body. “Computer. Raise temperature two degrees Celsius.”

Affirmative. Temperature set to twenty-four degrees Celsius.

Janeway leaned over the bed and placed a quick kiss on Seven’s forehead. “If you can’t get warm, just set the temperature higher. I don’t mind.”

“Yes, Captain.” In total shock at Janeway’s tender gesture. Was it customary to reciprocate, or should she just lie still, and perhaps thank the captain? This sounded odd to Seven, surely you should not thank anyone for showing you affection? As for the reciprocating part, Seven did the next best thing. Raising her human hand, Seven cupped Janeway’s cheek and brushed her thumb across her lips.

Xxxxx

Janeway’s breath caught on her throat only to gush out a moment later. Seven’s innocent touch, the feeling of her hand against Janeway’s face and her fingers against her lips, sent tremors through her. She tried her best to cover up her reaction.

“Do you think you’ll be comfortable like this?” Janeway asked, relieved at how casual she managed to sound.

“I will. Our bed is     quite sufficient.”

“Oh. Good.” Our bed? Janeway groaned inwardly at the images her mind conjured up. She was used to harnessing her libido whenever she thought of, or was talking to, Seven. It seemed impossible now when Seven was actually touching her in a way Janeway never had thought would ever happen. “Try to get some rest.”

“Thank you.” Seven closed her eyes with a small sigh, making Janeway realize just how tired she was.

Back on the bridge, the senior crew were all assembled, clearly doing everything to look busy at their respective duty stations. Even Neelix were there, handing out something to eat from a tray.

“What’s this?” Janeway asked, taking a small roll. She nibbled it, and found it to be quite tasty.

“A new recipe,” Neelix said, beaming. “I came upon a merchant a while back who sold some of the indigenous spices from the Walahar system. Since we’re leaving it for the next sector, I figured it was appropriate to try them out. And by the way, how’s Seven doing, Captain?”

The not-so-subtle change of subject spoke volumes and so did the way the rest of the senior staff stopped what they were doing to listen to her reply.

“Seven’s resting,” Janeway said lightly. “She’s rather tired still, but doing better.”

“I’m delighted to hear that. Most of all, I think Seven’s happy that she’s in your tender loving hands.” Neelix patted Janeway on her arm.

A quick peek at the others confirmed that had especially noticed the ‘tender loving hands’ part. Chakotay seemed engrossed by his computer console, and Tom Paris had quickly swiveled forward on his chair, consumed by punching in commands onto the helm station.

“You have the bridge, Chakotay,” Janeway said calmly, not about to allow herself to blush. “I’ll be in my ready room.” Walking toward it, she found herself wishing her shift was over so she could return to her quarters. Sometimes she dreaded going back to her solitary existence in the Captain’s Quarters, and she would work overtime hours on end just to ward off the loneliness.

A few hours later, Janeway’s shift was almost over and she had made sure she had read every report submitted by the different departments aboard Voyager at least twice. She glanced at her chronometer and exited the ready room the second her shift ended. Chakotay got up from the command chair and handed it over to Harry Kim. Joining her in the turbo lift, Chakotay turned to her before issuing the command to set it in motion.

“Care to join me in the mess hall for dinner?” he asked.

“Oh. Thank you for asking, but I better have something in my quarters. Seven will need something to eat by now, and the Doctor wants me to supervise her eating habits initially.”

“Of course. A rain check?”

“Absolutely. Computer, deck three.”

To Janeway’s surprise, her quarters were dark. Concerned that Seven was still sleeping, she hurried toward the bedroom. She stopped in the doorway, blinking as she tried to get her eyes to adjust to the darkness only illuminated by the star light coming from the view ports. She still couldn’t make out the form on the bed.

“Computer, lights on ten percent.”

The muted light came on instantly, and she stared at the bed. Seven wasn’t there.

Xxxxx

“Seven?” Worried now, Janeway opened the door to the ensuite bathroom, but it was empty as well. Frowning, Janeway raised the illumination to forty percent. She went out into the living room area, but it was just as empty.

“Computer, locate Seven of Nine.”

Seven of Nine is in the captain’s quarters.

“What?” Janeway turned around and went back into the bedroom. Struck by an idea, she rounded the bed. A curled up form sat on the floor in the corner. “Oh, Seven.” Janeway sank to her knees next to her and felt her cheek. To her relief, Seven was cool and dry, and her breathing even. “Why are you on the floor?” Janeway murmured and cupped her chin.

Seven’s eyes fluttered open and she gazed at Janeway, looking dazed. “Captain?”

“You startled me,” Janeway said. “I couldn’t see you over here in the corner.”

“I am sorry. I was hallucinating and it was unsettling.”

“Hallucinating? Have you hailed the Doctor?” Janeway was about to tap her comm badge, but Seven took her hand and stopped her.

“I do not think it warrants his presence. I believe they are not uncommon among humans who sleep normally.”

“Sleep?” Janeway tried to piece together Seven’s words. “You mean you had a nightmare?”

“Yes.” Seven shuddered, but rose from the floor. She sat down on the side of the bed, her hands fidgeting, which was definitely not like Seven.

“Nightmares are something that comes with normal sleeping, yes.” All Janeway could think of was to comfort Seven. She sat down next to Seven, taking both her hands between her own. “They can be scary.”

“Somehow I knew they did not display reality, but there were parts of the nightmares which were most unsettling.”

“Want to tell me about them? Sharing what the dreams were about sometimes helps, you know.”

