“The first sequel to [‘I Only Have Eyes for You’ (IOHEFY)] and a retelling of the canon episode ‘Tinker,Tenor, Doctor, Spy,’ it picks up the story of Harry and Seven several weeks after IOHEFY. It asks the question of how would Harry Kim have handled knowing about the Doctor’s fantasy life, assuming he had a relationship with Seven at the time.” (Michael B)
Written by Michael B
Release 5 Jan 2000
"You have made an error, Lieutenant." Seven of Nine stated with her usual cool demeanor.
"Excuse me?!" B’Elanna Torres answered her. She didn’t need this right now. She had enough on her plate as it was. If it were up to her, she would be with Tom right now preparing for the upcoming away mission, instead of being stuck with Her Borgness in Cargo Bay Two.
"You have configured the power flow to the regeneration chair incorrectly," the former Borg answered directly. "I will require a setting of at least 350 millidynes if my regeneration is to be completed within an efficient span of time."
"I didn’t configure anything incorrectly," B’Elanna retorted. "I balanced the power needs of your chair with the expected powerload for this deck. I’m not about to put any additional strain on the EPS conduits just to satisfy your need for efficiency."
"But my regeneration time will not be sufficiently minimized," Seven objected.
"Oh for crying out loud! You’re only going to be sitting in this thing for maybe 20 to 30 minutes a day. An extra two minutes won’t kill you!"
Seven looked at the half-Klingon engineer coldly, not appreciating her flippant answer.
"You know, I don’t have to be doing this," B’Elanna snapped back. "I’m only down here because Harry asked me as a favor to help you out while he’s on shift. I could be going over the pre-flight checklist with Tom instead of fussing over your personal projects." Her eyes narrowed as she looked harder at the statuesque blond woman before her. "And a little gratitude wouldn’t be out-of-order."
The object of her rant considered these words before choosing to speak up herself. "You are correct, Lieutenant. My criticism did not take into account the additional responsibilities you have on your agenda. I acknowledge that my request for assistance is of secondary priority."
And that was it! B’Elanna thought to comment on Seven’s weak attempt at an apology, but decided to let the matter slide. It was the closest the arrogant ex-drone had ever come to apologizing to her, and she figured she should be grateful for small miracles. Given the mistrust between the two women, a half-assed admission of guilt was better than nothing.
Harry must be having some positive influence on her, B’Elanna thought to herself wryly.
B’Elanna Torres considered the object of her labors. Even though Seven’s body was becoming more comfortable with normal sleep, she would continue to need brief periods of regeneration to recharge her Borg implants. Unlike Federation bio-synthetics, which were powered by the body’s own metabolism, her remaining Borg technology was designed for a drone who had no need for food or rest And since the implants were too complex to redesign while implanted within Seven’s body, they had to be left as they were. Hence the continued need for regeneration.
However, since her powered implants made up only a small fraction of her body mass, Seven’s required regeneration time was now much less than before. And with her more modest power needs, a much simpler regeneration device could be used instead of the bulky, power-hungry alcove that forced her to live in the dark recesses of Cargo Bay Two.
With that in mind, Harry and the Doctor, with a little help from B’Elanna, had designed for Seven a ‘regeneration chair,’ which had been assembled over the past three weeks with the help of volunteers from Engineering and Maintenance. Tom had nicknamed the device the ‘Borg Barka-Lounger’ due to its resemblance to a popular reclining chair of the twentieth century. Once operational, the device could be easily installed into standard crew quarters, which Captain Janeway was eager to have Seven set up in as soon as possible. Of course, B’Elanna doubted that the new living space would get much use. If Seven had her way, the regeneration chair would more likely be kept with Harry instead.
B’Elanna’s musings were interrupted when she noticed Seven looking down at her PADD. Something on there seemed to capture her interest, as she had been reading and entering information into it all day. "Say, what’s on that PADD anyway?" the dark haired woman inquired.
"Information," Seven answered her flatly, unwilling to elaborate.
"Oh, come off it! You’ve been glancing at it on and off all afternoon. I know it has nothing to do with the chair."
Seven’s eyes narrowed at the other woman. "It is a personal project that is none of your concern." She put down the PADD and squatted down underneath the apparatus. "If you wish to leave, you may do so. Alpha Shift had ended and Harry will be here momentarily."
B’Elanna still couldn’t get used to hearing Seven refer to Harry by his first name, instead of the more formal ‘Ensign Kim’ she had been using since she first came aboard. It had been several weeks since the unusual circumstances that marked the beginning of their relationship, and despite all bets to the contrary, they were still going strong.
Maybe it was curiosity, or exhaustion, or just plain orneriness. But B’Elanna felt compelled to walk over and pick up the PADD where Seven had left it. She activated it and called up the retrieval for the last dated entry. She read as the text scrolled across the display screen. Her eyes nearly popped out as she read the titles listed in the directory.
"The Kama Sutra…Tales of a Thousand Pleasures from Delta Four…The Arguelian Guides of Love…Ancient Vulcan Erotic Meditations…The Collected Secrets of the Centauri Brothels…" It was enough to make even B’Elanna Torres blush, and she thought she had been around! It seemed as if the passionless ex-Borg had collected some of the most erotic literature of the known galaxy. "Seven, I…"
The former drone stood abruptly from her position beneath the chair, quickly closed the distance between herself and B’Elanna, and snatched the PADD from her hands. "As I indicated before, that is private." Seven’s voice was cool and even, almost a hiss.
"Seven, I’m sorry…I just…" the half-Klingon tried to hold back the nervous laughter. "I never suspected you’d be interested in reading such…well, such intimate stuff."
"If you must know, I am reviewing those materials for a personal research project."
"The Kama Sutra as part of a research project?"
"Yes. I am compiling a database of sexual positions and techniques derived from the cultural histories in Voyager‘s archives. I feel it will greatly enhance the variety and pleasure that Harry and I enjoy when we copulate."
B’Elanna let out a soft chuckle as she shook her head. Only Seven of Nine would treat sex like it were a science experiment. "I don’t suppose Harry knows about your little project?"
"Indeed. He was most enthusiastic when I proposed it to him."
"Yeah, I’ll bet," B’Elanna answered wryly. For all of Harry’s gentlemanly virtues, he was still only a man. "You know, Seven, you don’t have to put on a performance for Harry every night. He doesn’t expect that from you."
Seven looked at her with puzzlement. "I wish to give Harry pleasure. Is that not what one does what one is a part of an affiliated couple? We have already experimented with positions one through fifteen, and we will be attempting number sixteen tonight."
"Uh, I really don’t need to hear this, Seven." B’Elanna mulled over for a moment Seven’s words. "Wait a minute…sixteen, you say? Just how many positions do you have in this database of yours?"
"So far, I have catalogued two hundred and ninety eight discernable sexual techniques that are compatible with humanoid physiology. An additional sixty three would be possible with the proper physical conditioning."
B’Elanna’s jaw nearly hit the floor. "Two hundred and ninety eight! God damn!" she sputtered. "On my best night, I don’t think I could think up more than fourteen or fifteen!"
Seven gave the darker-haired woman a look of supreme self-satisfaction as she arched her eyebrow. "Fortunately for Harry and myself, the combined cultures of the Alpha and Delta Quadrants are more imaginative than you are."
Before B’Elanna could issue an angry retort, the sound of the sliding cargo bay doors echoed through the cavernous chamber. Ensign Harry Kim entered the room, his smile white enough to illuminate the dark compartment. He brightened considerably at the sight of his new-found love, hard at work. Seven herself seemed to flush warmly as he approached her.
"Hey," he said. "I got off shift as soon as I could. I hope you weren’t waiting too long." He then grinned sheepishly at her as he came closer to her. "Did you miss me?"
"I found myself thinking about you nearly 57% of the time you were absent," she responded to him, her lips stretched into a narrow approximation of a smile.
He feigned a look of mock disappointment. "Aw, and I was hoping for at least 60% today." He came around her from behind and wrapped his arms around her middle, holding her tight to him.
"Perhaps tomorrow you will have an opportunity to perfect yourself," she quipped back. She raised an eyebrow as Harry leaned in to kiss the creamy white skin of her neck, paying extra attention to the star-shaped implant below her ear. A faint sigh could be heard escaping from her lips.
B’Elanna rolled her eyes upward as the two seemed to be entranced in their own loveplay, completely oblivious to her presence. Finally, in frustration at being ignored, she snapped at them. "Hellooooo. I’m in the room, here!"
Harry looked up from Seven’s neck and gave the engineer a completely innocent smile. "Oh. Hi, B’Elanna."
" Oh. Hi, B’Elanna," she parroted back at him with a sneer. "Just how hot and heavy were you two going to get before you noticed I was here?"
The young ops officer gave her a devious grin of his own in response. "Look who’s so sensitive? And just how many times did you and Tom make kissy-faces at each other while I had to watch?"
"Oh, so this is revenge, is that it?" B’Elanna raising an eyebrow in an almost Vulcan-like pose.
"Not at all," he answered her. "I’m showing Seven affection because I’m absolutely crazy about her," His grin stretched from ear to ear, looking quite satisfied. "The fact that I’m getting even with you is just icing on the cake."
B’Elanna scowled at him. "Nice, Harry. I’ll leave you two to your…whatever." She made towards the cargo bay doors. Just before she left, she turned to Seven of Nine, who was still in the arms of her lover.
"Remind me to tell you about a few Klingon techniques sometime. I’d just love to hear how they go over with Casanova here." She thumbed in Harry’s direction as she smiled with an evil glee. The brief nervous expression on the ensign’s face had made it all worth it.
"You told her about the database?!" he asked in shock as he unwrapped his arms from around her and she turned to face him.
"I did not intend to. But Lieutenant Torres insisted on violating my privacy."
"Relax, Harry," B’Elanna reassured him as she headed out the door. "I’m not going to spread it around the ship. Who would believe it anyway?" And with that, the doors shut behind her, and she was gone.
"Aw man…" Harry shook his head in disbelief. "I just know I’m going to regret this…"
"I do not see what has you so concerned. Did not Lieutenant Torres just state that she would not inform the rest of the crew about our intimate moments?"
"Yeah, but you know she’s going to tell Tom! He’ll tease me about this for weeks!"
Seven arched her eyebrow and gave him a reassuring look. "It is more likely that he will be envious rather than malicious. Lieutenant Torres herself informed me that her knowledge is limited to only fifteen sexual positions."
Harry couldn’t help but chuckle at Seven’s attempts to cheer him up. More often than not, they seemed to work. "You always know the right thing to say to me. So, what else were you two talking about, anyway?"
"Nothing of relevance. Do you wish to assist me with the regeneration chair?"
"Maybe later. I just came off shift, you know. I thought you could use a break."
"That is not necessary."
"OK, let me rephrase that. I could use a break."
"I see," she answered. "In that case, perhaps we might go to the mess hall for refreshments?"
"Now you’re talking, beautiful."
The past seven weeks had been like a miraculous dream for Harry Kim, one that he never wanted to wake up from. He was in love with the most beautiful woman in the entire universe. The time they spent together was like magic. They listened to concerts, sampled new foods, and enjoyed stimulating conversation. Every day was a new learning experience, not just for Seven, but for him as well. And then there were the nights. Seven had taken to her newly discovered sexuality like a duck to water. She was eager to experiment with new forms of intimate expression and did not allow any preconceived notions to dissuade her from her explorations. Every night with Seven was like dining out in San Francisco. There was always something fresh on the menu each time.
But what gave Harry the most pleasure was watching Seven blossom as their relationship progressed. Of course, there was always something coming up for her. On the first full day of their ‘romantic affiliation,’ Seven had devised an itinerary for their day together, allocating at least two full hours to each planned activity, including their make-out sessions in his quarters. Harry had a good laugh teasing Seven as to whether or not he could limit himself to only two hours.
Still, there had been some rough patches along the way. Two weeks into their romance, while Voyager was docked at an alien space station, Seven found herself confronted by three former drones from her old adjunct, who were still linked to each other. In an effort to help them live separate lives, Seven was willing to connect her mind with theirs in order to discover the source of the problem from eight years past. However, during the link, it was discovered that it was a frightened Seven of Nine who had been the cause of their dilemma, forcing them to return to the Collective against their will when they had the opportunity to be free. In their anger and confusion, the link caused permanent brain damage, which would eventually be terminal, were they to remain apart from the Borg Collective. In the end, Seven decided that it would be better for them to live as separate beings for a few weeks, rather than a lifetime as drones.
Harry, however, was unable to be there to support Seven. While on board the station shopping for a gift for his beloved, he had gotten involved in a fight alongside his buddy Tom against a pair of belligerent aliens. The captain had confined him to quarters as punishment for the remainder of the time they were in dock. By the time Harry was released from confinement, Voyager was on its way, and Seven had made her choice alone. He had felt like he let her down, despite her assurances to the contrary.
Of course, Seven now had a new problem to deal with. One of the ex-drones, Marika Wilkarra, had been a Bajoran Starfleet officer before her assimilation, and wanted to spend her final days aboard Voyager. She blamed Seven for returning her to the Collective those many years ago and the young blonde was only too willing to stay out of her way, in the interests of avoiding a confrontation. As a result, the former ‘Three of Nine’ spent her first few days aboard wandering the halls of the ship, scarred, frightened, and alone. Few of Voyager‘s crew felt comfortable talking to her; she seemed so haunted, so much in pain. And who knew what to say to a woman who had less than a month to live?
But Harry had pointed out to Seven that Marika was practically family, and that she was never going to feel complete unless she made her peace with her. And so, reluctantly at first, Seven made cautious overtures to an even more reluctant Marika. She was invited to join them for meals at first. Then other crewmembers, seeing she was approachable, began to talk with her. Tom threw a couple of parties at Sandrine’s and at the Talaxian resort on the holodeck, where Marika gradually revealed a vibrant sense of humor and a witty personality. She became a welcomed new friend among the crew, especially with Gerron and Tarik, who were pleased for the opportunity to swap stories with a fellow Bajoran. She even seemed to warm up to Seven, having conspiratorial conversations that Harry was certain were about him. Girls behaving badly, he figured.
Then one day, just over three weeks after she came on board, Marika collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage while waiting on line for the breakfast buffet. She was beamed immediately to Sickbay, where the Doctor tried his best to treat her. But there was nothing he could do for her at this point. She was dying.
In her weakened state, she asked for Seven to be at her side. Harry had stood by at the entrance to Sickbay as he watched his sweetheart kneel down before the dying woman. It was to her that she uttered her final words.
"I forgive you…"
An hour later, she had lapsed into a coma. Eight hours after that, the Doctor pronounced Marika Wilkarra dead.
The funeral had been a formal Starfleet service, combined with traditional Bajoran flourishes provided by Neelix. The captain gave a moving sermon praising the fallen officer who had died as she had wanted to live, as a freethinking individual who chose her own path among her own people. Seven agreed to accompany Gerron and Tarik in singing the two-hour long Bajoran Death Chant. Harry had stayed to listen for the entire chorus. Her voice had never sounded lovelier.
After the services were over, Seven accompanied Harry back to his quarters. She did not want to be alone that evening. It wasn’t for sex, of course. Somehow, she just felt like she needed to be with Harry that night. Of course, she didn’t cry. That wasn’t her way. And so they sat on the couch, his arm around her while her head rested on his shoulder, until they both fell asleep against one another. They said nothing to each other the entire night. Nothing needed to be said.
Sometimes, Harry thought, when you care for someone, it was enough just to listen.
Harry noticed the troubled expression on Seven’s face as they walked their way down to the mess hall. Something seemed to be puzzling her since they left Cargo Bay Two. "Is everything OK?" he asked as they entered the turbolift.
"Everything is well, Harry. There is something that I find puzzling, though."
"Oh? Anything I can help with?" He answered her as his hand went around to caress her back.
"Perhaps. I am…confused…by your choice of designations for me."
"Yes. The use of the words ‘honey’ and ‘sweetheart.’ I do not understand why you periodically refer to me by those terms." Then a slight flicker of a smile appeared on her lips. "Of course, I do understand the use of the word ‘beautiful.’"
Harry grinned at her innocent statement. False modesty was never one of Seven’s failings. She was gorgeous and she knew it. How could she not, considering she was able to monitor the pupil dilation and heart rate of the men around her with her optical sensors? Certainly Harry’s own heartbeat went a little faster when she was near him.
"Those are, well…those are just pet names for you, Seven."
"Pet names?" she answered him, more puzzled than before. "I do not comprehend the relevance. I am your romantic partner, not a pet."
He chuckled again at her literal-mindedness. "No, Seven. A pet name is something you call somebody that you care about. It’s a term of affection." He smiled as he moved closer to her. "It’s my way of saying that I care about you."
"Surely that is implied whenever we copulate?"
He smiled at her with that warm, friendly look that made her radiate without her understanding why. He reached down to take her Borg-enhanced hand into his. "Its more than just that. I want to be able to tell you how much you matter to me every time we speak. Sometimes, it can’t always wait until we go to bed."
"But I am already aware of your affections for me. Why is it necessary to repeat them so frequently, when once is sufficient. Do you believe that I would forget?"
