Dance With Me by TMT

Dance With Me

Janeway’s glance flicked across the bridge, her anger, a controlled flash of lightning blue in an otherwise impassive face.  She took in the empty console where Seven should be stationed, barely registering the rise in temper that accompanied her first glimpse of the Astrometrics Officer’s brown-suited back working at Tuvok’s security station.  It acted as a deliberate incitement to the Captain’s already frayed nerves.  One long fingertip released that tension, tapping on the side of her armrest.

“Mr. Paris, is there a chance that we will be getting the telemetry before we return to the Alpha Quadrant?” Her voice held that rough steel which no amount of familiarity could prevent from hitting her staff in the guts. Her eyes had returned moodily to bore into the pilot’s back.  His neck was reddening, she noticed.

“I’m sorry, Ma’am.  Every time I establish a fix on the ship, it disappears.  It must be using some form of multi-phasic shielding.” He coughed slightly.

“I see.” Janeway never sighed, not when she was angry – it was an indulgence she would not allow herself, that slight release of tension, that easing of pressure.  She liked the pressure, she knew it stirred her crew to strive ever more keenly to do her will.

“How many times have you got the fix?”  Smoothly, quietly.  No one would know her boiling fury.  Her hand played with her chin, before subtle fingers extended back around the armrest.

“Twenty-three times, Ma’am.” The intermittent pulse of Yellow Alert was casting a neon static aura about his hair.

“So, perhaps a different method of location would be more suitable?  Hmm??”  Lesser crewmen panicked altogether at her patient tone.  “Suggestions?”  This was barked out to include the whole bridge crew.

“We could fire a wide spread of phasers, if we catch them, they’ll light up like a beacon.”  Always first to jump in, Harry Kim’s sincerity served only to remind her of how, precisely, not everyone was quite so eager to please her.  She didn’t look up at the security console.  No. Not yet.

“Thank you, Mr. Kim, but such desperate measures tend to give the wrong impression.”

“It’s quite dusty out there.  They can’t move without causing some disturbance to the particle field around them, so why not monitor not the ship, per se, but the space around them?  We’ll wait them out.”  This from Chakotay.  She looked at him, for what seemed like the first time in days.

“Ever the hunter, eh?”  I like that, Bast-like, waiting for one’s prey.  “We’ll wait them out,” she growled.

“That will not work, Captain.”

Seven was now standing at her own station.  Their eyes locked.  Of course not.

“If,” Seven continued, “as we currently assume, the aliens and their ship are in bio-synthesis, it is likely that our inability to see them is less to do with shielding and more to do with their innate ability to become like their surroundings…” Seven took a breath.

I wish B’Elanna were here to roll her eyes, thought Janeway, keeping her own face expressionless.

“Wow! Like space chameleons, or something!”

Janeway shot Paris a reproving look, then returned her gaze to Seven.  She felt like her heart was trying to beat its way out of her chest.  She found her voice.

“Nonetheless, unless they are actually comprised of space dust, they do have a distinctive form – a solid mass of body – that must be discernible against background space.” Her voice sounded as she intended it to, slightly patronizing.  The steel was now resonating in her eyes, the fury a shadow that danced in the play of her toughening jaw.

“Of course.”  Seven’s calm inflexion threatened to outmanoeuvre her in the patronizing stakes.  “However, the proximity of the asteroid belt is causing such turbulence – right across the dust field – that searching for movement within it, would be… inefficient.” If Janeway had not been looking for provocation, she would have recognised Seven’s use of an old Borg expression as a sudden loss of nerve, but instead, Seven had fallen into her trap.

“Do you have anything better to contribute?”  The Captain’s voice was sickly sweet.  Seven lowered her eyes.  Then raised them.

“I do not.”  There was a hint of fight, of knowingness in her eyes.  It drove Janeway mad.

“Then, define the parameters of the debris field, monitor the space winds from the asteroid belt and establish a way to determine anomalous readings within them. Lt. Torres will divert extra power to Astrometrics.”  She nodded to Chakotay, who tapped his badge.  “Do you require either Mr. Kim or Icheb’s assistance?”

“I do not.” Seven knew when she was being toyed with and she didn’t like it.

“Dismissed.” Despite herself, Janeway eyed the Borg’s exit from the bridge: the graceful turn; the insolent sway of hips; the proud position of her head.  Even as she issued orders for the tightening of security, for continuous sweeps of sensors, her own senses played each movement of the now absent Astrometrics Officer’s exit over, like a parody of her self-control.  With Seven gone, she felt deflated and this in turn fed the rage.

“I will be in my Ready Room.  You have the Bridge.”

Chakotay nodded.  “Captain.”

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The Captain entered her Ready Room, her purposeful stride another weapon in her armoury of self possession.  She came to a halt in perfect timing with the swish of the door closing behind her.  One breath in, released slowly.  Then another.  Her jaw was working overtime. How dare she!

There, she had thought it. “How. Dare. She.” The inappropriateness of it all.  The sheer affront. How DARE she. Kathryn sat down and put her head in her hands, letting a low moan escape from the deep place she had been contriving to deny. No. This won’t do. She stood back up, hands on hips.  This will not do.  She began to pace, her delicate form framed by the light of the stars.

“Think!” She commanded herself. Think. She was the Captain, it just would not do for her to let go of control like this.  She would speak to Seven, make her see sense.  Let her understand that this was wrong.  “It just can’t be,” she said, but then the anger kicked in and unbidden from Janeway’s chest came a primal roar of outrage.

“That bloody Borg!”  She said. “That… presuming, insolent……I will not be treated with such little respect and I certainly do not owe her any explanations.” Despite the fighting tone, Kathryn felt sick to the core. This was much worse than the slow, interminable burning of being on the Bridge and wanting to lash out.

“Oh my God. Kathryn Janeway, you are out of control.”  Her hand waved elegantly.  “You have to get a grip.  Quietly, calmly.  With dignity.”  She was already regretting referring to Seven as ‘The Borg,’ even in the privacy of her own company.  Never one to hold species or cultural backgrounds against people, it indicated, far more than the sleepless nights and irritability, how much Seven of Nine had disturbed her mostly unflappable equilibrium.

“Right then. Control.  We have a situation here.  Correction: we have two situations… between thieving aliens and Seven’s uncharacteristic behaviour, a steady hand and cool disposition are required.”  And me?  “Hush.”

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat down to think.

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Seven of Nine was configuring the sensor array, hands sweeping over the colourful console in rhythmic fluid motions, which masked her own inner turmoil. Accustomed as she was to the short tempers of fellow crewmen, particularly B’Elanna, and to the nasty way that emotions were projected onto her as if things were always her fault, she now found herself in new territory and it was…distracting.

She had upset the Captain.  No, she had enraged the Captain and it may well have cost her the most important friendship she had ever had.  She heaved a heavy sigh and re-read the data before her – not that she needed to, but it did serve to take her mind off her superior officer.  She entered some changes into the console and waited for the computer to produce the new diagnostics.  It would take time.  She sighed again and let her mind run over the events of the last few days, trying to find the precise moment that had caused such an emotional cascade.  Cause and effect, she thought, action and reaction.

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The holodeck had reached that mean moment of what the crew considered a good party. It was heaving. People crowded in, jostling, laughing and shouting at each other.  In the past, Seven of Nine, formerly Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero, had offered to introduce a proactive programme into the emitters to always allow enough space for each individual and to dampen the background noise – in order that no one need shout.  Tom Paris had just looked at her funny.

“Jeez, Seven,” he’d said, “it’s a party.”

It had not taken her long to realise that Tom Paris loved the inadvertent contact with other crew members, especially the female ones, and he had a particular skill at it.  She had developed her own response, of course, which consisted of standing in an unobtrusive spot with her back to the wall, ready to step away, should anyone come too close.

She did enjoy fancy dress, though.  It was a disguise that meant she looked the same as everyone else.  In her thoughtful way, she found the personas that people took on in costume fascinating.  The costume allows a sub persona free reign.  The question is, without the costume, would this personality ever take form, ever exist?

Tonight the scene was a tango party in South America.  The men all wore tailcoats and the women were dressed like exotic birds in low-cut ball gowns.  They strutted and purred.  It would disrupt the smooth working of the ship, if they behaved like this all the time.

“Seven!” The Doctor’s voice startled her out of her reverie.  He sounded both surprised and disappointed. “Why are you wearing a tailcoat?  Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in a gown?”

“No.”

“Oh!  Well, I would ask you to dance, but I have no intention of becoming the laughing stock of the ship—” a shriek interrupted him, “Would you excuse me, it would seem that Ensign Delaney has sprained her ankle.”  He disappeared into the crowd.

Seven moved around a column, deeper into the shadow and took up a new stance, leaning against the wall.  She estimated that the black of her outfit, together with the hanging ivy falling from the balcony above, gave her 73.2 percent camouflage.  Only the paler areas would now be standing out.  She put her hands in her pockets.  77.8 percent.  The Borg felt smug.

Her gaze took in the dance floor and came to rest on the Captain being wrestled around the room by Chakotay.  He is inefficient at dancing.  Too much upper body force, too little real guidance from the hips.  She briefly sympathized with the Captain and then proceeded to analyse what hidden part of Janeway was expressed in her garment.  It was strapless, lower cut at the back then at the front, although, any much lower and Chakotay will have more on his hands than he anticipated. Cream and silver in colour, it swept to mid calf length over her hips in a way that both concealed and revealed her slim body.  It was finished off by silver stilettos.  Much more dignified than the others, yet there is a question. A statement. Both captain and woman.

The music came to an end, causing the couple to applaud the band.  It was then that Kathryn Janeway looked up and caught her staring. The Captain smiled and walked towards her.

Seven couldn’t move, not even to take her hands out of her pockets.  Eventually, as the Captain was nearly upon her, she broke eye contact and looked at her feet.  At the black patent leather shoes she wore.  She could feel the heat radiating from Janeway’s body as she drew nearer.  Her eyes flicked back up.

“Why, Seven, how very debonair you look.”

“Thank you, Captain. Your costume becomes you more than adequately, also.”

Janeway threw her head back and laughed.  “Thank you.” she said.  “So, what conclusions have you come to about this little event?”  Her voice was playful, friendly, familiar.  Janeway leaned against the wall, enjoying its cool smoothness next to her skin.   Damn, but Seven always finds the best surreptitious vantage point.  She would make a fine undercover agent.

Seven flexed her fingers in her pockets.  “That happiness may be a bigger mystery, than say, notions of God.”

Surprise and concern warmed the Captain’s features. “How so?”  She touched the Borg’s forearm, noticing the way Seven’s hands were in her pockets.  Her fingers slid downwards slightly before she withdrew the contact.

“Well, although smiling and laughing are potential indicators of happiness, it is not a condition that is quantifiable.  If you could not see, could not hear, your experience of happiness would still be as strong.  It is not measurable and yet, here in this room, it is as tangible as, say… the scent that you are wearing.”  Seven turned her head and looked into the Captain’s eyes.  There was a pause, and for a moment the rest of the room ceased to exist, at least for Seven.

The Captain was feeling something, something that Seven didn’t recognize, but began to understand, in a feeling sort of way.

“And what evidence is there for the existence of God?  How is that quantifiable?”  Janeway’s voice held a darker note. Interest and emotion competing in her tone.

“There need be none.  Only that people believe.  Acolytes and temples are like smiles and laughter, they indicate the existence of something other.  But in God’s case, this hardly matters because belief is all the proof a believer needs.”

“And if you don’t believe?”  The wall was beginning to feel too cold against the Captain’s back.

“Then you don’t need God.” Seven noticed the shiver.  She felt a wave of concern for the Captain, still wondering about the longing she had briefly caught in the other woman’s eyes.

“And if you don’t smile, never laugh?”  Her voice was quiet.  Serious.

Too serious, thought Seven.  “Then you are probably the Holographic Medical Program, Mark One.”

Janeway laughed, the tension broken and Seven’s ocular implant raised in pleasure at the effectiveness of the joke. Her joke.  She straightened herself from the wall and then bowed fractionally.

“Do you tango, Captain?”

“Ah.  Well.  Wasn’t that what I was just doing with Chakotay?”  The humour was back in the Captain’s eyes, but the softness was still there and suddenly Seven wanted nothing more than to make this woman – her friend – happy, just for tonight.

“I could not tell,” said Seven of Nine.

There was a pause as Kathryn examined her nails.  “Chakotay does prefer jiving.”

“A suitable dance form, for him. It does not adapt well to the tango.”  Seven offered her arm.  “Nor, if I may say, to the elegance of your attire.”

“Hah!  Do you tango, Seven?” The Captain looked both surprised and delighted. What a pair they would make.

“Oh, yes.”  Seven let all her Borg arrogance show through.  She arched her implant again, questioningly, her arm still extended.

Janeway’s hand slid across the black fabric on her arm.  “Well then,” she murmured, “shall we?”

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“Chakotay to Seven of Nine.”

Seven jumped, startled out of her memories.  She tapped her comm badge.  “Yes, Commander?”

“The Captain is on her rounds of the Departments.  I thought you’d like to know.  How are things going?”

Seven glanced at the console. “The computer is still processing data from the field.  Once that is analysed, I can form a model and thus separate any anomalies.”

“How do you rate your chances of success?”  Personnel Officer to the last.

“I have not built the model yet. I do not know.”

“Fair enough. You may want to re-phrase that, should the Captain pose a similar question. Chakotay out.”

Seven glanced at the readout.  It would be a while yet, before the computer had finished.

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She had led the Captain out onto the dance floor and offered her her left hand.  Kathryn flickered the ghost of a smile up at her and slowly slid her hand across the Borg’s palm, across soft metal and skin.  Seven was stiff with anticipation, but somehow the clothes made her feel elegant and strong, even though her body temperature was elevated. She focused her mind on being cool. She was dressed to lead. It was the game, after all, and she instinctively knew that the Captain was playing.

