Human Behavior by Julie
Title Graphic by Julie

| Ch. 1-6 | Ch. 7-End |

Human Behavior by Julie
[ bioluminescentsea@yahoo.com ]
Author's Note: Big thanks to my beta reader Mika!

* * * * * *

Chapter 7

Janeway woke before her alarm. She felt absolutely boneless, utterly relaxed and sedated. A full body stretch felt so good, it was practically sinful.

Janeway loved going over the details of interactions, especially challenging exchanges. She began to go through a post-mortem of last night.

It had been a delightful evening, but it had not been what Janeway had expected. Seven had exceeded her predictions once again. Why had things gone so much differently than she had anticipated?

In hindsight, she saw that she had made a few tactical errors with Seven. Janeway considered the last person aboard Voyager who had pursued her. "Chakotay," she whispered the name of the man who had so politely and somewhat lethargically pursued her, "I thought she'd be as easy to resist as you." She laughed quietly at the slight to her first officer, sometimes her humor was best left private.

Actions without grace or soul are what Janeway had prepared for, dinner with the Borg. But Seven had developed far beyond the drone that she had severed from the hive mind.

Her plan to redirect Seven to any other crew member that would be a better more efficient target to pursue was foiled, when she discovered that Seven was not motivated by logic. Seven's focus on romance disarmed the Captain.

Remembering the previous evening, Janeway marveled at how both she and Seven had moments of dominance and surrender. Seven was aware of Kathryn's attempts at intimidation. In fact she tried her best to intimidate Kathryn. There weren't many people who Janeway couldn't control or overpower. It was easy to see why she was so strongly drawn to the young woman.

Then there were the sexual sparks that evening. Janeway had known she was attracted to Seven, but hadn't expected the intensity of her feelings. The confidence and the beauty, the intelligence and the body: each compelling on its own, but together, these elements were greater than their parts.

Something of the forbidden was also seasoning things. There were countless reasons that Seven was not the right person for her to pursue. Some amplified her attraction to Seven; others left her deeply troubled.

The young woman could be considered a member of Janeway's crew; there was definitely a taboo there. There was a considerable age difference. And there was Seven's separateness from the crew; a good portion of Voyager distrusted Seven. In addition to these concerns, Seven was also inexperienced with dating, let human conduct.

Part of her unconventional spirit attached itself to Seven. The young woman appealed to the part of her that was attracted to things she was told she couldn't have. Even when it was her own voice that said, "No."

The computer interrupted Janeway's thoughts; it was time to prepare for her shift.

She left her quarters cheerfully. Perhaps, now that they knew of their attraction for each other, things would be less volatile. The angry fireworks between this Captain and her Astrometrics officer were likely a thing of the past.

* * * * * *

Two hours later a fuming Janeway excused herself to her ready room. She hadn't quite made it to the replicator for her coffee when her door chimed. She turned towards the door. "Come."

In walked a somber Chakotay.

"I suppose you have something to say, Commander?" She walked towards Chakotay, placed her hands on the railing that separated the upper level of her ready room from the lower level.

"Captain, if you'd like I will send a probe to the system you were interested in investigating. Seven's assessment of the system could be wrong." Chakotay looked up at the Captain.

Janeway bristled. He was placating her, and she hated when he did that. "No, Seven is right. There is nothing of consequence there. We were able to gather that information from this distance, no need to waste our limited resources on an unnecessary probe launch." The words were half hers, half the one's Seven had spoken over the com.

For God's sake, how is it possible for her to be simultaneously mechanized and judgmental? She wanted the Commander out of her quarters so she could be alone to fume. If Seven can't agree with me about something as simple as a routine probe launch, what am I doing opening up to her? –Why was her voice so cold? –Good lord, what am I doing thinking there is anything to that woman? She's damaged; she's Borg. I'm a foolish old romantic for thinking otherwise.

"If I may, Captain?" Chakotay moved closer, unfazed by the Captain's anger.

"Yes?" She stood up as tall as she could, her body language a strong message to her first officer.

"What happened out there?"

The only response her received was the crossing of Janeway's arms. He pushed on regardless, "Your Astrometrics officer was informing you of her opinions in relation to this sector of space. Although abrupt and, as usual, not following proper protocol, Seven was performing her duty."

"I am assuming you have a point, Commander?" She felt her anger transfer from Seven and onto Chakotay. "Make it." She hoped that giving the man some direction would speed up the veiled way he was expressing his concerns.

"Alright, you and Seven need to talk. The two of you explode over issues of no consequence. If Voyager had the facilities or the staff, I would advise the Chief Medical Officer to put the two of you into mandatory counseling. Whatever this tension is between you, it needs to be lessened, or displayed in a private location."

"Comments noted, thank you." Janeway waved her hand at the door. "Dismissed."

"Thank you, Captain,"

He turned to leave and Janeway immediately began to feel contrite. He was, of course, right. Seven was disrespectful, but not any more so than usual.

Janeway was left to look at her own response. Any sort of public dissent from Seven enraged her. She had no excuse for the bad behavior. Was this rage a by-product of her attraction to Seven? Or was this irritation at her insubordination? Was it something more, this anger?

"Chakotay," Janeway said, in time to stop the commander from exiting the Ready Room.

The use of his name instead of his title stopped him. "Yes, Kathryn?" he said, his tone not concealing his frustration that she was lengthening this exchange.

