| Ch. 1-6 | Ch. 7-End |
Human Behavior by Julie
* * * * * *
If you ever get close to a human
* * * * * *
"Lieutenant Paris!" Janeway's voice blared over Tom's com badge. The sound echoed through the shuttlebay. Paris shuddered.
"My ready room, now," Janeway said.
"Just great," Paris tapped his badge to respond, but only received an empty chirp. Janeway had severed the channel.
"What'd you do this time?" said Ensign Harry Kim.
"Harry, sometimes, it's hard to narrow down the possibilities." Tom returned the spanner to its place in the toolkit. "We'll have to finish these upgrades to the flyer later."
"After your time manually cleaning out the plasma vents?"
"Very funny, Harry." Tom rushed out the door, cursing the fact that Janeway's anger always seemed inversely proportional to how close he was to her on the ship. Voyager wasn't large, but he couldn't be farther from the bridge than he was now.
* * * * * *
Janeway rubbed at her temple, while she waited for the object of her annoyance. The door slid open and Lieutenant Tom Paris entered. He didn't meet her eyes as he made his way to the front of her desk.
Janeway held the silence for a length, as Tom stood before her. Her eyes surveyed the man. She was sure it would make him uncomfortable, and she did not want Paris to be comfortable.
"Take a seat, Lieutenant." She waved her hand towards a chair.
Paris sat, as ordered. He gave her a grin.
She remained impassive, creating an unnerving silence for him to sit with. She sat forward in her seat, her left elbow resting on the top of her desk. Her thumb caressed the tips of her fingers as if she were determining the quality of a fabric. "Why do you think I called you here, Lieutenant?" Her voice was low, calm. The hypnotic movement of the fingers, the seductive voice, they were lures. Something she did to get her prey close, so she could snap without warning.
Paris watched Janeway's hand. "Captain, is it about my modifications to the Delta Flyer? Because, I had clearance–"
"No." She paused to savor his anxiety. "Try again." It brought a smile to her face to see him squirm. She wondered how many things Tom would confess; before she got the acknowledgment she wanted.
"I was on-time to my shift today, this isn't about that." He looked to Janeway. Not getting anything from her, his gaze fell.
Janeway had a fondness for Paris. She felt he was aware of this, and was trying to use it to his advantage. He was all big eyes and innocent looks. Janeway exhaled audibly. "This is a small ship, Mr. Paris–"
Janeway narrowed her eyes at Tom, and lowered her voice, "Lieutenant, you will find this will go much easier on you, if you do not speak until I finish." An eyebrow rose, daring him to speak.
Paris nodded. He frowned and drew back in his chair.
Janeway felt her temper rise. Can he really have no idea why I've called him here?
"On such a small ship news travels fast. You should know that nothing happens on Voyager that I do not hear about. You may think you have your secrets, Tom. But you do not. Eventually, it all comes to my ears." Janeway looked for challenge or disagreement in Tom's eyes.
Tom still seemed somewhat baffled, she continued. "For example, I was having breakfast this morning in the mess hall when I overheard crewmembers talking about an incident involving Seven of Nine and Lieutenant Chapman–"
Paris lifted his hand to signal he had something to say.
She had to smile at his limitations. She had known that he wouldn't be able to remain silent for long. "You may speak."
"That was something I had very little to do with. Seven was interested in dating, and the doctor was helping her. By the time I knew anything, those two were well into this plan. The doctor, he even had lesson plans set up for Seven."
Rapid justification turned to silence. Paris' eyes met Janeway's. "I– I really had nothing to do with Seven and Chapman. I think Seven picked Chapman, or the doctor helped her pick Chapman. I–"
Janeway raised her hand to quiet Paris. She decided that it would be best for all parties if she resumed her lead of the conversation. "This isn't about the date, Chapman, or the doctor. This has to do with you, Tom."
Paris brought his hand to chest and widened his eyes. "Me?" He drew back in his chair.
"Lieutenant," Janeway leaned in towards Tom. "I heard in the mess hall that you placed a wager on success of that date."
"Oh, I– well, I–" Paris smiled at Janeway. "I was just trying to make things interesting, you know, have a bit of fun." A small laugh punctuated his statement.
At that sound, Janeway felt the hold on her temper break. She rose from her chair and closed the distance between herself and Paris. She sat at the edge of her desk, crossed her arms and looked down on the man.
She observed her breathing in an attempt to contain her emotions. "A. Bit. Of. Fun." Each word was spoken in a lower tone, a hint quieter than the previous one.
Paris swallowed. His anxious smile was replaced with a look of grave attention. "I– I–"
But his demeanor quickly changed. "This is about gambling?"
A frustrated groan was the only response Janeway could manage. Even though her anger felt justified and clear, she could see that something was out of proportion about her reaction. She took a moment to contain herself.
It seemed Tom mistook her silence as further condemnation, he asked, "This isn't going to wind up with me in the brig, is it?"
Janeway stepped away from Tom and began walking about the ready room. "It isn't about gambling, Tom. And I am not about to punish you." She shook her head. "This is about the fallout from your little bet."
Tom remained silent as Janeway paced before him.
"This is not the way you should be treating a fellow..." She stopped mid-stride as she stumbled over the phrase "human being." Janeway instead finished her sentence with, "…crewmember."
Janeway returned behind her desk. "Think for a second about Seven's limited background with social situations. Now think about the doctor's origins, he is a medical hologram. Perhaps he has gone beyond his programming, but we both know he is not a fit to be tutoring anyone on dating." Her hand gestures, like music, underscored her points.
Janeway could see Tom was finally realizing why he was here. His mouth opened, not to speak but in an expression of remorse.
Anger curbed by the change in Tom's response, Janeway finally found herself able to express herself. "When you knew Seven was being coached in dating, by the doctor of all people, why weren't you concerned? Instead of being compassionate, you bet on her failure."
"Come on, she's fine. She's not the one with torn ligaments. You did hear about that, right? While dancing, Seven tried to spin Chapman, the poor fellow wasn't prepared–"
"That is not what I'm talking about. This is about Seven's feelings."
Paris's eyebrow raised and his mouth opened.
Janeway suspected he was about to say that Seven did not have feelings. She had to admit that she harbored the same doubt about the young woman. She fought to keep the thought from reaching her expression. His behavior towards Seven was inexcusable, and she did not want to show the slightest hint of support for it. She shot him a stern look.
