“This is the story that started it all. I gave a lot of thought as to how a Kim/Seven romance would first get off the ground, assuming Paramount decided to give it the green light. The story begins early in Season Six, between the times of ‘Equinox, Part II’ and ‘Survival Instinct.'” (Michael Ben-Zvi)
Written by Michael Ben-Zvi
Released 16 Sep 1999
Harry Kim and Tom Paris were sitting in Voyager‘s mess hall after their duty shift had ended. They were
engaged, once again, in another topic of deep philosophical importance.
“‘Spartacus! There’s no question about it!” Tom insisted.
“And I’m telling you it had to be ‘Apocalypse Now!'” Harry answered back with equal determination.
“Har, I think I know a little more about the subject matter than you do…” Tom Paris’ comment was cut
short up the arrival of his lover, B’Elanna Torres, who entered the mess hall in a clearly exhausted state.
She had just come off of a triple shift in engineering and was looking for some friendly faces to relax with.
Of course, they were all looking for some time to themselves.
The last few days had been rough for the starship Voyager. While investigating a planetary nebula for signs
of deuterium to be mined, the sensors detected an unstable protostar hidden deep within the interstellar
plasma. Unfortunately, it had been spotted just moments before undergoing a flare cycle and emitted a
massive jet of charged particles in their direction. The captain’s quick thinking managed to keep the ship
from being heavily irradiated before Engineering could augment the shields. Luckily, there had been no
serious injuries. However, the warp engines were knocked off-line and half the ship’s systems had been
rendered inoperative. The crew had been on emergency rations and round-the-clock work schedules
making repairs while Voyager limped to a safe distance from the nebula. Four days later, the ship was
operational again, and her crew was tired and eager to blow off some steam.
“Ugh!” she groaned as she sank into the seat next to Tom. “I just spent the last eighteen hours overseeing
the entire warp plasma conduits being replaced. The next time the captain suggests we take the ship into
any kind of nebula, I’m seriously considering leading a mutiny. Anyone else want in?”
Harry gave her a half-serious look. “Better be careful, Maquis. Tuvok’s sitting three tables over. He might
just take you seriously if he overheard you.”
She chuckled at his excessive caution. “So, what were we discussing this afternoon?”
“Oh, a matter of the greatest importance,” Tom flashed her his trademark grin. “The sweatiest film from the
20th century. I’m trying to convince Harry that it was ‘Spartacus.'”
“Come on, Tom!” Harry jumped in. “Marlon Brando was practically melting on screen. Do you know how
hot it gets in Vietnam in the summer?”
“Oh please! You saw those Roman galley slaves! They were gushing like pigs!”
B’Elanna Torres shook her head and raised her eyes to the ceiling. “Give me strength…is this what five
years in the Delta Quadrant has finally brought us to? Do you two honestly have nothing better to discuss
than sweaty old movies?” she started at Tom for a moment, before flashing an unexpectedly wicked grin of
her own. “Besides, I figured it was ‘Cool Hand Luke.'”
Tom let out a chuckle and put an arm around his lady. “God, now I remember why I love this woman…”
Harry looked puzzled for a moment. “I don’t think I know that film…”
Tom gave B’Elanna a sardonic look while answering Harry’s question. “We watched it together the other
day…she’s just making a little jab regarding my long-ago days on the chain gang.”
“Chain gang? Tom, I’d hardly compare the New Zealand Penal Facility to an ancient chain gang,” she shot
back with a sweet smile. “Besides, can I help it if I think you have eyes just like Pete Newman?”
“That’s Paul Newman, babe” he grinned.
“Whatever.” She flashed her teeth provocatively back at him.
Harry squirmed uncomfortably in his seat. He was beginning to feel like a third wheel with his friends
again. Fortunately, his discomfort was interrupted by someone’s arrival.
“Ensign Kim, Ensign Paris, Lt. Torres.”
Harry looked up. It was Seven of Nine standing over him. “Oh, hi Seven. What’s up?”
Saved by the bell, he thought to himself.
“Ensign Kim,” she acknowledged, still standing. “I require your assistance in Astrometrics when you have
a free moment.”
“Oh? I heard Astrometrics is back up and running.”
“That is correct. However, the sensors are still 10% below their peak efficiency. I realize that your shift has
already ended. But I would greatly appreciate any aid you could provide me.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. The Doc must have been coming a long way with his social etiquette lessons.
Seven had improved considerably in her politeness with the rest of the crew.
Particularly with him, he noticed.
“I’d be glad to help, Seven. As soon as I finish my meal and grab a shower.” Anything to get away from
these two lovebirds, he thought.
“Thank you, Ensign.”
“Anytime, Seven. Care for some so-called food?”
“That would be acceptable,” she replied.
Harry grinned back at her. “What? The offer or the food?”
Seven arched an eyebrow. “Mr. Neelix’s cooking is rarely acceptable to me, Ensign. I partake only for its social value and nutritional content.”
As Seven turned towards the buffet, Tom called out to her. “Seven, quick. We’re discussing old movies. Which film of the 20th century would you say had the highest level of sweat?”
Seven stood there, not answering. She only stared at Tom, giving him the kind of patronizing look that one gives an idiot child who just said something he believed to be clever. She then turned to pick up a tray.
Harry chuckled. “Looks like she just lost all respect for you, Tom.”
The cocky pilot shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, I am what I am.” He waited for a snappy retort from B’Elanna but it didn’t come. His half-Klingon girlfriend had her attention directed a few tables down. She was watching Jenny Delaney engaged in conversation with Will Chapman, although conversation wasn’t the word B’Elanna would use. The ensign was practically throwing herself in the lieutenant’s face. And he didn’t seem to mind the attention too much.
B’Elanna shook her head in disgust. “God, do you see the way she just thrusts herself at him like that?”
Tom nodded and turned to his male friend. “Yeah, Harry. You should have snatched her up when you had the chance.”
“Tom…” Harry glared.
“Yeah, Tom.” B’Elanna joined in. “Harry could do much better than Voyager‘s ‘welcome wagon.'”
“B’Elanna, that’s an awful thing to say. Jenny may not be my type, but I still think she’s a good person and a fine officer.” Harry said.
Tom Paris chuckled at his friend’s response. “That’s our Harry…never an unkind word about anybody.”
B’Elanna looked back sharply at the young Ops officer. “Believe me, Starfleet. If you’ve got testosterone and a pulse, you’re her type.”
“To whom are you referring, Lieutenant?” Seven’s voice broke in. She had returned to the table, carrying a tray with a bowl of rice and some odd blue vegetables that Neelix had discovered on their last port-of-call. She slid alongside Harry Kim, sitting across from Tom Paris.
Seven followed Tom’s gaze over to the other table, where Jenny had become a touch more aggressive in her flirting. Her hands were noticeably wandering towards Chapman’s thigh.
“Must really tear you up inside, eh, Seven? Seeing your ex with another woman.” Tom teased her.
The former Borg seemed to stiffen at his joke. “Lieutenant Chapman and I are not affiliated in any manner, Ensign. We engaged in a single dating ritual, which did not conclude successfully. I have no designs upon him, nor do I object to any other females who do,” she huffed.
But Tom wouldn’t let up. “Well, maybe so…but I don’t think Jenny could ever break his arm quite the same way you did.”
Seven glared at him, saying nothing. She didn’t want to say or do anything to encourage more of his ‘irrelevant’ humor. B’Elanna smirked at Tom’s victory. It was a rare moment when anyone could get the last word with Seven of Nine.
Harry, however, felt the need to smooth things over. “C’mon, everybody. We’ve all been working hard these last few days and we’re feeling a little punchy. There’s no need to be pushing each other’s buttons.”
B’Elanna felt the need to chime in. “Hey, nobody is pushing anyone’s buttons here. We just wish those two over there…” she thumbed in the direction of the amorous Ensign Delaney and Lt. Chapman, “…would just
get a room already and let the rest of us eat in peace.”
“I find it ironic that you would choose to criticize others on their public displays of affection given the numerous reprimands from Lt. Commander Tuvok that you and Ensign Paris have received in that area.”
Seven retorted indignantly to the chief engineer.
Now, B’Elanna’s hackles were raised. “Can you believe this, Tom?” she said as she turned to her human lover besides her. “We’re being lectured about sexual morality from a twenty-seven year-old virgin, for crying out loud!”
Harry was stunned. He couldn’t believe that B’Elanna would just blurt out…what she just said. Seven clearly stiffened up upon hearing the other woman’s comments. She seemed to go pale and her eyes widened somewhat. “Virgin?” she inquired.
“Yeah, you know. Never been kissed…and then some.” B’Elanna shot back with an evil grin. Tom couldn’t help but chuckle.
Seven stood up abruptly, leaving her meal on the table. “If you will excuse me, I recall having other duties to attend to.” She turned to leave.
“Seven, wait!” Harry got up after her. “God, B’Elanna, of all the things you had to say….” He tore after the beautiful ex-drone, leaving behind a stunned couple to ponder their actions.
“Jeez, what did I do now?” she looked at Tom in confusion. He could only shrug his shoulders.
Seven stormed down the corridor away from the mess hall, her thoughts in turmoil. She couldn’t understand why Lt. Torres’ words had so upset her. The belligerent chief engineer had insulted and confronted her on numerous occasions, yet she had never been this unnerved before.
Her reflections were interrupted by a familiar sound, the voice of Ensign Kim calling out to her.
“Hey, Seven…hold on!”
She turned in his direction and arched an eyebrow at him. “To what am I expected to hold on to, Ensign?”
Harry flushed for a moment. “It’s just a figure of speech, Seven. I…” he stammered before continuing. “I wanted to apologize for what B’Elanna said to you. She had no right to throw in your face something so…well…so personal.”
“You are not responsible for Lieutenant Torres’ words or actions, Ensign. There is no need for you to apologize.”
“I know. It just seemed like she hurt your feelings, the way you left so abruptly.”
“My feelings are irrelevant, Ensign.”
A look of concern appeared on Harry’s face. “Oh, don’t ever say that, Seven. Your feelings are very much relevant to…a lot of people on Voyager.” He seemed to say that last part with difficulty. “And they should be relevant to you, at least.”
“Look, I just wanted to make sure you were OK.” He smiled reassuringly.
“I am…” she searched for the right word, one that the Doctor had taught her. “I am fine, Ensign. Your concern is noted.”
Harry chuckled at her answer. Same old Seven, he thought. “How about I meet you in Astrometrics in half an hour. I just need to swing by my quarters for a bit.”
“Yes, your shower.”
“That’s right…you remembered?”
“I remember everything you say to me, Ensign Kim. We are colleagues, are we not?”
He nodded, with a smile appearing on his face. “See you in half an hour.”
She watched him leave down the corridor. She felt guilty about not being entirely honest with Ensign Kim about her feelings. She had been bothered by Lieutenant Torres’ comments about her lack of sexual experience. But she did not want to bring this up with the ensign. He would have insisted on talking about it and it was not a subject matter she cared to elaborate on with him. She could not understand why that was so, either.
This was not something that was going to go away. She needed to discuss the matter with someone. And there was only one person on the ship with whom she could comfortably discuss such intimate matters with complete confidentiality.
Seven of Nine entered sickbay with some trepidation. Although she still regarded the Doctor as her closest confidant aboard Voyager, she had noticed a subtle strain in their friendship since she concluded her experiment in human dating rituals. It was nothing obvious that she could point out, only an uneasy tension in their conversations that would appear, particularly when the topic would steer towards more personal matters. She did not inquire about this uneasiness to the Doctor. After all, her ability to read humans, or in this case, holographic simulations of humans, was an immature skill at best. She didn’t want to create any problem if none already existed. So she said nothing, hoping that more information would reveal itself as time went on.
“Seven,” the Doctor greeted her. He was at his workstation, no doubt reviewing the crew’s medical records in light of the ship’s recent crisis. “I trust everything is going well down in Astrometrics?”
“Yes, Doctor. Astrometrics is nearly at peak efficiency. I will be joining Ensign Kim later to complete the necessary repairs.”
“Splendid. Fortunately, we weren’t too badly shaken up down here. I did lose a few samples of mitochloria lythansomide during the flare, I’m afraid. But nothing I can’t clone more of if I need any,” he said with a friendly grin.
Seven nodded in response. She wasn’t quite sure as to how to bring up the subject. The Doctor, however, could tell she had more to say.
“Seven of Nine, is there something else you wanted to talk about? I get the feeling you didn’t come down here to engage in chit-chat,” he observed.
She took a deep breath. There was no putting it off any longer. “You are correct, Doctor. There is something…but I am not quite certain how to discuss the matter.”
“Seven, you can always talk freely with me. You know that.”
The former drone squirmed slightly. “There was an incident in the mess hall a short while ago. An incident involving Lt. Torres directing insulting remarks at me.”
“You being insulted by Lt. Torres? Well, color me surprised,” the Doctor answered facetiously. “Although I find it strange that her comments would have you so visibly upset. Since when did you become so sensitive?”
“I am not upset, Doctor…”
“Aren’t you?” he dug at her. “Just what did she say?”
Seven paused briefly, gathering her thoughts, before continuing. “She…mocked my…sexual inexperience.” There, she said it!
A serious look crossed the Doctor’s face. “Oh, I see…” Again, that strain appeared in the conversation. Seven wondered whether or not she had wasted her time coming here before the Doctor spoke up again. “And her comments were…embarrassing to you?”
She stiffened up. “Embarrassment is irrelevant, Doctor.”
“Now, Seven,” he counseled her. “You don’t have to be proud. And you have nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s hardly your fault that you spent the years as a Borg drone when most young ladies are picking out their prom dresses.”
“I am not embarrassed,” she responded, a bit louder than she intended. “I simply feel that I am…incomplete.”
“Incomplete?” the hologram inquired of his student. “How can you possibly feel that way? You’re perfect just the way you are. You shouldn’t allow yourself to feel insecure just because of little adolescent mess hall smart-mouthing.”
“That is not what disturbs me, Doctor.” Seven tried to collect herself before continuing. “In my studies on human nature, I find that sexuality has played a predominant role in literature, historical events, and interpersonal dynamics. Yet it is an aspect of humanity with which I have had no direct experience. I feel as though I have been denied a valuable insight into human behavior. I find this…unsettling.”
“Well, you shouldn’t feel left out, Seven. I’m sure that when the time is right, an opportunity will…er…present itself,” the Doctor answered her with nervous uncertainty.
Seven was silent before she chose to respond to the Doctor’s remarks. “At one point, shortly after I arrived on aboard, I did have an opportunity to explore human copulation directly, but events did not work out as I had intended.”
The Doctor’s eyes widened in shock. “Really? With whom? Please don’t tell me it was Mr. Paris making a play for you!”
“It was not Ensign Paris,” she answered, not amused. She was about to reveal to the Doctor the full story about what took place between herself and Ensign Kim when he invited her to view the ‘K’tarian Moonrise’ program, but thought again. Commander Chakotay had requested that she not speak of the incident with anyone else and she felt that the misunderstanding might cause discomfort to Ensign Kim. Seven knew what a gossip the Doctor could be. “Suffice it to say, I made certain errors in my interpersonal skills and confusion resulted. I decided to move on to other aspects of human behavior before returning to study sexuality in greater detail.”
“And now you’re thinking it’s time to learn from your old mistakes?” he asked with some concern.
“Perhaps…” she said absent-mindedly, before continuing with greater determination. “Yes, perhaps it is an appropriate time for me to develop a greater understanding of the human need to copulate. It would lend much to my comprehension of human motivation.”
A look of concern crossed the Doctor’s face. “Seven, I was only joking. I didn’t intend…” he stammered.
“Are you honestly saying that you want someone among the crew to have sex with you?”
“Yes, Doctor. I will have to take great care in determining an appropriate list of candidates…” she answered before being cut of frantically by the holographic physician.
“I thought you told me that no one among the crew was a suitable mate for you.” His tone was almost accusatory.
“I am not looking for a mate, Doctor. I merely require assistance in accomplishing an act of copulation. Beyond that, I ask nothing else from the crewmember in question.”
The Doctor’s concern grew stronger. “Seven, I wish you would reconsider this course of action. There are emotions involved in intimate behavior that…well, let’s just say that it gets complicated. As a friend, I strongly advise you to hold off on doing this. At least until you have a better understanding of your own humanity.”
“Doctor, I assure that I will take every precaution necessary.”
The Doctor sounded unconvinced. “So, who do you plan to involve in this little experiment of yours? Lt. Chapman, perhaps?”
“Preferably not,” she said uncomfortably, remembering the disaster that her first date with him had been.
“Well, perhaps it’s just as well. I understand that since your little fling with the lieutenant, he’s developed quite a reputation among the ladies. It would seems that your brief relationship has done him a bit of good in the long run.”
“Yes, I have seen his ‘reputation’ in action,” she answered dryly.
“So, what do you plan to do then? Put on cheap lipstick and fishnet stockings, prowl the corridors and approach men saying ‘hey, sailor, want to get lucky?'” His tone dripped with sarcasm.
She looked at him blankly, not understanding the reference.
“Never mind, Seven. I…I don’t suppose you’d consider a holographic substitute?” he asked anxiously.
“I would prefer my first sexual experience to be with a member of my own species,” she responded plain and direct.
The Doctor cast his eyes downward in disappointment. “I see…” he answered her.
Seven looked at her mentor with surprise. He sounded genuinely perturbed. She could not understand how this breakdown in communication had developed between the two of them. They had always exchanged information so freely and unambiguously in the past. Every time he had advised her…
Perhaps that was it, she thought. The Doctor may believe that she no longer had regard for the validity of his advice. He had seemed disappointed when she had told him she no longer wished to date any of Voyager‘s crew, and now he was unsettled by her decision to experience copulation. She knew he valued the time they spent together. He may believe that as she became more human, she would no longer have any need for him. She would have to say something to reassure him.
“Doctor, your counsel is always of great assistance to me, and in my development as an individual.”
The Doctor perked his head up, seeming genuinely pleased by her compliment. “Why…thank you, Seven. And I didn’t mean to criticize before, it’s just…”
“I know you are concerned for me, Doctor. I will consider your words carefully,” she interrupted, certain of what he was going to say. “You are always of great relevance to me.”
The Doctor responded with a broad smile.
“I imagine that our relationship is much like that of a father and daughter, is it not?” she added, confident that it would be exactly what he needed to hear.
The hologram said nothing for a moment before answering. “Yes…a father and daughter. That’s…quite moving, Seven. I…don’t quite know what to say. Well, promise me you’ll think about what I’ve said before doing anything.”
Seven nodded. He was no doubt overcome with emotion right now, a perfect opportunity to leave.
“Good day, Doctor,” she said as she turned to go. This has been a productive visit, she thought. Not only did she now have a new course of action to pursue, one that would further her study of humanity, but she had also managed to restore the integrity of her relationship with the Doctor. All in all, it was a most efficient use of time.
As the doors to sickbay slid shut behind Seven, the Doctor could only shake his head. “Her father…” he sighed softly to himself.
Seven of Nine strode down the hallway, en route to Astrometrics. She had a new mission to take on. Compiling a list of candidates for her first sexual encounter would be a different challenge than choosing a first date. A more complicated set of variables would have to be considered than simply having common interests and an efficient work record. After considering her preferences, she concluded that she would rather her first intimate moment to be with a male. Of course, he would have to have had some prior sexual experience himself. But she considered the Doctor’s advice carefully. An invitation to have sex could be misconstrued as a desire to form a permanent affiliation. Clearly, she did not want that. At the same time, she wanted her first time to be as satisfactory as possible, so the participant would have to be sensitive to her feelings and her situation. Someone with whom she already had a close affiliation would be a positive determinant. Physical attractiveness was another important factor. Most of all, the male in question would have to be someone who she knew did not have romantic feelings for her.
With these variables taken into consideration, Seven knew of one individual in particular who satisfied all of her requirements.
“Ensign Kim,” she stated as she entered the Astrometrics lab.
The young Starfleet officer was already at work, hunkered down underneath the main workstation, tearing through its internal systems. He noticed her entrance and call over to her.
“Hey Seven, sorry to start without you. I decided to get straight to work on your efficiency problem,” he greeted her with a warm, comforting smile.
“Have you made any progress in restoring the Astrometric sensors to full operational status?” she answered back as efficiently as always.
“Well, I had managed to get us up to 91% efficiency on the first trial run…” he offered as he slid out from underneath the console and got to his feet.
“That is unacceptable,” she cut in harshly.
“But then,” he countered, assertively but still with good humor, “I ran a check on the deflector array to discover any imperfections that might be degrading Astrometrics’ performance.”
“I am aware of the damage taken to the deflector dish during the particle burst, Ensign. I had hoped we could find a means by which to compensate for its loss of efficiency until the maintenance team’s lax repair efforts could be completed.”
Harry seemed hurt, as if her disparaging of the deflector maintenance crew was directed at him personally.
“Hey, that’s not fair, Seven. You know that the array took the hardest hit during the flare-up. They’ve been doing the best that they can.”
“Yet despite four days of effort, they are nowhere near completion.”
A broad grin spread across Harry Kim’s face. “That was before, until I came up with an idea.”
Seven listened with interest. He had her attention.
“I put in a call to Sam Wildman and had the Astrometric sensors networked through the deflector’s resonance oscillator.”
“You used the Astrometrics sensors to perform an internal ship’s system diagnosis?” Seven asked puzzled.
“In a manner of speaking. What I found was this…” Harry tapped a panel on the workstation. A cross section of the main deflector array appeared on the huge viewscreen. Harry zoomed in the view and small, cloudy patches began to come into view across the array’s luminous blue surface.
Seven read the results of Harry’s analysis on a nearby PADD. Her eyes widened at the results. “It would appear that microscopic sections of the array’s surface material have been transmuted on a quantum level.” And far below the level that a standard Starfleet tricorder would normally detect, she acknowledged.
“Exactly! When that protostar flared up, it was like flying head-on into a particle accelerator. Direct molecular transmutation, but with the structural integrity of the deflector still in place! From their readings, the repair crews couldn’t detect anything wrong!”
Seven concluded his thoughts. “Yet because the properties of the deflector dish itself had been changed, its operation was unevenly degraded.”
Harry beamed triumphantly. “Maintenance is already sending out a team to replace the surface coating of the deflector. Astrometrics should be at peak efficiency by tomorrow morning. Sam was so grateful she promised me a bottle of champagne. They’d been tearing their hair out the last two days trying to figure out what was wrong down there. I was just disengaging Astrometrics from the deflector diagnostics when you arrived.”
The beautiful ex-drone nodded in respect to Ensign Kim’s reasoning. “So you succeeded in solving the difficulty not only with Astrometrics, but with the deflector array as well. A most impressive procedure, Ensign.”
“Is that a compliment I’m hearing from you?” he teased.
“I do give compliments when they are deserved, Ensign Kim.”
Seven considered the young officer before her. Although Harry Kim did not come close to her in terms of pure intellect, he was clearly among the most intelligent of Voyager‘s human crewmembers. He also possessed a unique manner of finding associations between problems that frequently managed to elude her. He rarely had difficulty following her train of thought when they worked together. All in all, Seven felt the ensign had a promising future within the Starfleet hierarchy. There was no doubt in her mind that he would one day surpass Lt. Torres in ability as an engineer or Captain Janeway as a scientist. Their recent encounter with the intelligent explosive device had even revealed that he had the makings of a resourceful commander. He lacked only the necessary experience and an unwavering confidence in his abilities before he could live up to his full potential.
Seven noticed the increase in vascularization in the young ensign’s face in response to her comments. She believed this was known as ‘blushing.’ Given the friendly moment they were now sharing, it seemed as appropriate a time as any to bring up the subject of her latest study in humanity.
“Ensign, I require your assistance on an additional matter.”
“Oh? Well, seeing as how I’m on a roll today…” he joked with her.
“Ensign Kim, I was not entirely honest with you earlier today.”
Harry nodded his head slowly. “You mean about what happened with B’Elanna and the mess hall? Yeah, I had a feeling you were more upset than you were letting on.”
“It was not a question of my being upset, Ensign. The incident caused me to recognize that there are certain fundamental gaps in my understanding of human behavior.”
“What sort of gaps?” Harry asked, genuinely curious.
“For one thing, my understanding of human sexuality. I have come to realize that there is much to human behavior that I cannot relate to without a direct experience of the phenomenon itself.” Seven’s eyes seemed to grow more serious as she spoke.
Harry, meanwhile, was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the direction this discussion was taking. “And how exactly do you need my help with all of this?”
“Quite simply, Ensign, I require you to have sexual intercourse with me.”
Harry stood still for a moment, trying to let the words sink in. This seemed like a repeat of another awkward moment they had together. “Excuse me?”
“Having evaluated all members of the crew, I find that you are the ideal candidate for this endeavor. You and I are already closely affiliated, so there would be no need to waste time in familiarizing ourselves with each other….”
“Uh, Seven…” he tried to butt in, desperate to get some control over the situation before it went too far.
“I also can tell from the dilation of your pupils that you still find me attractive. I can also say that I find your own physical structure to be optimal.”
“Seven, I…” He tried to speak up, but his voice was too soft.
“In addition, you have had prior experience in sexual matters, which would be of great benefit to my research.”
“Seven, listen to me…”
“…And of course, you have been quite clear that you do not possess any feelings for me beyond that of friendship.”