“I…I was on the Borg sphere again. You came to save me, and you were successful in freeing me from the Borg queen. When Tom Paris beamed us back to the Delta Flyer, you didn’t materialize next to me. Instead you remained on the Borg ship as they opened a subspace conduit. And you were gone…” Seven pulled her hands back, as if suddenly self-conscious about telling Janeway the content of her nightmare.

“I’ve had that dream myself, quite a few times,” Janeway said, not wanting Seven to feel alone.

“Of you being marooned on a Borg cube?” Seven’s eyes widened.

“No. About you being taken by the Borg.” Janeway realized how passionately she’d spoken and managed to smile. “You see. Even in dreams, great mind think alike.”

“So it would seem.” Seven relaxed marginally. “What time is it, Captain. I find it very difficult to have to repeat this question over and over again, now that my internal chronometer is offline.”

“It’s almost eight pm. If you rather have some of the mess hall food, I can page Neelix, but I thought I’d make some dinner. If you join me and watch me when I program the replicator, will that make you feel safe enough to try my cooking?”

Seven smiled. A faint stretching of lips, but it was indeed a smile. “I will supervise, Captain.”

Xxxxx

Seven turned on her left side, feeling wide awake and not in the least bit ‘sleepy’. In fact, she was not quite sure what feeling ‘sleepy’ meant, except for the outward symptoms of rubbing your eyes, yawning, and slumping sideways. Naomi Wildman, Voyager’s only child crewmember, frequently displayed this, but Seven had yet to rub or yawn.

The captain shifted and rolled over on her back, ending up right next to Seven. Not wanting to crowd Janeway, Seven tried to back up, but the queen size bed did not allow for much maneuvering. When Janeway began to move onto her side toward Seven, she suddenly found herself with her arms full of a sleeping, warm, and surprisingly soft starship captain. Seven’s first response was to wake Janeway and point out the fact that she was invading Seven’s sleeping space, but she knew the captain had worked well into the late hours, and then it had taken her a long time to fall asleep. She loathed to disturb her. Perhaps if she was patient, Janeway would soon roll the other way?

Instead, Janeway became increasingly heavier and buried her face into Seven’s neck, something that caused Seven’s skin to create what Naomi Wildman called ‘goose bumps’.

“Captain?” Seven was beginning to panic at her body’s unexpected reactions. Her stomach clenched, and it was becoming harder to breathe.

“Mm.” Janeway circled Seven’s waist with her arm and nuzzled the side of her neck.

To Seven’s horror, she felt small droplets of perspiration form at her temples. Heat came in waves, and the alien sensations were startling, since these functions had always been monitored and regulated by her nanoprobes and cortical system.

“Captain?” Seven raised her voice. “You are in my personal space.”

“Mm? Seven?” Janeway’s hand slid up, stopping abruptly just beneath her right mammary gland. “Seven! Oh, Gods, I’m sorry!” She scrambled back to her side of the bed. “I…I wasn’t aware…”

Seven tried to make out Janeway’s expression in the dark room, but since her ocular implant was also off line, she had to try and interpret the captain’s voice. Janeway sounded mortified, and Seven was filled with conflicting emotions. Part of her actually missed Janeway’s closeness, and she also wanted to erase the pain in her voice.

Xxxxx

Janeway looked at Seven, trying to decipher her expression. Her ice blue eyes roamed Janeway’s body as if she was trying to figure out her own mystery.

“I’m sorry,” Janeway repeated. “I must’ve been dreaming. I’m not used to sharing a bed with anyone. It’s been a long time.”

“I have never shared a bed with anyone. As far as I recollect.” Seven sounded oddly wistful. “It was not unpleasant.”

“Er…I’m glad. I think. I mean, I’m relieve you weren’t repelled by it.”

“Does that mean that you liked it as well?” Seven asked, and Janeway wondered if she realized how much her question gave away.

“It’s not for me to like or dislike,” Janeway stalled. “You’re here as my guest, and me crowding you in bed was not part of the deal.”

“I was unaware that there was a ‘deal’.” Seven frowned. “So, are you now going to return me to sickbay.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You are apparently displeased with the fact that you subconsciously wanted to be close, if not to me, than someone. I understand it if you think this arrangement will not work.”

“Wait a moment, Seven. I’m not going to ask you to return to sickbay. I want you here, where I can keep an eye on your progress. I want you to have privacy enough to learn to eat and sleep the human way.” Janeway scooted closer, not caring that she was dressed in her silky, pink nightgown, which spaghetti straps had a tendency to fall off her shoulders. “Believe me, Seven. I don’t want you to go.”

“I am glad.” Seven’s eyes darkened. “I do not think I would have been able to remain in sickbay or in cargo bay two, not as long as I am…like this.” She shuddered. “I do not enjoy these conflicting emotions.”

“Tell me about them.” Pushing a few more pillows up along the headboard, Janeway leaned against them and looked up at Seven.

Xxxxx

Seven tried to explain. “I miss my eidetic memory. I find myself struggling to remember simple words, basic mathematical algorithms. Then, I find that my years in the Borg collective are becoming blurred. Hazy. I must admit, it is soothing to not remember every single atrocity that I was part of.”

“Oh, Seven.” Janeway surprised her by taking her hand. “I never realized that your eidetic memory would have such consequences. It’s not humane for you to remember all that.”

“On the contrary, despite my human reaction, it is still vital that I do remember. I owe it to all those individuals whose lives I was part of stealing. They are entitled to being remembered.”

“You are one of them.” Janeway spoke softly. “You were taken as a little girl and put in a maturation chamber. You were among the innocents. What you did after that was forced upon you as certain as if they’d held a phaser to your head.”