For once Paris's brain worked quicker than his mouth. He didn't say what she expected.
"I was inconsiderate."
"Yes, you were. The doctor was as well. He is the next person that will be sitting in that chair." Janeway was pleased that Pairs had dropped the defensive humor and quick talking.
"The doctor?" Paris pointed to Janeway. "He'll tell you that I had nothing to do with Seven dating."
Just when she felt he had heard her, he went back to the classic Tom Paris 'not me' defense. "You may go now," she said, bringing her hand to her neck to massage it. She wanted to order him to apologize to Seven, but she couldn't order people to act with compassion or sensitivity.
"Thank you, Captain." Paris rose from his chair.
"Tom," Janeway said, stopping him before he made it to the door. "Please, just use your head around Seven. She is new to individuality. Try and think of that next time something like this arises." She gave the man a small smile. She knew that Paris had not been malicious in his treatment of Seven, just somewhat insensitive.
"I will, Captain. I guess I just wasn't thinking." He nodded to Janeway, and exited the ready room.
Janeway sighed. She had a feeling Paris would be more careful around Seven. It would probably be motivated by his desire to avoid future meetings with the Captain rather than concern for Seven.
She picked up a pad on her desk and looked to see what she had scheduled for the rest of her shift. Two screens into her to-do list she found some reports that would keep her occupied for an hour or so. This would give her a much-needed break before she interrogated anyone else.
There were times Janeway found her anger to be useful, a tool that helped her quickly get what she needed from an interaction. But then there were days like today, when it felt more like a flaw than an asset, something she had to contain in order to command effectively and fairly.
Janeway wondered why the bruised feelings of her Astrometrics officer had triggered this much emotion. You know why, Kathryn. She chose to ignore that inner-voice and began to bury herself in an engineering report.
* * * * * *
At the close of her shift, Janeway put away the pad she was working on. She felt grateful that her talks with Chapman and the doctor had been smoother than her morning with Tom. Janeway was quite amused when the doctor detailed some of his intricate lesson plans for Seven. She gathered that his lessons were somewhat remote and clinical, but was grateful that the doctor had taken such an interest in Seven's development. He was remorseful about his bet with Tom, and understood the repercussions.
Chapman was shaken, but recovering from his date. Janeway found him to be a nice man, and found no fault with his behavior towards the young woman.
A hunger pang alerted Janeway that she had skipped lunch. She decided a trip to the mess hall would nourish her and the social hum of the dinner crowd would be a nice contrast to the day she had spent interrogating people.
At least that was what she had hoped. Janeway was displeased to find that people were still buzzing about Seven's date. Too distracted by overheard conversations to take pleasure in her surroundings, Janeway quickly finished her meal.
* * * * * *
Efforts to unwind in her quarters were not meeting with much success. Janeway tossed the book she had been reading onto the coffee table. A growl accompanied the thud of the volume. As she had been during her shift, she was unfocused and irritated. She sat forward in her chair and rubbed her eyes. She began to examine her frustration, for she felt she was not going to be able to relax until she got to the root of it.
The shockwaves of Seven's arrival aboard Voyager still battered her, so it didn't take Janeway long to trace her difficulties back to Seven. But she did note a new twist to her frustration; she was concerned for Seven, as opposed to being concerned with Seven.
Eyebrows quirked at the realization. Is the adversarial nature of our relationship changing?
Janeway couldn't help feeling this was progress. It was a relief to find a positive aspect to a day that had seemed to be no more than a struggle with her combative and dominating side.
Leaning back into her chair, Janeway thought back to the start of her involvement with Seven. It was now well over a year since, against the judgment of her first officer, Chakotay, she had severed Seven's connection to the Borg and made her a member of Voyager.
Seven's adjustment had been difficult. At her first opportunity, Seven attempted to return to the Borg. She publicly fought with Janeway. Members of the crew did not trust the woman. But over time, Seven had successfully taken on Astrometrics duties, and she was progressively becoming accepted as a member of Voyager.
Janeway had grown fond of supporting the development of the inexperienced woman. Being a mentor to Seven was one of the few luxuries she allowed herself aboard Voyager.
It then occurred to her, she hadn't spoken to Seven. "Oh damn." She shook her head. "Seven." Sometimes in her eagerness to champion a person she'd rush to confront those at fault. In her passion for justice, she would sometimes neglect the person she felt she was protecting.
"The time is 02:15."
She pursed her lips as she briefly considered a talk with her at this late hour, but she decided against it. Such a volatile relationship she had with Seven, yet Janeway was almost always eager to spend time with the woman.
The Captain began preparing for bed. She collected her coffee cup and took it to the replicator.
Janeway could claim that she invested such time with Seven because her Borg knowledge was a tactical asset to Voyager. That this was her reason for trying to unearth the human buried under Borg conditioning. But Seven's skill set was not what motivated Janeway's interest in the woman. There was something much bigger that drew her.
The Borg had stolen so much from so many species. They destroyed not just societies and cultures, but entire worlds. Janeway wanted just one individual back. It was a small thing that would symbolize the unbreakable nature of humanity. She wasn't sure if it was her time as a prisoner of the Cardassians, or just an innate part of her nature that wanted to rekindle the soul in Seven. But there it was, this challenge that pulled her towards the woman. Here was Janeway's chance to right a wrong, a chance to create instead of destroy.
This opportunity deviated from the harsh path a life in Starfleet had outlined. Janeway felt a resonance of sorrow. Memories of the death of her father and her first fiancé, Justin, resurfaced. She was reminded of the distance, both mental and physical, which separated her from her current fiancé, Mark.
She returned to the coffee table to collect her book. It wasn't likely that the epic poem would tempt her, but she took it to her bedroom out of habit.
A crumpled version of Janeway waited for her within the bathroom mirror. She gave the woman a weary smile and prepared for bed.
As she washed her face, a Starfleet survival class came to mind. One exercise involved starting a fire outdoors, in a damp environment. The trick was to find lower branches on the trees, ones that were protected from the rain. It wasn't just that they were shielded from the rainfall. Most of these branches were dead, for they were also kept from sunlight by the larger upper branches. They were easier to ignite than live wood.
She likened that lesson to what she found in Seven. When Seven showed interests in areas that the Borg had deemed irrelevant, it was like finding primed dry kindling on a hopeless rainy day. It made Janeway feel triumphant; it reinforced her belief that it wasn't foolish to keep trying when situations seemed impossible. Even in devastation one could find fuel for optimism.
