Negotiations

A Star Trek Voyager Story (J/7)

By Enginerd


She is watching me. I don't need to look. I can feel it.

I know she is fascinated that I, a mere human, can possibly be adept at my job. Interestingly, diplomacy is not a skill the Borg usually appreciates - their "resistance is futile" mantra is a dead give away. While the complex art of negotiation is of no interest to them, I am continually fascinated by the intricacies and number of variables there are. Perhaps that is why the former drone, who is brilliant at all things mathematical and now studying the complexities of social interactions, is so interested in my mediation of three representatives arguing over mining rights on the planet. Or perhaps Seven is just plain baffled by their willingness to trust me to mediate for them. Oddly, I find the thought of baffling my inquisitive Astrometrics Officer as satisfying as coming to a hard-fought agreement.

I don't know if I should be pleased or annoyed that I am distracted from the Ketyak Ambassador's long-winded oratory on why their claim warrants more consideration; I notice Chakotay pass the guards stationed at the door and quietly enter the large planet-side conference room. I quickly conclude there is no imminent disaster; he doesn't interrupt to give me a message, which is the only way to communicate with those inside this room. While I appreciate the reasoning for designing a negotiations room to shield against incoming and outgoing communications signals to ensure security on highly sensitive information, it is inefficient, as Seven has noted. She has also expressed dismay with the prohibition of armed guards and all weapons from the negotiations, even after Tuvok assessed the risk as negligible. I'm beginning to wonder if that is the main reason she asked to attend, instead of the opportunity to study the mediation process.

While I can hypothesize a few reasons for Seven's desire to be present, I have no idea why my First Officer has suddenly decided these negotiations, which he argued against, are now worth attending. From the faint scowl on his face, I do not think he has changed his mind about their importance and still seems irritated that I had decided to go 1.2 light-years out of our way on our journey home to help these people.

Sometimes I wonder about his moral compass, which is a disturbing doubt to have about your first officer. But I could not refuse their call for help. They needed an unbiased outsider, me, to help them finally settle a century old dispute that had cost thousands of lives. That is why I joined Starfleet – to make a difference. And I truly believe I can help these people who are willing to try and finally settle their differences peacefully. And it doesn't hurt to plant the seeds of trust in Starfleet in the Delta Quadrant. I expect that in the future, hopefully near future, there will be a Starfleet presence here when the technology supports rapid transit between quadrants.

We finally settle on the mining rights on the six moons of YaTel, which unfortunately were the least complex. But I am still pleased that all parties seem content for now, even the Ambassador from Ketyak, who finds sport in provoking his counterparts from the Gratyat and Takyet provinces over minutiae.

As I sip my coffee, I am once again thankful I have a carafe by me, which Seven has ensured is by my side at the beginning of each day of negotiations, ever since the first nearly disastrous day where I hadn't anticipated the continuous need for caffeine beyond my three morning cups; clearly I underestimated each Ambassador's ability to drone on about their intricate issues. I am sure she finds amusement in my very human need for such a crutch. But . . . I should still thank her, again, for the continued help. Since the first day, I have not felt the need to nap during the negotiations, in spite of the impressive quantities of minutiae.

Glancing over to Seven, I see Chakotay now standing by her, the only other Starfleet officer in the room. I am still surprised he had not embraced the negotiations as an excellent opportunity for the crew. This planet is almost as beautiful as Earth and considering Tuvok's security endorsement, a perfect place for the crew to spend their much-earned shore leave. While he has dutifully scheduled the crew rotations, it seems from his growing agitation that he failed to include himself, looking like he could really use some shore leave.

My concern and curiosity rises; I cannot hear him but I see my first officer unusually animated as he talks with my Astrometrics officer. Why would he be upset with her now? She has been here helping me since the negotiations started. He had never liked my decision to bring a Borg onboard. He even went against my orders to make her alliance with the Borg work when I was incapacitated; at the first sign of difficulty, he broke the alliance and it all unraveled; he even attempted to jettison her among the other the Borg, into space. After he failed and I recovered, he still wanted to get rid of her, which I will never forget. Yes, it has been three years and I am still mad at him about that.

I am amazed Chakotay has not seen how much Seven has grown as an individual since our first encounter. She had been taken as a child and raised as a Borg. She has finally embraced her humanity and has become the most extraordinary individual. To face such adversity and still be able to adapt and overcome . . . I cannot help but admire and respect her. She is . . . exceptional.

Chakotay places his hand on her arm and . . . strokes it? No one has ever dared to take that liberty with her!