“A flawed comparison. If anyone had threatened my life to coerce me to commit those crimes, I would have given my life, to avoid it. It is a moot point, but if given the chance, I would rather have perished.”

“Don’t say that.” A clear tear drop clung to Janeway’s eyelashes. “I don’t think I can imagine life without you.”

“That day might still come. We are not certain that this,” Seven gestured at her own body, “will work. My body might still be to injured by the Borg, to function without the nanoprobes. The Doctor can’t keep replicating them at the rate he has done. It is too much of a drain on Voyager’s energy reserve.”

“You leave that up to me. Don’t you think that every single member of Voyager’s crew would forfeit everything from holodeck privileges to replicated desserts, to keep you with us?” Janeway spoke passionately now, getting up on her knees. She took Seven by the shoulders. “We need you here, Seven, with us. I need you.”

“Captain?” Seven had to swallow against the now familiar thickening feeling in her throat. “I do not wish to die. I am not afraid of it, but I cannot deny that ever since my systems malfunctioned, I have given my existence a lot of thought.”

“And?” Janeway rubbed Seven’s shoulders, creating strange sensations along her arms.

“And I do not wish to be away from you. Ever.”

Xxxxx

Janeway saw the vulnerable expression on Seven’s face, something to unlike the normally stoic young woman, and her heart pounded hard in her chest.

“That’s why we need to keep you well.” Janeway spoke quietly, her vocal chords unusually weak. “I don’t know what I do without you here.” With me. The thought startled Janeway, making her remove her hands from Seven’s shoulders. She immediately missed the feeling of how Seven felt under her hands. Janeway had to force herself to not grab hold of Seven again. The large Starfleet issue sickbay sleepwear had slipped off Seven’s right shoulder, showing part of the Borg implant on her arm. Suddenly mesmerized, Janeway raised a hand and traced the star shaped implant with a gentle finger.

“I know. It is repulsive,” Seven said quietly.

“It’s not.” Janeway scooted closer, covering the implant with the palm of her hand. “It’s part of you. Nothing about you is repulsive or ugly.”

“No?” It wasn’t a coy question on Seven’s part. Instead, she sounded like she really needed Janeway to reassure her.

“No.” Janeway spoke firmly, unable to resist the urge to hold Seven with both hands. “You are beautiful.” She caressed Seven’s shoulder, breathless now at the feeling of Seven’s naked skin under her left hand. Slowly she cupped the back of Seven’s neck.

"Captain?" Seven looked at her with confusion mixed with something

"Shh." Janeway smoothed down Seven's hair. "Trust me, Seven. You're stunningly beautiful, but there's more to you than mere physical beauty. You're amazing. Smart. Resourceful. And very, very kind."

Seven opened her mouth as if to speak, but didn't make a sound. Janeway had never seen her look so vulnerable, and all she wanted was to hold her tight. She pulled Seven into her arms, rocking her gently.

Xxxxx

Seven tried to take all the sensations in, but failed. Not in her wildest dreams had she ever thought she would be in Captain Janeway’s arms, being held so tenderly in the night. She inhaled deeply. Janeway’s scent, a mix of fresh soap and a discreet flowery perfume, was enticing. Auburn locks tickled Seven’s cheek and she raised her hand and smoothed Janeway’s hair down.

“How are you feeling, Seven?” Janeway asked, her trademark throaty voice sending ripples of pleasure through Seven.

“I am not accustomed to being held, but it is most agreeable.”

“I think it’s agreeable to hold you, so that works out well.” Janeway had a smile in her voice.

“I…I never thought you would want to. You are a very tactile leader, but you rarely embrace anyone.” Seven considered her own words. “In public, that is.”

“I can’t go around hugging my subordinates while on duty, or otherwise.” Janeway sounded wistful. “I must confess that there have been moments when I’ve wanted to hold you…but I haven’t been able to.”

“Then why now?”

“Because I think you need it, and, to be honest, so do I.”

“Elaborate.” Seven pulled back a bit, so she could see the look on Janeway’s face.

“I’m worried about you. That’s one reason.”

“There are multiple reasons?”

“Oh, Seven.” Janeway made a sound that seemed to be something between a chuckle and a sob. “Yes. Multiple reasons. From a purely selfish point of view, holding you is very gratifying.”

Seven certainly felt the same way for being held, and now she raised her arms and wrapped them around Janeway. If being held felt so amazing, surely it would be twice as wonderful to hold Janeway back.

“Seven?” Janeway’s eyes grew wider as Seven began stroking her back.

“You are correct. It is most gratifying.” Seven tried to explain. “These are completely new emotions, and I have this strong urge to explore them.”

“What emotions are you talking about, exactly?” Janeway asked, sounding cautious.

“It is confusing, or, perhaps conflicting,” Seven said slowly. “I have a desire to embrace you, and it is creating a pain, here.” She motioned to her chest. “And then, the same desire, elevates my heart rate, my respiration, and other physical manifestations that I do not quite understand.”

“Physical manifest—oh…” Janeway took a deep breath.

“I would appreciate if you would help me understand, Captain.”

Seven tried to keep her voice level. She was strangely short of breath. Maybe Janeway could help her deal with these new, overwhelming emotions and reactions.

Xxxxx

Janeway struggled to wrap her brain around the fact that she had her arms full of one gorgeous, sexy, wonderful blonde…and that she’d never expected to ever hold Seven in such a manner. And certainly not while contemplating how to explain the facts of physical attraction. Janeway’s own heart was pounding painfully hard in her chest, and she was embarrassingly and acutely aware of her own arousal. Seven’s scent was enticing, clean, slightly metal tinged, which was curiously arousing in itself.

