Command Decision

by JS Stephens
Copyright 2003, revised 2013. All Rights Reserved.
Comments to:

Disclaimer: I am borrowing characters and other elements of the Star Trek universe, which is owned by Paramount/Viacom or whoever the holding company is these days. I mean them no harm.

There may be actual or implied or even just discussed relationships between members of the same gender. If this bothers you, please leave quietly and shut the door behind you.

Part I

Captain Kathryn Janeway sipped her coffee as she looked over the San Francisco bay from her apartment window. She and the other members of the USS Voyager had been home for nearly two months now, and now she was totally bored. Her days since she had been home had been filled with debriefing sessions at Starfleet Headquarters, additional sessions at the United Federation of Planets headquarters, and generally answering all manner of questions from all quarters of the fleet.

She was utterly exhausted and drained, almost unable to form a coherent thought in regards to the past six years. At least they were all safely home with their loved ones, or so she hoped. It had been over a week since she had seen any of her former crew and she felt lonely. After six years of being surrounded by people, it was hard to get used to being by herself.

At first, it was nice to not have to worry about life or death situations on a daily basis. It was nice to wake up without worrying that her crew would possibly run out of food, fuel, or sanity. Now, however, the tedium of this life was wearing on her nerves, leaving her more irritable by the moment.

Today promised to be even more boring. It was the first day without any meetings at Starfleet or UFP headquarters. It was the first day that she didn't have to calmly explain why she made certain choices, broke certain rules, followed certain paths. She was simply free to do whatever she wanted for the next month, until she was given her next assignment.

And she was bored stiff.

Janeway drained the mug, grateful for the fresh, bitter brew. She set the mug down on the table, still gazing thoughtfully at the bay waters, now starting to reflect rare sunshine. The weather forecast called for sunshine today, and temperatures in the high 60's, a day to be celebrated by any San Fran resident. Maybe she should get out, take a walk, have a picnic. Maybe a picnic would be just the thing.

As Janeway basked in the sun, she dozed lightly, starting to dream. In her dream, she remembered a puzzling conversation with Admiral Janeway, her own self come back from the future to save Voyager and her crew, to show them the way home. The admiral had told her, "If I didn't come back to get you home quicker, you would regret it for the rest of your life. If I don't get you home, Seven will die within two years. You cannot let that happen, Captain, you love her too much. I love her too much."

She woke up abruptly, dazed and confused by her dream. She could still feel the intensity in the admiral's voice as she spoke of Seven. She remembered her reply, that she cared for all of her crew, and wanted to get them all home safely. Admiral Janeway had just smiled bitterly and replied, "You and I know that Seven is very special to us, Captain." A beep from her commbadge had ended that particular conversation, but she wondered what else the admiral was planning to say to her.

Enough thinking about the past, Janeway told herself firmly as she started packing her picnic basket. The past is over and done with.

Yeah, right, countered a small voice in her head.

Pursing her lips, Janeway squashed down any further musings about the fate of her crew, particularly about the former borg drone, Seven of Nine.

It was time to face the future.

Kathryn Janeway walked back into her apartment after her first post-Voyager mission, ready to relax for several weeks before starting her next assignment. She had commanded the Whitney on its shake down cruise, which only lasted six months. It had been a pretty boring mission, which only one moment of stark terror when the environmental systems went offline for several hours. It was finally determined that the systems had been brought down by a small insect caught in a relay.

Janeway unpacked quickly, then treated herself to a long, hot, shower - a water shower was sheer luxury after six months of sonic showers. She reluctantly stepped out of the shower and dried off and had just pulled on a robe when her comm unit chimed.

"Janeway here," she answered more sharply than she had intended.

The face of Lt. Harry Kim filled the small screen. "Oh, Captain, I'm sorry, have I caught you at a bad time?"

Janeway had to smile at her former crewman's deep blush. "I just came back from a mission. So, Harry, what is on your mind?"

"May I take you out to dinner? Or, could you come over to my apartment for dinner? It doesn't have to be tonight," he hastily added, "just sometime this week. I'll even cook with real food and real pots and pans."

"How could I resist an offer like that? A man who can cook, especially since I can't." Janeway smiled at her former ensign. "You're on, Harry. I should be free tomorrow night, say about 19:00?"

"Sounds good, Captain. I'm sending you the coordinates of my new apartment. Or, address, as civilians say," he added quickly.

"I'll be there. How about if I bring the wine?" she offered.

"That would be wonderful, Captain. I'll see you tomorrow night." Harry signed off, leaving Janeway to wonder why he wanted to see her so quickly. The poor man looked rather drawn, she mused as she exchanged her robe for a nightgown. One of her friends in personnel had keep her up to date on her former crew; Harry had been promoted to lieutenant almost immediately and was serving on a small research vessel.

Janeway appeared at Harry Kim's new apartment at precisely 19:00, juggling a bottle of wine, a loaf of fresh sourdough bread, and a small floral arrangement. When Harry answered the door, he immediately relieved the captain of her burden. leading her into the small dining area. "Captain, it was so good of you to come," he said warmly as he set everything down on the table.

"Please, we're both off duty, call me Kathryn," she replied as she gave Harry a brief hug.

He smiled briefly. "Kathryn, then. It seems so strange to call you by your first name. So, let me get the bottle opener and let you uncork the wine and I'll start bringing in the dishes."

It was a lovely meal. Grilled tuna steaks, rice, mixed vegetables, Caesar salad, wine, bread, and a very decadent dark chocolate cheesecake for dessert. After clearing the dishes, Kathryn and Harry moved into the living room and sat on the couch, still catching up on their respective missions. Finally, the conversation dwindled and silence reigned for several minutes before Kathryn finally asked, "Harry, why did you ask me to dinner?"

Harry grimaced bitterly as he set his wine glass on the coffee table. "Kathryn, I'm supposed to marry Libby next month, but things have changed and I'm not sure I want to go through with the wedding now."

"Why not, Harry?" Kathryn asked softly.

Harry stared down at his hands, clenching and unclenching them as he struggled to put words to his fears. Still looking down, he answered, "I'm not so sure of myself any longer. Something happened on the mission, something that I swore would never happen."

"What happened, Harry?"

He turned haunted eyes on her. "I was unfaithful to Libby. God, I was unfaithful once while we were in the Delta Quadrant, but that seemed different, I thought I'd never get back home. This is not easy to admit, Captain, but I had feelings for another man."

Janeway reached out and took his hands in hers, squeezing lightly. "What happened and how?"

Harry shut his eyes as he relived the event. "We had stopped at Star Base 21 to pick up supplies and to download some data," he started, "so the captain granted shore leave. I went down with Will Grant, who had become a friend of mine. Anyway, Will and I wound up in a bar, then in a holosuite. He called up a program of a grassy area near a waterfall, very peaceful. We sat down on a blanket and just enjoyed the waterfall rushing down for what seemed like a long time. Will brought out another bottle of wine and some glasses, so we drank. I was getting pretty happy, it was real alcohol. Anyway, the sun was setting, the scenery was beautiful, and Will turned to me and started stroking my face. I don't know why I did it, but I turned to face him and wound up kissing him. Then, I freaked out and demanded that we leave the holosuite and go back to the ship immediately."

"Do you think it was just the scenery, or missing Libby?" Janeway asked, seeking additional data.

Harry smiled bitterly. "I don't know, Kathryn, but I've tried to ignore these feelings for so many years, especially since I had such a crush on Tom Paris. But, I finally acted on my feelings, and I'm more confused than ever." He pulled back, crouching in the corner of the couch. "I know intellectually that there is nothing wrong with being gay, or loving a man, but the worst thing is that even though I left, I really wanted to continue, to have sex with Will."

The captain asked, "Have you mentioned this to Libby yet?"

"God, no, Kathryn, I can't. You see, I still love her, I still want to spend my life with her, but suppose I keep wanting to have sex with men?" Harry asked plaintively.

Kathryn picked up her glass and drained her wine while trying to decide what to say. She was a captain, not a counselor, and emotional issues were very uncomfortable for her. She thought briefly of Kes, how the Ocompa woman could unerringly say the right thing for any situation like this. Finally, she answered, "Harry, I don't really know what to say except that perhaps you really prefer men over women. You should think about this before getting married, and ruining both of your lives in the process. How would you feel if Libby admitted to having affairs after you two married? Would it be fair?"

Harry lifted his head, determination stealing across his features. "You are right, I should tell her. But my parents were looking forward to grandchildren, if I'm gay, I can't give them grandchildren!"

Janeway chuckled quietly. "Oh, Harry, that isn't true, you can always adopt children or be a sperm donor! Seriously, maybe you'd better go see a counselor to straighten out your feelings. No pun intended."

"Okay, I'll think about it. But it's hard, I do love Libby."

"But are you sexually attracted to her? Do you enjoy making love with her?" Janeway persisted, although the conversation was making her uncomfortable.

He hung his head again, muttering, "I thought I did, but the incident with Will showed me that I was missing something."


He looked up. "Passion," he answered.

Janeway walked back to her apartment slowly, digesting what Harry had told her. She remembered his torch that he'd carried for Libby the whole time Voyager was in the Delta Quadrant, but now she also recalled some of the puppy dog looks that Mr. Kim had shot toward Tom Paris, the ship's pilot. She was also sure that Tom may have said yes to any experiments - at least, before he fell in love with B'Elanna Torres, their feisty half-Klingon chief engineer.

But she also started reconsidering her own feelings that she'd had for Mark, the man who had been her lover before she started on that mission. She had enjoyed his company, had in fact grown up with him and considered him her best friend, but did they really have such a passionate relationship? It had hurt when she received the message from him that he had met and married someone else, but in many ways, it was a relief.

She unlocked her door and went into her apartment, dropping her jacket on the couch beside her. She knew that she should hang it up in the closet, but she just wanted to sit and think for a few minutes before expending any additional energy. From the couch, she could see the moon painted bay. Kathryn stared out at the water, allowing herself to be lulled into a calmer state as she watched the patterns of the waves going to and fro.

The silence was interrupted by the door chime. "Who'd be calling at this time of the night?" Janeway muttered as she slowly stood up and walked to the door. She activated the viewer to see who her caller was. "Old home week," she mumbled as she opened the door.

"Captain, may I come in?" Seven asked.

"Sure, come on in, Seven, what may I do for you?" Janeway led the way back to her couch. The former Borg drone followed her, sitting down stiffly. "What brings you here at this time of the night?"

Seven did not answer immediately, instead, she sat stiffly, lacing her fingers tightly together, looking around the apartment. "This is nice," she finally stated.

Janeway rubbed her face, trying to scrub the fatigue away. First Harry, now Seven. Damn it, she was a ship's captain, not a counselor! Dredging up her company manners, she asked, "May I offer you something to eat or drink?"

"I am neither hungry nor thirsty, Captain, but I thank you for offering," Seven replied.

"Well, I think I'm going to have some hot camomile tea if you don't mind, I've had a long day." Janeway wearily stood up and wandered into the kitchen and ordered the tea from her replicator. Within seconds, a tray with cups and a teapot appeared; she picked it up and carefully walked back to the couch so as not to spill anything. Finally, Janeway sat back down, legs tucked underneath, steaming tea cup in her hand. "So, what brings you here?"


"Please, call me Kathryn," she encouraged with a smile.

Seven inclined her head slightly, acknowledging the request. "Kathryn, I am not sure that I wish to marry Chakotay. I thought I was in love with him, but now I am puzzled."

"Not again!" Kathryn groaned.

"Pardon?" Seven's blue eyes bored into Kathryn's demanding an explanation.

Kathryn took a long sip of tea before setting the cup down. "I'm sorry, Seven, but I was just talking to another friend who had doubts about his upcoming marriage. I've only been back on Earth for a day and a half and I am exhausted."

Seven stood up. "Perhaps I should leave, then."

Janeway waved Seven back down. "Don't be silly, stay as long as you need to, I'm just warning you that I may not be as attentive as usual. Now, why did you come here tonight?"

Seven looked down at her tightly laced fingers, then out of the window. She sighed heavily. "I am still in the process of becoming accustomed to emotion, Kathryn, and I fear that I do not understand my own emotions. Do you remember when I kissed you?"

"Yes, we were on shore leave. I admit you took me by surprise." Kathryn took another sip of the comforting hot tea.

Seven took an uncharacteristically long time to marshall her thoughts with Janeway growing more puzzled by the minute. What was her friend trying to tell her? "Kathryn, I dated Ensign Karen Luther several times after I kissed you, but it did not work out. Four months later, Chakotay and I started dating and I decided that I was in love with him. I am quite fond of him, but we recently started copulating and I find that it is not what I expected."

"In what way?" she asked, not quite sure she should have encouraged this conversation.

"The sensations are quite pleasant, but I do not feel the deep emotional connection that the data banks suggest I should feel. I have researched the problem extensively, but have come to no conclusion. I am confused, Kathryn, shouldn't I feel something more than physical release?" the former drone asked almost plaintively.

Kathryn drank more tea to buy time. Trust Seven to frame this in such blunt language, she thought. She set her cup down and answered, "Seven, everyone has a different sexual experience. It could be that you aren't letting yourself feel the emotions, or it could be a thousand other things."

"Chakotay is gentle and tender, and we have read many manuals together. I have not told him that the experience is less than optimal," Seven reported crisply.

Janeway almost laughed, just managing to keep a straight face. She had a sudden image of the blonde Borg and the dark Native American poring over sex manuals together, with Seven asking many questions in that dry, scientific manner of hers. She closed her eyes a moment, concentrating on banishing the image, then opened them again. "Maybe you should talk to him about it, or talk to a counselor. Why did you come to me?"

Seven answered simply, "Because I trust you."

"Oh. I'm glad you feel that you can trust me, Seven," she said cautiously, "but what do you think I can do for you, other than just listen?"

Seven looked at Kathryn steadily and answered, "I wish to copulate with you in order to compare. Perhaps I would feel more with a woman than with a man."

Dead silence.

Kathryn Janeway felt as if the floor had dropped away from her, leaving her suspended in mid-air, taking away all of her bearings. Yes, Seven had expressed interest in her before, but Kathryn thought that they had settled the matter. She carefully set her tea cup down, hands trembling with shock. "Seven, as much as I enjoy your company, as much as I dearly love you, I don't think it would be appropriate for us to make love to each other."

"Why not?" Seven asked, brows furrowing.

Janeway wearily leaned back against the couch, closing her eyes as she attempted to formulate an answer that Seven would accept. She took a deep breath, let it gust out, then inhaled again before answering, "Seven, humans are hard-wired with their sexual orientation from birth. To simply decide to experiment is not the right method to approach determining if you are heterosexual or homosexual."

"But Kathryn, I have tried copulation with a man, and it is not what I expected. Logically, therefore, I should try copulation with a woman," Seven stated in her most logical manner.

Kathryn closed her eyes, rubbing her temples to stave off the impending headache. "Seven, please stop saying 'copulation', it sounds so dry."

"The act of copulation is not dry-"

Kathryn sat up quickly, holding up a hand to stop Seven's observation. "I meant, saying 'copulation' makes it sound like a scientific observation, not as an act of giving of yourself to the one you love."