"No, I know you wouldn’t" He ran his fingers along the enhanced exoskeletal framework of the hand and went on to lightly stroke them. Shivers of pleasure went through Seven’s body. "But sometimes, it just feels good to tell the person you love how much they matter to you."
She looked up from her hand to stare into Harry’s eyes, her own wide and crystal blue. "And your reasons for the choices of ‘honey’ and ‘sweetheart’?"
He smiled at her innocently as he reached up to stroke her hair. "Well…because your hair is golden like honey." With that, he leaned forward to press his lips against hers in a quick, affectionate peck. "And your lips taste just as sweet."
She returned his smile, her face flush with warmth from their kiss, however brief. "Then it would please me to designate you as well, Harry. Perhaps I shall call you ‘black.’"
"Yes, because your hair is black."
Harry couldn’t help but laugh at her innocent comment. To most people aboard Voyager, Seven of Nine came across as so formidable and stoic. She never let them see the vulnerable child inside, the one she bared for only a few people, of which Harry Kim was one.
"Seven, you don’t have to call me by a pet name if you don’t want to. And if you do, it doesn’t have to be so literal."
"Forgive me. I do not have enough experience with such matters to know what is acceptable." A thought seemed to cross her mind as she continued. "This does, however, explain the numerous designations that I have heard Lieutenant Torres apply to Ensign Paris. I realize now that those too must be ‘pet names.’ Perhaps one of them might be appropriate."
"You think so?"
"Perhaps. Since they began their romantic affiliation, I have heard Lieutenant Torres refer to Ensign Paris as ‘pig,’ ‘flyboy,’ ‘helmboy,’ ‘blondie,’ ‘chucklehead,’ ‘hotpants,’ ‘peckerwood,’ and the occasional ‘hey, stupid.’"
Harry couldn’t hold back the laughter after hearing Seven run through her list. When he finally steadied himself, he tried to speak through the giggles. "Tom and B’Elanna…they have an…interesting relationship."
"Indeed. One might say it is a highly improbable one. Those designations do not sound particularly affectionate."
"Well, they do care about each other a lot, despite how it might look sometimes. B’Elanna just calls Tom those things in order to keep him in line." Noticing the confusion on Seven’s lovely face, he elaborated. "To keep him better behaved."
She considered her lover’s words. "Then perhaps those designations are not appropriate for you, Harry. Your behavior is already exemplary. I will have to consider acceptable alternatives."
At that moment, the turbolift stopped briefly in order to admit a new passenger. The Doctor entered, his face looking perturbed at first, but then lightening noticeably at the sight of the two young lovers.
"Seven, Ensign Kim," the hologram beamed at them. "I trust things are going well with the regeneration chair?"
The former drone acknowledged her teacher with a polite node. "Good afternoon, Doctor. Lieutenant Torres and I made moderate progress today on the power flow transfer. However, we had a difference of opinion regarding the connection to the ship’s EPS conduits. I am confident that Harry will be able to compensate for any difficulties." She looked at Harry and smiled as she spoke. "He and I work most efficiently together." The young Starfleet officer returned her look with a grin of his own.
"Well, that’s excellent news, Seven. I imagine you’ll be hooked up and running within a matter of weeks. Of course, I can understand why Lieutenant Torres couldn’t give you her full cooperation today. After all, she’s a very busy woman, isn’t she?" Harry could notice the intense sourness that now colored the Doctor’s speech.
Seven turned to Harry to explain. "The Doctor was not chosen to accompany the away team down to the planet’s surface. He is naturally disappointed."
Harry looked at the Doctor with sympathy. He knew how important it was to the hologram to be able to fit in, and he could tell that Seven was genuinely concerned for the Doctor’s feelings. "Well, I’m sure it was nothing personal, Doc. I mean, the mission didn’t really have any need for a medical officer. I know you’ll get another chance in the near future."
The Doctor sighed. "It’s more than just an away mission, Ensign. I made a formal request of the captain regarding the expansion of my capabilities should the crew become incapacitated." His normally acerbic tone went up a notch as he spoke. "Needless to say, I received a very polite brush-off."
Seeing the frustration in the hologram’s eyes, Harry leaned over to offer some consolation. "I’ll tell you what, Doc. The next time the captain offers me command of an away team, you’ll be first on my list. After all, we worked well together on our last mission."
Seven looked at her partner with a satisfied expression. "That is a most considerate gesture, Harry. I am sure the Doctor greatly appreciates your support." Her hand then brushed against his, as he clasped his fingers around hers.
"W-why yes, Ensign. I’m very touched. Thank you," the Doctor exclaimed. While the EMH did appreciate the offer as well as the sincerity behind it, it felt to him like it was motivated more by pity than any genuine recognition of his talents. He looked back at the young officer and his protégé, only to see their hands touching, their fingers fully entwined with each other’s. While he was pleased at their happiness, there was still a part of him, just a small part, that remained wistful for the feelings he once had for his pupil. Thankfully, they were fading away as the reality of life continued on. Seeing the lovely young couple, he knew he had made the right choice in letting Seven go, in keeping his secret feelings for her to himself. To reveal them now would only make things awkward for all parties concerned.
Wishing to change the subject, he moved on to something that he thought was clinical and safe. "So, Seven…I hope your recent sleep patterns have been without incident. It’s been a few days since we last ran a REM scan on you, you know."
Seven did not feel pleased at the idea of another one of the Doctor’s overly cautious controlled experiments on her newly discovered sleep-cycle. "Doctor, I find that I am much more rested when I am not forced to sleep in Sickbay with sensor grids attached to my body."
Harry joined in with a wide grin. "Relax, Doc. You don’t have to worry. Seven’s been sleeping just fine." He then leaned over to give her hand an affectionate squeeze, his head filled with pleasant memories of the previous night and of Position Number Fifteen. Not to mention the dreamlike pleasure of waking up the next morning with her golden-blond hair cascading across his chest.
The Doctor rolled his eyes. Not such a clinical topic after all, he thought, now was it?
Thankfully, the turbolift reached its destination, and its doors slide open. Not a moment too soon for the Doctor. "Well, I have to be on my way. Do let me know about your progress on the regeneration chair, won’t you?"
"Of course, Doctor," the young woman answered with respectful formality.
"In case we don’t catch you later, see you on the bridge tomorrow, Doc," Harry saluted in a friendly acknowledgement.
"Tomorrow?" the Doctor answered with confusion.
"Yeah, the Delta Flyer‘s taking off tomorrow on the mission," he explained, surprised at the hologram’s lapse of memory. "Isn’t it standard procedure for you to be on the bridge to monitor life signs remotely?"
"Oh, quite right, of course," he stammered a response. "Well, then I’ll see you tomorrow."
Harry called back to the physician as he walked away. "Oh, and Doc, don’t let the away team thing get you down. You’ll get your shot before you know it."
The doctor nodded politely with a weak smile as he walked down the opposite corridor. Harry turned back to see a lovely young woman, with a disconcerted look on her face.
"It is wrong for Captain Janeway not to give the Doctor the opportunity to explore his full potential. She felt it to be important for me to become more than what I once was. Why not the Doctor?"
Harry frowned at seeing his girlfriend looking so distraught. "I’m sure the captain didn’t mean to diminish the Doctor in any way, Seven. When you think about it, the Doctor really turned out lucky, all things considered. At least on Voyager, he’s regarded as a member of the crew and has certain responsibilities. A less open-minded captain might have classified him as a piece of equipment, instead."
"That still does not make his relative lack of opportunity acceptable."
He put his arm around her, pulling her closer to him. "I know how much the Doctor means to you. And that means he’s important to me, too. If you want…maybe I could make a request of the captain myself. I mean, I don’t know what good it will do if she’s already made her decision. But maybe if it came from me…"
She looked up to him, gazing into his eyes. "You would do such a thing? For me?" A smile of pleasure spread across her face, almost to the point where her teeth were showing, a rare enough occurrence. "I am pleased. I would have thought to speak with Captain Janeway myself, but it would be more acceptable from you, Harry. My conversations with the captain in matters such as this tend to become…confrontational."
The young ops officer returned her smile with an equally pleased one of his own. "Now, that wouldn’t help the Doctor much, now would it?"
"Indeed, not," she answered, faintly seductive. Her hand touched his chest lightly, but it seemed to set off alert klaxons all over his body. He steeled himself for the thoughts of pleasures yet to come, especially the eagerly anticipated Position Number Sixteen, which he was told, would take up much of tonight.
Yes, Harry thought to himself, life can be truly wonderful for those who wait long enough.
There was a buzz of activity on the bridge the following morning. Alpha Shift was alert as the Delta Flyer and her crew spiraled their way down from orbit and on course for their targeted landing zone on the cloudy planet below.
While waiting for the shuttle to clear the ionosphere, Harry took a moment to look up from his station at Ops and over at Seven of Nine, where she stood at the Engineering console. His eyes ran up and down her curvaceous form in her plum catsuit as his head was filled with pleasant memories of last night’s activities.
Oh yes, he thought, Position Number Sixteen was definitely a keeper. He still had the aches in his muscles to show for it.
She too looked over her shoulder, back at him, her lips showing just a hint of a smile. It was her hidden smiles, the ones she would just let slip past her professional efficient exterior, that Harry found the most seductive. Their eyes met, the outside world was gone for just a moment. God, he could get lost in those eyes forever. How lucky he was that he no longer had to steal quick glances at her anymore, but that now he could stare and gaze upon her as long as he liked. And do so much more as well.
A gruff cough interrupted his brief trip to paradise, as the stern voice of Lt. Commander Tuvok broke his concentration. "Ensign Kim, perhaps your attention would be best focused on your station."
Harry looked up, to see Tuvok’s cold stare across from Tactical. The younger officer felt like a rabbit caught in a hunter’s crosshairs. "I…uh, yes sir!" He quickly spun back to look at the LCARS panel in front of him, trying his best to look focused. He briefly looked up towards the center of the bridge, to see Commander Chakotay giving him a friendly smirk. Captain Janeway was sitting in her command chair, her expression somewhat more disapproving. Sorry, Doc, he thought to himself. Maybe today won’t be the best day to approach the captain.
He glanced over to his side, to see the Doctor standing at the Life Sciences station. He looked almost forlorn, like a lover left behind.
Once Harry’s instruments spotted the Delta Flyer had penetrated the planet’s ionosphere, he initiated standard ship-to-ship communications protocol. "Voyager to Delta Flyer, report."
"We’re approaching the canyon," the voice of Tom Paris, Harry’s best friend and the Delta Flyer‘s pilot, acknowledged. "Whew! What a view."
"I’m sure it is," the Doctor murmured acidly, too soft for most of the bridge to hear him.
"Put us in a synchronous orbit above their landing coordinates," Janeway commanded.
Harry observed the shuttlecraft’s approach on his monitor. "You’re looking good, Tom. Approaching the landing zone really smooth."
He could hear his friend almost cackle on the other side of the communication link. "A little too smooth there, Harry. I’m practically bored. Are there any good databases you could recommend for me to read?"
Harry stared up from his console, briefly turning pale, hoping that the rest of the bridge staff hadn’t picked up on Tom’s subtle jab. He could see the puzzled looks on Janeway’s and Chakotay’s faces. "I…uh…don’t know what you mean, Tom."
The light laughter on the other side again. "We’ll talk about it when we get back, I…ouch! Damn, that hurt!" Harry almost sniggered out loud, picturing what was no doubt B’Elanna keeping her poorly behaved boyfriend in line.
"Mr. Paris," the captain spoke, stern and with power. "Do try to keep your mind on the mission. Or does Lt. Torres have to exert any more ‘authority’ over you?"
"Uh, no ma’am," he quickly responded. Harry smiled, grateful that it had been Tom, and not him, who had taken the heat for this breach in professionalism. "Voyager, we’re monitoring minimal levels of allergens in the atmosphere from this altitude."
Harry acknowledged from his station. "Doctor, can you confirm?" He waited to hear the EMH’s report, but he heard nothing. Harry looked up from his console, only to see the Doctor staring blankly out into space, his face was almost blissful, like he was enjoying a very private joke.
"The readings, Doctor?" Harry spoke up, hoping to roust him from his trance.
The hologram was jarred loose from his distraction, whatever it was. All eyes on the bridge were upon him. "Um, er, uh, readings…confirmed…of course," he stammered with embarrassment before he collected himself long enough to check the status on the monitor in front of him. "The away team’s physiologies are within acceptable parameters. All life signs stable."
"You’re OK to proceed, Tom," Harry signaled to the Delta Flyer‘s pilot.
"Understood. We’ll contact you again when we reach the site."
Communications ceased at that point, and would resume in a half-hour, when the smaller ship was scheduled to touch down. Of more immediate concern on the bridge at that moment was the Doctor’s peculiar lapse of attention on the bridge. A young man’s fancy for his attractive girlfriend was once thing, everyone seemed to think. But what could cause a computer program to zone out like that?
"If you will excuse me," the Doctor piped in nervously, as he made his way to the turbolift.
Harry and Seven looked at each other in confusion, each not saying a word, but undoubtedly thinking the very same thing. Just what had they just seen here today?
"What were you trying to do?" B’Elanna queried the hologram while they were in Engineering. The Doctor had requested the chief engineer’s help, along with Harry and Seven’s, as soon as she had returned to the ship from her away mission later that same day.
"I’ve been experimenting with introducing new functions into my program. Cognitive projections." He saw the puzzled look on their faces as he explained further. "Daydreaming…I wanted to be able to daydream."
"An inefficient activity," Seven stated, her tone somewhat puzzled. She had believed the Doctor was above such human frailties.
"We all do it now and again, Seven. Why not the Doctor?" Harry added helpfully.
"My point exactly," the Doctor answered, pleased that the ensign understood his needs.
"So what’s the problem?" B’Elanna asked.
The hologram’s face seemed to look almost embarrassed as he went on. "The algorithms are malfunctioning. I’m starting to daydream whether I want to or not."
Torres sighed in disapproval. Didn’t the Doctor learn anything from the last time he tried to modify himself? "They say a doctor who operates on himself has a p’takh for a patient."
Seven came forward with a PADD displaying the Doctor’s programming matrix. "We should begin our analysis here, starting with the date of the first recorded cognitive projection."
Harry smiled at Seven’s reasoning. "Good idea. We can then trace the pathways the new programs have taken and see where it’s impacting the pre-existing matrix."
B’Elanna rolled her eyes. For all her gripes about their new relationship, she had to admit that Harry and Seven still worked well together. She joined the two of them over the engineering station, as the PADD’s data was transferred to the console’s diagnostic routine. Nobody had noticed that the Doctor had wandered away during their analysis.
Harry Kim nodded as he spotted a cluster of knotted programming code on the matrix display. "Here’s the problem. The new algorithms weren’t isolated properly. They’ve branched into his perceptual subroutines. Doc, why don’t we take a closer look at the matrix and…" He looked up to see the Doctor standing at the railing of the warp core, staring into the blue radiance of matter/antimatter reactions as if he were in a trance. "What are you doing?"
"I have to eject the core," the hologram answered without looking back.
"What?" This was more serious than he realized. He had thought the Doctor’s problem was nothing more than some random daydreams popping up at inappropriate times. But now it looked to him that the EMH was now experiencing a full reality breakdown. He rushed over to the Doctor just as he started to climb over the railing.
"Deactivate his program!" Seven bellowed with alarm.
"No, it’ll damage his matrix!" B’Elanna rushed over.
Harry got to the Doctor first and wrestled him away from the radiating pillar of energy. "Don’t try to stop me!" the EMH cried out as he struggled against the young officer’s grip. Seven and B’Elanna had to help pull him away, with the stunned engineering staff looking on.
"Let’s take him to sickbay," Harry offered. Unlike a human patient, there wasn’t likely to be anything there that could treat the Doctor. But at least there he wouldn’t be able to do anything dangerous, like jumping into a warp core.
The holographic doctor ranted and raved as they dragged him out of Engineering. "I have to save the ship… I have to… I have to save the ship."
Harry and Seven were in Holodeck One, watching the scene unfolding around them. The Doctor was wearing the red uniform of a starship captain, armed with a Type III phaser rifle, mowing down fearsome Kazon warriors with nary a thought to his own safety. Meanwhile, holographic representations of Megan and Jenny Delaney were cowering behind him, batting their eyes at their ‘hero.’ It was almost comical to watch, especially with the Doctor’s chest pumped up in exaggerated bravado. Of course, it wasn’t the ‘real’ Doctor, but only the holographic image from his subroutines. The actual EMH was in sickbay, confined by a force field to prevent him from damaging himself, while B’Elanna monitored his program.
"And I thought ‘Captain Proton’ was cornball," Harry observed. "I don’t recommend we ever tell the Delaneys about this."
Seven nodded. "It would seem that the Doctor’s daydreams are primarily focused upon acts of heroism or attention from the crew. Most curious. I understood his need to expand his capabilities, but it was my belief that he desired to do so solely in order to perfect himself. He has never spoken to me before about the need for public recognition."
