Vaxen - A Starting Place
[pwaxen@yahoo.com]
J/7 Stories

This story is a sequel to "Imp of the Reverse." If you liked the way that story ended, you might just want to skip this one. This was written for Kellie, who expressed an interest in seeing the story continued, and others of a similar inclination.

Disclaimer: Star Trek: Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: This story involves a romantic relation between two women, but contains no explicit sex.

Please do not archive, link to or reproduce without author's permission.

Reverse of the Imp

By Vaxen (pwaxen@yahoo.com)

A visage floated before her face, dull yellow eyes peering out through folds of mauve flesh. Darker around the sockets, the skin gradually faded to a lilac hue across the cheeks and forehead. Janeway thought it was a pretty color, but it could not compare to the attractive blush of rose that strained those full lips. There was something so alluring about them. She had to resist the urge to touch them. She sensed that the consequences of such a rash act were dire. For many nights this face had visited Janeway in her sleep. Each night she resisted the urge to reach out and awoke with the inexplicable awareness that she'd both won and lost a battle.

Janeway knew this face. As she sat up in her dark bed, panting to replenish the oxygen her pounding heart had depleted from her bloodstream, Janeway yearned for some complex explanation like precognition. She would have been much happier if this creature had been a portent of some alien that she would meet in the future rather than the alien the lay within her. The dreams had begun shortly after an organism, eventually dubbed the Lavender Virus, was discovered on Voyager. It had stimulated the same-gender sexual bias and lowered the inhibitions of a number of crewmembers, including Janeway. For her, the result had been a brief, intimate encounter with Seven of Nine – a situation that was forestalled after the Doctor introduced an antidote into the water system. She thought the matter was settled, but since then, she had been visited nightly by her own personal lavender menace.

There was something different about the intruder this night. Not content to sit and fix its passive mustard glare upon her, it moved about, darting in and out of the light and shadows of the spectral world it inhabited. The arrhythmic flashes made Janeway's head spin until she was nauseated. The discomfort in her abdomen expanded into an angry knot as the visage continued its game of hide-and-seek.

"Why?" Janeway released in a strangled sob.

"You know why," a taunting voice replied, although her tormenter's rouged mouth never moved. A hand reached out from the nothingness and rested its palm on Janeway's forehead. For a moment the touch was soothing, then her skull was engulfed in agony.

Janeway clawed her way up through the fetid depths of nightmare, searching for the cleansing reality of consciousness. She escaped the dream only to find her body wrapped around itself, rigid from her the spasms in abdomen. Headache dulled her vision, imbuing each movement with misery. It required her last ounce of determination to reach the commbadge on her nightstand less than two feet away.

She activated the communicator and managed to whisper, "Medical emergency, captain's quarters," before blackness overwhelmed her and carrier her away to blessed unconsciousness.


"Read any good books lately?" the Doctor quipped.

"I do not read books." Seven's response was more than her normal Borg-oriented comment on the use of paper media as an inefficient means of disseminating information. There were barbs in the tone of her reply intended to warn the Doctor that she did not appreciate his attempt to initiate small talk. It was the Doctor's second such failed attempt during the course of Seven's examination.

The Doctor placed his tricorder on a nearby tray and dispensed with the pointless exercise of passing it over her.

"Am I free to go?" Seven inquired without turning to look at the Doctor.

"Seven, can't you forgive me?"

"Forgive you for what?"

"For whatever I've done."

"Perhaps when you become cognitive of the nature of your transgression it will be possible for me to pardon you." Seven responded.

It had been months since his unauthorized "cure" of the Lavender Virus had backfired on him in more than one sense of the word. Not only had the cure resulted in ship wide illness, the Doctor had assumed that once the virus was gone, life aboard Voyager would return to its predominately heterosexual ways and he would be proclaimed the hero of the day. It took weeks for him to understand why his fantasy had not played out as expected and to admit that his primary motivation had been jealousy. He was still coming to terms with the realization that Seven was interested in Janeway. "I fully accept responsibility for acting on my own without giving a thought for the consequences to others. I realize that I was in some ways motivated by my own selfish desires. I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm sorry that you were. Please forgive me."