Seven tilted her head, clearly turning this concept over in her head. After several seconds, she announced, "If this act, which you call 'making love' is supposed to be between two people who love each other, who care for each other, then who better to share it with than you? You just admitted that you love me. I am still learning to classify my emotions, but I believe that I can honestly state that I love you, Kathryn Janeway."

"This conversation is not really happening," Janeway muttered under her breath. Out loud, she said, "Seven, I do love you, but as a friend, or more like a mother. Besides, I am not a homosexual, I have always dated men."

"If you have not attempted to make love with a woman, then how do you know that you should only date men?" Seven asked, cocking her head.

Janeway groaned, slumping against the couch again, holding a hand over her eyes. "Seven," she said without moving her hand, "this conversation is making my head hurt. I am attracted to men; I enjoy men."

"Then you can honestly say that you are not attracted to me."


Seven pondered Kathryn's words for several long minutes. Janeway lowered her hand, gazing at the young woman's face. Seven lowered her eyes, finally stating, "I apologize for bothering you, Captain, I will leave your apartment now." Seven stood up and started for the door, then turned around, sorrow creasing her face. "I will not see you again."

Kathryn jumped up and stood in front of Seven. "What do you mean, you won't see me again? Listen, I'm your friend, or at least I hope to be your friend. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings or confused you."

Seven's shoulders sagged. "Captain Janeway, once again, I apologize for my attempt to get you to engage in sexual behavior with me when it is clearly inappropriate for you. I will return to Commander Chakotay and attempt to enjoy sexual relations with him."

"Now, Seven, just because I turned you down doesn't mean that you should feel that you have to return to Chakotay. If you are truly uncomfortable with him, talk to him. No matter what you decide, I'll support you. Just don't make your decision too hastily."

The former Borg nodded slightly, indicating that she had filed the information away for future reference and study. She stiffened her back, picked up her coat and walked toward the door. "Thank you for your time," was all she said as she let herself out.

Janeway stood, unable to make herself go after her friend. She felt like an absolute jerk for not being able to help Harry or Seven tonight, especially Seven. She loved Seven like a friend - didn't she? "God, don't let me start doubting MY sexuality, too!" she groaned.

To be honest, as she realized earlier, Mark hadn't set the world on fire, but it was comfortable with him. She'd only had one other relationship with a man, and he'd been so nervous that she didn't really feel any passion. It was over with too quickly. "If I don't stop this," she said out loud, "I'll start thinking I'm gay, not that there's anything wrong with that. I must get some sleep, I've been up far too late now and I have early meetings in the morning." She turned and picked up the tea tray, carrying it back into the kitchen, then headed for bed.

Janeway threw herself into her work, covering her last mission precisely and thoroughly, working far into the night to avoid thinking about her personal life. Once her report was finished, she was asked to give a guest lecture in one of the upper-level command classes. She agreed, grateful for something else to fill her time, to keep her from thinking about Seven, Chakotay, Harry, and Libby.

The lecture went smoothly. The professor had to finally cut off the flow of questions when the end of the class time came, but Janeway volunteered to meet with the class at one of the traditional cadet watering holes to continue to answer questions about her experiences as captain. Janeway patiently answered the questions that flowed over pizza and beer, explaining how she used a combination of experience, Starfleet protocal, and gut instinct to make her decisions.

Just as the group was breaking up and drifting away, Harry Kim drifted over to the table. "Harry!" Janeway said, surprised to see the young man.

"Good evening, Captain," he replied, "may I have a seat?"

"Sure, be my guest." Janeway gestured to an empty chair as waiters silently swept dishes and glasses away. "What brings you here?"

"Remember my dilema from the other night? Well, it doesn't exist any longer, Libby broke our engagement today."

"Harry, I'm sorry to hear that," Janeway said sincerely, "how are you doing?"

Kim studied the table for a few seconds, then looked at his former captain. "Relieved and guilty," he answered, "relieved that I didn't have to be the one to break us up, guilty that I feel relieved. She's decided to take a job with a museum in London and didn't want to force me to commute to San Francisco. I suspect that she has more than a job in England, but I can't prove it," he added.

"So, what will you do now?" Janeway took another sip of her beer, watching the lieutenant's face expectantly.

He looked around the room for a moment, then answered, "I'm not sure, Captain, but I think I'd like to ship out again soon. I've been in refresher training and am eligible for a transfer. Trouble is, I want to get back on my old ship, but I'm afraid that I want to see Will Grant again. Should I wait until I'm more sure of my feelings?"

"What about Will's feelings?" Janeway asked as a waiter came by and took away her now empty mug.

Harry pursed his lips, thinking. "I guess I'll have to ask him, he's in town right now. But suppose I'm just on the rebound from Libby?"

Kathryn idly drew circles in the wet spot where her glass had been. "I don't know what to tell you, really. I just ran out of advice, so I guess just follow your heart."

Harry nodded, then stood up. "Thanks, Captain. Guess I'll try to see Will and take it from there." He was gone. Kathryn continued to sit at the table for several minutes, alone in her thoughts, then finally brought herself back to the present and stood up to leave. If she could only talk to someone about Seven. She dearly wished that Tuvok was on earth instead of on Vulcan right now.

Chakotay felt like hurling something against the wall, fury ripping through his soul. He thought that Seven was happy with him, but she had just calmly informed him that the engagement was off, that she appreciated their relationship, but that she was attracted to another.

She left.

He stood in their bedroom, shaking with fury, looking at her side of the room. Seven had efficiently packed her belongings and had them moved during the day, while he was in class. She had waited for him, dropped her bombshell, then left the apartment, leaving him to attempt to digest the statement alone, without any further explanation. He looked about for something to destroy, but found nothing that was satisfying. He was too shaken to even consider meditating, calling his spirit guide, he wanted to do something destructive to exhaust this fury and shame. The shaking turned to trembling, the anger to helpless sorrow. Chakotay fell on his empty bed, curling up in a ball as the sobs worked their way to the surface.

Seven was gone.

He was alone.

Utterly alone.

Harry Kim nervously combed his jet black hair again, staring at his image in the mirror. He'd finally gathered the courage to call Will Grant, who agreed to come to his apartment for dinner. He patted his hair one last time, then left for the kitchen to double-check his preparations. The bread and meat were ready to take out of the oven, the vegetables and fruits were ready to take out of the refridgerator, the wine was open and ready to pour. Impulsively, he set out candles and had just finished lighting them when the buzzer sounded.

"Harry, so nice of you to invite me to dinner," Will said as he took off his jacket, "this is a beautiful apartment."

"Thank you," Harry said as he took Will's jacket and hung it on in the entry closet, "I'm glad you could make it."

Will chuckled, then sniffed delicately. "Smells good, Harry, who's the cook?"

"Me," said Harry proudly as he led his guest to the dining room, "but I must admit that I practiced on my former captain before inviting you over."

"Practiced what?" Will asked, grey eyes wide in the imitation of innocence.

"Cooking, you fool," Harry laughed as he scurried back to the kitchen for the food.

The evening progressed nicely as the two men talked about topics of mutual interest. They had gone to sit on the couch, sipping coffee when Will asked casually, "So, how goes the engagement?"

Harry replied just as casually, "Libby broke the engagement, Will, she wanted to start a job overseas."

"So, you're a free man?" Will asked, raising a ginger eyebrow.

"You might say that," Harry affirmed, noting the smile in Will's hazel eyes.

Will cocked his head, studying Harry's beautiful face, trying to read what was behind those black eyes. He smiled his lazy, sensual smile as he put his coffee down and took Harry's hands in his. "Are you upset?" he asked.

Harry finally smiled, his eyes glinting with mirth. "Not really, it solves a problem I've had."

"And that is?" Will asked hopefully.

Harry leaned forward, whispering into Will's ear. "How to tell Libby that I found myself attracted to a man."

"Who would that be?" Will breathed against Harry's neck.

Harry pulled back to gaze at Will's face. "You," he said, voice thick with desire.

"Ah," Will managed, swallowing hard. "And just why do you think I'd like to be the recepient of your affections so soon after your love broke up with you?"

Harry didn't reply. He just leaned forward, lips barely brushing Will's, then leaned back to gauge the reaction. Will's eyes darkened as his pupils dilated, desire smoldering. Harry took the answer as yes and leaned forward again, this time kissing Will with more authority. As the kiss deepened, Will boldly ran this hands through Harry's hair, messing up the perfection, then allowed his hands to wander over Harry's back. He could feel Harry responding to his caresses even as Harry broke off the kiss. "The bed," Harry gasped.

The two men slowly made their way to the bedroom, falling on the bed together. Harry was already feeling more with Will than he'd ever felt with Libby. He ran his fingers over Will's chest, then eagerly kissed the other man again, allowing his senses to be overwhelmed by lust.

Just as Will reached for Harry's shirt, the doorbell rang. Harry froze, torn between desire for Will and his Pavlovian response to answer the summons. The doorbell rang again; Harry leapt to his feet, racing to the door, all sorts of scenarios racing through his head. He hit the unlock toggle and allowed the door to swish open to admit - "Commander Chakotay?"

Chakotay charged into the apartment, anger suffusing his features. "Where is she, Ensign Kim? Where the hell are you hiding Seven?"

Harry's mind cleared as he faced the older man. He straightened his shirt and replied as calmly as possible, "It's Lt. Kim and I haven't seen Seven since Voyager's coming home party. Why do you think she is here?"

"Because she's left me, that's why!" Chakotay stormed. "She tried to seduce you once, so she'd probably do it again!" Chakotay tried to sweep past Kim toward the bedroom, but Harry grabbed his arm to stop him.

"Sir, I repeat, she's not here. I'd be happy to help you find her, but first I must tell my guest," Harry said firmly.

"Guest?" Chakotay stopped, confused. "Not Seven?"

Will strolled out of the bedroom, buttoning his shirt. "Why, Harry, who's this delightful gentleman?" he asked, eyes twinkling.

Kim suppressed the desire to sigh heavily. "Will Grant, this is Chakotay, he was the first officer on board Voyager. Chakotay, this is Lt. Will Grant, one of my ship mates from the Excalibur."

Chakotay sagged, reaching for the couch. "I'm sorry, Harry," he stammered, "but I thought that Seven would be here, I had no idea that you had a visitor."

Will smiled at the commander. "That's alright, sir. Are you okay? Do you need time to talk with Harry alone?"

"No, sit, please," Chakotay replied, rubbing his face, "I was out of line to make such accusations, I apologize for my behavior."

"Not a problem," Harry answered politely, "may I offer you something to eat or drink?"

"No, I'm not hungry or thirsty, but I appreciate it," Chakotay mumbled. He felt like an utter fool.

Will stood up. "Gentlemen, I should probably leave. Harry, thank you for dinner, I'd love to see you again before your next assignment."

"Commander, will you excuse us for a moment?" Chakotay nodded, staring morosely out the window. Harry followed Will to the door, aware that the commander could still see and hear everything. "Will, I enjoyed tonight as well. May I call you after work tomorrow?"

"Sure. I'll spring for dinner, maybe a movie," Will answered as he reached for his jacket. He slipped it on, then shook Harry's hand. "Go take care of your commander," he whispered, "he looks pretty bad."

Harry nodded, wishing he could kiss Will good-night. Instead, he gripped the other man's hand firmly, then reluctantly let go and watched him as he left. He glanced down his shirt, making sure all buttons were buttoned, then hit the lock toggle and turned back to talk to Chakotay.

Kathryn had just finished clearing her supper dishes when the doorbell rang. "Who could that be?" she asked, half expecting the computer to answer. But no, this apartment complex did not have a ship's computer. She smiled at herself as she crossed the living room to answer the door.

It was Seven.

"Come in, Seven," Kathryn said as she stepped back to allow the beautiful blonde entrance.

Seven picked up her duffle bag and strode into the apartment, heading for the couch. She dropped the bag, sat down, and announced, "I have left Chakotay. May I sleep here tonight?"

"You left Chakotay?" Kathryn came and sank down on the couch, staring at the other woman. "Why?"

"You promised to support my decision, regardless of what I decided. Are you willing to do so?" Seven asked, looking directly into Janeway's gray eyes.

Kathryn studied Seven's face, detecting tension and fatigue underlying her usual bland expression. "I don't go back on my promises," she answered.

"Thank you, Kathryn," Seven said, some of the tension leaving her face. She glanced at her bag, then back at the captain. "I can sleep on the couch, if you wish."

"I have sheets and blankets, but what about your regenerator?" Kathryn asked, retreating into the practical.

Seven's mouth quirked with the ghost of a smile. "The Doctor, Lt. Torres and I came up with an internal regenerator last month. The Doctor implanted it as an engagement gift."

"Oh." Janeway filed away the information, then belatedly asked, "Do you require anything else?"

Seven's usual haughty expression melted away in confusion. "An answer."

"What is the question?"

Seven sighed. "Why do I feel as if I betrayed Chakotay? I broke the engagement tonight, explaining that I had an attraction for another."

Kathryn cleared her throat, trying to decide how to answer the question. Damn, she wasn't a counselor! "I'm afraid I can't answer that for you, Seven, but it's natural to be confused right now. Did you tell him who you were attracted to, or try to discuss the matter with him?"

Seven lowered her head, staring at her hands. "No, I did not. I just did not want to be with him." She lifted her head, looking directly at Kathryn. "I could not tell Chakotay that I was attracted to you, it seemed to be a betrayal."

"Oh, boy," Janeway muttered.

"I promise to sleep on the couch and not make any advances toward you," Seven stated.

Kathryn smiled, so like Seven to be blunt and speak exactly what she was thinking. "I trust you, Seven. Now, what would you like to do? Do you want to talk?"

"No," Seven said quietly, "I wish to sleep."

"Okay, then, let's get out some sheets and blankets so we can make up the couch for you. Do you have everything else you need with you?"

"Yes, I have clothes and toiletries," Seven answered, "but I would like a shower first."

"Fine, after we make the bed, I'll get out towels for you." Kathryn went to the linen closet and started pulling out the required items. "You should let Chakotay know where you are so he won't worry about you."

"Could you?"

"Let him know? Why, Seven?" Kathryn handed the sheets to her guest.

Seven accepted the sheets and started making the couch into a bed before answering, "I do not feel like talking to him. Please call for me?"

Kathryn melted. Damn, she had such a soft spot for the younger woman! "I will, but just this time," she cautioned as she went to her study to place the call. Several minutes later, she returned to the living room. "He wasn't home, so I left him a message."

"Thank you, Kathryn," Seven said softly, "I appreciate your assistance." She sat on the bed, dropping her face in her hands, partially muffling her next words. "Why does this hurt so much?"

Janeway sat down by Seven. "Because you are human," she answered, "and because you are human, you experience emotion, which is not logical at times. Yes, you felt like you needed to leave Chakotay, but you have a relationship with him, and any time we break a relationship, it hurts." Kathryn reached out, laying a hand on Seven's leg. "I wish I could make the pain go away, but you just have to work through it. You will also need to talk to Chakotay again."

"Does he hurt?" Seven asked, face still covered by her slender hands.

"I'm sure he does, Seven, it hurt me when I found out that Mark had given up and married another woman," Kathryn confided gently.

