Counters

Thanks as always to Cy and TW for their gentle beta, and to Beach for smacking my hands whenever my fingers strayed too near the comma key.

And thanks again, Cy, for your generous hospitality.

 

Symphony In Seven

Part I

 

Kathryn Janeway realized that at some point she was going to have to talk to Seven of Nine. And while she knew the Borg would never purposefully create a scene in front of the crew it still seemed safer to approach her here in the mess hall rather than Cargo Bay 2 or Astrometrics. She thought briefly of the old saying about a woman scorned and how pleasant that fury would seem compared to a pissed off woman with Borg implants.

“So, Seven, how are the music lessons coming along?” Janeway began, tanking the seat across from Seven without bothering to ask if she would care for company and behaving as though her Astrometrics officer had not been avoiding her for weeks.

Seven never even looked up from her PADD as she replied, “The Doctor’s tutelage in vocal performance is acceptable; however, I find his focus to be somewhat narrow.”

Ignoring Seven’s nonplussed attitude Janeway forged ahead.

“How is that?” Janeway sat silently, smiling blandly at the younger woman. She had all evening, by God, and a decent cup of coffee to boot. The futility of resistance was nothing compared to the stubborn nature of a determined captain.

Seven continued to analyze her PADD, even when the Captain began a most irritating airy whistle. To make matters worse, it wasn’t even a recognizable melody.  Finally unable to take the auditory assault any long Seven lowered her PADD and gave Janeway a deadly stare. “I assume you intend to continue that until I acknowledge your question.” Receiving only a broad grin she continued with a rather dramatic, heavy sigh. “He has continued to direct me in the proper methods for vocalization, yet has ignored my repeated requests to experience a wider expanse of performance media.”

Janeway had to backtrack through her own remarks to remember what she had actually asked to illicit Seven’s response.

“What is it exactly you wish to experience?” she asked, praying it wasn’t something like Klingon opera or Talarian heavy metal.

“I’m not exactly sure, but I have noted his continued desire for me to emote and project. I do not fully understand his request, as first, he is a hologram and therefore has no real feelings to absorb the emotional content of my vocal exercise, and second, he is generally standing within 2.3 meters of me while I am singing. Perhaps his auditory receptors are not functioning properly…”

Shaking her head with a smile the captain tried to explain, “No, Seven, I think what the Doctor means is that he wants you to reach out and connect with your audience.”

“But I have no audience.”

“Yes, but if you did…,” Janeway started.

“Why would I require such?” interrupted Seven.

“Seven, musical performances should be as pleasurable for the performer as they are for the audience. It has a certain reciprocity. Speaking for myself, I like to feel as if the performer is singing directly to me. It makes it more intimate.  I guess you could say it makes it more emotionally satisfying.”  Seeing the mystified look on Seven’s face she asked, “Have you never attended a musical performance as just an audience participant?”

Obviously still confused Seven replied. “No. I have not.”

Janeway’s eyebrows arched high on her forehead. “I believe the Doctor has been remiss in your teaching.”

“Indeed. What would you suggest to complete the content of my musical education?”

Laughing lightly the captain began to peruse the abandoned PADD. “Well, let’s see. Musical experiences for the novice audience member…not your usual computer query. Is there a particular style or form or performer you wish to better understand?”

The young woman thought about this for a moment then announced, “I find the symphonic performances to be most intriguing. There are so many variables. I must admit I find it surprising the musicians are capable of maintaining the intricate tempo changes and cohesion without the benefits of physical or cortical enhancements.”

“It’s not just about everybody starting and stopping at the same time, Seven. Although I do remember a few junior orchestra concerts of Phoebe’s that seemed to be nothing more than a musical foot race.” The fond memory left Janeway with a smile.

The two women were soon bent over the shared PADD, heads close as they searched the holo database for something that might interest Seven. Kathryn noted with relief that things finally seemed much more relaxed than they’d been since the planet-side away mission that had become so emotionally charged.

The hillside on which they had waited for the repair of the transporter had seemed so much like home to Janeway. If it wasn’t for the fact that they couldn’t even get a shuttle through the unstable upper atmosphere, let alone their scrambled molecules, it would have been a lovely place for shore leave.

Between the warm sun and gentle breeze, it was at first almost too painful to bear. But then Janeway had seized upon the opportunity to reminisce a little and began to compare the landscape to that of her childhood home in Indiana. Soon she was completely caught up in her descriptive memories and completely unaware of just how captivated her audience had become.

With wide, sweeping gestures alluding to unseen boundaries, she had guided the younger woman on an imaginary tour through the playground of her youth. A gentle steering touch on Seven’s upper arm directing her, she pointed out. “And there, all along the southern fences, were sunflowers as far as you could see.” Seven had smiled to herself, realizing that this was the first time she had seen Kathryn’s emotions so close to the surface when speaking of her home. “Oh, you just can’t imagine them, truly, without actually seeing them for yourself. I remember as a kid standing by the fence, arms outstretched, looking from the tip of my left hand all the way across to the tip of my right, with nothing but a sea of gold in between. God it was amazing! It was almost as if the field was alive, blowing and waving in the breeze. And the sky! Late summer skies were the best. I don’t know if it was the brilliant gold of the flowers that set it off or what, but it was so incredibly blue. A deep, endless, blue. It reminded me of, the color of...” Kathryn was lost in her memories now, eyes closed, searching for the comparison that eluded her. She turned, slowly, still seeking that elusive definition, until her eyes opened and her stare fastened onto Seven. Riveted, she stepped closer to the young woman, her eyes locked into the gaze. “…your eyes. It was that same beautiful blue of your eyes. You could get lost in those eyes.” She whispered the last bit, still deep in her vivid memory. Startled from her musings by a sudden gust of wind she was back in the moment. “Oh, God. I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“Indeed.”