Emotions roiled beneath Seven's calm exterior. She was vexed by the Doctor presuming to know that she was hurt, even though she was deeply wounded. It was not the Doctor's action that distressed her so much as the hope for happiness that had been snatched from her. On a strictly logical level, she realized that the Doctor was in no way responsible for introducing the organism that allowed her to experience her attraction to Captain Janeway, but it was easy to make him the scapegoat. "You are not entirely to blame," she grudgingly admitted.

The Doctor clamped down on a wholehearted urge to agree, subduing the natural ebullience that had gotten him into so much trouble of late.

"Thank you," he murmured and added with trepidation, "I'm here to listen if you want to talk."

"It's about the Captain," Seven began reluctantly.

"Go on," the Doctor prompted.

"You know that she became the object of my attraction when I was under the influence of the Lavender Virus?"

"Yes," he replied, trying to sound neutral.

"I'm not sure it is wise to engage in this conversation with you." Seven started to pace.

"Please give me a chance," the Doctor begged before Seven could bolt for the door. "I know I've been an abysmal disappointment as a friend lately, but at least let me try to make up for it."

Seven scanned the EMH, gauging his worth. "You have been my mentor in matters social interaction in the past, but your lessons have always focused on unions between members of the opposite sex. I have some concerns about your attitude toward homosexuality."

"As far as I'm concerned, we're not talking about homosexual or heterosexual. We're talking about you and another person – about you and Captain Janeway - two people I care about," the Doctor said, sincerely. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

Seven gave the Doctor a withering glare.

"I don't mean the anatomical details," he amended. "I assume that you still have romantic feelings for her."

"Yes," Seven concurred.

"Does she reciprocate those feelings?"

"The Captain admits to an attraction, but she refuses to act on it."

"Did she give you a reason?"

"She says that she is married to Voyager, which leaves no room for other involvement."

"Yes, that sounds like the Janeway we all know and worry about."

A voice broken in over the communications channel, "Medical emergency, captain's quarters."

"Captain, is that you?" The voice was so distorted it was difficult to tell if it was even female. "Captain?" There was no response.

"You must go quickly," Seven insisted. "Use the holo-emitter in the captain's quarters."

The Doctor shimmered from sight and appears in the living room of the captain's suite. It was empty. He moved to the doorway and found Janeway hanging half out of the bed. As he righted her, she responded to her touch with a sudden inhalation. She wrapped her arms across her stomach and drew in her knees. The Doctor ran to the replicator and ordered a hypo and medical tricorder. Janeway relaxed as soon as the spray hit her bloodstream. The Doctor passed the tricorder over his patient. As the data crawled across the display, the lines around his mouth folded into a frown. He continued to stare long after the last character flickered away. After a moment, he straightened his shoulders.

"Doctor to Commander Chakotay."

"Chakotay here."

"Could you meet me in sickbay? I need to talk to you. It's about the Captain."

"I'm on my way."

He gave his patient a final check then allowed the photonic network to carry him back to sickbay.

"Where is the Captain?" a voice shouted at the back of his head. Seven had been waiting for his return.

"The Captain is in her quarters, which is exactly where she will be staying for awhile."

"Why? What is wrong with her?"

"There is such a thing as doctor/patient confidentiality."

"Doctor!"

"Well, I suppose that under the circumstances you'll have to be told anyway. At least wait until Chakotay gets here."

"What's wrong with the Captain?" Chakotay asked as he burst through the door.

"Captain Janeway will have to remain in quarantine for at least two weeks."

"Where is she? Why isn't she here? You don't even have a quarantine field erected."

"Commander, if you'll just listen to me for a minute I'll explain."

Chakotay and Seven both shifted impatiently.

"The Captain has Bresk fever. The initial stages are very debilitating. I've given her something, but she will be weak. You'll have to assume command."

