Author’s Note: Fourth and final story in the Chained Melody Universe. You all begged (some very nicely, I might add) for some kind of resolution to the third story, “Magenta Feelings.” I caved. P/T, Doc/7. Rated PG.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.
by Diane Bellomo
Seven stirred, opened her eyes and was momentarily disoriented. Closing her eyes again, she was able to access recent memories. She was flat on her back, naked, with a very warm body to her immediate right and another beyond that. She sat up without disturbing the two people sleeping beside her and slid smoothly to the edge of the bed. The act of lifting herself to her feet brought on a light-headedness that caused her to sway slightly before she gained her balance, but the dizziness did not entirely subside.
She had been sound asleep in a bed for the second night in a row, and while sleeping was a very successful human form of regeneration, it did not do much for her. She needed to regenerate. Badly. It had been—how many hours? Her head was unaccustomedly fuzzy and she could not do the simple calculation. She knew it had not been as long as she had gone between regeneration on other occasions, but she felt empty and there was a faint ringing in her ears.
There was also soreness between her legs that she could easily account for and was not necessarily uncomfortable. However, the carnal activities she had recently participated in had seriously depleted her energy reserves. She would need to get to the cargo bay very soon. Considering the persistent light-headedness, she was unsure if she could accomplish the task. That she could ask for assistance from either one of the two on the bed never occurred to her. She was far used to doing things for herself.
Placing one bare foot squarely in front of the other, she walked carefully into the bathroom.
“Computer, volume at fifty percent, lights at twenty-five. Time?”
The computer obliged her requests, the lights coming up softly, volume half as loud as usual. :::The time is oh four thirty hours.:::
She placed her hands on the edge of the sink and leaned heavily on them, head hanging, gazing blankly at the drain. If she had been observing herself, she would have made note of the humanity of this pose.
It was still early enough for her to regenerate for several hours and still make her 0700 duty shift; she only needed to get to the bay. She raised her head and looked toward the sleeping area, searching for her clothing.
There was the suit, draped across the top of the dresser opposite the bed. Awkwardly she pinned her hair up, and then turned slowly and walked to the dresser. Donning the outfit silently, she made the necessary adjustments so the wires aligned and she could walk comfortably. She put her shoes on and went for the door, pausing at the last moment to look back at the couple on the bed, unmoving and unaware that she was about to leave them.
Black dots chose that moment to dance in front of her eyes and she blinked them away, the effort making her head swim and challenging her equilibrium once more. Before she could stumble against the wall, she ceased every extraneous motion, including the rise and fall of her chest in breathing, and closed her eyes. When she had regained balance and a semblance of control, she slipped out the door.
In the corridor, she squinted against the bright light, relieved when the black dots did not reappear, and strode purposefully towards the turbolift. It was early enough that she should encounter no one. She certainly did not feel up to “small talk.”
She entered the turbolift, turned and stood ramrod straight, knees locked. After exactly 30 seconds, the computer warbled politely. :::Please state a destination.:::
Only a slight twitch in her human eye betrayed to the turbolift doors that she had done anything less than perfect. “Cargo Bay Two.” The lift began to move—and stopped immediately at the next deck.
The doors opened to admit Megan Delaney, outfitted in blue exercise gear, her long dark hair in a thick braid down her back.
“Oh!” Her eyes widened briefly at the unexpected appearance of another person, and then she remembered her manners. “Good morning, Seven. I didn’t expect anyone to be moving around here at this hour.” Manners still firmly in place, she didn’t add least of all, you.
Seven nodded ever-so slightly in Megan’s direction. “Ensign.”
Megan turned and faced the doors, standing just to the right of Seven. “Deck Six.”
The lift began to move again, and Megan slipped her eyes sideways to look at the ex-Borg. Something was decidedly different about the woman, and it wasn’t just the fact that she was in a turbolift in crew quarters at the ungodly hour of 0500.
Crew quarters. Uh oh. Megan recalled her sister’s gossip of two days ago. Seven and B’Elanna had been chained together by the captain and ordered to learn to work together. Seven had already been in the turbolift, which had come from Deck Nine.
