Part 5


Stardate 52679, 2000 hours:
Female subject seems responsive to attentions of other male. Displays affection towards him.

Tom, B'Elanna, Harry and Commander Burke sat at a table together in the Mess Hall. However, B'Elanna and Burke were doing most of the talking. Tom looked decidedly uncomfortable, and Harry was concerned about his best friend, trying to offer moral support as best he could.

From her vantage point near the door, Seven observed with great interest. She had heard quite a bit about Commander Max Burke of the USS Equinox. Not only was he reputed to be an excellent leader, knowledgeable, efficient and charming... he was also B'Elanna's ex-boyfriend. And Tom didn't seem too happy about that.

Seven found this new development intriguing, as she hadn't had the opportunity to observe this kind of jealousy in her subject pair before.

Commander Burke seemed to be romantically interested in B'Elanna, and she wasn't discouraging his attentions. In fact, she was quite affectionate towards him.

No wonder Tom was worried.

Seven consulted her notes again.

"According to evolutionary theory, males are more likely to experience sexual jealousy, be concerned about issues of sexual fidelity, and engage in vigilance and mate guarding.

"This is illustrated quite obviously in the subjects. The male subject is constantly displaying his resources and talents for the female in an effort to retain her affections. With the appearance of a competing male, these actions have only increased."


Stardate 52681:
Male subject is especially attentive to female. Attempts to deflect competitor's tactics. Brings gifts, spends more time with her, etc. Female subject reassures male subject of her fidelity.

B'Elanna shook her head in disbelief as Tom presented her with an elaborate bouquet of flowers. "Not again." Lately this was getting to be a daily occurrence.

"You don't like them?" he asked, disappointed.

"Tom, this is the third time this week you've brought me flowers. And we haven't even been arguing!"

"What's wrong with that? Can't I bring you flowers when we're not arguing?"

She eyed him suspiciously. "It's not just the flowers, though. All this week you've been showing up at my doorstep, constantly bringing me little presents, suggesting that we spend more time together... and I want to know what's going on."

"Nothing's going on," he said, a little too nonchalantly. "I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you. That's all."

Her eyes narrowed as she deduced that his recent attentiveness had something to do with the appearance of Commander Max Burke in their lives...

"This has something to do with Max, doesn't it."

"No, of course not," he said immediately.

B'Elanna sighed, knowing that she had struck a nerve. "We've been over this already. I'm not the slightest bit interested in Max. You can stand down red alert."

"Yellow alert," he muttered under his breath.

But she heard anyway. She was amused but couldn't help thinking that if he was like this at "yellow alert," she'd hate to see what "red alert" was like.

"Tom... I appreciate the flowers. And all the other gifts. But it's really not necessary. You have nothing to worry about."

He looked at her doubtfully.

"I mean it," she said firmly.

"Okay," he said at last, wrapping his arms around her.

She hugged him back. "I love you," she whispered in his ear. "And don't you forget it."


Stardate 52691:
Equilibrium is restored.

"The USS Equinox has been destroyed, and peaceful relations with the aliens have been established. Many of the Equinox crew, including Captain Ransom and Commander Burke, have perished. The few remaining survivors have been brought aboard Voyager, but they have all been demoted to the rank of Crewman.

"I had hoped that our encounter with the Equinox would provide me with the opportunity to interact with others... perhaps make new friends.

"But... their behavior was unexpected. I have learned that humans are capable of tremendous atrocities... Humans are clever, resourceful... even dangerous. Especially under circumstances of extreme duress. No wonder they have resisted assimilation by the Borg again and again."

Seven paused as the turbolift doors opened on Deck Nine, then started walking towards Section 12.

"The experience has made me appreciate Voyager all the more."

As she finally arrived at the corridor in which B'Elanna resided, she stopped.

"Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres' relationship has stabilized once again. Subjects are currently –"

"Seven."