Seven nodded once, jaw starting to tremble. Kathryn opened her arms and Seven gratefully accepted the comforting embrace. She felt hot tears well up in her human eye, threatening to spill over. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping to drive back the tears, but failed. She could feel Kathryn slowly rubbing a circle on her back, murmuring soft words she couldn't understand, breaking through her walls. The sobs tore through her with unexpected violence, shaking her to the core. She was both relieved and apprehensive, but the captain continued to hold her, not rejecting her for this unseemly display of emotion.

After some minutes, Kathryn felt Seven's sobs decreasing until the woman was finally still. She kept slowly stroking Seven's back, waiting for Seven to pull herself together enough to face her. She leaned her cheek against Seven's blonde hair and closed her eyes for just a moment, feeling the fatigue of the week catching up with her. She felt Seven lift her head and jerked awake, dropping her arms.

Seven sat back, sniffling but more composed, reaching for the box of tissues on the end table. "I apologize for my outburst," she said hoarsly as she came back from the disposal chute, "I did not mean to lose control of my emotions."

Janeway stood up to intercept Seven, taking her face in her hands. "It's okay," she said quietly, "everyone needs a good cry now and again."

"Even you?"

Kathryn smiled. "Even me," she acknowledged. She stretched to kiss Seven's cheek, then let go of her. "Go take a shower, you'll feel better. I'll have some tea waiting when you come out."

Seven nodded, picked up her duffle bag and disappeared into the bathroom. Janeway sank down in an armchair, wondering what she should do now.

Chakotay had just stepped back into his apartment when he heard the communicator buzzing urgently. He tossed his jacket on the couch as he raced to the unit, hoping that it was Seven telling him that it was all a mistake. He didn't answer in time and had to wait for the message. When the indicator lit up, he hit the button and waited for the playback.

"Chakotay, this is Kathryn," Janeway stated on the other end. Chakotay stared at the face of his former captain, puzzled. Why would she be calling? She continued, "I thought you might like to know that Seven is here, she's in the shower now and is planning to bunk on my couch tonight. Janeway out."

Chakotay slumped into the chair in front of his desk. This bad timing was getting ridiculous. He stared at the blank screen for a moment, then gathered enough energy to face the empty bedroom, to attempt to get some sleep.

Janeway insisted that Seven find other quarters, but did relent and allow Seven an access card to her apartment. After all, she might ship out again in the near future, and she would need someone to look after things.

Life gradually became a boring routine again. But, she found herself thinking of Seven at the oddest times. Since Seven had left her apartment, Janeway had talked to the former Borg once, when Seven called to give her the address of her new apartment. She heard that Seven was doing quite well and had started teaching Advanced Astrometrics for the Academy. At least it seemed that Seven had found her calling, Janeway heard that she was a terrific instructor.

But Janeway was still bored.

The tedium was broken by an invitation to Admiral Paris' retirement party. Janeway found the old-fashioned paper invitation on her desk at work, stating that it was to be held Saturday night, dress uniforms or formal wear. "Dress uniforms," she muttered, trying to remember if she had ordered the new style dress uniforms yet. She didn't think so; it was the perfect reason to escape the paperwork left on her desk. After all, the party was tomorrow night.

Tom Paris was eagerly describing the newest shuttle that he and B'Elanna were designing when he stopped to whistle. "Captain, look at Seven!" he exclaimed, awe in his voice. Janeway turned around just in time to see Seven enter the room, wearing a long flowing gown of white, with one black strap that slashed from her shoulder to her waist. Her hair was brushing her shoulders, and she wore very little jewelry, just diamond chip earrings. Long black gloves completed the ensemble. Janeway felt her mouth go dry at the sight of the beautiful woman, who was scanning the room for familiar faces. Tom patted Janeway's shoulder, saying, "I should go mingle with the guests. See you later."

Seven caught sight of the captain and smiled as she gracefully made her way through the crowd. "Kathryn, I'm glad to see you," she said as she clasped Janeway's hands in her own, "it's been too long."

"Yes, too long," Janeway agreed, "you look absolutely beautiful tonight, Seven."

"Thank you. I must say hello to Admiral Paris, do you mind?" The willowy blonde flashed another smile at the captain.

"No, not at all," Janeway replied, giving Seven's hands a squeeze before releasing them. She watched as Seven flowed through the crowd to the reception line, then turned her attention back to the wine glass she'd put down. She sipped it, then started mingling with other Starfleet officers, exchanging stories of Paris, both the father and the son, with her colleagues. She managed to keep up with various conversations and track Seven's location until the dinner gong sounded.

She lost sight of the former Borg for a few seconds, then sensed the woman at her side. "Do you mind if I join you for dinner?" Seven asked.

"I'd be delighted," Janeway replied.

Janeway was starting to think that she was in a dream world; Seven had impeccable manners and made appropriate small talk. She smiled at her dining companions and did not exhibit her usual cool, logical nature. Kathryn was starting to think that someone had built a clone of her Seven and reprogrammed her to be a gracious society queen instead of the brilliant, yet distant, Borg she was used to. Seven proved to be herself, however, when the after-dinner toasts started, whispering to Janeway that she could not understand why people were flattering Admiral Paris so much since he was about to retire and couldn't possible effect any policy or personnel changes.

The guests were finally released from the toasts and a band started playing dance music. Kathryn found herself dancing with various partners, including Harry Kim, who proved to be an excellent ballroom dancer. He told her that Will had been teaching him to dance, that Will's parents had taught dance classes at their local college. She relaxed and let herself enjoy dancing, making friendly chit-chat with the men who squired her around the floor.

After an hour of dancing, Kathryn went to sit down and sip some water. As she let the cool water slide down her throat, she felt someone sit beside her. She set her glass down and turned to find Seven sitting next to her. "Seven, are you enjoying yourself?"

"I believe that I am, Kathryn, however, my night is now yet complete. I have danced with many partners and have found them adequate, but the one partner I wish to dance with has been unavailable so far," she answered with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

"And whom might that be?" Kathryn asked politely.


Kathryn was glad she wasn't drinking, or she would have surely choked. "Me?" she squeaked. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Seven, you want to dance with me?"

Seven frowned, puzzled by the reaction. "I believe that I answered the question, Kathryn, but in case you did not hear correctly, yes, I would like to dance with you."

Oh, now you sound like my Seven,"Janeway thought. "Let me rest a moment, Seven," she said out loud, "I'm getting too old to dance so long without a break."

"But you seem to be in excellent physical shape, Captain," Seven observed.

Janeway smiled as the tune changed. She started laughing, saying, "I think this is our song, Seven, let's go dance."

Seven cocked her head, then asked, "What does 'Some Enchanted Evening' have to do with us?" Kathryn didn't reply, she merely led Seven to the dance floor.

It was rather interesting to dance with the elegant Borg, Kathryn mused as she lead the other woman around the dance floor. Seven was dancing perfectly, as if she had assimilated a troop of professional dancers at some time. She smiled and closed her eyes as the tune changed to "Dancing Cheek to Cheek" and Seven followed suit by pressing her cheek lightly against Kathryn's cheek, bringing their bodies closer together. Kathryn was now very aware of Seven's body in her arms, a light tantalizing scent wafting delicately from Seven's neck.

She had never reacted to a woman this way, wanting to dance with her all night, not wanting to let Seven out of her arms. She was very aware that the strict lines between captain and crew did not apply to Seven, that she could respond to this delicious woman, and she wanted to respond. Long-denied desire coursed through her veins, breaking down her self-restraint. She tried to tell herself that it was just hormones or something, that she was not gay, that she did not want to kiss those perfect lips, that she did not want to know what it felt like to make love to Seven all night long, that surely Seven was just being nice to her.

The song ended and Janeway took a ragged breath, struggling valiently to pull her galloping feelings back under control. "I enjoyed dancing with you, Seven," she said as smoothly as she could. "I'm sure that there are others you wish to dance with now."



Seven licked her lips nervously, then announced, "Kathryn, I want to go home with you."

Somehow, Janeway could not say no.

Part II

During the short taxi ride back to her apartment, Kathryn Janeway started having second thoughts about what she was about to do with Seven. Sure, holding hands with Seven felt perfectly natural, and the nearness of Seven's body was intoxicating, but was this the right step to take now? It didn't help matters when Seven smiled at her; a warm, shy smile that jolted Kathryn to the depths of her soul.

"Here we are," Kathryn announced unnecessarily. "May I take your wrap?" Seven silently handed her cloak to Kathryn. She came back to sit next to Seven on the couch, unsure what to do or say. Seven's eyes were so blue, so mesmerizing, so beautiful that Kathryn felt lost in them. Her hormones were racing, her libido demanding that she take Seven now! yet, her brain whispered no, not so fast, not so soon after Seven had left Chakotay.

Seven broke the ice by deliberately trailing a fingertip along Kathryn's jaw line, then tucked it under her chin, drawing her close. Kathryn made one last effort to stop, but she could not resist the former Borg woman, could never say no to her, had to kiss those perfect lips.

The first contact of their lips racheted up Kathryn's desire another few notches. There was no denying this smoldering desire burst into white-hot flame, suffusing her body as she leaned into the kiss. Seven was the one to finally break contact, leaning back, face flushed, eyes dilated. "Chakotay never kissed that well," she whispered, then cleared her throat and announced, "I will sweep you off your feet."

Kathryn found herself literally swept off her feet and carried into the bedroom, then carefully deposited on the bed. She couldn't help but groan when Seven laid on her full length, slowly kissing her way down Kathryn's neck. Seven abruptly stood up and dramatically divested herself of her dress, then came back to Kathryn, demanding, "Take off your clothes." She obeyed, hands shaking as she fumbled with fastenings. It felt like it had taken forever to shed her clothes, but now Seven was covering her with her naked body, murmuring, "Kathryn, I will assimilate you."

Soft warmth.

Janeway snuggled next to the source of the warmth, sighing happily as she drifted slowly toward consciousness. A gentle hand stroking her hair, signifying the presence of a lover. A lover? Seven? Janeway flew out of the bed toward the bathroom, slamming her hand on the toggle switch to close the door. "My God, what have I done?" she moaned into her hands as she sank down on the floor, "what have I done?"

"Kathryn, are you sick?" Seven's voice, cool, seeking information.

Janeway managed to drag herself up, answering, "No, I'm fine, just a full bladder." Which, she belatedly realized, was true. "I'll be out in a few minutes."

"Shall I start breakfast?"

"Sure, go ahead, Seven." Janeway flushed the toilet, the pondered taking a very brief shower. She decided yes, she would take the time to shower, it was only reasonable under the circumstances, and it would delay her facing Seven for several more minutes. She started relaxing under the stream of hot water, trying to wash the anxiety and guilt down the drain with the water. Finally, she shut off the water, stood in the hot air blasts, and put on her thick terry cloth robe and went into the kitchen.

"Good morning, Kathryn," Seven said as she leaned over to lightly kiss Kathryn. "I took stock of breakfast ingredients and assumed that you would eat omelettes and toast. Am I correct?"

"Yes, that's fine," Janeway answered as she moved toward the coffee pot, "when did you learn to cook?"

Seven smiled mysteriously. "Perhaps I assimilated a fine chef, or, perhaps I just learned from someone." She expertly slipped an omelette onto the waiting plate and poured the mixture for the next one into the hot skillet. "I did leave the coffee up to you, Chakotay did not drink coffee with breakfast. He preferred tea."

Janeway started the coffee, then leaned against the counter, watching Seven fix the second omelette and listening to the coffee drip. It seemed perfectly natural to watch Seven wend her way around the kitchen, turning out perfect looking omelettes, so why was she still feeling weird about having Seven as a lover?

"Your coffee and your omelette are ready. Please set the table and take the food out," Seven stated. Janeway started laughing as she gathered up the dishes and the silverware. "Why are you laughing?"

"Because, my dear, here I am, wondering how this all has affected you, and you turn in a perfect performance as the cool, efficient Seven that I know and love. Thank you."

Seven frowned slightly as she transferred the skillet and cooking utensils to the sink. "Why should I be affected?"

"Never mind, we'll talk later, right now, that omelet looks mighty good to me." Janeway set the plates down, then sat down and smiled at Seven. "Let's eat." She took a small bite, then a larger one. "This is wonderful!" she exclaimed as she took another bite.

"The bread!" Seven yelped, jumping to her feet. She returned a minute later, holding a basket of almost burned toast. "I apologize, I was distracted," she explained as she sat back down. "DId I leave out anything else?"

"Just something for you to drink," Janeway replied.

Several hours later, when breakfast had been eaten, dishes cleaned and put away, Seven showered and pulled clothes out of Kathryn's closet. When Janeway questioned why Seven had hidden clothes at the back of her closet, Seven had merely replied that it seemed the appropriate thing to do the last time she was over, in case she had cause to spend the night in the future. "So you've been planning to seduce me for several months?"

"No, just hoping." Seven lifted an eyebrow, then started laughing. "You should see your expression, Kathryn. Yes, I did leave clothes here just in case I ever stayed again, but I did not anticipate that I would actually use them."

"It's just as well that you were prepared," Janeway noted dryly, "for I know that my clothes would not fit you." She started to say something else but was interrupted by the buzzing of her comm unit. "Excuse me a moment, I should answer that." She stopped for a long kiss, then went to answer the insistent buzzing. "Janeway here."

"Captain Janeway, I'm Ensign Park, and I hate to interrupt you on your day off, but you are requested to appear at headquarters ASAP. Can you be here within the hour?" the woman on the other end said.

"Yes, I'll be there in an hour. To whom do I report?" Janeway asked, mind already shifting into work mode.

"Admiral Grace Nimitz. Do you know where her office is?" she asked.

"No, but I can track it down through the reception area, thank you. Is that all?" Janeway asked.

"Just be prepared for a long meeting. Ensign Park out."

Janeway stood, watching the screen fade to black, wondering why she would be called into an emergency meeting with Admiral Nimitz. Hell, she didn't even know who this particular admiral was, unless she was Admiral Paris' replacement, in which case, what was the emergency?

"Who was that?" Seven asked.

Janeway turned around and walked over to Seven, taking her hands. "I've been ordered to report to headquarters within the hour, Seven. I'm sorry, but I must change into my uniform and leave immediately. Do you still have your access card?"


"Then you can let yourself out. I don't suppose you know who Grace Nimitz is, do you?" Janeway asked.

Seven let go of Janeway's hands and crossed over to the desk, touching the computer screen. She frowned in concentration as her fingers flew across the screen, winding her way through the fleet system until she found the desired information. "It appears that Grace Nimitz has recently been promoted from commodore and is in charge of-"

"Seven, I'm sorry, I didn't intend for you to break into the system to find out."

"Kathryn, I did not break into any system, I retrieved this data from the public Fleet web," Seven commented blandly. "However, go prepare for your meeting; I will return to my apartment and wait for you to contact me."

Janeway nodded and left to get ready for the meeting. She came back several minutes later in uniform, carrying a briefcase. "I'll call you when I can, Seven," she said, setting her briefcase down. "I'm just sorry that I had to run out so soon."

Seven nodded crisply. "I understand."

Janeway tightened the grip on her briefcase. "It doesn't make it any easier, I wanted to talk."

"Duty calls," Seven stated flatly.

"I know." Janeway leaned over, kissed Seven slowly, then straightened back up. "I'll miss you."

Seven's face lit up, now smiling. "Go, before you become 'sentimental and sappy,' as I believe you have said before," she said in a teasing tone.