Her right hand slid around the satiny waist – slowly, so as to offer respect and care to the woman looking up at her.  The Captain’s eyes were alive with a fire that turned almost feral as the Borg’s hand met the small of her back and drew her in one swift movement up against her body.  She felt the light contact of the Captain’s hand on her shoulder.

“Ready?”

Janeway nodded, then drew in a breath as Seven’s cheek touched hers. She felt the brief rhythm of the music communicate itself through Seven’s hips and then they were moving.

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Captain Kathryn Janeway prowled through the ship.  Her eyes inspected the crew she met, possessively.  These are all mine, she thought, I keep them, protect them, guide them.  Her gaze bored into them as she passed, daring any to comment. None did. Everywhere she went, she met a picture of quiet efficiency. It settled her anger into a cold familiar place. With every step she was ready.  Hell, I’ve faced down much worse than this. Those damn bugs, for example.

She took a left turn into Engineering.

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Seven had danced with holograms before (they had no limbs to break) and the Doctor, of course, but this was as like to those experiences as listing principles was to understanding science.  For one thing, there was the heat of where their bodies touched.  The silkiness of her partner’s body contrasted with the play of their muscles through both sets of clothes.  It was like a spell and she didn’t believe in magic.  Then there was the complexity of rhythms.  The pulse of the music and the way she and Kathryn made their own marvellous beat to it.  She was vaguely aware of the other dancers, but only in the way that guided her partner safely around the room. This was dancing. This was living. Control and expression. Proximity and distance.  Seven of Nine was lost in a web of dichotomies, each more scintillating than the last.  And all the while there was the music, Kathryn’s eyes on her as they parted, her warm cheek and hot breasts as they came together.

The Captain heaved a sigh into her chest as their bodies moved sideways again.

“Are you…well, Captain?”  she whispered into the Captain’s hair.

“Hmm?  Well?  Oh…yes. Very well, Seven.”  They parted and Kathryn twirled, sashaying back towards Seven, whose hand met her hip and they moved in unison, their eyes still as much a part of the dance as the movement of their hips.

Seven pulled the Captain back into her and their cheeks brushed again, as the formal part of the dance began again.  “If dancing were quantifiable,” murmured the Captain, “you are at genius level.”

“Ah.”  This was perhaps the most sincere compliment Seven had ever received.  It moved her beyond any capacity at all to respond adequately.  “If we make it to the Alpha Quadrant, be sure to remind me to put it into my CV.”

The Captain laughed. “I will not.”

They changed direction.  “Do you not want me dance with anyone else?”  Seven arched her brow imperiously, using her height to full effect.

The Captain had looked at her then. Is that what ‘smoky’ means? 

“I mean,” she replied casually, “that of all your skills, dancing is the least of the ones Starfleet should value.”  Her eyes had said more and she smiled up at her Astrometrics Officer.

Seven smiled back.  “Thank you.”  Her arm was around Kathryn’s waist, her hand in contact with bare flesh, their hips and feet moving as one.  “What perfume are you wearing, Captain?”

Janeway laughed again.  “A woman must have her secrets, you know.”  Her eyes were merry, as if she knew she was inviting Seven to think about them, quite carefully.

“You should never say that to a scientist.”

“Perhaps.”  The music came to an end and they parted to clap politely.  Seven felt the Captain’s hand snake its way through her arm. Janeway’s voice was like hot coals hitting cold water. “Let’s go cool off, outside.” And suddenly Seven felt her heart hammering in her chest.  She took a moment to be thankful for the black jacket that concealed her body’s other responses, then escorted her captain out into the garden.

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She was aware, even before the doors to Astrometrics closed, that the approaching figure was Janeway. “Captain,” she said quietly, without turning around.

Captain Janeway had always tolerated Seven’s unusual approach to manners. She didn’t have any. But she did have her own form of courtesy, which was very subtle, particularly when Seven wanted to insult someone.  To some extent, this had always amused Janeway, especially as very few of her crew even noticed it happening.

Today, however, everything Seven did seemed designed to offer new offence.

“Seven.”  Her voice snapped like cracking tritanium.  “Report.”

“I am in the process of forming a model out of the diagnostics.  When this is done, I will inform you.”  Seven still did not look at her.

The seething was back. Bloody, bloody….

“How long will it take?”  Captain Janeway’s hands smoothed over the console.

“I don’t kn—”

“Look at me Seven!”  Hands on hips, Janeway glared up at her.

“I know what this is about.”  Cool. Cold. Borg-like.

“Oh do you?” Janeway’s chin jutted to a new impossible angle, even as she was sure that she would crack: a vent or fissure would rupture and the utter rage she felt would come spewing out.

“You are angry with me because I turned you down.”

There was silence as Janeway did her best not to break something. She paced agitatedly. She could feel Seven’s eyes following her.

Seven’s hands were held resolutely behind her back, though the palms were sweaty.

“No!” Janeway whirled around. “I am mad because you want this too, because you led me on, because you are denying something that feels so right!”  She slapped her palm down on the console now between them.

Seven flinched. Then, “I turned you down. You are the Captain,” her eyes followed her captain as Janeway paced, “you are not used to being denied and although I am surprised that you should have such little decorum, none—”

“Damn you!” Janeway flew at her, hands flailing, which Seven easily caught and they struggled, the Captain making guttural, desperate sounds.  She wrenched her hand free from the Borg’s grasp and let fly a slap, which would have connected directly with the younger woman’s cheek, had she not moved her head to one side, causing Janeway’s arm to fly over her shoulder. “Damn you!”  The sob became a gasp and then a kiss as their mouths met roughly, hungrily and then slowed to deep, unsteadying contact, which seemed to spin the room around them. Lips and breath. Then tongues. Janeway was the first to break and she gasped for air as she rested her forehead on the Borg’s shoulder. “Seven!”

Seven’s hand soothed the small of her back, a familiar place now to her, after their dance. “Seven.” The other hand gently caressed Kathryn’s back, over her heart. She sent tiny electrical impulses through her implant to calm the Captain’s bio-functions.

“You know we can’t do this. You are the Captain. I am a member of your crew.” Her hand moved in distracting circles. “We will not serve the collective by this relationship, only ourselves. It will damage the well being of Voyager. You know this, Captain.” Her hand stilled its movement. “I am sorry that this is painful for you. But it is the right thing to do.”

Janeway wrenched free of the Borg’s grasp, her eyes searching Seven’s face, then she turned and marched out of Astrometrics.

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Lt. B’Elanna Torres was having a bad day. Forty-eight hours ago, invisible aliens had beamed aboard Voyager, moving through the security fields the way a sharp blade slices through soft fruit, and stolen five vital plasma relays. B’Elanna had been asleep for one hour when the first one disappeared and had reached Engineering in time to hear the computer report a third was missing. She had raced about the consoles like a targh with a flaming torch tied to its tail. Then hurtled down Jeffrey’s tubes in full crack commando mode. She was sure that she had felt the aliens’ presence, but how can you accost something you can’t see?

On top of that, the strange sub-Starfleet devices they had left in the relays’ place ensured Voyager could go nowhere at any great speed until they were all replaced. So the ship had hung limply in space and just to make matters worse, the Captain had gone through Engineering like a cross between a Klingon Warbird and a Starfleet Librarian. All fierce pace and attention to detail.

B’Elanna thought back to the moment of the Captain’s entry: still dressed in her silver and cream Tango outfit. Apparently, not having been to sleep at all! How many women could instill such fear, such devotion to duty, commanding with such implacable authority, while presenting such a genteel image to the world?  It had always bugged her. We would have made fine enemies, she thought.  But now, Captain Janeway had conquered Torres’ rebelliousness and honed her into the sharp professional who would not risk losing the contradictory woman’s respect. So much for maturity.

So, on days like today, when the Captain’s expectations bore down on her like a thundercloud, the Klingon engineer could only fantasise about fighting with her, in brief, quickly controlled flashes. She felt Janeway held her responsible for the loss of the relays. She felt at fault and Janeway’s ongoing foul mood had deepened this to a resentful fever pitch, all of which she had to carefully hide as the Captain seemed to be constantly in Engineering.

I guess she doesn’t trust us, the Klingon thought moodily. She has even been monitoring Astrometrics from Engineering.

She thought about the Astrometrics Officer: if anything, these last few days Seven of Nine had been more controlled, more quiet, more calm; like a distillation of her former self, if that were even possible. More Borglike. Perhaps Janeway had finally had enough of it, as well, and was keeping her distance. That would be something. Then we can – finally – knock some manners into her!

The computer bleeped and Seven’s fieldwave programme started displaying the first data, simultaneously translating the bitstream into graphs and a multidimensional model. She’s good, though. The warrior in B’Elanna deeply appreciated Seven’s tactical tenacity. She’d be one helluva lay. What a challenge. B’Elanna shrugged and, for the first time in days, her mood lightened. That was one problem she didn’t have. Not even Tom had wanted to go there.

Lt. Torres concentrated her mind on the data. Establish a defence, track your target and – she no longer wanted to destroy the aliens, after all, they could have caused much more damage – no she wanted to humiliate them.  It takes a thief to catch a thief. Red handed. She grinned. B’Elanna Torres knew all about that.

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Kathryn Janeway hit the turbo lift with the energy of a mini whirlwind. “Bridge,” she commanded.  The computer bleeped, as the lift started to rise, then, “Pause.”  She deliberately slowed her breathing and held her shaking hands out before her, examining them for bruises. There were none. Seven had contained her, but not hurt her. Her breathing was still coming in ragged gasps. “Computer, suspend all sensor data for this turbo lift, from the moment of my entry, till I exit. Security override Janeway Red Zero Alpha Nine.” The computer chirruped its acquiescence.

Janeway slumped against the wall, smoothing her uniform, her hand compulsively fingering all four pips of her Captain’s rank. She counted them, each one representing another milestone in her personal odyssey towards command. The precocious teenager tamed. The enthusiastic scientist tempered. The campaigning politician cautioned. The vengeful combatant schooled. She had undertaken each new step open-heartedly to forge the razor blade edge that made her a standout captain. Now, she fought back tears. All of that, for this? She swallowed painfully, setting her jaw against any lapse and breathed into the moment.

It didn’t take long. Captain Kathryn Janeway knew how to put personal issues aside until she had the time and privacy to deal with them. At least until she had reached the safety of her Ready Room. She straightened up, her elegant features reforming the calm exterior her crew expected of her. Her hands swiftly tidying her hair.

“Resume.” Besides, Captain Janeway had the beginnings of a plan. A tiny gleam appeared in her eyes.

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Seven allowed the next lot of data to begin the process of establishing natural movement within the dust field. Soon, she would be able to push whole areas of the chart into the background, but still keep tabs on them for movement. Then she could narrow down the search area and perhaps isolate the thieves.

She paused and considered her reaction to the thought of catching them. Reluctance. They had proved a life-saving distraction, giving both herself and the Captain an excuse to avoid each other. Seven felt almost gratitude to the aliens. She didn’t want to consider what had happened in the garden at all. She would rather put it to one side as another example of human fallibility, but the Captain was quick and intelligent about personal matters in a way that often left Seven feeling winded. The Borg knew it wasn’t over. Janeway was not one to let go easily, not when she wanted something and right now she wanted Seven of Nine.

Seven sighed and watched a bruise on the side of her hand slowly disappear under the attentions of her nanoprobes. If only the past were so fixable. She certainly didn’t want to consider the implications of the kiss she had recently shared with Janeway. If only Janeway had moved first, then she could excuse herself from her transgression. Her internal chronometer belayed that lie: they had moved at the same moment, each acting independently, yet it was as though some outside force acted upon them, as if the music was still playing and they were still folding to its beat. The kiss is irrelevant.  What mattered most was Voyager – first and foremost.

Eighteen years in service to a collective so great, she as an individual did not exist, gave Seven the strength to save this ship and to save the Captain. From herself.

As for pain – she was used to that.

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Janeway had gathered a silvery chiffon wrap as they left the dance floor, trailing the fabric across the back of the chair where she had left it earlier and bringing it round to cover her shoulders, but not all of her back. Or her front for that matter.

It was so light and sheer that the Captain’s skin gave it a dusky pink hue. Seven wondered if it afforded the Captain any extra warmth, as it certainly did not afford her any extra modesty. She looked up into the Captain’s eyes. They were smiling, knowing where her attention had been.

Seven had smiled back, or at least, she raised her ocular implant. “Shall we walk, Captain?”

This time the movement of the Captain’s hand through her arm had seemed more exquisite, her anticipation of its graceful path making it so.  She placed her hand over Janeway’s. This formal way of being is like a symphony of movement, all measured pace and strict rules, but the surge and swell of feeling within it, defies the form. Seven made an amused sound: the Doctor would be proud of her.

“Penny for them?” Janeway looked up at her as they moved along the cloistered path.

“I was considering the nature of form, Captain.” Seven guided the Captain into the moonlight and onto the first of the smaller paths.

“Really? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? And why did that make you laugh?” Rumbled, Seven walked on. She looked down at their interlaced hands and then to her left at Kathryn. She smiled, a real smile this time, her lips forming the curve and then she looked away. She had seen the delight in Kathryn’s returning grin. Her heart was making little irregular leaps in her chest, making her breathing short.

“In the Collective, to lie was impossible and so falsehood did not exist. Not between the Borg and yet a greater deception was practiced on all of us: the notion that perfection as an ends wiped out the injustice of the means, making it impossible to recognize the perfidy of our own actions.” Seven faltered, wondering why she was saying this.

“Go on.”

“Here we play at a system of manners that aims at a form of perfect interaction. Engaging in an intimacy that, without the etiquette, would not be revealed.” Seven’s breath was still playing tricks on her.

“You suggest that etiquette itself is a deception?” Kathryn was looking at her softly, the moonlight turning her eyes almost midnight blue.

“Well, no, that would depend on how it is used.” Seven swallowed. She wished she hadn’t started on this.

