Vaxen - A Starting Place
J/7 Stories

This story is a standalone or maybe the beginning of a series - I don't know yet. It takes place sometime after the episode where Paris and B'Elanna got married.

Disclaimer: The characters of Star Trek: Voyager are the property of Paramount Pictures. This story is written in the spirit of Voyager fandom. No infringement is intended.

Warning: This story depicts two women with a keen interest in each other. If this offends you or you are too young or it's just plain illegal on your part of the planet, do not proceed.

Please do not archive, link to or reproduce this story without author's consent.

Imp of the Reverse

By Vaxen (

As much as Seven of Nine liked working in the astrometrics lab alone, she couldn't deny that she enjoyed it when necessity or casual social interaction brought her captain to the cavernous room with its looming display screen. Seven was impressed by the energy that always accompanied those red-clad shoulders through the door. This morning was no exception. On the contrary, the Captain Janeway glowed with vitality and the sight of her generated something in Seven that was unexpected in its intensity and difficult to identify. It was disconcerting. Seven returned Janeway's morning greeting with a perfunctory response and sought to hide her confusion by focusing her attention on the console before her. It was annoying to be so distracted by the presence of another, but the distraction itself was actually quite pleasant.

"How are you this morning?" Janeway asked.

Recognizing that the Captain wanted to engage in small talk, Seven tried to swallow the giddy euphoria that swelled around her heart. "I am well. How are you this morning, Captain?"

Janeway noted an effervescence in Seven's tone and her smile broadened in response. "I guess you ARE feeling well this morning. Myself, I could use another cup of coffee, but I suppose we should begin the test."

At that moment, Seven would have liked nothing better than to run to the nearest replicator and fetch a cup of the acrid brew. She stifled the impulse and blinked her eyes several times to clear her thoughts. "I have calibrated the deflector array and initiated the test sequence, however if you would like to delay…"

"No, no," Janeway replied, waving her hand apologetically. "Much as I could use the stimulation, we really should get started."

Seven's heart leapt and sank all at once. She could have used the time while Janeway drank her second cup to organize her thoughts and calm her rattled nerves, yet at the same time, the idea of having Janeway out of her sight was oddly distressing. Seven assumed her post, as did the Captain, and they began the synchronized procedure that hurled increasingly dense particle emissions into the ether so that they might bounce off some otherwise unperceived anomaly in the hope that one would point the way home.

"This is interesting," Janeway commented, gazing up at the graphical representation of the echoes that were beginning to return to Voyager. "Can we re-sequence the test to get a second reading on this?" Janeway moved to Seven's console and tilted her head inquisitively, waiting for a response.

The clean aroma of soap mixed with Janeway's natural musk made Seven dizzy. She closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, Janeway was staring at her with a concerned expression.

"The sequence must be completed as programmed," Seven struggled to answer. "There will not be time. The deflector is available to astrometrics for a limited period and I have an appointment with the Doctor for a regular exam. Perhaps we can continue at another time."

"Certainly," said Janeway, placing a reassuring hand on Seven's forearm. "I'm glad to hear you're going to see the Doctor. Despite what you said, you do seem a little off. Maybe we should postpone completing the test until another time and you should go see him now."

"We can continue. I will be fine." The warmth of the Captain's hand seeping through her sleeve raised a fine sheen of perspiration on Seven's brow. She felt the overwhelming urge to reciprocate the gesture and expand on its proportions.

"Test complete. Initiating analysis," the computer announced, startling Seven out of her reverie, in which she had taken the Captain's hand from her arm and begun to press her lips to that fine boned wrist. She looked at the real Janeway, who had returned to her own workstation, and wondered how long she had been daydreaming.

The Captain waved the back of her hand at Seven in a scooting motion. "Report for your appointment, I'll finish up here."

Seven, not trusting her voice enough to respond, gave a nod and exited.

As she moved through the corridors, Seven attempted to bring order to the chaos that cluttered her mind. The lightheadedness left her once she was out of the Captain's immediate proximity, but Seven continued to think about her. She debated whether or not to mention her condition to the Doctor and decided to keep it to herself unless the right opportunity arose.

The opportunity seemed right when the Doctor's face became pinched and he squealed, "Seven, what have you been doing? Your heart and respiration rates are elevated. Your endocrine levels are out of balance. Your cerebral functions are in a stimulated state."

"Are these conditions likely to produce obsessive or compulsive behavior?"