Harry stood completely still, not quite believing the cold, analytical manner she had presented her proposal to him. “Seven, didn’t we have this conversation once before?”
“Yes, but much time has passed since then. I would have presumed that any reluctance to copulate with me at that time would have been due to our mutual unfamiliarity. Surely our working relationship these past two years has formed a closer affiliation that would enhance any…”
“Seven, no,” he said quietly, but firmly. The old Harry Kim might have panicked and run away, but this time Harry was standing firm and making his feelings clear.
“No?” she responded, puzzled by his answer.
“That’s right, Seven. The answer is no.” His answer was cool, controlled, tight-lipped.
“You do not wish to copulate with me? You did offer to assist me in any way…”
“Not this way, Seven.”
“I do not understand…clearly you find me desirable, yet…”
“God, Seven!” Harry burst out in frustration. “I don’t make the cut as your first date, but as for being your first boy-toy, I’m the best of what’s left?!” He then stormed to leave Astrometrics. Two years ago, he would have forgiven this as a misunderstanding, another case of Seven not knowing any better. But after all this time, after everything they’d been through together, for her to still view him like…some piece of equipment…as if his feelings were of no consequence.
It was more that Harry could take at that moment.
Seven called out to him, “Ensign Kim, you are the ideal candidate…”
As the doors swished open, he snapped back at her. “Gee, Seven. I don’t know when I’ve ever been so highly praised!” He then stormed off into the corridor, not bothering to look back.
Seven watched him leave, completely baffled by his reaction. She let out a faint sigh of disappointment. Of all of Voyager‘s crew, she had been certain Ensign Kim was the one she understood the best.
Apparently, she didn’t understand him at all.
Harry had tried to fall asleep that night, but couldn’t get himself to relax, he was so tensed up. After several hours of tossing and turning, he gave up on any hope of getting a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, he was on Beta shift the next day, so he didn’t need to be up and alert until 1400 hours. So he threw on a pair of sweat pants, slippers, and his best Starfleet issue T-shirt and trudged his way down to the mess hall.
The scene of the crime, where this whole craziness got started, he grimaced to himself.
He still had a hard time believing what took place in Astrometrics earlier today. How could someone so unbelievably beautiful, someone who made his insides melt the way she did, how could she be so damned…cold. As awful as that word sounded, it was most accurate one he could think of.
He knew that Seven didn’t always understand what her words meant, or how they affected other people. Everyone, especially him, tried to make allowances for her.
But not everyone in the crew felt for her the way he did.
He wasn’t sure exactly what he did feel. It wasn’t quite love, but it was more than friendship, he knew that much.
It wasn’t just her beauty either, although there was no denying it was a factor in his attraction to her. Lots of men among the crew thought she was a looker, and they usually punctuated their observations with a host of lewd commentaries. Harry usually excused himself from those conversations.
It was her innocence, her unique perspective on life that captivated him. It was a rare treat when he was present for those moments when she discovered something new, experiencing something for the first time. It was like he was living it with her. Moments like that were…magical.
But it had been clear to him, after that “K’tarian Moonrise” episode, that she wasn’t anywhere near ready to understand the basics of a romantic relationship. He liked to believe that he had rejected her first offer to copulate out of some innate sense of chivalry or a refusal to take advantage of her innocence. The shameful truth, however, was that her aggressiveness and apparent lack of emotion had spooked the hell out of him. He had been pretty green back then…
It was only afterwards, when he had time to reflect on the incident, that he understood what had happened that night. She was still coming to grips with the idea of being a solitary individual. Love? Love was…irrelevant.
Realizing this, Harry concluded that if he could not be her lover, he could at least try to be her friend. As an emerging individual, she needed someone to guide her through the complexities of human interactions far more than someone to attach herself emotionally.
And so he continued to engage her in conversation when they worked. He invited her to join him for meals with other crewmembers. He encouraged her to participate in social activities in the holodeck. He would defend her against insults or criticism from other crewmembers, particularly B’Elanna.
At times, he couldn’t tell whether or not she appreciated his overtures. Mostly it seemed like she regarded him as an annoying pest or a foolish child. But, he kept telling himself, he wasn’t doing any of this to be acknowledged. He extended himself because she needed friends. He would do the same for anyone else aboard Voyager.
After a year of ‘just being friends,’ Harry realized that he couldn’t keep waiting for her forever. Seven would come into her own at her own pace, but that could take years, if ever. He deserved some happiness of his own in the here-and-now, he had decided. So began his embarrassing attempts to court Megan Delaney (accompanied by his equally embarrassing attempts to dissuade her over-eager twin sister).
And then came Tal.
He had believed that he loved the Varro engineer. At the time it had seemed so real, so powerful. But as distance and time grew, he realized that his attraction had been purely…well…chemical. She was lovely, she had a sharp mind, and the sex was, to put it simply, out of this world. But it was the forbidden lure of their relationship that had made it exciting, made it so intense. As he gained more perspective and the pain of separation passed, he could see how he had confused this excitement for love. He hoped that Tal had come to realize the same thing, and had gotten on with her life.
Maybe it’s the same thing with Seven, he thought. Perhaps he was drawn to her for the same reason he was to Tal. An attraction to someone exotic, or a way out from the loneliness of life aboard Voyager. Or maybe it was a desperate attempt to recapture some of what he had with Libby back on Earth?
“Harry? Is that you?”
The young officer looked up from his introspection to see Neelix over by the kitchen counter. Harry waved to him.
“Well, you’re up awfully late, aren’t you?” he commented with his usual good cheer.
In spite of his earlier angst, Harry couldn’t help but smile in response to Neelix’s own infectious grin. “I guess I couldn’t sleep. I figured looking out at the stars would help me to put things in perspective.”
“Oh? Deep thoughts, I see. Anything you care to talk about?”
Harry shrugged. “Nothing really worth talking about. Just things…you know.”
Neelix nodded in response. As morale officer, he was always ready to extend himself to anyone who needed help. But he never forced himself on anybody who wasn’t ready to share. That was probably what Harry liked most about him. He usually knew where to draw the line between being helpful and being a pest.
Of course, Harry mused, Tuvok might have a different perspective on the matter.
Neelix trotted over to the supply cabinet and began unloading for tomorrow’s breakfast crowd. “I heard there was a bit of a ruckus earlier today between B’Elanna and Seven,” he called over to Harry as he worked. “I was fetching more pillaba shoots from the storage bin and didn’t get to see what happened. Ensign Jenkins told me about it afterwards.”
Harry groaned quietly, wishing Neelix had brought up a different topic of conversation. “Oh, it was nothing. B’Elanna shot off a few insults, that sort of thing.”
“The way I heard it, Seven ran out crying and you went after her to comfort her.”
Harry Kim sat upright in his chair. How did these rumors ever get started? “Seven? Crying? You can’t be serious.”
“I didn’t really believe that part,” Neelix answered with a small chuckle. “But you did go after though?”
Harry nodded reluctantly, not really wanting to elaborate. “I…I just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
Neelix smiled in approval. “Seven’s very lucky to have a friend like you.”
The young ensign snorted derisively. “Oh, a friend. Is that what I’m supposed to be?”
Neelix was startled by Harry’s reaction. “Well, of course you are, Harry. Why wouldn’t you think so?”
“I…,” Harry started to answer. “I don’t know, Neelix. You work alongside someone for nearly two years, spend time in the mess hall and the holodeck, and you think you’d have some idea what’s going on inside their head.”
The Talaxian smiled back at Harry. “I must admit, Seven of Nine is a pretty tough nut to crack. I guess you just have to know how to listen to her. That’s what Naomi always says.”
“Naomi?” Seven and little Naomi Wildman. Now there was an odd friendship if there ever was one. Almost as odd as Tom, B’Elanna and me, he thought to himself. Of course, in a way it made sense. Despite her adult body and formidable intelligence, Seven was probably the closest thing on board Voyager to another child Naomi’s age.
“Oh yes,” said Neelix. “When she started to spend time with Seven, Sam was a bit concerned. She was afraid that Seven might do or say something to frighten Naomi or make her cry. But so far, everything has worked out just fine between the two of them.”
“How do you suppose they manage that?”
“By listening to each other. I mean, if you were to overhear the way Seven talks to Naomi, you’d think she was being horribly rude to her. I know that’s what I thought when they came into the mess hall one afternoon.
“But Naomi explained to me that it doesn’t hurt her feelings when Seven speaks harshly. Seven just doesn’t know any better. It’s just the way it comes out.”
Harry saw the sense of what Neelix was telling him. As a Borg, Seven was used to thinking about what she felt, rather than going through the extra step of putting them into words for other people’s benefit.
“Like Naomi says, you just have to know what she means when she talks, and be willing to forgive when it doesn’t sound quite the way you expect.” Neelix chuckled lightly to himself. “Isn’t she something? Our little crewman could teach us grown-ups a thing or two about understanding.”
The young ensign nodded in agreement. That she could, he thought.
“What I’m trying to say, Harry,” Neelix continued, “is that you shouldn’t worry so much about what Seven says or does. Listen to what she means. And then you’ll know how to go from there. I think you’ll find you understand her a lot better than you might think.”
Harry considered Neelix’s friendly advice as he wandered back down the hallway to his quarters.
Listen to what she means. Fine, but just what the hell does she mean? he asked himself.
He replayed the conversation in Astrometrics over and over again in his head, trying to find the hidden meaning in her words. Why else would a young woman of Seven’s background and circumstances want sex from him, unless…
The realization hit Harry like a photon torpedo. Oh my god! Seven wants me!
It made perfect sense. Why else would Seven approach him like that unless she genuinely wanted to get closer to him? Not having any experience with sex or love, she would know no other means of expressing her desires, except as a request for assistance.
It seemed so incredible. He had resigned himself long ago to the fact that Seven would never feel any intimate affection for him. The idea that she could be groping through her feeling…that she had any feelings for him..it was just too incredible.
Yet the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. In fact, there seemed to be clues that stretched back for months, clues that he had been too blind to notice before. The way she reacted when he was falling for Tal. She had been so concerned with his well being, rushing him to sick bay when he first reacted to the bonding, then wishing him a speedy recovery after he and Tal had separated. She had even thanked him for his help. How often did she do that for anyone else? Maybe the Doctor or the captain now and then, but with him it seemed to be more frequent. It was almost as if his opinion of her was important.
There was also the time she went on her first date. She had casually dismissed him as not being one of her final candidates, as if she completely disregarded the idea out of hand. At least, that was how he had read it at the time. But did he detect a hint of playfulness in her voice? Like she was playing hard-to-get? Or maybe it was jealousy, like she was punishing him for falling for Tal…and not for her.
There were so many little hints that were now falling into place. Things that he hadn’t picked up on before. But they all lead to one inescapable conclusion.
She likes me! She really likes me! He beamed like a giddy teenager. A feeling of warmth and excitement washed over him, the same excitement he had felt when he had first tried to court the lovely Seven of Nine two years ago. Could those old feelings be back? Maybe they had never gone away, waiting only for the right time, when they could be returned in kind.
Maybe that time was right now. In which case, it was time to act upon them.
Harry Kim marched back to his quarters, his confusion and frustration now dispelled. He had a renewed sense of purpose. It was time to come up with a plan, one that would show the woman of his dreams the proper way to express her feelings. And to express his own, as well.
The next morning, as soon as Harry woke up and got dressed, he asked the computer about Seven of Nine’s location.
“Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two.”
“Is her regeneration alcove currently active?”
“Negative. Regeneration alcove ceased to draw power at 0700.”
Harry was relieved. Seven had just woken up and was still in her quarters. He quickly rushed himself down to see her, rehearsing in his mind everything he planned to tell her. He only hoped he didn’t stammer or come across as the green ensign he was when…
Stop it! he berated himself. You have to be confident or you’ll never pull this off!
He arrived outside the Cargo Bay and announced his entrance. The doors opened. Harry was relieved to know that Seven was still willing to speak to him, even after his rejection of her yesterday.
“Ensign Kim?” she looked at him curiously. It seemed more of a question than an acknowledgment. She was wearing her plum catsuit today while standing over her personal workstation. With his new-found realization, she looked more lovely than ever to Harry.
“Good morning, Seven. I…” he lost his train of thought. No, dammit. You’ve got to keep your cool. Do it just like you planned last night.
“Seven, I came to apologize for my behavior yesterday. I misinterpreted your intentions and drew the wrong conclusions.”
“I see…to what conclusion did you come when I made my request to you?”
“Well, let’s just say that it’s complicated. But my behavior was completely unacceptable. In fact, I’m honored that you chose me to share such a special moment with you.”
Seven looked him over, trying to understand the Ensign’s motives. She still did not comprehend why he had become upset with her yesterday, but she was pleased that the situation had been rectified.
“As I said yesterday, Ensign Kim, you are the ideal candidate.”
“Then am I to presume that you haven’t yet made other arrangements?” Harry gave her a confident smile.
“I have not. I was attempting to comprehend what error I had committed with you before proceeding to ask another.”
Harry grinned to himself. Of course she was, he thought. She’s just trying to play it cool, not to give away her feelings so easily.
“Just out of curiosity, Seven, who was your next candidate?”
She hesitated before answering. “Lt. Chapman.”
He chuckled out loud upon hearing her answer. “I imagine you weren’t looking forward to asking him to help you out.”
“No, I was not.”
“Well, Seven. Seeing as how you haven’t made any other arrangements, I’d like to know if your request for me to assist you in your study of sexuality is still open.” He moved closer to her as he spoke, coming close to violating her personal space. She did not seem to shrink back from him.
“You wish to assist me, then?” Her eyes seemed to light up as she spoke to him.
“Yes, yes I do.” Harry said with all the courage he could muster. You have no idea, he added quietly.
“That would be acceptable.” Harry noted a sense of relief on Seven’s beautiful face, despite her attempts to mask them with Borg coolness. She soon, however, regained complete control over herself. “The time is now 0800. I regret that I have no sleeping apparatus here for us to make use of. We can relocate to your quarters, if that is permissible with you. I estimate that it should take no longer than 15 minutes for us to complete our copulating. Of course, I will need you to…”
“Whoa, hold on a minute there Seven,” Harry interrupted, trying to steer control of the conversation. He had been prepared for this and continued his plans accordingly. “That’s not the way things are done.”
“Ensign Kim, explain,” she looked at him plain and straight.
“Seven, this is going to be your first time. It’s a very special moment for you. It’s a special moment for anyone. I want to make sure that it’s the best possible experience that it can be for you.”
“That is not necessary, Ensign.”
“Oh, but it is. Seven, when you asked me to help you out, you did so with the expectation that I, as the more experienced partner, would know exactly what procedure to follow, am I right?” He reached out to her and touched her arm softly as he spoke.
The young woman shivered subtly as his hand came in contact. “You are correct.”
“Well then, as the more experienced partner, it’s my responsibility to make certain this experience is as complete and enjoyable for you as possible.”
“Enjoyment is irrelevant, Ensign Kim.”
Harry let out a soft smile. “You may say that now, but years from now as your humanity grows, you may think differently. Who knows, Seven, you may even turn out to be downright sentimental.”
Seven looked at him skeptically, “That is unlikely.”
“Can you be so sure? Seven, I don’t want you to look back, years from now, on your first time, with any sense of sadness or regret. I want it to be a cherished memory for you. Can you understand that?”
“I believe that I do.”
“Then you’ll trust me to make all of the necessary arrangements?”
“I do trust you.”
“Excellent! What do say to my picking you up here in two days at, say, 2000 hours?”
She paused and considered his request. “Ensign Kim, what you are describing sounds suspiciously like…a date.” She seemed uneasy at the thought of going out on another human mating ritual. This was becoming more complicated than what she had originally planned.
“Seven, you said that you trusted me. I promise you that this evening will turn out to be one that you will treasure for years to come.”
“But we will still copulate, will we not?”
“Of course we will, Seven. At the end of the evening. But there are certain procedures that must be followed first.”
She considered his words carefully before answering. “Very well. I accept.”
“That’s wonderful,” he beamed at her. “I’ll need the two days to make preparations, of course.”
“Of course. Ensign, I would prefer that mention of our ‘project’ be kept to a minimum. I would not wish either of us to become the subject of shipboard gossip. I have noticed in the past how quickly information of this nature spreads throughout the ship.”
“I agree wholeheartedly. It will be strictly on a need-to-know basis.”
“Thank you, Ensign.” She paused before continuing. “Will you be seeing Ensign Paris later?”
“Oh, for certain. Why do you ask?”
“Tell him ‘body heat.'”
“In response to his query yesterday. ‘Body Heat’ William Hurt, Kathleen Turner, MGM Pictures, 1981. Regarding motion pictures of the 20th century with high levels of perspiration. It is only a preliminary answer as I have not had sufficient time to survey the entire cultural database on old Earth entertainment.”
“Oh…that’s quite all right.” Harry wasn’t familiar with this movie, but he did recognize the name of the actress. She had provided the voice of one of the characters in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit,’ a rather odd film that Tom had screened in the mess hall a few weeks back, which turned out to be a surprise hit with the crew. He wasn’t sure if the real actress looked anything like Jessica Rabbit, but judging by her sultry voice and the title Seven mentioned, he had no doubt that the ‘high levels of perspiration’ weren’t just due to the temperature.
My, Seven, aren’t you a sly one with the innuendoes today, he grinned mischievously to himself.
She then spoke softly to him as he turned to leave. “Ensign, one of the determining factors in my choosing you as a candidate was your sensitivity to my…feelings. I can honestly say that you have exceeded my expectations in this area.”
“Why, thank you, Seven.” Another little hint she had just dropped. He couldn’t believe he didn’t see all of this before.
As he left the Cargo Bay, he resisted the urge to let out a yell of triumph. He had done it! Or at least he had completed Phase One of his plan. Seven was now ready to go on a date with him. Phase Two would involve making sure he actually had a place to take her.
Oh, he’d definitely be seeing Tom later. The Captain had granted the crew double holodeck rations as a reward for their hard work these last few days. As a result, the holodecks were booked up for weeks. Fortunately, Tom and B’Elanna had moved quickly and reserved an entire evening of holodeck time two days from now. It would take a bit of pleading and a whole lot of horse-trading to get them to give up their evening together. But he was sure they would relent. They were his friends, after all.
Unfortunately, it would also involve telling them what he had planned.
“You’re going to do what?!” Tom Paris was stunned beyond belief after hearing his best friend’s revelation.
“You heard me.” Harry, of course, was still charged up from his earlier encounter with Seven. He grinned from ear-to-ear as he stood in Tom’s quarters, watching him sputtering in shock.
Of course, if anyone was more vocal than Tom it was his half-Klingon lover standing right besides him.
“Harry, have you lost your mind!?! Are you so desperate for sex that you’d put yourself through this?!” B’Elanna paced back and forth in Tom’s quarters, trying to get a grip on the situation and not let her temper flare too far out of control.
The younger man shrank back at his friend’s angry comments, but would not allow his positive mood to be dampened.
“Look, you don’t understand. If only you heard the way she sounded when I told her I’d help her out. She seemed almost…well, excited. At least for Seven of Nine, she was.”
B’Elanna just shook her head in pity. “Harry, you’re delusional. You’re just seeing what you want to see.”
Tom took this moment to step forward. “Uh, Harry, I thought you were way past this crush of yours a while back.”
“It’s not a crush, Tom. I mean, I’ve always…liked her. On some level, anyway. I just gave up hope that she’d ever feel anything back for me.” He then smiled and his eyes lit up. “Until now, that is. That’s why I need your holodeck time. I’ve got everything all worked out.”
“Oh great,” Tom rolled his eyes. “You not only plan to make a complete ass out of yourself again, but you want us to give up our night on Catalina Island to help you do it.”
B’Elanna added her thoughts. “Harry, don’t you see what’s happening here? You’re not a boyfriend… you’re a damned science experiment!”
Harry found himself on the defensive, but he wasn’t about to give in to his friends’ doubts, not when he was so close. “Look, guys. I know that’s how it may seem to you, given the way Seven expresses herself. But you’ve just got to listen to what she means, not what she says.” He paused for a moment, trying to collect himself. Things were getting pretty heated in here, more than he intended. “She just needs to be shown the right way to express her true feelings, the ones that she’s too proud and too afraid to reveal.”
Tom looked at his friend skeptically. “And you’re going to do that? How? With another K’tarian Moonrise program? You told me how well that went over the last time.”
“No, Tom” irritation creeped into Harry Kim’s voice. “That time I made a mistake. I didn’t understand Seven at all back then. I didn’t know how she thought.”
“And now you do?”
“Yes!” he answered defiantly. “I know what she likes and doesn’t like. I know what her interests are. I have the perfect date planned for her.” Harry then grinned broadly and confidently. “I plan to ‘Don Juan’ the lady, Tom. She may think that we’ll just be copulating, but by the time the evening is over, we’ll be making love.”
B’Elanna stared at Harry wide-eyed in shock. “I don’t believe I’m hearing this. Do you have any idea how insane you sound?! I thought you were too smart a guy to let your hormones do your thinking for you.” She threw her arms up in exasperation.
Tom looked over at B’Elanna and smirked. He remembered the incident with the Varro and Tal. He knew full well that as smart as Harry Kim was, he was as capable of losing his sense of reason to a pretty face as much as the next guy. He just never thought that he’d be fool enough to do it twice with the same girl.
He stood alongside side her as he nodded his head in agreement. “I’ve got to go with B’Elanna on this one, Har. Look, don’t get me wrong. I like Seven. I think she happens to have a lot of very positive qualities.” He continued to speak, deliberately avoiding the quick, cold stare he got from the woman next to him. “But you’ve got to face facts. She’s nowhere near ready to take on a romantic relationship with anyone. Hell, she may never be ready. The Borg did a real number on her, buddy. She’s…”
Harry cut in, unable to stand being treated like a child anymore. “She’s what, Tom? An impossible woman? Isn’t that what you’ve been telling me from the moment she came on board?”
Tom looked oddly at his friend. “Just what are you trying to say, Harry?”
“You’ve been telling me from the moment I expressed interest in her that I never stood a chance! Why was that? Did you think I wasn’t man enough to win over a woman like Seven of Nine!” As soon as Harry said it, he immediately regretted his words. He had come here to gain his friends’ support, not to fight with them.
The normally brash pilot looked as his he had been slapped. “Is that what you think, Harry? That all these years I thought you were less of a man?”
Harry looked at his friend and knew he had hurt him. “I…uh…what I meant was…”
B’Elanna broke in, still flustered and vehement. “He was just giving you a bit of common sense, Harry.”
“You don’t understand, B’Elanna! I had…” he bit back his words before deciding to continue. “I had the chance to be intimate with Seven before and I blew it.”
“You what?!” the couple said in unison.
“That’s right…when I tried to make that date with her the first time. The so-called ‘disaster’ She took it as a sign that I wanted to initiate a mating ritual and asked to copulate with me right then and there in the mess hall” Harry paused, trying to overcome his humiliation over the whole incident. “Needless to say, I didn’t sleep with her.”
Thankfully, B’Elanna didn’t laugh at him. Instead, she seemed to calm down, as if she were relieved by the outcome of his tale. “Well, you did the right thing, Harry.”
Harry shook his head negatively. “No, you don’t get it. I didn’t turn her down out of some noble impulse or because I was able to control myself. I was scared, B’Elanna! This beautiful, aggressive woman who didn’t understand love at all threw herself at me and I panicked! I wanted to kick myself for weeks after that! I had a chance for happiness and I blew it!”
B’Elanna stared him down, a look that was both compassionate and tough. “What would you have done instead, Starfleet? Thrown Seven onto one of the tables and have your way with her? That isn’t you, Harry. You’re not capable of treating a woman with so little respect. That’s a quality you ought to be proud of, not ashamed.”
“Well, maybe I wouldn’t have had sex with her right away. But I could have taken charge of the situation. I could have explained the difference between love and sex. I could have told her what real love is like. I could have done a million different things!” Harry growled in frustration, years worth of angst finally coming to the fore. “But I ran liked a scared rabbit, instead. And I was too embarrassed to bring the subject up with her ever again after that.” He looked up into B’Elanna’s eyes, almost pleading. “Don’t you see? I have a chance this time. A chance to do things right! A chance to be happy with Seven. Please, all I ask is that you give me that chance.”
B’Elanna was silent as she looked into her friend’s sad eyes. How could she convince this poor, sweet, lonely guy that he was just setting himself up for more pain? She was about to speak up, to try to find the words to convince Harry that his aching heart had led him astray, when her human lover next to her broke his silence.
“Take it, Harry.” His voice was soft, with just a hint of sadness behind it.
Harry Kim turned to face his best friend, the one he had thought he had just insulted. “W-what did you say?”
“The holodeck time is all yours, buddy.”
“What?! Have you lost your mind, too?” B’Elanna spun to face Tom, her face twisted in shock and rage.
Tom Paris stared her down. Being in a relationship with a woman like B’Elanna, he knew that there were times when you didn’t pique her anger, and then there were times when you had to stand your ground. “Look, babe. I rented the time, and I can decide what to do with it.” He softened his voice a little. “We can always have a romantic dinner right here. Harry needs the holodeck more than we do.”
“But..” she started to protest, but she held back her words as she looked into Tom’s resolute eyes. They would continue this discussion privately.
Harry was overwhelmed. “Tom..I..I promise I’ll make it up to you. Double shifts, whatever it takes.”