“Are you saying that this interaction between us, between you and I, is insincere?” The Captain’s voice was low and deceptively mild. Seven knew that tone.

“Not on my part,” she blurted, a blush beginning to creep up her cheeks. Janeway paused their motion, her eyes now hidden by shadow. Seven had to shift position slightly to see them.

“Nor yet on mine,” said the Captain. She ran her hand down Seven’s arm and then took her hand. “Let’s sit over there.” Seven looked at the bench – it was small. There would be no hiding on it.

“I prefer to walk…If you don’t mind.” There, you see, I can do etiquette. She looked triumphantly at the Captain, whose face was guarded, and re-offered her arm. The touch was lighter this time.

“Very well.” They continued down the path, away from the dance. “I’m curious, Seven, as to why you thought to bring that up now?”

So am I, thought Seven.

“I don’t know.”  She remembered something the Doctor had once said. “It must be the moonlight.”  Kathryn laughed.

“Or the dancing.” Her voice was playful, rhythmic.

“Or the clothes.”

“What about them?”

“They are quite revealing.”

“Ah. Well. Mine are.” The Captain’s eyes danced at her. “Do you disapprove?” She stepped in front of Seven and held out her arms so that the chiffon drape fell either side of her, framing her shapely form, and so that Seven could look at her.

The moonlight caused patterns of silver to flare across the gown in surprising cadences of light and shadow. Seven drank in her appreciation in a breath and stepped closer, her hand reaching to delicately experience the texture of the chiffon at the Captain’s neck.

She was careful not to touch Kathryn’s skin.

“My approval is irrelevant, but I would never have thought that the light of a moon could so enhance an outfit’s appeal. This glistens like a stellar galaxy. ”

Seven’s eyes wandered over the fabric, captivated by the shiny glint of fibre contrasted with the warm skin that held to its own movement beneath. She noticed the Captain’s breathing had become more intense. That she had not responded. She knew Janeway was looking at her, just as her own gaze was captivated by the slow movement of her fingers along the edge of the wrap.

She let one finger move underneath the fabric, raising her eyes to hold the Captain’s just as her fingertip connected with skin. Kathryn’s pupils were dark, entranced and aware, so aware. Her gasp was involuntary, her eyes closing momentarily. Seven’s finger traced a delicate pattern on her flesh, the chiffon now caressing the back of her hand.

Long fingertips ran their way up the lapel of her tailcoat, followed by a strong palm whose warmth she could feel even through the fabric.  The Captain’s eyes had opened.

“You, on the other hand, who are quite covered up, do you think that you reveal nothing?” Janeway’s voice was low, powerful, personal. Her hand stroked down the smooth lapel.

Seven let more fingers run along the Captain’s collarbone. She didn’t want to think about what she was revealing, she was so enthralled by the overwhelming intimacy between them. Her left hand slid around the Captain’s waist, inviting the other woman closer. Janeway obliged, pressing herself into the dark suit.

“What do I reveal?” Her fingers outlining the shadow beneath Kathryn’s collarbone, were magnetically drawn to the softer, hotter flesh that formed the top curve of her breast. Her palm pressed down softly and then lifted up, balancing on her fingertips.

She felt Kathryn’s hand whisper back up to her neck, coming to rest more firmly at the juncture between neck and cheek, forcing her to look into the smaller woman’s eyes, just as a shiver ran the entire length of her spine. Her lips parted, to catch a breath.

“This.” Janeway’s hand drew her down, even as she was going up on tiptoe to kiss along the line of Seven’s jaw. “Your strength,” murmured the Captain. Seven was shivering from sensual overload. “This.” Kathryn’s lips met the corner of her mouth and set her alight with one soft kiss. “Your sensuality.” She could feel the Captain’s breath on her lips and she moaned into the waiting kiss, catching the third “this” in a hot breath that filled her mouth. She broke briefly, to gasp out her pleasure, then rejoined the erotic dance of kiss and caress, of tongue and taste. Her eyes were closed, but her body perceived every nuance of contact and demanded more. Somehow, both hands were underneath the chiffon wrap, worshiping the sensitive back in one movement and urging closer contact with the next. She would never know when their tongue tips had started circling each other, but when Kathryn’s tongue swept along her lower lip, she was sure that she would faint.

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Seven of Nine started out of her memory. Unacceptable. She was supposed to be analysing her memory, not enjoying it. I have become wasteful with my time. Like Mr. Kim. A thought occurred to her. She tapped her comm badge.

“Ensign Harry Kim, report to Astrometrics!”

In the meantime, she would concentrate on her duties. Efficient. Her eyes swept the console with satisfaction. Data had to be evaluated, progress must be made. The Borg had refound her focal point. Work.

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The Captain was in her Ready Room, plotting.

The first rule, in a competition where there can only be one winner, is to understand the rules – not the rules of the game – but the rules by which one’s opponent is playing. Establish a weakness and then exploit it to success.

No slip of a thing, no flibbertigibbet, was going to determine her future for her. Seven knows best? Hah. Anger was rolling around her system the way clouds dominate the sky on a thundery day. The fact that Seven was using her own code against her, only added insult to injury. Seven’s argument was one she had rehearsed a thousand times, in case Chakotay or anyone else should approach her. It was too infuriating to find herself on the receiving end of it. She stretched, catlike, her body immediately reforming its taut posture and imagined what the Maestro would have to say on the matter.

“Katerina, the rules of love are never compatible with the rules of Princes.”

Quite.

Or scientists, for that matter. Perhaps that was it. Perhaps she didn’t need to win, just present a better argument than Seven’s. She had done that so many times before – prevailing sometimes just by pulling age and experience over the younger woman’s infallible logic. Pulling Seven along with her. Balancing the purity of Seven’s evidence with working operational practice.

To begin with, she had to establish where exactly the resistance had come from, why one moment they were in heaven and the next, hell.

Janeway ran her fingertip meditatively around the lip of her coffee cup in a controlled graceful motion. The quiet of her Ready Room providing a perfect counterpoint to her recent outburst. Her eyelids were heavy and half closed. She had the “patient disposition of a cat,” her father used to say. Relaxed, and yet primed to pounce. Her poise was as natural to her as her usually courteous disposition. She allowed a half laugh to escape her lips. Form and nature. Then there was her redheaded Irish temperament, the willful streak which would not give way. It had served her well in the past. She had taken on and defeated the Borg Queen herself with it, more than once. You may be a technological marvel, Madam, a ruler of billions, but I have an Irish pirate queen in my ancestry and I ran off with your treasure: Seven of Nine. Took her right from underneath your arrogant nose.

The irony was not lost on the Captain – now Seven of Nine had, unwittingly, stolen her heart.

Her hand started shaking. She placed it palm down on the soothing cool of the coffee table. It reminded her of leaning against the wall, talking to Seven at the Tango party and the recollection hit her in the chest with appalling force. That was when it began. The Captain had meant to compliment Seven on her distinguished appearance, but had found herself a foil to Seven’s undoubted charm. The Borg’s reciprocal appreciation had entranced her, not just because Seven had been genuine in her tribute, but also because her insightful reflections on humanity combined with her wit had simply disarmed her. Seven had wooed her, hadn’t she? Hadn’t she? Am I being a fool, a sad old fool? Her body fought back with a memory of its own: of kissing in the moonlight. A frisson of sexual energy marauded about her then, leaving her feeling weak and breathless.

She remembered Seven’s hand reaching to consider the chiffon wrap about her naked shoulders. How her fingers had precisely positioned themselves to sample it, in perfect control. Every nerve ending in her body had been willing her to go on, even as her mind had disbelieved that the younger woman possessed such deftness and maturity. When Seven had knowingly begun the caress that had set her body on fire, Kathryn Janeway had fallen like the last angel from heaven.

More than that, she had seen the love in Seven’s eyes. She remembered how her third “this” had been lost in their first kiss. What she had been going to say was, “Your love. You reveal your love to me.” She wished she had said it.

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B’Elanna Torres had been watching the data readouts from the dust fields when a thought occurred to her. What if the thieves didn’t have more sophisticated technology at all, but – rather like when she had been a Maquis rebel – possessed a level of ingenuity which adapted other ships’ technology to serve their purpose?

She drew in a sharp intake of breath and moved to another console. The easiest way to be invisible to Voyager’s sensors, would be to fool the sensor array into perceiving the alien vessel as not being separate from Voyager. That, and a crude cloaking device to fool the naked eye, would do it. Meanwhile, Engineering was sending ever more power to the sensors to extend their capacity and the aliens were sitting pretty right inside the ship’s shadow. If it were me? Torres would monitor both the Bridge and the command staff communications. It takes a thief to catch a thief. She snorted. She had been a damn good thief, when she was a freedom fighter.

Lt. Torres tapped her comm badge. “Torres to Janeway.”

“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“Had you forgotten our holomatch, Ma’am?” she coughed. “I believe it is my turn to surprise you.” There was a pause.

“Ah. It had quite skipped my mind. You have my sincere apologies, B’Elanna….Remind me.”

Torres checked her console. “Holodeck two on the hour.” Five minutes.

“See you there, Janeway out.”

Torres grinned, she was about to redeem herself big time and show that she could still cut it in the company of Ms. Perfect: the Borg who had risen to become Janeway’s favourite.

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Harry Kim stood in the corridor outside of Astrometrics in a state of befuddlement.  What had all that been about?

Ever eager to help Seven, he had arrived promptly, been instructed to perform a minor task and then been grilled about his love life. Seven’s questions had been structured and compelling. He had no idea she was so interested in him. Was that it? Oh wow! On the other hand, once she had gleaned the information she had been seeking she had swiftly dismissed him from Astrometrics. Hmm.

He had pushed exactly four buttons and vocally loaded one subroutine.

Honestly, women. He made his way sulkily back to the bridge. Maybe even Borgs have hormones.

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They had been kissing with absolute passion. One of Kathryn’s hands was holding and stroking the back of Seven’s neck causing cascades of electricity to race down her spine, while the other kept teasing her nipple with its palm. Lips met and parted, changing pace and depth randomly, but with inflamingly synchronous timing. Seven’s own palms had been appraising the elegant line of Kathryn’s shape, pushing her palms down all the way to the top of her hips and then drawing her fingertips up…and up…and up to brush along the sides of her breasts. Her mind had gone into meltdown – all that existed was sensation.

She had felt the Captain’s hands slide around her waist inside her jacket, then use the pressure to pull her into the shadow of a large tree, their lips never losing the rhythm of contact. Seven’s hands had found the top of Kathryn’s dress, the shawl falling away to the ground, and worked their way inside the tight fabric to cup soft breasts. Janeway was caressing her back and sides under her jacket with thrilling sensuality. Seven ran her thumbs over her Captain’s erect nipples, feeling responsive tremors of pleasure rippling through her body.

She felt fingers move inside her cummerbund, fingertips stroking her delicate waist in a way that set the inferno between her legs on overload.

She swept her hands up to the Captain’s shoulders and snapped her back away from her, breaking all contact between them.

“No.”

Janeway was in shock. “Seven, what is it?” She stepped towards the younger woman.

Seven moved away, deeper into the shadow of the tree. “No. This must stop. Now.” She watched the Captain of Voyager struggling to recover her breasts into her dress and felt shame. “Look at you. This isn’t right.”

“Seven?” Kathryn made as if to move towards her, then stopped herself, not wanting to cause the younger woman to flee. “Wait. Hang on a minute.” Janeway was trying to catch her breath, to compose herself. She looked around for her shawl which was glittering on the ground behind her, but did not move towards it.

“We were going too fast for you, I’m sorry. I—” she moved towards the Borg, who held up her hand to stop her. It worked.

“This was a game, a masquerade which got out of hand. It should not have occurred, I—”

“It was not a game for me.” Kathryn’s response was quiet. Indignant.

“It should not have occurred.” Seven’s by contrast was cold and angry. “You are the Captain,” she said, as if this explained it all. Kathryn’s eyes sparked, she put her hand on her hip.

“Thank you very much for reminding me. However, while we may have been indiscreet in getting quite so carried away, I was aware of the privacy of our location and that there was no one else around. As for my rank……I am also a woman, Seven, one who has not felt this way in a very long time….If…ever.” The last bit had cost her and Kathryn ran one elegant hand over her face. Her eyes were searching Seven’s.

“Feelings are irrelevant. The—”

“They are not!” Kathryn exploded. She caught the look on Seven’s face and tried to calm herself. “Okay. Look, you are upset and I am sorry about that, but in the interests of discretion why don’t we take this discussion to my quarters, hmm?”

Seven’s eyebrows shot up in alarm. “No!”

“I won’t touch you, Seven, I swear, not unless you ask me to. I promise. We’ll just talk. After all these years we can still do that, can’t we – just talk?” Her hands were making placating gestures in the air.

“I will not come to your quarters!” Seven was almost shouting. “There is nothing to discuss. You are the Captain and it would damage this ship if…if….”

“Shh! Okay.” Janeway’s mind kicked back in. “Listen, I could not and do not want to force you to do anything that you don’t want to do. Okay?” Seven nodded. “Okay, but there is the question of what just happened here – we cannot simply ignore it. Maybe I was too flirtatious, misread your signals, but in my heart Seven, I believe that you meant every gesture, every kiss. You said so yourself: Borg do not lie.”

“You are twisting my words! Manipulating me. What happened is irrelevant. I should not have touched you. I will not touch you again. There are rules, Captain, against fraternization. For the good of the ship!”

Janeway sighed. “Oh, well let’s just throw ourselves in the brig and be done with it.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Or perhaps, I should turn my Ready Room into a nunnery, with only one occupant – me! I could sit behind a grille and insist that you only visit me if you are covered from top to toe in veils.”

Seven was fiercely straightening and smoothing her jacket. “I am glad you can find levity in this, perhaps you are not well and should go to sickbay!”