Seven had been an individual and Janeway would make sure she would be one again. What could be more exciting than this potential?
No wonder she had wanted to throttle Lieutenant Paris. Coming back from a diplomatic mission to find Paris betting that Seven's forays into dating would fail, was akin to finding him dampening her carefully gathered kindling.
Janeway worried that her hopes for Seven's development had influenced her command today. She flagged this area as one to watch, then drifted to sleep.
* * * * * *
It was shaping up to be a quiet day for the alpha shift. Janeway sat in the Captain's chair, her fingers drummed on the armrest. Voyager wasn't demanding vision or courage today, just a warm body in the command chair.
This seemed an ideal time to talk with Seven. Janeway rose from her seat. She was almost to the turbolift before she dismissed herself from the bridge. "I'll be in Astrometrics. You have the bridge, Commander."
She caught the knowing smile Chakotay aimed at her. Janeway was familiar with this particular smirk. He thought she was off to discipline Seven for some infraction, and he was entertained by how often she had to confront her Astrometrics officer.
In order to amuse Chakotay, Janeway rolled her eyes and gave him a dramatic look of exasperation.
As the doors of the turbolift hissed shut, she could hear Chakotay's soft chuckle.
* * * * * *
Janeway took a moment to let her eyes adjust to the change in brightness. The sole illumination for the room came from images on the large screens of Astrometrics.
While she acclimated, she noted the subtle power struggle materializing in the room. She had entered the room and was not addressing Seven. This was in reaction to Seven's behavior, for Seven had not raised her head to recognize that the Captain had entered the room.
Janeway placed her hands on her hips, and waited for Seven's acknowledgement.
Seven turned towards Janeway, but not enough to meet her eyes. "Captain, do you require assistance?"
On a stressful day, this type of discourtesy irritated Janeway. But other times, like today, she found some pleasure in Seven's willfulness. Not many aboard Voyager could stand silence combined with this posture from Kathryn Janeway, most found it intimidating. Janeway lowered her head to hide the smile that contrasted so strongly with her stance.
Instead of reminding Seven of the proper way to address a superior officer, Janeway approached Seven and stood to her side. "I'm restless Seven, it's too quiet today. Have we passed any unusual phenomena, anything catch your eye?"
Wordlessly, Seven pulled up various star-charts: first an atypical Class-Y planetoid, then a star forming in a nearby nebula. The images flickered on the screen, beautiful, but not anything of great consequence.
Janeway's concentration drifted, she found herself watching Seven's hands as they fulfilled her request. Fingers keyed commands on her console precise as brush strokes. Seven was so comfortable with her workstation that it was part of her, her movements more like instinct than something learned. Janeway had worked the best and brightest of Starfleet, but she had never seen anything like Seven of Nine.
She decided that she didn't want to have this conversation while they were both on duty. The time the two had planned to spend playing velocity this evening seemed a perfect opportunity to have a meaningful talk. There was no need to have a rushed discussion of such an interesting subject as dating.
"Seven, I'd like to suggest a change in plans tonight. If you're open to it."
"I would have to hear your proposal before I can determine if I will agree to the revision." The cascade of images above the two women stopped.
"Yes, of course," Janeway cursed her indirectness, never an effective approach with Seven. "I'd like to talk with you. Instead of velocity tonight, why don't you meet me in my quarters for dinner?"
"Dinner?" Seven turned to make eye contact with Janeway. "Yes, I would be open to having dinner with you, Captain."
"All right then. Good, very good." Not needing the many arguments she had quickly prepared in order to persuade the woman to talk with her; Janeway was thrown off balance. "I know you get most of your needs met by your alcove. I can prepare a light meal that you can attempt to eat."
This is going too smoothly. Where is the struggle? The lack of conflict, made Janeway suspect that she and Seven were embarking on two separate and distinct conversations.
Seven took her hands off her console and clasped them behind her back. She turned towards Janeway tilting her head. "Can I bring anything, Captain?"
Janeway's eyebrow rose. She considered that an odd question coming from Seven. It was an effortless task to have someone over for a meal. Preparing an enjoyable dinner was as simple as pointing at a picture on screen.
Well, for most people it was. Janeway had actually received a burnt pot roast from her replicator. She also never got her coffee at her preferred temperature. She spent hours slaving over replicator parameters, performing diagnostics, fiddling with hardware, to get a poor version of what others effortlessly received at finish of their request.
Seven's question is either an acknowledgement of my difficulties with replicators. Or it is the type of question that dates back to before replicators.
Before replicators became common, inviting someone for dinner meant that the host would be burdened with many tasks; including shopping for ingredients, as well as washing, and preparing items for cooking. In the past it was polite to bring something to a meal, to help the host.
Janeway noted the "can I bring anything?" phrase was still used in the traditionalist setting where she had been raised. It had fallen out of usage most everywhere else. She began to suspect that Seven had been preparing for this dinner before she had been asked. Whatever Seven's motivation had been, that response seemed tailored to her.
Ah, of course, some of the doctor's coaching.
Her pleasure with Seven's response was supplemented with a tinge of fear. He's coaching her on dating, Kathryn!
Janeway swallowed. The thought of Seven dating was something the Captain supported, but she had not considered the woman might direct any attention towards her. Janeway began to feel inarticulate and embarrassed.
She insisted to herself that she was not asking Seven on a date. But at the moment she could not think of a graceful way to determine whether Seven thought she had. She thought of her words to Paris yesterday. Please, just use your head around Seven. She is new to individuality.
Yes, just use your head, Kathryn. Unconsciously, she turned her body towards Seven.
They stood facing one another, closer than customary for a casual conversation. Janeway attempted a composed answer to Seven's polite question. "That would be very nice. How about you bring dessert?" That wasn't bad. Just don't escalate this situation.
"What dessert should I bring?"
Before she could think, she had already been spoken, and in her most throaty voice. "Use your imagination, Seven. Surprise me." That's flirting. I'd say you just escalated things.
Seven's upper body drew back a few millimeters. Never unsettled by Janeway for long, there was only a slight delay. "I will endeavor to surprise you, Captain."
Janeway was trying her best to recompose herself. Her eyes were on Seven's lips. "Well then, I'll see you at my quarters. O-eight-hundred?" Is this fear? Excitement? Panic? It definitely has all the elements of panic.
"I will see you then."