Chakotay nodded his acknowledgement.

"I left Captain Janeway in her cabin. She'll be more comfortable there and it will save us the energy required for a force field if she were here."

"I agree," said Chakotay. "Our energy reserves could use the break. Just how contagious is this fever?"

"It's transferred by direct contact, which is fortunate. If it were airborne, the entire crew would be disabled within hours."

"You left the Captain alone in her quarters," Chakotay observed. "Does this mean she's well enough to care for herself?"

"No. For the first few days she'll need care almost around the clock. I should be getting back to her as soon as possible."

"Are you going to be able to handle it alone?"

"Actually, I won't have to handle it alone. As it happens, Seven is immune and could help me take care of the Captain, if she's willing."

"Of course," Seven responded somewhat hesitantly. "I'll do whatever I can."

Chakotay turned to leave, his shoulders already stiffening with the burden of command. "Good, I'll see that Seven is relieved of her regular duties. Keep me informed about the Captain's condition."

"Shall we go?" the Doctor inquired, moving about the room to gather equipment and supplies.

"You wish me to begin immediately?"

"I suspect that care giving was not a major component of the Borg training manual. The sooner we get started the better." The Doctor dumped a few items into her hands and was out the door so fast that Seven had to double step to catch up with him. He instructed her on the basics of first aide as they traversed the corridors and lifts between sickbay and deck two.

They found Janeway was still asleep, but her expression was no longer as peaceful.

"The neural inhibitor I gave her is wearing off," the Doctor observed. "We can start your medical training right now by giving her another injection."

"I know how to administer a hypo spray, Doctor."

"It isn't so much a matter of 'how' as it is 'where.' Due to the nature of this drug, it is preferable to deliver it in the maximus gluteus."

"I must touch the Captain's…"

"Yes, and it can't be injected through clothing. You'll have to expose…"

"But, Doctor…"

"It's really very simple. I'll show you how it's done." The Doctor found the edge of the satiny red pajamas and tugged just enough to reveal the well toned flesh beneath and pressed the instrument against it. Seven's porcelain complexion turned even paler at the sight of the contrasting red on white glimpsed over the Doctor's shoulder before he moved the covers back to conceal it. "I'll try to get back before the next one is due, but thought you should know just in case. I'll program the dosage into the replicator. I don't think you'll have a problem with people coming in here, but if you have to leave, make sure you sterilize your hands. You may be immune, but your contact can transmit the fever."

"Will she continue to sleep?"

"For a few more hours. That's why I want you here. She may be incoherent at first – drifting in and out. She could inadvertently injure herself or worse."

"I will understand."

"Good. I'll see you in four hours."

With the Doctor gone, the suite was suddenly very quiet. Seven could just hear the whisper of Janeway breathing over the ambient noise of the ship. She stood over the Captain several minutes, marking the rhythm of her respiration, remembering the rasped, irregular sound of it in her ear and the sensation of it passing across her skin. Seven shivered and shook off the intoxicating memory of their encounter.

She knew what she needed was to keep busy. She could use the console in the living room to organize data that had been put on hold. As she passed through the room on her way to the terminal, something caught her eye. It wasn't the first time she'd noticed the small, egg shaped object almost hidden behind a vase. Etiquette had precluded inspecting it during her previous visits. Ignoring a slight sensation of guilt, she picked it up with one hand and placed it in the other. It was heavier than she expected – smooth and cool with swirling shades of green across its polished surface. One of the shades reminded her of the Captain's eyes when she was in a mellow mood and the light was dim. She returned the egg to the ring that held it upright on the table and examined the vase that kept it company. One object after another caught her attention as textures were scrutinized, scents were investigated, shapes were studied and books were perused.

Absorbed in her exploration, Seven was oblivious to the passage of time until a rustling in the bedroom alerted her. Janeway squinted and screwed her face into a frown as Seven entered the room.

"You again," the Captain grumbled. It wasn't exactly the reception Seven expected. She said nothing, picking up the tricorder and sitting on the edge of the bed for a quick examination.