Oh, my. Megan was not the gossipy kind; she left that to her sister, but as she continued to surreptitiously study Seven, it came to her just exactly what was different about Seven this morning.
Not only did she appear less “crisp” than usual, but she was pale, much more so than usual, dangerously so, and her lips were faintly blue.
She also reeked of sex.
At the exact moment Megan realized this, Seven crumbled without a sound.
Megan moved reflexively to catch her before she could hit the ground. She eased her down gently, surprised at her weight, which did not amount to much. Megan had never had opportunity to touch Seven-of-Nine, but for reasons apparent, she imagined the woman would have more mass. But this was not so. She was like a feather, and right now she was completely unconscious.
Megan went to red alert. Though her sister would have given her hair to be in this turbolift now, Megan had never been more relieved that Jenny had decided to skip her morning workout. The gossip mill was working overtime as it was. To see Seven in this condition in this section of the ship at this hour would only have it hauling ass at time and a half.
“Halt turbolift. Megan to the Doctor.”
:::Megan, what’s wrong?:::
“Nothing, er, nothing’s wrong with me, Doc, it’s, uh, Seven. She’s here in the turbolift with me and she’s just lost consciousness.”
The Doctor did not hesitate, nor did he allow Megan to explain anything further. :::Prepare for emergency beam-out.:::
* * *
Seven opened her eyes to the ceiling of Sickbay. She went to sit up and found the Doctor there, with a firm hand to her shoulder, keeping her still.
“Seven,” he scolded, visibly perturbed, “do you know how badly you are in need of regeneration?”
She sat up, despite his efforts to stop her. “Yes, Doctor, I do. I must get to my alcove immediately. It is where I was…I was…” She furrowed both brows. Wait. It was where she was going. How did she end up in Sickbay?
The Doctor answered the unasked question. “You passed out in the turbolift. If it wasn’t for Megan Delaney,” he gestured to the corner, where Megan stood, “you could have been hurt, you could have died!”
“That is an overstatement, Doctor.” She cast her eyes to Megan. “Thank you.”
“No problem, Seven. Will you be all right?”
“Okay. See you then.” She exited Sickbay for her original destination, already formulating her excuse for when Margaret asked her why she was late. Let the gossip mill find another stoolie.
“Doctor, I must go.” She slid off the biobed.
“Yes, Seven,” the Doctor began soberly, “but before you do, I want to make sure you understand the reason for your collapse, the reason it has become necessary for you to regenerate when it has only been 48 hours since your last cycle.”
Now the Doctor hesitated. Megan had told him every bit of her observations of Seven in the turbolift, and his own scan had revealed all the clinical details of why she was so needy of regeneration.
“It is not necessary that you explain it to me, Doctor. I know the reason.”
“Yes, well…all…all right.” He was actually stuttering and was clearly upset with himself because of it. Seven watched him pull himself together, much in the same manner as she had done in B’Elanna’s quarters.
“May I escort you to the cargo bay, Seven?”
She paused, considered her answer in light of her realization that the Doctor harbored an attraction to her—and then considered that she was considering anything in the first place. “Yes, Doctor, that would be…acceptable.”
* * *
“Sleep well.” The Doctor helped her step up into the alcove and watched as the mechanisms powered up and began to hum in harmony with the woman connected to it. He would be very glad to see color return to her features and decided he could spare a few moments to be sure that was going to happen.
He wondered about the next conversation he would be having with her, as she had promised on the way to the cargo bay that she would talk with him about her reason for passing out in the turbolift.
She claimed it was necessary that she speak with him, anyway, that she had something on her mind. Those were the exact words she had used, “on her mind.”
He was a holoprogram with hideous amounts of knowledge about sexual practices, and a commendable amount of personal sexual experience, as well. But even he could not quite believe what his scan of Seven-of-Nine had revealed. Where, he supposed, would this conversation go? And what would his contribution be?
* * *
“B’Elanna? B’Elanna? Computer, time? Hey, wake up.” Tom softly shook B’Elanna’s shoulder, urging her to wakefulness.
:::The time is oh five thirty hours.:::
“B’Elanna, she’s gone! Did you hear her leave? Should I check the computer to see where she’s at? God, did we screw everything up? Did I screw everything up?” His increasing volume brought B’Elanna fully awake, and she turned to blink at him, as he sat with his legs over the side of the bed, in some kind of agony.