Janeway chuckled. "I'm gone, I'm gone!" She picked up her briefcase and left for her meeting.

Seven waited for precisely 3.25 minutes, then went to the living room window and looked down to catch a glimpse of Kathryn briskly striding out of the building, hailing a taxi. She watched until the taxi sped out of sight, then slowly walked into the bedroom, still able to catch a lingering scent from their lovemaking the night before. She intended to methodically strip the sheets and put new ones on the bed, but she laid down instead, illogically wishing that Kathryn was here with her.

Seven tried to analyze the emotions that swirled though her, but failed. She and Chakotay had made love many times, and had gone their separate ways afterward, but she had never had this overwhelming desire to curl up in the bed, trying to recapture the feel of her lover's body against her own. Finally, she forced herself to get up and change the sheets, dropping the old ones into the laundry chute for cleaning, along with Kathryn's Class A uniform and her evening dress. She would pick her dress back up sometime in the near future, a convenient excuse to see Kathryn in the future.

"Captain Kathryn Janeway, reporting as ordered," Janeway said crisply as she was escorted ino the admiral's office.

"Good, thank you for being so prompt, Captain. We seem to have a situation on our hands." Admiral Grace Nimitz walked around her desk and gestured to her conference table. "Please, have a seat. Coffee?"

"I'd love some," Janeway admitted.

"Good." The admiral picked up the carafe and poured two cups of coffee, then sat down in her chair, sipping her coffee before continuing. "I don't believe we've met before, but I have read the summary of your unexpected detour into the Delta Quadrant. I admire the way you kept together such an interesting crew under such difficult circumstances."

"Thank you, it was an interesting challenge."

Nimitz lifted a silver eyebrow. "Then you would not mind another challenge?"

"I go where I am sent, Admiral," Janeway responded.

"Glad to hear it." The admiral stood up and touched the control panel beside the wall display screen. "We've been keeping a close eye on a splinter group of the Maquis for several years now. This faction is even more violent than the main Maquis organization, and plans to blow up something big, some structure that symbolizes the United Federation of Planets. This display charts known hideouts of the group, small cells ranging from our moon to Bajor to the Romulan Empire."

She tapped a control on the side, changing the display. "The last report we received from our intelligence officer in the Romulan cell. As you can see, he managed to fill in quite a bit of information on how the cells were connected, and found an impressive collection of data disks with plans for many public buildings, including the Federation complex here in San Francisco. There are also many building plans for Federation or Starfleet buildings on Vulcan, deep space stations, and some of our first colonized worlds. Your mission, captain, is to take a small crew to continue his work and to find out exactly which buildings are to be destroyed, when they are to be destroyed, and most importantly, how they are to be destroyed."

"So, tell me, what qualifies me to command such a mission? I've never done any real intelligence work or undercover work," Janeway asked, auburn eyebrows narrowing.

Nimitz sat down and pulled several data disks from her briefcase. "No one else in the fleet has managed to combine Maquis and Fleet crews as a single unit. I'd like for you to round up some of your former crew members, specifically former Maquis members, and take them with you. I'm hoping they can convince these rogue terrorists that they want to be in good standing with the Maquis again, and that they have convinced you to slip over the line." She leaned over, handing the disks to Janeway, then picked up her coffee, taking a sip. "Any questions?"

"Not now, Admiral, I'll read over the reports. When do you want me to report back?"

"Tomorrow morning at 0700 hours. Report directly to my office, do not check in with my aide." Admiral Nimitz smiled mysteriously at the captain. "We need to deconstruct your character a little bit. Dismissed."

Janeway slid the disks into her briefcase, then left the admiral's office. Deconstruct her character? What exactly does the admiral have in mind? she wondered. She decided against taking a taxi back to her apartment; it was turning out to be a pretty day, perfect for walking.

Besides, Seven had probably left her apartment by now, and she really didn't want to face the emptiness so soon.

Kathryn Janeway found out soon enough what the how her character was deconstructed. She had come home to find a very sweet note from Seven, thanking her for the night. It was signed, "Affectionately, Seven." Kathryn was both moved by the letter and a little scared, she had not taken a lover since Mark, since before being flung into the Delta Quadrant seven years ago, and she felt out of practice. She still felt strange having a woman as a lover, but she could not deny the strong attraction she felt for the former Borg. She wanted to call Seven, to invite her over, but knew that she had to study the data disks before her meeting with Admiral Nimitz the next morning. Reluctantly, she sat down in her study and popped the first disk in and started studying for her mission.

At exactly 0700 hours the next morning, Captain Janeway walked through Admiral Nimitz's aide's office into the admiral's office, noting that the doors were already open. "Admiral Nimitz?" she called out, wondering why the other woman was not in her office. Deciding that maybe she was early, or that the admiral was held up in traffic, she settled in one of the chairs and started to pull out the padd that she'd downloaded the data into, thinking she would go over her notes one more time.

"Captain Kathryn Janeway?"

She looked up at the sound of her name, seeing two security guards flanking Tuvok. "Yes?"

Tuvok stepped forward, taking the padd from her, glancing through the open document. He turned to the guards, motioning for them to step forward. "How did you obtain these records?"

"Admiral Nimitz gave them to me yesterday, I was to report to her this morning. So far, I have not seen her," Janeway said, puzzled.

Tuvok lifted an eyebrow, the Vulcan equivalent of "That's a likely story." He picked up her briefcase and riffled through it for a moment, then put the padd back in it. "Captain Janeway, you are under arrest for stealing Starfleet classified records. If you will come with me, please."

Bewildered, she spluttered, "But Tuvok, she gave me those records!"

"Did I? Thank you Tuvok, you may take the captain away," Nimitz said as she entered the room.

Janeway stood up, turning around slowly to face the admiral. "But we met here yesterday to discuss a mission."

Nimitz cocked her head, studying the captain. "I'd say that your voyage home cracked you up a bit. I've never seen you except in pictures, Janeway. Take her away. Good work, Tuvok." The guards nodded, motioning for Janeway to walk with them. Bowing to the inevitable, she walked out of the office with the guards, wondering what would happen to her now.

Several hours later, Lt. Commander John Bodie came to see Janeway in her cell. He dismissed the guards, saying that he had to speak to his client in private to insure confidentiality. "I can hit the panic button if need be, but I really doubt that she's violent," he told them. They let him into the cell, then walked to the far end of the hall. "Close enough. Now, I'm your attorney, courtesy of Starfleet, and I'm here to outline your defense." As Brodie spoke, he handed Janeway a thin sheet of paper, on which was written:

Captain Janeway:

Your crew members will be breaking you out of jail in the near future. Orders will follow. You will command Voyager again.

Good luck.

Grace Nimitz,

Janeway nodded after reading the message and handed it back to Brodie as he continued to drone on about her defense. Eventually, he asked, "Are we clear, Captain?"

"Crystal clear," she replied.

"Good. I'll send several JAG attorneys tomorrow to go over your testimony. In the meanwhile, just relax, see if they'll let you read some books or something." Lt. Commander Brodie stood up and shook Janeway's hand. "I wish I could have met you under better circumstances, but I'm positive it was all a misunderstanding. Good day." Brodie tapped his communicator, requesting that the guards let him out. She stood back as the force field was dropped long enough to let the lawyer through, then went to sit on her bunk.


The whisper woke Janeway up immediately from a deep sleep. She flung back the bedcovers and peered at the other side of the force field, where Tuvok and Chakotay were waiting for her. Tuvok deactivated the field and motioned for the captain to follow him. She silently pulled on her boots, grabbed her uniform jacket, and followed the two men out of the cell. They led her past the unconscious guards, handing her a security guard's uniform.

Janeway ducked into the guards' office to change and came back out, handing Chakotay took her uniform and neatly folded it and stuffed it into his bag. The trio took off for the employees' entrance and passed through without incident.

An hour later, they were gathered in Chakotay's apartment, looking over the rest of the plans sent over by Admiral Nimitz. Tuvok handed Janeway her briefcase, stating, "Do not worry, an exact duplicate rests in the evidence room, complete with receipts from your favorite coffee shop."

"Thank you, Tuvok. Now, how do we get on Voyager?" Janeway queried.

Chakotay came out of the bedroom with three bags. "Maquis uniforms," he explained as he handed one each to Tuvok and Janeway. He then tapped his badge, ordering, "Three to beam up, Mr. Walters."

As soon as they materialized, Chakotay ordered, "Mr. Walters, inform the bridge that we're on the way and tell Mr. Paris to 'hit the gas', as he is fond of saying."

"Yes sir, right away. Welcome aboard, Captain." the transporter operator said as he hit the comm button.

"Thank you," she murmured, following her officers out of the transporter room. After they entered the lift, she asked dryly, "So, when do I get to take over?"

Chakotay smiled. "As soon as we step on the bridge, Kathryn, but I had to jump start things, so to speak. The admiral is a most thorough woman in her planning."

"Including having several small ships chase us," Tuvok added, "but do not fear, we will not be hit beyond our ability to effect immediate repairs."

"How comforting," she commented dryly as the lift stopped. "Gentlemen, we seem to be at our destination." Janeway stepped onto the bridge as soon as the doors opened. She walked to the captain's chair, then stopped to survey the bridge crew. She knew most of the faces from the Maquis crew who joined her original crew, but there were also a few new faces. She felt a twinge of regret that she could not have Harry Kim or Seven, but having Lt. Paris as pilot almost made up for it. "Lt. Stearns, are we being chased yet?"

The tactical officer glanced at her board, crisply reporting, "Three ships giving chase; a scout ship, a supply ship, and one star ship. Firing warning shots across our bow, but we're at the very edge of their weapons range." The ship trembled, just barely, then steadied. "We're losing them, Captain Janeway."

"Good. Lt. Paris, good to see you aboard. How did you convince B'Elanna to let you go?" she asked her former helmsman.

"I didn't, she convinced me. My parents are taking care of our baby, Grace talked to them," Tom explained with his trademark grin.

"I see." Janeway finally sat in her chair, satisfied that they were indeed losing their escort rapidly. "Tom, take us to the Neutral Zone, best speed."

"Yes, Ma'am!" he called out, "hitting the gas, Captain!" The ship rocketed forward in a huge leap in response to his "goosing" the controls.

Admiral Nimitz was berating the captains of the three ships. "How could you let them go? And you call yourselves starship captains! First, the guards allow themselves to be knocked out, then you three act like the Three Stooges! I'd like some answers, and I'd like them now."

"Admiral Nimitz, Ma'am," Captain Lews spluttered, "my warp engines were offline and could not be fired up, we were coming into dock for repairs."

"I suppose you two have similar stories. For now, thirty days suspension with pay until Internal Affairs has a chance to investigate the situation. Dismissed." A security officer motioned for the captains to follow him. Nimitz waited until they had left her office to tap her comm unit, entering the command sequence for a secure channel to John Brodie. When he answered, she simply said, "The bird has flown and the stooges are ready."

"Understood, I'll see them soon. Is my script ready for shooting?" he asked.

"Yes. The the cameras rolling. Over and out." She allowed herself a smile as Commander Brodie's face faded from the screen. Finding a fellow movie buff made it so much easier to send coded messages. Now she just hoped that Janeway and her crew could complete their mission or her career, as well as theirs, would be sunk forever.

Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris, and Torres sat in the conference room on Voyager, discussing their new mission. Before Janeway formally opened the meeting, the door opened again, revealing Seven of Nine in an ensign's uniform. "Reporting for duty," was all she said.

"Seven?" questioned the captain, jaw dropping in shock.

Seven explained, "The semester had ended, therefore I was not needed as an instructor. I joined Starfleet and was allowed to start with an officer's rank due to my experience with you in the Delta Quadrant, but I am not officially attached to this mission."

Janeway was confused by the explanation but shelved the rest of her questions until a later time. "Welcome aboard, I'm sure we could use your assistance. Now, people, let's get down to the business at hand. How do we make contact with the Maquis cells? You all have the briefing on what little we do know about these rogue cells, but, the details are extremely sketchy."

Chakotay looked up from the padd he had been doodling on. "I did have a lot of contacts, as you well know, but that was seven years ago, Kathryn. I do recognize some of the names, but none whom I knew personally."

Torres looked at her padd, then at Paris. "Tom, didn't Joaquin Centeno come to our New Year's party?"

Tom frowned in concentration, then brightened. "Yeah, he did, and he was hinting that he was still connected with the Maquis, saying that the Federation still should not have ceded any space to the Cardassians. Now it looks like he's connected to multiple cells in this outfit, maybe we could try to contact him."

"Good." The captain stood up, snapping off orders. "Tom, B'Elanna, Chakotay, you three work on infiltrating the cells and contacting Centeno. Tuvok, you work on the security angle - and get a message out that you defected because it was the logical thing to do. Seven, help Tuvok with the security angle. Let's meet again this afternoon at 1400 hours to discuss our plans. Dismissed."

Later that evening, Janeway went to the mess hall to catch a quick supper. The room was fairly empty, but seemed even emptier and quieter without the presence of Neelix bustling about the kitchen, concocting all sorts of strange dishes. Starfleet engineers had repaired the replicators, but had not ripped out the kitchen yet. She wondered how Neelix was doing as the Federation ambassador in the Delta Quadrant. Much as she hated to admit it, she missed the former morale officer/chef/Delta Quadrant historian. She smiled wistfully as she took her plate to an empty table; it seemed strange to order exactly what she wanted instead of taking whatever dish struck his fancy.

Several minutes later, Seven walked in the room. She ordered a light supper from the replicators, then made her way over the captain's table, asking, "Captain, may I join you?"

Janeway looked up, surprised to see Seven. "By all means, be my guest." She watched as Seven methodically arranged the plate, silverware, and glass on the table before setting her tray aside. "It's rather late, I didn't expect you here."

Seven toyed with her fork, then answered quietly, "I waited until the computer informed me that you were here. I wanted to talk to you."

"About what?" Janeway asked as she dug into her meal.

"My status on this mission. I am not former Maquis, nor had I previously decided to join Starfleet. When I found out about your mission, I decided to offer my services so I could be near you."

Janeway looked sharply at Seven, seeing a softness in the former Borg's eyes. "So, you offered your services. You joined the Fleet to be near me. How did you convince Admiral Nimitz to let you join?" she asked.

Seven ate a few bites first, then answered, "I didn't. I joined so as to have a better chance of becoming a full time instructor in Astrometrics at the Academy, then made sure my orders were to report to Lt. Torres on board Voyager."

"You rigged your orders?" Janeway asked, half impressed, half dismayed.

Seven frowned, this was not going the correct way. "It was necessary to be near you," she explained.

Janeway scowled at Seven. "Ensign, we will continue this discussion in my ready room. Finish your meal and report to me in one hour." She stood up to take her unfinished meal to the recycling chute.

"But you have not finished your meal!" Seven protested, standing.

Janeway turned around slowly, fixing Seven with a cold stare. "I am the captain, you will obey me without question or protest, is that clear?"

"Yes," the shocked Borg said.

"Yes what?" Janeway spat.

Seven belatedly remembered military protocol and answered faintly, "Yes, ma'am." She watched the captain stride quickly out of the room, wondering how her world had managed to disintegrate in just a few minutes. What was wrong with wanting to be near the woman she loved so much?