"You delight in tormenting me," Janeway continued. The lights were low and Seven wondered if she had been mistaken for someone else. Before she could clarify the error, her patient made a wobbly attempt to rise up on her elbows and said, "You taunt me with those lips. What would happen if I did touch them? Would they burn me? Would I, could I burn anymore than I do now."

Just when it seemed as though the ailing woman was about to swoon, some hidden reserve of energy bubbled to the surface. With a strength that startled Seven, Janeway took her caregivers face between her hands and kissed her with an intensity that quickly exhausted itself. Seven had to move fast to catch Janeway and lower her gently back onto the bed. She stared into the face that had returned to its angelic repose. She was still staring when the Doctor returned.

"How's our patient doing?"

"She's been sleeping. She did wake briefly, but she seemed to be disoriented."

"Really? Did she say something?"

Seven had no interest in recounting what had transpired. "She was incoherent."

"Well, that's to be expected. I'm lowering the dosage on the pain suppressant considerably. She should regain full consciousness before the next injection is due." This time, Seven averted her eyes as the hypo spray was given. "I can stay with the Captain for a while if you want to take a break."

"I'm fine. I'll see you in four hours."

"At which time I'll have to insist that you get out of here. At least take a walk or maybe regenerate if you need to."

When she was alone again, Seven chastised herself for her foolishness. This time she went directly to the computer console and called up the data. She'd been working for over an hour when a weak voice called out, "Is there somebody there?"

This time Janeway's eyebrows arched feebly when she saw Seven. "What are you doing in my quarters?"

"You've been ill," Seven replied, feeling self-conscious. "I've been taking care of you."

The Captain's face clouded with numerous questions, but she didn't have the strength to push them out her throat. Her eyes danced feverishly as the lids slowly closed back over them.

Vibrations rumpled up Sevens legs as a klaxon sounded, the lights dimmed and red trim within the wall sprang to life. For a moment, she debated whether or not to leave the ailing woman and report to her battle station. Two more volleys rocked the ship. The first undermined her footing. The second knocked her to the floor.

"Warning: Hull destabilization on decks two and three. All personnel must exit immediately."

"Computer, initiate site-to-site transport."

"Transporters are off-line."

Before Seven could react, Chakotay called.

"B'Elanna is working to reinforce the shields, but you need to get the Captain out of there in case they fail."

"Is there a location to which I can move the Captain? Is sickbay an option?"

"There's no guarantee we could maintain an isolation field. There's a maintenance room on deck nine. It's at the core of the ship, so it should be safe."

"Understood." Supporting her back with one arm and her knees with the other, Seven lifted Janeway and carried her into the corridor. They encountered no one in the evacuated hallways or the turbo lift, but when the doors opened on deck nine, Ensign Kim was startled to find Seven and her burden inside. He moved to help Seven, but her forceful cry of, "Stop!" halted his advance and gave him the seconds he needed to remember the Captain's condition. He took a step back.

"Is there anything I can do?" Kim asked.

"I have to get the Captain to the maintenance room on this deck. Are you familiar with its location?"

A peculiar expression crossed Kim's face. "Yes, I'll clear the way ahead."

Within reach of her goal, Seven began to wonder how she was going to make Janeway comfortable in the utilitarian environment. She need not have worried. Once there, she began to grasp the meaning behind Kim's smirk when she mentioned the room. Instead of being greeting by the stale, cold air of a place that was visited once or twice a month, there was a warm, cinnamon tang to the air. The sources of the spicy fragrance were a number of candles mounted unobtrusively on the conduits. In a corner, Seven found one regulation Starfleet bedroll, designed to provide its user comfort from the hard ground, or deck, as the case may be.

Janeway, who had been drifting in and out as Seven carried her, settled into a quiet sleep as soon as she hit the bedding. The ship was no longer under attack. Seven contacted Chakotay, who told her he would notify her when deck two had been secured, and the Doctor, who informed her there had been moderate injuries from a plasma fire and he would be unable to administer the next injection but would program the dosage into a nearby replicator.   By the time Seven return to the maintenance room with the hypo spray, Janeway was awake.