Tom smiled weakly at him. “Forget it. Consider it a way of making up for any insult I gave you over the years. I never meant to make you feel small or less of a man, Harry.”
“Tom, I..” He couldn’t finish what he wanted to say, he was so touched by his friend’s generosity.
“Look, Harry,” Tom interrupted, not needing to hear his friend thank him. “I still think that this is a mistake. But it’s your mistake to make. And if there’s even a chance that you might be right about Seven, then you should have the opportunity to make it happen for you.”
Harry felt like shouting in triumph again, just as he almost did when Seven had first accepted his date. But something stopped him. There was a melancholy look on Tom’s face, as if his gift to his friend had given him no pleasure. All he could do was thank him profusely. As he turned to leave, B’Elanna called out to him. “Harry, please. Don’t do this!”
But nothing could stop Harry Kim now. Destiny was calling to him. “Don’t worry, B’Elanna. It’ll all work out. Believe me. Just promise me you won’t spread this around the ship, OK? Seven and I don’t want people to know about this.”
“We’ll keep quiet, Harry. Don’t you worry,” Tom responded softly.
“And no confrontations with Seven?” Harry looked askance at B’Elanna as he said it, warning her with his tone of voice.
“We’ll stay out of her way if we can help it.” Tom nodded, not looking at B’Elanna’s glare as he spoke.
“And Tom…” he called out to the tall pilot, “you’re the best pal a guy could ask for.”
Tom said nothing as he left. The door slid shut, and B’Elanna snarled at him. “How could you!! Bad enough he has to do something stupid like convince himself that Seven’s in love with him, but you had to go and help feed his fantasy?”
“Honey, it’s been my experience that if someone’s determined to do something stupid, they’re going to find a way to do it. The best thing you can do is make sure they get it over and done with quickly.”
“But you know what’s going to happen!” she raged at him.
“I know,” he answered solemnly.
The half-Klingon engineer started to fume, and then she seemed to lose all of her strength. Tom leaned in and put his arms around her, to offer her comfort. This was the B’Elanna few people ever got to see, the vulnerable woman who felt compassion for her friends and helplessness when she could do nothing for them.
“He’s going to be hurt,” she sighed weakly.
Tom leaned over to kiss her ridged forehead. “I know, babe. I know. All we can do is be there for him to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.”
Very little was seen of Harry Kim during the following two days. He would report to his station on time, perform his assigned duties, then disappear when his shift ended. He did not take his meals in the mess hall, nor was he to be found in the recreation lounge with his other friends. Occasionally he would be seen talking to Samantha Wildman in the corridors. For the most part, however, Harry had become a ghost, which suited him just fine. The less the rest of the crew knew about what he was working on, the better.
Fortunately, the duty roster was a light one. After repairing the recent damage done to Voyager, the captain was putting a light load on the ship’s systems, giving the vessel a proper shakedown before continuing on with their trip home. This put minimal demands on Harry’s time, allowing him to focus on programming the perfect ‘date’ for Seven.
He felt uncomfortable with how things had been left with Tom and B’Elanna, though. A few wounds had been opened the other day, and he wanted to clear things with them. Right now, however, he didn’t have the time to focus on it. He promised himself that he would work it out with them once he knew where things stood with him and Seven.
On the bridge, Captain Janeway seemed to pick up on the strange undercurrents that were running between some of her crew. Tom and Harry said very little to each other during their shifts. She didn’t get the sense of any hostility between the two of them, but their regular banter was missing. The same was the case with Harry and B’Elanna. She would look at him in a manner that seemed almost…sad, just like the look she saw the Doctor give to Seven of Nine in the corridor the other day. Of course, that was more generous than the look of unbridled fury on the engineer’s face when Seven contacted the bridge to request more power to Astrometrics. At the same time though, Harry seemed to glow with excitement and anticipation. Seven, on the other hand, was as impassive as ever. Janeway could see nothing that interfered directly with anyone’s performance, so she made a mental note to keep her eyes open and discuss the matter with Commander Chakotay should this odd behavior continue.
The truth of the matter was that there was tension in the air. Everyone involved seemed to be in stand-by mode, waiting for the big moment to come.
Tom and B’Elanna were keeping their word to Harry, though. There were no rumors about Harry and Seven floating about the ship, nor did B’Elanna confront the ex-Borg once or even cross her path. Seven focused her attention on Astrometrics, while in the back of her mind she counted down to the time that Harry Kim would come to pick her up for their evening together. She didn’t share the particulars of their upcoming date with anybody, not even the Doctor. She knew what a gossip he could be, and she could tell he did not approve of her decision to proceed in this manner. If he knew about her planned assignation with Ensign Kim, he did not bring it up with her.
The moment itself finally arrived at 2000 hours when Harry stood at the doors of Cargo Bay Two. He was dressed in neatly pressed off-duty clothing, casual yet sharp-looking. He nervously stared at the entranceway, building up the nerve to announce his arrival.
Well, Harry, he thought to himself, you got yourself this far. You might as well go the rest of the way.
He rang the chime quickly. The doors swished open, granting him entrance into the dark, cavernous, bay. Seven of Nine stood before him, wearing her silver outfit, her hair pulled back in its standard configuration. Harry was relieved. He had been afraid that she would try to ‘dress up’ for the occasion, which would have been too much of a distraction for him tonight. He had enough to focus on, making sure the evening went off without a hitch.
“Seven, you look lovely this evening.”
“Ensign Kim, my appearance has not changed significantly since we last spoke.”
Harry chuckled at her literal-mindedness. “Well, maybe not. But you still look lovely to me.”
She considered his words while choosing the appropriate response. “Thank you, Ensign. Your appearance is…optimal as well.”
“Why, thank you.”
“Ensign Kim, what will the itinerary of tonight’s activities be?”
Harry smiled mischievously at her. “It’s a surprise, Seven. Don’t worry. I know you’ll enjoy yourself.”
“I see.” She looked concerned for a moment. Seven preferred things to be predictable and controlled. Surprises made her nervous. “Will it be required of me to wear more formal attire for this evening?”
“No, not at all. I know you prefer to dress efficiently.”
“Indeed. I see little purpose in wearing complex and inefficient articles of clothing that will only be removed later when we copulate.”
He coughed uncomfortably, preferring to keep in mind the evening in its entirety, rather than focus solely on its resolution. “Remember, this is your night, Seven. I won’t ask you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with.”
“What I am uncomfortable with is the concept of dating itself. Yet I am here. Let us proceed.”
Harry was taken aback by her words. Clearly, in light of her previous experiences, she was expecting the worst tonight. He knew he had to make her feel better if the evening was going to start right.
He offered his arm to her. “Well, shall we go?”
Remembering the Doctor had made a similar gesture during their ‘date’ at the Cadi ambassador’s reception, she took the young officer’s arm and walked with him down the corridor. As they walked towards Holodeck One they could see the occasional stare from passing crewmembers as they went arm-in-arm to their evening plans. Harry grinned to himself. As soon as people figured out that it was Harry, and not Tom and B’Elanna, making use of the holodeck tonight, the rumors would start flying. By tomorrow, everyone would know about him and Seven.
Of course, if all went well tonight, he and Seven would be more than just a rumor.
As they stopped at the holodeck doors, Harry turned to his companion. “Now, Seven. Before we begin, there are three very important rules that you’ll need to follow tonight.”
“Number one, I want you to refer to me as ‘Harry’ and not ‘Ensign Kim.’ Do you think you can handle that?”
“I can adapt, although I find the use of multiple designations among the crew to be confusing and inefficient. Matters would be much simpler if humans were to use a single designation that was applied consistently in all areas.”
“Well, maybe so, but humans like to draw distinctions between our formal and informal time. Besides, when we share our given names with people, it shows that we’re close to them. I like to think that applies to you and me.”
“Then for me to refer to you by your familiar designation, that would be a gesture of…friendship?” she asked hesitantly.
“Very well…Harry Kim.” She seemed hesitant at first, as if she were adapting to the idea of referring to the young man in such a familiar manner. She then proceeded to address him further. “You mentioned other procedures that I must follow this evening.”
Harry lit up. She had finally called him by his first name. Another milestone had been crossed. He had every confidence the evening would go smoothly from here.
“Yes, Seven. Number two, try not to over-analyze or comment on everything that you see and hear tonight. Just let things happen. Be with the moment.”
“I see…but what if there is something I do not understand? I wish to gain knowledge about these experiences.” Seven showed more concern. It was, after all, in her nature to gather information about new and unfamiliar phenomena, and now Ensign…Harry…was telling her not to make inquiries. This was not how she was used to functioning.
“I understand, Seven. If you have any questions about anything, I’ll be glad to explain them to you the best that I can. Just don’t treat tonight like a field expedition, that’s all. Experience, don’t investigate. OK?”
“I will comply.”
“Good. That leads to rule number three, which is the most important rule of all,” he looked at her deeply and seriously, before letting his stern look melt away and replaced it with a cheerful grin. “Enjoy yourself. Have fun. Like I said, this is your night.”
“Have…fun…” she shuddered slightly. She was certain that would be the most difficult procedure of the three to follow.
But she would adapt. And she did find Harry’s smile strangely reassuring.
“Shall we go?” Harry gestured to the open holosuite doors. He allowed her to enter first, his eyes briefly scanning her curvaceous posterior. His attention was lost for a moment before he snapped out of it and followed her in. The holosuite was inactive, the walls dark and marked with familiar gridlines.
“Ready?” Seven nodded back at him, curious as to what her companion had planned for her.
Harry called out to the computer. “Activate program Kim Seven Alpha.”
“Activated,” the bland voice of the computer responded.
The scene shifted around them. Seven found herself standing on a platform in a large indoor chamber. She could hear the bustle of people around her. She turned around to view the room they were in. There were other people standing on the platform with her and Harry, most of whom were in the process of stepping off. The crowds were mostly human, although a few were other Alpha Quadrant species that she recognized: Vulcan, Andorian, Tellarite, Bolian, and even a handful of Klingons. She looked around the room and saw other platforms, with people dematerializing and reappearing upon them Seven realized that the platforms were transporter stations. She surveyed the pad beneath her feet. Clearly it was Federation technology, although it was not designed to Starfleet specifications. It was much larger than any transporter used on Starfleet vessels that she knew of in her collective memory. Clearly it was designed to accommodate large numbers of personnel, most likely civilians given the casual dress many of the people around her wore.
She turned to Harry, who had stood beside her patiently, waiting for her to adjust to her knew surroundings. “This is clearly a transport facility. Are we on a Federation world?”
Before he could answer, an official-sounding voice called out to them. “Please step off the platform, miss. There are other people waiting to beam in.” It was the transporter operator, a small woman dressed in a neatly tailored, yet strangely old-fashioned uniform.
“Oh, pardon us.” Harry reached out to take Seven’s hand and escorted her off the transporter platform. Just seconds after they disembarked a new crop of passengers materialized in their place. There were at least a dozen platforms in this chamber that seemed dedicated to incoming visitors, with an equal number for those departing. Seven surmised that this facility must handle a considerable volume of human traffic to be this busy.
“Ensign…Harry,” she corrected herself, “you have not answered me as to our location.”
“Relax, Seven. Remember what I told you. Be with the moment. You’ll find out soon.”
They followed the crowds out of the transporter chamber into a central concourse area. It was furnished, like the chamber they exited, in marble and brass railings. There were entertainment posters on the walls and even a few holograms, offering words of welcome that were drowned out by the din of the crowds. But her attention wandered up to the curved ceiling of the huge main hall. The surface was a cerulean blue painted with astronomical patterns and mythological figures she did not recognize. This building was clearly archaic, perhaps centuries old and well preserved, yet modernized where necessary. She paned down to see a huge holographic sign that floated over a hallway that seemed to lead out into the street. Seven read the stylized text as it scrolled across the surface:
Grand Central Station Transport Authority Welcomes You To:
The City of Manhattan New York, North America
The City That Never Sleeps
“Well, Seven. Are you surprised?” Harry asked her gleefully.
“Indeed,” she spoke softly.
Once upon a time, the city of Manhattan was part of a larger urban agglomeration called New York City. At the turn of the millennium, the United States of America was the biggest, richest, most powerful nation-state on Earth, and New York City was its premier metropolis. By the mid 21st century, all of the other great superpowers were coming apart at the seams, wracked in civil wars, radical political movements, and economic and ecological chaos. For a brief while, this America ruled the world, and did pretty much as it pleased, her leaders angry and proud. There were even a few, like the infamous Colonel Green, who dreamed of making the so-called ‘American Empire’ more real than just rhetoric.
Then, on August 6th, 2053, a pair of 10 kiloton nuclear explosives were detonated in the downtown area near Wall Street. Not much of a bang by the standards of the time, but enough to knock down several hundred buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Trump Galleria, as well as kill half a million people. As a result, eight million New Yorkers were forced to relocate.
Nobody knew for certain who was to blame, but there was a long list of suspects. In any event, the ‘Wall Street Massacre’ became the opening shot of the Third World War. When the fighting was over, 600 million were dead, and America ended up as broken as every other nation on Earth.
For years, Manhattan was a shadow of its former self, inhabited by scavengers and barbarian gangs. Only after First Contact, when the World Restoration Movement gained momentum and the nations were back on their feet was something done about the former great city. She was in far better shape than many other urban centers hit during the war, like Washington and San Antonio. And there were a few old enough to remember the old place during its glory years.
And so the city was rebuilt and cleaned-out. Its days as the center of the universe were in the past, as other undamaged cities like San Francisco rose to prominence. New York City itself was never re-incorporated, the other boroughs being absorbed or dissolving into smaller municipalities. Manhattan became known as a repository of culture, history and entertainment, not to mention having a certain unique ambiance that was all its own. In other words, it became a quaint Old World city, like Rome, Barcelona, or New Orleans. Tourists from all across Earth, and then later, the Federation, would come to see her remarkable antique sites and cultural icons. Of course, the old corporate towers gradually came down and some famous buildings were never rebuilt. Of what use was a World Trade Center when world trade itself had become obsolete?
By the 24th Century, it was San Francisco that had become the premier metropolis that was, quite literally, the center of the universe. And Manhattan settled down to become a city of artists, dreamers, and wanderers; a curious little world of its own.
Seven turned to look at Harry. “May I ask what was the significance of your choice of this location for our evening?”
“I wanted to show you Earth. And I figured this would be the perfect place to start for you.”
“Well, I know you’re not a big nature lover, so I figured that you’d appreciate an urban environment instead. And Manhattan has a lot of personal significance to me. It’s where I went to school.”
The former Borg blinked at him. “It was my understanding that Starfleet Academy was located in San Francisco.”
“Oh, not the Academy. Before that I was on a music fellowship at Juliard,” he answered her with pride. “Manhattan is the best city on Earth to hear great music. That’s another reason I chose this program. Music is one of your interests, if I’m not mistaken.”
“That is correct.” He remembered her ‘hobbies.’ Was that a deciding factor in choosing this place for their ‘date?’ Was it for her consideration?
“I am curious, Ensign Kim.”
“Harry,” he corrected her, still smiling.
“Forgive me…Harry Kim,” she answered with a touch of defiance. She looked around in appreciation as they exited the terminal building and onto the street outside. Everywhere around her were tall structures that seemed to show great age, yet were as well preserved as the interior of the concourse behind them. The streets themselves dominated by bright yellow vehicles that seemed to weave effortlessly among the unruly crowds of pedestrians on anti-grav fields. “Were you able to program this entire simulation by yourself over the preceding two days?”
“Not exactly. This program is a copy of one that belongs to Sam Wildman. Remember how she owed me a favor? Well, she let me make a dupe of her program in lieu of a bottle of champagne. I just added a few embellishments of my own that I thought you might enjoy.”
“It is convenient that she should have a holodeck program of a location so significant for you.”
“Well, she’s been crafting it together over the last three years. Tom helped her out on some of the design protocols.”
“This city is significant to her? Did she also attend school here as well?”
“You could say that.” Harry answered her. “She grew up near here, on Staten Island. She met her husband in Manhattan. He’s the native.”
Seven looked puzzled. “But Naomi Wildman’s father is K’tarian.”
The young man chuckled at her confusion. It was a mistake many non-Terrans made. “Seven, didn’t you know there was a large community of K’tarian exiles living in Manhattan? Where do you think those great music festivals are held?” He noticed that she did not answer. “Well, Sam recommended a great place in K’taria Town where we could get desert. We could head over there later tonight.”
“That would be acceptable to me. But what of the remainder of our itinerary?”
“Oh, that!” he answered with feigned non-chalance. “I thought we would start with dinner. I made reservations for us at Tavern on the Green, after which there’s a concert in Central Park that I thought you might enjoy.”
“I see…and afterwards?”
Harry knew to what she was referring. He tried to be cool about it. He wanted Seven to enjoy the entire evening, rather than simply endure his plans before reaching the inevitable climax. “Oh, I…uh…got us a nice hotel room. You’ll like it. A strictly class affair.”
“Very well. Let us proceed to the evening’s activities.”
He tried not to let his nervousness show. As much as she might appreciate the effort he was putting in to make this evening special for her, he could see that Seven saw this date as a waste of time. Clearly, she would rather go straight to the sex, and never mind the romance. To her, this was all irrelevant pageantry. It was up to him to make her see otherwise.
He took her Borg-enhanced hand into his own, and led her to the curb to hail a cab. After a few seconds of flailing his arm, a bright yellow, retro-looking vehicle pulled over in front of them. Sitting in the driver’s seat was an unshaven, barrel-chested Tellarite, who turned around and greeted them in a very uncharacteristic and obviously practiced accent.
“Where you headed, mac?”
Harry couldn’t help but chuckle. What some people won’t do to impress the tourists…
“Tavern on the Green, please.”
As soon as Harry and Seven were seated, the taxi took off at breakneck speed towards its destination, weaving erratically between the slower vehicles and pedestrians walking in the street.
Seven’s enhanced hand moved anxiously towards his knee as she spoke to him. “Ensign, I presume that the mortality failsafe has been activated for this program.”
Harry grinned at the idea of his bold, Borg companion being nervous about a little reckless driving. “Relax, Seven. It’s all part of the local color. Besides, they say that all Manhattan cabbies are good drivers. The bad ones were killed off by natural selection years ago.”
The ex-drone turned to him, the look on her face was not one of amusement. “Am I to assume that you are attempting to be humorous with me? If so, you are not being successful.” She looked past him out the window, watching the street signs count up in numerical progression. She nodded in approval at the efficient grid-like arrangement of midtown Manhattan’s streets and neighborhoods. She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that her hand was now resting comfortably on the young man’s leg.
“I’m just teasing you a little, Seven. And I thought you told me you were going to call me Harry tonight.”
“I…” Seven had no response. It did not sit well with her that she was caught being so…imperfect. “I am attempting to adapt to this new designation…Harry. It is difficult to refer to you in this manner when I have become accustomed to thinking of you in a specific manner.”
Harry placed his hand on hers, the one she had moved to his leg. “It’s OK, Seven. I just want you to get used to the idea of thinking of me in a more familiar manner. We’re not on the bridge, you know.” He shook his head and smiled. “I just find it funny that someone with an IQ greater than the entire crew combined can be totally baffled by the concept of first and last names.”
Seven withdrew her hand and sat up straight, seeming to get hot under the collar. “I am not…baffled, Harry Kim,” she answered him defiantly. “Why do you find it necessary to tease me in this manner?”
Harry paled for a moment. Had he offended her? That was the last thing he wanted to do. “I…Seven, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just…I just want you to be comfortable with yourself. And other people.”
Harry tried to collect himself. Things had been going so well. He couldn’t let them unravel now. “By teasing you, I’m only telling you to not take yourself so seriously. You know…lighten up. Do you know what I mean?”
Seven sat there silently, pondering his words. Harry felt like smacking himself. He knew his apology had come out all wrong and now he had further offended Seven of Nine. He mentally prepared himself for her to end the date right there…
“I believe I understand, Harry.”
He sat up in surprise. “You do?”
“Indeed. By your teasing, you are informing me that my seriousness and intensity of purpose is disconcerting to the crew and that it interferes with my adaptation to social situations.”
“Uh…yeah. That’s pretty much it.” Harry was relieved. It seems that in his desperation, he had accidentally given Seven some valuable advice.
“Thank you, Harry. I will be more cognizant of such behavior in the future and will endeavor to ‘lighten up’ more in interpersonal situations. Of course, I may require more assistance in this area.”
“Uh, I’ll be glad to help out.” He answered her, gratified that he had managed to salvage something more powerful from this awkward conversation. Then the cab came to a screeching halt. They stopped short a bit quicker than either Harry or Seven were ready for. After being jarred in their seats momentarily, the Tellarite cabbie turned around to face them.
“Here we are, pallie.”
Seven turned to Harry as the young couple exited the cab. “Surely it would be more efficient if these ground transport vehicles were entirely automated.”
Harry shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe so. But it’s…”
“I know,” she interrupted, guessing his response. “Local color.”
He escorted her, arm in arm, to the entrance of the restaurant. The sun was setting and the city was starting to become illuminated. Tavern on the Green had maintained its centuries-old traditional exterior, secluded among the trees of Central Park, decorated by glowing lights. Only now the lights were projected holograms instead of primitive incandescent bulbs. Seven observed how most advanced technology on Earth seemed to be kept out of sight, hidden beneath the surface of a more old-fashioned façade. It was very different from how Starfleet vessels operated, where technology was proudly put on display. A most curious paradox, Seven thought to herself. Perhaps she would bring the matter up with Harry or the Doctor at a later time.
A solicitous maître d’ greeted them as soon as they entered the dimly lit restaurant. He escorted them to a secluded table, warm with the glow of authentic candlelight. Seven surveyed the interior of the establishment. It reminded her too much of Sandrine’s and her unfortunate date with Lt. Chapman. She shuddered silently, fearing a similar outcome here.
Harry reached to pull out a chair for Seven to sit in. “Harry,” she looked at him, her voice growing more comfortable with his familiar name, “I do not require assistance in being seated.”
“Maybe so, but a gentleman always offers a chair to a lady.”
Seven considered his words…a gentleman. That was an accurate description of Ensign Harry Kim, she thought. A gentle man.
“So, how are you enjoying your evening so far?”
Seven looked up from her meal with her blue eyes wide open, Harry almost getting lost in them. “I find that the evening is passing agreeably and that your choices in activities are…intriguing. Clearly you have given much thought as to what I might find acceptable.”
It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but from the former drone, it was high praise. Harry smiled at her. “Well, it’s like I said to you before. This evening is for you.”
Seven had been relieved when the dinner that Harry had pre-selected for them (more efficient that way, he said) had arrived. She had feared that he would have ordered something like lobster, or some other meal with an exoskeleton. That had been an unpleasant encounter. Her attempt to consume the lobster was too reminiscent of the Borg Collective’s first contact with Species 658. What a messy assimilation that had been!
Instead, the meal Harry ordered was an agreeable balance of proteins, carbohydrates and a minimum of unsaturated fats. He had programmed the holodeck’s food replicator to produce a meal similar to one of her regular dietary supplements. It was surprisingly efficient. Of course, he had embellished the meal with a few exotic spices and sauces, ‘for variety’s sake’ he had said. It had been an unnecessary extravagance that did nothing to enhance the meal’s nutritional value. But he had been correct in that it tasted pleasant.
“It is certainly far more agreeable than my first attempt at interpersonal associations,” she added after some thought.
“You mean your date with Chapman, right?”
“Indeed. During that previous experience, I had to conform myself to rituals and customs to which I was unfamiliar. It was most frustrating. But tonight, even though you are introducing me to new experiences, I see that you have tailored the evening to suit my own preferences. I find this…most agreeable.”
Harry nodded in acknowledgement. Poor Chapman, he thought. He had probably been so overwhelmed at the thought of dating the mysterious Seven of Nine that it had never occurred to him to find out what she enjoyed.
“Don’t feel too bad about it, Seven. Most people would rather forget about their first date.”
Seven looked at him curiously. “Even you, Harry?”
The ops officer looked uncomfortable as he answered. “Oh, yes. Even me.”
“Then you had an unfortunate first date as well? I wish to hear more.”
Harry’s first impulse was to change the subject. But he could see that Seven needed some encouragement, that just because something didn’t go perfectly the first time, it didn’t mean you had to give up on it entirely.
“Seven, my first date was probably the most unfortunate in human history,” he said with some nervous laughter. “I was fourteen. Her name was Tammy Shou. She played the flute in my music fellowship program and was almost a year older than me. I thought she was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen, but I was too shy to ask her out. But a couple of the guys dared me to go for it, so I did.”
“And she accepted?”
“Much to my surprise, yes. I had the whole evening planned out. I knew she was the kind of girl that needed to be impressed.”
“I presume from the tone of your voice that she was not impressed.”
“It was a disaster…” Harry was almost laughing as he spoke. “I got lost on the way to her house and forgot my pocket-com, so I was a half-hour late. The restaurant I planned to take her to was all booked up, so we ended up going to this god-awful Centaurian café where the food…oh, don’t get me started there. I spilled a plate full of n’Grosh on her lap and stained her dress. Not to mention I was so nervous, that I was rambling like an idiot all night. And then I got the stupid idea of trying to kiss her goodnight…” He looked up to see Seven staring wide-eyed and rapt with interest. Her mouth was stretched wide, curling at the corners, like…
My god, she’s almost smiling! She’s amused by all this! he thought.