"Well, no," the Doctor said, more than a little nonplussed. "The cause and effect relationship would indicate just the reverse. If one were obsessed over something he might exhibit these symptoms. Have you been experiencing unusual urges?"

"I find myself excited and distracted in the presence of one particular individual."

The Doctor pressed his lips together in a pained grin. He knew it would happen eventually, but until now he held out hope that he might be the one. He took a moment to resign himself to his relationship as Seven's friend and physician, devoid of any romantic aspect. "I don't think there's any cause for concern. Have you had an urge to touch this individual?"

"Yes. This morning she touched my arm while we were working in the astrometrics lab together. It was most difficult not to reciprocate."

"SHE!!" the Doctor shouted, his voice climbing an octave. "The individual you're obsessing about is a woman. Are you sure about this?" The Doctor's forehead threatened to disappear entirely into the deep lines that crossed it.

"Doctor, I don't understand the meaning of your question."

"It sounds as if you're falling in love, but I just don't see how that's possible."

"You don't believe I'm capable of falling in love?"

"No, it's not that."

"Then what?"

"I just didn't think you would fall in love with a woman. You never said anything to indicate that you were attracted to women."

"You may recall, Doctor, that I also gave no indication that I was attracted to men."

"You're right, of course. I just assumed…"

"Then this is a normal human function?" Seven asked, preempting his excuses. "I am exhibiting acceptable behavior for someone who is falling in love."

The Doctor abandoned his attempts to cover his display of prejudice. "It would seem so. I'll do you're usual workup, but I think it is safe to say that romance has found you. The only bug that has bitten you is the love bug. Congratulations. Who is the lucky girl? Does she reciprocate your feelings?"

Seven hesitated "I appreciate you're interest, Doctor," Seven said, hoisting herself off the biobed, "I'm not yet ready to discuss this matter. I would prefer to contemplate the situation for the time being."

"I understand." He didn't want to admit it, but he was relieved not to have to indulge in small talk about the woman who had stolen the light of his life. He watched as Seven walked out the door then turned to the diagnostics console and prepared specimens of her blood for testing. The automated analysis would take over an hour. Normally the Doctor would occupy himself with other tasks or research, but this morning the walls of sickbay seemed very confining. He considered retreating to one of his favorite holographic programs, but decided instead to take advantage of his mobile emitter and go to the one place on the ship that always cheered him up.

Although the Doctor did not eat, he enjoyed the social ambiance provided by the mess hall. Since the day Neelix converted the captain's private dining room into the kitchen where he prepared meals for the ship's crew, it had become the nerve center for interaction between the members of Voyager. The Doctor scanned the room looking for company that might distract him from the disheartened mood brought on by his conversation with Seven. He spotted Tom Paris sitting alone, wearing a contented expression, and decided to join him.

"Mr. Paris, may I?" he asked, clutching the back of the chair opposite the lieutenant and tilting it away from the table.

"Make yourself comfortable, Doc, as long as your not here to assign me any additional sickbay duty." Both men laughed.

"No, just looking for some pleasant company. Speaking of which, where is your lovely wife, B'Elanna, this morning?"

"She has a date tonight so she got an early start on her shift."

"Shouldn't you have gotten an early start as well?"

"Her date isn't with me."

"I beg your pardon. You mean to tell me your wife is cheating on you?"

"Not exactly. You see, we've decided to have an open marriage. If we're interested in someone and we both agree to it, then we can see other people."

"You've consented to this arrangement?"


"That's very liberal of you. If I might ask, who is she seeing?"

"Ensign Wildman."

For what may have been the first time in his existence, the Doctor was left speechless. Paris leaned forward and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Just between you and me, I think she's a little nuts for wanting to get involved with someone who has a kid. Myself, I'm wondering if Harry might be interested in taking our relationship to a new level. You suppose B'Elanna would be OK with that?"

Before the Doctor could formulate a reply, the clock caught Paris's eye. Realizing he was late for bridge duty, he hastily excused himself. The Doctor sat in stunned silence, trying to make some sense of his muddled morning. "Has the whole ship gone gay?" he muttered to no one in particular. He pushed himself to his feet.

As he passed the kitchen, he saw something that made him pause in dumbfounded disbelief. Neelix and Tuvok stood face-to-face without a sliver of daylight between them. Neelix was giggling softly while the Vulcan teased the Talaxians whiskers with the tip of his nose.