Kathryn turned away, rubbing her hand across her brow. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she stammered as she turned back to face Seven. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I don’t know why I said that. Well, I mean I know why I said that. I meant your eyes, well, they are beautiful…”drawing her hands up over her face she sighed, “Oh, Seven, sometimes when we spend time together I get a little-- befuddled. Not exactly the emotional state to project an air of confidence as a proper captain should, I know,” she mumbled mostly to herself. “I’m sorry. Again. I know I’m rambling.  Honestly Seven,” she started again, sounding completely exasperated, “Sometimes I just don’t know what I’m feeling when I’m with you. I have so many responsibilities, so many lives in my hands. It seems like I just don’t have time to process what feelings I have, let alone recognize that I actually am feeling anything at all.”  The words tumbled out in a rush, leaving Janeway feeling embarrassed and somewhat vulnerable. Oh, hell, she grimaced to herself, the cats out of the bag now…

“Are you experiencing feelings now, Captain?” the Borg inquired evenly.

With a mental tug of her uniform tunic she figured it was time to come clean. “Definitely,” she answered quietly, meeting the younger woman’s unwavering gaze.

“What exactly do you feel?” Seven asked softly as she moved closer to her captain. 

“Feel? I feel slightly nauseous. I feel a little dizzy. I feel like my heart is going to pound right out of my chest.” The words were out before she could stop them.

Seven closed the distance between them again. “I assume this is not symptomatic of a previous medical condition?” A faint smile hid behind her eyes.

“No, no, no,” Kathryn stammered, unaware of the humor she was providing while caught in the magnetic pull of those amazingly blue eyes.”It’s that lately I just can’t seem to, uhm, think straight when I get close to you. I’m not, or at least usually...I...I’ve never found myself attracted to, well, a, a woman, before.” Seven was so close now she could see the faint lines around those incredibly full lips. INCREDIBLE LIPS? Oh, God… she moaned to herself.

“And is that where you find yourself now Kathryn?”

“That seems to be where I’ve ended up,” she answered absently, outwardly unaware of Seven’s switch to a more personal form of address.

“And is this a place you wish to be?”

“Wish, want, need…it all seems the same,” Kathryn answered quietly, now completely captivated by the closeness of lips from which she could not look away. She could not form a coherent thought to save her life other than holy shit I think she’s gonna kiss me…

“Kathryn,” Seven whispered after several long moments, “I am going to kiss you now.”

A barely audible “O….K” was silenced by the soft touch of smiling lips to her own. Feather light and almost chaste, they pulled back entirely too soon for her liking. Slowly opening her eyes revealed Seven’s openly sensuous stare.

 “Hello,” the former drone said sweetly.

Kathryn struggled to formulate a reply, finally forcing out a husky “Howdy”, only to have Seven break away with something between a snigger and a snort.

Raising her face to the sky Kathryn let out a strangled cry of humiliation.  “Oh God, I am so bad at this…” Her protests were immediately silenced by lips once again pressed against hers, this time more firmly and possessive. She felt hands caressing the sides of her face, holding her gently as her lips were parted by a tentative tongue. A wistful moan slipped from her throat as she found herself pulling back from the embrace.

“I can’t. I mean, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know how…,” she started.

“Do not know how to what, kiss me?” Seven asked, honestly baffled at the abrupt break.

“No, I’ve got that covered, I mean… no! Not that.”  The frustration and pain was obvious in both her voice and her face. “I cannot become involved with a member of my crew, Seven. You know that. We’ve talked about that.  My focus has been and must continue to be my ship, my crew, and getting us home. And professional reasons aside, there’s this,” Kathryn said, gesturing back and forth between the two women. She was pacing nervously now. “Seven, I’ve never been involved with a woman. Hell, I’m not sure I was all that involved with the men in my life.”  Moving back to her she took the young woman by the shoulders. “I have no idea how to make you happy.   Christ, I’m not sure I understand the damned mechanics when it comes right down to it!” She laughed awkwardly.

Seven stood silently while Kathryn spun out her small tirade. When her arm waving, erratic pacing and expulsion of disjointed epithets had slowed she reached up and took the smaller woman’s hands and pulled them close to her breasts. “Kathryn, please. Look at me.” Once sure she had her captain’s focus she continued, still holding her hands. “Kathryn, as far as your initial objections to becoming involved with me, please let me remind you that I am not a member of your crew. I respect and abide by your authority because of who you are as my captain, not because I have a sworn duty to do so. Also, I do not believe you would ever play favorites if we were to begin a relationship. You have made difficult choices involving crew members and have done so with nothing but just and prudent consideration for the entirety of the ship. As for your second set of objections, I have the assimilated knowledge of thousands of species in which same sex relations are both common and acceptable. In most all instances where physiologies were comparable to human form, there were only minor variations on basic sexual techniques between same gender and opposite gender relations. I believe you are simply over-analyzing the situation. To quote Lt. Paris, ‘it is not rocket science’.”

At that Kathryn did manage a lopsided grin before rolling her eyes and trying to pull away. Seven refused to relinquish her grip and moved even closer.

“Please close your eyes Kathryn…” she asked quietly.

“I’m pretty sure that’s how this all started…”

“Close. Your. Eyes. Trust me,” Seven said, quoting one of her captain’s frequently used phrases.

Janeway smirked, but closed her eyes anyway.

“Do not think about me, but rather describe what you feel. Think about what it feels like to have your hand held. Do you enjoy it?”

“Well, yes.” Janeway replied hesitantly.

“Why?” Seven quickly inquired.

Feeling the heat begin to rise in her face Kathryn mumbled her reply. “It makes me feel safe, secure. Close to you.”

“And how does this feel? My hand cupping your face, my thumb brushing across your lips, my fingers tracing the pulse of your neck?” Kathryn was slow to respond, held immobile by the lightness of the caress.

“Uhmm, I mean good,” she answered somewhat breathlessly. “Nice, intimate…”

“Do you want me to stop touching you?  Would that change how you feel?”

“NO. You don’t have to stop. That’s...please, don’t. Stopping would leave me… empty. Alone.”