"You're right. I need to take my aggressions out elsewhere. It's not right for me to storm off the bridge because someone doubts a decision I've made." Especially such a small thing. Unprofessional. She rubbed her temple as she spoke. "You were correct to point this out to me. I will see that I do not display my frustrations so publicly."

Janeway hadn't really left him much to say. She had told him he was right, and that she was working to modify the behavior.

"Well, if you need to talk, Kathryn. I am here for you."

Janeway smiled. He was a friend as well as her first officer. "Thank you. I appreciate that. I think I've got it in check now."

He smiled back at her and made a gentlemanly bow before he exited. Janeway felt guilty that she had thought him dull that morning. He was a caring man, and brave to confront her when she was angry. He just wasn't someone that sent her heart racing.

There was a reason she had been so reluctant to open herself to dating. Dating was like a Pandora's box. Sure at the bottom was hope, but it was found under layers of anger and denial.

This wasn't easy, but it beat the alternative. Janeway had been distant to her crew; friends such as Tuvok and Chakotay were being neglected. Over the years lost in the delta quadrant Kathryn was disappearing and Captain Janeway was in the replacing her. Shutting her heart was closing her to all personal interactions, not just dating.

She thought of the other side of what was opening up for her. The absolute joy and passion she could feel with Seven. It was interesting, but even this conversation with Chakotay, where she felt somewhat closer to him, was a result of letting Seven in.

At the thought of Seven, she felt a strong desire to visit the woman in Astrometrics. Suppressing it, she decided to contact her instead. She touched her com badge. "Janeway to Seven."

"Seven here," came the clean reply.

The voice seemed cold and empty to Janeway. She forced down the frustration she felt at hearing the absence of passion, joy or life in Seven's voice.

"My words to you were badly chosen earlier. I wanted to apologize."

"Acceptable."

In response to Seven's reply, she felt a strong current of anger bubbling up. She felt somewhat irrational, so she took Chakotay's advice and decided to cut the com channel. "Janeway out."

Janeway walked to the replicator and finally got her much desired coffee. She allowed herself a few moments to calm down before returning to the bridge.

* * * * * *

Chapter 8

Steam enveloped Janeway's face, as she inhaled the scent of her food. She was surprised to find the smell pleasant today. She encouraged Neelix to give her a bit more. He ladled another scoop into Janeway's bowl.

"Ah, a new take on the leola root I see. What is this?" Janeway smiled.

Neelix radiated pride. "Well, Captain, I have had the most wonderful talk with Ensign Masahiko Kobe in hydroponics. He was telling me how similar the textures of leola root and porcini mushrooms were. He suggested I try some Italian recipes. So today, I have made a leola root risotto with spinach and walnuts."

"If the aroma is any clue, you are on to something Neelix. I can't wait to try it." She wondered why Neelix couldn't just use porcini mushrooms, but decided it would be kinder to keep the question to herself.

"I hope you like it, Captain." Neelix rocked back and forth on his feet with pleasure.

"I am sure I will, Mr. Neelix," Janeway said. She left Neelix's station and turned to look for a seat in the mess hall.

The anger she felt yesterday had passed, so she was pleased to discover Seven alone at a table. The woman looked quite involved with a pad in her hand. Janeway's took the opportunity to appreciate the woman's beauty as she approached the table. "Do you mind if I join you, Seven?"

She looked up at Janeway and raised her eyebrows. "No, Captain. I do not mind." Seven lowered her gaze, and returned her concentration to the pad in front of her.

Janeway bit her lip. She felt a ripple of discomfort. This was not a warm welcome. She sat across from Seven, not quite sure what to do with the situation that was arising. She felt awkward. Seven was ignoring her.

"Seven?"

"Yes, Captain?" Seven did not look up from her pad.

"Seven, it's polite to give a person your full attention when you are in a social situation."

Seven looked blankly at Janeway.

Janeway nodded at the pad. "Pad. Down." Janeway smiled at Seven trying to get a reaction from the young woman.

Seven continued to hold the pad. Janeway examined Seven's expression hoping for a hint of what might be going on.

"I only need a small percentage of my focus to engage in conversation. It is most efficient to work as we dine together."

Janeway was still not getting any identification of the change in their relationship from Seven. In fact, Seven was warmer than this before they had been on their date.

Janeway quirked her head. "Yes, I'll give you that, it is quite efficient, Seven." She paused, not quite sure how to continue. "However your dining companion might interpret your continued work as a sign you did not want to be in their company."

"I was not aware of that." Seven put the pad down and looked fixedly at Janeway. "Let me assure you, I do want to be in your company."

"I am glad to hear that." She smiled tensely at the woman. An uncomfortable laugh escaped her lips. Janeway lifted her fork and poked at her risotto, not quite sure what to make of Seven's behavior. All the social graces she had witnessed two days ago on their date were absent. It wasn't like Seven had brought work to their date. This multi-tasking Seven was not who Janeway was hoping to sit with. She gave Seven a questioning look.

Seven merely held Janeway's glance.

Janeway felt a chill up her spine. She felt no connection to Seven's eyes. "Seven?" she said again, needing to break the silence.

"Yes, Captain?"

Seven wasn't working on her pad any longer but she was still did not seem present to Janeway. "Is there a reason you are behaving this way?" Janeway was beginning to feel rejected by the woman. She was a secure woman, but Seven was giving her nothing, not a degree of warmth.

"I am not clear on what you are referring to."

"Well, I don't know how to say it." Janeway tried to not choose the angry path that would be so easy to take. "I guess I expected you to be more welcoming." Was my date with Seven a horrible mistake? Has she completed her research on romance? Is she now done with me? There were feelings behind the actions, weren't there? Janeway lost her appetite, and for once Neelix had nothing to do with it.

