From her position on the balcony, Captain Kathryn Janeway could see quite a ways down the street in both directions. The view, she'd been told, couldn't be rivaled by any other hotel in the sector. Of course, the man who told her this worked for the hotel, and she suspected he'd say anything to secure her patronage. She found his intensity a little off-putting, but she did need a place to rest for the evening before Voyager returned to orbit. She'd spent the last few days bent at the waist, kowtowing to alien dignitaries, and she was more than ready to return to the ship that was her home.

The humanoid creatures that lived on this planet were enthusiastic about strangers, even as they refused to let Voyager remain within transporter range. Voyager's presence was a threat, they'd explained, and a mark that she didn't trust them. Had she not been so in need of dilithium, she wouldn't have wasted her time on first contact with the Konless and their protocol. The fact remained that Voyager was in need, and as captain, she had to do everything in her power to get her crew home; her duties did include brown-nosing when necessary, despite her disdain for the practice.

There were captains and admirals in the Alpha Quadrant who had risen through the ranks based on nothing else, but she held little for them but distaste. She had clawed her way to her position through hard work, good judgment, and long nights. Her work, she'd always said, spoke for itself, and she didn't see any reason to rub elbows with important people. If they weren't impressed with her impeccable record, then she didn't think a few disingenuous compliments would change their mind.

From her position on the balcony, she could hear her security details moving about in the room next door. Although the Konless wouldn't allow Voyager to remain nearby, they had grudgingly accepted Janeway's request that she be accompanied by her Chief of Security and an officer of his choosing. She disliked being babysat, but she understood how important her wellbeing was to Voyager's continuing journey.

These were a strange people, she thought, leaning against the railing and staring at the crowds below. Despite having advanced technology, they valued hard work nearly as much as she did and rarely did much else. Those who were successful enough spent their money on vacations that occurred entirely in their memories, which provided them a false sense of relaxation without forcing them to stop working for more than an afternoon.

In the hustle and bustle on the street, she spotted two male Konless arguing. From this distance, she couldn't fathom the topic, but she watched anyway with a morbid sort of curiosity. Her hosts had tacitly avoided talking about the planet's crime rate and justice system, so she wondered how violent its people really were. From the nervous looks the dignitaries had given one another, she was willing to bet there was more crime than they were comfortable admitting. They worked so hard, Janeway determined, that there had to be some sort of pressure-valve to off-set the stress.

When the arguing pair came to blows, her eyes widened. This was certainly none of her business, but she couldn't sit by and let another person get injured. As she'd already relieved Lt Commander Tuvok and Crewman Jarvis of their duties for the evening, she didn't bother alerting them to her movement-this wouldn't take long, she thought, and she knew how to handle herself. This wasn't worth interrupting their rest, especially because she bet the fight would be broken up before she reached the two males anyway.

She strode quickly through the hotel, nodding at other patrons who met her gaze but stopping for no one, and burst out onto the street. For a moment, she wasn't sure which direction to head in, as she'd gotten a bit turned around on the trip down from her room, but she oriented herself using the colorful storefronts that lined the street. She eased through the throngs of natives, headed for the alleyway where she'd last seen the arguers jabbing at each other, and reached her destination with only minimal jostling. Everyone else was in just as much a hurry as she was, she noted.

She peered into the darkness of the alley; at first, she saw nothing but what appeared to be a trash receptacle and some litter-but then, a body moved, and she heard quiet grunts. She lunged into the darkness and woke up with a gasp.

The Doctor peered down at her, and in her disoriented state, all she could think about was the way the overhead lights glinted off the bald circle atop his head. They could give him hair, if he wanted. The alteration to his program would be small, and he could have a wild mane of hair. She laughed at the thought but sobered as he pressed a hypospray to her neck. The soft exhale of air signaled the injection, and she gradually found thinking easier to accomplish.

"Glad to have you back with us, Captain."

"Doctor." She squeezed her eyes shut and brought a trembling hand to her forehead. "How did I get here?"

"Tuvok says he found you unconscious in the hotel lobby earlier this morning. When he couldn't rouse you, he had you beamed straight to Sick Bay." The Doctor leaned over her and flashed a light in her eyes. She pushed his hand away. "What's the last thing you recall?"

Her memory was hazy, she noted, which was likely a side effect of the drug the Doctor had administered. Focusing, she recalled an intimate moment with Seven of Nine. The blonde had stopped by her quarters late one night for a philosophical discussion about the human capacity for love that had transitioned all too quickly from theoretical to practical application, and the evening had ended in the sweetest kiss Janeway had ever experienced.

Her cheeks reddened at the memory, and she made a note to seek out the astrometrics officer later that afternoon.

"Captain?"

"Hm?"

"I asked you about the last thing you recalled?"