The Doctor concluded that something was dreadfully wrong and demanding immediate attention. He slapped his commbadge. "Doctor to Captain Janeway."

"Janeway here."

"I must speak to you. It's very urgent."

"I'm in my readyroom. Would you like me to come to sickbay?"

"Please stay where you are. I'm on my way." The bridge was closer than sickbay and the Doctor didn't want to take a chance on Janeway being delayed or sidetracked on some trivial matter. He barely waited for the Captain to acknowledge his request for entry before bursting through the readyroom door. "I think the ship's crew may be under an alien influence."

Janeway was almost as alarmed by the Doctor's agitated state as the content of his message. "Doctor, please, calm yourself. Have a seat." She ushered him to the sofa and sat beside him. She feared that his program might be destabilizing and considered calling B'Elanna. "This alien influence, how is it being manifested?"

"Members of the crew are sexually attracted to their own sex."

Janeway relaxed into the back cushion of the couch and breathed a weary sigh. "Some members of Voyager's crew have always been attracted to their own gender. It's called homosexuality. It isn't a medical condition and it's been a long time since it was considered a mental disorder, so I'm not surprised it isn't in your database, but I'd have thought you'd have run across it before now."

"I'm familiar with homosexuality," the Doctor sputtered. Janeway cocked at eyebrow at him. "I mean that I'm aware of the existence of such people, but this is something else."

"How so?"

"Did you know that Lieutenant Torres is dating Ensign Wildman?"

"No I didn't. How's Tom taking it?"

"He's got his eye on Mr. Kim. Then there's Neelix and Tuvok."

"Doctor, have any of these individuals failed to report for duty, broken any rules or displayed any other behavior that might endanger the ship?"

"Well, no, but it does strike me as suspicious."

"It's not as unusual as you might think. I myself have experienced the occasional inclination. I wonder if this isn't just a matter of coincidence."

"What about Seven?"

"Is there something wrong with Seven? She seemed a little under the weather this morning when we were working in astrometrics together."

"You were the one in astrometrics with Seven."

"Yes, Doctor. Is there something I should know?"

"No, Captain. I mean, I don't think so. I'm running a blood analysis right now."

"You'll let me know if you find anything. As for the other matter, I don't like to get involved in my crew's private lives unless it's absolutely necessary. If you feel it's important, you should make a note of it in your report. Is there anything else?"

"No, Captain."

"Then if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of work to do." As if to punctuate the point, a chime sounded, signifying yet another person demanding her attention. "Enter."

Seven walked through the door, adding the icing to the Doctor's misery. He hesitated and then hesitated some more.

"Doctor," Janeway stated, "you are dismissed."

The Doctor savored one more backward glance before the door close to block his view. He stood on the bridge, considering his options. He decided the Captain might very likely be under the same influence as the others and therefore was not to be trusted. He headed back to sickbay, hoping the completed blood analysis would give him some clue to this aberration that had befallen Voyager.

Meanwhile in her readyroom, Janeway invited Seven to fill the spot on the sofa that the doctor had vacated. Seven complied immediately. "I have the final reports from this morning's exercise," said Seven, savoring the brief contact with Janeway's fingertips as the padd was exchanged. That same contact caught Janeway unaware, sending a tingle through her - a stimulation no coffee bean could match.

Janeway's eyes moved from the padd to Seven's face and rested there as she wonder why she had never notice how exquisitely blue those eyes were. Seven's voice seemed to come to Janeway from a great distance.

"Is there anything I can do for you, Captain?" Seven inquired, the words ripe with ambiguity. Seven only half listened for an answer. She was preoccupied with memorizing every curve and contour of the Captain's face, from her strong, tapering eyebrows to the satin blush of her gorgeous mouth. Seven was engaged in the thought of pressing those ruby lips to hers. Before she could make a move to advance her cause, Janeway closed the gap between them, parting Seven's lips with her tongue and probing the soft, wet flesh within. Seven responded by sucking on the welcome intruder and gently clamping her teeth around the slippery muscle.

The kiss was broken, but only long enough for Janeway fall back on the couch while Seven stretched out on top of her. The kisses resumed, accompanied by the occasional sound of an escaping moan. Seven's hand found its way under the Captain's jacket and jersey to discover soft mounds topped by hard little nodules. She rolled one of the nodules under the pad of her thumb. Janeway gasped and shuddered.