“Anyway,” he continued, “the next day at school, I found out that Tammy had told some of her girlfriends what a lousy time she had. The details spread all over campus. It was humiliating. People were calling me ‘Casanova Kim’ for weeks.” Harry couldn’t help but chuckle. Those memories had been so painful for him once, but now, as an adult half a galaxy away, they seemed so minor and distant that even he could find humor in them.
“So my experience was not unique?” his dinner date inquired.
“Not by a long shot,” he answered her, feeling more confident than ever. “Everyone goes through these trial-and-error periods before they can learn to feel comfortable going on a date. They just have to remember that the whole point of the exercise is to spend time with someone you like and have fun.”
“I see…” she answered thoughtfully. “Thank you for sharing your experience with me, Harry. I can sense from your voice that it was as uncomfortable for you as my date with Lt. Chapman was for me. Yet you seem to be more comfortable after discussing the event with me.”
“Yeah, I guess I do. I mean, it was a long time ago, and it felt good to talk about it with someone. Especially since I was able to help you by sharing it. I suppose it helps to make the embarrassment go away.” He felt as if a weight that had long been on his shoulders had been removed. It was a liberating sensation.
“May I ask you another question?”
“Anything,” he answered back, feeling good about the world.
“It is regarding your initial reaction to my request for your assistance in Astrometrics the other day. You made a comment expressing displeasure about ‘not having made the cut’ as my first date.” She could see that his positive mood was beginning to erode. “I must ask you Harry Kim, were you disappointed that you were not among my initial list of candidates?”
Harry seemed to shift in his seat awkwardly. And he had been feeling so good, too! “Uh, well…I…” Great, just like Tammy Shou all over again, he criticized himself, as he tried to answer her. “Seven, I guess I was just surprised. I mean, I figured that we worked so closely together, that we were friends, we were similar in age and interests, and other things…I just assumed that when you were ready to date, I’d be the one you’d ask.” He exhaled, feeling relieved for having said what he felt without making too much of a fool of himself. “I suppose that was presumptuous of me, wasn’t it?”
“On the contrary, Harry. When it was suggested that I date a member of the crew, you were the first individual I considered for exactly the reasons you cited.”
Now it was Harry’s turn to be wide-eyed. “Really? What made you change your mind?”
“I considered the possibility that such a change in the nature of our affiliation would affect the efficiency of our working relationship. You and I share a unique synergy when we collaborate on assigned tasks. I did not wish to see our capacity to work together to be adversely affected.”
“So in other words, it was business before pleasure?” he quipped.
“Indeed. Pleasure, of course, being irrelevant.”
Harry smirked at her response. It was just so…Seven. “But you weren’t as concerned about our efficiency when you asked me to help you get…um…experience. Why the sudden change?”
Her answer was sharp and to the point. “When I initially requested your assistance, I did not anticipate you would ask that we precede our copulation with a date. I fully expected our encounter to be brief and minimally disruptive.” He then noticed her withdrawing slightly as she went on. “There was an additional reason I did not select you that first time.”
“I considered the likelihood that my first attempt at dating would not be successful. This had been the case with my other attempts at socializing with the crew. If it were to happen with a crewmember that I had minimal affiliation with, the consequences would be manageable. However, were it to happen with someone I associated with frequently, such as yourself…”
Harry nodded his head in understanding. “No wonder you always seem so uneasy whenever you see Chapman.”
“Yes, it is a reminder of my imperfection, that I failed to master the concept of dating.” She then looked up at Harry with less despondence and more hope in her eyes. “But I can see now that I have been mistaken in believing that. That, and a great many other things.”
Harry reached across the table, his hand barely touching hers. “It’s OK. You didn’t want to risk our friendship. I can understand that.”
She looked up at him, her gaze meeting his own, comforted by his touch. “Yes, I believe that you do.”
The young couple walked along the path through the trees of Central Park to the next stop on their evening of romance.
“Is the facility where we will be attending the concert much farther?” Seven asked of her date.
“We’re practically there right now. Only there is no facility.” Harry Kim grinned as he waved his arm to reveal the expanse of the Great Lawn.
Seven surveyed the vast crowd of attendees before her, thousands of individuals and couples reclining on blankets or beach towels. A few had portable chairs unfolded and were observing the stage, as the orchestra began setting up.
“Harry, there are no chairs to sit upon. How are we to observe the performance?”
“Don’t worry, Seven. I’ve got it all covered.” He led her across the lawn, past the throngs of relaxed concert-goers, until they reached a large patch of unclaimed greenery.
“This is where we will be sitting?” she inquired of him.
“You bet. In the real Manhattan, it would be almost impossible to find a spot this close to the stage unless you arrive two hours early. Fortunately, there are certain advantages to being the programmer,” he answered with great satisfaction. Harry then turned to call out to the holodeck computer. “Computer, one beach blanket. Approximately three meters square.”
“Additional parameters?” the disembodied voice queried.
Harry looked at Seven and smiled. “Make the color red,” he added.
As if by magic, a large comfortable-looking blanket materialized at their feet. Harry bent over to roll it out. Seven was impressed. Harry had remembered her favorite color.
“We are to sit on this? Without proper back support?”
Harry chuckled and squatted down onto the blanket. “We sit like this, Seven.” He then demonstrated to her as he reclined on his side comfortably, propped up on his elbow.
“I would be more comfortable standing.”
“Hey, that wouldn’t be fair to the people behind us, now would it?”
Seven looked at him oddly. “Harry, the people behind us are a mere backdrop for this simulation. They have no desires of their own.”
“Seven, I think you’ll enjoy the concert more if you were to lie down here, that’s all.” He patted a spot on the blanket next to him.
She continued to stand there, firm and proud. “Would it not be more comforting to sit within an indoor facility on an appropriate seating device?”
He looked up at her, staring up at her large blue eyes, grinning mischievously. “What’s wrong, Seven? Afraid to get close to nature?”
“It is…” she responded with distaste, “…unsanitary.” She cringed at the thought of lying to close to the grass and soil, even if it was only a holographic simulation.
“Seven, just enjoy yourself. Nothing here is going to bite you. Not even me,” he teased her. Oops! he thought sharply, I shouldn’t have said that.
But Seven did not seem to pick up on the innuendo of Harry’s remark. “You are teasing me again. Is that an indication that I must ‘lighten up?'”
“Well…” Harry equivocated.
“Very well, I will recline with you.” She then lowered herself next to Harry and lay alongside him on the blanket. She might as well adapt to it now, she thought. She would be getting much closer to Harry when they copulated later tonight.
“There, that’s not so bad now, is it?” he asked.
“I will adapt.”
Harry laughed a little, and tried to ease her discomfort. “Trust me, Seven. This is the best way to enjoy a concert. You really feel connected to the music here. I could have taken you to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, but my favorite performances in Manhattan have always been right here in Central Park.” The orchestra then assembled on stage to the thundering applause of the audience, and then began their performance. Seven recognized the selection from her music studies. Brandenburg Concerto Number 3. It was an efficient piece of music, played expertly.
Harry was correct. The melody was soothing and she did grow comfortable lying on the blanket. Her eyes wandered up to observe the sky above. Stars were twinkling overhead, and she adjusted her ocular implant to compensate for the illumination of the surrounding city and the park lamps. Astronomy was also an interest of hers. She wondered if that was also a reason for Harry’s choice of an outdoor concert.
As her attention was drawn in by the calming harmony of the music, she could feel herself molding her body against that of the man behind her. It was all quite inadvertent, yet she did not protest as he moved close against her. In fact, she found his proximity to be…intriguing, almost stimulating. Of course, she knew that these feelings were irrelevant, but they did not seem that way to her at the moment. So it was quite instinctual when she pressed her body back into his, her plush posterior grinding against his groin.
Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. He wanted her to get comfortable being close to him, but he never expected her to react so strongly to his presence. Or that matter, for him to react so strongly to her. He could feel himself grow physically aroused as she pushed her soft body against him. He tried to control himself, not wanting to embarrass her, or himself for that matter. But his lower body seemed to have a mind of its own, and she did not seem to have any comment on the matter. Her eyes were still focused on the stage and the orchestra. He almost wondered if she was teasing him back.
Of course, Seven was aware of the young man’s arousal. Quite aware.
While it only added to her stimulation, it caused in her a moment of reflection. When she had first considered participating in the ritual of dating, she had considered compatible interests and efficiency to be the hallmark attributes of a potential mate. But as she prepared for her first date, she began to notice the importance that humans placed on physical appearance. Her first instinct was to regard that attitude as irrelevant. But she was now finding that it was a difficult factor to ignore.
She knew that many male crewmembers regarded her as ‘beautiful’ and she did nothing to dissuade them. So she studied the males among the crew in turn. By the standards that humans employed, her date Lt. Chapman was moderately handsome. But there were others she came to regard as more so. Ensign Paris and Commander Chakotay, for instance, were regarded as appealing by many. Lt. Commander Tuvok possessed a regal air about him that she found quite distinctive. But Ensign Kim was, in her opinion, among the most attractive of the males on board. The hushed conversations of certain female crewmembers that she managed to overhear confirmed her analysis.
As she felt Harry’s obvious stimulation, she found herself wondering if his appearance would be as optimal without clothing as it was in uniform. She was tempted to cut the concert short and request that they copulate right there and now. But she reconsidered. Harry had gone to considerable effort to prepare this evening and had planned an appropriate sequence of events. It was only right that the itinerary be allowed to play itself out until it reached its logical conclusion.
And so she contented herself with the feeling of their bodies in close proximity.
After the orchestra had concluded their final overture, there was a brief display of pyrotechnics, or ‘fireworks’ as Harry called it.
“Pretty nice, huh?” Harry spoke to her, his eyes fixed on the sky. He was nervous that he would have to explain to her his earlier involuntary reaction to her body.
“The presentation is visually pleasing. It is regrettable that you do not possess my enhanced optics, Harry. The chemical explosions are creating ultraviolet trace patterns that are quite…intriguing”
Harry smiled at her answer, “I’m glad to hear that you like it, Seven. I was afraid you’d find the whole experience ‘irrelevant’ or something.”
She turned to face him. “On the contrary. I found the concert to be a worthwhile experience. Prior to this evening, I had only listened to pre-recorded selections. This is my first experience with live music, even if the performers were holograms.” Her face was content, which seemed to relax him. “However,” she continued, “I managed to detect a slight imbalance in harmony coming from the second string violin during the…”
She paused as she observed the smirk on her companion’s face. “I am in violation of your directive to ‘be with the moment,’ am I not?” she inquired.
Harry touched her forearm gently as looked at her with amused sympathy. “Not to worry, Seven, as long as you caught yourself. And it’s not a directive. I was only giving you guidelines to help you enjoy your evening.” He looked at her with more compassion. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on you.”
Harry then paled as he realized the misinterpretation that could come from a statement like that, considering his earlier arousal. Thankfully, Seven said nothing.
He offered her his hand as they rose up from the blanket. The other patrons were already beginning to pack up their gear and exit the park in a mass exodus. “Uh, shall we go for desert?” he offered.
“That would be acceptable. I recall you mentioning a recommendation from Ensign Wildman earlier this evening.”
Manhattan had long had a reputation as a haven for immigrants, and the tradition was alive and well in 24th Century.
The region’s non-human population was considerably smaller than places like San Francisco or Paris. But there were nearly two hundred thousand extraterrestrials who contributed to the city’s cultural mosaic, the K’tarians being among the most prominent examples.
Thirty years ago, after the Expansion Party came to power on K’taria VII, millions of individuals fled to Federation space, desperate to escape the new regime’s policies of xenophobia and cultural conformity. Many Federation worlds offered sanctuary to the refugees, Earth being among the most generous. Thousands of the artistically inclined K’tarians were drawn to the reputation and history of Manhattan, and elected to settle there.
“K’taria Town” as people called it, was now home to some of the most popular eating establishments and curio shops in the city. Crowds gathered every spring for the K’tarian Music Festival, which many had nick-named “the Mardi Gras of Canal Street.” The people were friendly and eager to express their loyalty to their new benefactors. Most became citizens of Earth and a few even chose to join Starfleet.
The image most Terrans had of K’taria Town was that of an exotic city-within-a-city, where affable K’tarian males would sit around and smoke thal’manna weed in one of the numerous sidewalk cafes, dreaming of the day when the Expansionists would fall from power and their children could return to see the incomparable moonrise over K’taria VII for themselves.
Like all romantic images, it was generally encouraged. It helped to bring in more tourists.
It was in one of these exotic cafes on Mott Street, that Harry and Seven found themselves. It was an open-air establishment, less secluded than where they ate for dinner. Like most K’tarian structures, it was decorated in intricate silk tapestries and studded with precious stones. The neighborhood air was scented with cinnamon and echoed with the hypnotic melodies of alien woodwind instruments.
“A curious sensation, is it not?” Seven commented as she sipped at her sweet and sour tea.
“The K’tarians love to put spices in everything,” Harry laughed as he looked at his own tangy espresso. “When they came to Earth, they absolutely fell in love with cinnamon and oregano. I heard a couple of Ferengi traders made a fortune smuggling cinnamon to the culinary underground on K’taria VII.”
Seven nodded at her companion’s comments. She found his stories unusually compelling this evening. Before she might have dismissed them as irrelevant. What was it about tonight that had her so rapt with interest in the words of Ensign Harry Kim? Was it excitement, an eager anticipation with what was soon to follow this evening?
“There would appear to be many interesting sub-cultures and phenomena indigenous to the Alpha Quadrant,” she commented. “I am curious to expand my knowledge.”
“You’ll see it all for yourself someday,” he answered her with reassurance.
“Perhaps.” She sipped at her tea again, the spices tickling her taste buds. She looked past him to see more of the neighborhood around them. Horned K’tarian waiters shuffled about, dressed in colorful silks, their heads hairless save for long ponytails braided in intricate, traditional styles. Curious passers-by and tourists would look in and smile approvingly at the young couple.
“Harry, I am curious about the pictograms displayed alongside the K’tarian hieroglyphics,” she commented while focusing on a street sign across the alley.
The ensign followed her gaze, until he could see to what she was referring. “Oh, those are Chinese characters. Unfortunately, I can’t read Mandarin myself or I’d translate. I could call up a universal translator,” he offered.
She shook her head. “That is not necessary, Harry. I recognize the language. What I do not understand is why it is being displayed here. It is my understanding that English is the primary language in this region of Earth.”
“Oh, it is. It’s just that this neighborhood used to be called Chinatown centuries ago.” Seeing her puzzled expression, he explained further. “It was inhabited by people of Chinese descent. I think they all moved out after the war. Radiation, you know. There’s a Chinatown in San Francisco too, only that one’s a historical district. The K’tarians are simply showing homage to the people who lived here before them by showing off their language. It’s a cultural thing with them.”
Seven still looked confused. “An enclave limited to a single human ethnic group? For what purpose? Were they not permitted to reside among the general population of the city?”
Harry shifted a little in his seat, considering her question. “Well, to an extent. I mean, there was a lot of prejudice in those days.” He then went on to explain more. “But also, it’s because when people arrive in a new country, they feel more comfortable living with people and customs that they’re familiar with. That’s probably one reason the K’tarians picked this area to settle in to. They probably recognized the same issues, being strangers in a strange land and all.”
“I see,” she nodded solemnly. “It is unfortunate that no such enclave exists for individuals such as myself on Earth. Should Voyager return to the Alpha Quadrant, I will be unique. Alone.”
“Seven, you won’t be alone,” Harry looked at her sympathetically. “You’ll have the entire crew on your side.” And you’ll have me, he thought without saying aloud.
“This crew has accepted me out of necessity. I do not believe that Federation society as a whole will be as tolerant, given the reputation of the Borg Collective.”
Harry leaned forward and took a long look into her baby blue eyes. He could see a kind of sadness, almost fear, despite her efforts to mask her insecurities with Borg stoicism. He wanted to reassure her, to let her know that she had nothing to be afraid of.
“Seven, nobody can hold you responsible for all the things the Borg have done. You’re as much a victim of their actions as anyone. I’m sure that when we get back home, people will treat you with compassion and understanding. They just have to be willing to give you a chance, and not judge you on appearances.”
The former drone looked unconvinced. “I do not believe that all humans share your unique attributes of consideration and forgiveness, Harry Kim. Many will fear me because of what I represent and will not renounce their suspicions so easily,” she countered. “From what I have been able to surmise from the databases, the use of biological and cybernetic enhancement, along with hive mentality, is offensive to Federation values. I imagine that your society would be as repelled by the Collective even if all drones were willing participants, instead of being assimilated involuntarily.”
Harry found himself a bit disturbed by Seven’s analysis. He had always been brought up thinking that the United Federation of Planets was the noblest and tolerant government that humanity had ever taken part in. Now, if he were hearing her right, Seven was accusing his people of irrational prejudice. At one time, he might have been offended by her remarks. But he could never stay mad at Seven for very long. And if his years in the Delta Quadrant had taught Harry anything, it was the value of a different perspective. His original thinking about the Maquis, fueled by Starfleet propaganda, had certainly changed once he had the chance to befriend a few “terrorists” for himself. Why should it be any different with an ex-Borg?
“Well, maybe you can change their way of thinking when we get back home,” he offered with some optimism.
“The issue is not relevant, as we are still thirty years away from the Alpha Quadrant. Besides, it is unlikely that anyone from the Federation would choose to listen to me.”
There was a long moment of silence between them. He then looked at her with all of his heart and soul, his eyes showing his compassion.
“I’d listen,” he answered.
She stared back at him, she seemed almost…touched. “I know that you would, Harry.”
“And so would lots of others,” he added. “Once they get to know the real you and see you as an individual, they won’t be able to help but like you.”
Like? Seven considered his words before answering. “Do you feel that the crew of Voyager…likes me?”
The words seemed uncomfortable as she spoke them, but genuine curiosity compelled her to ask.
Harry smiled at the innocence of her question. “Of course they do. Lots of people like you, Seven.”
“Indeed?” Seven seemed puzzled. She had never considered being “liked” as relevant until recently. As long as she accomplished her assigned tasks efficiently, it made little difference what the crew actually thought of her personally. In fact, she had long suspected that the fellow members of the Voyager collective did not “like” her very much at all. She wondered if Harry Kim was telling her false information in order to comfort her.
“Seven, you have a lot of friends on Voyager,” Harry insisted. “There’s Naomi Wildman for one. She thinks you’re the greatest.”
Seven nodded in agreement. “I find her acceptable as well.”
“And there’s the Doc. I know he cares a lot about you.”
“As do I for him,” she concurred. Her face grew solemn. “I am also concerned for the Doctor’s future when we return to the Alpha Quadrant. If the behavior of some of the crew is any indication, I do not believe he will be treated with the respect due to a sentient being upon our arrival.”
“Well, I’m sure lots of people on board will speak up for him too. I know I will.” Harry’s face shared Seven’s anxiety. “You’re really worried about him, aren’t you?”
“It has recently occurred to me that we have an affiliation that is almost familial in nature,” she said.
“You mean he’s like a father to you? Yeah, I can see that.” His smile returned as he went on. “But the Doc’s not the only one who treats you like family. I know how much Captain Janeway likes you.”
“We have an unusual relationship, the Captain and I. I gain much wisdom from her, yet there are times when our interactions become…tense.”
Harry couldn’t resist smiling. “Just like a mother and daughter. Well, there are others that care about you also…Neelix, Tuvok, the Delaneys, Vorik, Chakotay…”
“When I first came aboard, Commander Chakotay tried to eject me into space along with the other drones assigned with me.”
“Well, you were still part of the Collective back then. I’m sure it wasn’t anything personal,” he smiled, trying to lighten things up. “Besides, I know he’s grown to like you since then. The commander’s the sort of man who always gives people a chance.”
“That is true,” she acknowledged.
“And there are plenty of others who like you. Why do you think we risked the ship to come after you when the Borg grabbed you and took you to Unimatrix One? It’s because you’re a part of our lives. You’re a very special person, Seven of Nine.”
Seven did not know what to say. She had always believed that her value to this crew had been in her skills and knowledge. She was certain that her inability to socialize comfortably with the crew created a barrier of mistrust around her. Now she was seeing that in spite of that barrier, people were still willing to extend themselves to her.
“Why just the other day, Tom was telling me he thought you had a lot of very positive qualities,” Harry continued.
“Ensign Paris likes me?” she responded in surprise. “I would not have thought that Lt. Torres would permit that. It is apparent that she does not like me.”
Harry fidgeted a little. He was hoping the topic of B’Elanna would not come up tonight. “Well, she respects you. I know that.”
“Perhaps. But she does not like me.”
“You can’t please everyone, Seven. Besides, I’m convinced the two of you will become good friends one of these days.” He leaned in a bit closer, with a bit of a conspiratorial grin. “And for what it’s worth, B’Elanna doesn’t really like a whole lot of people. So I wouldn’t feel too excluded if I were you.”
“It is clear that she likes you.”
“Yeah, well…I try to be a good friend,” he shrugged.
“In fact, based upon my observation of the crew, I find that you are universally viewed in a positive manner. I have yet to hear a single uncomplimentary statement regarding you or your conduct.”
“Why, thank you, Seven. I…don’t know what to say,” he flustered for a bit, uncertain as to how to take such a compliment.
Seven sat quietly for a few moments, formulating how she wanted to proceed with her thoughts. “Harry…Do you like me?” She did not fully understand why she chose to ask this question, but she was interested to know the answer.
He smiled broadly, interpreting how she meant the word ‘like.’ “I like you very much, Seven.”
Her corners of her mouth curled up as she gave him a thin smile in return. “It pleases me to hear you say that, Harry Kim.”
Their desert finished, the young couple walked along the winding cobblestone streets of K’taria Town. At some point, Seven felt Harry’s hand brush against her own. His fingers touched lightly along the length of the Borg augmentation of her left hand. An involuntary shiver went up her arm, a strange feeling, but not altogether unpleasant.
Then slowly, his hand closed around her own, his fingers wrapped with her own. Seven’s first instinct was to inquire why he chose to grasp her in this manner, but she held her tongue. She suspected it was part of the rituals leading up to copulation, and so she permitted Harry to do as he wished.
And besides, it was pleasing to her.
They walked quietly among the shops and kiosks of the local marketplace, occasionally stealing a glance at one another. On the outside, Harry was calm, collected, and very much in charge. On the inside, though, he was struggling to maintain control over his excitement. He only hoped it wasn’t too apparent to Seven, who’s optic implants could detect his heart rate and pupil dilation.
The way she opened up to him, she wouldn’t have done that unless she truly cared about him.
“It is almost midnight. It appears that the local establishments are ceasing operations,” she spoke as she scanned the emptying streets with her cybernetic eye.
“Closing time, eh?”
“It would appear so. Does your itinerary require us to proceed to another location?”
Harry thought about it for a minute. He had planned to take Seven on a horse and carriage ride around the city, but he could tell there was anxiousness in her demeanor. It wasn’t the same nervousness she felt earlier in the evening that she tried to conceal behind her Borg self-assurance. It was more like…excitement, or anticipation.
If ever there was a right time, this was it.
“I thought…well, that is…” he stammered. Take a deep breath. Don’t lose it now. You’re almost there! he chastised himself. More collected, he continued. “Seven, would you like to go to the hotel room I reserved for us?”
Harry didn’t have Seven’s advanced optical implants, but he could almost believe that her pupils dilated when she spoke.
“That is…acceptable to me.”
This time their driver was a soft-spoken Bolian, who drove silently while the two passengers sat quietly in back, waiting for the culmination of their evening together.
“Are you nervous?” Harry asked his companion.
“I am not nervous,” she answered in a steady voice. “I am confident that you will guide me proficiently. You have had considerable experience before, have you not?”
The ops officer became silent and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Uh, Seven. Exactly how much experience are you thinking when you say ‘considerable’?”
She looked at him puzzled. “I do not understand.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Seven, I don’t know how experienced you expected me to be, but…uh…I haven’t exactly been a real ladies’ man, if you get my meaning. I just thought you ought to know.” This was the last topic of conversation he wanted to bring up, tonight of all nights. But better that Seven find out now, instead of later.
“Precisely how many females have you copulated with?” she questioned him, her face calm and passive.
He grew pale at the bluntness of her question. Ordinarily, it would be considered a rude invasion of his privacy, but this was Seven, and Harry did not want her to think he had been deceiving her all evening. What was more, he felt comfortable opening up to her, especially after she had shared so much of herself with him.
“Well, there was Tal. You know that.” She nodded in assent.
“And there was Libby, back on Earth. Of course, she and I were together for three years. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned her to you at all.”
“I have heard her name referred to in your conversations with Ensign Paris.”
Seven arched an eyebrow. “You have copulated with two females in your entire existence?”
“Uh…yeah. I hope that’s not an issue with you.”
“It is not relevant, Harry. You are still experienced from my own perspective. I am curious, though. Is two considered a standard quantity for a human male your age?”