“And now? Rubbing your shoulders, easing your tensions, it is nice as well, correct?”

The gentle massage of strong fingers on her neck and shoulders caused an ever so quiet moan to slip from Kathryn’s throat.

“And perhaps a more intimate touch?” Seven’s hands slid from the smaller woman’s shoulders to gently hold her, hands rubbing from the small of her back up along her slightly ticklish ribs and just under the sides of her breasts.  “Are these sensations pleasant to you? Would this be a type of contact you would enjoy?”

A breathless “Yes” was all Janeway could manage as her body began to respond to the agonizingly slow touch.

Suddenly all movement stopped. All contact was broken. Forcing herself back to the moment Kathryn opened her eyes and looked at Seven questioningly. Reaching out to her once again Seven took Kathryn’s hands and placed them on either side of her face.

“You are a beautiful, brilliant woman, Kathryn Janeway. And everything you need to please me is within you.” Moving the hands to encircle her waist she continued, “Everything you need to know to make me feel is in your touch.” Wrapping her own arms around the older woman’s neck and pulling her close she continued. “And everything you need to know to please me is within your heart.  As I said, this is not rocket science.”

Pulling to within a breath of her, Seven waited. It took Kathryn all of a heartbeat to cover the remaining distance. The kiss, desperate in its onset instantly slowed to one of revelation. Lips parted and tongues met, slowly introducing themselves in a warm seductive dance. Delicate nips and ungraceful collisions of teeth and tongue and smiles introduced the two women as nothing else could, until finally they pulled away, as much to catch their breath as to quietly laugh at their rather clumsy intimate moment.  “I take it you like to lead when you dance, too?” Kathryn quipped while reaching up to brush a stray blonde lock threatening to tangle in her own wind-mussed hair.   She was answered with a seductively shy smile. “How on earth could I ever end up with someone like you? You’re…”    A shadow flitted across the young woman’s face instantly followed by the chirrup of both women’s communicators.

“Voyager to Away Team, please respond.”

“Janeway here. We read you loud and clear, Commander. Finally.”

“Sorry for the delay Captain. Engineering had to replicate several new couplers to accommodate the new coils we picked up from the Entarics. B’Elanna says to tell you she’s tired of trying to keep your boat afloat with duct tape and bailing wire. The transporters are back on line and we can beam you back whenever you’re ready.”

“Alright, Chakotay. And please inform Ensign Torres I’ll take her comments under advisement. Stand by.” Janeway turned to Seven only to find her standing in her attention mode: hands clasped behind her back, eyes forward, chin slightly outthrust.  “Seven? Are you…” Janeway hesitated.

“I am prepared to return to the ship, Captain. You may proceed when ready.”

The captain, at a loss for Seven’s sudden change in demeanor, finally tapped her communicator and signaled for their return.

The debriefings had taken up the remainder of the evening, followed by Seven’s required presence in Engineering to complete repairs to the ruptured couplings that had caused the initial transporter failure. Janeway had hoped to speak with her the next morning after the start of Alpha shift, but was informed by the Doctor that the Borg was undergoing a lengthy regeneration cycle. From that point on it just seemed as if Seven was never available for a private conversation. Course changes, brief and unsuccessful trade negotiations and the general day-to-day chaos of maintaining a self-sustaining society within the hull of a starship so very far from home all seemed to conspire against the captain and her desire to delve into what had transpired on the planet, including Seven’s apparent reticent moment just before their return to the ship. Seven had shown no sign of being angered by the captain’s behavior at the time, but now she seemed to be doing everything she could to avoid further personal interaction, even going so far as to cancel their last three velocity matches due to a set of mysteriously convenient system failures in Astrometrics.  She was not being openly disrespectful or angry, just distant. Janeway began to ponder the idea that Seven had reconsidered her actions on the planet and found her behavior inappropriate. “She’s just trying to put some distance between us. Give me a chance to realize what an ass I was…” At least that was what the captain had believed until Lieutenant Torres spilled the beans. Unable to get Seven to attend their usual velocity games she had asked B’Elanna to join her for a work out. Her chief engineer had seemed hesitant at first, but finally agreed. As their match progressed Janeway realized that the engineer was becoming more and more aggressive in her play. Finally, after being pushed and shoved beyond the measure of decent sportsmanship  while being dumped unceremoniously on the deck yet again, the Captain called out  ”PAUSE PROGRAM!”  Torres stood, hands on her knees, breathing heavily and glaring unmercifully at the Captain.

“What?” barked Janeway. “What exactly is your problem with me this evening Lieutenant?”

“Oh please…” Torres spit back.

“Lieutenant, I asked you a question. Perhaps you didn’t hear. I’ll ask you again and I expect an answer. Now, what is it that has you manhandling me all over the court in a game that requires no physical contact?”

Torres had apparently held her anger in as long as she could. “How could you treat her that way? Honestly! Of all people I never expected you to be so callous. And to think I was the one standing up for you, saying you were…oh, forget it. You’re the captain. I’m sure somewhere in the handbook it entitles you to break a few hearts without fear of tarnishing your illustrious image.”

Kathryn was completely dumbfounded, and not a little angry. “First of all, Lieutenant, let me give you a belated ‘permission to speak freely’ to keep your insubordinate ass out of the brig. Secondly, what in the name of all that is holy are you talking about?”

Her blood still hot from her outburst, B’Elanna shot back, “Seven!”

“What about Seven?”

“How could you say that? How could you set her up and then be so cruel? Kahless, I actually thought you might have genuine feelings for her. She’s just as human as you are, Captain! How could you judge her simply on her looks?”

By now Kathryn was beyond dumbfounded and had fully entered the realm of total confusion. “B’Elanna,” using the Klingon’s first name in an effort to both calm her down and make her realize that she wanted to take this to a more personal level, “I realize that sometimes I pay more attention to her than other crew members, but only because she has so many special needs and I feel responsible for her being so alone and alienated. And I suppose it was only a matter of time before somebody figured out exactly how much time I spend in Cargo Bay Two while she regenerates. But I swear to you, I never took advantage of her – condition- - during those times. All I did was watch her sleep! Well, not sleep, exactly. God, I know this makes me sound like a lecherous old woman…but I swear, I never meant to make her feel like she was being objectified.”