Janeway searched the biosuit for a means to open it, yearning to bury her face between Seven's perfect breasts. Her investigation revealed no catches, zippers or any other apparent means of removal, but the fabric was extremely pliable – almost like touching skin itself. Not one to be thwarted, Janeway slid her hand between Seven's legs and found to her delight that the fabric there was equally malleable. Janeway began to stroke and was immediately rewarded with a throaty growl of ecstasy.

The door chimed.

Janeway knew that if she tried to ignore it, someone would feel duty bound to enter and see what unfortunate fate had befallen the captain. She pulled herself and Seven up through a fog of passion and quickly tucked her jersey back into her pants.

"Come," Janeway shouted breathlessly.

"I'm sorry, Captain," said Chakotay, pulling his stride. "I knew Seven came in to deliver a report, but that was awhile ago. I thought I'd just missed her leaving. I didn't mean to interrupt."

Before Janeway could say anything, Seven excused herself and was out the still open door. Chakotay's eyes followed her and then turned toward Janeway with mischievous inquiry.

"It's nothing," she assured her second-in-command, even though she knew it was anything but. Janeway had never been one to allow herself to be carried away in the heat of the moment. What's more, she had never given more than a passing thought to Seven in that way. Maybe the Doctor wasn't just imagining things. "Chakotay, have you been seeing anyone."

Slightly rattled, but seeing no harm in the question, he answered, "I spent an afternoon on the holodeck with Lieutenant Duncan last week."

"That's Lieutenant Mary Duncan, right?"

"Yes." Chakotay shifted restlessly. "Is there something going on I should know about?"

"No, please, continue with your report." Janeway unconsciously absorbed what Chakotay was saying, while her mind continued to be preoccupied with what had happened between her and Seven in light of what the Doctor had said.

If the Doctor had known about the Janeway's doubts, perhaps he would have thought better about what he was about to do. It couldn't precisely be called insubordination, but it was a drastic step to take without the authorization of a commanding officer. Still, he couldn't be sure that Janeway would agree with his conclusions and he couldn't afford to allow this menace to continue to plague the ship.

His initial reaction at finding the pathogen was elation. He wasn't even sure that it could rightly be called a pathogen. He preferred to just think of it as the "threat." Seven had picked it up on her last away mission. At the time, the biofilters detected it as inert matter and at that time it was. It was only after transport that Seven's nanoprobes seized on it as a foreign body and tried to expel it from her body. It must have been shortly after transport, while the other members of the away team were still in the room, that the "threat" mutated to a binding agent that attached itself to the area of the brains that influences attraction to one gender or the other for sexual partners. The Doctor had deduced that this compound not only influence preference toward homosexual partners, it also tended to lower normal inhibitions. The condition spread from Seven to B'Elanna and Tuvok, who in turn spread it to Paris, Neelix and probably others. In time, the entire ship might indeed turn gay.

The "threat" itself was a marvel to observe. The Doctor watched as the lumbering nanoprobes attempted to attach themselves to it, only to have their victim morph into a form that was invulnerable to the attack designed for its previous incarnation. It was highly adaptive. The metamorphosis was so clever, it was almost as if the "threat" was sentient. However, it was not invulnerable. In the end, the shear numbers of nanoprobes overwhelmed the "threat". When the last one in the blood sample finally succumbed, it left behind an antigen that could be used to cure Seven and the other infected personnel.

The Doctor determined that the best means for dispensing the cure would to introduce it to the ship's water system for consumption. This would have been easier to accomplish with B'Elanna's help, but the Doctor decided it was too important to risk her possible interference. After consulting the schematics, he made his way to the hydro-regeneration system in the bowls of the ship. He opened its sole external access point and dumped the vial of oily liquid into it. He secured the cover. In a short time, the "threat" would be gone. With a little luck, no one would even be aware of the contribution he had made to the ship's welfare. Everything would return to normal and no one would be the wiser.

Luck was not on the Doctor's side.

Within minutes of his return, the first case reported to sickbay. The patient was complaining of a severe headache. The Doctor scanned the crewman as a formality and directed her to lie still for 20 minutes while the anti-inflammant he administered took effect. It wasn't until the third case arrived that the Doctor began to suspect something more. A detailed scan revealed that the headaches were a side effect of the cure, which had become irretrievably dispersed in the water system. Within the next few hours, every crewmember on Voyager would become similarly incapacitated. The one ray of light in the otherwise dismal situation was that his initial patient was recovering and soon would be ready for release.