Janeway took a step back, for she was standing so close to Seven that she could not turn without making full-frontal contact with the woman. Once space allowed, she turned and tried her best to not flee from the scene. "I must return to the bridge," She said over her shoulder as she exited Astrometrics.
Couldn't you have simply asked Seven to discuss this in your ready room, as you did with the rest of the parties involved in this date? She shook her head back and forth faintly, as she made her way to the turbolift. This is a brilliant mess you've gotten yourself into. –I'm overreacting. There is nothing particularly forward about anything I said to Seven. I simply asked the woman to dinner, and Seven has accepted.
* * * * * *
Janeway boarded the turbolift. She felt apprehension, conscious that she had flirted with Seven. She had recently been coming to terms with her attraction to Seven, but it was not anything she ever wanted her to discover. The woman was so driven on projects that she took up that there was no question to Janeway that she would pursue any chance of getting more information on something that interested her. And currently, Seven was interested in dating.
Janeway wanted to cancel the dinner, but she knew that smoothest way to deal with an awkward situation was to face it head on. She valued the connection she had with Seven, and withdrawing from the diner would do little to support it.
Janeway paced the turbolift as it made its way to the bridge. She drew her hands through her hair in an effort to soothe herself before the doors opened. Taking no notice of her own desires, for she felt they were negligible, Janeway focused on concentrating Seven's dating experimentation elsewhere.
Seven appreciates efficiency above all things. I'll redirect Seven by appealing to her desire to be efficient.
Before Janeway could put more thought into her approach to dinner with Seven, the turbolift doors opened, revealing the bridge to Janeway. She exhaled, and did her best to leave her anxiety about Seven behind her. She stepped onto the bridge, and accepted command back from Chakotay.
Once seated in the command chair, Janeway laughed at her earlier underestimation of the day. It was shaping up to be a much more challenging day than she had predicted.
* * * * * *
Janeway's quarters sparkled. She had re-shelved her books and cleared off the top of her workstation. The auto-clean had run on her living quarters during her shift, removing the dust and freshening the stale air. At the very least, she gained a clean living area by not canceling this dinner.
She had replicated a simple meal that would not challenge Seven. A green salad, stir-fried vegetables and a dish of steamed rice sat in the center of the table.
She stepped back to the replicator intending to ask for candles. She stopped herself; wanting to avoid sending any romantic cues.
Janeway's earlier anxiety eased, when she decided it would be easy to redirect Seven, if the woman was indeed interested in her. Kathryn wasn't convinced Seven really wanted to date her. She suspected she had just triggered an automatic response from the doctor's lessons, when she'd invited the ex-drone to dinner. Janeway felt confident she could undo the flirtatious attracted signals she may have sent Seven's way.
She moved to her bedroom to pick an outfit. A dress felt too formal so she chose a black turtleneck and some black pants. She finished putting on a hint of perfume, and was just beginning to berate herself for putting the damn perfume on, when she heard her door chime.
Janeway entered the main room of her quarters; she took a deep breath. "Come."
The door opened to reveal Seven of Nine holding a fruit platter. She was wearing an amethyst colored dress; the silken material flowed to her mid-calf. The rich dark color brought out her light eyes; her fair skin seemed even more luminous. Seven's hair was in her usual twist.
She tried to stop them but her eyes were never quite as reserved as the rest of Janeway. They took Seven in, from the exposed neck, to the full breasts, down the narrow waist. They lingered a moment on the full hips, and then ran down Seven's long legs. "Oh Seven, you look wonderful. That is really your color. Please, come in." –Next time, it's a simple, 'Please, come in.'
Seven entered the Captain's quarters.
Pleasure skittered up Janeway's spine despite the fact she was trying to dismiss the reaction. –I'm just a having physical reaction to a beautiful woman. A slight reaction. It's a surprise to see Seven out of uniform. That's all.
Seven returned the Captain's admiring glance.
The evaluation was extensive; Janeway felt Seven's eyes roaming her form, like a touch. Seven's just mimicking the glance she just received. –That could explain her glance, but it doesn't explain mine. Or what I'm feeling.
Janeway approached Seven and relieved her of her dessert.
"Captain, you look very appealing."
Janeway imagined a check being placed in the 'compliment your companion's appearance' box on Seven's date to-do list. She noted that Seven also appeared to have date manners on. And, it was clear; the young woman was dressed for a date. Kathryn assumed that these manners, this outfit, were products of the doctors coaching.
"Thank you, Seven. Why don't you sit down, I'll put this on the table." Janeway motioned Seven over to the couch, thankful that the short trip to the table would give her some distance from her physical reaction to Seven's arrival.
That was when she got a good look at what Seven had chosen to bring to dinner. The platter presented perhaps the most sexual looking food Janeway had seen. On the black porcelain tray, resting on a bed of deep-green decorative moss from Risa, were three fruits cut in half, a fig, a peach, and a Vulcan corta. A fuzzy reddish-brown peel encased the corta's moist pink flesh. A large stone had been removed from the center leaving a thin oval shaped slit. The seeded fig halves were a rich purple, beside those sat two moist ripe peach halves, their centers lined with red veins. All the fruit was looking... vulvic. She wasn't sure it was a word, but it certainly was the best term she could come up with for the female-looking cut fruit.
Janeway was reminded of the sensual paintings of O'Keefe. If the manners and the clothing are the doctor's influence: who's responsible for this dessert? She had to note that she might be in for a surprising evening if the simple desert Seven had brought was unsettling her.
The Captain did her best to regain her composure. She turned away from the Sapphic fruit platter, only to find the even sexier Seven of Nine starting intently at her. Seven was seated on the couch. Her posture was, of course, perfection. Janeway noticed that the hemline of Seven's dress had risen when she sat.
Beautiful legs. She bit the inside of her cheek, in an attempt to quiet such thoughts.
Her difficulty seemed to force her forward. She raised her head, and looked Seven in the eye. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Yes, Captain you may surprise me."
Kathryn let out a quick laugh. She had expected a rote answer about 'not needing liquid refreshment at this time', or perhaps some polished phrase from her dating classes with the doctor. Instead, Seven had incorporated Janeway's words from earlier in the day. It seemed almost playful and flirtatious. Surely, that was unintentional.
Kathryn turned to the replicator and ordered two iced teas. She handed one to Seven and watched as Seven brought the drink to her lips. I probably should be saying something. But she was much too distracted watching Seven's throat as she swallowed the first sip of her drink.