Now it was B’Elanna’s turn to be confused. “Captain, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Watching Seven! I’m sorry; I just can’t seem to not look at her. She is…she is the most beautiful woman I have ever known and I find myself wanting to be near her, all the time.” Janeway could not believe she had just blurted all that out. She had never intended to share her feelings with anyone, let alone her chief engineer, but for some reason her mouth just kept right on going. “God, B’Elanna, she must hate me. She probably thinks that down on the planet I was just trying to…damn!” Janeway buried her face in her hands, believing she had lost something before she had ever really found it.

“Captain, I’m not sure exactly sure what you’re  talking about, but I’m talking about you telling Seven you couldn’t be involved with her because of her implants. She thinks you can’t stand the sight of them…”

Janeway’s head whipped up out of her hands, “WHAT? Are you kidding me? Why in the hell would she think that? She’s beautiful! She knows that! I told her that!”

“Really? I mean, you said all that? When?”

“Yes!  Of course! We were on the planet, we had been talking, we somehow ended up, uhm, kissing, I pulled back, said some truly stupid things, she kissed me again, then I said something along the lines of how could someone as beautiful as her be with someone like me…” Janeway rambled along, “then she got this sad look…”

“Nice to know you go with a standard in a clinch,” B’Elanna quipped.

“Thanks,” Janeway said snidely. “I swear, that was all I said…”

“Wait. What do you mean ‘something along the lines’? Come on captain, this is Seven. She can recite a conversation from three years ago word for word. Either her eidetic memory has gone wonky or you’re missing something. What exactly did you say?”

Biting her lip Kathryn searched her memory. “I said ‘how on earth could I ever end up with someone like you. You’re…’ and then we were hailed by Voyager.”

Both women stewed on how the Borg could have interpreted the captain’s remark. It hit them simultaneously.

“Oh, no…” Kathryn started quietly.

“Kahless…” B’Elanna hissed.

“I have to fix this. Oh God, I have to fix this. How could she think that? How could she believe that I could find her anything but …oh, boy.”  Rubbing her brow with her hand she turned to Lieutenant Torres.

“Lieutenant? – B’Elanna…can I ask you, as a friend…”

“Don’t worry, captain. I know I may be listed on the crew manifest as resident gossip, but this goes no further. Seven is my friend, and I just want to see her happy. And you too, boss.” Torres smiled, lightly punching her captain’s arm. “You kissed her? Wow. She left that part out…”

Squeezing her engineer’s shoulder affectionately, Kathryn sighed heavily. “Lord. You don’t have any ideas on how to woo a Borg, do you?”

It was several days before Kathryn found herself with a bit of down time and managed to gather the nerve for the conversation she now was having with Seven of Nine. Things seemed to be going smoothly and Seven had not seen fit to up and walk out on her, so she decided it was time to jump in with both feet.

“Seven,” Janeway said hesitantly, “We still need to talk about what happened on the planet.”

“That is unnecessary, Captain. I have analyzed our conversation and now understand your reluctance to further explore a relationship with me. ”

“Seven, I believe we’ve had a major misunderstanding and I am prepared to take full responsibility for it if you will just hear me out. Please.” She finished earnestly.

Unused to hearing such pleading from her captain and unable to deny her own sudden hopeful curiosity, Seven nodded.

“On the planet, I said some things, well, actually I tried to say some things but they didn’t come out exactly as they should. Everything I said,” she leaned in closer and lowered her voice, “when I kissed you, I meant it. I truly am attracted to you, even though being attracted to a woman is a new experience for me. But what I feel is so strong, so consuming, that I just don’t think I can ignore it anymore.”

Seven’s eyes began to moisten, the muscles in her jaw working to contain her reaction to the knowledge that her captain did indeed desire her. “But you said…”

Resting a hand on the mesh covered one before her, “No, Seven. I did not say. I started to say that you were incredibly beautiful. I wanted to say I felt it inconceivable that someone so beautiful, so intelligent, so damn sexy would want to be with a cranky old starship captain like me. What I did say was an inadequate, lame expression of my true feelings that made you believe that I thought less of you because of these, and these,” she said quietly, tracing first the mesh on Seven’s hand and then the implant along her brow. “This is who you are, it is all a part of you, and it is as much what makes you beautiful as it does unique. I could never dismiss you because of it. Never.” The two women sat in silence for a moment, both trying to absorb the enormity of the admission the captain had just spoken.

I would like to attend a performance of the New York Philharmonic,” Seven abruptly stated.

“What?” Kathryn asked, scrambling mentally to figure out where the conversation veered off to.

“The symphony. I would like to attend the symphony. This program looks quite acceptable.” Angling the PADD towards Janeway, Seven sat up quite properly, her hands folded on the table, her eyes sparkling a brilliant blue.

The captain looked at the PADD. “Really? This is more than just a single performance, Seven. This is, where is it…here:  an ‘All Inclusive Evening’ of a ‘Complete New York City Experience’.  Let me see that.” Taking the PADD, Janeway skimmed through the program’s scheduled run time and power expenditures. “It seems a little excessive. The full program takes twelve hours, Seven. I’m not sure I’m willing to be that indulgent, even thought it does sound like a wonderful little vacation.”

“Captain, do we not generally participate in at least two velocity matches per week?” Janeway nodded slowly. “And does not each of these matches last on average two hours?”

“Well, yes…”

“Considering that we both use the holodeck during these times rather than utilizing our allotted hours  individually I believe that between us we have accumulated approximately twenty seven point six hours of unused holodeck privileges this cycle alone.” Knowing full well what effect it would have on the captain, she then lowered her head, eyelashes and voice and fired off her most effective weapon.