She swung her legs over the edge of the cot and stood. Her faculties were still a bit woozy, but she was functional enough. Patting the Doctor on the shoulder, she strode to the doorway. "I'm fine, Doctor."

"That doesn't answer my question."

"I'll come back if I feel any adverse effects."

The Doctor glowered at the door as it slid shut; apparently, the captain had a medical degree, he groused. Everyone else on Voyager seemed to as well, so he didn't know what function he was supposed to serve, as nobody needed his expertise when they could just listen to themselves.

0-0-0

Janeway found Seven regenerating in Cargo Bay Two. According to the computer, Seven's cycle was three minutes away from completion, so Janeway leaned against the nearest shelving unit and examined the fine lines of Seven's face. She'd been attracted to the other woman for years, but she'd fought against the distraction as long as she could. Now that they'd kissed, however, she wasn't going to let her fears or doubts cloud her judgment. She was just as human as most of her crew, and she deserved a break now and again to attend to her own emotional needs.

"Regeneration Cycle complete."

As Seven stepped off her dais, Janeway stood a bit straighter and moved into the light. "Hello, Seven."

The blonde was momentarily confused by Janeway's presence, but the emotion was quickly hidden by her normal blasé expression. She was aware that Janeway sometimes observed her while she regenerated, and she was secretly pleased by the older woman's undivided attention. Her imagination had been developing rapidly recently, and she'd had a few rudimentary fantasies about Janeway that bordered on explicit.

"Captain."

"I think you can call me Kathryn, given the circumstances."

Unaware that there were special circumstances, Seven lifted her optical implant in silent question. Janeway laughed, and suddenly, the compact redhead was in her personal space. She didn't mind the intrusion, as she had no concept of boundaries, but the proximity elevated her heart rate and caused the acid in her stomach to churn. According to her research, humans commonly thought of this response as having butterflies in their stomach-a metaphor she found vaguely repulsive.

"Very well, Kathryn."

Janeway smiled, further inciting the butterflies to flutter. Looking unaffected took a bit of work, but Seven managed. After all, Janeway was one of the only people who initiated physical contact with her, and the sole person whose contact was desired rather than tolerated. If Janeway wanted to be close to her, she would allow it.

"I was hoping to continue our discussion."

Seven felt as though she were missing something essential. "Oh?"

Janeway reached up and cupped her cheek, and Seven knew that she was missing something essential. That confusion escalated as Janeway pulled her closer and pressed their lips together. While Seven had not experienced many kisses, she was impressed by Janeway's delivery. The slighter woman seemed to know exactly what pleased her, which was alarming because she wasn't aware of what pleased her until Janeway provided.

"Join me for dinner at nineteen hundred hours?"

Once Seven agreed, Janeway left, and Seven stood motionless for several minutes. Something wasn't quite right, she realized. She tapped her comm badge.

"Seven to the Doctor."

"Go ahead, Seven."

"Was the Captain suffering any ill effects from her away mission?"

"I'm afraid I'm bound by doctor-patient confidentiality. Why?" He paused, and when she didn't respond, he asked, "Did you notice something strange?"

If she told the truth, and something was indeed wrong with Janeway, then that meant the kiss was a mistake. She didn't like that outcome. A good person would help uncover what was amiss-but she supposed she hadn't yet regained that part of her human morality. Deciding to hide her suspicions, she said, "No. I was merely curious as to her well being."

Once the transmission had ended, Seven turned her attention to what she should wear that evening. Based on Janeway's behavior, she assumed their interaction would be romantic in nature. She hadn't been on a date since the debacle with Lt. Chapman, but she'd been cultivating her social skills on the holodeck during her spare time. As long as she kept a cool head, she'd do much better wooing Janeway.

0-0-0

Janeway finished arranging her living quarters appropriately just as the chime on her door rang. Smoothing her off-duty outfit, she took a deep breath and called for her guest to enter. A moment later, Seven walked in, looking all at once confident and ill at ease. Only Seven could manage such a contradiction, she thought with a smirk.

"You're right on time."

"I do not make being late a habit."

"No, I suppose you don't." Janeway took her time examining Seven's outfit, which was a pleasing change of pace from the blonde's usual biosuits. Instead, Seven had donned a pair of slacks and a flattering navy sweater, and her hair fell in loose waves around her shoulders. The effect was more attractive than Janeway expected, and she wondered if her simple cardigan and jeans were as appealing to Seven.

As if answering her unspoken question, Seven murmured, "You look very nice, Kathryn."

Flushing with honest pleasure, Janeway escorted Seven to the table, which she'd scooted closer to the viewport. The streaking by of stars outside had always been her favorite image, and she wanted to share that with Seven, who likely wouldn't notice.

"Can I get you something to drink?"