"Through my observations of Lieutenants Torres and Paris, as well as my studies of the Star Fleet guidelines on proper conduct, I have concluded that I am to behave professionally towards you in front of other crew members." Seven spoke as if she were citing references, there was no inflection. "I believe that demonstrative behavior is to be covert. Have I failed to understand this?"

Suddenly, Seven's reserve broke. "I do not want to fail. Your inclusion in my socialization is vital to me."

Janeway felt a strong wave of relief. She touched her hand to her chest in an effort to compose herself. "Seven." She smiled to comfort Seven. She moved her hand from her chest and placed it on Seven's. "You haven't failed, of course not."

Janeway felt completely insensitive. She had assumed Seven was much more familiar with dating than she was. Of course the woman would compulsively try and find a faultless way to date. She continued to hold her hand atop Seven's, hoping the touch would bridge the distance that she had felt at the start of their lunch.

"Seven, listen. I believe that you may think there is a precise way to pursue romance." She smiled at Seven. "There is not. But you are doing as wonderfully as anyone could. You speak to me honestly and openly. You're interesting and intelligent. I enjoy spending time with you. You're not failing by any means."

"There is no perfect technique?" Seven narrowed her eyes and tilted her head. "But I have found countless reference materials that clarify techniques and rules of romantic interactions."

"I am afraid that it's a completely imperfect road you have ahead of you if you wish to pursue romance. Romance is sloppy."

"Sloppy?"

Janeway laughed. "No, that isn't the best term for it, is it?" She smiled as she translated it into Seven-speak, "I guess you could say it is inefficient. Dating is inefficient."

"Seven, I want you to feel comfortable around me. I want to feel comfortable around you as well. The thought of being 'covert' makes me on edge. You did get the right impression. We shouldn't behave as we would on a date while on duty. The fact that you call me 'Kathryn' on dates and address me as 'Captain' while on shift, that is correct." She paused, allowing Seven to absorb what she had said.

Seven listened intently. Janeway could see that the woman was practically taking notes. "There aren't rules Seven," Janeway insisted with a crooked grin. She couldn't help being amused with the woman's serious take on socialization.

It felt strange to mentor Seven in dating, while dating her, but the woman did need some basic guidance. "In front of others you can, of course, make eye contact with me," Janeway said, referring to Seven's discomfort holding her gaze when she first sat. "You can be kind. You should behave professionally, but you do not need to be completely indifferent. Is this becoming any clearer? There aren't many absolutes in human behavior." Janeway tilted her head as she gauged Seven's reactions.

Janeway still felt Seven was all too serious. "You can study all the rules you can find Seven, but actually interacting with people, well, it doesn't follow set regulations."

"This is helping somewhat. I do find many of these customs confusing."

At the word customs, Janeway was jolted. Being aboard Voyager after years of living as a member of the collective had to be giving the woman a severe case of culture shock. She suddenly understood that Seven was behaving in the only way she knew how. Seven's manners, or lack of them, were the result of an extreme cultural difference. She remembered thinking that she had to translate much of what Seven said to understand the woman. She wondered why it had taken her so long to understand this about Seven. Janeway felt somewhat enlightened.

"Seven, I understand your confusion. Let me assure you, dating customs confuse for you for a reason. Dating is confusing." Janeway smiled warmly at Seven. "You're still interested in dating, aren't you?"

"Yes," Seven said, as she looked into Janeway's eyes. Janeway saw Seven let out the breath that she must have been holding. She saw affection returning to Seven's eyes.

"Good." She squeezed Seven's hand. She removed her hand from atop Seven's and started to eat her lunch. "Do you have any suggestions for our date tomorrow?"

Seven narrowed her eyes and said nothing.

"What's wrong?"

"I am unsure of what to suggest. There are too many possibilities. I would appreciate your help, I haven't been on many dates."

Janeway was pleased that Seven had asked for help. She had wanted Seven to make a suggestion so it wasn't always Janeway making the plans. But she was willing to guide when asked. "I was thinking of a holodeck program. How about a hike? There are some trails I enjoyed in San Francisco. I would love to share them with you."

"Yes, that is 'something we have not done together,'" Seven whispered the last part of her answer.

Janeway loved Seven's response. Not only did it show that Seven could flirt effectively. But it also made plain that they were forming a history together. They had inside jokes. They could refer back to previous flirtatious exchanges with pleasure.

"All right then. A hike it is." Janeway's voice was lower. Her smile was in deeply rooted in her eyes, not nervously dancing at the surface, as it had been when she first arrived at the table.

* * * * * *

Chapter 9

Various pads containing crew performance reviews cluttered Janeway's ready room desk. They were being ignored as the captain thought about the woman she had plans with this evening.

After her lunch with Seven, she had found herself less angry with the woman during her shifts. The thought of Seven as someone with culture shock was a great help to Kathryn's understanding of her. She had been brought up in a wildly different environment than any of the individuals aboard Voyager. Wolves had raised her.

If she was to act differently than a wolf, it was only going to happen if Kathryn didn't treat her as one. And by the Captain's example, perhaps, the rest of the ship would follow.

Kathryn thought of the obvious distaste that B'Elanna and Chakotay held for the young woman. Chakotay expected Seven to betray Voyager and constantly reminded Janeway of his doubts. B'Elanna was openly hostile towards Seven, always demanding that 'The Borg' not touch her engines. Janeway wondered how much of that she had encouraged. She had been Seven's champion often, but also displayed an unconcealed rage towards the woman. Upon recalling how she had stormed off the bridge earlier in the week, she felt guilt-ridden. It was exactly those sorts of displays that made it hard for her crew to accept Seven.