I have to correct myself; I have. As I ponder that realization, I note his hand moving to her shoulder, his touch clearly different; it's possessive. That presumption of possession . . . infuriates me. The Borg once claimed her and now this mere mortal dares to presume possession?!

The evidence was before me and I did not know how to react. Chakotay and Seven? I had never contemplated that . . . possibility. How could he have changed his mind about her so much as to seek an … intimate relationship with her? I would hope perhaps he has finally overcome his bias to see the fascinatingly complicated and exceptional woman she is now. But I cannot help but suspect he is simply a man who only sees the superficial - a beautiful woman.

The Ketyak Ambassador heatedly counters the Takyet Ambassador's claims as I watch Seven shrug off his hand from her shoulder and sharply shake her head no. I release a breath I did not realize I was holding.

My focus on the arguments over the intricate mining rights is lost. I am unable to get past my shock and…disappointment with what I have observed between two of my crew. Why didn't he tell me? Why didn't she? Seven used to confide in me. Why not about this? What made her pick him?

I watch her quickly leaving the room and Chakotay standing alone with a scowl on his face.

I stand up. "I'm sorry, I need a break for today. If you wish, we can continue tomorrow – same time?" The Ambassadors look surprised by my sudden withdraw and nod dumbly. I thank God that they don't object and still seem to trust me. I am no good to them at this point and need … I need to speak with Seven.

As I pass Chakotay on the way out of the room, he looks at me as if I was to blame for something. "Of course," he says derisively, shaking his head. I debate addressing his unacceptable tone with me but Seven took precedence. I narrow my eyes at him, signaling I would deal with him later. He winces. Good.

I look around the open hallway wondering where she would have gone. I remember her commenting about the pleasing aesthetics of the planet's plentiful gardens as we arrived. I was delighted she could share with me that simple pleasure of seeing beauty, something she would have deemed irrelevant not that long ago.

I found her on a small balcony overlooking the gardens full of amazing color. She was staring off to the horizon not really seeing the beauty before her. "Seven?" I called softly after a few moments. Chakotay had mentioned when Seven first joined them that I was over protective of a drone who could tear a hole in the ship's hull without tools or regret. I have no lack of appreciation of her physical strength. I just know it will not protect her from what makes us all vulnerable – our heart.

"Captain?" She turns to me, surprised…and troubled.

It breaks my heart. She should be enjoying the joy relationships can bring, not experiencing heartache. She looks at me curiously. I am not sure what to say. I have not thought this through and am caught flat-footed. I remind myself I'm a goddamn Starship Captain and need to pull it together!

"Are you OK?"

She looks at me in surprise, which she quickly masks with indifference. "I am functioning within normal parameters. Do you need assistance?"

I notice her crystal eyes focus on me. They are quite mesmerizing, truth be told.

"Captain?" She asks, looking at me more closely with concern in those beautiful blue eyes.

"Uh, no. Thank you. We took a break for the day. We'll reconvene tomorrow," I say truthfully.

"Explain."

Crap. Of course she would ask me to explain, you idiot! Good thing I took a break from negotiations when I did. I'd hate to think of the terms that would be agreed to by the less aggressive Gratyat Ambassador if I hadn't. "Uh . . . well I . . . what were you and Chakotay so upset about?" I say about as smoothly as a bull in a china shop. Oh Christ.

Seven frowned slightly. "I apologize for disrupting your negotiations, Captain. It will not happen again."

"Seven, I don't care about the negotiations…I mean, I care, of course. But I'm more concerned about you," I say and almost forget to add, "…and Chakotay."

Seven stands even more rigid, which I did not think possible.

"You need not worry about me, Captain. I am satisfied with how things have turned out. And I suspect Chakotay will come to see that terminating our romantic relationship was logical."

"How long were you in a relationship?" I had to ask. Here it was terminated before I knew anything about it. What kind of friend am I that I didn't know?

"Three months, one week and four days…" she pauses when she sees my surprise. "Approximately three months," she amends.

I nod dumbly. Three months? How had I not known? I see her looking at me intently. Perhaps awaiting words of wisdom from her self-assigned mentor who was too engrossed in her command to know. I consider the one word that strikes me as odd.

"Seven, I'm not so sure making logical decisions is appropriate when discussing human relationships that are full of emotions."

"I disagree," Seven says with great confidence.

I had to smile. "Of course you do. And you used logic to determine your romantic partner?"

"Yes," she says then pauses to consider that. "I had looked through the database for the most compatible candidates. The selection was not as robust as I would have preferred. As Tuvok is married with a monogamous preference, I ruled him out. That left one qualified candidate."