Sickbay was not equipped to handle the throng that was about to descend upon it. The Doctor was left with no choice but to issue a ship-wide announcement about the inescapable illness and instructions for its remedy. After that, all he could do was wait glumly for the inevitable.

"Janeway to the Doctor."

"Yes, Captain."

"Report to my readyroom immediately."

"I have patients at the moment."

"Are any of them dying?"

"No, Captain."

"Are any of them in need of your immediate attention?"

"No, Captain."

"Do you really want me to be the one who makes this trip?"

"I'll be right there, Captain."

The face that greeted him was as frosty as the voice that had summoned him. Janeway dropped her padd on the desktop and reached for a nearby glass. The glass was nearly to her lips when the Doctor yelled, "Don't drink!"

Unruffled, Janeway returned the untouched water to its resting place and asked the Doctor, "What have you done?"

The Doctor reminded her of their earlier conversation, explaining about the "threat" and his solution. He ended his monologue with, "…so you see, time was of the essence."

"I don't see that at all, Doctor. I can't even drink the water because of the unauthorized action you took."

"The water is perfectly safe. I just recommend you take something immediately after drinking it."

Janeway glared silently, waiting for him to realize the point of her statement. When he continued to return her gaze with an uncomprehending expression, she sighed in exasperation. "The 'threat,' as you put it, was not sufficient to warrant your actions."

"But you are under the influence."

"I'm not sure what you base that on…"

"You were in direct contact with Seven this morning."

"Even if I am not fully in full control of my faculties, I am still in command of this ship and am capable of making decisions concerning it. You'll notice that even though I have not taken your 'cure' I agreed that some action was called for, but your methods could have had serious repercussions. If the side effect hadn't responded to treatment as well as it did, there may have been no one left to operate Voyager. As it is, you've brought needless suffering to countless crewmembers that were never exposed. I'm deeply concerned about the boundless hubris that drove you to act based largely on your own prejudices. I'll be discussing this matter and your security access with Lieutenant Tuvok. For now, you are restricted to sickbay until further notice. Dismissed."

The Doctor slunk from the office.

Janeway sank into her chair and stared at the water in the glass. She ordered the replicator to prepare a dose of the headache remedy, picked up the glass and retrieved the hypospray as it materialized. She thought about the intimate moments that she had shared with Seven. She thought about the things she longed to do with Seven, to Seven and for Seven. Rational knowledge and carnal desire clashed in her mind, but the battle was brief and the victor preordained. Janeway swallowed the contents of the glass and pressed the hypospray to her neck. She leaned against the rail and watched the stars, waiting for the dull pain to pass.

The hour of Seven's arrival was almost at hand, but Janeway continued to debate the merits of their meeting in the captain's quarters as opposed to the ready room. Under other circumstances, they could have met at some quiet place – neutral ground. Then again, under other circumstances, they would never have been caught up in what was popularly being referred to as the Lavender Virus.   It had been two days since the Doctor contaminated the water supply. In his latest report, he stated that the last trace of the agent and its influence had been eliminated. With that news, Janeway resolved that it was time to clear the air with Seven.

They hadn't spoken since incident that took place in the captain's ready room. Janeway wondered how far things might have gone if Chakotay hadn't interrupted and how much more difficult this conversation would be if they had.

The door chimed. Janeway smoothed her uniform and beckoned her guest to enter. The door opened and Seven stepped through. For a few moments, both women just looked at each other – one trying to assess the mental state of the other. "Please sit down," Janeway finally said, indicating a chair. Seven folded her long body into the cushions and laced her fingers together in her lap. Janeway sat on the nearby sofa and began to drape herself across it. She thought better of the casual pose and settled for legs crossed at the knees. Now that they were together, Janeway didn't know how to begin. Seven spared her the effort.

"You wish to speak with me about the intimate encounter that occurred between us."

"Yes," the Captain sighed. Perhaps the conversation would not be as difficult as she thought. "I want to apologize for my behavior. You have to realize that I was being influenced by an external stimulus, otherwise nothing like that would ever have happened. I'm sure you'll agree."

Seven was silent for a long time before asking, "You regret what occurred?"

It was Janeway's turn for quiet reflection. She had anticipated this reaction. She knew where it was leading. She had devised a clever scenario of carefully chosen words that would allow her to skirt a lie with half-truths. Janeway looked into the guileless face before her and knew that only honesty, pure and simple, would suffice.

"You understand that what we did was more than just a physical act. That it was an expression of emotions and deep feeling that two people have for one another."