“-Please?”

 Janeway released a heavy sigh and dropped her chin to her chest. The captain knew that Seven knew that she knew exactly what would be the result of that particular tactic, and it didn’t matter; it still worked every time. “Alright. Let me get some things in order. If I’m going to take a day off I want to make damn sure I can enjoy it.”

“Excellent. The performance will be Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony. I have found that piece to be most intriguing.” Kathryn sat back, rejecting her now cold coffee, and watched her young Borg companion noisily tap at her PADD, finalizing the preparations for their trip.

What on earth have you gotten yourself into now, Katie?  She pondered the thought for a moment before chuckling and realizing it didn’t really matter, as long as it was with Seven.

 

Part II

As the last notes resounded throughout the auditorium there was a brief moment of hesitation in the audience, almost as if they collectively needed to catch a breath. Thunderous applause filled the air as Kathryn and Seven both rose to their feet to join in the ovation. Gathering their wraps they moved to the street level exit. The general parameters of the program they knew; an evening with the New York City Philharmonic, dinner at a select restaurant to follow, and accommodations in a luxury apartment suite on the upper west side. As they stepped out into the night, however, they were unprepared for the detailed atmosphere of their surroundings.

It appeared as though a light rain had just passed, leaving the city with an unusually clear sky. The night air was crisp and blessedly still. “What do you say we skip dinner and just walk for a while?” Kathryn asked. “We can always catch a cab if we get cold.”

“That would be acceptable. I find the air temperature and quality to be most invigorating after a period of rain, even if it is photonically generated,” Seven added wryly.

“I know exactly what you mean. I always feel as if I can think more clearly. When I was a kid I loved to go out immediately after the rain. My sister and I would walk down the road that ran by our house, amazed at how the leaves seemed so - defined  I guess I would say. Everything looked new; I always felt as if anything was possible at those times.”

The two women walked in companionable silence, their footsteps lost amidst the background noise of a busy city at night. The night air managing to creep through her woolen wrap, Kathryn was glad she had decided on slacks for the evening. Glancing over at her companion she was even more pleased to remember that Seven’s nanoprobes would help maintain her internal temperatures, because the outfit now covered under a light cashmere coat could not possibly be able to retain much in the way of body heat. Wearing a strapless sapphire dress that ended just above her knees, Seven had gone all out on immersing herself into this particular holo program. From her free flowing hair that framed her striking face down to the strappy high heels she so effortlessly managed, the tall blonde was a vision of sensuous strength. Janeway had hastily replicated an outer garment for her just as the program began, as much for the Borg’s comfort as to put something between all that skin and Kathryn’s ever lingering gaze.

Approaching the crosswalk at the intersection Seven boldly stepped off the curb, only to be pulled back immediately by Kathryn’s quick grasp. A ground effect cab splashed through the enormous puddle in the crosswalk, just barely missing the surprised younger woman.

“Whoa, can’t have you drowning before we find a decent cup of coffee,” Kathryn laughed, still holding Seven’s hand. Stepping off the curb first, she guided the tall blonde around the deepest part of the water. Mounting the curb on the opposite side she tightened her grasp slightly to assist Seven to the uneven sidewalk. She began to release her hand, but immediately felt her companion gently squeeze her fingers before rubbing her thumb lightly across the back of Kathryn’s knuckles. Janeway did not let go.

The women walked and talked at an unhurried, leisurely pace. Seven expressed her appreciation for the music, even calling the live performance much more acceptable than the recorded version she had previously experienced. Somewhat surprised at the high praise from the usually reserved Borg, Kathryn made a note to locate more performance programs should Seven wish to attend another. As they continued their stroll, Kathryn pointed out various architectural details of numerous buildings, reciting brief histories of specific constructs. She spoke winsomely of her home planet, promising to take the younger woman to see the sights of the real thing upon their return to Earth and Seven found herself being lulled into a peaceful state just by the sound of her captain’s voice.  Nearing Central Park they stopped at a quiet diner. Kathryn ordered coffee and pie, Seven just a simple cup of chamomile tea.

Seven had released the captain’s hand only upon sliding into her side of the small booth. Kathryn, immediately missing the warm and soothing touch and praying that she wouldn’t pull away, reached out once again and settled her own small hand over the long thin fingers moving quietly on the table. “Oh, I am sorry.” Seven said as she started to sit back from the table, assuming her tapping had distracted her companion. Kathryn closed her hand around the retreating one. “I don’t mind,” she smiled. “Really.  You seemed to have absorbed quite a bit from the performance. You’ve been humming for the last three blocks.” Seven gave her a quizzical look.

“You have beautiful hands.” Kathryn continued quietly as her fingers caressed the back of the slim hand she held. “Why would someone be so self conscious of something that was just a part of them? To me these are just adornments-- a lovely extension. I wonder if they’re ticklish?” she smiled as she wiggled her index finger along the mesh lines.

Seven hesitated, then questioned. ”You are aware you spoke aloud, are you not?”

Kathryn responded with a broad grin. “Yes, and I meant it.” Returning to the hand in her grasp she pointed out, “Your fingers are so long compared to mine.”

Holding up their hands, palm to palm, she brushed her left index finger along the tips of Seven’s fingers that extended above her own.  “This must be what they mean when they talk about musician’s hands. They are so slender and elegant. I know the Doctor has been tutoring you in piano as well as voice. When am I going to get to hear you play?”

Seven studied the two hands, slowly intertwining their fingers as she replied. “I would love to play for you Kathryn, whenever you are ready to listen.”

Suddenly the diner seemed very warm, very small, and very crowded. “I think I would enjoy that,” Kathryn answered, her voice sounding somewhat graveled and husky even to her own ears. “I’ll hail us a cab.”