Feelings about the Borg had mixed with her feelings about Seven. Janeway was beginning to understand this was a great injustice. Seven had not chosen to be Borg. She had been ripped from her life.

"Captain," B'Elanna's voice hailed over her com badge, startling Janeway out of her contemplation.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

"We've got some problems, a radiation leak in Engineering. It is contained, but I do need some extra hands to move the gel packs from here before they are damaged. Once the packs are out, we'll do a flush of the room. Permission to keep the alpha shifts of both Engineering and Astrometrics until we can get this under control?"

"Granted. Do you need any hands from Security or the Science Labs?"

"No, Captain. I've got enough people in radiation suits running around, any more bodies in here and we'll be tripping all over each other."

"Estimated time to completion?"

"Oh, I'd say about three hours and this place will be clean again," said Lieutenant Torres.

"Thanks for keeping me informed. I want a report on why this occurred once you've got this situation in hand. Janeway out."

Kathryn sighed. This meant that Seven would be at least an hour late for their holodeck time.

The captain tamped down her disappointment around the delayed date, and returned her attention to the performance reviews. Finding herself in need of fresh coffee, she walked over to the replicator before getting back to work.

* * * * * *

Janeway arrived at the holodeck before Seven; she took a few moments to make some adjustments to the program. She hummed to herself as she finished.

Seven most likely was coming straight from engineering in her biosuit, so Janeway had not bothered to change out of her uniform. She walked to a bench that overlooked the coast, sat and waited. She found herself thinking about Seven, as she had on and off throughout the day.

Janeway wondered how much of the anger she direct towards Seven, had sprung from her fear of her attraction to her. To pursue Seven was to let go of Mark, after six years of hanging on to his memory. She had hoped that conviction and single-mindedness would bring her and her crew home quickly. An attitude she kept for as long as she could, even though they were decades away from home, in a dangerous part of space. Dating Seven was to live in the now, instead of looking to the future. To let go of these things was painful, it terrified her, but to hang on to them was deadening.

She heard the hiss of the holodeck doors opening. Kathryn could not restrain the smile that brightened her face.

"Seven?" she said without turning.

"Yes, Kathryn." Seven closed the distance between them and sat beside Kathryn.

The bench was on a wooded cliff; the water was about 30 meters below an abrupt drop. Gnarled cypress trees seemed to cradle the two women. Several costal trails in the wooded hills began just yards from where they sat. These paths had been favorites of Janeway's when she was in the academy. The Da Vinci studio and this cluster of trails were the two holodeck programs that Kathryn had brought to Voyager.

Seven took in her surroundings. "This weather is not ideal. It is perplexing that you would not alter the temperature or remove fog from this environment."

Janeway could feel the nip of the cold through her uniform. She smiled at Seven. "Seven, I love this weather, the chill, the gray they encourage one to burn some energy. Come, let's walk."

Seven and Kathryn began to walk under the cover of trees. The trail took them away from the ocean, but the thick smell of the sea accompanied them. A few kilometers into the walk, the trail returned to the ocean's edge. Trees parted enough to give the women a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Kathryn stood at the edge of the sea cliff, put her hands on her hips, and appreciated the view.

Kathryn sensed Seven close behind her and took a step backward until she made contact with her. "Another thing about the cold. It makes you appreciate the warmth of your companion." Janeway enjoyed the feel of Seven's body heat pressed against her back.

"My biosuit does not allow for a 'chill'. But I do regard this temperature as a benefit, if this is what you will do to moderate it." Seven brought her hand to the smaller woman's shoulder.

"Well there is this," Janeway moved against Seven to punctuate her sentence. "And then, there is a surprise which will warm us just about a kilometer ahead." Janeway turned to Seven. "Let's keep hiking."

Before Seven could gather more information about this surprise, the small woman was off with a bound. Seven hurried to catch up with the energetic woman, for Kathryn was already several meters down the trail.

* * * * * *

Chapter 10

"Seven, this way." Janeway began down a side path. Seven followed. The path was comprised of steps made from rocks and tree roots. It descended; winding its way down 15 meters below the path they were walking on, leading to a rustic looking structure that was enclosed on the trailside by a wooden fence. Steam rose from the location.

"What is this? This path that was not a part of this environment originally."

"You studied before our hike, didn't you?" Janeway let out a laugh. "Yes, Seven, this is a Janeway addition. I borrowed an element from one of Paris's holodeck settings. I did make a few changes so it would blend into the environment." Janeway arrived at the fence and was quite pleased with the time she had spent on this. Reaching to open the gate, she admired the weathered look of the wood. She had asked the holodeck give the impression of unfinished wood left vulnerable to years of coastal conditions. The slats of the fence were covered in a light green powder, a combination of lichen and sea salts.

The color reminded Janeway of verdigris, found on the copper roofs of European buildings. It suggested the passage of time and exposure to the elements, things Janeway rarely thought about in Voyager's sterile halls and living areas.

Janeway's mind flashed to Da Vinci who used verdigris as a pigment, scraping the green crust off copper plates and processing it further with wine or vinegar. She loved watching him mix his paints; it was a wonderful blending of art and science.

Kathryn opened the gate and revealed to Seven the source of the rising steam. She announced with a flourish, "Our own private hot tub, overlooking the San Francisco bay."