She had not felt this way with Chakotay, she had felt attraction for him, had felt comfortable with him, but she did not want to follow him across the galaxy like she did Kathryn. And why did she have the overwhelming urge to burst into tears, just because Kathryn had spoken sharply to her? Seven concentrated on breathing slowly for several minutes, then tried to finish her own meal. It was no use, she was no longer hungry.

Precisely one hour later, Seven arrived at the captain's ready room. She sat down uneasily in the chair across from the captain, waiting for Janeway to speak. Finally, Janeway looked up from her padd and asked tightly, "Did you really manipulate your orders?"

"Yes, ma'am," Seven said, still failing to understand why her lover was so angry with her.

Janeway asked harshly, "Do you realize what you have done? You joined up, then immediately broke into Fleet computers and changed your orders. That is a court martial offense, ensign, a very serious one. Why did you take that kind of chance?"

Seven squeezed her hands together in her lap, willing herself not to react to the quiet anger that laced Janeway's voice. "Permission to speak freely?" finally asked uneasily.

Janeway snapped, "Granted."

Seven stood up and started pacing, forgetting that she was supposed to stay still. "Captain, I made an impetious decision to follow you. I admit now that I should not have done so, but I cannot seem to stop these feelings I have for you, this overwhelming desire to be with you despite the circumstances. I apologize for any damage I may have caused, but I want to be near you, to assist you in this mission."

She stopped pacing, turning a haunted face toward the captain. "I believe that I am in love with you, and that you reciprocate that feeling. Is it wrong for two people who love each other to do what they can to help one another?"

"Sit down, Seven." Janeway waited until Seven had sat back down. "You are now subject to the rules and regulations of Starfleet, and are under my command, no matter how you came to be under my command. You are an ensign, I am a captain, we cannot have a romantic relationship no matter what our feelings are for each other, it is forbidden."

"Why?" Seven asked, fear and anguish creeping into her voice.

Janeway started rubbing her temples where the headache was forming, wondering if Seven really did not understand the situation. "Seven, I believe we have had this conversation in the past, but there have been regulations against romantic relationships between persons of unequal ranks for hundreds of years. They were established to prevent those in authority from taking advantage of those in their command. Also, if a captain is dating someone under her, then she may not be able to make the right decision of who to send on a dangerous mission for fear of harming her significant other."

Seven grasped at what she thought was an exception. "But we started our relationship before I joined-"

"That does not matter," Janeway interrupted, "we have no romantic relationship, at most, just a friendship. One night of passion does not make a romantic relationship or a committment. Is that understood, ensign?"

The words seemed to hang in the air between them, bitter and harsh. Seven was stunned, mouth agape at this uncharacteristic vehemence from her friend, the woman she loved. She swallowed several times, forcing her mind to start working again. Unwillingly, she dredged up the relevant passages from the military code, realizing that Kathryn was correct, as least from a legal standpoint. She had not considered the consequences when she joined, and now felt a growing sense of humiliation and anger, wanting to lash out at Kathryn for upholding Starfleet law, for not making an exception for her.

The captain broke into her thoughts by saying quietly, "Tomorrow morning, I want you to report to Lt. Torres in Engineering. She will be your immediate commanding officer, do not report directly to me unless I order you to do so. You are dismissed, Seven." Seven stood up stiffly, head bowed as she left the room. Kathryn waited until Seven was gone to cup her face in her hands, asking the gods, "Seven, what have you done to us?"

Chakotay listlessly picked at his breakfast, trying to convince himself that he needed to eat. He'd lost weight since Seven moved out of his apartment, finding himself just too tired and too upset to eat most of the time. The bright side was that his Maquis uniform from the old days fit really well now.

"Commander, may I join you?"

Chakotay looked up, finding Tom Paris waiting beside the table with his own breakfast tray. He motioned for Tom to sit down, curious why he would choose to sit with him. "What brings you to my table, Tom?"

"I'll be blunt since I'm so curious. What does Seven's joining the fleet do for your relationship? A commander and an ensign can't date, let alone be engaged. What will you do?" Tom started buttering his toast, then added, "Are you ill? You look thinner."

Chakotay wondered if he could trust Tom. So far, he hadn't really told anyone that Seven moved out, let alone that the engagement was off. He glanced around the room, noting that there were very few people here, mostly on the other side of the room. He was also amused that Tom, despite his curiosity, had not lost his appetite and was digging into his food with gusto. He was aching to talk, and could not talk to Tuvok, the second in command, and certainly not Kathryn, who used to be his friend. "Tom, this is completely off the record, understood?" Tom nodded. "Seven left me several months ago. Remember the reception for your father, how Seven was dancing with our fair captain? I saw them leave together, and assume from the look on their faces that, well, I guessing that they are having an affair. Anyway, the engagement is off."

Tom laid down his fork. "No, really? Our rule bound captain and Seven? Chakotay, I'm so sorry, that must really make life difficult for you, being on the ship with both of them. Is that why Seven suddenly joined the fleet?"

Chakotay nodded. "Probably. Of course, the irony is that Kathryn has probably already laid down the law with Seven and told her that they cannot continue any romantic relationship. You know how much of a stickler for rules the captain is."

"Yeah, I remember all too well," Tom said ruefully. "So, are you okay with this? I mean, working with the captain and Seven on a small ship."

Chakotay smiled thinly. "The captain has the two of us on different shifts, she's on days and I'm on nights. Well, I don't think I'm hungry any longer, so I'll go to my quarters and try to get some sleep."

Tom touched Chakotay's sleeve lightly. "Hey, if you need anyone to talk to, let me know. I know I bent your ear about B'Elanna a few times."

"I appreciate that, Tom, but for now, concentrate on the mission."

"Will do, Commander." Paris watched as Chakotay walked away, thinking how hard it must be to lose your lover to someone else, then to have to work with both of them. He glanced up at the chronometer and saw that he barely had time to finish his breakfast before starting his shift. He'd better not be late, or the good captain would have his butt in the proverbial sling.

Part III

Seven threw herself into work to avoid thinking about the captain. At least there was a lot of work to do since they were running with a skeleton crew, as would benefit a ship "stolen" from dry-dock. She could concentrate on assisting Lt. Torres with fine-tuning the engineering systems and integrating the upgraded computer system with the combination of earlier Federation technology and the Borg technology that she had helped install on the last voyage.

Lt. Torres finally growled that Seven would do them no good if she continued to work twenty hour shifts, and ordered Seven to take a break for a meal and a nap. "Come back when you have slept," she ordered. Seven reluctantly obeyed, calculating the time and shifts, determining that the captain should be asleep now and not in the mess hall. Accordingly, she headed toward the mess hall for a meal.

She had nearly finished eating when Chakotay entered the room. He got his tray, then started looking around the room for a table. He saw Seven and nearly turned around to take the tray to his quarters, but decided that would be cowardly. Instead, he walked over and asked, "May I have a seat?"

Surprised, she answered, "Yes, you may, I did not think you would want to see me."

He actually chuckled. "Not really, but I'd rather be at the table with you than with anyone else in this room. So, how goes the engineering assignment?" He listened as he ate his meal, relieved to be in a non-emotional conversation. By the time he'd finished eating, he was asking questions about the current integration of systems, making mental notes about points for the next staff meeting. "It sounds like things are going swimmingly," he commented.

Seven cocked her head, asking, "What do water sports have to do with engineering systems?"

"Just an expression, Seven." He pushed his tray aside and folded his hands on the table. "So, how are you doing? I understand that you and Kathryn had some words the other night."

Seven reached up to rub her temples, unconsciously imitating the gesture she'd seen the captain do many times. "Not well, Commander, it is more difficult than I had imagined. But, I do have some insight into how you must feel after I left you. How did you know what happened?"

Chakotay picked up his fork, pushing it around the few peas that were still on his plate. "I was bold enough to ask the captain when I had a meeting with her this morning. She's pretty hurt as well, but she feel so strongly about rules and protocol that this is the only way she can operate."

"Do you think I made the wrong decision, by joining the fleet to be near her?" Seven asked.

Chakotay placed his fork back on the tray before answering, "I can't tell you what is a wrong or right decision, Seven. I thought it was the right decision to ask you to marry me, yet it seems to have been the wrong decision. Now, even if you came back to me, it would still be the wrong decision because you are an ensign and I am a commander."

Seven turned this over in her mind, finally commenting, "I can understand with my head, but it is my emotions I am having trouble with, Commander. What can I do to fall out of love with her?"

"Only time will help, Seven. I'm probably not the right person to ask, I'm still in love with you and can't seem to convince myself to fall out of love with you," he said gently.

"Oh." Seven flushed, suddenly embarrassed, retreating into formality. "My apologies, this cannot be a comfortable discussion for you."

"It's okay, I'd hoped we could remain friends," Chakotay replied, resisting the urge to take her hand in his. He cast about for an idea, then asked, "Do you want to go to the holodeck, maybe play a game of badminton?"

"I appreciate the offer, but Lt. Torres ordered me to rest after dinner. Perhaps another time," she answered cooly.

"Perhaps. Well, my shift starts in another hour, I guess I'll go look over the duty roster or something useful like that. Goodnight, Seven."

"Goodnight, sir," she answered.

The voyage to the Maquis stronghold was fairly uneventful, with just enough scrapes with other Federation vessels to send out the word that Voyager was not responding to repeated commands to surrender and return to Earth. Upon arrival, it was decided that Tom and B'Elanna would take a shuttle down and attempt to buy supplies and try to get the message to Joaquin Centeno that they were looking for him.

It looked as though they were destined to be disappointed, but as Tom and B'Elanna were loading supplies into the shuttle, a woman approached them, asking, "Are you Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres?"

"Why do you ask?" B'Elanna asked suspiciously.

"Mr. Centeno sent me," the woman answered simply, waiting for their reply.

The two officers exchanged glances, then Tom took the lead. "And if we are?" he asked flippantly.

"Then Mr. Centeno wishes to see you at the White Cliffs tavern tonight at eight for supper. Should I tell him that you will appear?" she persisted.

Tom scratched his chin thoughtfully, stalling for time, not wishing to appear too eager to meet the elusive man. "What do you think, honey? Can we get the supplies back to the ship and get back down?"

B'Elanna scowled, then looked at her padd. "I guess so, especially the way you fly. That leaves us about an hour and a half to get to the ship, unload, then get back."

"Then tell Mr. Centeno that it will be our pleasure to dine with him," Tom said theatrically, bowing slightly. "We'll be there with bells on."

"Bells?" B'Elanna asked as they started walking back toward the shuttle. Tom started giving a long, drawn out explanation until they were in the shuttle. Once on board, they quickly filed their flight plans, then went back to the ship.

They arrived at the tavern just a few minutes after eight to further the impression that they were not actually seeking him out. "Hey, Joaquin, good to see you again!" Tom called out as they approached the booth. "You remember my wife, B'Elanna Torres, from the party?"

Joaquin stood up, smiling and extending his hand to B'Elanna. "I always remember beautiful women," he answered as he shook her hand. He released it to shake hands with Tom, then gestured for them to sit. "The food is a tad bland, but it is the best on this colony. The beer, however, is outstanding, taken from very old English recipes. Allow me to order for you, please." He motioned for the waiter, placed their orders, then turned back to the couple. "I've been hearing rumors that Kathryn Janeway actually commandeered her old ship and headed here."

"You are correct," Tom answered, leaning forward and smiling, "I told her about our little conversation at the party and she was intrigued."

"I thought that Captain Janeway was regulation right down to her underwear, so what changed?" the dark-haired man asked.

Tom looked at B'Elanna, asking, "Should we tell him the truth?" She nodded. "Look, after six years with a combined Fleet/Maquis crew, she finally understood why we were protesting. When we told her about how callously the Federation abandoned colonies to the Cardassians, she was not happy, she didn't know the depth of the disgraceful way the colonies were used as pawns in the war."

"That's it?" Joaquin asked, "that doesn't seem like enough to change her mind."

Tom smiled slyly as a brilliant idea came to him. "There's more, my friend, we brought back this former Borg drone, whom Kathryn had fallen in love with, and the Fleet punishes her by sending her on a training cruise! They allow Annika Hansen, the Borg babe, to join the fleet, then remind her that people of differing ranks can't date, then they were going to send Kathryn out and leave Annika on Earth, claiming that they needed to study her, like she was a machine, not a person."

B'Elanna, caught up in the tale, jumped in with, "She blew a gasket! I'd never seen the captain so furious before, so Tom and I took advantage of the situation to talk her into joining the cause."

"Yeah, and with Chakotay finding out that Voyager was ready for a new mission, we held a council and decided to steal the ship and head over here to offer our services. It's mostly Maquis crewing, and all personally very loyal to Kathryn," Tom concluded.

Joaquin buttered another slice of toast, asking skeptically, "So, how do I know you're telling the truth?"

The other two glanced at each other. Tom blurted out, "We'll bring her to you, say tomorrow morning?"

Joaquin showed fine white teeth. "Fine. In the meanwhile, enjoy your dinner and let me catch you up on the latest after the Dominion war. Did you know that the colonies that were supposed to be turned back over to the Federation are still guarded by Jem'Hadar ships?"

"You told him what?" Janeway snapped during the debriefing session.

Tom held up his hands defensively, afraid that the good captain would lash out physically. "Well, I had to convince him, and who hasn't wanted to do anything for love? Think of all the romantic stories-"

Janeway ground her teeth a moment, trying to hang onto her temper before interrupting him. "Mister, this sounds like one of your stupid plots from those movies you love so much. I'll turn this ship around before submitting to this kind of charade! What possessed you to tell him such a thing?"

Tom looked hopelessly at his wife, then at Chakotay and Tuvok for help. Finding none, he boldly asserted, "But aren't you in love with Seven?"

The silence was thick with tension as Janeway stood up and slowly walked over to Tom's chair. She leaned over, putting one hand on the back of his chair and the other on the table, leaning over him as she said quietly, "That, young man, is none of your damned business."

Chakotay spoke up. "Kathryn, it is something that would get you to act out of character. Tom does have a point, you did spend six years with us, even though you insisted on following the rules and regulations of Starfleet, we could have rubbed off on you. After all, you did pick up civilian passengers, and you did allow a hologram to become the official Chief Medical Officer, why not break the rules when you are told that you can't love someone?"

"But this is so illogical-"

Tuvok inserted, "Even Vulcans can be illogical, so Kathryn Janeway can be illogical. The die is cast, so to speak, and you must follow through or admit that the mission cannot be completed. Admiral Nimitz has placed her career on the line with this mission, Captain."

The captain glared at Lt. Paris one more time, then made her way back to her chair, but stood behind it rather than being seated. "Are you all in agreement?" Nods all around. Her shoulders sagged as she said, "All right, I'll play along, but no more unauthorized detours from the story, people." The officers nodded again. "Dismissed."

Paris, Torres and Tuvok filed out, but Chakotay stayed seated. When the others had left, he asked, "Kathryn, how are you going to tell Seven?"

"Joaquin does not have to see her with me," she suggested.

The dark-haired man shook his head. "I disagree, I think he will have to see you two together, or it will fall apart. Tom thought he was doing the right thing, he and B'Elanna told me before the briefing that they were about to lose Joaquin's interest before Tom came out with this twist in the plot. You have to back it up, Kathryn, or it will all fall apart."