The ride was short and silent. Seven took Kathryn’s hand as she stepped from the vehicle and did not release it until they arrived at the door of the suite.  Keying the entry, she allowed her captain to enter first. As she reached for the lights she felt Kathryn take her shoulders from behind. “Your coat?” Kathryn asked, as she gently slid the warm cashmere down her arms. The suddenness of the cool air contrasted by the molten touch of Kathryn’s fingers caused her to shiver, ever so slightly. As she turned, Kathryn glimpsed the faint rise of gooseflesh and reached out, rubbing her hands lightly across the bare shoulders and arms of the taller woman. “You feel chilled,” she said, drawing the young woman close while still rubbing her arms. The moment seemed to stretch as Kathryn realized that external temperatures had little contribution to her companion’s condition. She then tried to identify the thumping sounding in her ears.  Her hands stilled as she realized that what she was hearing was her own heart, her blood beginning to pound.  She found her eyes focused on the small hollow at the base of Seven’s neck and was fascinated to see the young woman’s own heartbeat pulsing just under her skin. As she raised her head to find Seven’s eyes she instead found she could get no further than the full, red lips now so close to her own. Neither woman was really sure of the exact moment their lips met, but their bodies seemed to remember the brief encounter from weeks ago. Picking up the intimate dance from where they left off, their lips softly pulled and sucked, teeth nipped and raked, and tongues probed and explored . Unlike before, it was Seven who pulled back first. Kathryn looked at her, somewhat bewildered and apprehensive, until Seven moved to pull her further into the room. Thinking -- and not without a moment of terrified anticipation -- that they were headed to a bedroom Kathryn was  surprised to realize she was being led towards the large expanse of windows on the far side of the living area and the piano that rested there. Settling Kathryn down onto a cushioned window seat, Seven positioned herself at the piano to play.

The infinitesimally quiet opening strains of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata began to fill the dark apartment, lit only by the ambient light of the city through the uncovered windows. The melody so familiar to Janeway seemed to expand, filling both the room and her consciousness with a rolling, repetitive rhythm. Layering and building, the slow but incessant crescendo of chords and melody pulled Kathryn to an acute, exquisite awareness of the feelings building within her own body. Her fingers had a restless tingle, her chest felt tight, and there was an ache that she had not felt in some time, let alone so intensely and for a woman. As the music reached its gentle peak, she realized she was clenching and unclenching her own muscles, pacing herself with the flowing sound, self-stimulating her quickly dampening center. In the moment she recognized this she also realized the musical piece was quietly soothing itself to its conclusion. As the last chord faded away into the darkness her chest swelled with a deep intake of air as she finally remembered to breathe.

Seven sat at the piano, her hands still resting softly on the keys. Her blood was pounding in her ears, her heart beat wildly in her chest. She had practiced the piece countless times. The very nature of the composition lent itself to an emotional performance, but never had she felt such a sensual connection while she played. Her moment of stillness just as the piece ended was more for reining back her own desires than for artistic measure. Finally she stood and turned to face her still silent audience. Kathryn stood at the window, her dark hair lost in the shadows of the city skyline behind. One hand was covering her mouth, the other held lightly across her chest. Seven felt a small moment of panic at the sight, unsure of how her playing had been received. After taking a deep, ragged breath Kathryn finally spoke.

“I feel…I feel as if you just…as if we just…did you just make love to me?” she questioned in barely a whisper. When Seven failed to answer she continued a bit more bravely. “Because that’s what it felt like. Watching your hands -- their constant motion over the keys -- the music felt like it was your hands moving over my skin, caressing me, lifting me, surrounding me,” she paused, locking her gaze on those incredible blue eyes, “filling me until I forgot to breathe.”  Finally stepping closer to the young woman she reached out to grasp her hands. “I don’t think I’ve ever forgotten how to breathe, and I know I’ve never had a piece of music cause me to… uhm, affect me that way.” Kathryn looked down at the slender hands she still held to her chest.  “You told me on the planet that to please you I need only recognize what I needed to please me. I think I would like to explore those needs.”

Seven’s fingers began a slow, gentle massage of the back of Kathryn’s hands. Drawing one up to rest on her cheek she asked, “And what do you think your first need might be, Kathryn?”

Kathryn pulled her hand from Seven’s face, drawing the young woman’s own to her lips. “I think first I would like feather soft kisses along my palm, trailing up the inside of my wrist.” Seven reached for her captain’s other hand to administer the requisite touch. “Ah, ah,” Kathryn stilled her. “These are my needs. We’ll talk about yours later,” she said seductively while brushing Seven’s grasp aside. “Now, where was I? Oh yes, kisses along my wrist,” she murmured as her lips brushed across the inside of Seven’s slender forearm. “I think then I might need to feel arms around my waist, hands settling on the small of my back, drawing me ever closer until our lips meet …no, hold that thought. Until l feel your lips settle in the crook of my neck, kissing me softly up my throat …” Kathryn continued soft kisses up the long alabaster throat, tracing kisses along the smooth jaw to the lips that parted instantly under her own. Any hesitancy that she may have felt before was gone. This was what she wanted; the fire that burned along her skin where Seven’s fingers raked as they moved to pull her head deeper into their kiss, the swell of the breasts that pressed so firmly into her own. The breath that permeated her very soul as her desire threatened to short out every nerve ending in her body. 

“Kathryn,” Seven moaned into their kiss, “tell me what else you need. Please...”

“I need...uhmm, I need to get rid of some of my clothes, first,” Kathryn reached to the zipper hidden in the back of Seven’s dress, then deftly slid her hands inside, slipping the gown to her hips. Momentarily stunned by the revelation of the full, round breasts Kathryn continued to let the gown drop beyond Seven’s hips to pool at her feet. With only a small covering of lace between her and a completely nude figure, Kathryn’s eyes traveled the full length of her body before returning to her smoky gaze. “I don’t know what to say. You are the most exquisite thing I have ever seen. My God, Seven  -  Annika, you are…”

Realizing that she was practically leering, Kathryn drew the woman to her.”I’m sorry, love. I didn’t mean to ogle you. That was terribly rude and insensitive. I never want you to feel…”

“That is quite alright if you wish to ogle me,” Seven said, her voice muffled as she nuzzled deep into Kathryn’s neck. “It is actually quite arousing watching your reaction. But I believe we were discussing your needs…Now that your clothing has been removed  do you think you might require moving to a more comfortable location to continue your explorations?”