Cognizant that synthehol was incompatible with her functioning but wishing for something to take the edge off, Seven requested green tea with honey and lemon; when Janeway handed her the drink, she took a long, slow sip to steady her nerves. She was Borg, she reminded herself. She ought to be capable of accomplishing anything, including not embarrassing herself in front of her captain-in front of her Kathryn.

"I replicated soup for an appetizer and then a breaded chicken dish for the main course. I hope that suits you."

Seven thought that just about anything would be appetizing at the moment but rather than stumble over her words, she nodded curtly and sat down. If she couldn't form cohesive sentences, then she wouldn't speak, she resolved. This lasted all of five minutes before Janeway asked her a question, and she was forced to respond.

"The latest data indicate that there are several hospitable planets within ten light years of Voyager's location. Two are inhabited, while the third hosts only the most basic of life forms. Despite the lack of sentience, the planet could serve as a viable shore leave option."

"Good." Janeway sipped her soup delicately and watched Seven through her eyelashes. "We're all in need of a break, wouldn't you agree?"

"I regenerated recently."

"Regenerating and relaxing are very different things."

"I see."

"When you regenerate, you're meeting a very basic need. When you relax, you're attending to a desire, rather than a necessity."

"Then by your definition, you were relaxing this afternoon after I finished regenerating."

Janeway's raspy laugh sent a shiver of anticipation down Seven's spine. "I suppose I was."

Seven's gut instinct was that relaxing was irrelevant, but she suspected that humans might have found the practice essential, as so much of the information she had already processed contained a number of references and depictions. Seven decided she would like to try and leaned forward.

"We could relax right now."

"What did you have in mind?"

"I desire another kiss."

"With anyone in particular?"

On the cusp of indignation, Seven spotted the playful glint in Janeway's eyes and huffed. She tilted her head up and responded, "I believe Commander Chakotay would be a sufficient partner."

"I don't think he's available at the moment."

"Do you have a suggestion?"

"Would I suffice instead?"

"A curious idea," Seven replied slowly, her eyes lingering on Janeway's lips. "One that warrants testing."

Soup long forgotten, Seven sat perfectly still while Janeway circumnavigated the table and came to stand between her knees. Janeway bent low, cupped her cheeks with warm hands, and connected their mouths. Seven dug her fingers into the arms of the chair, her Borg implant disfiguring the metal in an instant. She regretted the destruction, but she was lost in the softness of Janeway's lips-the kiss was firm and demanding, yet Seven didn't feel pressured to give more than she was comfortable. Indeed, Janeway waited until Seven's human hand slid onto her waist before she flicked her tongue out to taste Seven's lips.

Seven parted her lips willingly, but before Janeway's tongue could slip inside, a red-alert klaxon blared, followed almost immediately by a ping on Janeway's comm badge.

"Chakotay to Captain Janeway."

Janeway withdrew with a growl. "Yes?"

"There's an alien ship with weapons powered. They're demanding to speak with you."

"I'll be there in two minutes."

Seven sank back and let the disappointment fill her. That feeling dissipated when Janeway kissed her forehead and invited her back the following evening for what Janeway termed a 'do-over date.' She could be patient, she decided. If she were truly going to embark on a romantic relationship with the captain, then she had to get used to the ship's functions and needs interrupting their time together.

"I'll be in astrometrics if you need me."

Janeway grinned and waved her away. "I need you, Seven, but not in any formal capacity right now."

0-0-0

The following afternoon, Seven created an excuse to visit the Bridge during the alpha shift; thankfully, Ensign Kim was more than pleased when she asked for his opinion on some of the telemetry that probes had recently collected, and nobody batted an eye at her presence. The only one other than Kim who even seemed to notice that she was there was Janeway, who had perfected the art of concentrating on her console while keeping a close eye on her crewmen with her peripherals. If Seven weren't so focused on the other woman, she might not have been aware of the close scrutiny, but she could feel Janeway's gaze.

Kim flushed as he pointed to an equation on her padd. "I think that one should be a four."

Seven stared down at her work blankly. She ought to have paid closer attention, she realized; while she might plausibly need to be on the Bridge at this time, she didn't normally make such obvious mistakes. She cleared her throat, embarrassment painting the back of her neck a cherry red.

"That is correct."

"Easy mistake to make." His platitudes were meaningless.

She bristled at the implication that he knew better than she did. "Perhaps for others."

He lifted his hands defensively. "Right. Sorry."

Her next remark was cut off by the Doctor's request to see Janeway immediately. Seven disregarded her mistake as worries about Janeway flooded her mind. She could see nothing physically wrong with Janeway, which suggested that there was perhaps something wrong internally. She swallowed hard. Maybe the Doctor had a personal request, she thought, but she quickly disregarded what was most likely a delusion.