Harry squirmed uncomfortably by her side. "I…I’m still not sure we should be doing this. I mean, these are his private fantasies. We don’t have the right to be peeping into his mind."
His companion turned to face him. "Surely it is necessary if we are to trace the source of his malfunction. The Doctor’s restoration to full functionality is of primary importance. All other considerations are irrelevant."
"I’m not sure I agree, Seven. I mean, I know I wouldn’t like my personal thoughts to be violated like this. And you certainly weren’t too happy when B’Elanna went through your PADD without asking."
Her eyebrow arched slightly in annoyance, as she recalled the incident from the previous day. "Your point is well taken." Her attention softened as she looked towards her man. "You seemed quite sympathetic to the Doctor’s wish to experience daydreams, Harry. Do you ever daydream?"
The Starfleet officer smirked at his beloved’s question, just as the scene shifted to a gala ballroom, where the EMH was signing opera before an adoring crowd of diminutive alien dignitaries. "I…I daydream once in a while."
"Might I ask the subject of your daydreams?"
She sensed his reluctance to share his dreams. "We are now romantically affiliated. Is it not customary in a relationship to share such private matters?"
"Yes, I guess you’re right. Well, my fantasies aren’t quite as elaborate as the Doctor’s seem to be. Mostly I daydream about Earth."
"Indeed?" She seemed genuinely curious about what he had to say about the subject of his own mind. For all of Seven’s efforts to study Harry, to know what his preferences were, there were numerous aspects of his thoughts and personality that continued to elude her.
"Yeah, I dream about all of the places I miss, and places I never had a chance to visit in person."
Seven looked at him with an almost childlike fascination. "Do you ever daydream about anything else?"
"Sometimes … once in a while, I dream about being a hero, too. Now and then."
She looked at him oddly. "Why do you find it necessary to dream about being a hero, when you have already achieved such status numerous times before?"
"What do you mean?"
"There are several instances on record in which you have directly or through collaborative efforts saved Voyager or the lives of individual crewmembers, thus qualifying you for the status of ‘hero,’ if I understand the definition of the term."
Harry looked uncomfortable at Seven’s analysis. "I…I’m not a hero, Seven. I just did my duty. Lots of other people really deserve the credit for that more than I do."
"That is not correct, Harry. During our encounter with the intelligent warhead, your actions not only saved the ship from destruction, but also prevented a war between two civilizations from re-igniting. Therefore, you would be regarded as a hero by millions of individuals."
The young man’s discomfort level went up another notch. "Seven, I’m not…"
But before he could answer, the holo-scene shifted again. The stark yet familiar walls of Cargo Bay Two had replaced the elaborate reception hall. The only remaining item from the earlier fantasy was the Doctor himself, who now stood in the center of the room, wearing an artist’s smock. He stood behind a sketchpad and an easel, his eyes never leaving the model reclining on the lounge chair before him.
Harry’s blood went cold as he saw the face of the model. It was Seven of Nine. His Seven. Naked, save only a satin sheet draped loosely over her hips.
The real Seven looked on with puzzlement. "Harry, I do not understand. Why would the Doctor wish to see me in this manner?"
But Harry did not answer her. He couldn’t answer her. How do you begin to explain to an innocent like Seven the depths of this kind of…betrayal.
"Harry, I sense an increase in your heart rate and increased muscular tension in your fists and jaw. Does this scene disturb you?"
He wanted to clench his eyes shut, and burn the image away from his mind. But all he could do was stare, stare at the way the Doctor’s eyes lingered over her creamy alabaster skin, her delectable curves, her full rounded breasts…
Seven grew increasingly unnerved, not so much by the recreation of her exposed body, but of the reaction it seemed to be provoking in Harry. Or lack of a reaction, as the case seemed to be. She slapped her combadge. "Seven of Nine to sickbay."
"Go ahead, Seven," Captain Janeway’s voice answered over the intercom.
"I believe you might wish to observe this."
"On my way,"
The fantasy remained active until Janeway and B’Elanna arrived. Their eyes widened in shock at the scantily unclad blond model posing for her artist.
"Hold still, please," the fantasy-Doctor requested.
"Anything you say, Doctor," the faux-Seven replied, just a hint of seductiveness in her voice. It made Harry want to throw up.
Janeway looked over at the easel to see the artist’s rendering. He does the hands well, even if he can’t draw breasts to save his life, she jibed to herself, trying to find some humor in this uncomfortable situation. The look on Harry Kim’s face told her it would be best to keep those thoughts to herself.
Janeway looked at Seven, the real Seven. Surprisingly enough, she didn’t seemed too upset or embarrassed by the situation, which was a lot better than how most women would have handled it. Harry, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter.
"Ensign, it’s just a fantasy," she offered sympathetically. "Try to remember that." Harry’s face was a mask of stony silence. He said nothing.
The scene shifted again. They were now on the bridge, the ship at red alert, most of the crew seeming to be either unconscious or dead. The Doctor was now standing at the captain’s chair, his voice echoed with authority. "Computer, activate the Emergency Command Hologram."
The hologram’s blue medical uniform shifted to command red, with four pips materializing on his collar. "Nice touch," Janeway commented, trying to break the tension generated by the previous fantasy.
But Harry Kim could only see the duplicate image of his Seven, standing off to the side looking at the holographic doctor with awe and admiration. She did everything except flutter her eyes like Constance Trueheart. It was enough to turn his stomach.
"Bring the photonic cannon online," the Doctor commanded.
"Photonic cannon?" Janeway asked. It must be some kind of advanced weapon, no doubt invented by the Doctor.
"In many of his fantasies, he takes command and saves the ship," Seven observed, her voice cool and even.
"Which would mean that particular algorithm is more accessible than the others," the ex-drone continued.
"So if we can isolate it, we might be able to stabilize his program," B’Elanna reasoned.
Just as the scene shifted again, Harry finally spoke up. "Then do it. Shut it all down."
Seven looked at Harry in surprise, the pain in his voice evident. "Harry, such a matter is delicate given the complexity of the Doctor’s matrix. It would be unwise to proceed rapidly until…" Her voice trailed off as she observed the look of astonishment on the faces of Lieutenant Torres and Captain Janeway. This new fantasy was in the mess hall. The Doctor was now holding hands with a holographic B’Elanna Torres. She seemed to be…pleading with the EMH, while he spoke to her with patience and condescension. Quite uncharacteristic behavior for the engineer, Seven noted.
"I want you to be happy, B’Elanna," the Doctor spoke soothingly.
"Without you?!" the distraught doppelganger cried back.
"What?!" the real engineer blurted out. "That does it! Computer, track the previous algorithmic pathway."
"Algorithmic pathway marked" the computer answered.
"I’ve had enough of this! Computer, reroute the marked algorithm into the EMH auxiliary matrix." She turned back to face the others. "That should clear his program for a little while, until we can get at the rest of the fragmented pathways."
The mess hall fantasy began to shimmer away, just as the holographic B’Elanna was about to throw herself at the Doctor’s feet, with a pitiful-looking Tom Paris looking on. Soon, the holodeck was clear, save for the crewmembers remaining.
Nobody knew quite what to say after what they had just witnessed. Except for Harry Kim. He knew exactly what to say.
"Computer, transfer the EMH program to Holodeck One," he growled.
Janeway snapped her head up. "Harry, I don’t think…"
At that moment, the Doctor, the ‘real’ Doctor, materialized before them. The look on his face was one of total confusion and disorientation. Understandable, considering he had spent the last few hours shifting from one fantasy to another in random sequence.
"I…am I still dreaming? What’s happened? The last thing I remember, I was…"
But Harry didn’t let him finish as he stepped forward, his face flushed in rage. "You sick bastard!"
"W-what?" the Doctor stammered in bewilderment, not quite sure if this was real or just another fantasy.
"Harry!" exclaimed the captain.
But he did not hear her over his fury. "How long? How long were you dreaming of getting her naked and vulnerable like that?! Seven trusted you, for god’s sake!"
The Doctor’s eye widened in terror as he began to realize that what was happening to him now was all too real. "You…you saw my daydreams!"
"You mean your twisted sex fantasies? How could you?! She thinks of you like a father, and this is how you think of her?! You goddamn pervert!!! I…"
"That’s enough, ensign!" Janeway’s voice was firm and in command.
The doctor was trembling in shock, unprepared for the full fury of Harry’s anger. "Mr. Kim…it wasn’t…I mean…I never…I…" He looked for support from the others. There was a trace of sympathy on the captain’s face, but B’Elanna gave him only a look of disgust. Seven was completely unreadable.
"Don’t even try to justify yourself," Harry answered the Doctor, his voice without pity.
Janeway turned to Harry in full captain’s mode. "Mr. Kim, go to your quarters. That’s an order."
Harry looked up at his commanding officer. "Are you relieving me of duty, ma’am?"
Her voice softened as she answered him. "No, Harry. I’m just making sure you cool off before you do or say something you’ll regret later."
He took a deep breath as he collected himself. "Yes, ma’am." He turned to the love of his life, who was standing in stunned silence during his rant. "Let’s go, Seven. You don’t have to be here. I’ll make sure he won’t ever hurt you again."
"The Doctor has not injured me, Harry."
"Seven, I know you don’t understand this right now, but believe me, what he did to you was wrong. It’s okay if you don’t feel anything right away, but…"
"Harry, you misunderstand. The Doctor’s fantasy has not damaged me in any way. It is not relevant to me."
She looked over at the nearly paralyzed hologram. "If anything, your anger has caused him the greater damage. I do not understand why you were so aggressive with him."
Now it was Harry’s turn to be stunned. "I don’t believe it! You’re defending him?!" Uncertain of what to say next, he rushed out of the holodeck without looking back.
"Harry?" Seven wanted to go after him, afraid she had caused him emotional pain again. She had feared her lack of understanding of human emotions would do this when she and Harry started their relationship. It had happened before. But Janeway’s firm hand on her shoulder stopped her.
"Let him be, Seven. He’s not angry with you. He just needs some time to assimilate this."
Seven had a look of discomfort on her face as she looked back at the others. "I…I too have much that I need to assimilate. If I am not needed…?"
"I think I can handle the rest from here. You go take care of business," B’Elanna answered back, her cool stare never leaving the humiliated, panic-stricken Doctor.
"Thank you, lieutenant. Captain," Seven turned to look at the individual she had, until now, considered a father figure. "Doctor," she acknowledged coolly as she departed the room, a look of disquiet on her flawless face.
Janeway looked to the half-Klingon engineer. "Keep me informed, lieutenant. And make sure the Doctor is restored to mint condition. No ‘creative alterations,’ understand?" It was a clear warning to Lt. Torres not to let her temper get the better of her duties.
"Yes, ma’am," she grumbled.
After Janeway left, it was just the Doctor and B’Elanna. He looked at her with pleading, pitiful eyes, the same eyes the fantasy-Torres had for the hologram just a short time ago.
"Lieutenant, you must understand I never…" But she held up her hand to cut him off.
"Don’t! Just don’t say anything! I’ve got a lot of your mess to clean up and I don’t want to hear the sound of your voice. You got that?"
He nervously nodded in assent, and watched as the engineer got down to work, deleting the modifications he made to his program.
Maybe I’ll be lucky, he thought with remorse, and she’ll delete me by accident.
Why do I bother to go to my quarters alone when I’m upset? Harry complained to himself. It never cheers me up.
He spent nearly an hour ‘cooling off’ with his clarinet, and not being too successful at it, when there was a chime at the door. His first instinct was to ignore it, but then he considered the possibility it might be Seven. He had left pretty abruptly and might have given her the impression that he was upset with her. That was the last thing he wanted. Once the realization of what the Doctor did to her sank in, she would need him to comfort her.
At least, that’s what he hoped she would come for, and not for the reason that he secretly dreaded.
The door swung open to reveal the lanky figure of his best friend, Tom Paris, instead, leaning casually on the doorway.
"Oh, hey Tom," Harry greeted him without enthusiasm.
The pilot smirked at his friend’s lackluster greeting. "Well, you sound real happy to see me."
"I was hoping you’d be Seven."
"Sorry, wrong blonde. Am I allowed to come in?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure. I’m not confined to quarters or anything. The captain just wanted me to take a breather after what happened today." He looked at Tom nervously as he entered his quarters, hoping he wouldn’t have to repeat what happened in Holodeck One. "You do know what happened, don’t you?"
Tom nodded grimly as he sat down. "Oh yeah. I heard what happened, all right. B’Elanna told me everything."
"Including the part about the Doctor?"
"Especially that," he answered with a sly tone.
Harry looked at his best friend skeptically. "Then this isn’t just a social call, is it?"
"She told me about how you tore into the Doc. I just wanted to check up on you, make sure you were OK."
"Do I look OK?!" A familiar rage crept through his body once again. "How do you think I should look after finding out that the person my girlfriend trusted as a father-figure is some kind of sexual deviant?! God, it was all I could do to keep from strangling him right then and there."
Tom chuckled at the younger man’s outburst. "That wouldn’t have done you much good. The Doctor doesn’t need to breathe, remember? All you would have accomplished is to make yourself look foolish. Besides, having a few fantasies doesn’t make someone a deviant, Har. Hell, if that were a crime, you’d have to lock up nearly all of the men on Voyager. And most of the women too, I’d wager."
"That’s easy for you to say!" Harry responded. "Didn’t B’Elanna tell you anything about the little melodrama she was starring in?"
"Oh, she certainly did, with quite a few colorful metaphors tossed in," Tom answered with a surprising grin, before letting a few laughs escape. "Pretty funny, wouldn’t you say?"
This was too much for Harry. "This is unbelievable! First Seven, now you!" The young officer shook his head in bewilderment. "How can you possibly find it funny that our doctor is lusting after your girlfriend?!"
Tom now seemed even more amused. "Is that what you think? Harry, the Doc doesn’t have the hots for B’Elanna."
"How can you say that? He had her practically on her hands and knees begging for him, while you were sitting in the background, grinning like an idiot!"
Tom chortled at the description of his holographic other. "Yeah, B’Elanna showed me that one, too. Of course, I should get even with the Doctor for that. Honor demands it. But I’d say the humiliation he’s received is revenge enough."
Harry walked away from his friend and paced frantically. "I still can’t believe it doesn’t bother you."
"That’s because it isn’t what you think it is, buddy. The Doc doesn’t want B’Elanna, or any of the other women in those fantasies. What he wants is to be wanted, to make him feel important. It’s the same motivation behind all of those hero fantasies of his. He needs to be somebody."
"And that doesn’t shock you?"
Tom shrugged his shoulders. "What, that the Doc has an ego problem? Hell, I’ve worked alongside the guy for years. If his ego were antimatter, he could power Voyager straight home without refueling. I don’t need to peek into his fantasies to know that."
Harry still looked unconvinced. Seeing his friend’s continued consternation, Tom Paris went on to elaborate.
"Look, Har. How many of those holodeck fantasies did you see before the one with Seven?"
The ops officer shivered noticeably, not wanting to remember. "About twenty or so."
"With lots of fawning women, right?"
Harry nodded morbidly. The funny thing was, before he saw that appalling artist fantasy, he had actually found the Doctor’s daydreams to be quite amusing, in a goofy, pathetic sort of way. Seeing several of his female crewmates in ridiculous damsel-in-distress scenarios had gotten a few chuckles out of him. Looking back, he felt ashamed about that.
"So tell me, Harry. Out of all those fantasies, did you ever once see the Doc actually shagging any of the ladies in question?"
Harry was startled by Tom’s indelicate question. But he thought back on holographic scenes he had witnessed. The one with Seven posing had been the most overtly erotic of the bunch. True, there had been the crowd scene, where an entire room of Chiaran females cried out the Doctor’s name and threw their undergarments at him while he serenaded them with operettas. Lots of grateful women in peril, and quite a few aggressive pursuits, but no outright sexual exploits. Which was why he had wanted B’Elanna to shut the program down as soon as possible. He didn’t know how he would have react if he had actually seen Seven and the Doctor in the act.
"You see, Harry. That’s just not how the Doctor thinks. He isn’t motivated by the same desires that a human being would be. You and I, we have four billion years of evolutionary baggage in our DNA controlling the way we think. It’s how we’re designed. We can’t help ourselves. Take me for instance…back when I was in prison, I used to have entire chorus lines going off in my head. None of that small talk for me, my friend…I’d cut straight to the money shot."
Harry winced at the visuals that were starting to crop up in his subconscious, as if he didn’t have enough sexual imagery crowding his imagination today. "Uh, Tom. Nothing personal, but I really don’t want to know what goes on inside your head."
"And rightly so! What I’m trying to say is that there’s nothing wrong with a little fantasy, now and then. As long as it stays up here," he said as he pointed to his own head. "I guess that’s probably why the ancient Vulcans were so violent. One too many mind melds, I suppose."
"Tom, whatever his motivations, that still doesn’t make it right," Harry urged on.
"Why? Are you telling me that before you and Seven became an item you never dreamed about her…well, you know…?"
Harry Kim flushed with embarrassment at the question. "Tom, I…well, yeah, sort of, for a little while…" Hearing Tom’s question brought up a lot of awkward memories for him, of times when he was a lot less sure of where he stood with Seven.