Suddenly the Captain was back, her eyes ordering respect. “Seven,” she said warningly, “you go too far.” The younger woman moved as if to leave. “No. Stay!…Look… these rules…they only apply to Captains and members of their crew, which means Starfleet and you are not Star—”

“A pathetic technicality. Insufficient. For years you have reconditioned me the Starfleet way and now, when it suits you, you disregard your own rules, to suit yourself. To serve yourself! I am disappointed in you, Captain. I thought you were more honourable than this. Less selfish. Less self serving. You are in error, but I think that you will come to see things with more propriety when you have had a chance to think. Goodnight!” With that, Seven of Nine spun on her polished heel and stormed out of the garden, leaving a stunned and outraged Kathryn Janeway staring after her.

Kathryn had found a quiet spot to sit and process the evening’s events. She felt humiliated, abandoned and more sexually frustrated than she could ever before remember feeling. She did not want to go back to her quarters alone.

On top of that, she had been told off just when she was reaching for love. A floodgate in her sophisticated system of personal self-possession had been breached. No, she had let it down and invited the invader in. She had no idea how to rebuild it. She didn’t even really want to. The waters of need had been eroding her defences for so long, even this disaster was a relief of sorts and she was not about to let go of her desire yet.

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“Very good, B’Elanna!” Janeway’s voice held admiration. It echoed around the holodeck, adding weight to the sentiment. B’Elanna looked nonchalant. Inside, she glowed. “And Seven is still looking for the ship beyond the boundaries of Voyager?” The Captain asked. B’Elanna nodded.

She searches for thieves beyond us. How very appropriate. Kathryn snapped her attention to the case in hand. “I don’t want them to know that we have located them. Not until we understand how they moved through Voyager’s security grid. Not until we can see them. Can you perform a full sweep of their vessel without alerting them?”

“By modifying the wave analyser Seven is searching with: that could mask a sensor sweep. Particularly if we don’t change the pattern she is using. I guess the first thing to look for would be Starfleet signatures, to see if they’re using our technology against us. I’ll have to work with Seven, though, and there is no way of knowing whether they are monitoring communications in key departments.”

“Understood. Work out the modifications, first, then we’ll find a way of telling Seven. I want them, B’Elanna. They made fools out of us…. Let’s turn the tables on them.” The Captain slapped her on the back.

“What do you have in mind, Captain?” B’Elanna was happy, this was like the old times, when she and the Captain had regularly found solutions to Voyager’s problems together.

“My guess is, that this a small ship, more suited to stealth than open confrontation. If that’s the case, I’d like to tractor them straight into Cargo Bay One and then throw them in the Brig until we have recovered our property. If, as you are doing that, we discover ways to strengthen Voyager’s defences, so much the better. ”

B’Elanna grinned. “Yes, Ma’am!”

Janeway tugged her uniform into place. “Carry on.” She marched out of the holodeck, buoyantly. Things were looking up.

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Several hours later, the Captain of the Starship Voyager sat with kinetic stillness in her chair on the bridge.

Modified sensor sweeps had revealed what she considered to be a rather quaint, tatty, little craft, 800 metres off the starboard bow. Aside from Voyager’s plasma relays, they also had an old Starfleet shield generator which was tuned to Voyager’s current shield frequencies making them invisible to the ship. Small personal cloaking devices had been located and been rendered useless by the five occupants’ DNA patterns which the doctor had programmed into internal sensors. There were also anomalous technology signatures which neither Voyager’s database nor Seven of Nine had any knowledge of.

Janeway looked across at Lt. Torres, who nodded. One enhanced tractor beam online. She inclined her head in acknowledgement, then looked at Chakotay who tapped his comm badge. “Seven of Nine to the bridge.” It always paid to have Seven around.

“Red alert!” Janeway’s throaty command fired the command centre.

The Captain’s anticipation was rising. “Take us in, Mr. Paris, nice and steady. Let us catch us a mouse.” She concentrated all of her attention on the chase, refusing the nervousness jangling inside with the imminent arrival of Seven to the bridge. I should have talked to her before now.

“Yes, Ma’am.” Tom Paris eased the ship towards the little vessel. “One quarter impulse.”

Janeway heard the bridge doors open and she felt, rather than saw, Seven assume her post. Her mood both dampened and sparked like the first drops of rain and electrical flashes before a summer thunderstorm.

“800 metres. 750, 550, distance 450 metres,” called the helmsman.

“Full stop. Engage tractor beam.” Janeway watched B’Elanna key the orders and then mutter under her breath. “What the—?”

She glanced up at the view screen, the little ship had shot sideways and upwards hotly, followed by the green beam. It bounced downwards and to the right.

“Whoa! Hotshot flying!” Tom Paris was doing his best not to totally crack up at the picture of the Klingon engineer and the mouse tangling in space.

“Mr. Paris.” One note of warning – he usually required level five, minimum. She noted his shoulders were tense with barely concealed restraint.

“Damn, this is like trying to catch a bug with a shovel! Ah, they’ve brought different shields online. Trying to establish a lock.” B’Elanna was joined by Seven in frantic programming and reprogramming. “Damn, they’re slippery.”

Paris exploded with laughter.

“Mr. Paris!” Level six. Janeway was not in the mood.

“They’re hailing us.” Ensign Kim would never laugh at B’Elanna. It was too dangerous. He looked tight around the edges.

The Captain drew her graceful frame erect and focused on the monitor. “On screen.”

The viewscreen flickered and then filled with a tall, elaborately costumed youth. Young. Military. Scared. Aggressive. He glared at her angrily, puffing his chest out menacingly. “You will cease your attempts at capturing us!” The effect was somewhat undermined by the jolting of the ship under his feet as it tried to avoid the tractor beam.

Captain Janeway felt her cloak of patience settle about her and humour wrestling with professionalism.

“I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship—”

“We know who you are!” He waved his arm at her with imperious and dismissive intent, but ended up having to use it for balance.

“And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” Her lazy ease was just the tiniest bit insulting. B’Elanna and Seven were still frantically working the consoles.

“I am Kir Flenn, Captain of the Royal Flytten Vessel Sheneth. I am warning you to cease all hostile activities.” He eyeballed her like a bar room brawler.

Janeway leaned on her right armrest, chin in hand.

“Ah. Well, Captain,” she sniffed, “You are no match for Voyager. We wish only to recover some stolen property that is on your ship, ask you a few questions and then—”

“Got them.” She heard B’Elanna in the background. The Sheneth was being drawn towards them.

“I am warning you!” he menaced.

“…we will release you. No harm will come to you, your crew or your ship. I suggest you stand down. Now.” She enunciated the last word perfectly.

Tuvok’s weary voice announced weapons discharge from the little ship.

“There was no discernible effect.”

Janeway leaned forward. “Kir Flenn, you have been most ingenious in your attempts to evade us, but this incident is now over,” she watched him signal to an unseen crewman, “so, stand down and prepare to be boarded.”

“You do not want to fight us!” he shouted.

“No. You are right, I do not want to fight you.” She waved her hand across her throat to signal the termination of transmission to Ensign Kim.

“Lock on to their signals and beam them all to the Brig. Lt. Torres, take a team over to the Sheneth to make her safe, then tractor her to Cargo Bay One. Seven,” thrills shot through her, “work with Torres. Let’s see if there is any useful information aboard. In particular I want to know how they came by a Starfleet shield generator.”

Seven looked at her and for a nanosecond, it felt like all the universe stood between them.

“I will comply.”

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Lt B’Elanna Torres looked across the tight confines of the Sheneth’s engine room at the Borg quietly working to remove the Starfleet shield generator. As usual, Seven of Nine had offered no conversation but to convey or respond to work related matters, yet B’Elanna thought she detected a different quality to the blonde’s silence – as though she were worried about something.

“You piss the Captain off or something?” B’Elanna asked tactfully.

Seven paused momentarily in her movements. “Why do you ask, Lt Torres?”

“It just seems that Janeway’s…I don’t know…giving orders with venom, when she’s giving them to you. What did ya do?”

Seven swallowed. What didn’t I do? She knew answering with the truth would escalate the current stand-off way beyond her control and she still had her own plan to put into action to relieve the situation. A lie is required. She felt panicky. B’Elanna was waiting for a reply, with increasing fascination. Seven could see all the complement of Voyager standing at her shoulder, waiting to engage in the latest scandal. I will not provide it. Everything I am doing is to protect the Captain and Voyager. She paused in her work and turned to look at the engineer.

“We had a difference of opinion.”

B’Elanna shrugged. “Yeah, so what’s new?” She looked perplexed.

“On the subject of humanity and civilisation. How the one works to serve and create the other.” Seven returned to her work.

“I don’t get it – that’s hardly a reason to build up such a head of steam and you’re obviously worried about it.” B’Elanna leaned against the wall waiting for more.

Unbidden, to Seven’s mind came the image of Kathryn looking up at her with that half grin as they had walked in the garden. It made her feel weak.

“I am Borg,” she said firmly, applying more pressure to her work.

“Oh….and the Captain wants to turn you into a fluffy kitten, is that it?” B’Elanna sounded sympathetic. Seven turned and looked at her again, a smile breaking out across her face, which Torres returned gleefully.

“I am unfamiliar with kittens and I doubt if the Captain would appreciate your insight, but Borg are never fluffy.” Seven turned away again.

“Well..” Torres thought about how she used to enjoy fighting with Janeway. “I’d advise you to resist, but you are Borg and I guess, in that case, it would be futile for Janeway to persist.” She watched something close to amusement pass over Seven’s face.

“Of course,” the engineer offered helpfully, “I’ve never known the Captain give up on anything…..”

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Captain Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose with dramatic grace. It served to briefly mute the headache that was building behind her eyes and it always entertained her to make humanly silly gestures when she was having briefings with her Vulcan Head of Security, Commander Tuvok.

He regarded her stoically. He had made his report – none of the Flytten would speak, except Kir Flenn and he was uncooperative. Only Tuvok could infer rudeness, immaturity and aggression with one weary word.

“Very well, I’ll talk to him, Tuvok, but B’Elanna is pretty convinced that the shield generator was obtained from the Equinox – by fair or foul means we don’t know, as yet.”

“That would be the most logical conclusion, Captain. Between Captain Ransome’s unorthodox methods and these particular Flytten’s fondness for thieving, there could be any number of scenarios as to how they came by it. I will inquire among the Equinox’s remaining crew. We shall see how well their memories are functioning in this regard.”

Janeway looked ruefully at him, her headache building. So many divergent issues to keep on top of. Perhaps Seven is right. Her heart began to feel like a lead weight. She sighed.

“Dismissed.”

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Kir Flenn crossed his arms over a silken jerkin and sneered down at the petite Captain of this alien ship. He seemed to make Voyager’s cell look small. The youths in the other cells were lounging about in an overstated show of unconcern.

“You are outsiders, here. Vulnerable. Complacent. You must be stupid, also, to make an enemy of the Flytten. Do yourself a favour and release us now.”

Janeway could feel her neck muscles aching as she looked up at him, but years of command would not be dented by teenage posturing.

“Do your parents know you’re out?” Her eyes mocked him. Ah. The young man blushed scarlet. He tried to cover his discomfort with attack.

“I am a member of the Royal Household of Flyre. My House is powerful, well armed and loyal. We outgun you on every level.” His mouth contorted with disgust.

“Would that be more powerful than your little ship Sheneth, Captain? I hardly think I am going to lose any sleep over that.” Her voice was smooth, she raised her hand to silence him. “Just tell me how you came by the Starfleet shield generator and no one may ever need know about this unfortunate incident in your collective…” her gesture took in the other youths, “…military careers.”

Flenn sneered again. “If you release us now, no harm will come to you. If you do not, by the time we have finished with Voyager, she will be fit only for storing animal excrement and your crew will be sold as slaves.”

Janeway shook her head slightly. “Are these the diplomatic skills that equip all members of your royal household or did you just skip that class?”

He spat on the ground before her. “I will take you myself to clean my boots.”

Janeway held his gaze for a moment conveying the indulgence of an adult to a child. Then her expression hardened.

“Perhaps your comrades should elect someone with better manners to speak for them, or at the very least, one who has a basic grasp of your situation here.” She stepped up to the forcefield. “But let me make one thing clear, Kir Flenn, the sooner you answer a few simple questions, the sooner you will be freed. For now, you will stay here.”

Janeway walked out.

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The doors to Cargo Bay one slid open and Seven heard the unmistakable sound of the Captain crossing the deck.

“Seven, report.” Her voice was deep and soft, but still authoritative.

“All plasma relays are accounted for. The shield generator has been removed. There are traces of at least six other alien technologies. This is a strange vessel, Captain, more like one of Mr Paris’s holo-simulations than a worthy space-going craft. Except for a few vital systems – which are the communications array, the environmental controls and the high grade alloy forming the ships’ main structures, and these are all far superior to Voyager – much of the ship operates on a patchwork of technology of dubious provenance. Lt Torres is attempting to bypass their computer security system.” Her analysis was precise, but her delivery was fast and nervous.

The Captain thought of Flenn’s threats.  “Given the advanced nature of these systems, would you expect these people to have an advanced defensive capability as well?”

“Affirmative.”

“Thank you.”  She paused, not looking at the Borg. “Seven, we need to talk.”

“Agreed.” Seven looked at her compassionately. Janeway felt a huge burden dropping from her.

“Well then…I—” She was interrupted by the change of lights to Red Alert and Chakotay’s voice over the comm:

“Captain to the Bridge.”

Janeway felt the swirl of energy around her as she was transported directly to the Bridge.

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“Report.” The Captain made her way speedily to her command chair.

“A large vessel has decloaked off the port bow and is scanning us. They are three times Voyager’s mass, with more sophisticated weapons and they could outrun us. As yet they have neither armed their weapons nor raised their shields.” Chakotay looked worried.

She assessed the huge dart shaped black vessel that seemed to blot out space and felt a tremor of apprehension. “Get Seven up here.”