“I…I’m not really sure what’s normal, Seven. That’s just how it worked out for me,” Harry continued, wanting to get his thoughts off his chest. “I didn’t lose my virginity until my sophomore year at the Academy. I spent most of my freshman year studying. Then I met Libby.” His voice grew sad as he spoke about her. Even after all this time, it still hurt to remember leaving her behind, and to read in the letter about how she had moved on with her life. He wished that he had never brought the topic up in the first place. “After that, I got stranded out here in the Delta Quadrant. There weren’t too many opportunities for intimacy after that…”
Wait a minute, you idiot! he chided himself. You’ve got a beautiful woman who likes you sitting right next to you! What are you doing beating yourself up about the past for? Snap out of it! He turned to face his
date and smiled at her, hoping to shift the mood back to a more romantic light. “Of course, things might be about to change…”
Her eyes widened slightly. “One could also interpret the results to be that you are highly selective in your choice of sexual partners. In which case, I should be flattered that I am considered acceptable.” She then seemed to smile, ever so slightly. Harry smiled in return. It seemed that Seven was trying to boost his confidence. She believed in him. He felt warm and tingly inside. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that there was something between them now.
The cab pulled up in front of the Plaza. It had been a much smoother ride than their first one. Harry escorted his date up to the elaborately furnished lobby. A friendly doorman tipped his hat and held the door open for them. They entered into a lavishly elegant reception area that seemed like it fell out of another era. Art Deco furnishings and brass railing decorated the chamber. Employees scurried about in bulky, yet neatly tailored old uniforms. The Plaza seemed quaint even by the standards of nostalgia-hungry Manhattan.
“Ah, Mr. Kim,” the crisply manicured concierge doted on them when they reached the front desk “We’ve been expecting you. I trust you and your companion will find the penthouse suite to your liking?”
“That will be…” he turned to look at Seven and smiled before continuing, “…acceptable.”
“Excellent,” the concierge responded with pre-programmed delight. “I’ll have the bellhop show you to your room.” The solicitous little man looked up from the screen on his desk and beckoned for someone to come forward.
At that moment a young man in uniform, looking no older that eighteen, approached the couple. “Sir, Miss, if you’ll both follow me, please?”
After following the bellhop up the old-fashioned elevator and down a lush carpeted hallway decorated with classic renaissance paintings, they arrived at the entrance of their suite.
They were led in to a large luxurious apartment, decorated a similar Art Deco style as the hotel lobby. The entire city could be seen spread out before them from spacious picture windows, which spread across the corner of the room and took up most of two walls. The bellhop issued a voice command and the windows automatically went opaque, no doubt in expectation of their need for privacy.
“A bottle of the Plaza’s finest, compliments of the establishment, sir,” the boy directed Harry’s attention to the carafe sitting in a refrigerated bucket on the nightstand.
The bellhop quickly left them to their evening together. As soon as the door closed, Harry turned to Seven. “It’s a good thing this isn’t the twentieth century. Otherwise, I’d have to leave him a tip,” he quipped.
She arched an eyebrow. “You would be required to give him advice?”
“Never mind,” he smirked in amusement.
Harry wandered over into the bedroom. An antique, four-poster bed dominated the room. He had put a lot of attention into its design, as this would be the place that Seven and he would consummate their relationship.
She quickly scanned the room. This was the moment she had been expecting all evening, the moment of copulation. It was a simple biological act, nothing more, she told herself. So why was there this sense of anticipation? Why did she feel so nervous, when she knew she had nothing to fear from Harry Kim?
“Harry, how are we to proceed?” she asked him, her voice betraying a trace of anxiety.
He walked over to her, coming very close, well within the boundaries of her personal space. “Perhaps, we might start with a drink? A nightcap, if you will.”
Seven noticed the carafe behind him. “Harry, you know I do not consume synthehol.”
An amused Harry turned to pour two glasses of the ‘Plaza’s finest’ for himself and his date. “Who said this was synthehol? Try some.” He offered her a glass.
She nervously accepted the glass and brought it to her lips. Her eyes lit up as she sipped. “This beverage is sweet and carbonated. I can detect no trace of any alcohol-analogous substances.”
“It’s ginger ale, Seven. I wouldn’t forget about your reaction to liquor.”
She was relieved by his answer. Yes, she knew she had nothing to fear from Harry Kim.
“How about a toast?” he offered.
Seven remembered the time the Doctor had instructed her on the social importance of the toast. She had made one at the Cadi ambassador’s reception, which had appeared to be well received. Unfortunately, that was the only toast she knew. But Harry was quick to offer one of his own as he raised his glass.
“To a closer affiliation…”
Seven nodded her head slightly. “I concur,” she answered softly as she clinked glasses with him.
Having sipped at their drinks, Harry then called out to the holodeck. “Computer, music selection Kim Seven Epsilon.”
As if from nowhere, a slow, haunting romantic melody permeated the air.
## My love must be a kind of blind love ## I can’t see anyone but you
## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop (*)
Harry offered his hand to the young blond. “Do you know how to slow dance, Seven?”
“The Doctor gave me instruction in that area. I must warn you, however. It was while dancing that I accidentally injured Lt. Chapman.”
The ensign smiled at her concern. “Don’t worry, Seven. I’ll be fine. Besides, there are some risks worth taking.” He put one arm around her waist and took her hand into his own and pulled her close to him. Their bodies seemed much warmer than earlier when they were pressed together at the concert.
## Are the stars out tonight? ## I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright ## I only have eyes for you dear
She yielded to his lead. They seemed to glide across the floor. Time had no meaning for Harry, as he was lost in the endless blue sea of Seven’s eyes.
“You dance quite proficiently,” she complimented him.
“I’ve taken dance lessons ever since I was a kid. Besides, I happen to have a partner that inspires me to perfection.”
## The moon may be high ## But I can’t see a thing in the sky ## I only have eyes for you
At that moment, He found himself pulling closer to Seven. Her eyes, her full lips, they were drawing him in like a tractor beam. It was all going the way he had hoped it would, the way he had planned it. Yet even so, the heady rush that he was feeling was so overwhelming he had to…
He leaned into that final distance that separated them. He closed his eyes as his lips brushed against hers. She did not object or comment, and closed her own eyes in reaction to his touch. She yielded to his direction as he stopped dancing and took her into his arms, holding her close enough for each of their beating hearts to echo into the other’s chest.
Then, Harry broke the kiss, pulling away ever so slowly. Their eyes opened, fixed upon one another.
“Wow!” Not the smoothest line, but it was the best that Harry could think of, his thoughts being in such a jumble. “I take it that was your first kiss?”
“Yes, Harry. I did not have occasion to kiss my previous dates. It was most…pleasing.”
Harry smiled wide and generous. “Then perhaps its time we went on to explore other aspects of pleasure.” He reached behind her, unclasping her hair from its tight, efficient bun. He felt her smooth silky hair spill down through his fingers. She trembled slightly, not out of fear, but excitement. She knew what was to come next, and she wanted it to happen.
## I don’t know if we’re in a garden ## Or on a crowded avenue
## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop
They kissed again, not sweet and tentative, like before. This time there was pent-up urgency and passion in their embrace. Seven was kissing Harry just as much as he was kissing her. She barely noticed as his fingers stroked along the back of her slender, graceful neck, and started to undo the clasp of her catsuit.
## You are here and so am I ## Maybe millions of people go by ## But they all disappear from view ## And I only have eyes foooooor yooooouuuuuuu…
They fell back onto the bed. This had become far more than a study in humanity, Seven of Nine realized. Something else was taking place this evening, but she couldn’t understand what it was. In the back of her mind, the former drone had so many questions that she wanted to ask. But she couldn’t articulate a single one right now. She took Harry’s advice to heart and became one with the moment, as he explored her body with tenderness and love.
## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop ## Sha bop sha bop…
And so they assimilated one another. Resistance was futile.
Harry couldn’t be sure how much time had passed. Time had no meaning for him. He snuggled closer to Seven, her bare skin against his. Their moment of intimacy, it had been so…beautiful. As beautiful as she was. He brushed her hair aside and leaned in to kiss the implant just below her ear. He caressed her shoulder and whispered softly into her ear.
“I love you.” And he meant it, too.
He hadn’t expected to fall for her this hard. Not tonight, anyway. He had planned to break through her defenses, to show her that he could love her. But things had worked out too well. She had broken through his defenses. She showed him that he could love again, the kind of love he once felt for Libby, that he thought he felt for Tal, the kind he was certain he’d never feel again. He loved her, truly, madly, and deeply. Her beauty, her strength, her intelligence, her innocence…all of her qualities combined to make her the wonderful person that she was. The woman that he loved.
And he knew in his heart that Seven felt the same way.
He waited for her to respond. But she was silent. She had already drifted off to sleep.
Ordinarily, the idea of Seven of Nine sleeping would have astounded the young Starfleet officer. But his mind was on other matters. So he nuzzled up to her and buried his face into the warmth of her unbound hair at the nape of her neck. He followed her into slumber, buoyed by pleasant dreams of tomorrow.
Tom Paris walked into sickbay, not expecting anyone to be about. He was just about to drop off his unused field kit, when he noticed the lights were on in the Doctor’s office. Tom was understandably puzzled. The EMH was rarely online during Gamma shift.
“Doc? Is that you?” he called out as he walked over to the entrance of the Chief Medical Officer’s work area.
He saw the holographic doctor reclining comfortably in his chair; his feet propped up on his workstation desk. In his hand was a PADD, the contents of which seemed to have his full attention. The Doctor glanced up from his reading to notice his visitor. “Ah, Mr. Paris. It’s rather late for you, isn’t it?”
“I’d say the same for you, Doc. Aren’t you usually deactivated about now?”
“Yes, well, I’ve been rather engrossed this evening.”
Tom walked over to the physician’s desk and glanced over at the PADD in his hand. “‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”
The Doctor nodded with enthusiasm. “I’ve developed quite an interest in 19th Century literature lately. The Captain suggested several authors to me that she particularly enjoyed: Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and so forth. But I’ve found myself especially fascinated by Charles Dickens. Have you ever read his work?”
Tom shrugged his shoulders. “I’m more into 20th Century writers myself…you know, Hemmingway, Salinger, Wolfe, Grisham. I saw a holodrama of ‘Oliver Twist’ when I was a kid, though.”
The hologram sniffed in indignation. “It’s hardly the same thing, Mr. Paris.” He turned to look at the PADD and puffed his chest proudly. “‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…'” he quoted dramatically. “Perhaps one of the most famous opening lines in all of human literature.”
“I always thought the most famous line in literature was ‘It was a dark and stormy night…'” he retorted with a wide grin.
The Doctor’s eyes rolled up as he shook his head. “Why am I not surprised?” He looked back down at his PADD. “I was thinking of loaning the novel to Seven of Nine once I’ve finished with it. I imagine she could benefit greatly from exposure to human literary culture.”
“Yeah, I suppose.” Tom’s voice lost its enthusiasm at the mention of the drone’s name. Her so-called-date with Harry tonight had so preoccupied his and B’Elanna’s minds that it had cast a pall over their attempt at salvaging a romantic evening out of tonight. In the end, they had eaten dinner quietly, snuggled on the couch half-heartedly, and had called it a night shortly thereafter.
“So, to what do I owe the honor of your presence this evening?” the doctor prompted.
“Oh, I was just dropping off the field kit I borrowed this afternoon. Turns out I didn’t really have much need for it tonight.” His grin faded away, his voice hinted at disappointment, with just a trace of sadness. He had picked up the field medical kit on the chance that any passionate lovemaking got a bit too “Klingon” and injuries had to be tended to. It had happened plenty of times before with them. Just not tonight.
“I see,” the hologram grinned salaciously. “B’Elanna wasn’t in the mood? A pity you gave up so easily, Mr. Paris. There are several medications in that kit that are good for a headache.”
“It wasn’t that,” Tom snapped back, a little too defensively. “She just, well…had other things on her mind tonight, that’s all.”
The Doctor considered the pilot’s answer before a realization occurred to him. “Say, weren’t you and Lt. Torres supposed to be going to Catalina Island this evening?”
“Uh, yeah,” Tom answered reluctantly. “We, that is, I gave our holodeck time to Harry.”
“Ensign Kim, eh?” The Doctor’s eyes seemed to light up at the thought of this juicy bit of gossip. He got up from his chair, wanting to hear more. “Let me guess. Ensign Jenkins, am I right?”
“No, Harry’s not interested in her,” Tom snapped back in frustration. “Jeez, I thought Seven tells you everything.”
A perplexed look crossed the Doctor’s face as he paced over to his field medic. “Now why would Seven…”
He stopped in mid-sentence as his eyes grew wide. Puzzlement became shock. “Are you saying Seven and Ensign Kim…”
Tom Paris bowed his head in embarrassment. He hadn’t meant to hurt the Doctor this way. He alone among the crew knew about the hologram’s hidden affections for his pupil. “Doc, I’m sorry. I…I just assumed you knew. Harry swore B’Elanna and me to secrecy. I just figured Seven would have…”
“No, she told me nothing. At least, nothing about Ensign Kim.” The EMH’s voice sounded pained, as if he were choking on his words. “I just can’t believe that Mr. Kim would take advantage of her naivete‚ like that,” he said as anger crept up into his voice. “I always presumed him to be a young man of character and integrity. Well, apparently not.”
“Hey, just a minute there,” Tom interjected, defending his friend’s good name. “Harry’s got more integrity and character than any ten people put together. He’d never do anything to hurt Seven. He genuinely cares about her.”
“Cares about her? If he cared about her, he wouldn’t have agreed to be part of this ridiculous experiment in sexuality!” The Doctor’s anger was genuinely piqued by now.
“Experiment?! What experiment?” Tom did not like the sound of this. The EMH went on to tell him about the conversation between himself and Seven three days ago, where she first revealed her curiosity about human intimacy.
“Oh, man. We’ve got a real problem, here.”
“I should say we do, Mr. Paris.”
“No, Doc. It’s worse than you know. Harry…he thinks that Seven really likes him. He figured this whole sex thing was just her way of expressing herself. And now you’re telling me that he was just a name to fill in the blank!”
The Doctor’s jaw dropped in amazement. “You mean, Ensign Kim thinks he’s on a real date with Seven of Nine?”
Tom nodded glumly, and then his sorrow turned to frustration. “Damn it! I should have known! And I gave him my holodeck time! What the hell was I thinking?!”
“Indeed, Mr. Paris. What were you thinking?” The Doctor’s voice turned angry and desperate.
“I…it’s complicated. I had my reasons.”
“Well, whatever they are, we have to do something! We have to stop this date before…” the Doctor carried on hysterically before he was silenced by a somber glare from the normally brash chief pilot.
“Doc, let it go.”
“Doc, I don’t think either Harry or Seven would appreciate us barging in on the middle of their date, trying to run their lives for them. Besides,” he glanced over at the chronometer on the wall, “it’s after 0200 hours right now. If anything is going to happen between the two of them, it’s probably already happened by now.”
“But…Seven and Harry Kim…” The Doctor sighed in resignation. He couldn’t change what had already happened. The only question now was how things would proceed from this point on.
“Look, Doc, I know the way you feel about her.” Tom leaned in to console the heartbroken hologram.
“Maybe it’s just as well,” the Doctor lamented. “The other day, when Seven first came to me about wanting to get experience, she…told me she thought of me…like a father.”
“Ouch!” the young man reacted to the Doctor’s words, before trying to force a smile of his own. “Well, it could have been worse. She could have just said, ‘let’s be friends.'”
The hologram gave him a very uncomplimentary stare. “Was that supposed to cheer me up, Mr. Paris?”
“Sorry, Doc. I’m just trying to help.” Tom shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe you should do what you should have done a while ago. Tell Seven how you really feel.”
“No, I can’t do that, especially not now.”
“Why not? Why make yourself miserable?”
“Because…” the Doctor struggled with his thoughts of a minute, trying to come up with a good example. “Mr. Paris, how would you react if someone you regarded as a maternal figure came out and told you that they desired you romantically? Someone like…Captain Janeway, for example.”
An appalled look crossed Tom Paris’ face and he shuddered visibly. “Aw, Doc. Why’d you have to put that image in my head?”
The Doctor nodded with grim satisfaction. “You’ve just proven my point. If that’s how Seven views me, then there’s no possible way I can reveal my affections for her.” He let out a sigh. “Her grasp of humanity is tenuous enough as it is. An emotional trauma that would be merely unpleasant for an ordinary person could be devastating for her.”
Tom looked skeptical. “Are you sure that’s how you want to handle it?”
“I’m quite sure. But I appreciate your concern, Mr. Paris.”
“Hey, I just don’t want anyone to get hurt, that’s all.” He tried not to think about how he might have played a role in causing harm to his best friend. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time, he thought bitterly to himself. “Are you going to be OK?” he asked.
“I’ll be fine. You go on back to your quarters and don’t worry about me.” The Doctor put on a false exterior of bravado. “Who knows? Everything might just turn out all right for everyone in the end.”
“Yeah, sure.” Neither he nor the Doctor really believed that. “Well, good night, Doc.”
“Good night, Mr. Paris.”
The Emergency Medical Hologram watched as his human friend left the sickbay. He looked sadly at the PADD sitting on his desk. It will wait until tomorrow, he thought to himself. Right now, he didn’t want to remain online a moment longer than he had to. Not with his thoughts the way they were right now.
“Computer, deactivate EMH.”
Just before he winked out of existence, he thought about those immortal words penned by Charles Dickens and how they applied so aptly to him right now.
For him, these were indeed the worst of times.
Seven of Nine awoke with a start from what seemed like a dream. Daytime had come to the holodeck program Harry had created. Simulated sunlight filtered through the bedroom windows, basking their bed in a warm, comforting glow. She looked to her side. Harry was still asleep, the trace of a smile still on his face. He was naked beneath the sheets, as was she. He was pleasing for her to look at. The serenity of the scene around her was in direct contrast to the turmoil in her own mind.
She had been asleep, she realized with amazement. Not her regular, efficient regeneration cycle, but actual human sleep. She had not thought it possible before today. Could it have been the result of her copulation with Harry, she thought?
That caused her to think more about what went on between her and Harry the last night. It had not been what she had expected. Before her date with Harry, sex had seemed such a paradox to her. It was a basic biological function necessary for procreation, yet a significant fraction of human literature and behavior seemed to be focused on this one simple act. It was this enigma that she found so curious and made her want to experience it for herself.
But as her evening with Harry Kim progressed, she found herself with less control over her actions. She seemed driven by compulsions that seemed entirely beyond her conscious state of mind. For one thing, her attentions would periodically drift towards Harry’s body, with wild speculations of its firmness and musculature. She took a greater interest in what he had to say, and found herself affected by his…kindness, she believed was the word. She was unusually attentive to his happiness, as if his happiness were of suddenly greater relevance to her. Then there was her anticipation of the act itself. What should have been a dispassionate, scientific observation of human behavior had become compelling to her. She wanted it! From him!
Harry had been gentle with her. While there was some pain from his initial penetration, it was brief and he had prepared her for what was to come. Any discomfort she felt was soon overwhelmed by the intense pleasure of their coupling. He guided her through the motions, but never lost sight of providing for her own gratification. By the time the evening was over, not only was Seven feeling fortunate for having chosen Harry Kim as her partner, but she also realized she could not envision herself coupling with anyone else among the crew.
All of this frightened her.
Ever since she had been severed from the Collective, Seven had struggled to rebuild her identity as a separate individual. She prided herself on her control and efficiency of purpose. But now she felt that control eroding. Her thoughts were incoherent. She was excited and terrified all at the same time. She could find no logical purpose behind these sensations, but she needed to gain some kind of understanding of them. If they could not be understood, then they must be irrelevant. That was what she had to discover for herself.
Seven got up from the bed and proceeded to dress. She hoped to be out of the holodeck before Harry woke up. Any further communication with him would only confuse her further.
Unfortunately for her, she was in the process of arranging her hair when she heard her companion begin to stir from his slumber.
“Hey…good morning, beautiful.” Harry greeted her with a smile as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“A good morning to you as well,” she responded softly, just a hint of apprehension in her voice.
“You’re up early.”
“I…have many tasks to complete. Should you not be preparing yourself as well?”
“I’m not on ’till Beta shift. And neither are you, if I recall correctly.” He flashed her that warm, generous smile that affected her so strongly. “We’ve got the whole morning ahead of us. The room’s booked until 0900. I thought we might order in some room service. Talk a little bit…you know, about last night.”
Seven cringed inside. The events of last night were the last thing she wanted to discuss with Harry right now. Not until she could assimilate everything that she was feeling.
“I must report to sick bay. I must discuss with the Doctor about my falling asleep,” she answered cool and detached, not wishing to encourage any further discussion.
Harry looked puzzled before the realization hit him as he sat up in bed. “Oh my god, that’s right! You fell asleep! Seven, that’s amazing!” He seemed genuinely overjoyed, as if he were sharing a proud accomplishment with her.
“It was indeed an unexpected experience,” she acknowledged.
“Well, I guess last night held a lot of firsts for you, didn’t it? I mean, first time sleeping, at least since you were a child; first kiss; first time…well, you know.” He grinned sheepishly, to the point where dimples started to appear. Seven was drawn into his smile, his dark eyes. She wanted to…
No, she warned herself! She must maintain control. Any other behavior would be irrelevant. “Yes, there is much data I will need to process.”
“Uh, sure…” Harry seemed a bit nonplussed as he listened to the clinical manner her speech had taken. She was so much more open last night. She seemed to be finally becoming comfortable with him, but now she was as distant as she had ever been. “I…I just thought, you might like to stay with me a while. I could walk you over to sick bay after breakfast, just to make sure you’re all right.”
“Your concern is not necessary. Our date appears to be completed and the desired objective has been achieved. Thank you for your assistance, Ensign Kim,” she stated with crisp efficiency, as she made a motion to leave.
Harry was incredulous, feeling as if his heart had just been ripped out and stepped on. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “‘Thank you for your assistance, Ensign Kim?!’ Is that all you have to say to me after everything that happened between us last night?!”
Seven stood still, confused as to properly answer him. She suspected that she may have spoken to Harry incorrectly, but she desperately wanted to end this conversation and flee this room.
“I…” she hesitated, her thoughts in turmoil. “You have been a good friend,” she answered quietly. She then awkwardly walked over to him and gave him a quick, uncomfortable peck on the cheek, figuring it to be the appropriate conciliatory gesture.
And with that, she turned on her heel, summoned up the holodeck doors, and departed from the program, leaving her date alone in their hotel room.
Harry sat there quietly, stunned by what he had just heard. Nothing! She had felt nothing for him the entire time. Did she even know how he felt about her? B’Elanna had been right all along. He had been nothing more than a damned science experiment!
And yet, despite it all, he was still in love with her.
Harry grabbed a pillow and flung it across the room in a fit of desperate rage. But his anger quickly subsided into a deep melancholy and sorrow. For the first time since he was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Harry Kim felt like he wanted to cry.
Seven dashed through Voyager‘s corridors, not stopping to look around her, or to notice the bemused stares of the ship’s crew as she passed by. She wanted only to be where she felt safe.
Her first thought was to return to Cargo Bay Two and plug into her regeneration alcove. She often found that the process of regeneration would help to purge negative sensations from her body and return her to a state of equilibrium. But a quick internal diagnosis revealed no immediate need to regenerate. Most peculiar, she thought. She had not plugged herself in for nearly forty-eight hours. Ordinarily, she would be feeling lethargic by now. Instead, she felt as physically energized and alert as she did after any ordinary regeneration.
This mystery, combined with her need for answers to her emotional confusion, left her with one remaining option. She hopped into the nearest turbolift and commanded it to take her to sickbay. Perhaps, she thought, the Doctor might have a solution to her troubles. Then she could return to a normal, efficient routine.
The young woman entered the medical office and looked for her mentor. Seeing that he was still dormant, she called him up. “Computer, activate EMH.”
The holographic doctor faded into being. “Please state the nature of…oh, Seven.” He was not entirely surprised. Somehow he had a feeling that she would be the first person he’d see this morning.
“Doctor,” she greeted him. She stood quietly, uncertain of how she would explain to him the events of the previous evening.
The EMH felt just as awkward as she did. “Seven, is there something you would like to tell me?” Just looking at her face, he could see the apprehension and confusion. Something last night clearly had her agitated.
“Doctor,” she answered with some trepidation. “I…My head is filled with many thoughts that are irrelevant. I do not know what to feel!”
Her teacher arched an eyebrow in a cool, Vulcan-like manner. “Would this have anything to do with your date with Ensign Kim?” There was just a hint of a wince as he spoke.
Seven looked at him in amazement. “How did you know about that?”
“I ran into Mr. Paris late last night. He accidentally let it slip out.” The Doctor shook his head in a manner that Seven interpreted to be one of great disappointment. “Oh, Seven. Why did you feel the need to keep this from me?”
The former-Borg reflexively bent her head in shame. “I did not intend any deception, Doctor. But I knew you did not approve of my decision to investigate human intimacy. I thought that by not discussing the matter with you, conflict would be avoided.”
“Seven, Seven, Seven,” The Doctor sighed as he paced back and forth in his office. “You don’t have to keep secrets from me. You must know that.”
“I do apologize, Doctor.”
The Doctor hesitated before continuing. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to the question that was burning in his mind. But he had to ask it anyway. “So, you and Ensign Kim, did you..?” He couldn’t even say the word.
“Yes, we copulated.”
“I see.” He sighed again as his worst fears were realized. The analogy Seven drew between themselves and that of a father and daughter was more accurate than she realized, he thought. Already she was sneaking around behind his back like a teenager violating her curfew to be with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend! “And the experience was…?”
“It was not what I expected it to be,” she answered minimally, her mind seeming to wander elsewhere as she spoke.
“He didn’t get rough with you, did he?”
