"You know," B'elanna said around a mouthful of something she probably didn't want to identify, "you have to admit the captain and Seven do make a cute couple."
"Yeah, a cute couple of thieves," Tom grumbled as he pushed around the green protein item on his plate. "I can't believe the captain took the entire pot."
"I can't believe you didn't realize Phoebe J. was the captain's sister's name. I mean, come on," Harry said, trying to suppress a chuckle, "there's not a single Phoebe on board this ship."
"It's cheating to enter the pot if you already know the outcome. We're Starfleet officers," the pilot bemoaned as he took a stab at his green food item, "we're supposed to have integrity."
"Says the man who was thrown into jail for doing everything anti-integrity in the book," B'elanna teased. "Look, at least she didn't write you up for illegally gambling."
Tom threw his hand out in exasperation. "She didn't even give me my cut!"
"Because then I would have had to write you up, Mr. Paris." The amusement in Janeway's voice killed the threat behind her words. "You're lucky I didn't suspend your holodeck privileges and make you work more rotations in Sickbay for placing bets on my personal affairs."
"Captain," he winced, glancing to his comrades for help only to find they were steadfastly ignoring his gaze, "about that… I'm sorry?"
"I feel your apology is less than genuine, Lieutenant." Seven stepped beside the captain, two plates in her hands. "Of course," she glanced down at the food, "I find many things in the Mess Hall to be less than genuine today." With a disgusted sniff, she looked up to the woman beside her. "What is this?"
"I'm not sure I want to know," Janeway answered, almost by reflex. "Maybe we should have opted for coffee?"
"I think not. You've already consumed four cups of which I know of today. If you continue on in this manner, both of our weekly rations will be depleted before Thursday." Seven raised an eyebrow in what appeared to be an unspoken dare. "The last time that happened was an unpleasant experience for everyone on the ship. You are… cranky when you're denied your usual intake of coffee."
The command staff seated at the table tried and failed to hide the chuckles that erupted under their breath. Clearing his throat, Harry managed enough seriousness to offer, "Would you two like to join us?"
"If you don't mind?" The captain gave her best smile of thanks as she drew up two more chairs. Settling, she turned to the blonde. "I wouldn't say I was cranky…"
"You're correct. You wouldn't." The younger woman set one plate down in front of Janeway and one in front of herself. "In fact, neither would I, but I assume that calling the captain of the ship over-bearing and ill-tempered in front of the crew would be out of line," she shot a mischievous side glance at the captain, "even for me."
Janeway glared but said nothing, opting to take a long sip of her water as the others didn't bother to try to hide their chuckles. "Wow, Captain," Tom said with a smirk, "it's only been, what? Two months? And she's already got you whipped."
"Just because I refuse to take that kind of bait doesn't mean I'm whipped, Tom," the captain replied back, eyes narrowing. "Besides, I'm not the one who literally cowered in fear when I realized I'd forgotten my anniversary and didn't have a way to do anything about it."
"Okay, first of all, you're not dating a half-Klingon," he shot back, turning to look at the half-Klingon in question and adding quickly, "which is not a complaint." Before B'elanna could respond, he turned his attention back the captain. "Second of all, you haven't had a year anniversary yet, so there's still time for you to forget, and I'm pretty sure the wrath of an ex-Borg drone would be far worse than the wrath of a half-Klingon."
"Not going to happen," Janeway stated matter of factly. "I put the date down on my calendar."
"See? If the captain can do that, why can't you?" B'elanna gave Tom a little shove in the arm. "It's not that hard."
The pilot groaned. "How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?"
"Ensign Kim," Seven gave Janeway a knowing look before continuing, "I understand you went on a date with Tal Celest recently. Did that go well?"
"You what?" Tom's eyes grew wide. "How come I didn't hear about this?"
"Because I didn't want to jinx it." Harry rubbed awkwardly at the back of his head. "She's a nice girl, you know, and she's kind of shy, so I didn't really want to do anything to scare her off." He scrunched his face up in thought for a second. "I thought we kept it quiet. Seven, how did you find out?"