“They are hailing us, Captain.” Kim sounded perturbed. She heard the transporter deposit Seven at her station.

“Have you come across this ship before?” Seven swept her gaze over the monitor and then her console.

“Negative, Captain.” Janeway nodded.

“Look for tactical weaknesses, people.”

She nodded again encouragingly at Mr Kim. “On screen.”

The view screen revealed a tall, strikingly beautiful woman dressed in a similar uniform to Voyager’s prisoners, except hers obviously denoted higher rank, with a line of silver braid around her collar and a small rectangular midnight blue ribbon attached above her left breast. Her chestnut hair fell in waves to her shoulders, although there was a hint of grey above the ears. She was sitting in a black leather chair. Intense hazel eyes scrutinized Janeway.

“I am Gianna Dulwois, High Commander of the Royal Flytten Fleet and Captain of the Battleship, Orwellus. I greet you.” She inclined her head graciously.

Janeway inclined her head also. “Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager.” She paused and added throatily, “I greet you.”

Dulwois’ eyes twinkled, then returned to business.

“We are responding to a distress call from one of our vessels, the Sheneth. Our sensors indicate that both the ship and her crew are aboard Voyager – may I enquire as to their status?”

Straight to the point. Janeway was reminded of how she had observed Flenn. No contest. She regarded the High Commander evenly.

“The Sheneth is on board, yes, as are her crew, who are unharmed. Three days ago, Voyager experienced the disappearance of some of her technology, which we traced to the Sheneth. We have recovered our equipment and are happy to return the vessel to you.” She paused. Why does Dulwois look so amused? “We do, however, have questions, which have not yet been adequately answered by her crew. When they have been, I will hand them over to you.” Janeway tensed her jaw.

The Flytten Commander raised her head challengingly, her eyes less friendly.

“So, they are your prisoners?”

Captain Janeway met the challenge head on. “Yes. You are welcome to send a representative to establish their well-being and circumstances. You may also send a representative to observe their interrogation.”

“Have you not talked to them, Captain? Are they not being co-operative?”  Dulwois looked mildly bemused, slightly disbelieving.

“I have spoken with Captain Kir Flenn myself, yes.” Janeway paused, Dulwois’ face was a study of betraying nothing. “His attitude has not been helpful.” She watched Dulwois consider this information. There was a hint of irritation. The High Commander came to a decision.

“Do you have a record of these interviews? I would like to see them.”

Masking her own surprise at the Flytten’s non-concern of the suggestion of thieving by the youths, Janeway nodded at Tuvok.

“They are being transmitted to you now. Will you send someone to see them?”

“Thank you, Captain. Where are they now?”

“In the brig.”

“Leave them there. I’ll get back to you, Dulwois out.”

The bridge relaxed audibly as one.

“Tactical?” demanded Janeway. She looked at Seven. Damn my heart.

“They have superior capabilities on every level, Captain. They are not threatening us because they do not need to.” Seven’s eyes held hers.

“Or,” Commander Tuvok interceded, “they do not want to. High Commander Dulwois did not seem surprised by the Flytten youths’ activities. Perhaps they are escaped criminals.”

“Stand down Red Alert. For now, the Orwellus is not hostile.”

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Seven re-examined the data pouring across her console. The Captain had instructed her to look for tactical weaknesses in the Orwellus and the Borg saw no reason not to extend that search. Seven didn’t like the way the Flytten commander had treated the Captain. The easy, powerful charm, so reminiscent of the Captain herself. The fact that Janeway was even now escorting Gianna Dulwois to review the prisoners in the Brig disturbed her. So, Seven was looking for trouble and she was looking for a way out of trouble.

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Captain Janeway and Commander Tuvok led the tall Flytten and her escort of two equally tall guards along the corridors. She may be shorter in the leg than these flamboyant aliens, but Kathryn Janeway always met stature with stature. In the flesh, High Commander Dulwois was very impressive indeed, exuding confidence and intelligence in equal measure and with a wry, slightly understated humour that conveyed so much understanding about the stresses of command.

Sweeping into the Brig, the party came to a halt before the cells. To a man, the young men leapt to attention – alarm plainly showing on their faces.

Well, that’s new, thought Janeway.

Dulwois cast her eye over them and then returned her gaze to Kir Flenn who stood ramrod straight, a blush creeping up his cheeks. She allowed the moment to continue so that the pressure was built on all five young men.

Cadet Flenn.” He ground his jaw, shot her a look as if he were about to argue a point and then thinking better of it, returned his gaze to the wall.

“High Commander. Ma’am!”

Janeway raised an eyebrow at him and then looked at Dulwois. For now, this was the Flytten’s show and the Captain was rather enjoying herself.

Cadet Flenn.” His face was now scarlet, but this time his gaze didn’t falter. “You have been caught in possession of stolen property. What do you have to say for yourself?”

He swallowed, then opened his mouth to speak, but she interrupted smoothly.

“Perhaps you would care to leave references to animal excrement and slavery out of your reply.” It wasn’t a question. Her voice held a deadly tone. Her eyes nailed him. “Well?”

“I have no defence, Ma’am.” There was that streak of pride again.

“You surprise me, I would have thought to at least been offered the position of cleaning your boots.” She waited. Janeway wondered if he was going to cry.

Typical bully, she thought observing him, all threat and no substance.

“I believe that is a role Flenn has got earmarked for me,” she said mildly. Helpfully.  She regarded Dulwois with amusement.  The High Commander cocked her head and looked at Captain Janeway with bright hazel eyes.  “Really?” She asked in mock surprise.

She turned back to Flenn. “Really.” He was staring at the ground miserably. “How very noble of you, Flenn. How…” she paused, her eyes boring into him in censure, “sagacious. You display an innovative approach to management. Not to mention Interspecies First Contact.” She leaned towards him. “These people have given you a lesson in fair and judicious procedure. All you have supplied is disgrace.”

His voice was hoarse.  “I…’m sorry, Ma’am.” He turned to Janeway. “Captain, Ma’am, I apologise.” The Captain regarded him expressionlessly and then inclined her head. It was the High Commander who spoke.

“You are sorry you have been caught, Flenn, but believe me, you will be sorry for your conduct and you will have plenty of time for genuine remorse.” Dulwois sounded absolutely certain of that fact.

“Now, you will ALL answer all the questions put to you, politely. When Commander Tuvok is satisfied, you four will be escorted to the Brig on the Orwellus, but you, Flenn, will remain here and clean every pair of boots the Captain possesses. Is that clear?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“You will all face charges when we return home.” The Flytten looked expectantly at the Captain. “If I may confer with you privately, Captain?” she asked charmingly.

Janeway was stunned. Oh, she thought, thinking of her shoes. She looked at the High Commander and then at Flenn. Oh well, each to their own.

“Of course, High Commander, please come with me.”

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Seven of Nine watched the doctor talking excitedly with Neelix in the mess hall and headed towards the exit. Now is the perfect opportunity. She paused to allow several crewmen to enter when the doctor’s voice up with caught her.

“Why Seven! I do hope you will be wearing the more traditional attire for a female this evening? Should I help you replicate some?” She turned slowly.

“I have no plans tonight, Doctor.” Her heart felt heavy. Except to talk to the Captain.

“But surely you have heard?” He bounced to join her. “Why I was just telling Mr Neelix, funny really, as he is the entertainment aficionado and I merely a medical hologram, but there, raw talent always surfaces. I do believe it is a law of nature.”

Seven stepped to one side of the busy doors, raising her ocular implant as she did so. “I was not aware that the ‘Laws of Nature’ covered inorganic life forms.”

“Hm.  I think I need to invent a new social lesson for you, entitled, ‘Helpful Facts That Ease A Social Situation Versus Clumsy Facts Expressed At Inopportune And Inappropriate Moments’,” he mused to himself busily.

She inclined her head affectionately. “What is happening this evening?”

His attention snapped back to her.  “Ah! Well…As you know, the captain has been showing High Commander Dulwois the ship – she was most impressed with sickbay, especially with my holographic nature.” He looked smug. “She is quite charming, don’t you think?”

He didn’t wait for Seven’s response, for which she was glad. Dulwois’s visit to Astrometrics had been as tortuous for the matters needing to be said between Seven and the Captain, as for the Borg’s disquiet at seeing the unrivalled ease mutual high rank gave the Flytten and the Captain. They were comfortable with each other. Her attention came back to what the Doctor was saying.

“….well…never having been in a holodeck before, Tom Paris keyed in that wonderful Tango Party setting from the other night and the Flytten were just taken. Of course, the Captain seized the opportunity to forge better relations and so, tonight Voyager is hosting a Tango Party in honour of the new friendship between our peoples.” He beamed at her.

Seven felt cold. Oh no, she thought frantically. I will not attend.

“Seven?”

I have not been ordered to attend, I could finalise my plans, before addressing the problem with the Captain tomorrow.

“We have ah…about three hours before the party begins – shall I—”  He was interrupted by the chirrup of her comm badge.

“Janeway to Seven of Nine. Report to my quarters.” Seven’s heart thumped in her chest. The Doctor’s eyebrow’s shot skyward.

“Oh well, I shall just have to assist Mr Neelix. See you later, Seven.” He wandered off.

“I will be ten minutes, Captain.” Seven was shaking. Now or never.

“Understood. Janeway out.”

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“Come.” Seven entered the Captain’s quarters with her usual speedy grace, carrying a small tool kit from Astrometrics. She came to a halt exactly half way between the door and Kathryn, adopting her favourite formal stance with her hands behind her back.

“You sent for me, Captain.” Kathryn looked up at her, seeking the other woman’s mood.  She was greeted with the resolute gaze of righteousness.

“Have a seat, Seven.” Her voice was light and gentle.

“I prefer to stand.” Seven was working at her formal edge. I am your crewman. I stand before my Captain. In her eyes, there was a glint of strategy.

Kathryn ran her gaze over the coffee table so as to not let her frustration show, then raised her own determined expression to hold the Borg’s.

“Sit.” Her tone was quiet. It brooked no argument. She watched the Borg hesitate, swallow, and then move with just a hint of rebelliousness to the seat opposite hers, as far away as possible, placing the tool kit neatly in front of her on the coffee table between them. For a few seconds, her posture remained at attention, perched at the edge of her seat, but then, deliberately, she moved deeper into the soft recess and adopted a casually graceful position, legs crossed at the ankle, hands relaxed in her lap, head and neck poised and focused. Seven of Nine waited.

Kathryn looked at the tool kit and dismissed it as a distraction.

“First of all, I would like to apologise for my behaviour earlier. I was out of line, I truly did not mean to hurt you and I certainly should not have tried to strike you. It was wrong of me – I’m sorry.” She looked at Seven, trying to decipher the potent mix of vulnerability and intelligence in the other woman’s countenance.

“I was not hurt. I am not offended, but I thank you for your concern.” Seven’s eyes held hers, but she fiddled briefly with the implant on her thumb, then consciously, stilled the movement. She was glad the Captain had not mentioned the subsequent kiss. It still bothered her.

“Can you forgive me? You deserve better.”

The blue of the Borg’s eyes seemed to expand and encompass her. “So do you,” she said firmly.

Kathryn could already tell where this was heading. “From myself, I suppose?” Her mouth pursed, but she tried to keep the anger out of her eyes, with limited success.

“Yes.” Seven’s voice held the strength of one who speaks the unspeakable in the certain knowledge that it will not be well received. Kathryn could hear her mother’s voice saying, “It’s for your own good.” Oh boy. She didn’t want to go there.

“Accepted,” she said. Go with the flow, she thought. “And what of passion?” She kept to the low, gentle tone. There would be no sparks here, no duelling, no enraged exits. She brought her attention to relaxing her chest and to reinforcing the dam behind which she kept her tears.

Seven stirred in her chair, one thigh rising up slightly, before it was schooled back to its casual position. She had underestimated the difficulty of the task at hand. The Captain’s unexpected demeanour was touching her more profoundly than a more forceful approach.

“Passion is not the issue here. I am embarrassed to talk to you of duty, Captain, but I truly believe that mine is best served by not engaging further in a romantic liaison with you.” She tried to communicate her sincerity through her eyes.

The Captain held up her hands. “Yes, I know. I accept that, Seven. I do. It is a valid protocol and one that Starfleet has founded itself on for years. I have never doubted the justice of it, till now.” She wanted to cry and throw herself at Seven’s feet.

“You have said to me many times that rules are there to be followed. It is possible that your judgement is being affected by your emotions.” The Borg leaned forward fractionally, to press her point.

Kathryn found herself thinking how lovely she looked. How devastatingly sexy. She let out a sigh. “Oh – undoubtedly.” Seven was right: of course Seven was right, but her evaluation was based on incomplete data. Kathryn wondered if she really could beat this argument with talk of love. No, I won’t go there. Play the game. She took a moment to calm her tone and then said, “If I resigned as Captain, would you go out with me?” A shock tactic, delivered softly. There: inquisitive, academic. She wondered if Seven was monitoring her accelerated heart beat.

Seven looked shaken. “You must not!” she said, sliding to the edge of her seat. “I will leave this ship, before I will let you do that.” Seven’s breath caught in her throat, her face a picture of consternation.

Kathryn held up her hand again. “Voyager needs you, Seven, just as much as she needs me – no listen – I would not ever contemplate that.” Seven moved to interrupt her again. “No, I am talking hypothetically here. We have just agreed that my judgement as Captain is impaired…because…because I am in love with you.” Kathryn couldn’t help herself, she had to see how her words were affecting the Borg, but all she could see was dissension and determination.

“I have a remedy for that.”

What? For the first time, Kathryn felt the stirrings of dread in the pit of her stomach.

“Do you?” It was the Captain’s turn to be surprised.

“There is a medical antidote to love.” Seven gestured at the tool kit. “I have brought you some.” She looked at the Captain expectantly.