Janeway enjoyed the sight for a few beats longer, and then decided the time to talk had arrived. She took a seat on the couch to the right of Seven. "Seven, I invited you to dinner this evening because there are some matters I wanted to discuss with you."
Seven set her glass on the coffee table and looked at Kathryn. The clear and direct blue eyes caused another delay for Janeway.
The Captain shook her head to break the spell; she held her eyes closed as she composed herself. "I understand that you went on a date while I was on the Kadi home world."
"Yes, I was attempting romance."
Janeway noted the way Seven had said 'romance'. It sounded exactly opposite of what it meant. Seven's approach to dating was Borg efficiency flavored with a hint of the doctor's clinical and neurotic nature. Janeway was glad she had invited Seven over; if Seven was to be successful on a date she was going to need more guidance than an exacting holo-doctor could provide.
"I was hoping, if you are comfortable Seven, that we could talk about that. Dating. Romance." Janeway left it open. Would Seven continue to stare waiting for more input? Janeway was trying hard not to control this conversation. She wanted this conversation to be a window into the young woman's mind.
"Yes, I will discuss this with you. You are interested in my dating history?" Seven leaned closer to Janeway.
Ah, seems I've stumbled upon an 'Official Dating Question'. What will the 'Official Response' be? Janeway waited. Seven just continued to meet her eyes saying nothing.
Janeway grew impatient. "Dating history? I suppose if you call one date a history. Seven what I am trying to get at is, why? Why did you decide to start dating?"
Seven looked down. "I had a conversation with you, Captain, where we discussed my research on dating. You asked me if I had considered romance. I hadn't."
Janeway paused, as she was stuck by the memory. She had posed that question to Seven as she was rushing to get ready for a diplomatic mission on Kadi. And here I am sitting across from the consequences of that off-hand comment, a single-minded Borg who is very interested in dating.
Thoughts stopped as Seven's gaze lifted and met Janeway's again.
Unexpectedly, Janeway saw something in Seven's eyes. She felt wonder at its discovery. She isn't staring blankly is she? There is something in those eyes. There is life in there. I see it. She's interested. She's interested in this conversation. Janeway's pulse increased.
Seven resumed, "I had been mostly focusing on human mating behavior and copulation in my research. Finding those to be the desired outcome of most of the dating rituals, it seemed most efficient to center on those aspects."
Janeway nodded at the word efficient. She had been expecting to hear it.
"But that conversation with you altered my focus. I found romance to be compelling subject matter."
The words were not delivered in the clipped and precise manner that Janeway anticipated. Janeway was sure, that although subtle, there was a softening to Seven's usual dry manner of speaking. If she didn't know Seven so well, she could have overlooked the change.
Afraid to acknowledge the significance of Seven's displayed vulnerability, Janeway hardened. She was so hopeful that Seven would reassert her humanity that she worried she had been anthropomorphizing the woman's responses.
Let's not get too excited, Seven dating is simply a reaction to my comment. She began a line of questioning to prove it. She drew back taking a breath. "So you were dating to comply with a request I made?"
"No, I was not complying with a request." Seven straightened her posture. "I was pursuing an interest. I have been curious about romantic interactions, and sought to gain some experience in these exchanges."
"You wanted to acquire experience? For what purpose?" At the question, Janeway saw Seven withdraw.
Janeway winced. She was talking more like an ex-drone than Seven at this point. There has to be a better way to phrase that. How can I learn about Seven, if I am not able to act the least bit human? She thought of her earlier notion that she alone aboard Voyager was sensitive to Seven's feelings and felt disgusted with her performance this evening. Seven was being honest and open and here she was dismissing her feelings.
Janeway softened. "What I meant was, why? Why did you want to learn about romance?" Why is Seven making a distinction between dating and romance? The part of Kathryn that wanted to see Seven grow into her humanity was ecstatic, eager to learn more. She began to release her assumptions regarding Seven and started to truly hear the woman.
Seven spoke quietly and with great focus, "Can the question be the answer as well? Would you understand that I wanted to have romantic experiences ultimately because I wanted to have experience with romance? The experience was the result I was seeking."
Eyebrow lifted with surprise, Janeway was struck by the animation in Seven's voice. Could it be that Seven was not doing this for outside reasons? She was talking about the journey and not the destination. Many people, who hadn't lost the greater portion of their lives to the Borg, did not enjoy the actual doing of things. Most people just focused on results. Certainly, that was what the Borg excelled at.
Janeway had been diving in the caves of Mars, probably somewhat older than Seven was now, when she realized that she dove, not to prepare for away missions, not to increase stamina, but because she enjoyed diving.
Seven's answers did not sound like the doctor's lessons. Nor was this Borg ideology spouted through an unthinking conduit. Seven, it seemed, had her own thoughts. This woman was shaping up to be less of a product of the doctor's coaching and Janeway's teasing than she expected. There was an identity there. Not an amalgamation of influences, no, this was Seven, a fellow human.
Janeway had expected to find somewhere within Seven a well-organized dispassionate motivating factor. Something clinical that sparked her interest in dating. But Seven insisted it wasn't simply dating she was interested in. It was romance. Kathryn could think of absolutely nothing clinical about that topic.
She felt quite disarmed. This was not what she had prepared for. The captain realized she had a whole evening in front of her. She swallowed, feeling a flutter of apprehension.
The individual that Janeway had so wanted to find underneath the drone was possibly right here, sitting on her couch.
Seven of Nine was quite obviously coming into herself. Janeway was beginning to see it wasn't a matter of 'The Teacher' mentoring 'The Protégé' into humanity, nothing so parental, as her vision of nursing a spark out of a drenched soul.
Janeway felt a dent in the protective arrogance she used to separate herself from others aboard Voyager; she smiled at Seven.
Seven questioned the expression and the silence, "Captain?"
"Sorry Seven, lost in thought. Your insights started me thinking." Without further explanation, Janeway rose. "Ready for dinner?"
* * * * * *
Over the dinner table, conversation flowed easily between the women. There were also comfortable silences, where Janeway would take pleasure in how the young woman just held her gaze.
Janeway knew that this date would not end with her dismissing Seven's attentions. Her plans: to emphasize her friendship with Seven, to redirect the young woman's interest to anyone else aboard Voyager, to not send any romantic cues, all seemed to be failing.