"I was the next person to have the holodeck after the two of you." She took a bite of the green food, forced it down, and then pushed the rest to the side. "It looked as though it was going well."
"Yeah, I think it did." The young ensign deeply blushed. "I really like her."
"Well, maybe you two will hit if off; then you, too, can join the ranks of the whipped, just like us." Tom motioned between himself and the captain.
Janeway rolled her eyes. "You're really pushing for extra duty shifts in Sickbay, aren't you?"
"Well I, for one, am happy for you, Harry, and," B'elanna turned to the other women at the table, "I think it's safe for me to speak for the crew when I say we're all happy for the two of you, Captain. It's nice to see you happy, and it's nice to see Seven has a sense of humor."
"I prefer sarcastic wit," the younger woman dryly replied.
"Or," B'elanna said with an eye roll, "we could call you a sarcastic bitc…"
"OKAY," Tom cut in, "whatever you want to call it, it is nice to see everything seeming to work out for a change."
"Thank you," Seven replied with a nod of her head. "Perhaps, Katie, you were correct," she stated with a hint of despair as she stared at her food. "Coffee seems a better alternative to whatever this is as I don't believe the substances on our plates are actually consumable."
Janeway's posture straightened for a moment, her eyes darting around the others at the table who all seemed to have a stunned look in their eyes. Taking in a breath to calm down the surge of adrenaline that hit her the moment Seven called her by a version of her first name outside of closed quarters, she tried to reply normally, but her tensed voice cracked despite herself. "Well, that's a first."
"It is not the first time I've conceded you were correct regarding a particular subject, if that is what you're implying." Seven sighed and looked over to add to her thought, but she quickly realized something was wrong. Quirking an eyebrow, she asked in a hesitant voice, "Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing's wrong," Janeway answered in a subdued, gentle voice.
"You know," Tom pushed into the conversation in a friendly voice, "I call her," he nodded to the engineer next time him, "Lanna when no one's around. Sometimes, when we're in Engineering working on stuff together, I forget." He shrugged. "It happens when you start getting comfortable with your significant other."
Seven gave a small shake of her head. "I don't understand…" Stopping her eyes widened a touch, and her head snapped toward the captain. "I'm… sorry. I didn't mean to…"
"I know, and it's okay, Seven." Janeway reached out to place a hand on the younger woman's arm. "We're not on duty, and we're among friends." She gave a smiled that glowed with warmth and affection. "I don't mind."
Waving her hand in the air to dismiss any more talk of the subject, she turned her attention to her plate. "I do mind this green thing, whatever it is. I say we all pony up a few credits, and, between the five of us, we should have enough to replicate a breakfast with enough to feed all of us." She pushed the food around some more on her plate, wincing when what she thought were eggs began to shiver of their own accord.
"I think you should pay," Tom replied, crossing his arms and staring her down. "I know for a fact you have enough rations for it."
"I'm saving those for…" Janeway looked over at Seven and swallowed hard. "…something." Clearing her throat, she looked back to the others. "Well?"
"I'm in," B'elanna said, already starting to stand.
Harry nodded, following her lead. "Me, too."
"I would prefer the replicated food to whatever this is." Seven stood, picking up both of their plates. "I am in."
"Good, we can eat in our quarters… my quarters." Janeway winced. "We can eat in my quarters."
Smirks poorly hidden, the others nodded and watched as their captain led them out of the Mess Hall. As they stepped onto the turbolift, they began to laugh aloud at their captain's obvious flustered moment as Seven leaned into Janeway and said in an amused tone, "I prefer an emerald to a diamond solitaire."
A/N: Thanks for reading! I have a deadline to finish a writing thing, so I'm afraid the fan fic is once again going to go dormant for a bit, but I had fun with this, so I may do another J/7 when I pick up fanfic writing again. :-)