"And don’t you think there are other guys on this ship, right now, that have fantasies about her as well?"
An exasperated look appeared on Harry’s face. "Tom, I’m not naïve, despite what you might think sometimes. I know Seven’s beautiful and that other men find her attractive. I used to be privy to those conversations, remember?"
Used to be. He had no doubt those conversations still went on in the mess hall among many of the male crewmembers. Only now, they were quick to hush them up whenever he entered the room. Out of the loop, as it were.
"So what is it that’s really bothering you?" his friend asked him. "I know you pretty well, Harry. You never get this upset unless you’re really spooked, and it’s something you can’t handle. You say it’s not jealousy."
"Of course not!" Harry reacted defensively.
Tom noticed how strongly he reacted to his prodding. He didn’t like pushing Harry this hard when he was upset. But he had a feeling that the real reason for his friend’s anger wasn’t going to come out without a lot of digging. "So if you can have fantasies about Seven, and it doesn’t bother you that other men probably are also, then what’s got you so upset about the Doctor?"
"Tom, it’s not the same thing!"
"Why, because he’s a hologram?"
"You think that’s the reason?!" Harry exclaimed. "That I’m outraged at the idea of an artificial intelligence dreaming about my girlfriend? That’s crazy! If I thought he was just a mindless machine I wouldn’t be this upset!"
"So why all the righteous indignation?"
"For god’s sake, Tom! He’s…he’s practically her father. It’s not right for him to think of her…that way. It’s disgusting. Even if he wasn’t imagining any real sex, it’s still wrong."
The brash pilot nodded his head. He knew he was getting closer to the truth now, although he was sure there was more to it than just Harry’s moral outrage. "Har, you’re making it sound like child-molestation or something. The Doctor isn’t her real father. And despite her inexperience, she’s definitely not a child. Otherwise, you’d have a lot more to answer for than he would, Mr. Two Hundred and Ninety Eight Positions."
Despite his agitated state, Harry couldn’t help but grin at Tom’s little quip. "You’re just not going to let go of that, are you?" But he let the moment of levity pass. "Tom, it’s not about biology. I know the Doctor doesn’t even have any. It’s just…it’s just not right."
"Harry, you have to understand that to Seven, the word ‘father’ doesn’t mean the same thing that it does to you. I mean, you remember what it’s like to have a real father, a father that loves and cares for you. To you, a father is something sacred. To Seven, it’s just another word for mentor. An authority figure."
"Isn’t that bad enough? To see her mentor think of her that way?"
"So what? So now she knows that the Doc isn’t perfect. Maybe it’s better for her that way. Personally, I always had more fondness for the people in my life that had a few rough edges about them. They seemed more accessible, more human."
"But I don’t want her to see him that way!" he cried out in desperation.
Tom saw the despondent look in Harry’s eyes, the anxious tone of his voice. He was certain that he was getting closer to the heart of the matter. "What don’t you want her to see?"
"I…I don’t want her to see that…that the Doctor might have feelings for her." He was nearly in tears as he spoke, as if his admission was causing him great pain, which it was, because it was speaking from his deep-seated fear. A fear that had been festering within him ever since his magical relationship with Seven had begun. "Because if she did, she…she might find out that…she has feelings for him."
Uh oh, though Tom, as he regretted where his line of questioning had taken him. He knew now that he might now have to betray a confidence, a revelation that might only make Harry feel worse. "Harry, what makes you think Seven could have feelings for the Doctor?"
Harry looked up at Tom with reddened eyes. "She confides in him, Tom. She’s comfortable with him in a way that I can’t touch. We’ve been together for seven weeks, and despite all of the socializing, the sharing, and the sex, I think she’s still more at ease with the Doctor than with me. It never bothered me before, but that was when I though he was just a father to her. And now…he’s the only other person on the ship that I could see taking Seven away from me."
The young, heartsick ensign looked at his older friend with a grief-stricken expression. "Tom, you probably know the Doc better than anyone. Do you think…does he…?"
Tom Paris looked even more uncomfortable in his seat, not quite certain as to how his friend might take the Doctor’s past confession in light of the mood he was in right now. Lacking words, he allowed an uncomfortable pause to hang over the room. His silence told Harry all he needed to hear.
"My god…it’s true…he does love her." The universe had truly betrayed him today. His worst fear had been realized. No, make that his second worst fear. The worst would be when Seven of Nine came to him and told him their romantic affiliation was over.
"Now, Harry. It was months ago when he confided in me, back when Seven was trying out dating for the first time. You and Seven didn’t seem to be anything more than friends back then, if you recall," the helm officer said in a soothing voice, trying to placate his overwrought friend. "As soon as he saw how Seven felt about you, he gave you both his blessing. He’s been nothing but supportive of your relationship." Tom emphasized Seven’s feelings, to give his friend reason for hope. "That’s got to show that he’s moved on by now."
"He didn’t look ‘moved on’ in that fantasy of his," Harry sighed. "You don’t understand. Seven and I ended up as a couple only by a complete fluke. I mean, if B’Elanna hadn’t made that crack about Seven being a virgin in the mess hall that day, she might still be calling me Ensign Kim to this day. It sure as hell didn’t seem like were destined to be together before that." He paused to catch his breath. "What I mean to say is, if Seven knew she had a choice, would she still have chosen me? Predictable, inefficient, not-a-candidate Ensign Harry Kim."
Tom just couldn’t let that one pass. "What difference does it make how you two ended up together? Hell, it took being near death before B’Elanna and I could admit to how we felt about each other. Who know how it could have turned out otherwise? It’s not important. What matters is that we’re together now, and that we love and deserve each…" Tom looked as his friend in astonishment, as the whole truth now dawned upon him. "That’s it, isn’t it? You don’t think you deserve her, do you?"
The younger man’s face was pallid, as his true feelings came forward. "Deserve her? Tom, she’s…she’s perfect. These last few weeks have been like a dream for me. Every morning I pinch myself, like I can’t believe she’s lying there in bed next to me."
"Harry, did you ever stop to think that maybe the time she’s been with you has been just as wonderful for her as it has been for you?" Tom responded, rolling his eyes at his friend’s obtuseness.
"I…I wish I knew for certain. She’s still such a mystery to me. I told her I’d be patient with her, that I’d help her to understand what it is to feel love. But she still hasn’t said those three words to me yet. And part of me is afraid that she never will. At least, not to me."
Tom couldn’t stand to hear much more of his friend putting himself down like this. "Stop it, Harry. Stop doing this to yourself. Don’t you realize what a great catch you are? How many guys would be so dedicated to a woman’s happiness and fulfillment the way you’ve been for Seven? She’s lucky to have you! And she knows it."
"If only I could be sure of that…" his voice droned, unconvinced, when his heart and his gut told him otherwise.
Tom got up to leave. "You need to talk to Seven about this. Once you see her face, I know you’ll realize how ridiculous you’re being."
"Maybe…" He looked up as his friend headed to the door. "Thanks, Tom."
"Thanks? For what? I can’t see what good I’ve done here."
"Believe me, you have. At least now, I’m…not so angry anymore. There’s just a lot I have to think about, that’s all."
Tom nodded as the door to Harry’s quarters slide open. "Don’t do too much thinking, Harry. That’s usually what gets you into trouble. Just remember what I’m telling you. Seven’s crazy about you, in a Borg sort of way. And you’re crazy if you don’t start to realize that."
As Ensign Paris left his friend’s quarters, he looked back upon his dejected face, wondering just how much of an improvement it was to go from irrationally angry to woefully depressed. Why do I bother to go to his quarters to help when he gets like this, Tom thought to himself. It never cheers him up.
The next morning, Janeway stopped by sickbay to look in on the Doctor. "How’s the patient?"
He sat at his office, his back turned towards her as she stood in the door of his office. His voice was tired, drained. "He’s doing just fine, captain. It took Lt. Torres half the night to stabilize my matrix. I haven’t had a single flight of fancy since." He looked up from his monitor, regretful. "I apologize for altering my program without permission."
"At least there wasn’t any permanent damage."
"I’m afraid there was," he sighed, still too mortified to turn around and face her. "I’ve been exposed, humiliated, turned inside out for all the world to see," The sorrow in his voice was overpowering. "How many of my escapades did you ending up viewing?"
"Enough. I came back during the night while your program was off-line to check on B’Elanna’s progress. I saw a few more of your daydreams…"
That was all he needed to hear! "If I’ve lost your respect…" he pleaded with her.
"That will never happen. Certainly not because we’ve seen a few random fantasies." She paused as she walked over to him. "Including one in particular, where a certain hologram thanked his captain for allowing him the opportunity to live up to his full potential, expand his abilities, and help the people he loves." She smiled sympathetically as she leaned over to continue. "We all daydream, Doctor. It helps us imagine other possibilities in life. Just hold off until we figure out a way to do it without damaging yourself, alright?"
He raised an eyebrow, but his voice lacked its usual sarcastic wit. "I doubt Mr. Kim is feeling as charitable."
"I wouldn’t agonize too much over what Harry said. I suspect he has his own issues to deal with. You just concentrate on getting better. I’m sure that he will forgive you, in time. It seems that Seven already has."
"I wish I could be certain of that. Ensign Kim wasn’t all that far from the truth. I did betray her faith in me." He stood up as he spoke, turning to her. "Captain, I know how much Seven means to you. I just want you to know that I never fantasized about her in…that way." He tried to collect himself, as if steeling himself for something dramatic. "I…I know about the jokes the crew make about me. About the clothes I design for Seven and the way in which I give her instruction. I realize that a lot of people think that I’m some kind of demented Pygmalion. But that’s honestly not how it is. I care a great deal for her. She’s special to me."
"You love her," she finished his thoughts with a knowing grin.
He was startled by her words. "Is it that obvious?"
"To a lot more people than you realize, Doctor."
"Then you must understand my feelings don’t come from anything base or prurient. It’s not what you would call a romantic love. I suppose you could say that my feelings have a fatherly element to them, even though it’s something more as well. I…I can’t really explain it that well."
"Believe me, I understand."
"I’m genuinely happy for her, Captain. I know that she’s learned from me all that she can. What she needs now, only someone like Ensign Kim can provide for her. I really am pleased that of all the young men aboard Voyager, he was the one she chose."
"On that, we’re in complete agreement," the captain approved in delight. "He has a special quality to him, our Harry."
"Indeed, he does. He was one of the first crewmembers to treat me as a sentient being. Whatever acceptance I’ve achieved with the rest of the crew, I’m sure is due to his example. Before this, I even considered him to be a friend. I’d hate to think that I’ve lost that."
Janeway gave him an all-knowing smile as she touched his arm in a friendly gesture. "That’s why I know he’ll forgive you, Doctor. That special quality of his won’t let him stay mad at you forever."
Her regeneration session being completed, Seven of Nine was unsure of where to go next. Ordinarily, when she was confused, she would seek the advice of the Doctor, although lately, since she had begun her relationship with Harry Kim, she turned more to him for comfort. But this time, it was both Harry and the Doctor that were the issue. So she went to consult the one other individual she sought out for guidance.
"Computer, locate Captain Janeway."
"Captain Janeway is in Sickbay."
"Is the Emergency Medical Hologram active at this time?"
While Seven was pleased to hear that the Doctor had been restored, she was also disappointed by the news. She would have preferred to speak to the captain immediately without the Doctor’s presence. She was still uncertain as to how to respond to him after yesterday’s events. She wasn’t displeased with the Doctor for imagining her naked. After all, it was he who had reconstructed her body after being detached from the Collective. Perhaps only Harry Kim came close among those on board who understood her body so completely.
And then there was the matter of Harry himself.
Why had he become so angry? The captain had assured her that he was not upset with her, that he merely required time to assimilate his thoughts. And so she did not contact him, but let him be. But how much time was sufficient? It did not please her to see Harry when he was unhappy. She wasn’t certain as to why that was. Could it be a consequence of their romantic affiliation? And how would she go about making him happy again?
These were questions she had no answer for.
Deciding that it would be best to contact the captain later, she proceeded to the mess hall after performing her routine morning check of the Astrometric sensor arrays. Hopefully, she thought, she would be better able to think once she had ingested the proper nutrients.
Upon her arrival, she noticed Lieutenant Torres and Ensign Paris sitting down for breakfast. While she frequently took her meals with them, it was usually in the company of Harry as well. A quick scan of the room revealed that he was not there.
"Computer, location of Ensign Kim," she inquired of her combadge.
"Ensign Kim is in his quarters, Deck 6, section 10," came the answer.
Seven was disheartened. She had hoped he would be here this morning. She was anxious to know if he was still upset. It was while she was thinking that she looked up to see Ensign Paris signaling for her to come over and join him and his mate at their table. She accepted, thinking that perhaps he might have some insight into the mind of his friend.
"Seven, I’m glad to see you here. Have you been to see Harry yet?" the pilot asked of her as soon as she arrived at their location with her food tray. B’Elanna gave her only a cursory nod. She looked exhausted, no doubt from her labors in repairing the Doctor’s program.
"I have not. He seemed displeased yesterday, and Captain Janeway indicated he would need time to recover from the events in the holodeck. I trust you are aware of them?"
Tom nodded. "I heard from B’Elanna. I also went to see Harry last night."
The former drone’s head perked up at the news. "Is he well? Is it advisable that I go see him?"
"Believe me, Seven. It is very advisable that you go see him. He definitely needs to talk to you and get his head screwed on right."
Her eyes took on a look of alarm. "His head has been damaged?!"
Ensign Paris chortled at Seven’s confusion. "No, he’s just…well, he’s just mistaken about a lot of things, that’s all. He needs you to set him straight."
"To be kept in line?" she asked, thinking about her conversation with Harry the other day. Remembering how happy he had been at that moment. And how pleasing it was to see him smile.
"Yeah, something like that," he grinned at her response.
B’Elanna sat up after drinking her cup of coffee. "Just in case you’re curious, the Doctor’s back up and running."
Seven acknowledged the engineer. "It pleases me to know the Doctor has been restored."
That got B’Elanna’s attention in a hurry. After the humiliation of yesterday, to be pleased for the Doctor?! "I don’t get it. You’re still not ticked off at the Doc for what he did?"
The ex-Borg looked at the Klingon woman oddly. Harry had had a similar reaction to her behavior yesterday. "For what reason should I be upset with him?"
"For crying out loud, Seven. The guy was fantasizing about you naked! Aren’t you angry or embarrassed in the slightest?"
"Because my body was made visible for others to see? Modesty is irrelevant, Lieutenant."
"Yes, but…you don’t feel…anything at all?"
Seven’s voice went somber for just a moment as she spoke. "I must admit, Lieutenant, the experience was somewhat disquieting on some level. I suppose that if I were to describe what I felt, it would be…disappointment."
"Disappointment? In what?"
"I had always felt that the Doctor was above such human weaknesses. Many of the male crewmembers have had similar thoughts about me, and I find it of no consequence. That the Doctor is as flawed as every other individual on Voyager is disheartening."
"How…how do you know other men…think about you in that way?"
"It is clear to me from the level of perspiration on their skin, their heart rates, and the dilation of their pupils. These traits are consistent with sexual arousal and an aroused fantasy state."
"It sounds a lot like the Andorian flu," Tom smirked.
Seven ignored the brash pilot’s commentary. "That and the consistent stares, or more specifically, leers, that are given in my direction. Few of those who fantasize about me are subtle in their behavior. Fortunately, these occurrences have been much less frequent since I began my relationship with Harry."
B’Elanna shook her head in amazement. Men, thought to herself in dismay. She didn’t know how Seven was able to stay so cool about it. The half-Klingon engineer had learned long ago that even in this enlightened age, there were some men out there who would secretly view a woman as nothing more than an appetizing piece of meat. She had suspected quite a few men in her presence of looking at her that way. But to suspect it was one thing. To actually know it the way Seven did…B’Elanna couldn’t imagine how she would handle it if it were her. Probably by taking names and kicking ass left and right.
"You see, babe," Tom smiled next to her. "I told you she wouldn’t be worried about it."
Seven’s smooth face took on a pall of sadness at Tom’s words. "It is unfortunate that Harry cannot be as easily detached. It does not please me to see him saddened as he was yesterday." She then looked up at the man sitting across from her. "Ensign Paris, how would you objectively evaluate Harry, as an individual?"
"Objectively?" Tom looked puzzled as he tried to think of what it was Seven wanted to know. "Well, I…Harry’s a great guy. He’s really smart, probably one of the smartest people I know. He’s also one of the most loyal."
B’Elanna nodded in agreement. "He’d do anything for the people he cares about. He gives without a thought for himself."
"Yeah, that’s for sure," Tom added with a smile. "You couldn’t ask for a better friend or shipmate." He then added with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, "Of course, I’m a whole lot better looking."
"I disagree," Seven responded, looking straight at the cocky pilot and watching the bravado melt away. Realizing that her comment could be misinterpreted as an insult rather than a declaration of Harry’s attractiveness, she quickly added a qualifier that the Doctor had taught to her. "No offense intended, Ensign."