On several occasions, she had practically caressed Seven with her eyes. And now she was listening to every word the young woman said, with an enchanted smile on her face. She was charmed by the woman.
"Seven, you're not eating much. Is this meal disagreeing with you?" Kathryn smiled at Seven and took a bite of her food.
"The food is agreeable. I am merely saving room for dessert." Seven picked up her fork and moved it around her plate, an effort to assure Kathryn she was enjoying her meal.
Janeway had been collecting evidence throughout the evening that Seven was attracted to her. There were the long glances, the uncharacteristic animation in her voice, the focused way Seven listened to her talking. The way Seven's body was not centered in her chair. It must mean something when a woman with perfect posture chooses to sit ten centimeters off the center of her chair.
Janeway not only had these physical clues, but there was something within Seven's gaze that pulled her in. She could best describe it as a depth. In this place, Kathryn saw humanity, humor and life. Seven's eyes revealed a network of tunnels that she felt she was connected to, as if her own rarely expressed self somehow linked to Seven, there.
She felt their connection, and it was time she said something about it.
Janeway examined the movements of Seven's fork for a few moments. Then she began, "Seven, I'd like to talk about this evening, about what we are doing right now."
Seven placed the fork she had been drawing through her food down on the table. She looked intently at the captain.
Janeway braced herself. She was about to change everything with her next question. "Would you call this a date, Seven?" She felt her heart rush. She never knew exactly what to expect from Seven. And Seven's answer could either end this, or open up new avenues for them both.
Seven tilted her head and leaned closer to Janeway. "Yes, this is a date: a social or romantic engagement."
Janeway's lips curved in a droll smile. That answer was not terribly life altering. But when she reviewed her question, she saw that it was not as bold as it had seemed. When it was pressing to escape from her lips, when she was unsure of what Seven might say, it felt tremendously daring.
"Yes, it is that. That isn't quite what I am trying to get at." Janeway paused. "What am I trying to say here?" She licked her lower lip in thought. "Seven, I guess I just wanted to acknowledge that this was a date, so that there are no misunderstandings here, no confusion."
"I am not confused."
Despite Seven's denial, Janeway knew she was baffling Seven with her inability to make her point. At this moment Janeway was feeling rather lost. She decided to be more direct.
"No. No, of course you aren't. But I am. I'm quite confused. Grant me this indulgence, let me state the obvious," Janeway paused. "Seven, I am attracted to you and I would like to date you." She held her breath. She felt that was definitely a courageous admission. She waited for Seven's response.
"Is that not what you are currently doing?"
"Yes, I suppose it is."
Thinking too much before she spoke was not benefiting her. So she spoke from the heart. "Seven, I have been trying not to pursue you. But I find myself drawn to you. I'm very aware of your inexperience with this type of interaction. So, I want to be sure I'm not assuming anything. Are you interested in dating me?" She cringed, feeling inarticulate. Perhaps she wasn't being clear enough. She opened her mouth to say more.
Before she could let out another stream of words, Seven spoke, "Yes, Captain, I am drawn to you as well. I find myself pursuing opportunities to be in your presence." Seven reached for her glass. Before she took a sip of her drink, she added quietly, "I was anticipating your return from Kadi. I had planned an amplification of our social interactions during our scheduled velocity game."
It took some effort for Janeway to stop herself from uttering, "Wow."
So this is why she so quickly agreed to dinner. She planned to pursue me. What would be unfolding in that velocity game, if I hadn't asked Seven to dinner? Janeway smiled. Since Seven had arrived this evening, she had begun to suspect the young woman was genuinely attracted to her. But it had all been circumstantial evidence until this moment.
Kathryn began to wonder if some of their infamous fights had been a result of this pull between them. They both wanted so much more from each other, maybe any sort of interaction was preferable to not connecting. There was a pause as the two women as just enjoyed each other's company, warmed by the light of their new understanding.
Janeway wished she could read the young woman's mind. She leaned forward and gestured towards Seven. Seven's eyes dropped from her intense study of Janeway's face to the movement of her hand. "I wonder what it must be like for you, to suddenly be the focus of my attentions?"
Seven had a slight upward curve to her lips before she spoke. "I have always been the focus of your attention, since the moment you severed my connection to the collective."
Janeway threw her head back and laughed. Whatever awkwardness she was feeling by bringing up dating was driven away by Seven's bold comment. Did Seven just lessen the tension on purpose? Was that a social grace I just witnessed?
"Seven, what were you thinking before you said that? You were smiling."
"I knew I was about to say something you were not expecting, the pleasure you detected was my anticipation of your reaction." Seven added, "I have learned to interpret much of what you are thinking through your facial expressions."
Janeway tilted her head, somewhat teasing Seven with a small expression of doubt, but also not quite sure she believed Seven's claim.
Seven rose to the unspoken challenge. "As I spoke, I could see your eyebrows raise, and eyes open wider. I knew you were surprised. Before you laughed, I saw the corners of your mouth raise and your lips parted to reveal a smile. This pleased me. I knew that my words had amused you." She paused, and then said, "I have been learning that if I exaggerate some of my characteristics, that it can amuse others. Here for example, I was enhancing my arrogance for humorous effect."
Janeway sat amazed at Seven's words. She was attempting humor and succeeding. She revealed that she could read facial expressions. She talked of her own pleasure and enjoyment. She had insight into how others perceived her.
These were things that Janeway assumed that Seven was not quite apt at. Things Janeway had once doubted Seven would ever develop. It was becoming clear; Seven was more than just a brilliant Astrometrics officer. She was a sharp student of humanity as well.
Janeway wondered what Annika Hansen would have been like, if she had not lost those years to the Borg. She smiled as she thought that the woman would probably be like the Seven that was being revealed to her tonight: smart, overconfident, with a dry sense of humor. She was exhilarated to see that not everything had been taken from Seven.
"Captain, would you reveal what you are thinking? I cannot yet decipher all your facial expressions."
"Now Seven," Janeway smiled broadly. "You will never be able to read all my facial expressions. I am a complex and mysterious woman," she said with a flourish of her hand. She then leaned forward and used a quiet voice, as if speaking of a conspiracy, "What I can tell you is this: I was thinking that you are quite an interesting individual. And that I am delighted to be having dinner with you."
Seven gave Janeway a tilt of her head. There was a hint of amusement about her eyes. "Thank you for informing me of your delight. Although I sense it now, it was not easy to detect when I first arrived."