“Seven, I’m flattered that you’ve chosen to ask me about this, but I’m not sure I’m the best person for it.”

“Are you not my mentor, my friend?”

“Yes.” Somehow, Seven’s words stung. “Of course.” Janeway knew that was all she could ever be to Seven, or anyone else aboard Voyager. The loneliness this fact instilled was almost more than she could bear sometimes, but Janeway knew this came with the captaincy, with being in command.

“Why does this make you distressed?” Seven pulled back and looked at her. “I do not wish to be the cause of any negative emotions.”

“I’m not distressed because you’re my friend, Seven.” I’m sad because it’s all you can ever be.

“Then what is causing it?”

“Being the captain can sometimes be a very lonely position.”

Seven tilted her head, obviously considering this. “Are you lonely right now?”

“No.” Janeway had to smile at Seven’s matter of fact voice. “I’m far from lonely right now.” It was true, she thought. For once, she felt like she would be able to continue yet another day, tirelessly working to get her crew home.

“So, would I be correct if I suggest that us being in close proximity in this state of undress is beneficial for our emotional state?”

Gods, I walked right into that one!

Xxxxx

Seven looked expectantly at Janeway, who in turn seemed unable to remain stationary. The captain shifted and her facial capillaries created a pink hue on her cheeks.

“Oh, Seven, you have a way to put me on the spot, don’t you?” Janeway shook her head.

“Captain?”

“And yes, I admit that being this close to you, is beneficial to my emotional state.” Janeway sighed and leaned into Seven. “I know it’s not right. As captain, I’m supposed to be impartial. No crewmember should mean more to me than any other. But, truthfully, you do.”

Seven could hardly breathe. Just when she thought she was beginning to understand, Janeway said something that threw her off balance. “It is hardly a secret that you are my ‘favorite’, Captain,” Seven said shyly.

“What do you mean by that, exactly?” Janeway cupped Seven’s cheek, rubbing her thumb along her optical implant.

“I mean, you are the one.” Seven tried to explain, but the deepening frown on Janeway’s forehead showed she did not understand.

“The one?”

The one.” Seven took Janeway’s hand and pressed it against her cheek, and then her lips. She was not sure why she suddenly wanted to kiss Janeway, starting with her palm and then everything else.

Janeway gasped and her hand trembled against Seven’s lips. “Seven…”

Sliding her lips up along Janeway’s wrist, Seven reveled in the sensation. Not sure where the initiative came from, she allowed her tongue to taste the satiny smooth skin.

“Oh, Gods,” Janeway sighed.

“Captain…” Seven could not let go of Janeway. She nuzzled up along her arm until she reached the indentation at Janeway’s neck.

“You can’t keep doing that…and calling me captain…” Janeway held Seven’s head with both hands, but didn’t push her away.

“Kathryn?”

“Better.” Kathryn tipped Seven’s head back, looking quizzically at her. “Are you sure about this? About what you’re doing? And can you imagine how it feels to me?”

“Yes. Yes. And not entirely.”

Xxxxx

“Seven, you’re driving me crazy.” Janeway tried to explain. “Your touch…Remember, nobody’s touched me like that for years, and you…I never really dared to hope it would be you.”

“I have wished for this.” Seven spoke quietly. “Whenever you have touched me in passing, or to comfort me, I have wished for your touch to be…special.”

“How do you mean, special?” Janeway smoothed Seven’s long, blond hair back from her face and kept caressing her when that was done, unable to let go.

“I dreamed you would touch me because you wanted to, rather than because you thought I needed it. I wanted to reciprocate such a touch for the pleasure it gives, and not just for practical reasons.”

“So you think I’ve touched you for practical reasons only?” Janeway had to smile at Seven’s way of describing things.

“Yes. You have comforted me, bandaged me, repaired my systems. That is what I mean by practical.”

“And you want to be touched, this way?” Janeway wanted to make sure and slid her hands down, caressing along Seven’s neck and arms.

“That, and more.”

“More?” Janeway swallowed against the sudden dryness of her mouth.

“I know I would welcome your hands all over my body.” Seven moved one of her own hands in small circles on Janeway’s back.

“Oh, Gods.” Janeway moaned and pulled Seven into a firm embrace. “I’m not so sure it’s wise to unleash someone who hasn’t had a lover for years onto someone who’s innocent like you.”

“Elaborate.” Seven breathed faster.

“You’re not the only one who’s been daydreaming and thinking about what it would be like to…touch.” In fact, there had been times when Janeway had spent entire nights, sleeplessly tossing in bed, caressing herself, but pretending it was Seven’s hands on her, and Seven’s skin under her own feverish touch.

“I wish to find out.” Seven suddenly moved, placing Janeway on her back in the center of the bed.

Xxxxx

“Seven?” Kathryn gasped, her eyes a stormy gray as she looked wide-eyed up at Seven. Her auburn hair spread around her head on the pillow, she looked stunned, and at the same time, so beautiful, it made Seven’s heart ache.

“Kathryn, may I kiss you?” Seven was not sure if it was polite to ask, or if it was a romantic faux pas.

“I…I wish you would,” Kathryn whispered.