"None taken," he answered, still looking a bit nonplussed. "I can understand you being a bit biased on the subject. What’s with all the questions about Harry, though?"
"I want to be certain I understand the cause of Harry’s sorrow before I speak with him. I do not wish to perturb him further as I did yesterday." She looked at Tom more intently. "Did he provide for you a reason as to his outburst yesterday?"
"Uh, Seven…I really think you need to talk to Harry about this."
"I intend to, but I must have knowledge beforehand, so that I do not make any errors. You must tell me."
Tom grudgingly relayed to Seven an abbreviated version of his conversation with Harry, particularly the revelation about his feelings of inadequacy and fears of her preference for the Doctor. The look on Seven’s face, not to mention B’Elanna’s, was one of complete amazement, a rare enough sight on the normally unflappable former-drone.
"Harry believes I would prefer the Doctor as a mate over him? His reasoning is entirely illogical. Why would he conclude such a thing?"
"I don’t know, Seven. Sometimes, when you’re head over heels in love, you can act like a real idiot."
"Tell me about it," B’Elanna chimed in next to him as she gave Tom a knowing look.
"What is this, ‘Pick on Tom Paris Day?’" he looked around, wondering where the line formed for people waiting their turn to insult him.
"I do not believe that Harry is in any way mentally defective," Seven added. "There must a more logical reason why he would come to such a conclusion."
"Well, the truth is, Seven, that Harry doesn’t believe he’s good enough for you," Tom conceded.
Now B’Elanna was the one who was startled. "What? That’s absolutely crazy! If anything, it’s Seven that isn’t good enough for Harry!" She then turned to the statuesque blond and gave her a smug look of satisfaction. "No offense intended." It was as if she were saying subtly ‘there, that’ll teach you to insult my man!’
"None taken," Seven responded with her voice cool and even.
"I know, I told him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, but he’s convinced himself that given a choice, you’d pick the Doctor over him," Tom responded.
"But I have no romantic feelings for the Doctor. He is my mentor and friend, nothing more." A noticeable strain began to appear in her voice. "How is it that Harry could come to believe that I would find him unacceptable?"
B’Elanna leaned in, her own voice taking on a hostile tone. "I don’t know, Seven. Maybe it had something to with the fact that for two years you treated him like crap!" Weeks of having to hold her tongue for Harry’s benefit were now finally coming to light.
Seven jerked her head back in surprise. "That is not correct. Harry was always my colleague and friend," she responded defensively.
"A colleague, maybe. But you were never a friend to him. For two years, he bent over backwards to make you feel welcome aboard this ship. He stood by you, defended you, admired and respected you. And you gave him nothing in return except contemptuous glances and put downs."
"I was always appreciative of his assistance and his generosity," Seven answered with indignation.
"Were you, now?" B’Elanna’s voice dripped with venom. "Did you ever say ‘thank you’ to him or tell him you thought of him as a friend?" The engineer looked the woman over with scorn. "Not once, I’d imagine. All he would have wanted in return was just an acknowledgement, a gesture in return. But you gave him nothing but pain."
Seven’s face began to look somewhat regretful, as she responded in a sorrowful tone. "It is true, I did not fully appreciate the nature of Harry’s decency at that time. But it is not entirely as you say. The Doctor…"
"The Doctor!" B’Elanna muttered in scorn. "You preferred hanging around the Doctor because you thought he was free of all of those human weaknesses that you saw in Harry. You thought he was safe! Perfect! Well, missy, weren’t you surprised to find out yesterday who turned out to be the better man?!"
"It…it is not true. I always regarded Harry well," she spoke weakly, trying to convince the dark-haired woman across from her that her statements were incorrect. And trying to convince herself as well.
"Oh, but the coup-de-Gras was the way you treated him when you wanted to experience dating for the first time…"
"B’Elanna!" Tom spoke up, after wisely staying on the sidelines during his beloved’s tirade against Seven.
"I told you all of that in confidence! Harry swore me to secrecy."
"Bullshit, Tom! She ought to hear what effect her words have on people." The engineer then turned her cold eye back towards Seven. "’Not a candidate!’ My god, how could you have said that to him?"
"I explained to Harry my reasons for not choosing him for my first date. He accepted and understood my logic for doing so."
"Oh sure, months later! But at the time, all you could be bothered to tell him was that he ‘wasn’t a candidate.’ You might as well have ripped out his heart. Or told him right then and there that he wasn’t good enough for you. And yet he still was able to suck it up and help you pick a date that evening. Did you have any idea how much he was aching inside the whole time?!"
The ex-drone went silent for a moment. "No," she whispered finally. "I did not."
"Oh no, of course you didn’t. It took you having to get laid before you could finally see the decent man that he is!"
Seven was stunned, almost to the point of shivering. "None of this is relevant any longer. I am…I am his mate, now."
But B’Elanna’s voice was without pity. "Two years of getting kicked in the head have a way of sticking with you. Right now, Harry’s convinced himself that he’s more lucky than good. And what he saw on the holodeck yesterday was the bill for seven weeks of good luck finally coming due. Is it any wonder he freaked out? "
"Some of what you say may have merit. But you are incorrect to imply that I do not care about Harry’s feelings. His happiness is of great relevance to me."
B’Elanna rolled her eyes. "Oh come on! Can’t you even bring yourself to say that you love him?"
"I…I am still attempting to comprehend the emotion of love. Harry accepts this and he…"
"What’s there to understand?! God, why does everything have to be a research project with you?! Sometimes you can just feel something without having to understand it!" B’Elanna threw her arms up in the air in frustration, wildly agitated at this point. "For thousands of years nobody understood how gravity worked, but people still knew it was a bad idea to jump off a cliff!"
"Exactly!" Tom Paris added. "Look at me and B’Elanna. I love her to death, but I’ll be damned if I can understand why!"
The Klingon woman gave her lover a dirty look. "Don’t try to help me, chucklehead!" Turning back to Seven, she almost snorted in disgust. "His mate! What Harry needs is a woman who will return his love, not someone who spreads her legs on schedule!"
Seven couldn’t have looked more shocked if B’Elanna had slapped her in face.
"Look, babe," Tom interjected. "In all fairness to Seven, I think this issue with Harry goes back way farther than her. Ever since we got stuck out here, he’s always been reluctant to speak up for himself. Even when he came to realize that he wasn’t a green little ensign anymore, he’s never wanted to be the center of attention."
"Well, I won’t argue with you on that one," B’Elanna accepted after some thought. "Hell, the guy’s head of Operations. And he’s still an ensign! If I were him, I’d have burst into Janeway’s office and demanded a promotion by now. But not Harry. He’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team, but never to take appreciation for his own part. Sometimes I think he’s just too nice a guy."
"He does not wish to be seen as a hero," Seven added, remembering her conversation with him in the holodeck, just before everything went wrong. She was now more confused than ever. "I have frequently observed how he instinctively views himself in the most minimal light possible, as if he does not regard his accomplishments as relevant."
"What do you mean?" Tom asked, genuinely curious about how an ex-drone might see these things.
"When Marika was aboard Voyager," she stated. Tom and B’Elanna were silent, unsure as to how to relate to that. It had been nearly three weeks since her funeral, and there were few among the crew who were not impacted by her presence in one form or another. Death was no stranger to them, they had lost so many friends already in the course of their journey home. But death, when it did come, was usually quick and unexpected. What many of Voyager‘s crew found so disquieting about Marika, Tom and B’Elanna included, was the idea of knowing that your death was coming, roughly when it was going to happen, and being unable to anything about it except plan for the time you have left. It was a disturbing thought to say the least.
"When she first came aboard, Marika wanted nothing to do with me," Seven continued. "It was Harry who encouraged me to befriend her and make her comfortable. As much as I wished to avoid facing her and confronting the damage that I caused to her, he helped me to realize that I already had a connection to her. And that it was necessary for me to make peace with her in order for both of us to feel complete." The young blonde woman paused, as if the memories of her fellow drone caused an emotional upsurge within her. Regaining control, she went on, saddened. "I would like to believe that her final days before her death were pleasant ones."
"They were," Tom answered her with sympathy. "I saw the look on her face that night at Sandrine’s. She was happy, honestly happy."
Seven looked up at the ensign’s face, touched by the comfort she saw there. "When Marika was first severed from the others, she was pleased at becoming an individual again. But the knowledge that her life would soon end and that I had been the ultimate cause of her premature demise mitigated her pleasure. She was embittered and saddened at the thought of knowing her death would come just as she achieved what she had long sought for."
"I remember that," B’Elanna added solemnly. "Nobody knew what to say to console her. Just knowing all of that…it made people feel so powerless. Is it any wonder nobody wanted to talk to her at first?"
"Precisely," Seven added. "Captain Janeway and Mr. Neelix attempted to offer her companionship, but she was not receptive. Harry surmised that what she needed was…me."
"You?" the Klingon woman asked in amazement.
"Correct. Harry was of the belief that Marika wanted to forgive me just as much I desired to be forgiven. And he was correct." Seven’s voice became deeper, throaty, a sign that she was deeply affected by her own reminiscence. "When I was with her just prior to her death…when she forgave me, it was…it was as if all guilt and hostility had become irrelevant. Marika had finally become at peace. As had I."
Tom shook his head, suitably impressed not only by Harry’s insight, but also by the moving admission from Seven, the last person he would have expected it from. "Maybe Harry ought to consider taking turns with Neelix as Morale Officer. That is, when his own morale isn’t flagging."
"Then you can see the comfort that Harry offered to me as an example of his extraordinary nature. Yet when asked to recall his feelings about time the drones were aboard this vessel, the only thing present to him was what he considers to be his failure."
"Failure?" B’Elanna was puzzled. "How did he fail? Did he expect to come up with a way to save Marika’s life?"
"No," Seven answered her squarely. "He blames himself for not being there with me when I was forced to decide whether or not the drones should be returned to the Collective or severed from each other."
"Because of that stupid fight," Tom groaned. He blamed himself for dragging his friend into trouble and getting them both confined to quarters.
"As he sees it, he was not able to support me, thereby failing in his duties as my romantic partner. I have explained to him that his concerns are not relevant, that his presence would not have altered the outcome of the events as they transpired. Yet he continues to minimize the importance of what he was able to achieve, thinking only of what he could not do." Seven shook her head, more confused than ever. "Since we began our affiliation, I have studied Harry in great detail, in order to better anticipate and adapt to his personality. Yet for all the time that we have been together, there is much about him that I still find inexplicable. You have both made a number of observations regarding Harry’s nature, observations with which I can concur.
"I ask you then, how is it that an individual who so readily recognizes the excellence in others can fail to acknowledge it within himself?"
Both Tom and B’Elanna looked at Seven with amazement. Who would have thought that the blonde Borg, who had long regarded human feelings as irrelevant, could turn out to be so right on the money about their friend? Perhaps she cared about him more than B’Elanna gave her credit for.
"Maybe that’s something you should ask Harry. Right now," Tom answered her with an impressed smile.
"I think you just recognized something that Harry himself needs to be reminded of."
"I most certainly will." Seven got up to leave, but not before turning to B’Elanna and surprising her.
"And… thank you, Lieutenant."
The darker woman was stunned into silence. In all of the time that Seven of Nine had been aboard Voyager, she had never once thanked her for anything. And now she was thanking her for…for what? "Uh, Seven, what exactly are you thanking me for?"
"For your candor, Lieutenant Torres," the young woman answered, directly yet showing a hint of vulnerability. "Your words regarding my relationship with Harry, they were not pleasing to hear. But I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard them."
Harry Kim sat in his quarters, trying to make sense of what came up for him in his conversation with Tom. All night he had tossed restlessly in his bed, trying to make sense of what his relationship with Seven was all about. He was starting to get sick of the sight of his room. His first impulse was to call his beloved, open up his heart and tell her what he was really feeling and get these stupid games out of the way. Only he hadn’t a clue what to say.
He loved Seven, there was no question about that. But how did she feel about him? It was difficult to explain. It wasn’t love, yet. He knew that much. But how could he describe it? Affection, lust, friendship? All of the above? Or none?
Why did he have to be so deeply in love with a woman who was so hard to fathom?
A chime at the door interrupted his thoughts. Was it Tom, coming to lift him out of his funk again? Possibly B’Elanna pinch-hitting for Tom. Or maybe even the captain? He hoped it wasn’t the Doctor. He wasn’t sure what his feelings were about the hologram, even though his rage had calmed.
"Harry, I request entry. May I come in?" came the beautiful, deep voice of Seven of Nine.
He quickly shot up from his bed, and rushed to the door. Well Harry, he thought to himself, you’d better have your thoughts in order ’cause now you’re gonna have to express them.
Seven entered his quarters, looking somewhat uncomfortable herself. Despite her normally cool Borg exterior, Harry had learned to recognize when she was feeling less than secure. Understandable, he thought, considering how out of control he was yesterday.
"Hey, Seven, I…I’m glad you’re here."
She acknowledged him, seeming to be at a similar loss for words. "You are feeling better this morning, I presume?"
"Oh yes, I…I had some time to think about things."
"Yes, I am sure you did. Yesterday, I was concerned that I had caused you displeasure."
Harry saw the hurt in her eyes and took her hands into his own, pulling her down to sit beside him on his bed. "Oh no, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m so…" he tried to speak, almost choking on his words. "I never meant to hurt you yesterday. Please believe that."
Her cool gaze softened, and Harry’s heart melted. "I know that you would never cause me harm, Harry. It is not in your nature." She continued to look deeply at him with her bright blue eyes. "But I was confused by your anger at the Doctor. That is not in your nature, either."
"I know. I suppose I should explain."
"If I may," she offered. "You were angry at the Doctor because you believed his fantasies about me would cause me damage, and you then became upset when you realized that I was not affected in the manner you expected." She looked at him sympathetically. "Is my analysis correct?"
The young officer shifted uncomfortably on the bed. "Partially. I mean, I was a little…jealous…at first. But then, when I saw the way he was looking at your double, I became…I was scared, Seven."
The blond woman smiled at him, acknowledging his concerns. "You feared that the Doctor had affections for me, and that I might share his feelings."
Harry sat upright on the bend, stunned that Seven saw right through to his deepest fear. He knew she could be insightful, but to know that much… "How…how did you know?"
"I conversed with Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres at breakfast prior to visiting you. They informed me of your conversation last night."
He shook his head in disapproval, feeling hurt by the revelation. "Tom had no right. It was a private…"
"He did not wish to betray any confidences, but I insisted. I wished to be certain that I was not the cause of your unhappiness."
"Oh, Seven," he stroked her hand as he held it, letting her know through touch just how much she meant to him. "I told you before, you didn’t do anything wrong."
She lowered her eyes away from him, almost as if she looked ashamed to face him, which was definitely unexpected behavior from her. "That is not entirely correct, Harry."
"What do you mean?"
Seven looked back up at him, answering his question with one of her own. "Harry, is it true that you do not feel you are worthy to be my mate?"
"I…" She couldn’t have stunned him more if she had used a phaser on him. Damn, Tom! Why did he have to tell Seven everything? Even though his friend had his best interests at heart, there were some things he just wasn’t prepared to be 100% honest about right now. Which was probably why he needed to talk to her about them.
"Harry," she implored him. "I must know. Do you honestly believe this to be so? That the Doctor is a better mate for me than you are?"
"Seven, I…" he stammered. "Sometimes, I…oh, god!" His breathing had grown heavy, labored. He felt like a panic attack was coming on. Was this how it was going to end for him and Seven? After seven weeks in paradise, was he about to come crashing down to earth?
Cautious, uncertain as to how she should proceed, Seven placed her hand on his chest, feeling his beating heart. "Do not be afraid, Harry. You may be honest with me. Did you not once say that it was important that we feel we can speak freely to one another? Please speak so with me."
He looked at her, his body trembling, his eyes weary and tired. "Seven…you’re just so…so perfect. And I’m so…so…ordinary."
The former drone looked at him straight on and spoke to him, stern, yet with affection. "You are not ordinary, Harry Kim. You are extraordinary."
"No, I’m not…"
"Incorrect. For two years, one month, and eleven days, you showed friendship and consideration to a Borg drone, even though I did nothing to return your beneficence and compassion."
"What? That isn’t true! Did B’Elanna tell you that?" his voiced raised in displeasure, afraid that his friend might have let her disapproval of their relationship color her advice.
"She relayed to me her observations, which were not entirely without value. I was not kind to you as a friend. I took your friendship for granted, presuming that your behavior would always be constant. It did not occur to me until I came to know you better that such commitment to another’s happiness is extraordinary in and of itself." She looked at him with sad, regretful eyes. "For that, I am sorry."
"Seven, no…" he pleaded with her. "You always were a good friend to me, in your own way. Believe me, I understood how difficult it was for you to express yourself…" He tried to reassure her as he spoke, realizing how things had just turned around in their conversation. "None of that matters now, anyway."
"It does matter if it led you to believe you were undeserving of my companionship. I did not intend that."