Seven looked shocked as her attention refocused on the hologram. “Certainly not!” she answered indignantly. “Harry was most gentle with me and endeavored to see that the entire evening was organized to my satisfaction.”
‘Harry?’ thought the Doctor.
Seven went on to recount the details of her evening. She told him of her experiences in the Manhattan simulation, of how she shared her fears with her date and how he returned her concerns with examples of his own. The more Seven depicted to him, the deeper a feeling of shame came over the Doctor. Here he had been prepared to assume the basest of motives to the young ensign. Instead, from what he was hearing, Ensign Kim seemed to go out of his way to be the perfect gentleman and a compassionate friend to boot. He was especially touched by Seven’s relating of Harry’s offer of support for the Doctor’s sentience. One thing that the Doctor noticed as she spoke was the softening in her stance, and the light that seemed to come into her eyes when she spoke of her date’s generous nature. It was a light that he never saw when she spoke to him.
Oh, Mr. Kim, how badly I misjudged you, he thought privately.
“It was then that I fell asleep,” she added matter-of-factly.
The Doctor looked up in surprise. “Asleep? As in normal REM sleep?”
“It seemed that way from my perspective. I was unable to do a proper analysis, as I was unconscious at the time.”
The EMH immediately reached for his tricorder and passed it over Seven as he spoke. “Don’t tell me that you fell asleep during sex? That couldn’t have been too good for Mr. Kim’s morale.”
“No, Doctor. I drifted to sleep several minutes after I had climaxed. The evening was quite overwhelming for me and I was feeling exhausted. Oddly enough, I felt physically revitalized upon my awakening.”
“Seven, this is remarkable. According to these readings, your body appears to be just as refreshed and alert as it would be after a regeneration session. You seem to have responded quite positively to falling asleep. I’ll have to do a further analysis of this data.”
“Then I am in good health?”
“Well, the readings show you to be in excellent physical condition. The only issue I might take notice of is a slightly elevated heart rate and stress levels that would indicate tension.” He then gave her a quizzical look, “But I suspect that has more to do with what’s going on in your mind right now than your body, am I correct?”
“Indeed,” she answered solemnly.
“Well, I’d definitely like to run more tests to see if this…occurrence…is part of an ongoing transformation for you.” He continued his scans as he went on. “Who knows? We may be able to wean you off the regeneration alcove entirely.”
“Perhaps,” she whispered, her thoughts clearly drifting.
Seeing that she was not interest in conversation, the Doctor decided to find out more about this new ‘relationship’ between Seven and the good ensign. “So, Seven. How were things left with you and Mr. Kim after your date ended.”
“I do not understand,” her voice sounding confused.
“I mean, did you and he make any follow-up plans? Will you be seeing each other again soon? That sort of thing.”
“We made no such plans.”
“I see,” his attitude brightened considerably. Perhaps, this was just a one-time thing, he hoped to himself.
“Does this mean that the two of you decided to part as friends, then?”
It was the Doctor’s turn to be confused. “What do you mean ‘uncertain?'”
“I mean, I am uncertain as to what the nature of my affiliation is with Harry…Ensign Kim, at this point. This is one of the issues that has me in such confusion.”
“Well, what did you two say to each other when the date ended?”
“I…I said very little. Harry wished to continue the date, whereas I wished to depart and avoid further uncertainty. I then thanked him and left.”
The Doctor gasped, realizing the implications of Seven’s actions. “You mean, you just left him there?”
“Yes,” she responded succinctly. “Were my actions inappropriate?”
“I should say so!” the Doctor answered adamantly. “At the very least, you should talk about the experience with Ensign Kim. Make sure you both are in agreement as to whether your friendship is still intact.”
Seven thought for a moment. “I had not considered that. Perhaps I had best rectify the situation before too much time passes.”
“That would be a good idea.” He nodded grimly as he went about his tests on the young woman. “And perhaps it would be a good idea to think of him as ‘Ensign Kim,’ now that your date has been completed.”
“That would be a reasonable course of action,” she concurred.
The Doctor smiled in relief. It was clear, to him at least, that there was little chance of a lasting relationship between Seven and Harry Kim. Still, the hologram did not want to see the feelings of the young man to be damaged, especially after showing such kindness to him and Seven. He was confident that the ensign would realize that she felt nothing romantic for him, and that after a suitable period of awkwardness, things would gradually return to normal.
At least, that was what he hoped. But what if he was wrong?
Somehow, Harry had found the strength to get dressed and crawl his way into the mess hall. He dreaded being here, poking lazily at the mash Neelix had prepared for today’s breakfast. More than anything, he wanted to hide in his quarters and avoid the outside universe. Unfortunately, he needed to eat something, and he had used up all his replicator rations on his date with Seven. That left him with no other choice but the mess hall.
He sat alone, playing with his food. He knew how disheveled he looked, but that was the least of his concerns. He tried to tune out the conversations going on around him, especially the ones he knew were about him.
He had checked with the computer before coming in to eat. Seven was still in sickbay, no doubt exchanging with the Doctor the field notes of her ‘study.’ Part of him wanted to chase her down and declare his undying devotion to her. But another part told him to hold on to as much of his dignity as was still left. And so he sat there, not sure of what he was going to do next, and not particularly caring much either.
“Hey, there’s the ladies’ man,” a familiar voice called out.
Harry looked up to see Ensigns Freddie Bristow, Pablo Baytart, and Rico Lang standing over him, all looking quite pleased. The two junior Starfleet officers and the burly ex-Maquis had formed something of an unholy trio aboard ship, always leering and commenting on the ship’s female complement. Harry liked them all well enough and considered them to be friends, but he sometimes found their conversations to be painfully juvenile. Right now these were the last people he wanted to speak to.
“So, is it true?” Baytart, Harry’s next-door neighbor, asked eagerly.
“Is what true?”
“You know, about you and a certain bodacious Borg?” Bristow answered with a grin and a wink.
“Wha…what have you heard?”
“Aw c’mon, Harry,” Lang joined in with a broad, all-knowing smile. “It’s all over the ship by now. I saw you two walking arm-in-arm last night on your way to the holodeck. You weren’t exactly discreet.”
“Not to mention that you never came back to your quarters last night,” Baytart added.
“Add to that the fact that Carlyle saw Seven leaving the holodeck this morning, looking a little less than efficient, if you get my drift,” Bristow joined in with a chuckle.
Harry rolled his eyes. Bristow and Baytart were both a year ahead of him at the Academy. Maturity-wise, however, Freddie was still stuck somewhere in junior high. At times, he could make Tom Paris seem almost Vulcan-like by comparison.
“You put these facts together and you come up with one inescapable conclusion, that you and a certain ex-drone have been doing a little mutual assimilating,” the smart-aleck engineer added on.
“Uh, guys, I really don’t want to talk about this right now.” Harry answered weakly.
“Harry, don’t bother to deny it. Everyone knows by now that the two of you are sleeping together,” Baytart folded his arms in smug satisfaction.
“Yeah, buddy, were not asking you to tell us all the gory details,” Bristow grinned salaciously as he slid around the table and casually slid in next to Harry, while his two companions continued to stand over him, wanting to hear more. “We just want to know what it was like, you know, making it with a Borg.”
Harry glared at him angrily. He didn’t like where this conversation was heading.
“You know what I mean. Does she have any weird implants in certain private places?” Bristow’s grin grew wide and lecherous. “Do they feel, you know, real?”
A righteous anger began to boil up within Harry Kim, as he balled his fists ready to pound Bristow’s smile into the back of his freckled face. But some semblance of control came over the young ops officer as he answered his crewmate in a cold, even voice. “Get out of my face, Freddie.”
“Hey, Harry, I was only…”
“Now!” he snarled back at him, his voice somewhat louder than he intended. Several people turned their heads in response to Harry’s volume.
“OK, OK,” Freddie backed off nervously. “No harm intended, Harry. I was just curious. I didn’t mean anything by it.” The offending officer retreated from his seat, more unnerved by the normally good-natured Ensign Kim’s angry outburst than any possible threat of violence.
Harry simply stared him down as he and his companions backed away. He could hear Bristow muttering to his friends as they left to find another table. “Jeez, what the hell is his problem?”
Lang shrugged his broad-shouldered frame in puzzlement. “I dunno, man. I guess it must be love.” Their conversation then continued well out of earshot.
Love! Harry wanted to cry out. If only that were true, he wailed to himself. Now the source of his misery was known all over the ship. It would just be a matter of time before everyone knew that Seven did not return Harry’s affections. Then his humiliation would be complete.
He felt a shadow come across him as he looked up from his food. Standing before him were his friends Tom and B’Elanna, holding the breakfast trays. Tom’s face was stony and quiet. B’Elanna’s was sad, her eyes filled with pity. It was the last thing he needed to see.
“Hey, Harry,” Tom greeted him, trying to break the ice. “Quite a scare you gave ol’ Freddie, there.”
“Bristow can be such a jerk sometimes,” B’Elanna sneered, lending her support.
Harry shrugged. “He’s only asking the same questions everyone else on board is curious about.”
Tom forced a smile. “That’s our Harry. Never an unkind word about anyone,” he echoed the same compliment he had spoken in this very room so many days ago. The conversation that had led to his present misery, Tom thought bitterly. He said nothing aloud. The two quietly slid into the seats across from Harry with their morning meals.
“So, buddy. Is there anything you want to share with us?” the pilot inquired cautiously.
“Tom!” his lover hissed at him. “If Harry wants to talk about anything, it’ll be when he wants to.”
“No, it’s OK,” Harry answered softly.
“So?” the blond pilot inquired after a long awkward moment of silence.
“I…I love her, Tom.” Harry’s voice strained with the painful admission.
His friend said nothing, just quietly shaking his head, even though his eyes were clearly saying ‘you poor, damn fool.’ B’Elanna sighed and reached across the table to take the young ensign’s hand into her own. “Oh, Harry…” she said mournfully. “Look, if you don’t want to talk about it…”
“No, I…I need to tell someone…”
He went on to tell his friends about how his evening with Seven had started so magically, culminating in that beautiful moment of intimacy. It had been like an enchanted dream, only to have cold water splashed in his face the following morning, when she revealed her true feelings, or lack thereof. As he revealed the sad details of his date and its aftermath, he could see the empathetic look on his friend’s faces. Tom listened on in sympathy, saying nothing. B’Elanna, on the other hand, had her eyes lit up in fury, a rage that was no doubt focused on the woman who had broken her friend’s heart.
“I just can’t understand it. Last night she called me ‘Harry.’ This morning, it was back to ‘Ensign Kim.’ I really thought she liked me,” the young man sighed.
“It’s like I told you, Starfleet, you were just seeing what you wanted to see,” the half-Klingon woman answered him with uncharacteristic softness. “Seven isn’t capable of feeling anything for anyone else. You must know that.”
“I…I don’t know. I feel like such an idiot.”
“You’re not an idiot, Harry,” Tom interjected. “You were just lonely. Loneliness can make a man do some pretty reckless things.”
Harry just looked more lost as he sat there, thinking about his options. “What am I going to do, Tom? I can’t just forget about her. I mean, I see her every day. Do we just go on with our lives like nothing ever happened?! I can’t do that!”
The two lovers looked at each other, hoping the other would have an answer for their friend. But there was none forthcoming.
“You know, I suppose I should be grateful,” Harry added with an odd laugh, the kind one used to keep oneself from crying. “At least she thanked me for my help afterwards. I mean, how often do you get to hear Seven of Nine say thank you for anything?” His laughter was forced, heartbreaking, as he fought to keep the tears back.
“Harry…” B’Elanna looked at him, her eyes softening, feeling so helpless.
The awkward moment was broken by the appearance of a towering presence. Seven of Nine strode into the mess hall and approached the table where Harry and his friends were seated. The other diners turned to watch her arrival, their whispers growing noticeably louder. She rembered the Doctor’s advice, and tried to think of him as Ensign Kim, and not as Harry. It would be more…efficient that way.
“Ensign Kim, I have found you. I must speak with you…privately.”
Harry turned pale at the sight of the lovely ex-Borg. He didn’t know what to say after what had happened earlier. But B’Elanna didn’t give him the chance. She spun to face the tall blonde, her face twisted in rage, and flames seemed to burn in her eyes. “God damn you,” she growled at her.
Seven tilted her head in puzzlement at the engineer’s spontaneous hostility. “I beg your pardon, Lieutenant?”
“It isn’t my pardon you should be begging for, drone!” B’Elanna spat at her. “You’ve got one hell of a nerve coming here after what you did!”
“What I did or did not do,” the former Borg stated coolly, “is of no concern to you. It is a matter between Ensign Kim and myself.”
“It’s always my concern when somebody uses my friends for their own pleasure, and then tosses them aside when they’re finished.”
Harry gasped, almost loud enough for everyone to hear. Now the humiliating truth of his date with Seven was going to be revealed in front of everyone. He wanted to curl up and hide where nobody could find him.
“I did not ‘toss’ Ensign Kim in any manner,” Seven answered defiantly.
“Well, that’s your story. Now you get the hell out of here before I show you what it’s really like to get tossed. Preferably out an airlock.”
“Are you threatening me with bodily harm, Lieutenant?”
“I don’t have to make threats, you cold-blooded Borg bitch! When I inflict ‘bodily harm’ on someone, they damn well know it!”
This was getting way out of hand, Harry thought. Why wasn’t Tom doing anything to stop this, he wondered? He looked across the table to see his friend sitting back with a very satisfied look on his face. The sight he saw was one that unnerved Harry. The smile Tom wore was not his typical one of good humor or friendliness, but rather of cruel satisfaction. He wanted B’Elanna to take Seven down. It was enought to send chills down Harry’s spine.
“Lieutenant Torres, I have no interest in a confrontation with you. Now step aside and allow me to converse with Ensign Kim immediately. There are matters he and I must discuss.”
“He doesn’t want to talk to you!”
“I did not hear that from Ensign Kim directly, therefore…” Seven brushed past the enraged Klingon woman, who was in full territorial mode now. “Stay away from him!” the engineer shrieked as her palm came in contact with the icy blonde’s shoulder. The shove had come so swiftly and unexpectedly that even the surefooted Seven of Nine had been caught unprepared. She was knocked back and stumbled briefly before regaining her balance. She looked up at the furious woman in shock and confusion, hearing the collective gasps from the other diners in the mess hall. Lt. Torres had insulted and threatened her on numerous occasions in the past, but never had she instigated actual physical violence against her person until now. It made her feel increasingly defensive, as if standing her ground now became her highest priority, instead of the goal she had originally intended.
“Lieutenant Torres, if you insist on provoking a physical confrontation, I will have no choice but to retaliate in kind.”
“Retaliate?” B’Elanna showed a broad, wicked smile, baring her teeth in a manner that was anything but friendly. “Oh bring it on, sister! I’d love for you to give me an excuse to nail your implants to the wall!”
Seven’s body stiffened as B’Elanna took up an aggressive pose, looking ready to pounce.
Just then, Neelix came bounding out from the storeroom with a driven look on his face, clad in a soiled apron, waving a kitchen inplement in his hand.
“Stop it!” he yelled. “Stop it this instant!”
“Stay out of this, Neelix,” the angry Klingon woman growled at him in warning.
“I will not stay out of this, B’Elanna!” he answered with equal force, staring her down. “People come here to relax and get away from their troubles. If you and Seven want to fight it out, you can do it on the holodeck. But not in my mess hall!”
The diminutive Talaxian was ordinarily an amiable and placid fellow, but when riled he could be as passionate as any Klingon. He stood his ground before B’Elanna, blocking her view of Seven. The enraged engineer breathed heavily, trying to stare Neelix down, debating whether or not to toss him aside to get to Seven.
“Are you going to let it go, B’Elanna? Or am I going to have to call security?” he dared her.
Before she could answer his challenge, a warm hand touched her shoulder. It was the hand of her human lover, who leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Let it be, honey. You’ve made your point. I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and I’m sure you don’t either.”
B’Elanna’s shoulders sagged, her Klingon temper abated. “Sorry, Neelix,” she grumbled. “Things just got a little out of hand.” Neelix let go of his breath and relaxed himself, grateful that he did not have to defend himself against his Klingon friend, armed only with a spatula.
The crowd that had gathered in the mess hall breathed a collective sigh of relief, with the exception of a few hecklers to the side. “Aw, man. We could have seen a catfight!” an unmistakable whine could be heard among the din of the assembly.
“Oh, just shut up already, Bristow!” Megan Delaney’s voice shot back.
While everyone seemed to pull back, Harry took this as an opportunity to flee from the scene, before his embarrassment grew any worse. As he rushed past his friends, B’Elanna noticed his departure. “Harry, wait! Where are you going?”
The frustrated ensign spun around to face the woman that had just added to his degradation. “God damn it, B’Elanna!” he burst out at her in frustration. “I’m not a child! I don’t need you to defend my honor!”
As he headed for the mess hall exit, Seven tried to catch up with him. “Ensign Kim, you must not leave. There is much we need to discuss about our experience last night.”
Harry looked at her, his face dejected and lost. His voice was a soft, hoarse from yelling. There was no trace of anger, only sadness. “I think you made your feelings pretty clear this morning, Seven.” He then exited from the room and the doors slid behind him, leaving a puzzled young woman behind.
“I do not understand,” she said softly, to nobody in particular.
“No, I don’t think you do,” the voice of Tom Paris answered behind her. The tone was quite different from that which Seven was accustomed. She turned around to face him, only to see an irritated scowl across his features, exceeded only by the hostile glare of his female companion.
“You know, Seven,” he went on, “we’ve let you get away with a lot of crap since you came aboard. You’ve been rude, unfriendly, and totally unconcerned for other people’s feelings, despite everything that we’ve tried to teach you. Until now, we’ve let it all slide by. ‘Oh, she can’t help it. She doesn’t know any better,’ we all said.”
His face hardened as he spoke, becoming more unfriendly looking. Seven got the impression that despite Harry’s assurances last night on the holodeck, Ensign Paris did not particularly ‘like’ her right now.
“But this time,” he continued, “you’ve gone too far. There are some things you just can’t overlook.”
With that, Tom and B’Elanna walked right past her, the dark-haired woman giving the blonde a lingering hostile stare as they left the mess hall.
Seven realized that she had committed a grave error. Somehow, in her need to understand sexual behavior and reconcile her own thoughts afterward, she had committed a significant social infraction against Ensign Kim, and in doing so caused him considerable damage. It was not what she had intended. She desperately wanted to rectify the situation, but didn’t have the slightest idea how to do so, especially when her own feelings were still unresolved.
Somehow, the thought of him being hurt now caused her pain as well.
Officially, nobody reported the mess hall altercation between B’Elanna and Seven. But then, nobody had to. On a ship the size of Voyager, it did not take long for gossip of that nature to reach the ears of the Chief of Security. And as usual, as soon as Lt. Commander Tuvok heard anything, it was quickly relayed to the Captain.
Tom Paris and his half Klingon lover found themselves sitting in the briefing room, under the unwelcome watching eyes of Voyager‘s commanding officers. Tuvok stood as impassive as ever with his arms crossed, eyeing the two officers with cool detachment. Captain was sitting at the head of the conference table across from them. She was silent, her face a stone mask, her eyes exhibiting a slow burn. The only one in motion was Commander Chakotay, who was doing all the talking, as he paced angrily back and forth.
“Damn it, B’Elanna, how many times were you warned about this?!” he berated her. “Threats and insults were one thing. But you actually shoved her? I honestly thought you had grown past this!” Chakotay’s voice was clearly expressing anger, but Tom couldn’t help but notice the tone of disappointment as well.
B’Elanna was slumped in her seat, her face scowling. She looked like a naughty schoolgirl who had just been called before the principal and was pouting over being caught in the act, Tom thought. But he knew the consequences were much greater than that, and he wished she took the situation more seriously than she was.
“Well?” the first officer demanded. “Don’t you have anything to say?”
The chief engineer shrugged her shoulders. “It wasn’t that big of a deal. I told Seven to leave us alone, she kept pushing, and things got a little heated. Nobody got hurt.”
“Is that so?” the Vulcan raised an eyebrow. “You were observed by several members of the crew assaulting Seven of Nine, and appeared ready to do the same to Mr. Neelix.”
“I wasn’t going to hurt Neelix!” she protested.
“But you did intend to hurt Seven of Nine?” Tuvok countered.
“I…” B’Elanna stopped herself, seeing how the security officer had maneuvered her. “It was a personal matter!” she answered defensively.
“What about?” Chakotay inquired. “Come on, B’Elanna, if there’s something going on between you and Seven, I want to know about it.”
B’Elanna withdrew under the barrage of questions. “Like I said, Chakotay. It was personal.”
Finally, Kathryn Janeway spoke up from her position on the sidelines. Her tone was not one of amusement. “There’s nothing personal in this room, Lieutenant. Not from me.”
The accused woman said nothing.
“Captain, considering the number of disciplinary actions on Lt. Torres’ record, perhaps stronger measures are required to ensure a greater respect for Starfleet regulations,” Tuvok offered.
“What do you suggest, Mr. Tuvok?” the captain asked, her eyes never leaving B’Elanna.
“Perhaps thirty days in the brig would provide the lieutenant with a necessary lesson in discipline,” the security chief answered plainly before turning to the Klingon woman. “I’m certain that Ensign Paris will be able to relay to you his own experiences in detention.”
B’Elanna’s head jerked up at the suggestion. Her eyes locked on to Tuvok’s, who showed no emotion, but only the cold logic of his convictions. Even more shocked was Tom Paris, who went pale at the thought of his beloved put away for a month. He remembered his own time spent in the ship’s brig, along with the nightmares and the isolation. He wouldn’t have wished the experience on his worst enemy, never mind the woman he loved. “Captain, please. Don’t lock her up. There were extenuating circumstances…”
“Tom!” his beloved hissed at him.
“Damn it, B’Elanna! I’m not going to let them toss you in a cage just because of your damn foolish pride!” he shot back.
“Talk to me, Ensign,” Janeway spoke coolly, still sitting back at the head of the table.
“Well…” he stammered. “It’s like B’Elanna said. It’s personal, but believe me, Seven did kind of start it…”
“Has this anything to do with Ensign Kim?” Tuvok broke in.
Tom’s eyes widened, hoping that his friend’s embarrassment hadn’t reached this far up the chain of command. “What do you know about Harry?”
“Only what Mr. Neelix relayed to me when I questioned him, that after the altercation had been broken up, Mr. Kim departed the mess hall in an troubled state, shouting angrily at Lt. Torres and Seven of Nine. Is that correct?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“So, what happened?” the first officer prodded, genuinely curious at what could have Harry Kim become enraged at one of his best friends aboard Voyager. He knew something was troubling the young ops officer. All during Beta shift he stood at his post, silent as a zombie. There was clearly hurt in his eyes, but Chakotay had said nothing to him. Perhaps, he realized, he should have made the effort.
“Uh,” Tom betrayed his discomfort. “Maybe that’s something you ought to talk to Harry about first.”
Janeway leaned forward in her seat, looking right at Tom Paris, her frustration clearly in evidence. “Believe me, Ensign. We have every intention of talking to Mr. Kim. Right now, we’re talking to you,” her voice being cool and even, before she shifted in to full command mode. “So spill it, mister!”
Tom sighed, hating to be the one to spread the story this far. “Well, you see…Seven, she sort of…used Harry.”
“Used him? In what way?” the captain inquired.
“Like a guinea pig!” B’Elanna spat out. “That cold, heartless…”
“B’Elanna!” Chakotay gave her a warning look, before turning to Tom. “Continue, Ensign.”
“Oh, boy. How do I put this delicately…” he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Harry and Seven, they…ffffffthppppt!” He made a crude gesture with his fist, a universal symbol that he hoped would convey the message clearly without him having to put it into words.
The stunned look on Janeway and Chakotay’s faces were a clear indication that they got his meaning quite clear. Even Tuvok, widely regarded as the most unflappable member of the crew, seemed to do a double take upon hearing Tom’s bombshell.
“Mr. Paris, are you saying that an intimate relationship exists between Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine?” the Vulcan inquired with a raised eyebrow.
“Relationship? No. Intimate? Oh, you could say that.”
The stony mask on Kathryn Janeway’s face seemed to melt away as she tried to come to grips with this revelation. “I don’t believe it…Harry…and Seven?”
Chakotay shook his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable. I was just having coffee with Ayala this morning. He was telling me Carlyle saw Seven leaving the holodeck this morning, looking like she just fell out of bed. I didn’t pay it any mind, stories like that crop up all the time aboard ship.” He then turned his attention towards Tom Paris. “Are you saying that it’s actually true?”
“Big time,” the pilot answered solemnly. He then went on to tell the sad tale of Harry’s infatuation and Seven’s cruel disdain for his feelings the morning after their date.
“Captain,” Tuvok interrupted the mood of astonishment with his toneless voice. “How do you wish to proceed in the matter of Lt. Torres?”
Janeway shook off her surprise and became the commanding officer again. “I don’t think brig time is warranted in this case. I’ll go with Tom on this one. There were some unusual circumstances here. Nevertheless, I can’t just let this incident slide,” she answered with some thought. “Lieutenant, I’m fining you thirty replicator rations. Furthermore, I’m suspending your holodeck privileges for three months.”
B’Elanna blanched at the punishment. “Three months?!”
“Do you want me to make it six?”