Janeway was dumbfounded. Her ears were ringing, the room became distorted by distance and the tears that had been so co-operative till now, were storming her calm. “No,” she said. It sounded like a plea.

“It will ease your pain.” Seven had picked up the little box and slid along the couch to sit closer to Janeway.

“No.” Kathryn was fighting for breath. “You would give this up so….? What? …A chemical fix for an untidy emotional problem?” She rubbed her face.

“Yes.” Seven moved closer.

“Me? You think you can fix me?” Kathryn turned to face her: she was reeling and she was losing the discussion. She reached out her right hand to touch Seven and found it caught and held in strong, capable hands.

Seven was at war with herself, the certainty of her mind being constantly challenged by her body’s yearning to offer succour to the best of her friends, to the woman she loved. Love is irrelevant. She gulped, wondering why she could not force the tension around her mouth to cease, but she ploughed on.

“Please, Captain. It is only a hypospray. It will help you until the feelings have passed, until….” Her throat snagged at the end of the sentence. She couldn’t say it. Until you don’t love me anymore.

Kathryn twisted her hand from the lulling warmth and softness of Seven’s grip, backing off desperately as she did so.

“I will not listen to this.” Emotion choked her authority. She was losing. Her left arm hugged the back of the couch, fingers digging in, trying to imbibe strength from the upholstered surface, as she part shielded her vulnerability from the Borg.

“No,” Seven’s voice was soft. “You must.” She opened the little case and removed one of the two hyposprays.

Tears were leaking from Kathryn’s eyes. “I forbid it! I will give it no second thought. Put that away!”

Seven watched her, the hypospray still in her hand. She was snared between accomplishing her task and a pit that had opened up and threatened to engulf her, right at the moment of her victory. Compassion. She looked at the Captain and then at the medical instrument. Slowly her hand moved to set it back in the tool kit. She left the lid open.

“We will discuss this further, Captain.”

Kathryn sat upright, rubbing the tears away from her face and forcing their flow to stop by dint of iron will. She released the tension in her lungs and dried her hands on her trousers. She did not look at Seven, but focused all of her control into the setting of her jaw.

“I will only consider your solution if you consider mine. You must hear me out, Seven.” She raked a fierce look over the Borg’s face, waiting for the younger woman to pick up the challenge.

“Acceptable.” Seven leaned back, but she was annoyed. “Proceed.” She made it sound like this was nothing more than an irritation, a minor inconvenience. She folded her hands in her lap and returned the fierce look with force.

“This is not a medical condition, like a broken leg where there is no doubt that healing is required or about the nature of the treatment.” Kathryn’s voice was shaky, throaty. She waved her hand. “Yes I know, there is a chemical reaction in the body, there are categorizable symptoms, but the condition is not life threatening and it is not an illness.” She paused to gather her thoughts, allowing Seven to step in.

“When Mr Kim was in love, you nearly confined him to the Brig for refusing medication.” Seven’s voice was wilful. Part of her didn’t want to win this argument. It wouldn’t stop her trying.

Kathryn nodded. “…And then I understood something about what we are doing here. Love is a rite of passage, Seven. It is biological, emotional, psychological, but it is also one of the great human experiences, one of the stages of life, that helps us to grow and if we don’t allow ourselves that growth, then all of our laws, our principles and directives are empty, hollow devices that serve only to keep us small.”

Seven was staring at her. Her annoyance was growing by degrees. Her mind had clattered shut. She held her hands tightly together, so that she did not speak, honouring her agreement. Kathryn took the silence as encouragement and carried on.

“Humanity is an evolving species. It is how we survive – we adapt to hostile physical conditions, to outside factors, but we learn from our experiences. Our philosophy and evolution go hand in hand: this is the matter, the substance of societies, of civilizations, of culture. Within that, the diverse ways we as individuals respond to the growth moments in our lives, is what keeps our species strong and what keeps our lives vibrant.” She waited for a response and got none.

“It is our nature and conversely, I now believe that to deny those moments when they come, to refuse to drink at the chalice if you like, is wrong, for it will make us the weaker for it. I know you love me. That you desire me, I felt it in your touch, I saw it in your face, in how you were with me.” She tried to reach the young woman’s hands, but there was something that prevented her. “I am not wrong in that, am I?” Seven still said nothing, her energy blasting Kathryn with solid resistance. Kathryn wavered. “Am I?”

“And what of Starfleet regulations? The rule of law?” The sheer moodiness of Seven’s dismissive glance shot knives into the Captain’s heart.

“Answer me, Seven! Do you love me?”

Seven examined her Borg implant, flexing each digit individually. “Love is irrelevant.”

“To the Borg maybe, but not to me. I never thought I could feel like this – I don’t think I even understood really how utterly momentous the fusion of reactions is when you meet the right person. I want to go there with you, Seven and nobody but you. If you feel the same – and I believe you do – join me – and allow us our moment of growth.”

Seven looked up at her contemptuously. “So Starfleet got it all wrong, then?” To her, Kathryn Janeway was more than a friend or commanding officer, she was the frame that made the Borg’s world feel safe. She was the law and now this woman wanted to undermine everything that held Voyager together in order to change, for a few bittersweet personal experiences? She waited Kathryn out.

“Have you heard nothing I’ve said?” Kathryn sounded tight, raw. Her throat was dry.

“You do not answer, because you do not have an adequate response. If we were in some normal situation, then…perhaps. But we are not and though you might think it draconian, the laws we follow – the ones you made me learn – are as they are for exactly this moment. To prevent weakness on the Captain’s part, for the good of the collective – the ship. For the survival of this crew. You may think your personal growth is more important than that. I do not. The greater good must and will be served here. Take the medicine…. Perhaps…there is something else to be learned from this situation.” Seven leaned forward and picked up the hypospray. “Do not resist. You will feel better.”

Janeway felt like she would both explode and cave in, it was but a matter of time before the agony in her heart expressed itself and she had no more strength left to deny it. And I’m in love with this woman?

“Please leave. I will deal with my emotions in my own way.” Seven hesitated. Then, painstakingly placed the hypospray in the case. She snapped it shut.

“I am sorry, Captain.” There were tears coursing down the Captain’s cheeks, which the older woman tried to conceal by turning away from her. The Borg rose and swept towards the door, the economy of her movements mocking the anxiety in her heart. She heard a sob behind her as the doors slid open, but made it to the hall and then stepped backwards into the room.

The doors closed in front of her. As they stilled, she heard Kathryn break down and turned to look at the older woman. Kathryn’s eyes were shut, her mouth gaping as her sob wracked body convulsed in agony.

Seven made it across the room in four long strides, kneeling on the floor by the end of the couch. She dropped the tool kit behind Kathryn and gathered the rigid frame into her arms. Kathryn’s head jerked up in surprise as long arms enfolded her in their embrace. Seven hung on.

“Shh, Captain, don’t. Don’t.” Her right hand drew Kathryn’s head onto her chest as her left pulled her closer and stroked her back. The Captain was weeping uncontrollably. Seven closed her eyes and allowed the moment, her lips brushing Kathryn’s hair. She swept her hand down along the shaking woman’s spine and then her eyes opened and she looked at the box.

She brought her hand upwards, slowing the pace and pulling Kathryn’s head tighter into her shoulder. Then she let it trail down again, deliberately dawdling. This pain is too much. She will thank me. As her hand neared the small of Kathryn’s back, she sent her assimilation tubules to open the little toolkit, all the while making soothing sounds to mask any slight metallic noise they might make. The palm of her hand rubbed in slow circular motions as tubules from the back of her hand wrapped themselves around the hypospray and she started to retract them, bringing the device into her hand.

“It’s going to be okay.” She had heard Ensign Wildman comfort her daughter like this when she was weeping. Her hand was now sliding up the Captain’s spine, but the comfort was conveyed through the side of her palm. Her right hand gently stroked Kathryn’s hair, massaging each strand away from the desolate woman’s neck. “Shhh. Don’t cry.” Seven took a breath and drew the hypospray towards naked skin.

Janeway froze and then her arm shot back to knock the Borg’s hand away, catching her wrist. She half turned to stare at the hypospray and then she leaned her head back and looked at Seven of Nine. The Borg felt absolute terror. She saw something in the Captain’s eyes she had never seen before. Revulsion.

“Tell me about perfidy, Seven.”

Kathryn’s face had been red and blotchy from her crying, now it had a purplish hue. The tears had stopped.

Seven slowly raised herself and minutely backed away. Her hands came up in surrender and very carefully, she placed the hypospray on the table, as though it were a phaser. She felt like soft prey in a hunter’s sights. The Captain’s eyes still held that dreadful expression, so she stepped up and back, never daring to take her eyes from Janeway and inched towards the door. The room was deathly silent, only the movement of her retreat broke its pressured spell. It was like moving through dark water because all the while Janeway’s eyes were threatening her very existence. She heard the doors open behind her, stepping through them as the Captain suddenly made to stand up. Their locked gaze was broken by the closing of the doors.

Seven of Nine found herself alone in the corridor. She turned and ran for the turbolift. There was something much, much worse than not being loved by Kathryn Janeway. Being hated. Being loathed.

Absolute rejection.

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Kathryn stood staring at the closed doors, willing her emotions to remain shut down. Too hot. This is all too hot. Paradoxically, the Captain herself was totally cold. She checked her clock, very aware that in no time at all she would be serving as the Federation’s sole Ambassador in the Delta Quadrant and with one of the most skilled diplomats she had ever met as her opposite number.

This is exactly the potential crisis that Seven is talking about.

As a woman Kathryn knew that she was outraged and bereft at the loss of her fleeting relationship. Seven was more stubborn than anyone she had ever dealt with on an intimate level: holding onto her judgement against all odds, without even giving one crumb of information as to how she actually felt. Kathryn knew she felt cheated and enraged. Behind the numbness.

As a Captain, Kathryn felt at a loss: Seven of Nine had been about to commit assault – whatever her ‘altruistic’ motives. Technically, the Borg’s actions amounted to attempted assault and Janeway was coldly furious enough to have her thrown into the Brig. She considered handing the whole mess over to Tuvok, let him sort it out – mete out punishment – while she withdrew and took care of her own emotions.

What stopped her was the thought of High Commander Dulwois, with all her wit and style delicately explaining the high jinks culture of young Flyre warriors, which inspired their infraction into Voyager. They had broken key directives about suitable targets for testing their skills, for which the Flytten had offered a formal apology and suggested replenishing some of Voyager’s reserves by way of compensation. Somehow, a potentially disastrous first contact had been smoothed away with polish and dignity. How sordid this all seems by comparison.

She looked at the hyposprays and felt sick, closing her eyes to hide from the utter disaster that all her aspirations had met. At least this is so bad that I probably won’t cry for months. She snorted. The night time doesn’t count.

Personal and professional pride competed to spur her into regaining her composure. Kathryn made herself move from her rooted spot. Seven would be dealt with firmly and fairly. After the Flytten were gone. At least she no longer wanted to pursue any kind of relationship with Seven. Not unless it involved a phaser and an airlock.

No sir. Not with someone who could cross the line so easily. From now on Seven of Nine would be relegated to the coldly civil territory that Kathryn Janeway reserved for those who had hurt her the most.

The Captain started dressing for the dance. She would not think of Seven and the last Tango Party. She would not consider the significance of the second hypospray. She picked them up from the table and the couch and recycled them.

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Curled up in a Jeffrey’s tube, so deep in the belly of Voyager that the hum of the engines vibrated the very air around her, massaging her skin, Seven of Nine wept tears of utter misery. She had been here before, often, in the early days, when Janeway would not let her return to the simplicity of the Collective with its singular mind. When being in the company of the lowly, insignificant humans made her feel so desperately alone. They didn’t understand her: they mistrusted and avoided her.

How could they know that her lonely, shrieking mind was terrified at all the choices? That she doubted herself in everything? They had seen genocide when they looked at her. How could they know that she was paralysed with fear, all the time? They saw her as a monster and she had known that it was true. She did not belong. She wanted to go home. You will return this Drone to the Collective. She was small. Janeway was the monster.

And so, here she had come, seeking comfort from the roar and shake of the machine, pressing her palms into the gratings, longing to be assimilated into the body of the ship. Then she would feel nothing, just information and energy and power. She could love the ship. Everyone on board seemed to love the ship. If she were no longer Seven, but a part of the ship, they could love her too. She had beat her hands bloody, in the agonising longing for the redemption that would be Voyager. Please. Her new human word. Please.

She paused in her sobbing, her cheek comforted by the rough feel of metal, fingers curling around the gaps in the surface – when was the last time that she had come here to cry like this?

She could not remember and for a while she took respite in searching her eidetic memory for a clue. Why had she come here the last time? All she knew was that suddenly she had felt that she didn’t need this place anymore and had felt foolish, returning almost immediately to Cargo Bay Two. She remembered the feeling of satisfaction, as if she had passed some test. She had outgrown her shameful, weak place. A new wave of heartbreak burst from her – how cruel then, that she should be back here now, after all this time, and more lost than ever.

The Captain would tell everyone. That Borg tried to force me. She assaulted me. She would have got away with it too, had I not been so quick to her inhuman ways. Seven let out a low groan of anguish. Captain. They would be looking for her, to punish her for her crime. Her stupid, foolish crime, the crime only a Borg could make. She thought about running, taking a shuttle and leaving. She could leave a message for Kathryn. I’m sorry. Fresh tears poured from her at the thought of leaving Kathryn, the woman who had forged for her, from out of all her clumsiness, a life she loved. The one individual who never ceased to surprise, intrigue and delight her, even at her most infuriating. Even when they argued. Seven could be as rude and Borg-like as she felt and the Captain would always handle it, would just come back at her with her wonderful, steely patience.

Seven sat up. She did love the Captain. She had fantasized about her. She ignored the guilt she felt about that. She wanted her. Now, when all possibility of a relationship was gone, Seven returned to that overwhelmingly lonely place that she once knew so well. She could smell Kathryn’s fragrance from the Tango Party. ‘A woman must have her secrets, you know.’ Kathryn’s eyes sparkling up at her. She moaned. She could feel strong, gentle hands on her back. Hot, sensuous kisses, driving her wild. Kathryn.