Her hands rested now on his leg, but to comfort, not to stimulate. "Perhaps the significance of friendship is similar to our earlier discussions of pet names. I recognize now that a friendship, like a romantic affiliation, must be continuously maintained and reciprocated, otherwise it will atrophy and cease to be. Such was nearly the case with us. But know that I always valued your friendship, even when I spoke harshly to you."
"I know that, Seven…I never took it personally."
"There is something else that I never informed you of. I did not consider it to be significant prior to this point, but now I realize its importance. When Voyager first found the Dauntless, and it appeared the vessel would be returning to the Alpha Quadrant, you will recall I did not wish to go back with the rest of the crew."
"I remember that," he stated, reminiscing about the deception that the vengeful alien Arturis had perpetrated against Voyager. They had failed to get home that time, but they at least managed to learn the secrets of the Quantum Slipstream drive, even if they never entirely mastered the technology.
"Indeed. I recall the words you spoke to me the day I decided to depart. You told me that I would be missed, were I to leave. No person had ever said anything so…pleasing to me before. Your words…they affected me."
"I know," the young man beamed at her fondly. "It was the first time I ever saw you smile. It’s a moment I’ll always treasure."
Just talking about her smile that way caused her to flush with happiness. "Even then, I knew that you were a special individual, Harry Kim. I…I should have sought a closer affiliation with you, had I understood my feelings at the time. But there was something about you that I found to be…disquieting. I could not explain it. It was a not entirely comfortable sensation. Rather than exploring the matter further, I…I chose instead to distance myself from you."
Harry was nearly dizzy with amazement. If he was hearing Seven correctly, she was admitting that she had been attracted to him even back then, but was too inexperienced with human emotion to recognize what she was feeling. "That’s when you started to spend more time with the Doctor, didn’t you?"
"Yes, he was comfortable to me. He was a technological being, such as myself, who despite his efforts to instruct me in the ways of humanity, was still struggling to understand them himself. And there was never any ambiguity in our communication."
"Is that why you and he were always so close? He wasn’t threatening to you?"
Seven nodded her head in assent. "After the confusion of interacting with you, I found his company to be refreshing and efficient. But I realize now, Harry…it was more than that. I chose the Doctor’s companionship because in many ways, he was your exact opposite."
"Opposites? Me and the Doc?"
"Yes. The Doctor is accused by many of having an inflated sense of himself, what I believe is called ‘ego.’ Yet that ego is a mask for the reality of his existence, the fact that he posses no social standing within your society. He is a legal non-entity who projects himself to be more important than who he actually is. As you yourself have stated, all that he has accomplished on this ship has been essentially at the sufferance of Captain Janeway. Had circumstances been different, he might never have grown to become what he is today."
Harry couldn’t argue with Seven’s logic about the hologram. After all, it had been Kes, an outsider to Federation society, who had been the Doctor’s first advocate. Before that, there had been serious talk about editing the EMH’s personality matrix, which many found at first to be pompous and rude. Harry had to admit that the Doc had made progress since those early days. Nowadays he was usually just pompous.
"You, on the other hand, are the exact opposite," Seven continued with her observation. "You are a Starfleet officer, first in your class at the Academy. You represent the elite of your society, what all others hope to aspire to. You posses the character traits which all your fellow humans hold in high esteem. Yet despite this exceptional legacy, you are entirely lacking in ego, and a belief in your own greatness. You validate your existence through service and bringing comfort to others. As you can see, I can not envision two more disparate individuals. Yet despite this, the two of you have managed a mutual respect for one another. One might even say your relationship is one of friendship.
"Or at least, it used to be," she concluded, her voice tinged with sadness.
Harry tried to respond to her analysis of his relationship to the Doctor. "Seven, I…it’s true. I’ve always liked the Doc, in a way. I mean, he seemed so quick-witted, so sure of himself. In spite of him being a hologram, I used to envy that about him."
"I too found his ease of communication to be compelling. That is why I found his instructions to be of great value to me. He was a product of humanity, yet at the same time he was untainted by human flaws." She then went quiet before continuing. "At least, that is what I used to believe."
At that moment, Harry realized what Seven of Nine was truly feeling. The Doctor’s fantasy did not cause her to feel violated, angry, or betrayed. Instead, it forced her to confront the fact that her mentor and father figure wasn’t perfect after all. Deep down, for all of his bravado, clever repartee, and smugness, he was just a man. Or as close as a hologram could come to being one.
Harry stroked her Borg-enhanced hand in compassion. "I think I understand now, Seven. I couldn’t see it before, but now I do."
"Yes," he answered, thinking back to his own childhood. "When I was eight years old, my grandma passed away. I missed her a lot, but my father was there to comfort me. It felt good knowing he was so strong, that he knew how to make everything all right. But then, after the funeral, I wandered into the living room after they thought I went to sleep. And I saw my mom and dad sitting there…and he was crying."
Seven looked at the young man across from her, looking puzzled. "I do not understand the significance, Harry. Is it not customary for humans to grieve the loss of a parent?"
"Yeah, I know. But, Seven…he was my dad! I mean, he wasn’t supposed to cry. He was supposed to be strong, to know everything, to be…"
"Perfect," she completed his thought. "You required him to be perfect."
"Exactly!" he responded enthusiastically. "At first, I was pretty freaked out about it, but then I realized it didn’t matter if my dad wasn’t perfect. He was still my dad. And I still loved him. Even if he was…only human."
"Incredible. I did not think that human children sought perfection as I do." A look of comprehension spread across Seven’s delicate features. "Then I need not be troubled by the fact that the Doctor is imperfect?"
"Seven, I’ve got news for you," he grinned at her. "The Doctor never was perfect. Any more than the Borg are."
"I realize that, now. Perhaps at one time, I needed the Doctor to be perfect, just as I once needed the Collective to be as well, but not any longer. I believe I have found perfection elsewhere."
Harry looked uncomfortable as she looked at him, her smile wide and thin. "Seven, believe me, I’m not perfect either."
"I am aware of that, Harry. You are extraordinary, yes, but not perfect, anymore than I am. However, perhaps where we individually fall short of perfection, we may succeed…together." She then smiled at him, a seductive twinkle in her eye.
"What do you have in mind?"
"When we first began our romantic affiliation, I commented on how I would benefit from having your presence in my life. I see now that you too could benefit greatly from my own existence."
"Believe me, I’ve already benefited from you, Seven," he grinned mischievously.
"That is not what I mean, Harry, although you are not entirely incorrect," she answered him, playfully. "I refer to the fact that you do not recognize your special qualities. You require a greater confidence in your own excellence if you are to move closer to perfection. I wish to assist you in this, while you can aid me in my understanding of humanity."
"Seven, I…" his voice trailed off, hesitant. "I know what you’re talking about. I mean, I know that sometimes I play the ‘good little officer’ a bit too much. Even when I realize that I have experience, I’m reluctant to speak up, sometimes. It’s just the way I was raised, I guess. I just…I want people to like me. I don’t want them thinking I’m arrogant."
"People already are fond of you, Harry. As for arrogance, that is not relevant. It is my observation that arrogance is only confidence that fails to be tempered by generosity and compassion, traits which you already posses in abundance." She then became introspective as she thought about her own place aboard Voyager. "I realize that many in the crew regard me as arrogant. I too would gain much from mastering a greater balance between those elements."
She then focused her full attention on her man. A look of pure lust aimed right at him. "I am still in need of a friend…as well as a romantic partner. Just so that there is no uncertainty, I choose you for both."
Harry Kim shook his head in bewilderment, as he could now see how much this remarkable woman truly cared for him. "Seven, I…how could I have been so wrong? I feel like such an idiot."
"That is to be expected. Ensign Paris informed me that idiocy is often a common side effect of romantic affection. I suppose I will simply have to adapt," she teased him, her mouth widening into a smile.
"I…I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more than I do right now." He moved closer to her, their thighs touching, as he wrapped his arms around her.
Seven of Nine thought about her answer. It would be so easy just to say the words ‘I love you’ to Harry. But there was still so much she did not understand! And it was not in her nature to proceed into new areas without a full understanding of what lay ahead. She knew that she felt strong emotions for Harry. She was stimulated by his body and enticed by his decency. She found herself comforted when he was near and it pleased her when he was happy. She wanted to know him, study him, and understand everything about him. Was this love? Quite possibly it was. But until she knew for certain what love truly was, she couldn’t just come out and say that she felt it. No doubt Lieutenant Torres would disapprove of her decision, but then Seven never sought the surly engineer’s approval on things in the first place.
So she gave Harry the best answer she could give. "One day, Harry, I hope to say the same to you." And with that she leaned in to press her lips against his.
It was enough for Harry. They felt back against the bed as they snuggled their bodies together. Even if she couldn’t say the words, he knew there was more than one way to tell someone you loved them.
After what seemed like a pleasant eternity, Seven slowly broke the kiss, feeling a heady rush as her crystal blue eyes remained focused on his. She looked askance at her companion, contentment on her fine features.
"I take it that you are no longer discontented?"
"Definitely not," he answered with a satisfied grin, as he stroked her hair.
"Then you are prepared to resume your previous relationship with the Doctor?"
Harry shivered at the mention of the hologram. "I…I’m not sure…I don’t know, Seven." He might not be jealous of the EMH anymore, but he wasn’t quite sure he was entirely past what he saw as a betrayal of trust on his part. He could understand the sin, but could he forgive the sinner?
Seven looked at him sadly, and was about to offer a comment when the ship’s intercom interrupted her. "Attention, all Senior Staff," Tuvok’s officious voice announced. "Report immediately to the briefing room."
A puzzled Harry Kim looked at his girlfriend. "Did anything happen on the bridge this morning?" he inquired.
"Not to my knowledge," she answered him. "There was nothing of relevance on the Astrometric sensors either."
He slapped his badge, wondering what was going on. "Kim to Paris," he called out to the com channel.
"Paris, here. You feeling better this morning, buddy? I presume you have company right now?."
"Yes, I do and I’m feeling much better. I heard Tuvok’s hail. What’s the story with the briefing?"
"Believe me, you’ve got to hear the whole story in order to believe it. You think you’re up to working with the Doc again?"
Harry felt a chill go through him. "What do you mean? Do I have to?"
"You just might, Har. According to the Doctor, the ship’s about to come under attack."
Harry Kim sat in the briefing room, listening to Tuvok give his tactical report regarding Voyager‘s upcoming encounter with this new alien threat. The entire senior staff was there, including the Doctor. It seemed that while he and Seven were having their heart-to-heart, the Doctor had been ‘contacted’ by a member of a race known as "The Hierarchy," which apparently controlled this sector of space. The alien was a sensor operator aboard a nearby cloaked vessel that monitored passing ships as likely targets for supply raids. As it turned out, while scanning Voyager, the hapless being had tapped into the EMH’s daydream program, believing the hologram’s fantasies, especially the ones about his taking command of the ship, to be authentic. In fact, it was this very surveillance that resulted in the malfunction to the Doctor’s matrix. Now that they were interested in Voyager, an attack force of three Hierarchy vessels was on its way to confront and board them.
It was then that the alien snoop established contact with the Doctor. Realizing his error, the sensor operator knew that his misinterpretation of data would result in the loss of his position. Harry figured that unemployment in the Hierarchy was a pretty dismal fate if this poor schnook was willing to place his life in the hands of unknown aliens. But he had offered the Doctor a bargain: the proper sensor modulation for his people’s cloaking technology up front and later, the phaser frequencies for their ships’ weapons. In return, Voyager had to maintain the fiction that he reported to his superiors. More specifically, that Captain Janeway was out of commission and that the ‘Emergency Command Hologram’ was now in charge of the vessel.
Needless to say, the prospect of trusting this person, not to mention turning the ship over to the Doctor, was considered a risky proposition. Hence the briefing, and a search for alternatives.
The young officer listened patiently to Tuvok’s analysis of the hostile ships’ capabilities. He was hearing every word, but every so often his eyes would drift over to the individual sitting at the corner of the table. The Doctor was fidgeting nervously, anxious at the thought of the role he would have to play in his contact’s plan. But the only thing Harry could see when he looked at him was the image of an artist leering at his lovely nude model. It burned at his insides. The jealousy and fear were gone now, but as much as he wanted them to go away, the hurt and resentment were still there.
After Tuvok concluded his report on the Hierarchy’s offensive capabilities, Janeway nodded sagely and turned to the blonde ex-Borg sitting at Harry’s side. "Seven, is there anything you care to add, based upon any experiences the Collective might have had with this race?"
"I have no direct information to offer, Captain," she responded. "The Borg have designated them Species 7662, even though none of their kind have ever been assimilated directly. What knowledge exists in the collective memory was acquired through the second-hand experiences of other assimilated races. I can only state that they have been classified as a low-priority for assimilation, due to their technological inferiority and lack of desirable characteristics."
"What if we just gave them a warp plasma conduit or two?" Tom Paris interjected. "If it’s technology they’re after, they might be happy with that and leave us alone."
"That wouldn’t be a good idea," the Doctor answered him. "According to my contact, the Hierarchy’s boarding teams are extremely thorough. They’ll strip Voyager of every piece of vital technology and fuel they can get their hands on. We’d be lucky if they left us the shirts off our backs."
Janeway turned to her tactical officer, looking gravely serious. "Bottom line, Tuvok. Can we take them on in a fight?"
The Vulcan officer’s face looked even more impassive than usual. "Highly doubtful, Captain. While we are more than a match against a single Hierarchy warship, it is unlikely that we could sustain ourselves for long against three such vessels. And there is always the risk of additional reinforcements arriving on the scene."
Chakotay nodded sagely in agreement. "It’s an old military maxim. Quantity has a quality all of its own."
"Then we have no choice. We’ll have to go along with the alien’s plan and pray its not some elaborate double-cross," Janeway spoke without any great enthusiasm.
"Captain," Tuvok offered, "I concur that the idea of placing the ship’s safety into the hands of an alien with whom we are not acquainted is unappealing. Yet I believe this may be the only logical course of action given the circumstances."
"Go on," she answered, never having cause to doubt the advice of her friend before.
"From what I have been able to surmise from the information the Doctor has provided, I do not believe we are dealing with a species that places a high value on aggression or military virtues. My analysis of their ‘Type III Assault’ shows that it relies heavily on their cloaking technology and a display of overwhelming force, as opposed to any tactical considerations. In many ways, the Hierarchy appear to carry out their strategic operations in a similar fashion to that of Ferengi Marauders."
"In other words, they’re cowards," B’Elanna summed up, not exactly hiding her dislike of any race comparable to the loathsome merchant species of the Alpha Quadrant.
"I believe the term ‘risk-averse’ would be more accurate," Tuvok corrected her. "The Hierarchy seem to conduct their raids with a cost-to-benefit ratio in mind. The Doctor’s personal observations of his contact would appear to confirm these suppositions. If this alien can provide his people’s phaser resonance frequencies as he claimed, then it would considerably reduce their offensive advantage over us."
"Not enough for us to beat three ships single-handed," Chakotay countered. "They’d just keep pounding away at us until our shields weakened."
"Indeed, but it might be enough for us to demonstrate our ability to inflict heavy casualties against any attack force dispatched against us. With our ability to adapt our shields to their phasers, combined with our neutralization of their cloaking field, the Hierarchy would have no choice but to engage in a protracted battle in order to subdue us. Such a conflict brings the risk of heavy losses, and quite possibly the destruction of at least one of their vessels. "
"In other words, our opponents may not have the stomach for anything less than easy pickings," Janeway concluded.
"Precisely. Of course, you understand that such an analysis is based purely upon speculation."
"Nevertheless, it’s the one ray of hope that we have right now," Janeway got up from her chair and turned to where Tom was sitting. "Mr. Paris, I want you and B’Elanna to get the Doctor ready for our encounter."
As soon as he heard the captain’s command, the hologram seemed to go pale. Harry could swear he almost heard him gulp. Were it not for the fact that the Doctor’s performance was necessary to save the ship, he might have enjoyed watching him sweat it out.
"Ensign Kim," Janeway commanded.
Harry quickly refocused his attention to his commanding officer. "Captain?"
"Do you think you’re ready to return to your duties?" She looked at the young ensign with concern. She had been relieved to see that Harry and Seven had come to the briefing together, a sign that things were well between them. But the angry glares directed at the Doctor from Harry were disquieting. She needed her team working as one if they were going to get through this crisis.
"Uh…yes, ma’am. I am," he replied earnestly.
"Very well. I want you on the bridge at ops. Keep an eye on those hostiles and alert us to any change in their approach."
"I’ll be in Astrometrics with Seven of Nine setting up the link to the Doctor. Chakotay, you have the bridge, at least until our new Emergency Command Hologram is ready." She then turned to the Doctor, trying to smile, in order to give him encouragement. "That will be all. Good luck everyone."
As the meeting broke up and everyone scattered to their assigned duties, the EMH followed Tom out of the briefing room. As he left, he passed by Harry Kim. The two exchanged glances briefly, the Doctor looking at him with regret and sadness, an earnest plea on his face for forgiveness. But Harry quickly looked away without sympathy and left the room. After all, he had his post to attend to.