Seven passed through the fence and observed both the hot tub and the view. "It is curious," she said, after completing her observations.

"What is?"

"It is curious, you would not change the temperature of this environment, but you would insert this adaptation."

"I told you earlier that I was mysterious. Seven, you haven't lived until you've been in a hot tub."

"That is inaccurate." Seven began examining the enclosure to the right of the tub. She walked towards it with her head tilted.

"A dressing room. You'll find a suit you can change into inside," Janeway said. "I just thought it would be nice for us to relax here. We both put in a long day, and this is one of my favorite ways to unwind."

"You also host a tub in your quarters. You find pleasure immersed in warm water? Explain."

"You'll have to try it. This isn't something I can quite put into words, it's something to experience." Kathryn was tickled to be with someone who had to be introduced to the pleasures of water.

"I will not deny myself this experience." There was a slight lift to her eyebrow.

Janeway smiled at Seven's distinctive comment. She motioned her head towards the changing room encouraging Seven to enter. Janeway walked into the changing area and Seven followed. On opposite walls hung bathing suits. Janeway had added a screen to give them both a bit of privacy. Janeway ripped her clothes off and quickly changed into her suit.

"I'll meet you in the tub." The words trailed behind Kathryn as she sprinted to the hot tub.

The water splashed over the tub in response to Janeway's aggressive plunge. As the heat of the water surrounded her, she let out a long sigh. She wrapped her arms around the edge of the tub. She enjoyed the sensation of cold air on her arms, shoulders and head, as the rest of her body was immersed in heat. Janeway exhaled. With her breath, she felt the day's pressure exit her body.

She was just absorbing the pleasure of the water, when she saw Seven exit the changing room.

Janeway had chosen rather modest one-piece suits for them both. The suit had a round neckline that was just above the collarbones. The straps were about 20 centimeters wide. The bottom of the suit was comprised of shorts that came down to mid-thigh. It was a popular suit among the women who surfed on the coast of California. Although those suits were usually made of an insulated material, for the Pacific Ocean was not as warm as the holovids made it seem.

Janeway had chosen the cut in an effort to be appropriate for a second date. She had looked at quite a few bikinis imagining Seven in various revealing suits. But the proud Janeway didn't want to use schoolboy tricks to see Seven's body. She was quite determined to get a viewing of Seven's nude form with Seven's full consent and participation.

Even in the modest suit, Seven was stunning. "You look wonderful. Come on in. The water's fine." Janeway amused herself by using the cliché. She wasn't sure if Seven knew that she hadn't coined that phrase.

Seven came up to the edge of the water and remained standing outside the tub. Janeway looked up and marveled at nearly two meters of perfect posture, and the interesting perspective she had of Seven's voluptuous form. "I like to plunge right in. You may want to take it a bit slower since this is a new experience for you."

The eyes that met Janeway's had a defiant gleam to them. Seven lowered herself, until she sat at the edge of the tub. She held her legs straight over the water and her hands on the edge, lifting her body with her arms. Her toes were pointed. Her form was perfect. In a movement that must have taken considerable arm strength, Seven sank into the hot tub in one smooth quick movement.

Janeway noted that she entered without disturbing the waters surface. It was as if she joined the water. Seven's displayed grace sent a shiver through Janeway.

Seven was quiet. She settled in to sit to Janeway's side. Janeway's arm outside of the tub was around Seven, but not touching the woman. They both enjoyed the warm water and the view for a period.

"I am feeling an increase in circulation," Seven said.

"Don't you feel your muscles relaxing, your tensions disappearing?"

"Yes. It is pleasant."

Janeway smiled at Seven. She squeezed Seven's hand to signal her agreement. And they both continued to relax into the tub.

"It feels," Seven said much later.

Janeway was surprised by the vague comment. "What do you mean by that, Seven?"

"The noise of the tub, it is similar to white noise. It seems to push away thoughts. I am less focused on thinking and more focused on sensation. Does that clarify?"

"Yes, that clarifies." Janeway closed her eyes and smiled. "It does the same for me, my worries about Voyager and the delta quadrant slip away here. It's meditative really." She exhaled again, letting out more stress from her day.

After a pleasant while, Janeway turned towards Seven. She took a long look at the woman's face. It was glistening with steam from the tub. She brought her free hand to Seven's cheek and caressed Seven's face. "Doesn't it make you want to let you hair down?"

"I had not considered it," Seven said, "You would like me to free my hair?"

Janeway grinned feeling to some extent, caught. "Yes, I'd love that."

Seven released Janeway's hand and brought both her hands behind her head. Janeway watched her closely, appreciating the way her body moved. Taking in the way her breasts stirred when her hands were behind her head. Seven's hair was soon free of its twist. It cascaded down to just below the woman's shoulders. Janeway let out a gasp.

This was one of those times that she had to reflect on her surroundings and circumstances. Here she was in a simulated hot tub, on simulated coast of California, in a holodeck, her ship alone in the delta quadrant. She was sharing her time with someone who had spent the majority of her life as a Borg drone, and this person who possessed and the most astute mind she had ever debated, was also possibly the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Janeway smiled at the fates that had chosen this path for her. This was not the direction she had expected her life to take given her choices on Voyager.

"Thank you," Janeway whispered, as she looked at the woman before her.

"You are welcome."

Janeway found it quicker to act as if she was talking to Seven, than to explain that she had been thanking some amorphous fates. She nodded and smiled at Seven.