Relieved, Seven placed herself on Kathryn’s right side and rested her human hand on the slight roundness of her stomach. Kathryn was trembling under her hand and the tremors grew in intensity as Seven pressed her lips to Kathryn’s. The softness of her lips, and the experience of having Kathryn’s scent engulf her, seemed to weaken Seven. Her intention had been to quickly kiss Kathryn, a chance to fulfill a fantasy, but it had been a mistake. How would she be able to go back to being just Seven of Nine, astrometrics officer, and only that? Now that she knew the true bliss of Kathryn’s lips against her own, and Kathryn’s arms around her neck, how could she bare to not know that wonder ever again? Seven sobbed against Kathryn’s mouth, inadvertently opening her mouth.

Immediately, Kathryn’s arms tightened around her. She pulled Seven closer and used her tongue to part her lips. Seven willingly let Kathryn’s tongue in, eager to taste her, to imprint as many sensations as possible before Kathryn was bound to put a stop to this sensuous exchange.

“Mm,” Kathryn murmured, squirming beneath Seven who felt every curve of the smaller woman rub into her own. Suddenly she realized that her sickbay issued shirt had ridden up and two point six seconds later, Kathryn’s left hand caressed her skin down the small of her back.

Xxxxx

Janeway slid her hand up and down along Seven’s spine, reveling in the feeling of the smooth skin. When she reached the small of Seven’s back, her fingers grazed against scar tissue and a metal band. Seven flinched, which made Janeway pull her hand back.

“Did I hurt you?” Janeway asked worriedly.

“No. The area around my implants have become very sensitive since my cortical implant became dormant. I do not know why.” Seven took Janeway’s hand and placed it on her hip. “Do not cease your activities. Please.”

“If you’re sure…” Janeway scooted closer and resumed her caresses. She traced the metal band on Seven’s back, followed it around the curve of Seven’s hip and along her stomach.  The metal band ran along her rib case before it reconnected with her spin further up her back.

Seven was trembling now and holding on to Janeway’s shoulders with both hands.

“You can touch me too, you know,” Janeway whispered, amazed at her own words. If anyone had told her only hours ago that she’d invite Seven of Nine to caress her intimately, she would have suggested a trip to sickbay for being delusional. Now, her mouth dried at the thought of Seven’s hands against her skin.

“I wish to see you,” Seven said, lifting the edge of Janeway’s sleep shirt.

Xxxxx

“Seven!” Kathryn’s panicky voice made Seven hesitate. She reluctantly looked up from the tantalizing view of Kathryn’s thighs.

“Kathryn?”

“Seven. You can’t…I mean, I didn’t…I…I’m not…” Kathryn flung her hand up in an exasperated gesture. “I’m not wearing anything underneath!”

Seven knew she should let go of Kathryn’s sleep shirt, but as he brain processed the fact that Kathryn was naked underneath the soft fabric, she clung to it, wanting to rip it off.

“I never expected us to even be awake, least of all touch.” Janeway sighed.

“And you do not want me to see your naked body, or touch you?” Seven tried to understand as a sinking feeling in her midsection alerted her of pending disappointment.

“No. I mean, yes, I do!” The words rushed over Kathryn’s lips. She sent a glance toward the ceiling, muttering a profanity which Seven had never heard her use before. “Seven. I’ll try to explain, all right?”

“Yes?” Was this when Kathryn would backtrack and decide that Seven needed to call her ‘captain’ and only regard her as a mentor and occasionally a friend?

“Listen, darling,” Kathryn began, leaning her forehead against Seven’s shoulder. “You’re young, vibrant, and beautiful. I’m almost forty-five, and even if I’m in pretty good shape…I’m not young and certainly not beautiful in the way you are—“

“Excuse me, Kathryn, for interrupting, but are you trying to warn me of any physical imperfections?” Seven felt her heart thunder, a most unpleasant experience.

“I…I suppose I am.” Kathryn shrugged, giving a lopsided smile. “Guess even star ship captain’s have their insecurities.”

“So do I.” Seven closed her eyes briefly. “My body is full of scar tissue and metal implants and yet you call me vibrant and beautiful.”

“But you are!”

Seven decided that actions spoke louder than words. She clenched her fists around the hem of Kathryn’s shirt and pulled it up and over her head. She looked greedily at the shocked, and deliciously naked Kathryn. “And so are you.”

Xxxxx

Janeway gasped, but was too stunned to even consider covering herself. Seven was hovering above her, her eyes taking in the sight of Janeway’s nude body.

“This is highly unfair,” Janeway managed, her throaty voice even huskier than normal.

“I agree. It is easily rectified,” Seven said and swiftly tugged off her own shirt.

Janeway’s lungs caved in at the sight of the abundant curves. Full breasts with plump, pink nipples swayed free of the shirt, and the nearly impossibly narrow waist swelled out to curvaceous hips.

“Gods, I can’t believe this,” Janeway muttered, getting up on her elbows.

“You did state it was unfair that you were the only one in this state of undress.” Seven pulled Janeway up into a sitting position. “I cannot stop looking at you, Kathryn.”

“You and me both.” Janeway’s fingers itched to touch Seven’s pale skin. “I never would’ve guessed looking at you would make me feel like this.”

“Like what, Kathryn?”

“Ferocious.” Janeway spoke before thinking, but it was the truth.

“Really? My nakedness instills predatory feelings in you?” Seven didn’t look deterred. Instead she cocked her head as if she honestly considered what it might entail. “Could you demonstrate?”

“Demonstrate?” Janeway felt her cheeks warm.

“The ferociousness. Could you demonstrate how that makes a person act? I am fairly certain that you do not mean it literally.” Seven regarded her expectantly.

“Just so I understand what you’re saying, Seven. You want me to demonstrate what I mean by ferocious, here and now, with both of us naked.”

“Yes.”