She sat down, thinking before finally speaking again. "Okay, Chakotay, I guess I have to go with the circumstances. But I don't think it's very convincing."

"Then you'll have to make it convincing, won't you?" Chakotay asked as he stood to leave. She didn't reply, so he left, unhappy at the way things turned out, but for a different reason.

Janeway sat in the empty room, considering all that had been said in the past hour. Would she really have turned her back on the fleet, on all that she knew, for a chance to love Seven? Would she really have joined the Maquis if it weren't for her present mission? She pondered the questions, then thought of another question. How would they find out what the target was for the rumored bomb? Maybe Seven could team up with B'Elanna, together they could break into any computer system they had encountered.

She rubbed her temples, feeling the old headache creeping up on her, wishing it would go away. To be honest, she wished that it was Seven's fingers instead of her own that were rubbing her temples right now, but she couldn't allow that to happen, could she?

"So you want to help us. Why?" the Maquis contact asked her, his voice filled with skepticism.

Janeway looked across the table at Joaquin Centeno, knowing that her acting had to be superb for him to believe her as a renegade. "I come home, bring my crew home and expect to be given more complex missions, more important missions, then I'm sent out on training missions. Besides, I had no idea that there were still Federation colonies in Cardassian space, I thought that we'd taken back over."

She leaned forward, stabbing her finger against the table as she concluded, "I was brought up to believe that Starfleet protected Federation space, not used Federation colonies as bargaining chips. That is not the fleet I believe in, so I must do what I can to bring the fleet's attention to this fact, even if it ruins my career."

Joaquin listened quietly, concentrating on his breakfast while she spoke. He finally looked up and asked, "Why should I believe that you just want to show the vaunted fleet the error of their ways? No, my dear captain, I'm not convinced, this might be an elaborate setup to penetrate my defenses. Now, please, why would a decorated Starfleet captain go rogue and offer to help the enemy?" He snorted, leaning back, fingers laced behind his neck, tilting the chair against the wall behind him. "Captain Janeway, you are very clever, but I cannot just trust you."

The captain stared at the Maquis leader, face completely blank as her mind furiously cast about for for a convincing answer. It came to her in a flash as she remembered the admiral saying that they thought the Maquis were planning a terrorist attack on some building or monument with great emotional and symbolic value. "Mr. Centeno, I am a scientist first, before I even entered command track. I was forced to learn how to add diplomat to my repertoire and I will play the diplomatic game if you wish, but somehow, I don't think I would impress you. So, instead, let me tell you about why this has really hit home with me."

"How so?" he asked.

She answered, "I grew up in Indiana, one of the states of the United States of America, a country born of both blood and ideals. Americans have always been passionately committed to the idea that people must have the freedom to choose their circumstances and if they do not, we are willing to help them obtain that freedom, to go to war if necessary. This is the same background that would not allow me to leave behind a Borg drone after she was cut off from the collective. This drone had the chance to be an individual, so I had to help her with that chance, a chance for freedom and independence. So, when I hear of colonies that had already freely chose the Federation way of life and then were denied that freedom, I felt honor-bound to do what I could to help them, even if it meant fighting against the Federation until the Council could see the error of its ways," she concluded fiercely.

A long silence stretched between them when Janeway finished her speech. She wanted to grab Centeno by his lapels, force him to respond, but she kept her blank face, but allowing a fervent look to creep into her eyes. He finally dropped his chair down with a boom and leaned forward, hands spread out on the table as if he was going to rise up. A smile finally split his face and he relaxed. "My dear captain, I have not heard such an impassioned plea in many years. I believe that you have what in the old days may have been termed Yankee brashness, arrogance, and an unshakable belief that God Himself has ordained you to right wrongs. So, what will you put on the table?"

"My ship, my crew, and my honor," Janeway answered immediately.

Joaquin's eyebrows lifted in surprise. "Your honor? Your personal honor?"

"My honor and my reputation are very important. Enough talking, what actions do we need to take? I have some very talented officers and crew members to offer to our mutual cause, for example, B'Elanna Torres, whom you already know-"

"What about your Borg lover? What role will she play?" he asked slyly.

Janeway snapped, "Annika is off limits, I did not want her to come on this mission and endanger her life. I would have sent her back to be safe, but she managed to sneak on board with false orders."

"False orders?" His eyebrows jumped to his hairline. Now, this is getting very interesting! he thought.

"Yes," Janeway admitted reluctantly, as if she was not planning to mention this little talent, "An-Ensign Hansen broke into the fleet system and created a set of orders placing her on this mission as an engineering specialist. Enough about her. What do you need from us?"

The man smiled unnervingly, knowing he had breached Janeway's weak spot and secured his advantage. "If you'll follow me to my office, I'll show you the entire list." He motioned for the check, then waited until they were walking out of the tavern to add, "I'd like to meet this lover of yours, Captain, she sounds like quite an asset. I think I'd like to see this vaunted breaking and entering talent. After you, my dear."

"Did he take the bait?" Tom Paris asked anxiously in the command staff meeting several hours later after the captain had briefed them on her conversation with Joaquin Centeno.

"I believe so, but it requires the use of Ensign Hansen's talents in computer systems," Janeway reported glumly.

Tom nudged his wife, wisecracking, "Our Seven will be a hacker!"

"A what?" Chakotay asked, irritated by the pilot's knack for archaic slang.

"Someone who can enter computer systems through their weak points, just because they can," B'Elanna answered before Tom could open his mouth. Seeing the surprised faces around her, she asked, "What, didn't you think that Tom would rub off on me?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, if we could direct our attention to the task at hand, we can finish this mission much faster," Janeway spat as she started pacing the room. "Now that I have your full attention," she continued sarcastically, "may I remind you that we are here to discover what this cell may or may not be planning in the way of terrorist actions. To do this, we need to infiltrate their cell completely, take advantage of any particular talents and skills that our crew has, and to shut down the cell before they can act. We also are required to bring back proof for any trials that may arise out of this mission. You have two hours before my next meeting with Joaquin, so please have your plans ready for my approval. Dismissed." She stalked out of the room before any additional questions could be raised.

Joaquin Centeno had seen pictures of the Borg known as Seven of Nine, now known as Ensign Annika Hansen, but holos had not prepared him for the reality of the tall, willowy blonde in person. Her very stance declared efficiency and complete dedication to the task at hand, her eyes cool and emotionless - except when she glanced at the captain. He could see a slight flicker of warmth when she regarded the auburn tressed captain, could see the unwilling answering warmth in Janeway's eyes. Blackmail material in person, he decided. "Thank you for coming down. Captain Janeway, what is your plan?"

"Lt. Torres is still working on some new equipment on the ship as part of our plan, but Ensign Hansen will assist you in breaking into the Federation and Starfleet systems to find weaknesses for us to exploit," she replied crisply.

"Follow me, then." Centeno led the women to a room in the basement of the tavern. "This is our connection console, originally standard Federation colony issue, but modified for our purposes. Ensign, will you take us on a tour of the Federation net first?"

Seven sat down at the console, studying the keypad. "The keypad structure is modified," she stated flatly, "what are the other modifications?"

"You're supposed to be the smart one, you tell me," he said, enjoying challenging the ensign, and by extension, the captain.

Seven turned back to the console without further comment and started touching the keypad, quietly discovering the bypasses they had programmed into the system. She found the public nets easily enough and quickly wound her way into the secured nets, pulling up raw logs of several private Federation committee meetings. Joaquin snorted when he looked over her shoulder. "A five year old should be able to reach that level, you haven't shown me anything yet," Centeno scoffed.

Seven looked at the captain, who nodded once. She touched several more sequences and brought up the Swiss bank accounts of the Federation president, showing several numbered deposits from an unknown source. "What's this, bribes?" Centeno asked, stunned. He had no idea that the president had this type of skeleton in his closet.

"It would appear to be potential bribery payments," Seven answered coolly as she assessed the information on the screen. "I can put a trace on the source, but I am 83.4927% sure that it is Cardassian in origin."

"How do you know that?" he asked, stunned. He'd tried to break into Swiss bank accounts in the past, but had always failed.

Janeway broke in. "Mr. Centeno, the ensign was part of the Borg collective, and still retains much of the knowledge assimilated by the Borg. They have assimilated almost every species known to the Federation, including Cardassians. If Ensign Hansen says that it is from the Cardassians, you can bet your bottom credit that it is in fact Cardassian in origin." She folded her arms across her chest, leaning back against the wall, waiting for his next move.

Joaquin found himself pacing as he thought about the new data, but decided that he would investigate it later. "Go ahead and download the data but let's get back to our explorations. Now, I need you to find why the Federation deserted our colonies and turned them over to the Cardassians. If it ties in with these bribes, I want to know that as well. If necessary, I will put some of my trusted advisors on your ship, Captain Janeway, and send you back to earth to break into the systems from headquarters, just in case you are feeding me false data."

"Not a problem," Janeway agreed, eyes straying to caress Seven's body. She flushed pink when Centeno caught her, but glared at him, daring him to comment. "You tell me how may people to expect and I will provide quarters. We're not exactly running with a full crew, so it will be easy to accommodate extra Maquis."

"Excellent. Give me a comm frequency and I will contact you later with the number of agents. When you finish downloading the information, you are free to go back to your ship, Captain, Ensign." Joaquin walked toward the door, then paused. Janeway threw him a bored look, then turned her attention back to the Borg ensign. He chuckled, knowing that everything they did and said would be caught on the hidden bugs throughout the room. Maybe he would get lucky and they would give him a show.

After Joaquin left, Seven kept steadily working, looking for an easily accessible data port. She tried to engage Kathryn in small talk, with bits of wishful attempts to flirt as she scanned for the port. She finally found it, knowing that she could send a runner to connect, but had to ponder how to do so without it showing up on the hidden trackers that she had found in the walls. Having an enhanced eye did have its advantages at times. Janeway kept rebuffing Seven's attempts at flirting until Seven finally started humming "Some Enchanted Evening." The captain's face softened and she whispered, "Are we being watched?"

"Who cares?" Seven answered in a sultry tone, crooking her metal covered finger at the captain. "You are in my power and you know it Kathryn. The data will take another twenty minutes to download, so why not make the best of our time together, before you feel compelled to follow the rules?"

"No, we must not, Annika," Janeway argued, crossing her arms tighter across her chest. "I will not be held captive to my hormones."

"Oh, yes you will, my beloved Kathryn," Seven growled as she flowed upward, stalking the captain. "You cannot resist me, you will be assimilated. Again." She reached the captain, bending her golden head down to the auburn one, warm breath bathing Kathryn's face. "I am the Borg," she murmured, reaching for the captain's face, brushing her lips against Kathryn's lips. Kathryn involuntarily shuddered and moaned with desire, finding herself unwrapping her arms, placing her hands on the Borg's shoulders.

"No, I will assimilate you," Janeway growled hoarsely, suddenly shoving the taller woman backward until she was sitting again. Kathryn straddled the woman's lap, pushing her back against the chair, leaning down and fiercely claiming the ensign's lips with hers. Seven grabbed the edge of the keypad to steady herself, sending a slender datalink into the almost hidden port at the edge of the keypad, fighting to concentrate on the task at hand as Kathryn continued her oral assault. When she found what she was looking for, she retracted the datalink and slipped the enhanced hand up the captain's body, brushing a nipple with her mesh covered thumb.

Kathryn shot up, scrambling to disengage herself from Seven, nearly knocking her over in the process. "I'm sorry, Ensign, that was completely uncalled for on my part. Only an unethical, unscrupulous officer takes advantage of someone under their command."

Seven opened her mouth to reply, but shut it abruptly when Joaquin walked back in the room. "Are we finished downloading?" he asked smoothly, subtly adjusting his tunic away from his body.

Janeway caught the motion and was elated; obviously, their distraction plan worked. "Yes," she answered flatly, "Ensign Hansen, please show Mr. Centeno the results of our data dump." Seven nodded and touched the keypad, calling up the raw logs and offering her analysis to the slightly breathless Maquis.

"Despite my initial misgivings, I believe he bought the show," the captain reported in her next staff meeting. "Lt. Torres, Lt. Paris, the 'bribes' were a stroke of genius, let's just hope that he buys the data as authentic. Dismissed, except for Ensign Hansen." The rest of the officers filed out, curious as to what the captain would be saying to Seven.

Once the room cleared, Janeway leaned over the table, rubbing her temples, not wanting to start this particular conversation, but feeling like she needed to, for Seven's sake. Before she could start, she felt her fingers gently peeled away, replaced with the warm flesh and cool mesh fingertips of her beloved, delicately probing her temple for the pain points. Janeway started to push Seven away, but relaxed instead. Might as well enjoy it, Seven did have a way of finding just the right places to relieve her pain.

Seven waited until she saw Kathryn's face relax, then slid into the chair across the table. "You wanted to speak to me?"

Kathryn opened her eyes. "Yes, Ensign, I did."

"Please, when we are alone, will you call me Seven?" she asked politely.

The captain frowned, lacing her fingers together tightly in front of her on the table. "No, I must be able to put distance between us, Ensign Hansen, especially when we are alone. Please remember to call me Captain Janeway, not Kathryn."

"I shall," the Borg answered, ice creeping into her voice as she shifted and mimicked Janeway's posture and hands. "I believe that the mission was a success. What is our next step?"

"Miss Hansen, I must address one more issue before getting back to the mission. If we act the part of lovers-"

Seven leaned over, placing one well-shaped finger on the captain's lips. "Please, I know what you will say, that we can only pretend for the sake of the mission, but after that, we cannot even be friends due to the difference in our ranks. I have read the appropriate regulations and will abide by them, even if I do not agree with them. I cannot force myself to stop loving you, any more than Commander Chakotay can force himself to stop loving me, but for the sake of the mission, we must all do what is necessary and forget our personal feelings."

"Well, yes," Janeway muttered, unreasonably irritated that Seven had made her grand speech unnecessary. "Go report to Lt. Torres to prepare for the next part in our mission. Are the nanoprobes in place? Have you been able to download the data you copied from the Maquis databases?"

"The nanoprobes are in place and are transmitting even now to the hybrid Borg/Federation receivers. I have not had a chance to download the data, so if you will excuse me, I shall do so now." Seven stood, but waited patiently until Janeway recovered her wits and gave her the formal dismissal.

Kathryn watched the young woman leave, unconsciously touching her lips where Seven had touched them, wondering why she was so infatuated with the young woman. Okay, so she had lied to Seven, Kathryn had experimented with other women a few times in her academy days, but that was accepted and expected. She placed her hands on the table and slowly pushed herself up, fighting the drained feeling left from the absence of the headache that had so recently taken up residence in her skull. One of these days, she would have to actually admit just how often she had these skull-splitting headaches to someone in the medical profession, but not just now. She had a mission to complete just now.

Joaquin Centeno was extremely pleased, not only had he secured the cooperation of a highly respected Starfleet captain and her ship, but had also manipulated the same captain and her ship into taking some of his people back to earth, where they could strike at his chosen target. It was a very good day, indeed.