She jumped at the sound of Tuvok's voice. She hadn't heard him coming. Probably because he was conducting security checks.

"Commander." As casually as possible, she hid the PADD among the others in her hand.

But Tuvok noticed.

"It is presently 0400. Is there a reason for your presence in Deck Nine, Section 12 at this late hour?"

"I have completed my regeneration cycle. It would be inefficient to remain in Cargo Bay Two."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything. For a moment she thought that would be the end of it, until...

He gestured to the stack of PADDs in her hand. "You have collected a substantial amount of data. Surely you have enough information to formulate your conclusions and conclude the study."

She shook her head. "Despite my extensive research on Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres' romantic relationship, I am unable to formulate definitive conclusions. I find it nearly impossible to predict their behavior. Nor can I can always explain their behavior and motivations. Human mating behavior is complex... and it is not consistent with any known scientific theories."

"That is a valid conclusion in and of itself. In my experience, it is the *only* truly logical conclusion."

Seven frowned. She hadn't considered that possibility. "Commander... perhaps we could discuss this further."

"Certainly."


Stardate 52692, 0500 hours:

"Upon further analysis of my data, I have decided to terminate the study. Some things cannot be explained by science. Particularly the relationship that exists between Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres. Their behavior is often unpredictable, erratic and illogical.

"When I mentioned this finding to Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, he merely replied, 'In matters of the human heart, it is often wise to look beyond logic.'

"Perhaps he is right. Lieutenant Commander Tuvok is a paragon of logic, and he has worked closely with humans for several decades. If he has arrived at this conclusion, I am inclined to believe it accurate.

"I am forced to conclude that my study of this particular subject pair does not provide me with an adequate general understanding of love and human romantic involvement. This is because every relationship is completely unique due to individual differences.

"It will be necessary to observe others... though not necessarily in formal field study. As Tuvok and the Doctor have both pointed out, it may be more effective for me to observe *and* participate in social interaction."

Seven sighed, feeling a little disappointed. Scientific reductionism had failed her. She had thought it would all be so straightforward, that all she had to do was follow the Doctor's lesson plan, input the necessary variables and she would be successful... But it wasn't that simple.

"I now have a better appreciation for the complexity of human relationships, especially those of a romantic nature. The process of finding a compatible mate and establishing and maintaining a successful relationship requires considerably more energy and effort than I had previously thought. Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres should be commended for their ability to sustain a long-term commitment to one another."

Alone in the deserted Mess Hall, she stared at the piles of PADDs in front of her. The PADDs that chronicled Tom and B'Elanna's relationship over the last few months. She had been studying them diligently all that time, searching for examples of mating behavior and trying to categorize those according to a scientific theory of love and sexuality. However, she had discovered some flaws to this approach. The theory made sense for general trends in the population, but it didn't tell a whole lot about particular individuals. Which meant that she couldn't really predict or explain their behavior or motivations. She could speculate, but her approach didn't allow her to know for sure. It was a struggle to make sense of it all, as she could not detect a logical pattern to their interactions.

Somehow, Seven felt that she should have made far more progress understanding human romantic relationships. Instead, she was just as confused as ever. Maybe even more so.

"Seven?"

She looked up, only to see Harry Kim standing before her. Quickly gathering up her PADDS, she cleared away a place for him to sit down, hoping that he hadn't seen any of her data.

But he had.

He was shaking his head in disbelief. "You're still studying Tom and B'Elanna?"

"I have concluded the observational phase of my study," she said tightly. "I was merely analyzing the data further."

"You're serious about this, aren't you," he realized. "You really want to understand romantic relationships."

"Romantic relations appear to be an essential part of being human. I must understand them if I am ever to attain humanity."

Harry nodded.

"However... my capacity to achieve that goal is questionable," she finished.

"Why do you say that?"

"My attempts to develop a cohesive, comprehensive understanding of human mating behavior consistent with scientific theory and experimentation have been entirely unsuccessful. Since I have failed to formulate a logical analysis and explanation of this important aspect of humanity... it is unlikely that I will ever embark on a successful, meaningful long-term romantic relationship."