A thought came to her. The Doctor had suggested that she study love stories from different eras: Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Tosca, The Vulcan Night….what was that one…? Othello. A stupid play, she had reasoned, for the plot all hung on a receptacle for human nose fluid, a handkerchief. Ridiculous. Despite herself and her dislike of the jealous Lord, she remembered his final speech, because it had touched her:

‘Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Nor set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that lov’d not wisely but too well;
…. of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe…..’

“Richer than all his tribe.” That was it. That was her with Kathryn – richer than all her tribe – and she had thrown it all away.

Seven sat propped against the tube wall, considering her reasons. Of one thing she was certain: love causes trauma and irrational behaviour. How could the Captain of a starship alone in hostile space, risk her own emotional well being so?  Seven could never keep up with her, she would always be making mistakes, disrupting the Captain’s life, distracting her from her duties. Keeping Voyager safe. Surely that was the priority. She found her belief in the rightness of her decision returning. Look at what happened to Othello. Love was a mistake.

She looked at her comm badge. Still there and the Captain hadn’t sent security to arrest her. Perhaps, if she apologised and…Seven’s mind replayed the look on Janeway’s face. Revulsion. Tears started coursing down her cheeks again.  She watched them dripping through the mesh floor.

“Tell me about perfidy, Seven.”

She was alone. She was small. But she was also becoming impatient with herself. No, I am an individual, a woman, I am only as small as my actions. I may be unacceptable now, but I will try to make amendsAt least the Captain will not suffer from loving me anymore. Seven rested her head on her knees. Soon the Party would be underway and the guests of honour would be monopolising the Captain’s attention.

She thought about the smooth High Commander of the Royal Flytten Fleet, her charm and composure, her dry humour, so like the Captain’s. She wondered if Gianna Dulwois knew how to tango. It made her feel queasy. Perhaps Chakotay would put her off. She huffed. Some hope.

Perhaps she should make an appearance. It was inefficient to sit and wonder what was going on, when she could be observing it for herself and anyway, even if Janeway did hate her, she, Seven of Nine, knew that the right thing to do was to apologise. There was nothing left that she could do.

It was the logical course of action.

divider

“Hey, Tom,” B’Elanna was on top form tonight, “did you hear about that boy’s punishment for being rude to Janeway?” Her eyes gleamed with satisfaction as she handed him a glass of wine.

“Yeah, yeah, he’s got to clean all her shoes, I know.” He sounded long suffering. He took a sip.

“Do you think I should tell the Captain that such a punishment would be more like a dirty weekend for you?” Her voice held that tone which said she was seriously considering it.

He tried to bat his eyelids at her, only to be put off his stride by hers fluttering back up at him. “B’Elanna, it wasn’t the Captain’s choice, it was Dulwois’ and I really can’t see Janeway dishing it out just because, you know…” He knew it sounded weak.

“…because humiliation is so effective for disciplining immature youths?” She looked across the brimming holodeck towards the Captain and Gianna Dulwois who were sitting at a table. “You have to say that the High Commander’s got style. Janeway is definitely impressed.”

His head shot up with interest. “Really? You don’t think….” But B’Elanna was gone, swept up in a security officer’s arms to tango onto the dance floor.

divider

Janeway smiled at Gianna’s description of her first diplomatic mission. “I’m sure you have never been at a loss for words, Gianna.” The compliment had a wry teasing edge to it.

Hazel eyes met hers warmly. “Well…no..probably not….In fact, my greatest trial has been to learn to say less.” She grinned back at the starship captain.

“Then, this evening, you must allow yourself the indulgence of your favourite pastime and me the pleasure of your uninhibited conversation.” Kathryn raised her glass. “To…discourse.”

“Ah!” The Flytten’s own glass met hers. “Indeed.” They sipped their wine. “You know, Captain, one of the great privileges of my position is that occasionally I meet people who are truly delightful and interesting. It makes up for the all the times when despots were trying to kill me.”

Kathryn roared with laughter. “Tell me about it!” she said. “No, actually, I bet I can outdo you on the ‘murderous despots’ front!”

Gianna’s face went still. “In Flyre, Kathryn, we hold wagers to be a very serious business indeed. This may take some time to sort out. Still, in the interests of intergalactic stability, I could allow you to withdraw from the field right away.” Her eyes twinkled.

Kathryn picked up the bottle to refill their glasses. “Not a chance.”

divider

Leaning against a wall in the shadows, Seven had been watching the Captain for an hour, confused by the mixture of emotions she felt at seeing the older woman so relaxed and so apparently happy. Relief warred with disappointment. Guilt castigated her for the last. What did she expect?  Not this. Not this easy flirtatious manner. So soon after….

She wondered if the Captain had taken the hypospray after all and her heart felt fit to burst. She has discovered I am unworthy: so it was easy. Annoyance surged through her. It was one thing to insist that the Captain should cure herself of her love for Seven, it was quite another for her to do it so willingly.

But then again, she looked so happy. Is this how she looked with me? For a while, Seven processed her memories, flashing image after image of Kathryn up to compare with the charming face that lit up with pleasure at Dulwois’s stories.

There was the intimacy, there was the friendly openness. Sexual charm and casual contact. It seemed colder than Seven’s own memory of being the focal point of the Captain’s passion. Not that softness, not that love. Her heart constricted. What have I done? Suddenly, she was much less certain of her own ability to ignore the expression of love and desire between them. She could not go back. She could not push this new self-awareness into the obscurity of ignorance. She knew. It was too late.

Seven had loved before, in Unimatrix Zero, but as real as that had seemed, the memories had quickly taken on a dreamlike quality – she could get them out and put them away again. This is something other. The physical presence of her rejected lover would haunt her waking hours with the proximity of what she could no longer have. Bitterness began to eat at her. She was discovering a whole new aspect to loneliness.

For the first time, the Borg found herself wondering about the Captain’s solitary life. “Or perhaps, I should turn my Ready Room into a nunnery, with only one occupant – me!” The Captain’s voice in her inner ear no longer laughed at her, she sounded desperate.

Seven heard another roar of laughter from the Captain’s table. She pushed herself away from the wall and stood up, straightening her jacket as she did so. The crowds became a blur of movement and colour, but she threaded her way around the floor towards the Captain’s table.

Janeway was listening intently to another story from Dulwois, smiling and nodding. Seven’s pulse was racing in fear. She raised a hand up to her collar to loosen it slightly and stopped dead in her tracks twenty feet behind the Flytten’s chair. The Captain had raised her head and met her gaze, her expression changing instantly to a cold hostile warning. Don’t you come near me.

For a brief second she battered Seven’s senses with it and then cut her glance dismissively, returning with a soft apology to the High Commander. Dismissed. Seven stood awkwardly, her eyes misting with grief before she collected what was left of her courage and sped out of the holodeck.

divider

Kathryn entered her quarters without bothering to turn on the lights. She was bone weary. Dumping her shawl on a chair in the lounge, she moved through her darkened bedroom and into the bathroom, her heels echoing on the cool shiny floor. A satisfactory outcome. And I feel so damn low. She rested her hands on the little basin and leaned forward, allowing her head to touch the mirror. The music of the tango played in her mind, filling her heart just as much as Seven’s early exit from the party had made it ache. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Well, Seven was just one more problem to be dealt with in the morning. She waved her hand over the mirror light switch, setting it to a dim glow.

Her resolution regained, Kathryn raised her right hand to her hair, pulling out the pins, so that it tumbled to her shoulders. She stood upright, bringing her hands to the back of her neck, to unfasten her necklace, when her eyes connected in the mirror with Seven of Nine’s. Kathryn froze. The Borg was standing behind her in the shadows, the black of her outfit all but concealing her in the barely lit room, but she could see her face and she could see her eyes. Eyes that were fixed on hers with such intensity that the smaller woman stood transfixed.

Neither of them made a sound.

Seven’s hands were in her pockets, a fact Kathryn became aware of as she slowly slid them into the open. Fear shot through her and Seven seeing this, raised her hands slightly so that she could see that there was nothing in them. Then, with a deliberately measured motion, she ran her palms down her own body, pulling her jacket apart at the end of the run. No hyposprays.

Kathryn’s eyes had followed the invited inspection, understanding its message, but now they jerked back up to try and estimate the Borg’s intention. What she saw held her at the mirror, more securely than words could. Seven’s eyes held pain. Vulnerability. Intense apprehension. Sorrow. Kathryn kept her own expression hard, she wasn’t in the mood for any more trauma, but still…she didn’t want to break the spell. Slowly, elegantly, she lowered her forgotten hands to the cool surface before her. The necklace clattering into the sink. Your move, I am all out of moves. Her eyes narrowed.

The Borg held her gaze and then lowered it to the older woman’s neck. Kathryn could see her chest heave with emotion and then the huge blue eyes were looking at her again, communicating a need, a wish.

She remained impassive, neutral. Not inviting, not rejecting. Not forgiving, yet. Seven moved cautiously towards her, the heat of the taller woman’s body warming her back, but still she held the gaze in the mirror. The sole indication beyond her command mask of any personal reaction to this approach was palpable only to her, as her nipples hardened against her dress.

Seven stood so close to her that the warmth enveloped her like a physical touch, Kathryn’s right cheek coloured as the Borg’s left moved within inches of it as they looked at each other in the mirror. Then, with appeasing care, Seven raised her left hand to move the hair away from Kathryn’s neck, lowering her eyes to examine the revealed flesh. Beautiful. She thought. She is so beautiful. She met Kathryn’s eyes again, which were alive and fierce. She didn’t see permission, but she didn’t see refusal either, so she lowered her head as her hand gathered the hair further away to the left at the nape of her neck. Janeway’s eyes were becoming increasingly dark and no amount of willpower could keep them open as Seven’s lips connected to her skin, just behind the ear. A soft kiss of apology, followed by an erotic kiss of adoration, chased by open mouthed caresses that thrilled her as they trailed to her shoulder and then began to retrace their path.

Kathryn arched back into Seven’s body, a moan dragged out of her on her breath. Her right arm came up to cup the golden head while Seven’s left slid around her, cupping and holding the curve of her belly, pulling and soothing the silky cloth of her dress. Seven’s right hand began a long sensuous descent from the side of the older woman’s breast over delicate curves to the bone of her hip. Kathryn was stroking the soft metal on her hand, her head flung back to rock against her shoulder as Seven’s lips worked their way to her throat. Oh God.

Kathryn made a small throaty sound, need demanding the Borg’s lips on hers. She nudged the golden head with her chin, coaxing, her mouth seeking and finding Seven’s. A breathy sound left the younger woman and filled her mouth. Kathryn kissed back harder. Her body was being ravaged with caresses, she wanted to turn around, but she was held in the sweet prison of Seven’s arms.

Breaking for air, Kathryn felt the Borg’s cheek touch hers as hot breath moaned into her ear and gentle teeth nipped the back of her neck. She let out a demanding cry, wriggling against the silver hand that was now stroking the line between her belly and her sex, responding to the slow pulse of Seven against her buttocks.

Seven looked up, stilling the larger motion of her hands, but her palms still gently rubbing circles over sensitised skin, through silk. Her eyes held excitement, trust, daring. She smiled into the mirror at the older woman and Kathryn felt as if a million sunrises had come up – all for her. She made another pleading noise, but Seven had her own plans: her hands stroking from hips to buttocks in perfect unison. Round and round. The shuddering, heaving movement of the smaller woman connected directly to the wet place between Seven’s legs. She lowered her chin to Kathryn’s shoulder, watching the redhead’s face and then, with lingering slowness, brought her palms round to Kathryn’s belly and slid them upwards. Kathryn saw the hands travelling up her own body, observed a tongue run in circles behind her ear and found herself panting out of control. Seven nudged her with her nose, her hands stilled again. Wait.

She caught Kathryn’s gaze and held it, then moved her hands to cup rounded breasts. Her fingers began to slide along the juncture between satin and skin teasingly – echoing her first touch. Seven watched her hands, then Kathryn’s face, as her fingertips delicately worked the tight fabric, pulling it down and moving in to entice the Captain’s stiff pink nipples out and leaving them resting on the top of the garment. She rubbed her thumbs provocatively over the top of them, cupping the roundness in her palms. Kathryn’s breathlessness echoed in the rhythmic motions of her buttocks against Seven, driving the Borg almost to distraction. She took hold of the shapely hips and pushed into muscular softness – Kathryn grabbing the front of the sink unit for support and raising her pelvis to receive the slow grinding thrusts and maddening kisses on her back.

Seven allowed herself to get lost in the overwhelming pleasure of the sweet friction, watching the bounce of breast and deep reciprocal moans in the mirror, her eyes half closing, her mouth open, heat pouring into her cheeks. She moved her hands to the unit to cover Kathryn’s, lowering her body along the beautiful back, one wet tongue tantalizing between shoulder blades, then she deliberately stopped all movement but the delicate investigation of hot nipples between fingers and thumbs. Squeeze and roll. Slide. Squeeze and stroke. Cup. Circular thrust. Kathryn’s eyes opened, her face flushed and dreamy, low moans were spilling from her chest, from her mouth. Seven eased Kathryn back upright against her, reaching round to capture the sound against her lips in a kiss. Their tongues explored wetly. Hot breaths taken, given. Her mouth found Kathryn’s cheek. Her neck. Her shoulder. Little nips and kisses that covered them both in shivering electrical charges. She raised her eyes again.

Kathryn’s eyes were on her, dark and wild. Seven’s hands came between them to loosen the catch of Kathryn’s dress, then she slid them inside and around to pull the fabric down and expose her breasts completely. Seven moved to cup their fullness, but Kathryn turned around, sliding her hands up to cross behind her neck catching the Borg’s mouth in a wide open, passionately deep kiss, her naked breasts pushing into the taller woman’s black jacket.