"The ship?" Janeway's eyes pleaded for good news.

"Commander Chakotay told me to assure you that everything would be OK," Seven answered, well aware that she wasn't exactly answering the question. Janeway gave her a skeptical look, but decided that there was no point in arguing. There was nothing she could do under the circumstances. She remembered enough about how she had gotten to this safe haven to be significantly humbled. She couldn't fend off a flock of marauding butterflies much less do anything to help Voyager.

"I've been instructed by the Doctor to give you this," said Seven, holding up the hypo spray.

"Go ahead." Janeway turned her head and lifted her chin to expose her neck.

"The Doctor indicates that it should be administered … elsewhere." Seven swallowed hard.

"I'm sorry, Seven," Janeway apologized, aware of the woman's discomfort. She wanted to say something to mitigate the damage that had been done in the past and relieve the present situation, but she had given her word never to raise the subject. "Please, do what you have to do."

Seven had to help Janeway roll onto her side. Seven performed her duty with as much detached dispatch as possible. Although frail, the Captain was fully awake and as she rolled back over, her eyes rested on Seven. They made eye contact. Seven looked away.

"Please, tell me what's going on." The Captain's request stemmed as much from a need to fill the empty volume of the room as curiosity. Seven explained about the Bresk fever, the attack and the hull damage. She omitted telling about the kiss.

"I need to get to the bridge," Janeway announced, attempting to rise.

Seven pinned her back down. "The attack is over. Commander Chakotay is capable of handling matters, and as I said, you are contagious. Do you wish to infect the rest of the crew?"

Janeway grudgingly agreed and the room once again settled into an uncomfortable silence.

"Thank you for taking care of me," Janeway said.

"How could I do anything less after all you have done for me? I am very grateful to you."

"Is that what our relationship had been reduced to – mutual gratitude?" There was a bite of sarcasm in the Captain's tone.

"You know that I have deeper feeling for you," Seven defended, breaking her own rule. "It was you who placed obstacles in the path of that relationship." There was an ache more pressing than just hurt feelings in her voice.

"I do love you, Seven, but I can't afford a lover."

"I know. You already have Voyager."

"Yes."

"And there can be no other."

"Yes."

"Then how do you explain the presence of holo emitters in your quarters?" The whole crew, including Seven, already knew the answer to the question and Janeway was well aware of the meaning behind Seven's veiled reference to Michael Sullivan, Janeway's holographic love interest.

"That's different," Janeway's defended. "Besides, I deactivated him."

Seven's only response was a small puff of air forced briskly out through her nostrils.

Janeway waited, knowing that there was more. "Go ahead," she provoked. "Say what's on your mind."

"It's an interesting paradox," Seven began. "Michael Sullivan was the perfect lover for you because you could deactivate him, yet you no longer have him as a lover because you deactivated him." Seven deliberated for a moment. "Still, he gave you everything that I cannot. Despite being photonic, he had a link to humanity that I don't. He could relate to human history and culture in a way that I never will and, as such, could relate to you in a way that I never can. Perhaps this is why you found him acceptable but not I. You were attracted to the humanity in him that I lack. Of course, there is another area in which I cannot match Michael Sullivan. I can not be deactivated."

"Chakotay to Seven. Engineering has stabilized the hull and transporters have been restored. It's safe for you and the Captain to return to her quarters whenever you're ready."

"You may lock on my signal and transport," Seven replied. Janeway's commbadge had been left on her nightstand. Seven took the stunned woman in her arms and within seconds they were teleported. The Doctor was waiting for them and this time Seven accepted his offer of relief. As she hastened to leave, he reminded her to sterilize any part of her that had come in contact with Janeway. Touching her lips, Seven acknowledged his warning.


"How are you feeling?" Janeway was startled to find Chakotay standing in her bedroom doorway.