Janeway moved herself closer to Seven. She brought her lips to Seven's neck and placed a soft kiss there. Her hand drifted to Seven's jaw line gently leading the woman's face down towards hers.

Seven didn't pause like she had during their first kiss. She leaned in and began a long kiss. Janeway moaned as she enjoyed the feeling of being kissed in a hot tub. She turned from Seven's lips and brought her mouth to Seven's neck. She brought as much of Seven's neck into her mouth as she could. She felt the tendon in Seven's neck stretching as Seven's head fell back. Kathryn began to pulse her tongue against her delicate throat.

She could hear Seven's breathing; her mouth was open in order to get enough air. Janeway felt inordinately proud. She had not expected to hear a sign of Seven's pleasure.

Janeway's feeling of accomplishment was interrupted by the grating sound of a seagull. It took her a moment to remember that she had programmed the computer to alert her this way when they only had ten minutes of holodeck time remaining.

She drew her head back, breaking her connection to Seven's skin. "Our time is almost up. We must get changed and make ourselves presentable for leaving the holodeck."

Seven's eyes met Janeway's. She leaned forward and Kathryn thought she was going to be treated to another kiss. Instead Seven went to the side, she felt Seven's hot breath on her ear.

"I wish to spend more time with you."

Kathryn moaned. She felt herself tremble. "Join me in my quarters?" She began to untangle herself from her lovely companion.

"Acceptable."

Janeway was now and standing outside of the tub. She extended her hand, like a gentlewoman, and helped Seven up from her seated position.

Once she and Seven were out of the tub Janeway said, "Computer, remove ambient water." The holodeck removed all the water that had originated on the holodeck, leaving the women dry and the tub empty. Janeway looked at the drained tub. She reluctantly went to the changing room to put her uniform back on.

"It seems inefficient to change back into our uniforms, when I assume they will be removed shortly," Seven said as they were changing in the dressing room.

Janeway drew the curtain back. She mock protested, "What kind of woman do you take me for?" She was quite disappointed to find that Seven had efficiently pulled her biosuit on. She was not quite as well behaved as when she had changed into her suit earlier, and would have been quite pleased if she had gotten a peak at Seven's flesh.

"One I will not be denied," Seven answered as she put her hair back up. "Computer end program."

Janeway's laughter echoed through the gray empty shell of the holodeck. She wasn't quite sure if this was Seven playing up her arrogance for her entertainment, or if Seven was just being arrogant. It amused her whatever its motivation was.

Seven lifted an eyebrow. Her expression revealed nothing.

* * * * * *

Chapter 11

It was subtle, but Janeway noticed something had changed upon exiting the holodeck. She didn't walk a half pace ahead of Seven as she usually did. She also allowed Seven to activate the door to her quarters and lead her into the living area.

Kathryn was open. It was quite profound feeling to let her guard down, to stop fighting. She realized that this was what was so disarming about Seven. She had been open like this since she met Kathryn. She had fought with Kathryn, yes, but she had also always displayed a trust.

A bond strengthened between the two women. Seven and Kathryn stood and held hands as they leaned into each other.

Seven brought her lips to Kathryn's and kissed her. Her arms, at Janeway's waist, held the woman to her chest, she welded a connection between them. She drew back and looked in Janeway's eyes.

Janeway reached up to release Seven's hair. She enjoyed the spill of blond hair.

There was a question in Seven's eyes, not a demand or an assumption. Seven released Janeway and walked to the bedroom.

Janeway followed, she paused at the entry to her bedroom

Seven approached the bed and sat down at the edge. "Please, come here."

Janeway closed the distance, kneeled before Seven, between her legs. She brought her lips to the area below Seven's ear; she gently kissed Seven. Her eyes closed as the sensation of feeling became more important than sight. Janeway's hands guided Seven's face towards hers, initiating a kiss.

Seven's tongue caressed Janeway's lips, and opened her lips, and then moved deep into her mouth and licked the inside.

Janeway responded, hugging herself as close to Seven as she could.

With a gesture, Seven indicated that she wanted Janeway to join her on the bed.

Kathryn rose from the floor, taking a minute to remove her boots. She then reclined on her bed.

Seven settled herself atop Janeway. She used her legs to balance, one rested to each side of Janeway. Her head fell to Kathryn's side.

Kathryn concentrated on Seven's breath. Not just the way it was warming her neck, but she could also feel the expansion and contraction of Seven's upper body. The weight of Seven atop her was something to be savored. Janeway didn't move to kiss the woman; she just enjoyed the feel of a body atop hers. Not just a body, but Seven's.

Seven rose up using one arm to support herself so she could lean over Janeway.

Kathryn felt Seven's hand at her side. It began a slow caress from her hip to the sensitive flesh under her arm. Seven's face was centimeters from hers. A hand began parting Janeway's uniform jacket. Janeway sighed as the back of the hand passed over her breast. She shifted to help Seven strip her of her jacket.

Janeway cursed herself for not changing for their date, if she had worn a dress this would be done. As it was, she still had many pieces of uniform left to shed.

Seven was pulling her shirt from her pants. Janeway felt Seven's hand contact her stomach. She hissed at the contact. It was Seven's mesh hand, an interesting texture for her to focus on. Seven's hand traced just under the waist of Kathryn's pants for a few moments before completely pulling the shirt free. The shirt was drawn up. Janeway brought her arms over her head to aid in its removal.

For just a second, when Janeway's arms were above her head and still tangled in shirt, Seven held her there. She was physically stronger than Janeway, and she informed Janeway of this in this understated way.