"I am aware. I have vague recollections of what it was like with Axum. I experienced the same feeling the other day with you."

"But the other day, you weren't in control."

"I know and it would not matter except that I still feel that way about you. I love you and so I must know – do you regret what occurred?"

"No," Janeway replied, biting back the flood that threatened to overwhelm her. "Not only do I not regret what happened, I love you and I cherish the memory and will continue to do so for the rest of my life."

"I don't understand," Seven stated, confused and hopeful. "Do you wish to engage in a lifelong commitment? To participate in a bonding ceremony?"

Janeway's heart was breaking as she leaned forward and took Seven's hands in hers. "I wish I could marry you but I can't. I am already married. Voyager is my spouse and she is a very jealous mate. To have the kind of relationship I want with you would be like cheating on her. I couldn't give you the complete relationship that you deserve and it wouldn't be fair to Voyager either. If we were in the Alpha quadrant, things would be different. I could share my responsibilities with the rest of Starfleet command."

"Duty first. No room for anything else?" The light was dying in Seven's eyes.

"I'm sorry. Voyager is my sole responsibility and it's all that I can handle."

"What will be the nature of our relationship in the future?"

"I hope that we can continue to be friends."

"It will be difficult but I believe the effort is worth it. However, I hope you will understand if I do not wish to speak of this again."

"I understand." There was something so final about the way Seven put it. Janeway felt as if she were closing the door on her own salvation. There would be no second chance, but she agreed to it anyway. She would continue as she had – finding her occasional release with the disposable presence of a passing alien or a holocharacter. It would never match what she could have shared with Seven. She would not know that satisfaction but she would make do as she had in the past and she could never tell Seven any of it or how much it hurt to let her go.

The Doctor wandered into the mess hall. His restriction to sickbay had ended and he was in search of company that didn't have an ache, complaint or malady.

"Good morning, Mr. Paris," the Doctor greeted.

Paris looked up at the EMH with a less than friendly glare. "You again."

"Have I done something wrong?" the Doctor asked, seating himself without waiting for an invitation.

"My life has been nothing but hell since our last conversation. Not only did I have to deal with a half-Klingon with a raging headache, we've done nothing but fight about what happened while we were under the influence of the Lavender Virus ever since."

"Is there something I can do?"

"I think you've done enough already," Paris announced as he gathered his belongings and departed.

"I couldn't help overhearing." Neelix stood over the Doctor with a steaming plate of unidentifiable victuals in his hand.

"Neelix, won't you join me?"

Neelix delivered his burden then returned to take Paris's vacated seat. "Tom seems a little upset," Neelix observed.

"I can't say I blame him. It must have been very upsetting to have the natural order of his life turned upside down. I'm not the one to blame for setting the 'threat' loose on an unsuspecting crew. Why is he making me the repository for his anger?"

"You may not have started it, but you did finish it."

"But that was a good thing," the Doctor proclaimed.

"Yes and no," Neelix remarked. "I don't suppose that you're really responsible for any of the things that occurred as a result of your cure, except maybe the headaches, but I think that more went on here than you are aware of. To coin an old Earth phrase, the music has stopped but the melody lingers on."

"Are you telling me that Tom is no longer attracted to B'Elanna?"

"I'm sure he is. It's very complicated," Neelix concluded, sensing that there was no way to make the Doctor understand.

"Certainly you must be relieved that you're no longer attracted to Lieutenant Tuvok?"

"I was able to experience a side of Tuvok that I never knew before and, I'm sad to say, will probably never know again. What happened wasn't just some animal instinct."

"But my tests show that inhibitions were lowered," the Doctor announced as if he had scored a point. "You wouldn't have engaged in such activities otherwise."

"Maybe not, but I don't think we chose the people we did by accident. I was draw to Tuvok in that way because I have always been drawn to him in other ways."

While the Doctor was contemplating the significance of Neelix's statement, Captain Janeway entered the mess hall through one entrance just as Seven of Nine came in the other. The two women exchanged a momentary glance and then both averted their eyes and made their way to the nearest tables.

"There's another complication that I hope will somehow work itself out," Neelix commented, having observed the exchange. "Doctor, it's good to see you again, but if you were expecting some kind of heroes welcome, don't count on it."

"But I did the right thing," the Doctor exclaimed, his cheeks tight with indignation.

"Maybe, maybe not," Neelix responded, raising his eyes to look at Seven. "The question is – did you do it for the right reason?"