Janeway drew a trembling breath and closed her eyes. “What…what if you don’t know me as well as you think you do?”

“I trust you with my life, Kathryn. And more?”

“More?” Janeway snapped her eyes open.

“Yes. I trust you with my heart.” Seven placed one hand on her chest, and one on Janeway’s. The touch burned her skin and made her forget any trepidation.

“Seven.” Janeway ached to press Seven down into the mattress and align their bodies, but her body seemed to know what was the right thing to do. She gently lowered Seven until she was reclining against the pillows. Tipping her head back with gentle fingers under Seven’s chin, Janeway wet her own lips with the tip of her tongue. “I think the correct approach right now, is to feel our way.”

“Elaborate.”

“By all means.” Janeway lowered her head and pressed her lips against Seven’s. She deepened the kiss right away, too eager to play any games. Seven seemed prepared somehow, because her tongue met Janeway’s with the same fervor. Janeway let her emotions guide her, and cupped Seven’s left breast, moaning into Seven’s mouth as she did.

“Mm.” Seven mimicked Janeway’s moan and arched into the caress.

“Good?” Janeway murmured as she nibbled Seven’s lower lip.

“Good. But inadequate.”

Xxxxx

“Inadequate?” Kathryn raised her head, her dark blue-gray eyes gazing down at Seven.

“Yes.” Seven pulled Kathryn closer. “I need full body contact. I need to feel that you are really here.”

“I am.” Kathryn aligned her body with Seven’s. “I’m right here.”

Seven shivered and wrapper her arms tighter around Kathryn. She had never thought the feeling of someone else’s skin against hers would feel so enticing, so overwhelming. Perhaps her former attitude had been too pragmatic? It was after all quite illogical that a mere touch could place a person in such a state of complete abandon.

Seven lowered her gaze and looked at Kathryn’s breasts. Kathryn’s hand were still massaging Seven’s, and now she was curious if it might feel as good to touch, as being touched.

“May I reciprocate your caress?” Seven asked.

“You can do anything you want.” Kathryn’s husky voice sent ripples down Seven’s spinal column. Her toes curled and the strange sensation made her want to devour Kathryn’s lips all over again.

Seven acted on impulse and rolled them. With Kathryn on her back again, Seven put her own weight on her left elbow. She let her right hand, the fully human one, descend on Kathryn’s breast, massaging it, and rolling it between her fingers. Soon Kathryn was gasping and whimpering, a new, utterly thrilling sound that Seven had never heard before.

“Seven. That’s enough to drive anyone crazy.”

“So you like this too?”

“I…I beyond like it. I love your touch. How did you learn to…oh!”

Seven had acted on impulse yet again, acting on the sudden urge to taste Kathryn’s skin. She lowered her head quickly and sucked Kathryn’s puckered, dark wine red nipple into her mouth.

“Ah…” Kathryn dug her fingers into Seven’s hair, tugging her head closer, pressing her mouth harder on to her breasts. “Oh, yes.”

Letting her mind race between options, Seven rapidly decided to go with her instinct. She began using her teeth, careful to not actually hurt Kathryn, but guessing that a tiny bit pain could be pleasurable too.

“Seven!” Kathryn moaned aloud, her voice a throaty growl. “I can’t wait to have you. I have to, darling. I want you so much.”

Xxxxx

Janeway was feverishly trying to harness her rampaging libido. She worried about scaring the living daylights out of Seven by being too aggressive, to pushy.

“I want to experience what you call lovemaking too.” Seven caressed Janeway’s breasts, massaging them with such passion, but also with obvious tenderness, or even reverence.

“I’m just afraid this is too much, too soon,” Janeway said, taking a deep breath. Her legs wanted to part as of their own volition, to make room for Seven’s silky thighs.

“You still harbor regrets, or doubts?” Seven stopped moving, and this made Janeway groan in frustration.

“No. Well, not on my part. I’m ready to roll you over and have my way with you and never look back.” Janeway acted since Seven was still immobile. She indeed rolled the surprised Seven onto her back, which put them precariously close to the edge of the bed. “I’m worried about you. I can’t help it. You’re…well, as far as I know, you’re innocent. I know you had a romance with Axum in Unimatrix Zero, but that’s was in another existence.”

“One which I only have scattered memories of.” Seven looked uncomfortable and displeased. “There is no comparison.”

“What do you mean?” Janeway tried to see behind Seven’s familiar haughty expression.

“Axum was a crush I went through, a friend I made in a make believe setting.”

“Don’t dismiss it so freely. In my opinion, from what I saw when I was there via Tuvok’s mind-meld, Unimatrix Zero may well have helped kept you sane. Your friendships and experiences there, with Axum and the others, kept you human enough to not be beyond help when I severed you from the Collective.”

Seven looked angrily at Janeway, but then her blue eyes became less icy and eventually regained their warmness. “You may ‘have a point’.”

“I may.”

Seven reached behind Janeway and stunned her by doing exactly what Janeway had wanted to do only moments ago. Spreading her legs, Seven reached around Janeway, cupped her bottom and pulled her in between her thighs.

“Oh!” The sensation of Seven’s damp tuft of hair against her own sex made Janeway’s skin tingle and her heart pound at the base of her throat.  Unable to stop herself, Janeway undulated softly against Seven, reveling in the feeling.

“Please, Kathryn, kiss me again…” Seven moved her hands and laced her fingers through Janeway’s hair. “Kathryn…Kathryn…”

Janeway couldn’t resist. She lowered her head, brushed her lips along Seven’s. With the tip of her tongue, she parted Seven’s lips and tugged gently at her bottom lip with her teeth. This seemed to make Seven tremble more, and one of her hands returned to Janeway’s bottom. She massaged it vigorously as she returned the kiss.