Janeway felt aroused by the display. If it had gone on any longer, it would have angered her, but this was just a note, another thing for Janeway to absorb about trusting Seven. That part of it was a faith that Seven would not physically harm her.

Seven bent her head down and kissed Kathryn, then drew back to remove her bra. When she had removed it, she stilled. Her hands stroked Janeway's sides, as her eyes followed the path of the caresses.

Janeway reached around Seven, brought the woman's upper body against hers. She arched her back and savored the feel of her bare chest rubbing against Seven's biosuit. She threw her head back with pleasure.

Seven moved to one side of Janeway and unfastened the Captain's uniform pants. She began lowering them and took the underwear off at the same time. She rolled back on top of the smaller woman.

Janeway was now completely undressed, whereas Seven had her only head and hands exposed. The feel of the mesh biosuit against her sensitized skin was fascinating. But Kathryn wanted to see more of Seven's skin. She reached her hand to Seven's collar and tugged at the neckline.

Understanding, Seven reached behind her head with both her hands and to open the fastening. Kathryn brought her hands to Seven's back and assisted with the biosuit's removal. Seven had to roll off of Kathryn to pull the suit completely off.

Janeway took that opportunity to shift to her side and view Seven. The form as well as the metal that accentuated it fascinated her. The alabaster skin and silver implants framed by the dark, dark blue of her sheets. Kathryn could see no embarrassment or shame in Seven's eyes, so she let herself take a good long look. "Beautiful."

She reached out and began to stroke the length of Seven's side, feeling the contrasting textures of implant and flesh. Janeway traced the lowest ridge of Seven's abdominal band with her finger. The band was an arrow pointing to Seven's sex. Janeway's hand reached the point and strayed from the band. She took her index finger and tangled it in Seven's curly hair. She held the contact, moving in a circle, above Seven's wetness, just a promise of things to come. Janeway drew her hand up Seven's stomach; enjoying the repeated texture of metal band, then flesh, metal band, flesh. Her fingers tugged at the skin and slid over the metal. It felt as if Seven's stomach was caressing her back. Janeway groaned.

Seven brought her hand to Janeway's collarbone and began to journey her hand towards her breast.

The hand was warm and gentle during its decent. Kathryn gasped when Seven's palm reached its destination. The warm soft palm was cradling her nipple, the fingers framing the breast. She wanted to feel some of Seven's strength. Janeway arched to gain a stronger contact with the hand. The prickly tension of the restraint they were both displaying was sharp and pleasurable. It was inevitable that things would soon change to abandon. Janeway did her best to burn this feeling, of anticipation, into her memory.

Kathryn turned in a way that pushed Seven on her back. She smiled at Seven, slipped one leg between Seven's and rose above her. She straddled Seven's thigh, feeling the delicious contact of her wetness on Seven's muscle. She wondered what it would feel like if there had been an implant on the thigh to rub against, but could find no fault in the feeling of the blonde's warm flesh.

Janeway lowered herself to kiss Seven. She embraced her head as they kissed. She felt the pressure of Seven's full chest against hers. Feeling the skin for the first time touch her skin. The kiss was delightful, but it was the feeling of Seven's naked body was the most delicious part of this contact. Janeway moved her head to Seven's neck. She focused on the feel of her body on Seven's. She arched her back to rub herself against the woman.

She could feel Seven below her straining to be closer; she was beginning to rock against Janeway's hips.

Hands descended from Seven's head. She cupped below her breasts lifting the weight. The back of her hands brushed at the band of an implant as her palms were filled with pure flesh. Kathryn admired the round heaviness of them. Janeway heard the breathing she had heard in the hot tub, gasps of air through an open mouth. She shuddered, loving that she could detect Seven's pleasure.

She brought her fingers to Seven's nipple, enjoying the feel of it as it became engorged. She pinched the nipple and heard Seven gasp.

Janeway watched rapt as Seven reacted to her touch. She observed her hands, slightly darker than Seven's skin as they caressed Seven's breasts. Without conscious intent, Kathryn found her head was moving closer, closer to Seven's skin.

Janeway took in the cool smell and sight of Seven, clean and firm beneath her hands. Each breath brought her mouth closer to that delicate flesh.

She closed her eyes and buried her face between Seven's breasts. At first it felt cool. Gradually warmed; Janeway gasped needing more air to allow for the heightened sensitivity she was experiencing.

She dragged her lower lip across Seven's flesh until she found a nipple. Kathryn let out her breath and rubbed herself into Seven's thigh. "Oh," she groaned as she felt the nipple harden beneath her lips and felt Seven move beneath her.

Everywhere they touched Seven was pressing for a stronger connection.

Janeway sucked at Seven's breast. She rasped her tongue across Seven's nipple. She felt Seven's hands in her hair, the fingers caressing and massaging her; they pulled her head tighter.

She trailed her hand down, feeling repeated metal and flesh, then finally the wiry texture of hair. Janeway moaned. She was quite eager to touch Seven. Seven's legs opened, her hips surged upward. Janeway drew her head back from Seven's breast and inhaled the woolen scent of sex.

Fingers worked through the bristly hair and reached moisture, cupped Seven's whole sex. Her middle finger was positioned in a way that left it just over Seven's opening, just above. She just held her, feeling Seven's attempts to increase the contact.

She felt Seven's hands on her back. They were still. Seven was absolutely focused on her touch.

Janeway slid her hand off Seven's breast and brought it just under Seven's side. So she could completely join their upper bodies.