The Doctor seemed to sigh, his agitation more noticeable now. Seven and the captain looked on, both thinking the same thoughts of disappointment. Of course, there were more important matters to address. Any personality conflicts between two crewmembers would have to be handled later.
That is, if there was a later.
Harry stood at the Ops console, his attention focused on the Hierarchy attack group. They were still on an intercept course for Voyager, confident that their cloak remained inviolable, unaware that their prey was wise to their game.
Chakotay was sitting in the captain’s chair as he looked over to Harry. "Status, Mr. Kim?"
"Hierarchy vessels on approach. ETA in ten minutes," the young officer answered dutifully.
"Ten minutes…where’s the…?" Before Chakotay could complete his question, the turbolift doors swung open to reveal Tom Paris, as he strode onto the bridge.
"Please tell me the Doctor is on his way," Chakotay said with worry. "Our guests are about to arrive."
"He’s coming. He was right behind me," the pilot answered as he assumed his position at the helm, relieving the watch officer on duty.
The first officer got up from the command chair and walked over to the helm. "So how’s he holding up?"
Tom rolled his eyes, wishing Chakotay had never asked that question. "Honestly, Chakotay, I think the Doc’s the first hologram in Federation history to achieve the ability to sweat. He’s mighty nervous."
"Couldn’t you have said something to him? Try to boost his confidence?"
"Believe me, I tried to buck him up, but it wasn’t easy with B’Elanna glaring at him all the time. I’m afraid she didn’t find his fantasy of her as amusing as I did." Tom did a quick glance over his shoulder, to where Harry was standing at attention, trying to focus on his work. "For what its worth, I’m glad she won’t be on the bridge while this is going on."
Chakotay got the drift of what Tom was saying and nodded in agreement. He then turned to face the ops station and came over to Harry Kim was pouring over his console.
"And how are you holding up, Ensign?"
"Me? I’m fine, sir."
The older man looked at his younger counterpart with compassion. "That’s not what I mean, Harry. The captain told me what happened between you and the Doctor on Holodeck One. Are you sure you’re up to this?"
"Yes, Commander, I…Seven and I…we talked about it. I’ll be OK."
"I need you to be more than OK. In spite of what happened, Captain Janeway wanted you on the bridge. In case this plan fails and we find ourselves in a fight, she wanted her best officer to be at Ops. We need you to be focused 100% right now. Not just for Voyager, but for the Doctor as well. If we’re going to pull this off, he needs to know that we’re all behind him and that we believe in him."
"I…I can do that, sir." But Harry’s voice was unconvincing, not even to himself.
"Harry," Chakotay bent over warmly, "whatever you’re feeling towards the Doctor right now, let it go, for your sake as well as his. Nothing positive ever comes out of anger or resentment. Believe me, I know."
Harry nodded glumly, hearing the officer’s words, and trying so hard to believe them.
"If you don’t think you can put it aside, just say the word. I can have someone else relieve you…"
"No, sir," the ops officer interrupted with determination. "I can do this. I know I can do this!"
Chakotay smiled and patted Harry on the shoulder. "Very well, Ensign. Carry on."
As the former Maquis walked back to the center of the room, the turbolift slid open again, revealing a very nervous hologram, now reprogrammed in Command reds. He walked in like a man condemned.
"Captain on the bridge," Tom quipped, trying to ease the Doctor’s anxiety.
The EMH reluctantly made his to the center of the bridge, until he reached the captain’s seat, staring at it, too nervous to sit down.
"It won’t bite," Chakotay jibed in encouragement. The Doctor didn’t look like he appreciated any humor at that moment.
"What I wouldn’t give right now for a whoopee cushion," Tom joked, desperate to do anything to lighten the tense atmosphere.
"A what?" Harry asked, wondering what his friend was saying half the time.
Tom shrugged his shoulders. "Ancient technology."
The Doctor looked around the bridge, realizing that all eyes were upon him, all except for Harry Kim’s, for which he was grateful. It was bad enough that the fate of the ship was now riding in his inexperienced hands. He couldn’t bear the thought, the humiliation, of looking into the ensign’s face, and remembering those words of fury. Thinking that the ensign was just standing there, waiting for him to fail…
Realizing that everyone else was waiting too, he gradually lowered himself into the seat, until he was at rest. There, he thought, this isn’t so bad. Just like I imagined it would be…
A sudden bleep terrified him, as he shot up. Realizing it was nothing, that it was just the log recorder doing an auto-save, he looked around at everyone around him. He could tell what they were thinking just by the looks on their faces, ‘This is our savior? We’re screwed!’ With embarrassment, he slowly sank back down. Once seated, he nodded to Chakotay, giving him the go-ahead.
"Captain, we’re ready to proceed," he signaled.
"Acknowledged, Commander," the captain responded from Astrometrics. She would be there with Seven during the operation, maintaining contact with the Doctor through a direct link to his program.
Nobody else would be able to hear her as she advised the acting-captain how to pull off his mission.
Harry tried to focus on his station and not think about the Doctor’s anxiety. Was it just his imagination or did the EMH seem even more unhinged whenever he looked in his direction. My being here is messing him up, he thought. Maybe I should have requested to be relieved of duty, Harry questioned himself. But part of him wanted to see the hologram fail, fail miserably, to puncture that arrogant façade he showed so smugly to everyone on board, making him seem so superior…
He stared up in shock, startled by his hostile thoughts. Where did that come from? He knew it was wrong of him to think that way. He understood that he had no reason to resent the Doctor, that by his very nature he should just ‘let it go.’ But that bitterness, that fury was still there. It was just a tiny sliver at the back of his mind, gnawing away at his capacity to forgive.
Tuvok spoke up from his tactical station as something grabbed his attention. "I’m receiving a transmission on a secure channel. Audio only."
Chakotay acknowledged the Vulcan security officer. "It must be the Doctor’s friend. Let’s hear what he has to say." He turned to the hologram at his side. "Doctor?"
The Doctor waited as the channel was open to his counterpart on the Hierarchy ship. "Hello? Voyager here…it’s me," he piped up apprehensively.
A panicked voice came over the com channel, almost as nervous as the Doctor’s. "Doctor, something terrible has happened. They’ve ordered a Type IV assault. Our phaser frequencies will be rotated continuously. I won’t be able to help you!"
Everyone’s jaws dropped, none more so that the Doctor’s. Their one slim chance of getting out of this crisis unscathed had just been lost. They were on their own now.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Chakotay ordered.
But it was too late. The attack group was now on top of them. "Three vessels are decloaking off the port bow," Tuvok alerted them.
No sooner did they appear that the lead warship released a volley of phaser fire straight at them. The entire ship rattled as the shields absorbed the energy of the impact.
"That didn’t feel like a warning shot," Tom observed dryly, noticing that this ‘Type IV’ attack was considerably more aggressive than what they were expecting.
"Direct hit. Shields are holding," the tactical officer reported.
"They’re hailing us," Harry spoke up in response to a bleep on his monitor.
Chakotay turned to the EMH in the command seat. "This is it, Doctor. On screen!"
Harry looked up as the picture of their attackers appeared on the main viewscreen. He had to stifle a laugh as he took in their appearance. This is the enemy? he asked himself as looked at the pudgy aliens on screen. They look like yams with faces, he remarked to himself. Of course, he realized soberly, one shouldn’t go by appearances when dealing with alien species. Those spuds could blow us out of space if they wanted to.
"The Hierarchy controls this region of space," the alien commander intoned with arrogance. "Your ship has supplies and technology that we require."
The Doctor paused for a moment, as he received instructions from Captain Janeway via the internal link.
"We’ll…defend ourselves. They won’t get what you’re after…I mean you…won’t get what you’re after…not in a million years…not if I have anything to say about it…sorry."
He’s losing it, Harry observed. It’s all coming at him too fast.
"An exchange of fire would damage both of our ships. But we have support nearby. You are alone," the Hierarchy captain ordered without sympathy. "Take your weapons offline and prepare to be board…" The view of the aliens was suddenly disconnected.
"Excuse the interruption, Commander. I have found a potential weakness in their shields ," Tuvok reported. "But I will need time to reconfigure our phasers."
Chakotay nodded as he got up to assist Tuvok in his efforts. "Keep him occupied, Doctor…Onscreen!"
The plump alien reappeared. "This is my final warning."
"Don’t…rush…me," the Doctor stammered.
"Take your weapons offline…immediately! I won’t ask again," the commander’s irritation now becoming quite evident.
"You…appear to be suffering…from a physio-emotive disorder," the Doctor improvised lamely. Everyone’s eyes rolled up, a few shaking their heads, some mentally making out their last wills. "You’re impatient, quick to anger…do you have any idea what that does to you vascular systems? You may want to see a physician." The being on the viewscreen looked puzzled, as if he were wondering if this was some kind of alien mind trick.
But it was all the time Tuvok needed. "Firing phasers," he announced.
The aliens on the viewscreen shook as the phaser volley impacted their vessel’s shields.
"Direct hit," Harry reported professionally.
The Doctor was ecstatic. It looked like they were going to get out this mess after all. "Hah! How do you like that, huh? A taste of your own medicine!"
But the Hierarchy commander wasn’t through just yet. He pressed something, signaling to someone off-screen. Whatever he did, a massive barrage of phaser fire was returned from his vessel, impacting Voyager‘s shields with full force. The entire bridge was jarred, with power momentarily flickering. An explosion of sparks came from the primary EPS conduit behind Harry. The young officer went pale as he realized what a power loss, however brief, could mean during the heat of battle.
"Our phasers are offline," Tuvok stated, confirming everyone’s worst fears.
"Prepare to be boarded!" the Hierarchy captain bellowed, no longer in a mood to banter.
The Doctor was paralyzed with fear in the command chair. Captain Janeway was issuing silent orders to him, but he was barely hearing her voice. He looked around the bridge, watching desperate officers trying to repair the battle-damaged systems. They had all been counting on him, he thought, hoping that he would save them all. But he had let them down. He wasn’t good enough. He was just a sick, demented computer program with delusions of humanity. Not a man after all, but only a hologram. Nothing special.
Harry Kim couldn’t take his eyes off the Doctor. He looked frozen, like an animal caught in the path of an oncoming monorail. This wasn’t what he wanted, Harry realized with shame. Chakotay had been right. Everyone needed to be there for the Doctor this day, and he hadn’t been. Were they all about to pay the price because Harry couldn’t find it in himself to forgive? He could be generous with everyone else on board Voyager: Seven, Tom, B’Elanna…why not the Doctor?
He heard Seven’s words to him earlier that morning. I can not envision two more disparate individuals. Yet despite this, the two of you have managed a mutual respect for one another. One might even say your relationship is one of friendship.
And Harry Kim never let down a friend.
And so, in that brief second, an idea crystallized in Harry’s mind. It was a crazy long shot, but it was all they had right now. He cleared his throat as spoke up above the chaos around him in the best ‘Buster Kincaid’ voice he could muster. "Holy smokes, Captain! This is just as bad as when we tangled with the Borg Sphere!"
Tom turned around in his seat. Tuvok and Chakotay looked at Harry oddly. Even the Doctor spun around and looked puzzled. Nobody had the slightest idea of what he was talking about.
But Harry stared at the hologram desperately, trying to project his thoughts to him, as if there were a drop of Betazed blood in him. Come on, Doc, Harry willed at him. I just handed you the ball. Now run with it!
And in that moment, the Doctor finally got it. A smile spread across his features as everything clicked into place. "Yes…Yes!" he shouted with jubilation. Remembering his fantasy, he switched his voice fully to ECH mode and stood proud and strong from his chair as he gave the order. "Tuvok, activate the photonic cannon!"
There was more bewilderment on the bridge from all parties concerned. First the Borg, and now this? Just what were Harry and the Doctor playing at? What was a photonic cannon, anyway?
"Tuvok, that was an order!" the Doctor bellowed, never leaving character.
Tuvok rolled his eyes and decided to play along with this scenario, regardless of how illogical it all seemed. "Activating the photonic cannon…sir."
The Doctor’s fear was gone now, as he strode with grim determination towards the viewscreen, staring the portly alien down. "I’d rather not give the order to fire," he hissed at him.
"My sensors are showing no activation sequence," the captain rejoined, still trying to sound commanding. But there was a hint of nervousness in the alien’s voice. It was clear now that the tables had turned. Confidence had returned to Voyager‘s bridge crew as they all stood still from their tasks and watched in fascination as their acting-commander stood his ground.
"Of course not!" the Doctor exclaimed. "The photonic cannon is impervious to sensors!"
One of the Hierarchy aliens who had been standing diminutively at the captain’s side spoke up. "The Borg couldn’t detect it either. That’s why they were destroyed!" Harry recognized the voice; it was the Doctor’s friend. He obviously had picked up on the charade and was playing along. But was it enough to frighten the attackers into backing down?
The Doctor moved closer to viewscreen, practically staring his alien counterpart in the eye, daring him to attack. "The Borg…the Hierarchy…it’s all the same to me. Just another bully who didn’t know when to back down." Harry could barely contain his glee. The Doctor was playing his role brilliantly! It was all he could do to keep from cheering out loud.
"We’ll be vaporized!" the alien sensor operator chimed in, playing up the panic in his voice. The Hierarchy captain tried to look impassive, before reaching over to sever the transmission.
Everything was silent on the bridge as everyone waited patiently for a response from the attackers. After what seemed like an eternity, Harry observed motion on his sensors. "They’re moving away at maximum impulse," he stated, doing his best to sound professional. It was over! Voyager had survived yet another deadly encounter in the Delta Quadrant.
The Doctor, still standing, let out a deep sigh of relief. He turned over his shoulder to look back at the ops station. He smiled a silent ‘thank you’ at the young officer as he staggered back towards the command chair, mentally drained and still not quite believing what he had just pulled off. As he reached the chair he had just occupied, he wondered whether or not he still had the right to sit in it.
"Go ahead, Doctor," Chakotay gestured to the seat graciously. "You’ve earned it."
His chest puffed up with pride, the Doctor eased himself into the chair again. This time it didn’t seem so large to him. Although he knew he never wanted to go through another experience like this one again, there was something about this moment that he relished.
Meanwhile, Chakotay went over to Harry and slapped him on the back with pride. "I knew you wouldn’t let him down. That was quick thinking just before."
"Thank you, sir. I guess when you’ve run enough ‘Captain Photon’ programs, you pick up a few tricks."
The older man beamed proudly. "You did a good thing today, Harry."
"I appreciate that, commander," he acknowledged as he looked on at the hologram seated comfortably in the command chair. "But you really shouldn’t be thanking me."
"Now, Harry. No false modesty," the first officer responded with a smirk.
"It’s not that," he answered absently as he proudly watched other members of the crew go over to the Doc and shake his hand or pat his shoulder. He had never looked so…human before. "This is the Doctor’s moment. Let him have it."
With the crisis over, Voyager stood down from red alert. Using information provided by the Doctor’s alien friend, Tom piloted a course out of the sector well away from any Hierarchy patrol routes, just in case anyone later guessed that the ‘photonic cannon’ gambit was all a bluff. Life on Voyager quickly returned to normal, which meant the alterations made to the Doctor’s program had to be removed. The EMH was waiting in Sickbay for either Ensign Paris or – hopefully not – Lieutenant Torres to arrive to remove the new additions to his matrix. Playing the role of Emergency Command Hologram was all well and good in his fantasies, but he was more than ready to trade in this red command uniform for his familiar Medical blues. Better to stick with what you know.
It was to his surprise that when he looked up, he saw Ensign Kim standing in the entranceway.
"Hey, Doc…" he greeted him nervously. "Can I come in?"
"Ensign…I…of course you can."
They both looked at each other for a long awkward moment, each not quite sure what to say to the other. After the pause had gone on for several seconds, both of them blurted out simultaneously "I just wanted to say…"
Not wanting to interrupt the other, the Doctor quickly broke in. "You first, Ensign."
Harry bent his head sheepishly, trying to articulate what he needed to say. Taking a cue from Seven, he decided the most direct way was the easiest. "Doc…I just wanted to say…I’m sorry…for all those horrible things I said to you."
The Doctor shook his head in disagreement. "You don’t have anything to be sorry about, Mr. Kim. You had every right to be upset with me. My behavior was completely unconscionable. I should be the one apologizing to you. And Seven."
"Look…we had no right to be tripping through your private thoughts they way we did. I mean, sometimes we think things that aren’t exactly…well, appropriate. But it’s no big deal if it stays private. I guess…"
Harry tried to answer, still somewhat uncomfortable with the subject. He decided to move on. "And for what it’s worth, Seven doesn’t feel you have anything to be sorry for. She still cares a great deal for you, in her own way."
The Doctor’s face lit up in relief. "I was afraid…after what happened on the Holodeck, I might have lost your friendship for good, as well as hers. "
"Well, I don’t turn my back on my friends quite that easily," Harry answered lightheartedly.
"Yes, I know," the hologram agreed with uncharacteristic humility. "I wanted to thank you for what you did for me on the bridge. I don’t think I would have gotten through that crisis without your support." The Doctor fidgeted as he continued. "Not to mention the debt of gratitude I owe you for what you did in Engineering."