She felt palms running down her naked back, moving the dress down around her hips. She broke away to focus on Seven’s jacket, fingers entering and rushing up to the shoulders to sweep the garment off and to the floor, the hot, sweet fragrance of Seven’s body surrounding her. She approached the bow tie with her teeth, loosing it in a tug, fingers sliding it from the collar. She looked up at her Borg, wickedly. I can do erotic too.

The playfulness was unexpected and Seven felt weakness surging through her as Kathryn began tugging at her shirt, she found lips offered up for kissing and met them with emotional intensity. Her shirt was snaking its sensuous way up her body. She felt Kathryn leaning her head against her to concentrate on her task as her shirt buttons were nimbly undone. The smaller woman moved back minimally to undress her lover, opening the shirt, inviting the cool air in – as physical a sensation as her eyes feasting on Seven’s bounteous chest, but Seven’s right hand had re-found the zipper to her dress. One tug and a warm caress over her hips and the dress fell to her ankles.

Kathryn watched the younger woman looking at her, seeing in her face the hungry need to see and touch more. She slipped her right hand down along the shirt sleeved arm to Seven’s left hand and took it, feeling and loving the warm texture of Seven’s implants. Kathryn Janeway smiled and stepped back out of her dress, leading the young Borg into her bedroom, one sensual step at a time. She came to a halt at the foot of the bed.

“Computer. Lights. Low.” Her voice was deep and rough. Breathy. Seven continued coming until she stood touching Kathryn. Her hands smoothed over hips, down to run along the line of Kathryn’s panties. Kathryn was gasping and leaning against her, letting her lead. Seven kissed the beautiful neck, bringing her hands inside the garment as she did so, to sensuously stroke the buttocks within. Kathryn arched back, so that Seven had to balance her with her hands on her pelvis, kissing the front of the Captain’s offered neck. A low, longing moan erupted from Janeway and Seven brought her right hand up to the small of her back to gain the entranced woman’s attention. Smoky eyes looked at her. She moved her hands back to the silky garment and moved it slowly over the small hips, bending her knees to accompany its descent to the floor with kisses that trailed down over her belly. Kathryn’s musky fragrance creating a renewed urgency to spur her on. Her mouth found the source of the scent and lips massaged gentle erotic tribute as her heart moaned out her adoration. Hands that had helped Kathryn step out of her undergarment, mimicked the silk on the backs of her thighs and between. Seven’s tongue parted lips and licked the swollen bundle of nerves repeatedly. She pushed deeper and sucked the nub into her mouth and drank in Kathryn’s pleasure.

Kathryn was wet and on fire. She felt her legs begin to buckle and was caught in strong arms around her that lifted and lowered her on to the bed. Hands deftly removed the stilettos and Seven’s shoes. Kathryn’s breath was coming in short little gasps as she watched the object of her dreams slide along her body, tenderness causing her to pause and kiss at her waist, her right hand balancing with a caress on the other side. Then Seven’s eyes were up and focusing on her next objective: her breasts and the beautiful still-clothed woman was bringing herself down and along her naked body as her mouth began to lap at Kathryn’s firm nipple. Kathryn lost herself in the sensation, but her mouth needed those beautiful lips. Wild eyes sought Seven’s, fingers pulling the pins from the gorgeous blond hair, throwing them off the bed, then she ran her fingers through to gently pull Seven up to cover her and begin the overwhelming kissing that seemed to connect with every part of her being.

Her thighs were being parted, strong palms urging them higher, wider. Her neck was being ravished as long fingers asserted themselves between their bodies, sliding into the soaking channel to curl up and claim her most private pleasure. Sweat broke out all over her as she jerked and fought the rolling thrusting ecstasy. The steadily building rhythm of Seven’s loving potency. Kathryn roared her passion into the night, throwing her head back into the mattress, crying her name and clinging to Seven to remain inside of her. Half sobbing, she moved to kiss and was kissed, the beautiful Borg holding her in azure eyes. Slowly, sweetly they eased to brief hot stillness, before Seven’s lips were parting to let a tongue taste the moisture at her throat.

Kathryn needed skin, now. She ripped at the linen shirt, sweeping it away over Seven’s graceful shoulders, out of one arm, down to the wrist that was still connected to her. The white cotton vest was tugged out of the black pants and similarly dispatched to settle around the wrist.

Wide lips claimed each other, the rolling movement of their bodies, re-igniting her molten core. Kathryn broke away, fingers plucking the cummerbund from around Seven’s waist, unbuttoning the black dress pants. Seven was biting at her neck, kissing her shoulders, licking back up to capture her lips, pulsing her fingers inside her wetness. She fought the desire to succumb and unhooked Seven’s bra, releasing the stunning breasts and slid it away to join the other garments. With fiercesome care she encouraged Seven’s hand to leave her, stripping away the bunched up clothes. Seven held herself on her hands as Kathryn moved down underneath her to slip her trousers over the rounded hips. Panties followed and Seven, feeling the cool air on her sensitized buttocks, moaned down into her, connecting their wet sex in urgent driving rhythm. She brought her hands up to experience Seven’s naked breasts for the first time, hard nipples rolled, lips reconnecting, as Seven’s breathless momentum gathered speed and force. Kathryn encouraged the movement, grabbing the pounding hips, thrusting up into her. She slid her fingers between them to catch Seven’s rapid tempo which in turn ignited her, so that when release shot through the Borg in one rigid pressured thrust after another, Kathryn came again.

Seven was still balanced on her hands, perspiration running from her, light filling her nerve endings, her head thrown back. She dragged a shuddering breath in and released it.

“Omega.”

She began to sag, arms giving way, opening her eyes to find the woman she loved adoring her. “Omega,” she said again. Kathryn grinned that half grin and drew her down into her embrace, her feet sliding the rest of Seven’s clothes down her legs and off. She snuggled into the naked wetness of her blown-away lover. Holding her completely.

“I love you, Seven of Nine.” She could feel tears on her shoulder. “I’ll always love you…in fact…I haven’t even begun to love you, yet.”

Dreamy eyes opened and smiled at her through tears.

“Acceptable,” she whispered.

divider

Fin.

Email Tenth Muse Top

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25 Responses to

  1. kati000 says:

    steel – melting steel
    rock – crumbling rock

    What a deep knowledge of human nature you possess, TMT !
    I won’t even try to understand the vast erotic field that is the base for the erotic parts of your writing. All I know is that I have never experienced love making like that.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you !

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      writer – happy. 🙂

      *ahem*. Well it’s what happens when fab characters get the hots for each other! They run away with story and before you know it -*whew*

      Thank *you* I’m so happy you liked it! 🙂

  2. Micah says:

    My favorite phrase out of the entire story…”Kathryn Janeway had fallen like the last angel from heaven.”
    How the heck do you write with such imagery? You paint a picture with words that creates depth to the point where you don’t read it, you inhale it. Pardon me….but DAMN!
    I’m going to go take a cold shower now.

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      -And I went to all that trouble to get you hot and bothered ! *bg*

      ‘…you don’t read it, you inhale it…’

      I *love* that! If I am driven by one thing more than any other as a writer – it is to tell the story in such a way that everything adds to the sense of it, to the world of it, so that the story carries you along and I do work very hard at it… So *thank* you for really touching me with your feedback.

      As for Janeway in her Ready Room, keeping herself apart out of duty to the crew and fidelity to Voyager… She was an angel waiting to fall…. *smile*

  3. Alyx says:

    I have to echo Micah’s comment — that phrase was one of my favorites as well. However there were many more:
    …like a cross between a Klingon Warbird and a Starfleet Librarian. All fierce pace and attention to detail
    Great comparison! 😀
    You may be a technological marvel, Madam, a ruler of billions, but I have an Irish pirate queen in my ancestry and I ran off with your treasure: Seven of Nine. Took her right from underneath your arrogant nose.
    I love that line to the Borg queen. It makes me think of someone else with a pirate queen in her ancestry! 😉
    She would not consider the significance of the second hypospray.
    It didn’t hit me till I read that…and then I felt so keenly the depth of Seven’s fear. Also, that scene with Seven in the Jeffrey’s tube — it was masterfully done. It really made me consider what a blow this was to her…how having her structured environment ripped apart, and then replaced by Janeway…it explained so clearly why it was so threatening and why she was so hard-headed about it.
    But I also loved this speech by Janeway about love. A good reminder, I think:
    Love is a rite of passage, Seven. It is biological, emotional, psychological, but it is also one of the great human experiences, one of the stages of life, that helps us to grow and if we don’t allow ourselves that growth, then all of our laws, our principles and directives are empty, hollow devices that serve only to keep us small.

    A really wonderful story, Honey. Romantic and moving and funny and hot. No wonder it caught my attention so long ago…. 😉 *k*

  4. Tenth Muse Top says:

    Sweetie, Thank you for all the work you did on the story and for being so supportive. All those years ago, when I first put DWM up, you were one of a very short list of already established writers whose appreciation I secretly hoped for. When I saw your name in my inbox, I nearly fainted! *g*

    You’ve chosen many of my *pleased-with-that* moments too. As a newly minted writer, it was all such an adventure, similes, plot devices, almost musical passages (that scene in the Jeffrey’s tube is Bellini ) ambushing the reader’s expectations and just writing from the heart .. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I loved doing it!

    *hugs* 🙂

  5. Fizzy says:

    Your move, I am all out of moves.

    Absolutely lovely. Thanks TMT for sharing despite your technical difficulties, and Alyx for editing. Totally worth it. 🙂

  6. Tenth Muse Top says:

    Thanks Fizzy. 🙂 I like that line too.

  7. sandy1984 says:

    Decided to wait until I had time to savour this before reading it, instead of trying to skim through it while having a quick skive at work…it was more than worth it!

    Beautiful, romantic story TMT, even though I did want to give Seven a good shake and tell her to bloody well get on with it! Thank you for sharing it, and Alyx for doing her bit when she was sick (hope you’re feeling better now).

    I always did wonder how you two got together, but I didn’t like to ask.

    Take care.

    Sandy

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      LOL – Yes! Though, however annoying Seven’s obstinacy and adherence to regulations is, I suspect that dating a Borg would present a really unique set of challenges!!! *vbg*

      It’s lovely that you took your time to read Dance With Me and enjoyed it. 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback, Sandy. 🙂 🙂

  8. Peach says:

    Yeah, like Sandy, I waited till I had finished my deadline and then treated myself with this love story! Feeling totally rewarded. *bg* Thank you both very much, TMT and Alyx.

    Though I’ve never watched STV, I could follow these two women along and experience how they felt. Especially Seven, I could literally feel the inner conflict she was having but the ending is very satisfying cause sometimes you just have to follow your heart, the heck with rules and whatnot! *vbg* Oh, I love the graph. It’s so creative.

    Now my question is: if this were a kinky story, who would be the top? 😉

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      ”…the ending is very satisfying cause sometimes you just have to follow your heart, the heck with rules and whatnot! *vbg*”

      Do you know you are the first person -ever- to pick up on that? I wanted it to be like that: that despite all the rationale, drama, seemingly hopeless situation, the instinct to love would overrule it all in the silence of letting the heart speak.

      Thanks, Peachy, for getting it. *bg*

      “Now my question is: if this were a kinky story, who would be the top? ;)”

      The simple answer: Gianna Dulwois, the High Commander, she was written with that suggestion in mind… Oh to be a naughty ensign on her ship! *bg*

      As for Janeway or Seven, within this particular tale – who do you think? *bg*

      Thanks for the feedback… I did the graph on my phone! *still high-fiving self about that* Hee hee!

  9. Hupotasso says:

    Peach- As for a kinklet, I was kinda surprised that not a single person voted for the “Space Station GV- 1” option. Maybe I should have titled it “The Adventures of the Starship GV- 1.”

    TMT- As for “Dance With Me,” this is such exquisite writing. After reading this story, and going back to reread some of your other ones, it seems to me there should be a law that if you have a talent like yours, for the good of society, you MUST spend a certain amount of time writing, or working on trying to write, every week. I’m going to try to see if I can get that legislation passed.

    • kati000 says:

      LOL !
      Yes, please do, Hupo, please do.
      That would force Alyx and TMT to write BY LAW !!
      And you know what happens if you break the law ! *giggling*

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      * ridiculously pleased*

      Thanks, Hupo.. Such support and feedback is priceless.

      I think if the law included a stipend, perhaps an annual barrel of ale, purse of coins, or five bales of wool and chocolate cake.. I may not even break it! And would I be arrested if I did? *vbg*

  10. Mil says:

    TMT, this awesome! I’m not exactly reading this at warp speed, and am still in the middle, but wanted to let you know I’m really enjoying it. I’m a closeted trekkie and Janeway’s a fave 🙂 I’ll report back once I’ve made it to the alpha-quadrant 😉

    • Tenth Muse Top says:

      Take your time, Mil. There’s nothing like a slow burn… in fiction as in so many things. *bg*

      (And thanks for letting me know! 🙂 )

  11. Aspen says:

    TMT,
    I cannot count how many times I have read this story over the years, as well as “At Last” in awe of the writer’s talent and to find out that you and she are one in the same is awesome. It is a masterpiece.
    ~~Aspen (formerly 1Chicklet)

  12. Tenth Muse Top says:

    Hi Chicklet!/Aspen

    It’s just great that Dance With Me is still being read and enjoyed. I wasn’t sure that years after the show closed this would be the case – let alone among the kink audience.
    So glad you like it. 🙂 thanks.

  13. Mil says:

    This was amazing, TMT! I loved the show, but this is SO much better 😀 Thanks for taking the time to edit and share from your phone! Did you really make the pic on your phone? Totally impressed!

  14. Indy says:

    Oh.My. You. Are. Good!

    Thanks, TMT.

    Now can Janeway please discipline her young lover for that bit with the hypospray? 😉

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