She took Seven's earlobe into her mouth. She stroked at it with her tongue. Janeway started sucking at Seven's earlobe, with a decidedly erotic rhythm.

Kathryn heard Seven plead, "Please."

Kathryn brought her finger to Seven's clitoris, began to circle around it. She felt Seven tense, heard her inhale in wonder. Seven was wet. Kathryn enjoyed the smooth feel of her. She moved her finger lower. She played at the opening, circling, giving Seven a chance to get used to her. Seven moved her hips up again.

Kathryn found she was becoming very aroused touching Seven. She was grinding her hips against Seven's thigh. She could feel her nipples moving against Seven's breasts.

She nestled her head into Seven's neck, and let out a groan.

She took her index finger and entered Seven. Hips raised encouraging Kathryn. Her thumb began to dance around Seven's clitoris; she started to thrust in and out of Seven with her finger.

Kathryn heard Seven sigh and was delighted. "Seven, oh, Seven."

Kathryn felt Seven's strong hips pressing, her movements accelerating. She added another finger and was rewarded with another gasp. It felt wonderful to be inside Seven, muscles clutching at her fingers as they slid within. Seven moving below her, the pleasure was almost too sweet, almost too much to take in.

Seven's breathing was harsh. She suddenly grabbed Kathryn's hand and removed it.

The strength of the hand surprised Janeway. She gasped and drew back, not sure of Seven's intensions.

"I want to feel you below me." Keeping their bodies connected, she rolled Kathryn onto her back and ground her hips into her. The hands urgent on Kathryn's hips communicating to Kathryn exactly what she needed.

It was perfect, the physical pleasure a mirror of what Janeway had always loved about Seven. The power was always shifting. Kathryn drove herself into Seven's weight, using more and more of her strength, as she thrust against Seven.

Seven's eyes were closed her movements were jerky. Each downward motion of her hips was held against Kathryn longer, the time between each was lessening.

"Yes, Seven." Kathryn could feel that Seven was very close to climaxing. "God, that's good. You are so beautiful." Her deep voice trembled under the driving force of Seven's thrusts.

Seven tensed and held herself against Janeway. Her body arched and she made a tight circle with her hips. She threw back her head and let out a cry as she peaked.

Through her climax, she continued to push against Kathryn, the movements a decelerating echo of her passion.

"Kathryn," Seven said, she stilled. Her hand stroked Kathryn's hip, she fell to Janeway's side.

"Seven," Kathryn said, in an exhale. She felt such sympathetic joy at Seven's orgasm that she felt no need to rush towards her own. She was aware of her hunger and desire, but felt immersed in Seven's pleasure.

I am no longer a widow to hope. I live. Janeway thought of Mark, and hoped that he too, had opened himself to life. The joy she was experiencing illuminated how clinging to the unavailable was a form of self-abuse.

The sensation, of breath and lips trailing from her collarbone to her breast, cleared her mind. All thoughts faded, Janeway became focused on the feel of her partner's touch.

* * * * * *

Epilogue

That night, Janeway dreamt she was on the bridge. She was conducting a difficult negotiation with a delta quadrant species.

Preoccupied by the aching of her teeth, she kept bringing her hand to her jaw, her other hand clutched at a strange warmth she felt at her side.

Chakotay drew her attention from the transaction by touching her shoulder, he seemed to be faraway, underwater, she had to focus very hard to hear him.

"You should report to sickbay, Captain."

She nodded.

She didn't remember exiting the bridge, found herself walking down a staircase, this was not a corridor from Voyager, this was something one would find in a house.

Janeway entered sickbay through a wooden door, saw the doctor working at a console across the room.

Somehow this felt both familiar, also like a part of Voyager she had never accessed.

The doctor turned towards Janeway, face grave with concern. "Captain?"

"My teeth." Janeway could hardly get the words out.

He grabbed his tricorder and approached her. "It isn't your teeth I am worried about. It's that fissure on your side."

Janeway looked down, where she had felt the warmth there was a tear in her uniform.

Suddenly she found herself in front of a full-length mirror examining her side. It wasn't a tear; it was more like a crack, through it she could see her pale skin.

She put her finger inside the fissure and felt it; her uniform was several centimeters thick, made of a soft gray ash and strands of hair, dry and crumbing at the slightest touch of her hand. She began to peel it off. Soon, the uniform was cracking and falling away, as if in response to her thoughts. Shards and fell to the ground, with the shattering sound of breaking pottery.

The noises of Voyager and the crashing of the casing receded, replaced by the sound of her breath and the pulsing of her heart. Kathryn looked to the mirror; it reflected her childhood home in Indiana.

She was home. She saw that her face was covered in the same thick gray crust. She began tearing it away. Before long, she stood naked before the mirror. The casing that had surrounded her was now completely stripped away. She examined her body and skin and noted she felt alive.

Blood streamed through her body, as if coursing out of a faucet. A pink color rushed to her ashen skin, as if she had a human form of highly active chlorophyll, and had just been exposed to sunlight.

She watched herself in the mirror, it was no longer a mirror, but her own body, she was within it.

Janeway awoke with a complete breath. She felt it fill her body. It came from deep within her diaphragm, not like the shallow survival breaths that had become so familiar.

She was in a state where dream and reality shared common ground. She was on her back in the position that she had seen her body in, in the mirror. She became aware of a warmth at her side, where the fissure had appeared. She looked down to the see Seven's hand on her stomach.

Kathryn placed her hand over Seven's, and fell back asleep.

End

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