She rubbed her eyes, yawned, and stretched. “What the hell are you talking about, Paris?”
“Seven! Seven, B’Elanna! I know we needed to talk, but, you know, last night just didn’t seem like the right time, and I told myself I’d get up this morning, fix us all some nice, strong hot coffee and even if she didn’t drink it, we could all sit around and have us a nice, healthy little chat about the direction we were heading…” He might well have continued on another couple of paragraphs, if B’Elanna hadn’t cut him off.
“Thomas Eugene, if she left, she had a good reason for it, okay? She’s Borg, she doesn’t think like us, at least not yet. Nobody’s screwed anything up. We just need to get together later, okay? Would you get a hold of yourself? And you can still make the coffee.” She scooted to the side of the bed and put her arms around him. He tucked her under one arm and asked his first “healthy little chat” question.
“Are you falling in love with her?” When there was not the immediate yelp of denial that might indicate just the opposite, but merely a deeper snuggle into his chest, he knew he was about to get a completely honest answer.
“At first, I thought I was, but later I wasn’t so sure, and now, well, now I’m even less sure.” She raised up out of his arms and pierced him with her sable eyes, huge and bottomless. “I love you, Tom. You know that, don’t you?” She relaxed back into his sideways embrace.
Relief washed over him. He had not minded the idea of adding Seven to their relationship, but the idea of losing B’Elanna to her was something else entirely. He tried to keep the relief out of his voice. “Yeah, I know that.” He chastely kissed her ridged forehead.
B’Elanna heard the relief anyway, and was at once both flattered and amused. She knew how she felt about Tom, but apparently he would need a little more convincing. “Hey there, flyboy, you worried about losing me?”
“No. Yes. No. I don’t know!” He ran his hand over his face. “Geez, Bee, am I?”
She sat up again, twisted to face him, and squeezed his cheeks together so his lips puffed out. “Listen closely. Never. In. A. Million. Years. Got it?”
She released his face and continued. “But I gotta be honest. When Seven and I were chained together and I saw how the metal band had opened a horrible wound all around her wrist but hadn’t even broken the skin on mine, I felt bad, ya know?”
Okay, that made sense. He nodded.
“And then she cried, Tom, can you believe it? She actually cried! I was cleaning her wrist, trying to get some of the worst of the dried blood off and she made this little sound, this little mewling sound. When I looked up, there was a tear, a single tear, falling from her human eye. You know what she said to me?”
He shook his head.
“She said she was ‘unaccustomed to a sustained sensation of pain’ or something like that. God, I felt so awful, I wanted to cry myself.”
Now a grin came easily. “Well, heaven knows we can’t have that.”
She poked him in the ribs. “All right, smart-ass. Anyway, I did what I usually do, I let my good old Klingon hormones take over to cover for it, and you can guess what happened next.”
“You took her to bed.”
She shrugged. “Well, it’s not like we could get away from each other or anything, but, god, I licked her blood off my hand and after that, I was done for. And then she showed up yesterday after shift, all quivering and…and…”
He finally understood what had happened. “Transference of emotions is not exclusive to Klingons, B’Elanna. You wouldn’t be the first one to mistake hurt/comfort for love. Besides,” he admitted sheepishly, “even with the implants, she’s not exactly hard to look at.”
“There is that,” she deadpanned with perfection and would have held the look if Tom hadn’t returned the rib poke. She leaped away from him, screeching and laughing, but he caught her before she could get too far, using her momentum to toss her onto the bed.
They spent the next several minutes engaged in a rare, full-bed ticklefest that knotted up the sheets and ended abruptly when B’Elanna pinned Tom’s wrists to the bed and laid her lips firmly atop his.
* * *
:::Regeneration cycle complete.:::
Seven’s eyes opened and she disengaged herself from the alcove, immediately aware that she felt much better than she had several hours ago. Her eyes were drawn to the floor in front of her.
There rested a huge bouquet of roses species Rosa rubafolia. Further study had revealed this was the incorrect designation for this type of rose. However, she liked the way it sounded, so she used it in spite of the fact it was wrong, conceding her humanity on this point. A cream-colored envelope was nestled within the green foliage.