"You shouldn't be here," Janeway remonstrated.

"The Doctor says it's OK as long as I keep my distance and don't make physical contact with you or your attendant. Where is Seven?"

"Conferring with the Doctor. They agreed that I was well enough to be left on my own if I promised not to get out of bed."

"I'll bet it's the first thing you did the minute they were gone."

"I tried," Janeway chuckled. "Give me another day or two and I'll be disobeying doctor's order all over the place."

"Now I know you're getting better. Pretty soon you'll be relieving me of command."

Janeway said nothing and the glint of humor in her eyes dimmed.

"What wrong, Kathryn? Is there something I haven't been told?"

"No, I'm going to be alright. I guess I'm just not in that big of a hurry to get back to the captain's chair."

"Who are you and what have you done with Captain Janeway, the bride of Voyager?"

"Interesting that you should put it that way. You haven't been talking to Seven, have you?"

"No, but I could make a guess at what she might have to say. She'd probably say that you use Voyager as an excuse." A momentary ire or perhaps resistance to the idea crossed Janeway's face. Unsure if it was the idea or his presumptiveness that had nettled her, Chakotay inquired, "May I speak freely?"

"Doesn't seem to be any way I can stop you." It wasn't exactly a warm invitation to express him mind, but it did indicate that she was willing to listen.

"Sometimes you use controlling Voyager as a means of controlling other things. Voyager can get along without you. These last few days have demonstrated it, but I think you already knew that. You use it to control the isolation you've become accustomed to since we started this journey, hell, maybe even before that. Or it might just be the security of the known versus the dangers of the unknown that compels you to hold Voyager up as shield against getting too close. It's ironic that someone so courageous in her professional life is so timid in her personal affairs. You've met incredible odds and faced down superior foes, but no foe is stronger than the fear of what might happen if you let someone into your life.

"I know this," Chakotay continued compassionately, "because I've encountered those barriers. Seven is seeking you just as I once did and encountering the same barriers. I never had a chance but Seven does. You seek her out, too, despite yourself. You call it obligation and mentoring, but it's more. If I thought for one moment you felt for me what you feel for Seven, I never would have given up hope. You need to open yourself to the possibility before Seven loses hope."

"If she hasn't already," Janeway added. "Thank you, my friend."

"Well, if you're not going to take over, I'd better get back to the bridge."

"Before you leave, I have just one little question." The twinkle was back in Janeway's eye. "How did you know about that maintenance room?"

"I don't understand," he evaded.

"I may not have been on top of my game while I was there, but most maintenance rooms are not equipped with bedrolls and scented candles. It had obviously been used as a clandestine rendezvous. What I'm wondering is, how did you know it was there?"

"I've heard rumors that some of the crew who share quarters have been forced to find privacy wherever the opportunity arises, but I've decided they must be just that - only rumors. Don't you agree?"

"Dismissed, Commander."

He smiled at their tacit agreement to let the matter drop. When he was gone, Janeway stared at the ceiling, digesting Chakotay's words and contemplated the nature of change. Change had always been easier to deal with when it was external, whether she was the one acting or the one being acted upon. To change Voyager, change a quadrant, change the universe, seemed simple compared to disturbing the status quo of her inner world.

A memory played across her mind's eye. She was surrounded by the orderly chaos of the Borg vessel, exerting tremendous effort to keep her insides from turning to jelly. Narrowly escaping the implantation of a cortical transceiver, she had managed to convince the Borg that it would be in their best interests to appoint a single drone to interface with their new human ally. Hydraulic decompression signaled the opening of the door behind her. In the distance, a single drone stood ensconced in her alcove - her face serene, at one with the hive mind. Her eyes opened as she broke free from her physical connection to the ship and strode confidently forward. Janeway remembered how her jaw dropped ever so slightly at that first sight of the person who would in many ways become the center of her universe.