“No, Captain,” the younger woman responded humbly. B’Elanna knew when she was beaten.
“Very well, dismissed,” she commanded. “And one more thing. Mr. Paris,” Janeway called out to the young pilot as Tom and B’Elanna got up to leave. “You could have exerted more control over the situation, but you didn’t.”
Tom answered in embarrassment. “No ma’am.”
“Instead, you just sat back and allowed matters to spiral out of control. Therefore…” she paused dramatically before proceeding. “…I’m putting you in charge of keeping Lt. Torres in line. She and Seven so much as look at each other funny, I’m holding you responsible.” Janeway revealed a slight smirk. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t have a great deal of faith in B’Elanna’s own self-control.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tom reluctantly acknowledged. “Uh, Captain. What about Seven?”
“Don’t you worry about Seven. I’ll try to find some way to resolve this situation.”
“Well, good luck.” He grinned weakly at the captain, not envying the task she had ahead of her.
As soon as the two officers had left, Tuvok turned to his captain. “If that will be all, captain, I have other duties to attend to.” He knew full well what the next topic of conversation was going to be about, and he had no desire to be privy to any further salacious gossip that had no bearing on the shipboard performance.
“Hold up a minute, Tuvok,” Chakotay called out to the security chief. “Would you really have thrown B’Elanna into the brig?”
“Most likely not, Commander,” the Vulcan answered directly. “But the threat to do so was most effective in discovering the true motivation of today’s altercation.”
The first officer was thrown for a loop. “Are you saying that you lied to get to the truth? I thought Vulcans never lie.”
Tuvok raised an eyebrow in response. “I did not lie, Commander. I merely stated to Lieutenant Torres that she might find herself confined to the ship’s brig for thirty days. The fact that such a possibility was a remote one did not come up in the course of our dialogue.”
Chakotay couldn’t help but let out a laugh. Once again the security officer had shown him that Vulcans were subtler than their logical exteriors would lead one to believe.
“If you will excuse me, then,” Tuvok continued, turning to face his commander, “I believe you have a most vexing problem ahead of you. I trust, Captain, that you will find a logical resolution to this conundrum.”
As she granted her confidant permission to leave, Janeway thought to herself bitterly how there was nothing logical about this latest shipboard dilemma.
“I just can’t believe it,” she looked at Chakotay, still in a state of bewilderment. “That she could do something so…reckless. What the hell could she have been thinking?”
“Curiosity, or maybe something more?” Chakotay offered.
“And I would have thought Harry would know better. Chakotay, just what is it about our Mr. Kim that causes him to lose all perspective when a pretty face is involved?”
Her first officer shrugged his shoulders in good humor. “Seven was looking for information, Harry was looking for romance. It’s an old story…they just put a unique twist on it.”
“If Seven was curious about sex, then why didn’t she didn’t come to me? I know we butt heads sometimes, but I like to think I have some good advice to offer.”
“Oh, I’m sure. But let’s be honest, Kathryn. Whether you like it or not, you’re the closest thing Seven has to a mother on board Voyager.”
“Your point being?”
“Well, I don’t know how it is for girls, but I didn’t exactly run to tell my mother when I was planning my first time,” the ex-Maquis answered with a smirk. “In fact, as I recall, there wasn’t much planning on my part at all.”
“There rarely is. Your point is well taken,” she responded with a grin of her own. “Still, we need to find some way to resolve this situation.” Janeway continued, as her face grew serious. “I hope we can salvage their friendship, at the very least. We’ve got a long flight ahead of us, and Voyager‘s too small a place for a broken heart.”
“I agree,” Chakotay nodded. “It would be a shame if this did permanent damage to their ability to work together. They make one hell of a team. Not to mention all the help Harry provides for Seven. I’d hate to see that lost. What do you suggest?”
“I have no idea,” she answered, lost in confusion. “I suppose I can talk to both of them, get their respective sides of the story, and see if I can get them to talk to each other. Hopefully, Harry will see past his pain and accept Seven as a friend again.”
“Just as friends?” the first officer cast a mischievous glance in his captain’s direction.
Janeway eyed the tattooed man with surprise. “Surely you don’t think there’s a possibility that the two of them could actually form a relationship, do you?”
“Well, there are always rumors cropping up about the two of them every so often,” he answered with a sly grin.
“About Harry liking Seven, I’m sure,” she admitted. “But the other way around? You can’t be serious.”
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Chakotay, she’s been out of the Collective for less than three years. She’s nowhere near ready for a romantic encounter. I’d like for Harry to find happiness as much as you do, but we have to be realistic…we’re talking about Seven of Nine here.”
The Maquis shrugged his shoulders. “Whatever you say. But I’d suggest you go talk to Seven first. Poor Harry needs some time to himself, I’d imagine. Besides, I think he’s been embarrassed enough for today. The last thing he needs is to talk about this with his captain.”
Janeway raised her eyebrows and smiled, completing Chakotay’s unspoken thought. “Who also happens to be a woman?”
“That certainly doesn’t help,” he nodded in agreement.
“Agreed. I’ll turn that responsibility over to you when the time comes.”
At that moment, the com system chimed in. “Emergency Medical Hologram to Captain Janeway.”
She slapped her combadge in response. “Janeway here, Doctor.”
“Captain, I was hoping you’d be able to come down to Cargo Bay Two when you had a free moment. I’ve just completed my preliminary analysis of some medical scans that I’ve run on Seven of Nine.”
“Nothing alarming I hope.”
“On the contrary. I believe when you hear what I have to say, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
“Really? You’ve piqued my interest, Doctor. I’m on my way down. Janeway, out.”
As she got up to depart, Chakotay chuckled. “Looks like you’re going to get you’re chance to talk to Seven sooner than you thought.”
“Looks that way. I wonder if this pleasant surprise has anything to do with Seven and Harry’s date?”
“Who knows? Just remember to keep an open mind about what I said.”
Kathryn laughed softly as she left the briefing room. These past few years, she had been witness to many strange sights. But a former Borg drone pairing off with her young ops officer? No, there had to be a limit to how odd the Delta Quadrant could get.
Kathryn Janeway entered Cargo Bay Two, only to see the Doctor running his tricorder over Seven of Nine, who was plugged into her Borg regeneration alcove. The younger woman was unconscious in her chamber, oblivious to the outside world. As was the Doctor, who was rapt with interest at whatever readings he was taking, and didn’t even notice his commanding officer enter the room.
“Doctor?” the captain spoke up, trying to get the hologram’s attention.
“Oh, captain. I didn’t hear you. It’s just…well, there’s been some exciting developments with Seven of Nine today.”
“So, I’ve heard,” she answered with wry humor.
“Oh? Then you’ve heard about her falling asleep?”
Janeway stood at attention. Was there no end to the bombshells being dropped about Seven today?
“Asleep? As in regular, human sleep?”
“Precisely!” the Doctor answered with unabashed glee. “It’s a remarkable development in the evolution of her humanity.”
“Are you saying that Seven no longer requires regeneration?”
“Well, that may be a bit premature, Captain. With your permission, I’d like to run a series of controlled experiments over the next few weeks, to see how Seven’s sleep patterns manifest themselves before we wean her off the alcove,” he continued with self assurance. “And based on my preliminary analysis, Seven will probably still need to regenerate for brief periods in order to recharge her Borg components. Her power needs should be quite minimal. No more than twenty or thirty minutes a day, sort of a Borg ‘catnap,’ if you will. But her biological systems should respond quite well to normal REM sleep.”
“Doctor, this is remarkable, indeed.” Janeway looked around at the dungeon-like atmosphere of Cargo Bay Two. She would have liked nothing more than to move Seven into normal crew quarters and away from this depressing, isolated environment. Unfortunately, the power requirements of the regeneration alcove were far in excess of the standard EPS conduits on the crew decks. It was because of the direct feed to the ship’s batteries through the cargo bay that Seven and her Borg away team had first set up the alcoves here, during the fight with Species 8472. Setting up a regeneration chamber in one of the quarters would have involved a major refit of the power relays on two habitat decks, an exercise that would take weeks to accomplish. Although there were many in the crew who had volunteered for such duty, Harry among them, Seven had felt that such an effort was unnecessary and an inefficient use of ship’s resources. And sadly, she was right about the later. The project had been put on indefinite hold, with other, more pressing needs assuming priority. Now, if what the Doctor was saying was true, a major millstone that kept Seven of Nine from experiencing full humanity had been lifted. “What brought this on now?” she inquired.
“That, I’m not entirely certain about. Based on what I’ve monitored so far, I believe Seven may have had the ability to sleep for quite some time, possibly months. However, her regeneration sessions may have been suppressing her natural sleep cycles.”
Janeway raised her voice as she spoke. “Months? And you’re only now figuring this out?”
“Captain, liberating a Borg drone from the Collective is hardly a procedure with a great deal of precedent. I’ve been taking my cues mostly from Seven’s own body,” the EMH answered in a huff.
“Of course. Forgive me, Doctor.” Janeway looked up at Seven, who was still in her chamber, unaware of the outside world. “I’ll just be glad to be able to move her into more hospitable surroundings.” She turned to look at the EMH. “You say her implants will still need to regenerate?”
“Only briefly and at low power levels. I’m sure that Engineering will be able to rig up a device that can accommodate Seven’s needs in her new quarters.”
Janeway raised an eyebrow at the medic. “As things stand, I wouldn’t count on B’Elanna or her people doing any favors for Seven anytime soon.”
The Doctor nodded glumly. “You’re referring to the incident in the mess hall this morning? Seven told me all about what happened. She was quite distraught over the incident. I recommended to her that she file formal charges against Lt. Torres…”
“But I chose not to,” Seven’s voice interrupted the Doctor, as she emerged fully awake from her regeneration cycle.
“Seven,” the captain acknowledged, “I just heard the good news from the Doctor. It seems you’ve taken quite a few big steps today.”
“Perhaps more than I should have,” the younger woman answered with a hint of sadness, as she disengaged herself from the apparatus.
Janeway turned to face the holographic physician. “Doctor, would you mind excusing us? I need to have a woman to woman talk with Seven about…recent events.”
“I see. Are you certain you wouldn’t rather I…?”
“Doctor,” she gave him a ‘captain’s glare,’ the kind that indicated she wouldn’t ask politely the next time.
“Very well, I’ll be waiting out in the hall if anyone needs me,” he sighed as he turned to exit the cavernous chamber.
Once they were alone, Janeway looked at the tall blonde woman, and tried to think of someway to begin this difficult conversation. But Seven, blunt as always, beat her to the punch. “I presume that if you are aware of the altercation between myself and Lt. Torres, then you have also learned about my evening with Ensign Kim.”
Kathryn looked at Seven, “Then you and he did…”
“Oh, Seven…why didn’t you come to me in the first place if you had questions about…well, sex?”
Seven looked at her with a puzzled expression. “In all the time I have been aboard Voyager, I have not once observed you engage in intimate relations with any individual, nor did you express any interest in such. I concluded that you did not have any pertinent information to offer me.”
Janeway didn’t know whether to be offended or laugh out loud. “Seven, as the captain I may have chosen to be celibate these past few years, but I assure you, I have had sex before.”
“Indeed? Then perhaps, as a female, you may have additional perspective that would be of benefit to me.”
“I should hope so. There seems to have been a serious miscommunication between you and Ensign Kim.”
“Correct. I appear to have caused injury to him. And I do not know how.”
Janeway looked the former drone in the eyes, and saw the sorrow and confusion. For all of her formidable presence and womanly exterior, she’s still so much a child inside, she thought. But more than a child, obviously. “Seven, what exactly were your intentions when you approached Harry?”
“I…I wished to experience sexual intercourse for myself, in order to further my understanding of human nature. But now, I am more confused than before.”
“Don’t you think Harry feels just as confused?”
Seven tried to think about what the captain was telling her. She considered her observations of Ensign Kim’s behavior. His reaction when she terminated their time together, his unwillingness to speak to her, even his initial reaction to her request for copulation three days ago. It then began to occur to her. “Captain, is Ensign Kim in love with me?”
Janeway’s expression grew more serious. “Yes, Seven. I believe he is. I haven’t spoken to him directly about it, but from what Tom and B’Elanna told me, and from the way he looked on the bridge, I’d say he has all the classic signs of a broken heart.”
“A broken heart?” Seven pondered the curious human expression. “Ensign Kim can not be in love with me. I know he finds me desirable, but…he informed me on numerous occasions that he and I were merely friends.”
“Seven, maybe he wasn’t in love with you when this whole craziness first started, but I’m pretty sure that he’s in love with you now.”
“But,” the ex-Borg added, sounding desperate, “I never sought a change in our affiliation when I first requested Harry’s assistance!”
She called him Harry? Janeway noticed. “Seven, you may not have intended that when you approached him, but the desire for a relationship might have been implied.”
“I…” She tried to speak, but couldn’t. She was at a loss for words. Seven, whose posture had always been so refined and rigid, seemed to slump with despair. “The Doctor warned me that there were complex emotions involved with intimate behavior. He did not tell me that the emotions in question would be my own.”
“And just what emotions do you think you are experiencing as a result of…last night?” she asked, trying to be tactful.
“I do not know. I find myself thinking much about the coupling between Ensign Kim and myself, trying to evaluate its evolutionary benefits, the biochemical compatibility factors involved, and the psychological impact it would have upon shipboard interpersonal relationships. Yet when I distill these elements through my thought processes, I can only think of one immediate fact of relevance.” Seven’s mouth grew wide, her eyes seemed to light up with a guilty, mischievous glow, and her cheeks seemed to almost…blush. “I…I liked it,” she conceded.
Janeway’s eyes widened in amazement for the second time today. She would have to listen more closely to the advice of her first officer, she thought. Clearly this situation was more complex than she realized. “It is rather habit-forming, isn’t it?” the captain quipped, amused at seeing Seven look ashamed of the fact that she had actually enjoyed something, especially something so ‘irrelevant.’
The young woman nodded weakly. “I would not be opposed to the idea of such an experience again.”
“With or without Harry?” Kathryn prodded.
Seven looked at the captain, bewildered. “I…I believe that what made my experience last night so pleasing was more than the physical act itself. Ensign…Harry, he made me feel unique, as if I were the center of his existence. My enjoyment was of primary importance to him. I believe that there are few individuals who would treat me in so selfless a manner.”
She smiled at Seven’s sudden insight. The former drone had stumbled upon a fundamental truth that all too many people never realized until much later in life. The finest sexual techniques in the entire universe couldn’t hold a candle to the one thing that made sex truly great – love. It was a lesson that had been ignored all too often in human history. Janeway was comforted to know that if Seven of Nine could come to this realization so early in her sexual awakening, then she was off to a good start in her exploration of humanity. “Harry’s a very special person. I’d say you’re a very lucky young woman.”
“Then, you believe I should pursue a relationship with him?”
“That’s up to you to decide. You could do far worse, Seven. He’s an intelligent, handsome and sensitive young man, who obviously thinks the world of you. If I weren’t his commanding officer and I were fifteen years younger, I’d…”
The captain’s musing was cut short by the sidelong, skeptical look on Seven’s face.
“All right, twenty years younger,” she confessed with an annoyed tone of voice. “But we were talking about you, not me.”
“And the truth is, Seven, that you and I could talk about what you’re feeling all week long and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. The one person you should be talking to is Harry.”
“He does not wish to speak to me.”
“He’s afraid of what you have to say. But believe me, regardless of what you two decide to do, even if you don’t end up a couple, he needs to speak to you about it.”
“I…I…” Seven struggled to articulate her thoughts, but she was drowning in a sea of irrelevant emotion: confusion, doubt, fear, frustration, excitement, and despair. The young Borg wanted to learn about humanity, right now she was getting the crash course. “It is all so…irrelevant and inefficient!”
But Janeway would not let her off so easily. “Seven, you can’t hide behind those words anymore. Whether you like it or not, you stopped being Borg a long time ago. You’re a woman, Seven, a human woman, with all of the joys and sorrows that come with womanhood. And you can’t just suppress the things about humanity that make you uncomfortable or wish them away. They’re a part of you, and they can be as wonderful or as terrible as you make them to be.
“Look at all of the things that have manifested themselves since you were freed from the Collective. You’ve reacquired the ability to eat, the need for friendship, and if the Doctor is to be believed, you’re regaining the capacity to sleep as well. So if all of those human qualities are a part of you, why would it be so strange that you should want to seek companionship and desire? Or for that matter, love?”
Seven looked at the captain, trembling. She was afraid, more afraid than at any time since her liberation. To become fully human would mean the end of being…what she was now. She would then be something different, something unknown. Something beyond her control. “I do not know what to do!” she cried out.
Kathryn looked at the young blonde sympathetically and took her hands into her own. “Don’t be afraid of your feelings, Seven. Embrace them! You and Harry, maybe it won’t work out, but what if it did? It could turn out to be the most wonderful thing to ever happen to you, both of you, if you let it.” Janeway’s eyes then turned sad as she continued. “I know you haven’t had the happiest of lives, Seven of Nine. So if anyone in this life is overdue for happiness, it’s you.”
Seven was silent as she allowed her captain’s words to sink in and penetrate her consciousness. “Thank you, Captain. I will consider your words carefully. I have much to think about.”
Janeway looked at her maternally. “Don’t take too long to think about it, Seven. There’s a young man who’s hurting and desperately needs to hear from you.”
And with a smile and a wish for good luck, the captain of the starship Voyager turned and exited the cargo bay, leaving a confused young lady alone with her thoughts.
She was not alone for long, as her mentor reentered the chamber to return to her side.
“Seven, are you all right?” the Doctor inquired. “You seem more distraught than ever.”
“It would appear that Harry Kim is in love with me,” she lamented. “The captain believes that I must speak with him immediately.”
“In order to let him down easy?” the Doctor added, hopeful, looking into her eyes for a sign that he was right.
There was no answer from the statuesque blonde.
“Seven, exactly how do you feel about Ensign Kim?” the Doctor asked feebly, almost afraid to hear the answer.
She seemed to almost choke on an answer. The pain and confusion on her face spoke volumes.
“I see,” he accepted with sorrow.
“Doctor,” she spoke up, her voice breaking, “you have always advised me well in the past. Now I require your counsel more than ever before. How am I to proceed?”
This was it, the hologram realized, the moment of decision. With but a few words, he could sway her feelings, make her forget all about Harry Kim. Then she would be his alone, his sunshine. After all, she trusted him to do right by her.
No, he realized sadly. She would never be his. His pupil, for certain; his friend and confidant, always. But it was clear from the look on her face and the light in her eyes that her cyborg heart belonged to another. He would never be more to her than what he was right now. And when he thought about it, that was more than any hologram could ever hope to have.
And so, in that brief moment, the Doctor made his choice.
“Go to him,” he said with a final solemnity. “Tell him what you’re feeling.”
Seven stood there, motionless. She knew what had to be done, but could not find the strength to do it. “I am afraid.”
The Doctor walked up to her, looked into her eyes, trying to muster up as much bravado as he could find. “Seven, you once said that you regarded me as a father.” He looked at her deeper, his eyes softening. “May this father figure give his surrogate daughter the comfort she so desperately needs?”
She returned his gaze. “That would be acceptable,” she answered him, her voice soft and helpless, like a child.
He then came closer to her, and put his arms around her in a warm, paternal embrace. Seven wrapped her arms around his back, returning his hug. She felt the Doctor against her. The feelings were similar to that of young Annika Hansen and the fond embraces she gave to her Papa, when she was frightened at night. But the EMH felt different somehow. Although the photokinetic fields generated by his mobile emitter made him as solid as any other crewman, the Doctor’s body radiated almost no heat. There was no heartbeat or pulse that she could detect, only a faint, ultrasonic hum. And her ocular implant could not trace the flow of blood through his body, the way she could with Harry when they coupled. No, it was different, yet it was still a comfort to her.
They broke their embrace and slowly pulled apart. Seven had found the strength she needed.
“Do you know what you’re going to say to him?” the Doctor inquired.
“I do not. I will simply follow Harry’s advice to me. I will ‘be with the moment.’ Perhaps then a solution will present itself.”
He reached out and held her enhanced hand. “I know you’ll do what’s right. I have great faith in you. I always have.”
“Thank you, Doctor, for all of your assistance. You have added great value to my existence.”
As she turned to leave, he reflected on ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and of the sacrifice that poor Sydney Carton made for Lucie Manette, so that she might love another. Fortunately, his sacrifice had cost the Doctor far less than a trip to the guillotine. And in the end, he had gained so much more. For the first time in months, he felt as if a great burden had been lifted from his metaphorical heart. He knew then that he had made the right decision.
“It is a far, far, better thing that I do,” the Doctor quoted with a smile of satisfaction, as he watched Seven of Nine walk off towards her future.
Harry Kim had locked himself away in his room, too embarrassed to face the rest of the crew. He had gone about his duties in a mindless routine, not speaking unless spoken to, not even looking up from his station except when asked. As soon as Beta shift ended, he hightailed off the bridge, not even answering Tom as he called out after him. It had been the worst day of his life. He would have called in sick, had it been possible to get away with that on a Starfleet vessel.
He was slumped in his bed, fiddling with his clarinet, but lacking the inspiration to play anything. His stomach started to grumble, having not had anything to fill it since breakfast. But he couldn’t go back to the mess hall, not after what had happened there. So he suffered, both in silence and in starvation.
A chime at the door interrupted his misery. He ignored it. Others had tried to disrupt his solitude since he came off shift. Both Tom and B’Elanna had tried repeatedly to hail him. Even Pablo Baytart had knocked on his door, offering to apologize for Bristow’s earlier vulgarity. But Harry was talking to no one.
The sound at the door repeated several times. After the fourth ring, when he failed to answer it, a voice came over his combadge, the most beautiful voice in the entire galaxy.
“Seven of Nine to Ensign Kim. I must speak with you, Ensign. Allow me to enter your quarters.”
Harry couldn’t speak to her. He wouldn’t be able to stand hearing her to reject him in greater detail than she had this morning after their ‘date.’ How long ago that all seemed now.
When he didn’t answer, she called out to him again. “Ensign Kim, respond. It is imperative that we speak.”
He could hear a sense of desperation creeping up in her voice. Part of him suffered inside, wanting so much to let her in, to tell her how he truly felt. But his fear and his pain kept him mute and immobile.
And then, after what seemed like forever, he heard those words call to him.
“Harry,” she implored him, her voice quivering slightly as she spoke, “please let me in.”
His heart ached, and he commanded the door to open.
Seven strode into his room effortlessly, her every move controlled and perfect. She looked at him, with those delicate blue eyes, and Harry just seemed to melt at the sight of her. He sat up on his bed quickly. “Seven, I…I wasn’t expecting you…I…” He wanted to slap himself upside the head, knowing how lame he sounded.
“Harry, it is necessary for us to speak,” she cut him off. “Now.”
He bowed his head, prepared for the brush-off that he knew was to come. “I know it is. I know there’s a lot more between us that needs to be said.”
“Indeed,” she affirmed. There was much that she needed to say to Ensign Kim. No, she corrected herself internally, not Ensign Kim. Harry. ‘Harry’ was a name that signified friendship and closeness. He was ‘Harry’ to her now. The designation ‘Ensign Kim’ somehow had become cold and remote. As it probably seemed to Harry when she called him that when she departed from the holodeck. Was that where the damage had begun?
“Harry,” she began, finally comfortable with the use of his familiar designation. “I must…”
But the young man did not let her finish. “I love you,” he blurted out, his breathing ragged and desperate.
Seven was momentarily shaken by his proclamation. “You…love me?”
“Yes!” he declared with newfound energy and confidence, as he stood up from his bed. “It’s not loneliness, or lust, or some pie-in-the-sky desperate need to pursue the impossible, or any other reason people might say. It’s love. Real, mature, adult, genuine. I love you, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One. I have for a long time, months, maybe ever since you came on board. I’m not sure. But last night, that’s when I knew it for certain. I love your innocence, your strength, your courage, and your vulnerability. I don’t know where to begin. But it’s all there, and it’s real!”
Seven stood there in stunned silence. The captain had told her that Harry was in love with her, but to hear him state it to her directly, with such conviction…she did not know how to react. The very idea that anyone could love her! Someone who didn’t even know what love is or what purpose it served! Could it be that Harry saw something when he looked at her, something she could not see? She then saw Harry’s renewed vigor fade away, as he sat back onto the bed. “But, I know you don’t feel the same way.” He bent his head low, not even looking at her. “It’s alright. I don’t blame you. You didn’t know any better. It’s my fault. When you came to me, wanting to experience sex for the first time, I…I let my own imagination dictate to me what was happening.” He sighed to himself before continuing. “It’s OK. I’ll try to find a way to get past this. I…just wanted you to know how I felt about you. Just in case you started to blame yourself about what happened.”
The former Borg blinked in amazement. Even in the depths of his pain, she thought, he is concerned for my well being. She had come to this room, with the intention of ‘being with the moment.’ It seemed as if her moment was here.
“Have you said everything that you need to communicate to me?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he answered, tired and weak.
“Very well, I will speak now,” she affirmed to him. “During our date, our copulation, and afterwards, I experienced many sensations. These ‘feelings’ were unnerving to me. I had no prior experience with emotions such as these before and was uncertain as to how to incorporate them. That is why I departed from the holodeck so abruptly.”