She stepped off the alcove, stooped down and picked up the roses, holding them briefly to her nose and registering their heady scent with some startlement. She had never really smelled roses before. She touched a petal and was again startled by the velvet softness, and then reached for the card. Turning and placing the bouquet carefully on a cargo container, she opened the envelope.
Inside was a note, handwritten, on a heavy stock, cream-colored card that exactly matched the envelope.
Won’t you please join me for dinner this evening? 2000 hours on Holodeck Two.
It was signed simply “The Doctor.”
She replaced the card in the envelope and picked up the roses. They would need water, this much she knew. She would need to respond to the Doctor’s invitation, this much she also knew.
She had a few others to respond to, as well, but it would soon be time to begin her duty shift, and now she had to make a stopover in hydroponics.
* * *
One or two people raised their eyebrows in curiosity at the vase of roses sitting on the console in Astrometrics, but only Tom Paris, on his lunch break and looking for her, went so far as to comment.
“So, Seven. Nice flowers. Where’d ya get ‘em?”
She turned neatly from the panel to face him. “The Doctor. He has invited me to dinner. Do not say it.”
Tom blinked, realizing she had cut him off at the pass with a decent attempt at humor. He feigned innocence. “Say what?”
“That we have a ‘date.’”
“Okay, I won’t say it.” Hey, was that a smile?
“Thank you.” She turned back to the panel.
This really wasn’t the time, but there was no one else in Astrometrics, and this was his only time. Besides, Seven excelled at, even preferred, sidestepping chatter and going straight to the heart of any matter. Actually, B’Elanna preferred that, as well. She had, in fact, informed him in no uncertain terms that morning he was to speak with Seven at his first opportunity. She even told him how he should begin.
“Are you in love with B’Elanna?”
Seven looked up from the panel, but didn’t turn around. “No, Ensign. I have a ‘crush’ on her. It is a different emotional response.” Now she turned and fixed him with an ice blue glare. “I do not intend to pursue it, if that is your concern.”
“No, Seven, that is not my concern.” Okay, that was a tiny white lie, but given what B’Elanna had shared about her feelings for Seven that morning, it was clear to him that the three of them would not be setting up housekeeping anytime soon. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed about that, and that prompted an irrational, testosterone-laden, desire to stick it to her.
“My concern is that we’re all on the same page, here.” He folded his arms across his chest and raised his chin. “If you do not intend to pursue it, then—he purposely used her term—state your intentions.” He wasn’t really trying to be the bad cop here, he was just trying to find out her version of what was going on between her and his girlfriend. And whoop-whoop! testosterone alert! whether or not he was going to have to engage in a competition with her for B’Elanna’s affections, no matter what she had just said.
Illogical hormonal response or not, there it was.
That she was profoundly affected by his challenge could be seen in a second’s tightening of her jaw. But even as she did that, he saw a ripple of something pass through her and her features changed, softened, lost all sign of Borg arrogance. Before him, her eyes gained miles of depth and about an ounce each of water.
He immediately felt every inch the pig B’Elanna had accused him of being all those years ago. Simmer down, Paris, you idiot, she’s trying to break it off, not take your place. There is no threat here. He relaxed his stance, unfolded his arms, and tried to make himself appear less severe.
“Ensign Paris…Tom…the acts we engaged in last night were very…fulfilling.”
“Yes, they were, Seven,” he said softly, and she acknowledged it with a faint tilt of her head.
“But when I ‘woke up’ this morning and saw you and Lieuten…B’Elanna…curled around each other, I knew it would be…inappropriate…for the three of us to continue.”
Ye gods, no wonder B’Elanna had been near tears. This woman could write trashy holonovels. “That’s all well and good to say, Seven, but you can’t just ‘turn off’ your emotions, you know. Even B’Elanna will admit that.”
“That is correct, Ensign. However, as you know, I have done research on mating behaviors and I…” She cast her eyes toward the vase of roses.
“He has a ‘crush’ on me.”
“No kidding? Never noticed.”
“You are teasing me.”
“Yes, sorry. How do you feel about him?” God, he wished B’Elanna were here. She should be hearing this. Oh well, nothing for it but to make sharp mental notes.