“Whose room is closer?”

“The couch.”

Seven felt Kathryn’s smile in her kiss.

“Mine,” she finally acquiesced. Watching for any sign of apprehension before stepping out of the puddled dress she began leading Kathryn across the living area to her doorway. Finding only want and desire in the older woman’s gaze she moved to the side of the large bed. Pulling Kathryn to her she began covering her face with light kisses, lingering first on one eyelid then the other; finally turning and lowering the smaller woman to the softness of the bed. Kathryn’s hands were running through her hair, sighs drifting up from within as she opened herself to Seven’s ever deepening kisses.  Palms sliding across the silk of her blouse, she felt Kathryn’s nipples stiffen under her gentle but persistent massage. She had nearly released the final button on the blouse when Kathryn pulled playfully from her kisses and asked, “What are you doing, my love? I thought we were still exploring my needs? I believe I was making a shopping list of sorts.” Seven felt herself being rolled first on her side and then onto her back, her hands drawn out away from her body and placed reverently on the bed, Kathryn’s mouth breathing heavily on her own. “I think I would very much like to feel your lips on my breasts…”

A sharp gasp burst from her throat as Kathryn’s mouth suddenly claimed one of her agonizingly hard nipples. A strong hand took her other full breast and began kneading it deeply. Her hips began to rise, pressing her into the heat of the smaller woman above. As much as she wanted to indulge Kathryn’s game of exploring her own needs, she was suddenly desperate to feel the woman’s skin upon her own. “Kathryn, would you need me to remove any of, uhmm… my clothing anytime soon?”

Kathryn paused in her ministrations. “What?”

“My clothes? When do we get to remove my clothes?”

At that Kathryn came to a full stop, rose up on one elbow with her brow furrowed, and asked again, “What?

Exasperated, Seven pulled Kathryn down for a tender but quick kiss. “Kathryn, I am getting confused. Please allow me simplify the situation.” At that she popped open the last button on Kathryn’s blouse and snapped open her front-clasp bra.

“Oh.” Kathryn giggled shyly. A smile grew wide on Seven’s face.

“What?” Kathryn asked self consciously.

“You are -- cute -- when you giggle.”

“Darling, I am a Starfleet Captain. I do not giggle.”

“Yes, you do. You just did it again.”

Dropping her forehead to Seven’s chin she chuckled. “I guess I’m finding a lot of firsts with you. Giggling, a day off, practically having an orgasm listening to music written by a dead deaf guy…”

Seven’s own chuckle caused Kathryn’s head to bounce as she rose back up on her elbows. Lost for a long moment in the beauty she beheld, Kathryn finally spoke quietly to the woman who was quickly stealing her heart. “I think I have one more need.” At the look on Seven’s face she smiled somewhat shyly. “I need you to help me with the rest of my clothes…”

Without a word Kathryn was pushed back up to her knees, her opened shirt and bra being slid off her shoulders. Briefly, her arms were pinned behind her as Seven paused to brush her lips across the darkened centers of her breasts. The momentary immobility coupled with the hint of a tongue across her nipple sent a shiver from the base of Kathryn’s neck all the way to her toes, causing her to gasp and thrust her chest further toward Seven’s  mouth.  Galvanized into action, Seven tossed the shirt from the bed and swept Kathryn’s slacks and underwear down in one swift stroke. Rolling Kathryn back onto the bed she moved down to slip off her shoes, pushed the garments clear of Kathryn’s body and began her ascent once again. Her hands massaged and caressed Kathryn’s calves while her lips trailed kisses across her knees, her head moving from one leg to the other as she slowly worked her way up Kathryn’s body. Fingertips tickled lightly at the hollow behind her knees, pushing another husky giggle from the now trembling woman’s throat. “Seven, you’re killing me,” she said, trying to pull the younger woman back up to her. As she moved her mouth to the inside of Kathryn’s knees Seven began to let her tongue drag hot, languid trails up the smaller woman’s thighs. Her hands moved to massage the back of Kathryn’s legs before trailing up to her hips. Kathryn felt a warm breath moving ever closer to the juncture of her legs and instinctively began to pull her knees up and apart.

“Kathryn,” Seven whispered between kisses. ”I need you to want me.”

“I do. Oh God, I do,” she cried breathlessly.

Seven reached up to take Kathryn’s hands in her own, intertwining their fingers as she had done earlier in the evening.

“Please...” Kathryn arched, just before the world shifted around her. As Seven’s lips finally reached her she felt herself being caressed with a tenderness she could never have imagined. An incredibly inquisitive tongue traced over and around her folds.  A slow, long lick pulled up through her crease, dragging a long moan from the center of her being. Pulling her hands from those holding hers, she grasped Seven’s head as she raised herself from the bed, nearly doubling over as the sensation of her lover’s mouth threatened to completely undo her. Gentle hands eased her back onto the pillows, the soft yet insistent movements between her legs never ceasing. Just as she regained her bearings stars flashed behind her eyes as Seven took her firmly between her lips and began to alternately tug and suck. Something between a shriek and a cry filled her ears and she was vaguely aware that it was her own. The hands that had been so soothing and comforting now began to move more aggressively across her breasts, taking pebbled nipples and firmly rolling them between butter-soft fingertips of both flesh and metal. She became aware of her hips pushing, thrusting upwards, desperate to capture the tongue that was now moving back along her folds, finally thrusting to enter her. A deep guttural cry burst from her throat as she dropped off the edge of reason, her hands tangled unmercifully in the hair of the woman who had brought her there. Again and again her body clenched until, sobbing, she felt herself laid back against the softness of the pillows. Warm arms wrapped around her shaking body while a quiet voice murmured soothingly in her ear.