He resisted the temptation of looking at the visuals of the captain and her consort again, breathing deeply to control himself. So, the good captain really was infatuated or in love with the beautiful Borg blonde, just as his spies had said, just as his friends Tom and B'Elanna had confirmed. The captain would surely do anything to keep her bedmate out of trouble and alive, he reasoned as he dispatched his final message to his counterpart on earth.

B'Elanna Torres grunted and swore viciously as she and the Maquis engineer maneuvered the cloaking device into place. "You say that you stole the plans from Starfleet?" she asked when the ungainly device was finally in place.

"Yes, it was used on Captain Sisko's runabout," Jordan Pierce confirmed, pulling a handkerchief out of his pocket to wipe off his sweaty brow. "I managed to convince one of Chief O'Brien's helpers to bring me the plans. All I had to do was to pay off his gambling debts, which I did. Too bad he didn't live to enjoy his debt free status. So, let's get this puppy up and running."

The chief engineer glared at her Maquis counterpart, snarling, "I give the orders here, Pierce, not you, and don't forget that! You may have the technology and the plans, but it's on my ship and I call the shots on executing the plans."

"Sorry, princess, don't get your knickers in a wad!" he said, irritated.

"Lt. Torres is not royalty, nor does she wear any old-fashioned articles of clothing that would be known as kickers." Pierce turned around to face the most coldly beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on. This must be the captain's woman that Joaquin had mentioned, he could see why the captain had broken all sorts of regulations over her. He turned to the chief engineer to apologize. "Sorry, Lt. Torres, I didn't mean to insult you."

"See that you don't do it again," the half-Klingon woman snarled before calling up the plans at her station. "Ensign Hansen, will you come here and look at these plans with me? Did you ever assimilate any Romulans?" Seven walked over to the station, ignoring the jibe, studying the plans.

Jordan wandered around the rest of the engine room while the two women studied the plans, discussion how best to implement the cloaking device on Voyager. His sharp eyes picked out the hybrid Federation/Borg technologies, wishing he had more time to explore this particular ship, to see what improvements that the Borg woman had brought with her.

Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to the engineer and the ensign, noting that they seemed to be winding up their discussion. "Miss Hansen, if you follow these modifications I've made to the plans, we'll get this cloaking device up and running in no time. Damn, it sure would have been nice to have this technology when Chakotay and I were hiding out before Voyager came after us," Torres said.

"If you and the commander had the cloaking technology, you would not be on the ship now, nor would you have met your husband," Seven countered blandly.

"Just cut the comments and get to work before I put you on report," Torres snapped. "The captain expects us to have this installed and tested well before we reach earth, so get your ass moving, Ensign."

"Yes, Ma'am. You and you, assist me," Seven ordered a couple of crew. She turned to Jordan and stared at him, then nodded abruptly. "You will also assist," she said, turning sharply without waiting for his reply. Jordan smiled wolfishly as he followed the shapely woman toward the device. At least he could enjoy looking, he thought as he listened to the Borg's succient orders to the crew.

"Report," Janeway snapped to the officers and the Maquis agents a week later.

"The cloaking device is fully installed and functional," Jordan Pierce answered before Torres could open her mouth. "Lt. Torres and Ensign Hansen came up with some modifications that will render us completely invisible to Starfleet ships and satellites so we can approach earth undetected by anyone. We should be able to beam down anywhere on the planet without being caught."

"What's our target?" Janeway asked.

"I'm sorry, Captain, that information is classified. Joaquin doesn't trust you that much, just in case you have spies on board," Pierce said, enjoying poking at her.

"Then how does he expect to secure my cooperation?" Janeway asked mildly.

"Simple - I'm taking one of your crew on the mission to assist us. If he or she interfers with the mission - they die." Jordan flashed white teeth in a feral smile. "I'm happy to announce, though, that we will get the immediate attention of the Federation so we can announce our holy cause."

Janeway simply nodded, then asked, "Did you have anyone in mind?"

"Yes," Pierce answered, leaning forward, "Ensign Annikan Hansen."

Janeway stared at him without blinking. "Why just an ensign?" she asked.

Pierce blinked, expecting at least a token protest. He answered, "Because she is able to handle herself and can get in and out of any security systems devised, she's already proven that. And, because she is a low ranking officer, it won't hurt if she dies in the explosion."

"I see. You will have to give me more details on your plans before I can allow this to happen," the captain replied smoothly, "for as much as I am committed to helping you bring the plight of the colonists to the public eye, I cannot send any crew member under my command into danger without understanding that danger. What are you planning to do?"

Instead of answering direction, Jordan started quoting, "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."

"My God," Chakotay whispered, eyes growing big.

"Exactly," Jordan answered. "The Declaration of Independence."

Chakotay and B'Elanna waited until several hours later to demand a meeting with the captain. She reluctantly granted it, directing them to meet her in B'Elanna and Tom's quarters, where Tom's obsession with the twentieth century allowed them a blanket of noise. Janeway wondered how B'Elanna could stand this so-called music swirling around, it made little sense to her. Chakotay entered next, eyebrows raising in surprise. "The Doors?"

"Yep, mystical, hard to hear through, and hypnotic after a while," Tom answered as he upped the volume a bit.

"Let's get down to business, people, what did you two want?" the captain asked briskly.

Chakotay and B'Elanna looked at each other, then Chakotay said, "Kathryn, you can't let Seven go down there with him. I finally remembered Joran Pierce, he is called the Annihilator, he loves to steal artifacts and then destroy the buildings that housed them, not caring who happens to be in the buildings with him. If you allow Seven to go with him, she'll die. You can't do that to the woman we love."

Janeway rubbed her temples, headache returning in full force. "I appreciate your concern, but Seven can take care of herself. In fact, I'm counting on her participation to foil this entire plot."

"But Kathryn-"

"Commander, please remember that I am your captain!" Janeway spat furiously, hands balling into tight fists. "This is a command decision, I alone decide what to do, even if it means risking Seven's life! She should have known that when she pulled this fool stunt, signing up for the fleet, but I can't protect her now from her foolishness. Lt. Torres, you will make sure that Ensign Hansen has what she needs to secretly communicate with the ship. Tom, you know the Washington DC area, right?"

"Yes, Ma'am, but-"

"Make sure she knows the ins and outs then. Get with her to download the plans to the National Archives and Records Administration building, see how Pierce is planning to steal the declaration and how he might blow up the building without leaving tracks. Make sure she can find an alternative way out of the building. Torres, do we still have the secret link to the Admiral's office?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, we do," Torres confirmed.

"Apprise her of our plans so that appropriate hidden security measures may be taken. Also, make sure that we have still have the links to our personnel we hid back at Centeno's compound and coordinate the arrest with them. It has to go down at the same time as this proposed theft or the charges will not stick. Ready?" the captain asked.

"But Captain Janeway, what about Seven?" the commander asked.

She turned to Chakotay and asked in a deadly voice, "What about her?" After waiting for an answer, Janeway turned on her heel and left Tom and B'Elanna's quarters.

Tom watched her leave, then turned and asked his fellow officers, "Does it seem like she's willing to sacrifice Seven?" No one wanted to voice an answer.

Janeway found herself at Seven's quarters, pushing on the door chime before having second thoughts. Seven answered, puzzled to see the captain there, but silently allowed her access. Once the doors closed, Seven asked casually, "What brings you here, Kathryn?"

Janeway's heart sank, realizing that Seven had found some sort of recording device in her quarters. They had agreed that if any such devices were found, they would continue to play the game of lovers behind closed doors, captain and ensign in public. "You've been chosen for a very important mission, Annika," Kathryn purred, forcing herself to play along, "you will accompany Mr. Pierce and his team down to earth. Your part of this mission will be to get them in and out of the National Archives and Records Administration building without tripping any alarms. Can you do that?"

Seven answered coolly, "I shall not fail you, my captain. I will make you proud, even if I walk through the bowels of Hell itself. When does this mission start?"

Janeway made herself comfortable on the couch, reaching up to rub her temples as she answered, "A few days from now, Jordan will let us know when the time is right. We will be able to sneak into a high orbit around earth within the next twenty-two hours."

Seven listened intently, watching the motions of the captain's fingers on her temples. Not wanting to give away Kathryn's pain, she asked, "Would you appreciate a massage?" Janeway considered the offer, fear of weakening warring with the need to keep up the facade.

The mission won out.

Kathryn laid her head in Seven's lap, closing her eyes and gradually relaxing as the other woman's fingers started working their magic, taking away the pain, soothing her doubts and fears. She was barely awake when Seven suggested that they go to bed. Kathryn simply followed the taller woman to the bedroom, acutely aware that if that room was bugged as well, they would expect her to make love with Seven.

Damn, how did I get in this situation? Kathryn had to follow suit as Seven simply took off her uniform and slid naked into the waiting bed. She reluctantly discarded her uniform, sliding into the sheets with Seven, aware of the other woman's body, aware of her own desires attempting to override the logical part of her brain, not wanting to give in and yet desperate to give in to Seven's many charms. How had she wound up in a situation where she had to seduce or be seduced by her friend? Did she really love Seven that way, that much?

Oh, God, Seven's body was so enticingly warm and soft next to hers, her lips just a heartbeat away, her eyes turning a deeper shade of blue with pent up desire. My God, if I don't make love to her tonight and I lose her, I'll regret it for the rest of my life, Kathryn rationalized, reaching for Seven, pulling the younger woman close.

"Lights out," Seven's voice floated through the air as the ship's computer complied. "Music, earth, 1940's big band variety." Music filled the air as Seven's scent filled Kathryn's brain, pulling the Borg even closer, kissing her, stroking her, moaning as she felt herself responding. "We don't have to do this, the music will override any noises we make," Seven whispered in the captain's ear.

Janeway pulled away as if a bucket of cold water had been dashed in her face. "Thank you," she whispered back, rolling away from the enticing body, hoping that her sudden tears would fall silently, unaware of the matching slow tears falling from Seven's human eye.

Part IV

Tom Paris deftly steered the ship into a high orbit, as the operations officer announced that they had not yet been detected. "Good," Janeway said briskly, "Are all plans complete? Mr. Pierce, is your team ready?"

"Ready for insertion," he replied briskly, "just go around for another half hour to make sure we aren't detected, then we will beam down. Do you want to say good-bye to your lover?" he asked suggestively.

Janeway turned in her chair and regarded him with a smirk on her face. "None of your business, but I will go talk to the team in a few minutes. Dismissed." She waited until Jordan Pierce had left the bridge before leaning over to Chakotay and saying quietly, "Be ready to take over command when the away team leaves." Chakotay lifted his eyebrows in surprise, his face asking why?

"Because I will be with that team," Janeway announced before turning her attention back to the last minute mission details. "And I don't want any backtalk about my decision," she answered his next unspoken question.

"What?" Jordan Pierce glared down at the petite captain, "who said that you could come on this mission? Who will remain on the ship?"

"Commander Chakotay will be in command while I am away. I thought it would make you more comfortable since he was Maquis from the beginning. Frankly, he's still been loyal to the cause, but was smart enough to follow fleet rules and protocol to keep his commanding officer happy and the ship in one piece."

"But I thought that there was a warrant out for your arrest, after stealing a ship! Won't you be recognized and the mission jeopardized?" Jordan asked, still puzzled.

Janeway crossed her arms, giving him the same look as she would an unruly crew member. "True, there is a warrant out, but if you need a hostage, I am much better material than a lowly ensign. My father may be retired, but don't you think that an admiral's daughter is worth something? I am also a scientist and can be of assistance in getting the document out in one piece without it disintegrating the moment it hits the air. I have an archival pouch, but it has a lock that is keyed to my fingerprint and voice print," she explained, a note of triumph sneaking into her voice.

Pierce glared at her a few seconds longer, then, like a good gambler, knew enough to fold his hand, at least on this round. "You may go with us, Captain, but this is my mission and you will obey my commands, is that clear?"

"Crystal," she answered crisply. The operations officer broke in via intercom to announce that they had been in orbit for 30 minutes without being detected. Pierce looked at the five assembled team members, his three and the two Starfleet officers. He could do worse, he realized, if it weren't for this nagging feeling that something was off here.

"Listen up," Pierce announced, "you all have your goals. There is a slight change of plans, the original document will be handled by Janeway instead of Willis, but after Janeway has sealed it into her archive bag, Willis will take over. Hansen, you will bypass the security grid. Brohm, Mai, you will stand guard until we get back. I will unlock the safe and set the explosives. Is everyone ready?" Terse nods all around. "Last minute uniform check, please. Captain, are you going down in your usual uniform?"

"No." Janeway unzipped her Maquis uniform and revealed the same light reflective uniform as the other team members. "I am prepared." She turned to the remaining Starfleet crew member and asked, "Chief, will you break out the Cardassian disrupters, please?"


"Why, Mr. Pierce, are you surprised? I have my contacts, groomed as soon as I realized that the Federation was not going to help those colonies and that I was not going to get anything better than training cruises. I like to be prepared. Are you ready?" Janeway asked, smirking at the man.

Irritated at his lead being subtly challenged, Pierce could only admit to being outfoxed again, but couldn't let it get in way of the mission. "I'm ready. Assemble on the transporter pad, Chief, please energize on my mark."

"On your mark, yes sir," the man replied, as he did a last minute check of the transporter settings. "Ready on your mark."


Seconds later, the team materialized just outside of the National Archive building. Despite the lights around the building, there were still some dark pools this late at night, especially with a new moon. Pierce took some readings, then motioned for Seven to go to the door and disable the security system.

Seven nodded once, then slipped out of sight, reaching the staff entrance. She studied the locks and the biosecurity screen and looked for the dataport on the underside. Once she found it, she slid a datalink out of her hand, connecting with the security system, announcing that she was Dr. Ruth Jamison, a staff scientist she had picked at random from the database. The door opened and she subvocalized into her suit mic, "Go." The rest of the team appeared, with Mai standing guard outside of the door as Brohm, Pierce, Willis, Seven, and Janeway melted into the shadows of the corridor leading to the staff offices.

Guards were encountered but quickly stunned as the team silently ran toward their ultimate goal. Pierce held up his hand to stop the team, motioning for Brohm to take up his position as they prepared to open up the warren that lead directly to the chamber of safes that housed the precious documents of the old nation.

Seven and Willis strode confidently to the safe that housed the Declaration of Independence. Willis took out a probe that she had spent the last year making, slipping the thin fiber directly into the lock as Seven sent a datalink into the nearby security biopad, this time sending through the identity of Deputy Director Harold.

Even with the ID confirmed and the security in the immediate area turned off, Willis had to delicately probe into the old lock system, feeling for the right sequence of tumblers. She looked at her padd, watching as numbers raced across the screen before resolving into a series of six numbers.

Willis took a deep breath before reaching for the knob and slowly turning the old-fashioned lock, the tumblers sounding gratingly loud in the silence. She counted off the number of satisfying clicks as the correct numbers were dialed, then sagged in relief as she felt the door open. Pierce slipped on night goggles, looking around for intruders before signaling for Janeway to retrieve the actual document. She entered the huge safe, motioning for Seven and Willis to follow her to disable the rest of the security devices inside the safe.

It took nearly forty minutes for Willis, Janeway, and Seven to cautiously disable the rest of the security and archive devices. Janeway had only seconds to slip the parchment into the special bag, which she did with the precision of a surgeon. She handed the bag to Willis, then motioned for Seven to follow her out of the safe, where Pierce was already setting the charges around other safes containing other documents. "Ready," she subvocalized, prepared to follow the alternate plan.