Seven launched into what might have been the longest personal speech she had ever made. “He is kind. He cares a great deal about me. He taught me to dance. He does not have a heartbeat, but he is…warm. I…” and now she struggled with a word she had never used “care…about him. I wish to pursue it.”
She paused, reached out and removed a single rose from the bouquet. “I think very highly of you and B’Elanna. I have enjoyed the past few days. You were careful with me and you taught me a great deal not only about human mating behaviors, but about your personal relationship. It is clear you love each other very much. In addition, B’Elanna and I have learned to work together, just as the captain wished. We have all had a…‘good time,’ and now I believe it is necessary to cease our carnal activities before the situation stops being good and we end up ‘hurting each other.’ On a ship this size, that would be extremely counterproductive.”
He was floored by her insight. He had friends in the Alpha Quadrant who had chewed up years (and hearts) learning the things this ex-Borg had learned in two nights. Hell, he done a fair amount of chewing up himself. For the first time in a long time, he was speechless.
Seven held the rose out to him. “Please give this to B’Elanna. I must return to my duties, as I’m sure you must, as well.”
He accepted the rose and watched her return to her work. He twirled the stem between his thumb and index finger, put the bloom to his nose for a second, then turned and exited Astrometrics.
* * *
After Alpha shift that afternoon, Tom presented the rose to B’Elanna and related to the best of his abilities the conversation he had had with Seven.
It wasn’t that she looked hurt (the very thing Seven expressed a desire to avoid), it was rather that she recognized the evolution of one thing into another and it made her feel sad for the loss, if only momentarily. Perhaps this was ‘hurt,’ but it was also something inevitable and marked the beginning of a new level of their relationship, one that was deeper and even more committed than it had been before.
* * *
Later that evening, Seven-of-Nine and the Holodoc sat at a table in Holodeck Two. It was just the table, set in elegant simplicity in a small, candlelit room with few other adornments save a single violinist playing in one corner and a waiter standing quietly in another.
The Doctor opened the menu in front of him, pretending to peruse it, instead peering above it to observe Seven. “So, Seven, would you allow me to order for you?” He quickly ducked his eyes back into the menu, studying with mock intensity.
“Yes. Anything but lobster.”
“Seven! I believe that was a joke, wasn’t it? Very good!”
She was unimpressed with his enthusiasm and did not bother to comment or even lift her implant-brow.
“How about a nice farfalle pasta with a tomato and basil sauce? How does that sound?”
“Fine. Doctor, I do not wish to eat. I wish to have a conversation with you.”
Well, here it comes. He refolded the menu and set it aside. “All right, Seven. You mentioned having something ‘on your mind’ earlier.”
“I assume you scanned me when I arrived with Ensign Delaney in Sickbay this morning?”
“Then you know I had recently been engaged in…sexual…activities…”
Throwing caution to the wind, he leaned forward and covered her un-enhanced hand with his. “Seven, it is not necessary that you explain this to me. It’s none of my business!”
She registered his hand upon hers but did not remove her own from beneath it. “But, Doctor, it is necessary because I do not wish to pursue the…sexual activities…I was engaged in last night. I determined that it would be…emotionally…damaging…and would lead to…heartbreak.” She worked the unfamiliar words against her tongue, clearly trying to make them familiar.
“Did your partners also ‘determine that it would be damaging’ to pursue the activities?”
His relief was as authentic as his image. “Well, then, I would say you have all made a very emotionally mature decision, but for you it was even more so. In fact, it was a remarkable decision.” He began to babble. “I don’t believe anyone else on this ship could have made such a decision. The amount of growth you have demonstrated regarding this subject amazes me. I’d like to think this was due to my outstanding lessons…”
“Doctor, I wish to…pursue…something else.” Her eyes were right on him, could have literally melted him if she’d still been Borg activated.
His eyebrow shot up. “Oh?” With his hand still over hers, he was suddenly never more glad his palms could not sweat.
“You, Doctor, I wish to pursue you. Would that be acceptable?”
Her straightforwardness steadied him and restored his humor. He gently squeezed her hand. “Only if I run, Seven, only if I run.”