"Engineering?" Harry looked puzzled. "What did I do there?"
"My little tirade…you kept me from leaping into the warp core, remember? Oh, how quickly they forget," the Doctor reminded him dramatically. Harry couldn’t help but smile. The Doc must be feeling better. He’s already making with the sarcasm.
"Well, think nothing of it, Doc," he chuckled. "It did take Seven and B’Elanna’s help to wrestle you into Sickbay. I never would have guessed you were that tough to handle."
Harry felt comfortable with this opening, but there was one thing that was still unresolved between them.
"Uh, Doc…there is one thing though, something I need to know," the young man asked hesitantly. "It’s about Seven, Doc. Do you…do you love her?"
The Doctor took a deep breath. He had a feeling he knew that sooner or later he would have to answer this question. Until recently, he had no idea what the explanation was going to be. But now he did.
"In a manner of speaking, I do, Ensign."
That wasn’t quite the response Harry had been expecting. He had been prepared for either a yes or a no. The Doctor sounded like he was giving him a definite maybe. "I’m…not quite sure I know what that means."
"Let me explain," the holographic doctor elaborated. "First, let me reassure you that you have nothing to fear from me as competition for Seven’s affections."
"I know that…now."
"I’m relieved to hear that. Now, to be more precise about what I meant…I once, when I was tutoring her in art of dating, I allowed myself to…how do I put this delicately…cross that boundary of inappropriate feelings between a teacher and his pupil."
"You fell in love with her."
"I…I thought it was love. And it was, in a way. It was affection, most certainly, coupled with pride in Seven’s accomplishments. And of course, dare I say it, colored by a great deal of ego and wishful thinking."
"It sounds a lot like how I felt about her, when she first came on board. You had a crush on her."
"I suppose so. But it became plainly obvious to me that whatever fondness she felt for me, it wasn’t romantic in nature."
"Yeah, that sounds familiar."
"Oh, but you’re wrong, Ensign. You see, there was a significant difference between you and me. In your case, Seven didn’t know how to recognize your feelings for her, never mind how to return them. In my case, there was never anything there to begin with."
"How can you be so sure?" Harry said a little too emphatically. "Not that I’m trying to encourage anything, mind you."
"I’m sure because I can’t give her what she needs, Ensign," he answered emphatically. "It took this humiliating insanity for me to realize why there never was any hope for Seven and myself as a couple. The very thing that made her comfortable with me as a colleague and friend made me totally unsuitable for her as a lover."
"Seven is still trying to discover her own humanity …and so am I. While it’s true that she and I have a great deal in common, neither of us has any clue where our searching will take us. That may be enough for her to feel at ease with me, but it would never be enough to sustain a relationship. There would be no challenge, no mystery, no incentive to grow. We’d be like two co-dependents, each trying to stand on our own, but never succeeding. It would never amount to anything healthy and in the end would only result in the loss of our friendship." The Doctor paused for reflection, considering the truth of his answer. "And the truth is, Ensign, that I’m a complete fraud."
"Let me finish, please. I’ve been tutoring Seven for the past two years in how to be better human being, as if I were some kind of expert. But the fact of the matter is, I’m little more than a student myself. I have no idea what my potential is, or even what I am right now."
"Doc, none of us do. That’s what being human is all about."
"But that’s just it, Mr. Kim. You actually are human. And so is Seven, once she learns to find that part of her that used to be Annika Hansen. But me? I’m something else entirely. I don’t know what, though. Not better or worse, just different. And I think I need to find that out before I can be anyone’s lover. Certainly not someone who needs a source of stability in her life like Seven does."
"Well, I can’t fault your logic there. I guess what bothered me this whole time was that I envied the relationship the two of you have. I mean, you share so much with each other. You have a bond that…well, I can never be a part of."
The Doctor smiled at him reassuringly. "Have no fear, Ensign. That will change in time. As her relationship with you grows, she’ll open herself up to you more. Look at the progress she’s made already. Before you two paired off, she almost never smiled. She never had a reason to. She was just…existing. You gave her something to be happy about. A reason not just to exist, but to live. That’s hardly a small accomplishment."
Harry reflected on the many times that he had seen her smile these past seven weeks. How lovely her smile was, he thought. How happy it made him to know that there was just a little bit more joy in her life. It was surprising he hadn’t noticed it earlier. It might have saved him a lot of heartache. "She’s made my life a lot happier, too," he confessed.
The hologram beamed like a proud father. "How I envy the relationship you’re going to have with her, Ensign. She’s already remarkable. And when her heart truly opens up to you, she’ll be…positively radiant. The love you two are going to share…"
"She, uh, still hasn’t told me she loves me. Not yet, anyway," Harry interjected.
"Oh, she will. Give it time. When she does, your relationship will be a beautiful thing to behold," he rejoined dramatically. "Even the fish will weep."
Harry was touched by the doctor’s colorful allusions, but something in his words didn’t make sense.
"Excuse me? Fish?"
"Oh, never mind about that." He sighed as he continued. "The point is, you and your relationship will be the heart of her existence. And she’ll move on from me. Like all daughters do from their fathers, I suppose," his voice taking on a wistful tone.
"Hey, no she won’t," the young officer insisted with a friendly grin. "You’re a part of her life, and that won’t ever change. I’ll insist upon it."
"That’s kind of you to say, Mr. Kim. But then I’d expect nothing less."
Harry was touched by the Doctor’s compliment, especially considering that his comments as of late had been far less than kind. "It’s the least I can do for a friend." Harry sat down before one of the consoles in Sickbay that monitored the EMH program. "So, shall we get started?"
"Oh, yeah. I asked Tom if it was all right for me to fill in for him and remove the uniform changes to your matrix."
The Doctor exhibited a degree of nervous laughter at the idea. "Mr. Paris must have been fairly confident you were going to forgive me if he was willing to leave the two of us alone together, never mind allow you access to my program."
"Relax, Doc. I won’t remove anything you might need later," Harry answered with a chuckle.
The Doctor gave a sigh of relief in response. "As long as you don’t undo any of Lieutenant Torres’ repairs. I’d hate to start going back into another self-induced hallucination."
Harry looked up from the monitor as the Doctor’s specifications came on the screen. "Doc, don’t tell me you’ve given up on daydreaming altogether. That wouldn’t be right."
The EMH looked puzzled by his comment. "I would think that after what happened you’d be the last person to want me to daydream ever again."
"Well, maybe not about Seven or anyone else in the crew, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fantasy time now and then," Harry replied with understanding. "You said you were looking to explore your own potential. What better way to start than through your imagination?"
The Doctor nodded, considering the young man’s words. "I suppose…assuming the captain has no objection." He then smiled wryly as he thought about it some more. "Of course, I’ll want to put in some safety features, if only to keep my id in check."
Harry chuckled at the thought of a hologram with a subconscious. "Don’t feel too guilty. I guess you don’t have any more control over the way you’re programmed than a human does over his genetic profile."
"No, but at least I can take my programmer to task on that issue." The Doctor thought about his designer, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman. What sort of man creates a hologram in his own image and spreads several hundred copies of them throughout the Federation? Someone with a serious God complex, he supposed, or some twisted desire for immortality. With a personality like that to be modeled on, was it any wonder he turned out as confused as he did? He sighed as he thought about some of the fantasies that had inadvertently cropped up in his head these past few weeks. "I imagine that Freud would have had a field day exploring some of my cognitive projections."
Harry shook his head in disagreement, as his fingers flew over the LCARS screen. "I don’t know, Doc. I sometimes find it hard to believe that people give so much credence to Freud, even in the 24th Century. He’s so dark and pessimistic about human nature." His face then showed a sunnier disposition as he continued, "Personally, I always favored the theories of Maslow. It’s a more optimistic philosophy."
"Abraham Maslow…" the Doctor mused, accessing his files on psychological theory. "Late 20th Century. His ideas were centered on what he termed the ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ if I’m not mistaken. An intelligent being strives through a series of motivations, starting with basic survival and safety, up through emotional security, and ultimately to the fulfillment of self-actualization."
"Sounds a lot like one or two people in my life, wouldn’t you agree?" Harry added with a grin.
"A most interesting analogy you’ve drawn, Mr. Kim. Of course, I can’t entirely dismiss Freudian analysis in my case. I mean, here I am having daydreams about my surrogate daughter and feeling resentment towards my own ‘father.’" The Doctor shrugged his shoulders with resignation. "I guess that deep down I’m just a bundle of pre-programmed neuroses just trying to get through the day."
Harry gave the hologram a knowing smile. "You know, Doc, you may have just summed up the human condition in one simple sentence." He thought about what Seven had told him earlier, about how he and the Doctor were complete opposites. But now he was starting to suspect that the two of them were not so different after all.
The following day, the crew was gathered in the mess hall, awaiting the Doctor’s arrival. Seven had just contacted him, requesting his assistance, without giving the slightest hint of the surprise that was awaiting him.
Harry stood in full dress uniform, fidgeting with the collar, with Seven of Nine at his side. "There is no need for you to adjust yourself any further, Harry. Your appearance is already optimal."
The ensign looked at her crookedly as he gave up with getting the ill-fitting uniform to fit just right. "Aren’t you the one always striving for perfection?" he teased.
"Perhaps you have already achieved perfection, only you do not realize it."
Harry smiled at her observation. She always had a way to make him feel better, even if it was without always knowing why.
Tom came over, his left hand around B’Elanna’s waist, and a glass of champagne in his right. He smiled as he approached the younger couple. "Well, it’s good to see you two lovebirds happy together."
Harry Kim grinned as he noticed the drink in Tom’s hand. "I see you decided to get an early start on the festivities. And the guest of honor hasn’t even arrived yet."
B’Elanna interjected with a smirk of her own. "Wait until later when he puts the lampshade on his head."
Seven’s face was a blank as she tried to interpret the lieutenant’s remark. "Lampshade? There is no lamp in the mess hall."
The brash pilot opened his mouth to offer an explanation, but B’Elanna rolled her eyes and cut him off.
"Don’t even bother."
Neelix then rushed over excitedly from the mess hall doors. "He’s coming! Everyone get into position!"
Although the captain had called for this gathering, it was the morale officer who had organized the actual party, and like always, wanted to make sure everything went smoothly.
As the crew stood in waiting, the doors slid open. The Doctor strolled in, not even bothering to look up until he was well inside the room. And then…
"Surprise!" the crew shouted in unison and applauded. The Doctor nearly jumped out of his emitter, wondering if the repairs to his program were still holding.
"Don’t worry, Doc, you’re not dreaming," Harry jested.
"Captain?" the hologram looked to Janeway, who stood at the front of the gathering. Harry Kim handed her something before she approached him, a smile gracing her features.
"For your…imaginative…defense of this ship and her crew, I’m awarding you the Starfleet Medal of Commendation," she stated, as she pinned the pip to his holographic uniform. "Congratulations."
"Thank you," he said silently. The EMH was barely able to communicate, one of his rare speechless moments.
"I’ve also reconsidered your request. I’m going to authorize a research project to explore your command abilities," she added, before poking him in a friendly gesture. "You’re a natural." With that, she rejoined the crowd, which had already broken up to partake in Neelix’s carefully arranged smorgasbord.
Two lone figures stood apart from the others, Seven of Nine and Harry Kim. While waiting for the Doctor to arrive, Seven was considering what she should say to her mentor, to reassure him that despite his recent lapse, the integrity of their relationship was still secure. Finally, as she came forward, she settled on a simple and efficient act, one that she had witnessed Naomi Wildman perform on a number of occasions to ensure closer relations with her mother.
"Congratulations, Doctor," Seven stated formally as she approached the hologram. He was still pleased and overwhelmed by the captain and crew’s recognition, when Seven leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. His eyes nearly lit up in astonishment, the last thing he had expected from his pupil.
"It was a platonic gesture," she warned as she circled around him. "Do not expect me to pose for you."
"Noted," the Doctor agreed, suitably chastised, but still inwardly pleased by the effort. He knew how to listen past her harshness and could tell that all was forgiven.
As Seven circled towards the crowd, she saw Harry waiting for her looking on. There was a smile on his face. He had watched her display towards the Doctor, and did not appear to display the slightest degree of jealousy or inferiority. In fact, he seemed to approve of her choice of actions. Seven’s face flushed with a warm feeling. She was proud of Harry.
Is this an aspect of love? she thought to herself, to take pride in the accomplishments of another as if they were your own? If so, then perhaps she was one step closer to an understanding of love. She walked over to her mate, a thin smile spreading across her face. Such a breakthrough in understanding needed to be shared.
As she got within Harry’s personal space, she stared into his eyes and spoke. "This, however, is not a platonic gesture." And with that she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him to meet her lips in a deep, passionate embrace.
Harry’s body responded immediately to her proximity. His arms encircled her body, caressing her back and sending shivers through her body, as he felt her tongue probing deep into his mouth, tangling with his own. The mess hall, the ship, the entire outside universe, had faded away. The only reality for Harry Kim was this beautiful, sexy, fascinating woman that he loved so dearly.
I am worthy of her, he thought to himself as he drank in her heady scent.
But the pleasure was short-lived as the two lovers heard a loud, deliberate cough interrupting their passion. They broke the kiss and turned to the side, only to see Lt. Commander Tuvok giving them an icy glare. To his right was Commander Chakotay, unable to contain a naughty smirk. On the Vulcan’s opposite side stood the captain, her arms folded, and her brow stern. Yet Harry could see that while her stance showed official disapproval, a tiny curve of her lips and a twinkle in her eye showed that part of her, the part that was Kathryn Janeway and not the captain, was pleased for the two lovebirds.
"Mr. Kim," the tactical officer stated coldly. "Do you need a reminder of Starfleet regulations regarding the proper conduct of an officer at official ship functions?"
"Uh…no, sir," Harry tried to speak.
"Then perhaps, if you and Seven of Nine are unable to conduct yourselves appropriately, you would do well to take your…emotional effervescence…elsewhere." Tuvok declared with officious displeasure.
At that moment, a carefree smile then appeared on the young ops officer’s face. "You know, Tuvok…that’s not a bad idea." He then turned to the lady at his side and offered her an elbow. "Shall we go, Seven? Seeing as how we can’t contain ourselves?"
Seven gave him a smile in return, one of pure satisfaction. "That would be acceptable."
And so, without even bothering to look back, the two turned to the door, leaving a very nonplussed Vulcan in their wake. Harry waved congratulations to the Doctor as he and his lady exited from the party, oblivious to everyone behind them, including Tom Paris, who was giving his friend the ‘thumb’s up.’ Even B’Elanna couldn’t resist a smile.
The bewildered Vulcan was still standing there, watching the doors close, when Chakotay leaned over, unable to refrain from delivering a good-natured jab at the serious Mr. Tuvok. "Well, you certainly told them, didn’t you?" Not even Janeway couldn’t resist a chuckle.
Tuvok only arched an eyebrow, resigning himself to the unredeemable, illogical nature of human beings.
Once in the corridor, Harry and Seven walked, holding hands. Seven looked down, pleased by the feeling such contact elicited from her. When they had first begun their relationship, Seven had been puzzled by Harry’s constant desire to touch her, even when in public. But now she understood the benefits of such simple gestures as holding hands and stroking one’s back.
"So, your place or mine?" Harry quipped.
"Your quarters, of course," she responded. "Cargo Bay Two only has the small cot. Your bed is far more acceptable."
Harry couldn’t hold back the grin that stretched from ear to ear. How could he have ever doubted the affections of his beloved? "Lead on," he gestured.
They stepped into the turbolift as the doors slid open. The two stepped in, eagerly anticipating the excitement that was shortly to follow.
"Harry, do you believe we copulate too frequently?"
"W-what? That’s an odd question. What makes you ask that?"
"Lieutenant Torres implied that you would not desire a relationship where I was required to ‘spread my legs on schedule,’" she asked with some concern. "Is this correct?"
"I…" he started to answer, not wanting to sound like he was too obsessed with sex. "I think what B’Elanna meant is that you shouldn’t have to have sex just because you think you’re obligated to, that’s all."
"But that is not the case. I copulate with you because it is pleasing to me," she answered innocently. "And it is pleasing to you," she added.
"Well, it’s definitely pleasing to me," he agreed wholeheartedly.
"That is good," she answered, her flawless face flushed with radiance. "Nevertheless, we should not limit ourselves. We would do well to find other social outlets."
"Oh, I agree," he rejoined. "I mean, I think we already do a lot of things together, but it never hurts to open yourself to new experiences. Do you have anything in particular in mind?"
"Indeed. Recent events have given me a particular inspiration. You spoke of your father. He is an artist, is he not?"
Harry was even more puzzled by this odd turn in the conversation. "That’s right. He’s an accomplished painter back on Earth."
"Did you acquire any skills in artistry from him?"
"Well, I did take some lessons when I was younger. He said I had a lot of natural talent. But I never followed through on it, though. I was more interested in pursuing my music. Why do you ask?"
"I was considering a possible social outlet we could share," she answered him, her smile and voice becoming increasingly seductive. "Perhaps you would care to sketch my portrait?"
and the adventure continues…