Harry laughed. "Seven, most of the time I don't understand romantic relationships either... but that never stopped me from getting involved and having a successful relationship with someone I cared about. That's part of the fun. The uncertainty... the mystery."

"I dislike uncertainty. It detracts from perfection."

"Well, you might have to face that being human and being perfect are incompatible goals. Not that you have to give up your goal of perfection entirely," he hastily added upon seeing her horrified expression. "Self-improvement is always an admirable and realistic objective, but being completely perfect might not be possible."

She was silent. This was disturbing, to say the least. Perfection had been her ultimate goal for as long as she could remember.

"All I'm trying to say is that people aren't perfect... and not everyone necessarily wants to be."

"I am aware of that. For that reason... I have been unable to find a suitable mate on board Voyager. Even if I had, it is doubtful that I would have been able to initiate and establish a successful relationship with that individual, if my 'date' with Lieutenant Chapman is any indication. I do not believe that I am capable of having a romantic relationship similar to that of Ensign Paris and Lieutenant Torres'."

"You're using Tom and B'Elanna as your role models?" No wonder you're confused." Harry couldn't help laughing again. "I don't think *anyone* has a relationship like theirs. They're in a class by themselves."

"But every relationship is unique," she pointed out, uncertain as to what he was trying to get at.

"Of course. That's why it's impossible to completely explain specific human interpersonal relations with scientific theory. Everyone has different tactics, strategies, needs and desires. Everyone is different."

"I am aware of that as well."

Sensing her frustration, Harry switched tactics.

"You must have learned something useful from your field study. I mean, it couldn't have been a complete waste of time, right?"

Seven pondered that briefly.

Had it been a complete waste of time and resources?

No, of course not.

She'd learned a great deal, even though it wasn't what she had been expecting.

"As long as you learned something, your study wasn't a failure," Harry concluded. "Don't get discouraged. Most people spend their entire lives trying to figure out what relationships are all about. It's not that unusual to be confused."

"Perhaps," she allowed.

"And I wouldn't be too concerned about the outcome of your date with Bill Chapman. Everyone has bad dates at one time or another. Sometimes it just doesn't work out."

"The dating process is inefficient."

"Maybe so, but it's effective. It takes time and effort to build any kind of relationship. Even friendship."

"What does friendship have to do with romantic involvement?"

"A lot. Tom and B'Elanna were friends for several years before they got together," Harry reminded her. "The best romantic relationships usually start with friendship."

Seven contemplated this for a moment. If that were true – and it certainly seemed likely –

then it would be better for her to master the art of friendship before attempting any more romantic relationships.

"And even if a friendship doesn't turn into a romantic relationship... it's still a very important part of human social interaction. You seem to understand friendship pretty well, Seven. I think you've made remarkable progress where human relationships are concerned."

"Progress is a relative term."

"Okay, okay... Let me just say that I consider you a friend. And I know that quite a few other people on board do too."

Friends.

He was right; friendship was important. She had almost forgotten that in her determined quest to understand romantic relationships.

She considered all the friendships that she had formed and developed since she came on board Voyager. Neelix, Naomi Wildman, the captain, Tuvok, the Doctor, Tom Paris, and of course Harry... She certainly had made a lot of progress in that department. And that realization made her feel much better.

Perhaps she needed to be more patient where romantic relationships were concerned. She hadn't even been disconnected from the Borg Collective for all that long, but she had already come a long way. It was important to remember that.

"I consider you a friend as well, Harry," she said at last. "Thank you for your encouragement."

He smiled. "Anytime, Seven. That's what friends are for."

She smiled back at him. Maybe she wasn't so hopeless after all. All she needed to do was give it some time... and she'd be able to figure it out eventually.

Especially with the help of her friends.

~The End~ :)