Janeway's eyes narrowed as a half smile warmed her lips. She didn't realize just how aware Seven was. She loved the subtle teasing way Seven had just revealed her knowledge to the change in Janeway's attitude. There wasn't much she was getting past the woman.
Janeway liked what Seven brought out in her. Around the young woman she felt challenged, engaged, and playful. She decided not to look at the anger Seven could sometimes provoke. Now was definitely not the time.
* * * * * *
Dinner ended and it was time for dessert. Janeway was quite anxious about the fruit platter. Just the thought of eating the sensual food in front of Seven was exciting her. She picked up her spoon, and was about to put some fruit on her dessert plate.
"Captain," Seven said in a quiet tone that froze the older woman, "This dessert was not designed for utensils. It is a meal that is to be eaten with your hands."
The Captain swallowed and met Seven's eyes and the challenge. She placed the spoon right where it had been hovering when Seven told her not to use it. Kathryn took half of each of the three fruits.
Seven held her eyes as she did the same.
"Seven, if we are to continue this date, use my first name." Janeway hoped a command might make her feel that she remained somewhat in charge of the evening.
Seven raised a fig to her lips and held it just below her mouth. Before she took it into her mouth, she moistened her lips with her tongue. Seven pronounced the name. "Kathryn."
Janeway gasped, she enjoyed those lips saying her name. She watched as Seven opened her mouth and placed the fig on her tongue. She wanted to look at Seven's mouth longer, but the intense blue eyes drew her gaze upward.
When Janeway detected mirth combined with desire in Seven's eyes she realized, Seven was playing with her. Kathryn laughed.
Janeway mirrored Seven and picked up her fig. She could have fit the whole thing in her mouth in one bite, but she needed to sink her teeth into something. Hopefully aggressive fruit eating would burn some energy and renew her self-control. For nothing seemed quite so tempting as bringing desert to an abrupt close and 'amplifying the social interactions' with her Astrometrics officer.
Upon finishing the fruit, Janeway said, "I think it would be best if we do not have physical contact tonight, Seven. We should take things slowly."
"I do not agree." Seven lifted an eyebrow. "I acknowledge that I do not expect to consummate the relationship tonight. But, I do intend to touch you."
Janeway laughed, tickled at Seven's display of self-confidence. Seven had admitted she knew she was arrogant, and here it was. She also felt some relief; she hadn't known what Seven expected for the evening before now. She had actually been somewhat worried, imagining Seven might fight her on this issue. Pleased to be able to focus on her dessert and not be concerned about how the evening would end, she felt more comfortable being flirtatious.
"You intend to touch me?" Janeway widened her eyes in mock surprise. Not able to maintain a serious tone, she flashed a quick smile at Seven.
Seven lifted the peach half. "Indeed."
The motion stilled Janeway's playful response. She watched as Seven broke the peach in two. The juices from the peach ran down Seven's wrist. The young woman opened her mouth and slowly brought the fruit to it. She kept her hand near to her face as she chewed the fruit. Janeway watched, riveted.
Seven swallowed and then brought her wrist close to her lips. Seven's tongue licked the fruit juice from wrist to palm.
Janeway's lips parted, her hand was on her portion of peach. But she found herself too captivated with Seven to continue with dessert. It wasn't just Seven's actions that were exciting her. She was also displaying confidence and nerve, qualities Janeway had always found utterly sexy.
"Do you require my assistance?" Seven asked.
Janeway watched the words, the full lips parting and closing. That's quite magnetic. Seven was staring at her, no longer speaking, but waiting for something.
"Assistance?" The Captain did her best to cover her distraction by repeating the last word she had heard. Not really following Seven, she didn't know what the word 'assistance' meant at the moment.
"Would you like me to feed you?" Seven's right hand was already above Janeway's plate. She placed her hand over Kathryn's. It was the first time they had touched this evening. The contact was extraordinary.
Janeway felt a rush of sensation. She looked at the young hand on hers. It was strong. The tendons were visible, nails immaculate and short. The skin felt softer and warmer than she had expected.
Janeway had always imagined that Seven's hands would be like those of a laborer, calloused and rough from her time as a drone. But this felt as if it had been bathed in oils, it was still moist from the peach. Janeway had always loved the feel of rough hands on her skin, but this hand, it was a revelation.
It was Seven's right hand atop hers; it occurred to Janeway that Seven had been favoring it all night. This hand was untouched by the Borg. When she ate it was with her right. It was always in front of her left if she was using both for something such as breaking the peach.
Throughout dinner, Janeway remembered, the mesh-encased hand had remained on Seven's lap, out of sight. Was Seven hiding her other hand, or was she simply right handed?
Whatever blood was powering her brain for this rumination was redirected as she felt Seven take the peach half from her hand. Janeway's lips parted the second the peach left the plate. She leaned closer because the hand moved so slowly. Janeway wanted this peach to reach her lips more than anything. She felt as if taking a bite of this fruit was to consent to Seven. With a slight hesitation, Kathryn closed the space between hand and mouth.
Kathryn had raised her hand, so it cradled both the peach and Seven's hand. She opened her mouth and took a bite from the peach, making sure her lips brushed Seven's flesh. She drew her head back, and began to crush the peach between her teeth. As her mouth was flooded with nectar, she felt herself settling into her body, aware and observant. Her responses to Seven no longer denied and ignored. An unintentional moan reverberated through her as she enjoyed the taste. She took pleasure in the vibration of the sound within her chest.
Seven's hand dropped from Janeway's. The blonde's eyes were now half closed; her lips were parted. She gazed at the smaller woman as she finished the peach.
"Now you must let me feed you, Seven." Although Janeway's brain was not working well, she did know that her voice was one of her more alluring charms. A past lover of hers had commented that she could disarm anyone with her rasping voice. "How about some corta. Would you enjoy that?" She had brought her voice to its lowest register. She drew out each word in her most carnal tones.
"Yes." Was all the reply Seven could manage.
Janeway smiled to herself, pleased that she had mesmerized Seven. She lifted the corta. She fingered the brown skin of the fruit. It was not edible, just the meat of the fruit was. She was pleased that the fruit had not been peeled, for she loved the velvety feel of the corta's skin. She picked up her knife and began to peel the fruit, using the knife without looking down, for her eyes were on Seven.
While Seven was watching her hands, Janeway's took in the beauty of her companion. Often over the last year, she had caught herself staring at Seven. But before tonight, she had to restrain it. Now she was free to appreciate Seven, and happy to take advantage of her new liberty.