Harry looked up in astonishment, shaken from his stupor. “Seven, I had no idea…”
She did not let him finish. “You have stated that you love me. Unfortunately, I do not at this time know how to return your affections.” Her answer was as direct as Harry had expected. What he did not expect was the softening of her voice and what she went on to say. “However, I wish to learn.”
“I believe that I can benefit greatly by having you as a part of my existence.” She moved closer to the flabbergasted young officer, until she was standing over him, violating his personal space. The corner of her mouth curled up in what could only be a smile. “In other words, Harry Kim, I…like you. What is more, I desire you.” Her smile grew more pronounced. “You…please me.”
“Seven, I…” he stumbled, trying to overcome his shock. Finally he regained control over his tongue. “Isn’t all this rather ‘irrelevant?'” he tried to joke with her.
“Perhaps, but it is pleasurable. And Captain Janeway is of the opinion that I am in need of more pleasure in my life.” She then looked at him long and deep, as she leaned over him to gaze into his dark eyes. “Would you care to assist me in that endeavor as well?”
“Seven, are you saying you want to…um…copulate again?”
“No, Harry,” her voice would have sounded just as flat and emotionless as ever to an outsider, but to Harry’s ears, it had taken on a deep and seductive quality. “I wish to…make love.”
She then leaned down to him, her lips coming into contact with his own. A surge of electricity seemed to arc between them as they touched. They drank each other in, being overpowered by the other’s presence. He could feel his body responding to her. Deep down, a part of him knew he shouldn’t be doing this. She might like him, but she didn’t love him. Not yet, anyway. ‘Yet’ being the operative word. In the meantime, it was all just sex, wasn’t it?
Of course, the rest of him answered ‘why not?’ After all, where Seven was concerned, resistance was futile.
And so he complied.
B’Elanna Torres made a sigh of frustration as she lay in the arms of her human lover. He was cuddling her on the couch in her quarters. It wasn’t sexual, but it was comforting. Sometimes, being with Tom didn’t have to be intimate in order to feel good.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it, babe,” he counseled her.
“Why the hell shouldn’t I?” she answered back. “Here I thought I was protecting Harry, and instead I made him feel even worse. Some friend I am!”
“You were doing what you thought was right.”
“Yeah, well,” she mumbled, unconvinced. “I certainly got my comeuppance for it, didn’t I?”
Tom smiled at her, as if to let her know everything was OK. “Three months isn’t that long. Catalina will be there waiting for us.” He then leaned in and wrapped his arms around her tighter. “Look at it this way. It gives us an incentive to stay in our cabins and use our imaginations more…creatively.”
B’Elanna gave him a twisted smile in return. “You’ve got a one track mind, you know that?”
He shrugged his shoulders, feigning a mock innocence. “I’m just trying to take your mind off your troubles. Is it working, yet?”
She let out a noise that was half laughter and half snort. “Damn, I deserved it anyway. I didn’t go after Seven to protect Harry. I did it for myself!”
Tom looked into her eyes earnestly. “C’mon, honey. I know how much Harry means to you. He’s my friend too.”
“It’s more than that, Tom. He’s like a little brother to me. I know, I know. He’s a grown man who can handle his own affairs…” She cut herself off as she spoke, being painfully reminded of the circumstances by her unfortunate choice of words. “What I mean is…”
“I know what you mean,” the young pilot answered with understanding. “I’ve always noticed you’ve had that kind of relationship with him.”
“More than you know, Tom.” The half-Klingon took on a mournful look and let out a soft breath “When I was growing up, I was pretty lonely. I mean, my parents were fighting all of then time, and I found it hard to make friends. So sometimes…when things got bad at home…I would invent someone to play with.”
Tom arched an eyebrow in amazement. Despite the fact that they had been a couple nearly two years, there were still a handful of topics of conversation they never spoke of. One was B’Elanna’s history growing up. Her life a human-Klingon hybrid still remained painful for her to talk about, even with Tom. He would glean hints of her childhood here and there, but she was never willing to discuss her troubled upbringing openly. The fact that she was doing so now was a sign of great vulnerability and trust on her part. He dare not let her down.
“You had an imaginary friend?” he inquired.
“Not exactly,” she answered with some discomfort. “I made up an imaginary little brother.”
Tom tried to hold back a laugh. “You’re kidding. A little brother?”
“Yes,” she proclaimed with defiance. “You know, someone I could play with, someone I could protect, someone who would look up to me…” her voice became sad as she spoke. “Someone who would love me unconditionally.”
Tom’s heart ached as he heard the pain in her voice. He leaned in to give her a comforting kiss on her ridged brow, then nuzzled lightly along her neck. “I never knew,” she spoke softly to her.
“I…” she lamented before snapping back to the present. “It was a silly childhood fantasy I needed to get through some tough times. I put it all aside when I grew up. Then years later, when we were first stuck here in the Delta Quadrant and Harry and I were transported down to the Ocampa homeworld. I mean, you had to picture the scene. Here was this green little Starfleet ensign, confronted by this out-of-control half-Klingon Maquis. He was trying to put on a brave face and get me to calm down and trust him. I mean, it was so obvious he was scared to death of me! But there was something about him, so open and honest. I couldn’t help but like the guy. And you know me, Tom. I never trust anyone that quickly!”
“You sure as hell didn’t with me,” he grinned.
“And rightly so,” she teased back. “But Harry, he has this way about him. Like you know he genuinely cares about you and that he wants everyone to get along. You just have to like him, but at the same time you want to protect him from the cruel reality that we don’t live in a perfect universe and not everyone wants to play nice and get along.”
“Damn. Since when did we become so cynical?”
B’Elanna shot him a warning look. “Anyway, it took me a while to figure why I felt so comfortable with him. And then it hit me! He was just like the way I imagined Neebo!”
“Neebo? Is that what you named your imaginary friend?”
“Don’t laugh! I thought it was a really cute name. And yes, Harry is a lot like the little brother I wish I had.”
“Your imaginary little brother come to life, eh?”
“Sort of. I mean, he wasn’t exactly what I imagined my brother would look like. For one thing, I always saw Neebo as half-Klingon, just like me.”
Tom couldn’t help but chuckle as a mischievous look came across his face. “I just had this mental image in my head of Harry Kim as a Klingon.”
In spite on herself, the engineer let out a hearty laugh of her own as she thought about the visual Tom suggested. “He’d probably have the nicest teeth of anyone in the Empire.”
“Yeah,” Tom countered between laughs. “And he’d probably say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ before eating the heart of his enemy.”
“You’d have to have enemies first before you could do that!” she retorted, laughing so hard now that she was almost in tears. After a minute of enjoying their joke, the couple gradually regained control over themselves, before the frivolity subsided and reality crept in.
“You realize what we’re doing, don’t you?” Tom said with greater sobriety.
His lover nodded her head grimly, as she rested her head against his chest. “We’re still treating him like a little boy, teasing him and patting him on the head whenever it suits us. Damn, I really thought we were better friends than that.”
Tom smirked as he thought about what she said, pulling her closer to him. “Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend quite like him before.”
B’Elanna looked up at him with curiosity. “Not ever?”
“Well, once. My roommate during my Academy years. We used to do everything together. We partied, chased the same girls, hit the same bars. We were too much like each other, though, feeding of each other’s energy. Not like Harry and me at all. He and I click mainly because we’re so different. We benefit from each other’s strengths.”
The lieutenant gave the ensign a bit of a crooked smile. “So, whatever happened to this happy-go-lucky roommate friend of yours?”
Tom’s face grew silent, seeming to wait several minutes before answering her. “He was one of the officers killed at Caldrik Prime.”
“Oh, Tom…” she sat up with a pained expression. If her family was B’Elanna’s forbidden subject then the accident and cover-up that led to Tom Paris’ fall from Starfleet grace was his. She knew how much it hurt for him to talk about it, and now she understood why. “I’m so sorry…I…”
“It’s OK. It was a long time ago.” He stroked her dark hair gently, comforting her. “At least it goes to show how I haven’t done right by my friends in the past.”
“Tom, don’t say that,” she said as she sat straight up and looked him earnestly in the eyes. “You didn’t mean for that crash to happen. And any wrongdoing that happened back then, it doesn’t matter now. You’re a different man. A better man. You have to believe that.”
The brash pilot smiled at her words of reassurance. “Maybe. I just hate to think I caused Harry any harm, now or in the past.” He then let out a sigh of his own. “But I guess we just have to learn to let go, don’t we? Let Harry make his own choices and not feel we have to be responsible for him.”
“I know,” B’Elanna conceded, as she held on tight to the man she loved. “But it’s just so damn hard. I can’t stand the thought of him sitting in his quarters suffering like that.”
“Poor guy,” Tom Paris added sadly, feeling his lady lie against him. “God only knows the hell he’s going through right now.”
Harry and Seven fell back onto the bed, both feeling steamy and sweaty. Talk about ‘Body Heat!’ Harry thought in amazement. The young man was still catching his breath, trying to recover from what he could only describe as the best sex of his life.
“Oh, wow! Seven, that was incredible. I…I just…oh, wow!”
“I have pleased you, then?”
“Pleased me? You damn near killed me with pleasure! I can’t believe that 24 hours ago you were still a virgin.”
Harry could see the soft curling of her lips as she answered him. “As you can see, I have adapted.”
“I’ll say you have,” he responded with laughter. Their first time, on the holodeck, had been slow, sweet, and tender, like when he had first made love to Libby. But this time, the sex had been rife with passion and pent-up emotion, like his fervent couplings with Tal.
He leaned over to touch Seven’s smooth flawless face, stroking the damp strands of hair that had streaked across her face when her hairpins had come undone. He looked into her eyes and smiled, leaned forward to give her a quick affectionate kiss on her full lips. He could feel her respond to him as they connected.
When they broke apart, Harry chuckled softly and rolled his eyes up. “Oh, Seven. Just what’s going to become of us?”
The look of contentment on her face faded and was replaced with disconcertion. “I am uncertain, Harry. It is apparent that the nature of our affiliation has now changed. I do not think we can return to our previous level of interaction.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Logically, then, if we cannot go back, then we must proceed forward.”
Harry sat up in bed. “You mean, you want us to be…a couple?”
“A couple? By that do you mean an affiliation similar to that which exists between Lt. Torres and Ensign Paris?”
“Yes, I mean, is that what you want?”
“I…I do not know. Would this be acceptable to you, Harry?”
“Oh, Seven. It would make me the happiest man in the galaxy! But only if you think you’re ready for that.”
“As a said before, I am uncertain.” She then shrank away from him and shivered a little bit. “There is much about human emotion I do not understand. I fear that I will cause you damage again. I would not want that.”
“Seven,” the young officer moved closer to her, caressing her arm. “I know all of this can be frightening. And there’s always the risk of getting hurt. But the important thing is that we share with each other what we’re feeling. That way, you know that you’re never alone. That whatever you’re feeling, I’m right there feeling it with you.” He then leaned in to kiss the back of her graceful neck.
“Yes,” she spoke as her eyes lit up. “That is what has been absent from my existence. I no longer wish to be alone.” She then rolled over onto her opposite side in order to face him. “I have decided, Harry. I wish to be affiliated with you as…a couple.”
The look on Harry’s face was one of pure, unadulterated joy. He could have died right there on the spot and his life would have been complete. After several moments of gazing into each other’s eyes, Seven broke the silence. “Will you teach me about love?”
Harry’s eyes shot up in surprise. “Teach you? Seven, I’m not sure that’s something that you can teach. I mean, that’s something innate to being human. It’s like being able to laugh.”
Seven of Nine only gave him a blank stare.
“OK, bad example,” he stammered. “The point is, I know you have the ability to love, Seven. You just have to learn to be comfortable with expressing your feelings. That will come in time. I’ll be patient. And I promise that I’ll always be there to help you.”
“I know that you will, Harry.” She looked at him for a long while, as if she were at a loss for words, before speaking up. “Now that we are an affiliated couple, how will our actions proceed from here?”
“Well,” he tried to think, still overwhelmed by the fact that the most beautiful-and unusual-woman on the ship was now his…girlfriend. “We do all kinds of things. We can listen to music, socialize on the holodeck, have meals together, anything we like. The important thing is that we take pleasure in each other’s company.”
“Will it be acceptable to copulate again?” she asked, sounding almost playful as she spoke.
Harry answered her in a broad grin. “Seven, we can copulate any night you like.”
Her eyes lit up, in what was an almost childlike fascination. “Will it be possible for us to copulate…every> night?”
The young man’s eyes nearly bulged out as he tried to keep his cool. “I…don’t see any reason why not.”
“Perhaps, if your stamina is great enough, we could copulate multiple times per evening?”
Harry couldn’t hold back as he laughed at Seven’s ribald request. “Damn, girl. You just can’t get enough, can you?”
“Indeed. I find that I enjoy having sex with you almost as much as quantum mechanics. Perhaps more so. Of course, I will need to engage repeatedly if I am to achieve sexual perfection.”
“Sexual perfection?” A phaser couldn’t burn away the grin that spread across his features. “Seven, I think you and I are going to be very happy together, assuming I survive the experience.”
“You have given me much pleasure as well, Harry.”
“Oh? Anything in particular I should know about?”
“I find it especially enjoyable when you caress my implants.” She then shifted to a look of concern. “They do not disturb you, do they?”
“Disturb me? Are you kidding? I think they’re incredibly sexy!”
“Sexy?” she considered the word, almost pleased by it. “As in having an association with sex?”
“Yeah,” he chortled. “I guess that means I must have some kind of machine fetish, eh?”
“On the contrary. My remaining implants are all connected to highly sensitive nerve clusters. The Doctor had left them in place for fear that removing them would cause permanent neural damage. Yet because they are so highly sensitive, I believe each would constitute what you would call an ‘erogenous zone.'”
“Oh really?” he answered playfully. “So, if I were to touch you like this…” He then ran his fingers lightly along the ocular implant over her left eyebrow.
She sighed in pleasure as a response to his ministrations.
Encouraged by her reaction, he continued on. “And if I touch you here?” he asked, brushing a thumb along the implant beneath her ear. “Do you like that?”
Seven let out a soft groan. “Yes, Harry.”
“How about here?” he went on to massage the implant that protruded from her right arm.
“That is quite pleasing.”
“And here?” he asked her, staring into her eyes as he reached further down.
She stared right back at him. “Harry, that is not an implant you are touching.”
Harry feigned a look of innocence. “Oh? Then you wish me to stop?”
“I did not say that,” she answered with an uncharacteristic wide smile.
Tom and B’Elanna sat at their regular table in the mess hall the following morning. They were eagerly watching the door, hoping that their mutual friend would make an appearance.
“Do you think he’ll show his face today?” the Klingon woman asked with concern.
“He’s got to,” her lover answered her with feigned confidence. “I know the guy is tapped out for replicator rations. He’s gonna have to come to the mess hall sooner or later.”
“I don’t know, Tom. He seemed pretty upset yesterday. It might take him a while to cool off.”
“Relax. Just remember what we talked about. We apologize and tell him how we’re committed to treating him like an adult from now on. You got that?”
“I think I know how to apologize to my friends, flyboy,” she answered snidely. “Just promise me you’ll be sensitive to his feelings. He’ll probably be a complete basket case if he does show up.”
Ensign Paris was about to make a clever retort when the doors to the mess hall slid open and Harry Kim entered. As soon as they caught sight of him, his friends stood up to catch his attention. But they quickly realized this was not the same despondent and heartbroken individual they saw yesterday. On the contrary, their friend was practically glowing. He strode into the mess hall with confidence and an extra spring in his step. Not to mention he was sporting a smile bright enough to light up a cloud of dark matter.
As soon as he saw his friends, he waved across the room and went over to join them. He was completely oblivious to the whispers and glances that were being exchanged as he walked by.
“Hey, morning, guys,” the ops officer greeted his friends cheerfully.
“Harry?” B’Elanna looked up in bewilderment at the reinvigorated young man standing before her. “Are you okay?”
“Okay? I feel wonderful!”
“Just wonderful?” Tom added. “Buddy, you look like you’ve been dipped in latinum. What the hell happened to you?”
Harry chuckled at his friend’s bewilderment. “Let’s just say that I had a little talk with someone last night who helped me to put things into perspective.”
“Oh, I see,” the pilot nodded. Damn, Janeway must have given him some pep talk last night, a pitch for the angels, he thought quietly.
“Harry, I…” B’Elanna chimed in anxiously. “I want to apologize for yesterday. I had no business mixing it up with Seven and butting in where…”
The young man held up his hand and silenced her. “You don’t have to say anymore, B’Elanna. I know you were just looking out for me.”
“But it wasn’t right! I mean, you’re a grown man. I shouldn’t be treating you like, well, a kid brother.”
“Well, maybe you do get a little overprotective sometimes,” he conceded. “But part of me likes the idea of having a big sister looking out for me.”
Her heart warmed at hearing his admission. “So you’re not mad at me? At either of us?”
“Mad? How could I ever stay mad at you guys? You’re my best friends.”
As touched as he was, Tom still couldn’t believe the transformation he was seeing in front of him. “Harry, I’ve just got to know. What did Janeway say to you last night to get you all perked up like this?”
The grin on the ensign’s face was replaced with puzzlement. “Huh? What are you talking about, Tom? I never spoke to the captain.”
His question was soon answered by the dramatic entrance of Seven of Nine. She walked in to the mess hall, cool as usual, on a direct course for Tom and B’Elanna’s table. The gossip level in the room automatically went up a notch, as everyone looked on, expecting a continuation of yesterday’s aborted fight. Even Neelix looked up from behind the counter, grabbing an extra large spatula, just in case it became necessary to use it.
As Seven approached the table, B’Elanna’s defenses started to kick in, as she grew hotter under the collar. Tom reached out to try and steady her, afraid she might leap across the table and claw out the eyes of the foolhardy Borg woman.
But Seven did not seem afraid. On the contrary, she seemed relaxed, almost approachable. As soon as she reached the table she looked warmly at everyone and spoke up.
“Good morning, Lieutenant Torres, Ensign Paris,” she greeted them, before turning to look at the young man next to her. Her mouth then stretched into a thin curving smile, her voice taking on a subtly seductive tone. “Good morning…Harry.”
Harry started to blush, grinning sheepishly to the point where dimples started to show. He almost giggled his response. “Morning, Seven.”
It then became obvious to B’Elanna’s womanly intuition what was going on between the two. “Oh, my god…” she mumbled.
Tom, being a man, took a little longer to figure it out. “Wait a minute. You two…you did it…again!?”
The young ensign and the ex-drone turned to face the seated couple, both of whom practically had their jaws hanging in astonishment.
“Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you…” Harry fidgeted as he spoke.
“Harry and I have chosen to form an association,” Seven completed his statement.
“A what?!” the engineer sputtered as she spoke.
“We’re seeing each other,” Harry elaborated. He then reached down to clasp her Borg-enhanced hand into his own, his fingers intertwined with hers, a public sign for all to see that he and Seven were now a couple.
“You and Seven?! When the hell did all of this happen?” B’Elanna exploded.
The tall blonde tilted her head as she looked at the dusky half-Klingon. “Last night, after we copulated for the second time. We then agreed to the specifics of our relationship after the third time…”
B’Elanna held up a hand. “I don’t want to know!” She then clutched her head, as if she had the biggest headache in galactic history. “Oh man, I don’t think I can deal with this.”
Seven looked to Harry for guidance, and he smiled back, as if encouraging her to say something that the two of them had prepared earlier. She then returned her attention to the other couple. “Lieutenant, Ensign, I recognize that your hostility to me yesterday was a direct result of your perceiving the damage I inadvertently caused to Harry. Since he and I have since resolved the situation, it is my…hope…that the previous integrity of our respective relationships can be restored.”
Tom blinked at her words. If he was hearing her right, the statuesque blonde was making a gesture of friendship to the two of them. He glanced over to B’Elanna, who had a look on her face that was half stupefied and half berserk. He knew that if he was going to keep his friendship with Harry, never mind avoid having to answer to the captain for failing to control his lover’s temper, he had to intervene quickly. He spoke up before B’Elanna had a chance to object.
“Hey, any friend of Harry’s is a friend of mine. And the same goes for B’Elanna. Right, honey?”
The way Tom said ‘honey’ spoke volumes. The word was spoken, not with affection, but as warning. A warning to play along and not cause any trouble.
B’Elanna answered in a low growl. “Absolutely. We’re just tickled pink for you, Harry.”
It was obvious, even to Seven, that the dark-haired woman didn’t mean what she said at all. But the fact she was willing to hold her tongue in the name of peace was a good beginning. And Harry wasn’t about to let anything spoil his good mood right now, not even B’Elanna’s disapproval. But, as before, he was confident she would come around in time.
A nervous look appeared momentarily on Tom Paris’ face, as he remembered that there was one other party involved here. “Uh, Seven, does the Doctor know about this?”
“Indeed. It was his advice that convinced me to seek out Harry and admit to my ‘feelings.'”
“Your feelings?” Tom raised an eyebrow in confusion, then tried to get his thoughts straight. “Well, I mean, if he’s cool with this…I guess what I’m trying to say is…congratulations, both of you.” And he genuinely meant it.
“Thanks, thanks a lot,” Harry beamed joyfully before turning to his new girlfriend. “Shall we get some breakfast, beautiful? I’m absolutely famished!”
“I would think so,” Seven responded, “considering the amount of metabolic energy you expended last night.”
Harry blushed again at Seven’s candor. “Isn’t she something?” he gushed with pride to his friends.
B’Elanna winced in distaste. “Yeah, she’s really something alright.”
“So what do you say, Seven?” Harry said to his lady. “Shall we go start some more gossip?”
Seven nodded in agreement. “That would be acceptable.” And with that, Voyager‘s newest couple walked over to the buffet table, hand in hand.
“I guess she wasn’t so impossible after all,” Tom quipped to himself, as soon as they were gone. The brash pilot glanced to his side, to see his lady seething like a volcano about to erupt. He braced himself for the explosion that was about to come as soon as the younger pair was out of earshot. Fortunately, Neelix came over to their table from the side, the astonished grin on his face almost as wide as Harry’s had been.
“Are those two an item?” he inquired of them.
“Looks that way,” Tom answered the curious Talaxian.
Neelix seemed to beam with joy. “Why, that’s wonderful! I always had a feeling about those two. Don’t they both look absolutely…”
“..Dysfunctional!” B’Elanna finished the morale officer’s sentiment for him. Tom gave her a look, but she wouldn’t have any of it. “I’m sorry, Tom, but I just can’t make any sense of it! How the hell could the two of them possibly make this relationship work?!”
Tom shrugged his shoulders. In all honesty, he had no clue anymore than B’Elanna did. “I guess…they like each other. Isn’t that enough?”
“Oh please!” she snorted. “She couldn’t possibly like him! She’s a Borg! We just can’t sit back and let this happen, we’ve got to…” She trailed off as she noticed the look on her lover’s face. “What?!” she demanded.
“Didn’t we just have this conversation last night? Didn’t we agree we weren’t going to interfere in Harry’s life anymore or treat him like a child?”
“Yeah, but…” she struggled to come up with an answer, but she couldn’t. Tom had maneuvered just as conveniently as Tuvok.
“If I might interject here,” Neelix spoke up, after standing by quietly on the sidelines. “If I’m hearing you correctly, B’Elanna, you seem to be of the opinion that this romance is doomed from the start, that the two are emotionally incompatible. That the young man is too immature to know what’s good for him. That the lady in question is too rigid and controlled. That she couldn’t possibly feel anything soft and romantic. That she doesn’t really want to be happy and will only bring misery to an otherwise happy-go-lucky fellow. Does that sound about right to you?”
“Yes!” she answered him. “That’s exactly what I’m talking about!”
The stout Talaxian let out a knowing little chuckle at the engineer’s agreement. “Sounds a lot like another relationship I remember. One that a lot of people didn’t think stood a chance. Meanwhile, it’s been going strong for almost two years now.”
B’Elanna said nothing, as she let the morale officer’s homespun wisdom sink in.
“Well, I’ve got a hungry crew to attend to. Think about what I said,” Neelix concluded with a smile, as he returned to the kitchen.
Tom turned to B’Elanna, grinning in satisfaction. “Pretty insightful, our Mr. Neelix, wouldn’t you say?”
“I suppose,” she groused, knowing well enough to accept the inevitable. “I still can’t get my head around this thing.” She looked past her man to see the younger couple off in the distance. A small crowd had gathered around them, the genuinely curious all wanting to know the specifics of this most unusual romance. But there was no mistaking the look of happiness on Harry’s face. As much as she hated to admit it, she felt good knowing that he wasn’t alone anymore, that he had found someone to make him complete. And while she couldn’t read Seven as well, she could pick up some subtle change in her as well. It was nothing obvious, but it was there, a slight chink in her emotional armor. She had seemed softer around Harry, considerate of him, almost protective. And during her attempt to make peace with her and Tom, Seven had seemed to be doing it as much as for Harry’s sake as for her own.
“Who knows?,” she thought. “Maybe she really does like him. I guess if any man has the patience and the compassion to break through that Borg shell, its Harry.”
Tom put an arm around his Klingon love and smirked visibly. “Well, at you’ve got to hand it to Harry. He took his Starfleet oath of service seriously.”
She looked at him oddly. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Oh come on, babe. You remember from your Academy days,” he answered, amused by his own joke.
“Didn’t Harry just ‘boldly go where no man has gone before?'”
Of course, B’Elanna had to hit him.