Janeway closed her eyes and remembered how the drone's human ancestry was revealed even through the pale complexion and miscellaneous technology that covered her body. Seven of Nine spoke for the Borg, but somewhere in those deep blue eyes was a spark of individuality.

The Captain opened her eyes and found that former drone studying a medical tricorder, oblivious to Janeway's scrutiny. Janeway's eyes were held captive by Seven's beauty. The young woman's form embodied perfection, a fact established by the many hearts set aflutter by the sight of it, but what really touched Janeway was still the spark in Seven's eye that had since grown into a beacon.

Seven glanced up and found she was being observed. Their eyes locked and held until Janeway broke the silence. "Please, come sit beside me," she said, patting a spot on the bed.

Somewhat wary, Seven set the tricorder aside and settled down beside her patient, supporting herself with one hand. Janeway slid her hand over Seven's and was pleased to see that she allowed it to remain.

"First, I'd like to clear up one or two things about the nature of humanity and Michael Sullivan."

Seven winced at the mention of the hologram's name.

Janeway continued. "Humanity is not a single element. It's composed of the many and various ways we relate to one another and the world we live in. Michael and I could talk about literature and art and we could learn about each other's world, but we weren't really a part of those worlds. Michael functioned well in turn of the century Ireland, but he had no place on Voyager. It was only loneliness and sentimental nonsense that drew me to him in the first place. You were right. He was also a safe alternative to a real relationship.

"Your humanity is unique and very special. Sometimes I see you struggling to be something you're not and grow frustrated with you efforts. You can stop searching for your humanity. You found it the day you decided you no longer wished to be Borg.

"I love you, Seven. I've loved you for so long I have no idea when it began. I'm sorry for what I put you through and I hope that you will forgive me."

Seven searched Janeway's face, hoping beyond chance that she understood the meaning behind what had been said, but afraid to ask for clarification. Actions seemed less frightening than words. Seven leaned closer; pleased to see Janeway mimic the advance and tilt her head, allowing her lips to mesh with Seven's in sweet tenderness. The gentle way that Janeway massaged Seven's mouth with her own spoke volumes. They separated with just a touch of tongue.

"Our second kiss," Janeway commented.

"Technically it is our third, but we can discuss that another time."

"When I recover," Janeway purred, "I hope to have many discussion like this with you, only more in-depth." She waggled her eyebrows.

Seven flicked her ocular implant in response. "Yes, Captain."


"Commander Chakotay, how can I help you?" The Doctor was puzzled by the officer's late night visit.

"Captain Janeway will be resuming command in the morning and there a few matters I wanted to tend to before her return."

"Oh?"

"I did some research on Bresk fever."

"Oh." The Doctor's voice quavered and he looked as if he wanted nothing more than to deactivate.

"It's a rare condition eradicated in the Alpha Quadrant a hundred years ago. It is contagious, but only after prolonged exposure. I have to wonder how Captain Janeway got it in the first place." The Doctor remained mute. "Did she really have Bresk fever?"

"Yes and no."

"Doctor," Chakotay said with warning overtones.

"What she had was Bresk fever, but she didn't catch it from anyone. She had a genetic marker for it that was activated when took the cure for the Lavender Virus."

"OK, that explains how she got it. I assume no one else onboard has this marker."

"No, sir."

"So why the elaborate quarantine? Anyone using modest precautions could have cared for her."

"But it was much safer to have Seven do it."

"I want the truth." Chakotay crossed his arms over his chest.

"I was trying to repair some of the damage I'd done. I hoped that if Captain Janeway and Seven could spend time together…"

"Well, it looks as if your plan succeeded. The rumor mill has Seven dining every night this week with the Captain, who is past needing a caretaker. Congratulation." Chakotay seemed genuinely pleased with the outcome.

"Then maybe you don't have to report what you've learned."

"The Captain won't hear of it from me, but you should be prepared for the possibility that she will do her own research. With any luck, she'll also be pleased enough with the end to ignore the means."

"Yes, sir." The Doctor smiled to himself in the certain knowledge that things had finally been put right.