No, she realized, this was about the captain's abrupt change to their relationship. She had known something was different, but she had selfishly pursued the option that instantly gratified her. Now, Janeway would come to her senses and want nothing to do with her.

Curiosity overwhelming her good sense, she stalked away from the ensign and returned to astrometrics, where she used a bit of Borg ingenuity to hack and slash her way through the database to Janeway's medical records. What she discovered confirmed her fears; the Doctor had detected an alteration in Janeway's memory engrams. While she didn't know the full extent of what occurred, she did understand that Janeway had mistakenly approached her the day before. Heart heavy, she closed the files and destroyed any evidence of her tampering.

0-0-0

Janeway sat at her dining table and stared out at the stars flashing past. Although she'd asked Seven to arrive at eighteen-thirty for dinner, the blonde hadn't shown up promptly. Had she not been a bit distracted by the Doctor's news, she would have been more concerned by Seven's behavioral deviation. By nineteen hundred, however, she came to the conclusion that Seven wasn't going to show up at all.

She sighed. There was no way Seven knew about what had transpired that afternoon in Sick Bay, but for one reason or another, Seven was staying away from her. This avoidance had started only after the Doctor summoned her to Sick Bay, so Seven must have an inkling of what was going on, even if Janeway couldn't figure out the hows or whys.

"Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two."

Dinner could wait, she determined. She slid the main course back into the replicator for recycling and left her quarters. By the time she reached the cargo bay, she'd thought through a number of ways to approach Seven and dismissed them all.

"Captain." Seven spotted her the moment she entered, which came as no surprise. "I wasn't expecting you."

"No, I suppose not, as I was the one expecting you in my quarters."

Janeway took note of the way Seven clenched her jaw a moment before speaking.

"I was completing a report-"

"Could it have waited?" Seven was silent, so Janeway moved closer. "I only ask because I thought you enjoyed yourself last night-"

"Last night is irrelevant."

Sensing that she was stepping into an emotionally loaded area, Janeway considered her next statement carefully. "It wasn't irrelevant to me."

"Explain."

"How about you tell me your side first? Why doesn't it matter to you?"

"You were not yourself yesterday."

"Ah. So, you did find out."

Seven flushed. "I do not usually invade your privacy, if that is your concern."

"It wasn't, but thank you. What did you find out?"

"Your memories had been altered."

"Is that all?"

Seven frowned. "That is all the information I required. I did not inquire further."

"When I was on that planet, I interrupted a fight in an alleyway. To avoid detection and punishment, the criminal used advanced technology to cover up my recollection of the incident. Instead of remembering the fight, I remembered sharing an intimate moment with you."

"I see." Seven stood a little straighter. "Is this what the Doctor refers to as letting me down easy?"

Janeway's eyebrows inched up her forehead. "What do you mean?"

"When a person is not interested in a potential romantic partner, good manners require her to disappoint the other party gently."

"I know what the words mean, Seven. But why do you think I'm here to let you down?"

"You did not truly share an intimate moment with me. Without that altered engram, you would not have approached me on your return."

Janeway watched several expressions cross Seven's features until the blonde finally settled back on her usual blank mien. She supposed she could understand Seven's thought process, and she hoped she could get Seven to understand hers.

"The Konless use memory altering devices quite a bit on their planet. The primary purpose is wish fulfillment. Rather than vacationing or relaxing, a Konless would visit a doctor who would listen to the person's request and implant a desired memory. The technology is used to let people live out their fantasies." When Seven remained guarded, Janeway continued, "From what we can tell, the man I interrupted didn't have a lot of time to program the memory he implanted. Instead, he let my mind fill in the blank itself."

"I don't understand."

"I'm attracted to you, Seven, and when I was given the option of fulfilling a fantasy, my subconscious chose to explore time with you. I hadn't approached you prior to this event because I thought there was simply too much in the way of a personal relationship-my duty to the ship, for example. However, the false memory, which I accepted as real, allowed me to invite a closer relationship with you because I'd already taken the first step."

"But you had not actually done so-"

Janeway tutted at the interruption. "Perhaps not, but inviting you to dinner did happen, did it not?"

"It did."

"And you were open to my advances, were you not?"

"I was."

"Then dinner last night served the same purpose as the fake memory. I'm asking you on a date because I appreciate your company, not because a criminal's interference convinced me I should." Janeway extended her hand. "Will you join me? I can reprogram dinner."

Seven hesitated; Janeway's explanation made sense, but she'd spent all day persuading herself that Janeway regretted their interaction. However, she realized she could either live in her doubts or accept the reality Janeway was offering her. She took Janeway's hand and tugged the slighter woman to her side. This time, she didn't wait for Janeway to initiate intimacy: she closed the distance between them and captured Janeway's lips with her own.