“It hurts, Kathryn,” Seven murmured against Janeway’s lips.

“What?” Janeway stopped kissing and moving. “What hurts, darling?”

“Between my legs. It is a very curious pain.”

“Have you ever had that happen before?” Horrified, Janeway tried to move away from between Seven’s legs.

“Yes. Not as much as now, but yes, I have felt this ache before.” Seven wrapped her legs around Janeway. “No. Do not move. It makes it worse.”

“When?” All sorts of terrifying ideas flooded Janeway’s imagination. She knew the Borg had violated Seven’s body in ways most people aboard Voyager didn’t realize, but she had never thought of the possibility of Seven experiencing pain in her genital area. “Can you show me? Describe it?”

“I can do both.” Seven allowed Janeway to sit up between her legs. Spreading her legs wider and pulling her knees up and out, she looked trustingly at Janeway while she pointed at her clitoris. “Right here. It aches quite badly.”

Xxxxx

"Oh, my," Kathryn breathed. "Seven..." She slowly laced her fingers through the soft curls between Seven's legs.

"Yes. There." Seven felt her legs begin to tremble at the careful caresses.

"You ache here?" Kathryn rubbed gently at the highly sensitive bundle of nerves located just inside Seven's folds.

"Yes." It was more of a sweet ache than real pain, but Seven did not know quite how to explain the difference. "Your ministrations are soothing it."

"So, this helps, you mean?"

Seven gasped. Kathryn now held the her clitoris in a firm grip between two of her fingers. "This is creating a new sensation."

"Painful?"

"No. Not painful. More like fearful."

"Fearful?" Kathryn frowned.

"What if you pinch me? What if you let go altogether?"

Kathryn's smile was slow and decidedly naughty. Small sparkles in her blue-gray eyes, half hidden behind unusually heavy eyelids, made it impossible for Seven to break eye contact.

"I would never let go and just leave you hanging, darling." Kathryn began moving the two fingers holding on to the sensitive ridge of nerves in small circles. "This feel good?" She leaned forward, whispering in to Seven's ears.

"Yes." Seven knew it was pointless to lie, which was not her habit anyway. Kathryn's hold of her clitoris was now creating a burning feeling between her legs. It spread rapidly throughout her system, and she wanted to undulate against the inisisting fingers. Slowly, she tried to move her hips in a circle, to increase the pleasure. Small fires erupted along her inner thighs, and she could feel it all radiating up into her midsection.

"You're so beautiful." Kathryn leaned on one elbow as she got even close to Seven. She cupped Seven's cheek with her free hand, and kissed her softly. "I never thought you could be more entrancing than you are on any given day. I was wrong. You're absolutely gorgeous when you're aroused and tousled like this. I never knew your hair was this long, and to see it down like that around your shoulders and spreading across the pillow...I never thought that would happen." Kathryn kissed Seven again, long and deep.

Seven had never thought she would be allowed to hold Kathryn's naked body like this. or that Kathryn would touch her like a lover. The thought made her wince, since she was not certain of the terminology and its correct application. "Kathryn," she murmured against the captain's mouth. "Kathryn, I must ask you something."

"Yes?" Looking drowsy, Kathryn gazed down at Seven, tumultuous emotions gathering in her eyes.

"I have to know. From now on, am I going to be your lover?"

Xxxxx

Seven looked nervously at Kathryn, suddenly regretting her question. What if Kathryn said no? What if this was what Tom Paris referred to as a ‘one night stand’, a term Seven had always found confusing, since it clearly involved mostly lying down.

“Seven.” Kathryn leaned on her elbows, her face hovering above Seven’s. “Are you asking me if I want to repeat this?”

No! Seven panicked, only able to stare up at Kathryn. Miraculously, Kathryn’s eyes softened, and she kissed Seven’s forehead gently.

“I want you to be my lover. I want you like this, always.” Kathryn kissed her way across Seven’s temple, down to her lips. “I want you to in my life as my girl. My best girl.”

“Your best girl?” Seven’s heart thundered as Kathryn’s kisses painted a hot trail down her neck and across her collar bones.

“My only girl.” Sounding out of breath, Kathryn cupped Seven’s breasts and kissed the rosy tips over and over.

Seven felt her nipples tighten and when Kathryn took one in her mouth and let her tongue work it feverishly, she could not keep from moaning out loud.

“Kathryn, I wish to be your lover…always.”

“You do?” Kathryn murmured around Seven’s nipple. “You sure?”

“I am certain. I…I love you, Kathryn.” Seven cupped Janeway’s shoulders and caressed down her arms.

Kathryn glanced up, her eyes now shiny. “Oh, Seven. I love you too. I’ve loved you for a long, long time.”

Seven knew she had to act, or she would self combust. Sitting up, she pulled Kathryn closer until the captain was straddling Seven’s lap. “I am glad you reciprocate my feelings. I feared…” Seven took a deep breath and tried again. “I feared you might just want me for tonight.”

“Tonight is only the beginning. We will find a way to fix your nanoprobes or a way for you to exist without them.”

“Right now, I am only concerned with how you taste and smell, Kathryn.” Seven slipped a hand between Kathryn’s legs, accidentally rubbing her wrist against her own sex while she fondled Kathryn.

“Oh.” Kathryn pressed her hips against Seven’s hand. “Oh, Gods, Seven. Please, go inside.”