Before she could draw her weapon, Willis grabbed Seven and slapped restraining bracelets on her as Pierce sauntered up to the captain. "You'll be my safety, and she will be yours. If you don't fuck me, I won't kill her. Understood?" Trapped, Janeway merely nodded, putting her hands on top of her head so they would be visible. "Move," he growled.

Janeway waited until they were near the staff offices before turning around and slamming her fists into Pierce's throat, knocking him of his feet. At the same time, Seven twisted away from Willis and stunned her with a Vulcan neck pinch. Janeway looked up, questions in her eyes, but Seven merely smiled, as if to say, "I've assimilated Vulcans, too." Seven had already managed to get her restraints off before Janeway could finish tying up the two Maquis with the filament she had secreted in a pocket. Seven called Voyager to give them the coordinates of Willis and Pierce, then turned to the captain. "I'll go disarm the safes," she subvocalized as the transporter beam grabbed Willis and Pierce.

"I don't think so," Brohm said, coming up behind them. "What's plan C, dear captain? Jordan warned me that you might pull a trick like this." Seven stood absolutely still, judging the relative distances and knowing that she could not reach either Brohm or Mia to shoot them with the nanoprobes before her captain was captured, injured, or killed. Brohm chuckled as he pulled out his disrupter and shoved it into Janeway's back as Mia came around and slapped another pair of restraints on Seven. "Move, we've only three minutes until the explosion and I, for one, do not intend to be killed."

Seven started a countdown in her head as they rapidly walked through the maze of corridors, then emerged outside of the building. Brohm subvocalized something into his mic that not even Seven could hear, but the results were immediate. A blast shelter materialized into place and Seven found herself being shoved into it along with the captain and the two Maquis. Brohm slammed the door shut as the Borg counted down to a minute and fifty seconds. "Well, we'll claim responsibility as soon as this puppy blows to smithereens," he said proudly, "and by now, we should have people beaming directly into the council chambers to hold the Federation council hostage - our plan B. Or, is this our plan C?" he snickered.

Janeway glanced at the manacled Borg, then started calculating distances. A minute thirty-five seconds, just enough time to reach the bombs and possibly disarm them, she decided as she pulled out a tiny paralysis bomb.

"Command decision," she shouted at Seven before slamming past the guards and the door, tossing the bomb and slamming the door into place before racing off to the archive building. Seven could not move, could only agonize over what would happen next. She was completely helpless to save the woman she loved so dearly, but more importantly, to save her captain, the woman who had saved her time and again in so many ways.

The captain reached the door and threw it open, knowing that this time it would set off alarms. Who cares? she thought ironically as she raced through the corridors to the safes. Less than a minute remained when she reached them, studying the tiny bombs for a few precious seconds, her brain racing through all possibilities.

She realized that they were not connected, so each had to be disarmed separately. Janeway reached into a pocket, pulling out a multi-bladed screwdriver, quickly taking the shell off the first one. "Child's play," she murmured as she studied the bomb and reaching in her pocket for her clippers, only to realize that they were not in her pocket. "Shit!" she exclaimed. Less than thirty seconds left, what should she do?

Taking a deep breath, Janeway pried the bomb off, dropped it on the floor, and pointed her disrupter on the bomb. It disappeared in a satisfying flash. She quickly pulled the others off, flashing each into eternity until she got to the last one. It would not pull off. Frantically, she tore her nails trying to pull it free, but at the last second-

-the building shook and alarms started screaming in earnest, rending the silent night with their horrible wailing of death and destruction. Seven managed to force her limbs to work, shoving her probe into the two still paralyzed Maquis, tapping her comm badge and shouting, "Two to beam up, I've gone after the captain." Before anyone could reply, she took off for the building, pulling the manacles apart like warm taffy as she ran..

"Captain! Come in, please," Seven urged, both on the suit mic and on her comm badge. Nothing but static from Janeway's frequency. Seven shoved her way through the door, pushing her way through dust and pieces of concrete that had fallen. She paid no attention to the sounds from the surface, the men and women who had already arrived and were shouting at her to come back, the building was unsafe. She had to find Kathryn, or die trying. If she could not raise her on the comm badge, then Voyager could not locate her in time either.

As the paralysis wore off, she finally reached the safes, standing stock still, adjusting her ocular implant for sensing heat. It didn't work, there were too many sources of heat from the bomb fragments and the heat rising from the twisted metal of the safes. She started pulling on first one door, then the next, determined to find her captain alive. She nearly bypassed the carefully preserved documents, but paused to shoot nanoprobes in each one as she passed by. At least her rescue attempts would not go completely to waste. She kept hunting for Janeway, finally pulling a steel door completely off to find Janeway, crumpled in the corner, gray from the dust. "Kathryn!" she shouted.

Janeway coughed and tried to sit up. Either she still had debris on top of her or she was injured. "Seven," she croaked, "tell Chakotay that I issued command decision, before you do anything else."

Seven stared at the woman, doubting her sanity at this point, but obeyed, tapping her comm badge obediently. "Ensign Hansen to Chakotay, please acknowledge," she called. The commander answered and Seven announced simply, "the captain has made the command decision."

"My God!" Chakotay said, face turning pale. "Command decision, acknowledged. Are you safe down there?"

"The captain is in a safe," Seven answered, striving for calm.

"Then sit tight, we can home in on your comm badges in a few minutes. We can receive your signal, but not pinpoint you due to the metal surrounding you. Chakotay out."

The commander immediately switched channels, waiting impatiently for Admiral Grace Nimitz to answer his hail on her private office line. The seconds ticked by until the woman's face finally appeared on screen. "Admiral Nimitz, we have reason to believe that there are Maquis planning to infiltrate the council chambers and hold them hostage within the next few minutes."

Without waiting for her reply, he punched in the command to dispatch all of the data that Seven had secretly copied from the Maquis systems. "You have a data stream coming your way, but it's probably too late to analyze it first."

"Commander, I'll have to take you at your word," Nimitz agreed. She turned away for a moment, then turned back to the screen. "Federation and Starfleet ground troops are on their way now, beaming directly into the chambers. My thanks, Commander. Now, where is Captain Janeway?"

"Trapped under the archives building, ma'am. As soon as we can get a clear signal, we'll beam her and Seven up to the ship for medical treatment," Chakotay said tightly.

"Understood. Report back to me when the captain and the ensign are safe. Nimitz out." Nimitz's face disappeared from the screen.

Chakotay breathed a sigh of relief, then turned to the operations officer. "Do we have a signal lock yet?"

"No, sir, something is interfering, I think it is something from the bombs, but the audio is still fairly clear, just fainter," the officer reported.

"Put them on audio, then."

"Aye, sir."

Chakotay waited until Seven acknowledged his hail, then asked, "Can you leave the building? We are unable to get a proper lock on your signals."

Seven looked at the captain, who was drifting in and out of consciousness and answered bluntly, "I will have to carry the captain, she is unable to walk. Seven out."

"Unable to walk? Seven, what-" In frustration, Chakotay pounded the arm of his chair before mastering himself quickly. "Can we hail them again, Ensign?"

"No sir, we've lost the signal entirely. And no, I can't get a lock on the nanoprobes either, Ensign Hansen must have discharged all of them into the prisoners."

Tom Paris turned around, asking, "What now, Commander?"

"Tom, I guess we just sit tight."

"But, can't we mount a rescue party?" the helmsman asked, worry creeping into his voice.

The commander shook his head slowly. "No, before they left, Kathryn told me that if she made a 'command decision', then the situation was desperate and that her life was in mortal danger. I don't know why she didn't just let the building blow up, it's not like there were people inside it."

"No, just our nation's heritage," Tom said softly as he turned back to his panel, still trying to figure out a way to save his captain.

Seven surveyed the walls, determining that the building had a better than forty percent chance of being structurally sound enough to allow them to walk out of there. Of course, the problem was that Kathryn was unable to walk at the moment. The Borg looked at her captain for several seconds, then started methodically clearing away debris until she could pick the other woman up. She first of the captain's limbs and spine, determining that nothing was broken, then picked the captain up, slinging her over her shoulder for a more efficient distribution of weight. Seven started the slow journey back to the surface, picking her way cautiously around the rubble. She had to double back several times before reaching the final stairwell, but heard an ominous rumble, feeling a fine dust coming down.

"No!" Seven screamed to whatever gods happened to be listening, "I will not lose Kathryn!" She started to brace herself for a run at the door, but was blocked by a sudden rumbling and shower of huge chunks of concrete falling, blocking their path. "No, no, no!" she bellowed.

"Try your disrupter," Janeway's weary voice suggested. Seven sunk down on the floor, taking Kathryn's face in her hands, gently kissing her, trembling with emotion, yet knowing that her task was not yet complete. "Seven, I'm glad to see you too, but did you save the documents?"

"No, I-" Seven paused, then remembered the nanoprobes. "Do they matter that much?"

"Yes," Janeway said slowly, "it's the symbolic value. Go get them, I'll be fine here."


"Damn it, you stubborn bitch, follow orders!" Janeway suddenly screamed.

Seven jumped up and started retracing her path, hoping against hope that she could comply with the captain's bizarre orders before the entire building collapsed. Fortunately, the journey to the safes and back took less time since she was relatively unencumbered. "Captain, I have the documents," she announced, kneeling back down by the captain.

"Good. Now, we'll grip them tight and call the ship," Janeway said, voice laced with pain.

Seven started to answer that they could not be pinpointed, then interrupted herself. The nanoprobes, she had shot the nanoprobes in the archive skins holding the documents."Yes, Captain, I'll call the ship now," she said, nearly beside herself with joy. They would be home and safe, very soon.

Kathryn Janeway barely limped now. The whole harrowing ordeal was behind them, and the Federation council, as well as the original American Declaration of Independence and other documents were safe and sound. Janeway spent over a week in rehabilitation after discovering that she had a tendon torn in her left leg. The tendon was reattached quickly, but for some reason, was still tender and sore, even with modern medical miracles.

"Captain Janeway, thank you for coming to see us," the Federation president said as he motioned for her to sit down. There were other high ranking officials at the table from both the Federation and from Starfleet, all waiting to hear Janeway's final report on the whole Maquis situation.

"Thank you, Mr. President, ladies, gentlemen, admirals," Janeway began. "Now, let me tell you a story."


"Yes, a story," the captain repeated. "Now, imagine if you will, that you have built a colony, a lawful colony, followed all the laws and regulations, sent back products to the sponsoring government. Now, suppose that that government was suddenly overthrown, pushed out of the territory and you were left without protection. What would you do?" she asked rhetorically.

"Now, in human history, we have reacted by trying to regain our territory, to take back what we deem lawfully ours. Or, we declare our independence, even if we are a little colony defying a very large, wealthy government. If that government's resources are so stretched that they cannot help us, then we feel we must help ourselves." Janeway looked around the room, seeing she had their undivided attention.

"This happened time and again in the history of the United States," she reminded them. "We wrested our lands from a very controlling, unstable king, then again and again took lands back. The Texas colonies were founded lawfully under Spanish rule, but when Spain was overthrown, the Mexicans did not want the lawful settlers. The Texans fought back, declaring their independence.

"Now, as I see it, these colonies that are currently Federation sponsored colonies under Cardassian space are ripe for revolution. We can either find a way to help them, to negotiate with the Cardassians or remove them by force, or we can supply them with the means to fight for their independence, even if they choose not to remain in the Federation afterwards."

Janeway took a deep breath. "You all have my full report. It is now your decision." She stood up, bidding them good bye. Those assembled listened politely, then turned to discuss the situation after she left the room. Was the captain's assessment correct? After all, she was a scientist, really, not an ambassador...

Grace Nimitz found Janeway several hours later in Janeway's office. "Good news," the admiral began without any preliminaries, "we will reopen negotiations to take the colonies back from Cardassian territory. Better news, we will involve the remaining Maquis, since they have an excellent intelligence network in place, but Joaquin Centeno and his immediate circle will be arrested and tried for their crimes."

"Thank you, Admiral Nimitz," Janeway said, relieved.

Admiral Nimitz smiled as she sat down, crossing one elegant leg over the other. "Now, for another little matter. You do know that Ensign Annika Hansen forged her orders to go on the mission with you, right? You do know that forging orders, breaking into Starfleet and Federation systems, and other trivial crimes all add up to large sentences, don't you?"

"Yes ma'am, I am aware of that. I will personally pay for her defense attorney, if the fleet does not provide one for her," Janeway said, anticipating this question.

The admiral smiled. "Oh, I think we can do one better." She handed over a data chip. "You see, I happened to find a set of orders from a certain Grace Nimitz to one Seven of Nine, also known as Annika Hansen, to commit such crimes in order to set up her background as someone willing to follow one woman across the galaxy, if necessary. We had to convince the Maquis that Seven would do whatever you said, and further than your own feelings for her was your Achilles heel. Funny how life works, isn't it? Don't you think that Seven is actually much better as an astrometrics professor than as a Star Fleet officer?"

Janeway sat very still, as if moving would burst the bubble. "Do you mean to say that all charges are dropped?" she asked.

The admiral broke into a huge grin. "Kathryn, the charges were never filed." She smiled at the thunderstruck expression on the captain's face, adding "Oh, by the way, I expect to see you tonight for a formal dinner. Class A uniform, my place, 20:30 hours." The admiral stood up, reaching across the desk to shake Kathryn's hand, then left.

Janeway mingled with the crowd, mostly her old crew, at the admiral's large house on one of San Francisco's fabled hills. She could see the sunset from the patio, a rare clear evening. The dinner had gone well, mostly the admiral wishing to thank all involved for the success of the mission, and to announce Janeway's promotion to commodore, effective immediately.

Janeway supposed that she should be happy with the promotion, but someone was missing, someone very important. Seven was not there, had not been anywhere nearby since the completion of the mission.

Seven had been held temporarily for medical observation, then had simply melted away. Janeway realized just how much she missed the woman, just how much she really loved Seven, and what a fool she was to throw away happiness just because she was afraid to admit how much Seven affected her, how much she needed her, how much she desired her.

"Ironic," Janeway murmured to herself as she heard the small combo start playing "Some Enchanted Evening." Not enchanted enough, she thought, not without my Seven.

Suddenly, Kathryn stiffened, aware that a rich voice had started singing the words, a rich voice rarely heard, but whose owner had captured her heart. "Seven?" she queried, turning around slowly.

"Commodore Janeway," Seven said, very formally. Janeway's heart sank at the formality in Seven's voice. Had she just imagined that Seven was singing to her? Seven walked closer, then held out a hand to Janeway. "You may be a commodore in Starfleet's eyes, but you'll always be the captain of my heart," she said, voice low and smoky with emotion.

Janeway was dumbfounded for a moment, but recovered enough to ask, "Then, may I have the honor of this dance, Professor?"

Seven's face creased in a genuine smile. "You may, now and for always," she answered, gliding into Kathryn's waiting arms.

Kathryn led the younger woman around the patio, feeling the magic of the music, the evening, the wonderful woman in her arms, the mingled love and desire she felt for Seven. At the conclusion of the song, they stopped simultaneously, leaning in for a long, delicate kiss, full of promise for the future.

The End

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