"Chakotay," I say feeling inordinately better; it was not a match of passion.

"Yes."

"What about chemistry with the person? Facts and figures are all well and good but there also needs to be a . . . spark between two people."

"That sounds dangerously explosive," Seven says dryly.

I laugh and note the satisfaction in her eyes. "Oh it can be. Have you ever gotten so furious with Chakotay you've wanted to throw things?"

"No. But I would not wish to be in a relationship that makes me want to damage objects."

I have to smile. "No one wants that. But if there is a passion between two people, sometimes you risk the negative emotions that can cause heartache."

"I think I prefer logic," she says honestly.

I nod, completely understanding. "Yes. It is safer. But," I say, placing a hand on her arm. "You would miss out on one of the joys of being human. Love," I say, squeezing her arm before letting go.

She looks into my eyes curiously and nods slightly. "Captain?"

I respond with an encouraging nod.

"If I add the variable of a potential dangerously explosive spark to the attributes in a mate, how would I rank it?"

"Rank it?"

"I had placed a higher value on natural procreation which ruled out more than half the crew."

Suddenly I'm feeling uncomfortable. "I…see," is all I can think of right now.

"What should I do if a candidate is superior in all areas, including the potential for a dangerously explosive spark yet…they would not be able to procreate with me?"

She steps slightly closer to me and tilts her head slightly.

I finger my collar. It is getting warmer with the suns directly overhead now.

"Well, not all couples get together with the sole purpose of having children."

"In your past relationships, did you consider children, Captain?" she asks.

"Uh…not really."

She seems disappointed.

"I mean, I hadn't ruled it out but I . . . . You want children?" I ask curiously, never having thought of her wanting children.

"Yes. Eventually," she says, looking at me thoughtfully.

"I would love to see you raise a young Annika," I blurt without even thinking.

She seems to brighten with that comment. Then she falls back into assessing my words. God help me. "If genetic material is used from two females, their offspring would be female."

"Unless you use male genetic material or …adopt," I say weakly, glancing at her lips. Don't glance at her lips, I tell myself.

"Indeed. In your past relationships, were you sexually satisfied?" she asked intently.

Dear God. "Seven that's not appropriate to ask," I say, glancing around us. We are thankfully without an audience.

"I have found that copulation with Chakotay was adequate but I could achieve the same satisfaction without him," she offers freely as if she were discussing a star chart.

Dear God. I did not want to know they had sex. Now I can't pretend they didn't.

"Do you think sex between us would be satisfying or would our "spark" make it exceptional?" she challenges me.

I'm surprised by how aroused I am by the thought. I'm surprised I'm still standing.

I clear my throat. "Sex is not the only important thing in a relationship, Seven," I manage.

"I concur. We have discussed children. And I understand your concerns as Captain."

"Then you should know we can't…" I say with difficulty, my traitorous body humming with excitement.

"We can," she counters simply. "I have thoroughly studied Starfleet regulations. Nowhere does it forbid a Captain having a relationship with a crewmember. And as I am not a member of Starfleet, their regulations would not apply to me."

"There's propriety," I say weakly, startled by Seven's strong arguments advocating "us." Who am I kidding? She is the epitome of thoroughness. I'll bet not just in her research. Dear God, Katie, get your mind out of the gutter. Focus…

"That would perhaps be a concern for others in our situation. Do you believe you would give me higher performance evaluations than I deserve and give me preferential treatment?" she asks pointedly.

"I . . .You would be living in the Captain's quarters," I counter with the only example that comes to mind, then blink, "…eventually," I add. Why did I have to say that?

"I do not believe the crew would think that special treatment for a wife," she says with a satisfied smile.

"Wife?"

"Eventually," Seven says, her optical implant rising in slight amusement.

"Assuming a successful courtship," I counter firmly. What the hell am I saying?

I've got to stop this from really getting out of hand.

She smiles. It makes her even more beautiful. "Then it's agreed. We will validate our compatibility through courtship before marrying," she says with a firm nod.

I blink. Too late.

"I believe we should begin our courtship after the negotiations have been successfully completed," she continues. "I do not wish to cause you further distraction," she says with mischief in her eyes.

Far too late.

"No," I counter firmly and surprise her; a nice change. But I hate the worry in her eyes I've just put there.

"Captain?" Her voice is uncertain; it pains me.

"Dinner tonight. My quarters. Eighteen Hundred," I say with authority. I'm the Captain, damn it.

She lets out a relieved breath and smiles brightly. God she is beautiful. She pauses a moment to think. God help me.

"I will operate the replicator," Seven counters pointedly.

The End