“Kathryn? Oh, my sweet Kathryn. It’s alright. Please, Kathryn. It will be fine.” Seven crooned.

Taking in a shaky breath Kathryn cried, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me…I can’t seem to stop. God, I’m sorry…”

“Shhh. There is nothing to be sorry about. I will take care of you. It will be fine. I love you Kathryn, it will be alright.” Seven soothed.

The pair lay quietly for a bit more while Kathryn’s breathing began to grow more even and her body began to settle. After a short time Seven felt her take a deep breath. “Are you alright?” she asked.

Kathryn seemed to consider the question momentarily. “Yeah, except for the part where I’m pretty sure I died for a minute.”

A soft snort came from the body lying next to her. Kathryn rolled to her back and lay there, staring at the ceiling. “I’m serious. Good God, woman. What exactly did you do to me?”

Seven rolled up on an elbow so that she could see Kathryn’s crooked grin.”I believe I made love to you,” she smiled, her hand rubbing small circles across the spent woman’s stomach. “But I do seem to recall you were the one who began with formulating a shopping list of wants and needs.”

“Yes. And you were the one who apparently tossed the shopping list out the window halfway to the store!”

“A good shopper knows how to improvise. Anticipate the shop-ee’s needs and make the most of the resources available.”

Kathryn reached up to swipe a lock of hair away from her eyes. “I’m not sure I know what we’re talking about anymore…”

“Kathryn, I believe you are over analyzing again.”

“Let me guess; it ain’t rocket science?”

“Something like that.”

Kathryn smiled. “You love me.” Her smile began to grow. “You said you loved me.”

“Yes, Kathryn. I love you.”

She lay there, the wash of joy threatening to overpower her.

Seven turned and started to speak, then chose just to watch as a peaceful veil of happiness settled over Kathryn’s still smiling face.

“You know, it just occurred to me,” Kathryn spouted suddenly, “we never did finish exploring my needs, did we?” Kathryn rolled to face the leggy blonde. Dragging a finger lightly along the Borg’s abdominal implant, which was indeed rather ticklish, she continued. “Boy. Always gotta be about you. That is such a shame,” she said, clucking her tongue in disapproval.

“As B’Elanna would say, ‘That is a load of crap’.”

“Almost had you swearing! I’m impressed.  And I’m sorry. It is simply my pathetic attempt to obfuscate my sexual prowess within a veil of misdirection and false intention,” she finished grandly.

Seven chewed on that for a moment. “You wanted to pretend to be me doing what you wanted me to do to you in an effort to explain what you would eventually like to do with me but were afraid that something you would do to me would be unacceptable or unsatisfying, so you left yourself the option of pretending that it was something you liked, even though you really did not, and could pretend that you meant to do that all along?”

Kathryn blinked. Repeatedly. “Wow. You’re good.”

“So you said. Now, if I may make a suggestion?”

“Please, by all means.”

Seven’s eyes softened as her hand reached over to cup Kathryn’s cheek.

“Kiss me. The rest will come.”

Kathryn felt like she had just stepped out into space and didn’t care if she fell, flew or fainted. Seven loved her. She felt the tears begin to build as all of the emotions she had been fighting for so long seemed to be pounding just behind her eyes, and she realized she was at that moment in her life where she could button up her ship or step off into the unknown. There was really no choice to make.

“One small step…” Immediately realizing that she had inadvertently spoken out loud she cast a panicked glance at the face just inches away. With a barely perceptible shake of her head Seven laughed lightly. “Small steps, giant leaps. Whatever you feel comfortable with, Kathryn. As long as it is done with love I will be happy.”

Kathryn began an endless exploration of the body that seemed to meld to her own. Legs intertwining, arms encircling, hands moving unceasingly across creamy skin, warm metal, diamond hard nipples and soft wet folds. Her hands couldn’t seem to stop, moving and memorizing every inch, massaging the full breasts and enraptured by their sway under her manipulations. “Jesus...” Kathryn groaned as she took one deeply into her mouth. Never in her life had she wanted anyone like this. Never had she so desperately needed to please someone, her own needs being met tenfold by the joy so apparent in Seven’s response. It took the eternity between heartbeats for her to fully understand. She loved this woman. Consumed by this newfound knowledge she plunged headlong into her lovemaking never once pausing to consider the how or why, but simply letting her absolute adoration for the woman lying with her to guide her through the dance. Feeling the body beneath her quivering with need her fingers moved to fill her, seeking out that elusive spot that she intuitively knew would bring release. Muscles clenched and unclenched, grasping her fingertips and drawing her in as moisture bathed her hand. Her mouth moved to possess her lover’s, swallowing her scream as she was swept into the rapture of her moment. Caught up in the wave of release Kathryn felt herself slip away as well. Not as violently as before, but with a sensual, calming release, as if her soul had quietly exhaled.  

Struggling to find her horizon Seven surfaced from her euphoric haze. Kathryn was draped across her, fingers still possessing her deeply, head resting on her chest; eyes closed, totally at peace. Flexing her internal muscles she roused Kathryn, who in return gently wiggled her fingers as she eased them out and settled them on her thigh. Without lifting her head she reached out with her tongue, swiping it gently across the tip of Seven’s breast. The nipple immediately stiffened, and Kathryn’s face pulled into a lazy grin.

“Feeling powerful, are we?” Seven’s throaty voice resonated through the chest below her, causing Kathryn’s grin to bloom.

“I believe I was inspired by your beautiful performance.”

“Indeed. I hope you found my skills with a musical instrument acceptable as well.”

At that Kathryn laughed out loud. “I don’t want to move. I would raise my head and say something terribly witty but I don’t want to move,” Kathryn stated defiantly as she burrowed deeper into her love’s embrace.

“Then perhaps you should stay right where you are. At least for the next 6.2 hours.”

“I think that would be acceptable. And Seven?”

“Yes Kathryn?”

“Do you think a piano would fit in my quarters?”

 

Fin