Upon finishing the task, she put the knife down. She looked into Seven's blue eyes, and she brought the fruit close to her own face, deeply inhaling the scent the fruit before presenting it to Seven. "Mmmm," Janeway said, "It smells exquisite." She brought it to Seven's lips. The fruit was a breath away from Seven.
Seven opened her mouth and Janeway fed her. Janeway traced Seven's lips with two of her fingers before she withdrew her hand. Janeway smiled, she continued to watch Seven. She took her last piece of fruit and peeled it for herself. Both she and Seven were so sexually charged at this point that everything was heightening the electricity between them. She placed the tangy fruit in her mouth, and bit down and chewed it as she watched Seven.
They both sat quiet, connected.
* * * * * *
Much time passed, before Janeway finally broke the silence. "Seven, I can't remember a more enjoyable night I've had aboard Voyager. Thank you for this evening."
"I am enjoying this experience. I regret that I must leave to regenerate."
Janeway smiled. "I'm enjoying it too." She brought her hand to Seven's hairline. The backs of her fingers brushed at Seven's temple above the woman's eyepiece. She caressed Seven's soft skin. "We must schedule another date. It will make parting a bit easier."
Seven, direct as always, said, "Agreed, when is your next availability?"
"Are you free in three days? I have some prime holodeck time that evening. We could play velocity, or spend time in the Da Vinci studio, or perhaps we can do something we have not done together." Kathryn felt a blush rising to her cheeks. When she had said, 'something we have not done together' she had meant something relatively innocent, like a walk on the coast of California, but her mind took that phrase to other places. It had hastened to the bedroom, supplying her with a flash of the two in bed.
A pinch to her hand cleared her mind of the delightful image, and brought her back to the dinner table. Janeway reminded herself to enjoy the journey and not focus on the results.
Seven's eyebrow rose. A smile, one Kathryn would swear was a knowing smile, graced her lips. "Yes, perhaps something we have not done together." No comment was made about the blush that was still heating Janeway's face.
At sight of Seven's smile, Janeway remembered Seven's earlier comment, that she could read many of Janeway's facial expressions. Tonight had revealed again and again, how perceptive Seven was. All the research on Tom and B'Elanna, the perusing of the computer's databanks, the scaring the bejesus out of Harry Kim, and the one unsuccessful date with Lieutenant Chapman, apparently had been put to good use. The woman was a quick study.
Janeway rose. She grasped Seven's mesh covered hand, and escorted the woman from her chair towards to door.
Janeway brushed her thumb over the bands of Seven's hand, as they crossed the room. The metal was warm and smooth, more integrated into Seven's hand than she had expected. She thought it would feel like a cage with flesh in it, two distinct and separate items. Instead the bands felt like an exoskeleton, as much a part of Seven as her hair or nails.
They stood like that at the door for several moments, Janeway caressing Seven's hand. Janeway felt Seven's question before she spoke. She raised her head and found Seven's eyes filled with longing.
She is going to ask for a kiss. She brought her hand to Seven's lips silencing the inquiry. Her eyes and touch communicated consent to Seven.
She felt Seven embrace her. Janeway put her arms around Seven, and held her close. The contrast of soft flesh alongside the solid press of implants fascinated her.
Janeway's eyes descended from Seven's and rested on the woman's bottom lip. There was a slight tremble there. The full lip was so ripe.
This was Janeway's absolute favorite part about beginning to date someone. Right before the first kiss, when both knew it was inevitable and the connection was already felt. But lips hadn't touched yet. Janeway held herself separate from Seven. She was delighted that Seven seemed to read her, and had not closed the distance between them. They were so close. The moisture from their breaths entwined. She inhaled, drawing in the light scent of Seven. It was nothing she could put into words, she smelled like Seven.
Kathryn's eyes closed. Seven took this as her cue and leaned down and touched her lips to Janeway's. The soft flesh of her lips was tender and moist as it traveled against Janeway's. Kathryn parted her lips; her tongue tasted Seven's full bottom lip. The soft lip mixed flavors of Seven with the delicate tang of fruit. A groan traveled from the small woman's throat through her lips and into Seven's mouth. Seven slightly opened her mouth and sucked gently at Janeway's tongue.
Janeway moved her hand from the back of Seven's head to rest on her right cheek. Implant and flesh felt so pleasant beneath Kathryn's hand. When she drew back and opened her eyes, she was treated to the sight of an intently focused Seven of Nine. Her eyes were closed; her lips were still parted.
Kathryn reached towards her face and lightly stroked the starburst on Seven's check. "Did that answer your question?"
Seven's eyes opened, one of her hands from Janeway's back was drawn away. Seven brought the hand to her own full bottom lip. "Yes, thank you."
Janeway grinned. "Seven, you don't have to thank me for kissing you."
"But, I wanted to thank you, Kathryn Janeway."
Janeway smiled. She was really beginning to appreciate Seven's simple manners, her lack of pretensions. "Seven of Nine," she said the name with a sigh, "Would you like me to walk you to cargo bay two?" Not eager for the night to end, Janeway was looking for any way to extend it.
"That will not be necessary."
Janeway stepped closer to Seven and leaned her head on Seven's shoulder. "Good night, Seven." She gave the woman a warm hug and then stepped back.
Seven moved close enough to activate the door. The door opened but neither woman moved.
"Good night, Kathryn." Seven nodded at Janeway.
Janeway fought her desire to pull the woman back into her quarters and invite her to stay as long as she'd like. She had wanted to kiss Seven until she lost time. She had wanted to hold her a great deal longer. But the correct thing to do was to let the evening end this way. Seven turned, and began walking down the hall.
Kathryn watched the attractive form depart. It was a favorite view of hers. Seven's attractive hips swaying as she walked. She could only enjoy the view for a second before the door rudely cut off her inspection.
Janeway remained at the door, eyes still riveted to where they had last seen Seven. She took a breath, then another; she crossed her arms and brought them up to her shoulders. She hugged herself and sighed.
"Ah, what an evening." She knew the perfect way to end it. She grinned; honestly, it was the second best ending she could think of for the night.
"Computer, run bath, Janeway Alpha 1." She began tugging her turtleneck over her head. It was her favorite bath; hot almond-scented with bubbles. She walked to her bedroom to shed the remainder of her clothing, and to grab a robe.
* * * * * *