Hoping she would do this the right way and not injure Kathryn, Seven pressed two fingers together and found Kathryn’s entrance. Tight, but very wet, it seemed to welcome her. Unprepared for how arousing being engulfed by Kathryn’s sensitive tissues would feel, Seven closed her eyes and buried her face in Kathryn’s hair. She moved her hand slowly, mimicking an undulating movement as she made love to Kathryn this way.

Kathryn moved her hips and pressed herself harder and harder against Seven’s hand. “M-more,” she managed throatily. “More!”

Adding a third finger, Seven reached for one of Kathryn’s hands and pushed it in between her legs. “I need your touch also. I ache for you. Touch me, Kathryn?”

“My pleasure.” Kathryn mimicked Seven’s actions and pushed a hand in between Seven’s slick folds. “Oh, you feel so good.”

“I am very lubricated,” Seven confessed.

“I can tell.” Kathryn moved her hand slowly, circling Seven’s entrance carefully, not entering. “This okay, darling?”

“I wish for you to go inside me as well.”

“If you’re sure…” Kathryn pushed inside, gently but without hesitation. “So hot. So incredibly sexy.”

“Deeper…”

Kathryn began pushing harder, all the time moving her own hips in the same rhythm.

Seven cupped Kathryn’s left breast, flicking the dark nipple with her thumb as she rolled it between her fingers. Kathryn’s soft whimper made it nearly impossible to breathe, but Seven doubled her efforts, kissing Kathryn again. She could feel an internal pressure build and her heart pounded as she struggled against it.

“Shh, Seven. It’s okay. Give in to it.” The tenderness in Kathryn’s voice, combined with the heat in her eyes, created yet another rush of moisture between Seven’s legs.

“I do not know how.” It was true. Everything inside Seven strived to control her rampaging emotions, yet she wanted nothing more than to give in to them. She leaned back against the pillows, pulling Kathryn with her. Suddenly her fingers were no longer buried inside her lover, and instead, Kathryn moved down her body, until her mouth found Seven’s aching sex.

“I’ll help you,” Kathryn said, pressing her mouth onto Seven’s clitoris. “Mm.”

Seven arched and cried out as Kathryn’s hot mouth began its assault to her sensitive tissues. Licking with abandon, she pushed Seven ahead of her, toward the unknown.

Just as Seven thought she could take no more, when she was certain she would incinerate, Kathryn crept up next to her, pushed deeper inside her and kissed her lips with so much tenderness, Seven slumped back. Wave after wave, an unimaginable pleasure permeated her system, spreading from her sex to her abdomen and her thighs. Seven’s nipples ached and added to the orgasmic bliss.

“Ah!” Kathryn suddenly tensed and pushed her sex against Seven’s thigh, over and over, and Seven wrapped her arms around her, holding on tight. “Seven! Don’t let go. Don’t ever let go. Seven…” Kathryn cried out and buried her face against Seven’s neck. “Oh, Gods, I love you. I love you so much.”

“I love you also. And I will not let go.” Seven was still reeling from the aftershocks of her own orgasm, and feeling Kathryn jerk against her added to her pleasure.

“Good.” Kathryn half sobbed, half chuckled against her neck. “I never saw this coming, no matter how much I wanted you and loved you.”

“I never knew either.” Seven yawned and closed her eyes as Kathryn slowly relaxed against her. Tired, she curled up and closed her eyes as Kathryn pulled the covers up over them.

“Go to sleep, darling,” Kathryn murmured. “You’ll be fine.”

“Yes. I will. We will.”

 

Epilogue

 

“You look stunning, darling, with or without it.” Janeway leaned against the doorframe to their ensuite bathroom, regarding her lover affectionately.

“It is making me uncomfortable. Like something is missing.” Seven frowned at her reflection in the mirror. She was dressed in a light-blue sparkly dress, and was adjusting a necklace, aligning it with the neckline of the dress.

“You just never expected to be without it. More than twenty years is a long time.”

“I suppose I also felt I deserved to be…branded.” Seven traced her left eyebrow where once her optical implant had been clearly visible. Now her face no longer displayed any signs of her being part of the Borg collective once. The starburst implant on her right cheek was also gone, and only a few dormant implants remained inside her, and the Doctor would soon be able to remove them completely.

Janeway frowned at Seven’s choice of words. “You don’t deserve to be branded. You were a victim of the Borg as much as anyone. No implant, visible or not, can change that.”  She hugged Seven from behind, wrapping her arms around her waist. “You’re a miracle. You’re representative of how a person can turn their life around and make a complete difference in many other lives. I’m a prime example. If it wasn’t for you, and your love, I wouldn’t be this happy. You’ve changed so much for me, especially.”

“Thank you, Kathryn. I suppose these times of self-doubt will continue to occur every now and then.” Seven turned around in Janeway’s arms. “I think we are late.”

“I don’t care.” Janeway looked up at Seven, feeling a wonderfully familiar and new surge of love at the sight of her.

“I think Neelix will be very disappointed if we miss his special Prixin dinner.”

“That’s the only reason I’m even contemplating leaving our quarters. It’s doesn’t matter that we’ve lived together for six months. I can’t get enough of you.”

Seven’s eyes glittered, suddenly filled with joy, rather than self-recrimination. “I feel the same way. I will make you a promise.”

“Yes?”

“If you agree to leave now and help Neelix create a memorable Prixin evening for the crew, I will make it up to you later.”

“You will?” Janeway heard her voice sink an octave.

“I will.” Seven bent her head, nibbled at Janeway’s earlobe for a moment before whispering, “I promise.”


 

The End