"Telemetry has returned from the probe," Seven reported. "The endpoint of the wormhole is not stable. We cannot maintain it as a viable transit corridor."
Scorpius sighed, visibly controlling his emotions. Seven could see the tension increase in his shoulders, his back and arms, and then release with the expulsion of breath. "Well, we didn't expect to be successful quite so soon," he said. "We'll need to do more research. Can the probe be retrieved?"
"I believe so. I am working on that now." She turned to Scorpius. "This would be more efficient if I had the opportunity to retrieve more data regarding wormholes from the Borg Collective. Such information was designated irrelevant for the current needs of the Borg and was not stored in my cortical implant; I have only index references to it."
"My understanding from your captain is that the Borg are far too dangerous to confront, no matter how valuable the information they have," he said. "Do you disagree?"
"No. The Borg are indeed too dangerous to confront. I am simply..." she considered. "Expressing frustration. I have addresses in Borg dataspace for the information we would require, but I don't have a link to the Collective... nor would I want one. And yet... it is very frustrating to know where the information is and be unable to retrieve it."
He smiled. "I'm very familiar with that sort of frustration, Seven. Believe me. But you cannot allow it to drive you to recklessness. Doing that is why I'm here."
"I do not intend to be driven to recklessness," Seven said. She thought of pointing out that her personal interest in wormholes was merely scientific-- it was for the sake of Captain Janeway that she worked. Although the Captain spoke as if all members of Voyager's collective shared her same desperate desire to return to the Alpha Quadrant, Seven had overheard B'Elanna Torres remarking that for the former Maquis there was hardly any point-- their cause was dead, their friends dead as well, and for all she knew they would face criminal charges on their return. Neelix had no need to travel to the Alpha Quadrant-- what was left of his roots were far behind him, 25,000 light years back into the Delta Quadrant, into territory even the Borg had little interest in. And she herself-- there was human family she had never known, never met to the best of her knowledge, in the Alpha Quadrant, but it was far from "home". Voyager was home.
She said nothing. Like Captain Janeway, Scorpius was driven by the desire to go home. His home, however, was nowhere near theirs. As nearly as Seven and Scorpius had been able to determine by consulting astrometrics charts, his home was probably in the Beta Quadrant, out on one of the edge spirals, 60,000 light years from Earth and 90,000 from here. At this distance, it was impossible to be sure-- stars could move quite a bit in 90,000 years, no faster-than-light radiation emitted this far and so subspace scanners were useless, no species known to either the Federation in general or Voyager in particular, including the Borg, had done a real-time survey of that region, and they were working from Scorpius' memory of star charts, which was amazingly detailed for a being without cybernetic memory enhancements but still not good enough to compensate for 90,000 years of drift and distance. The wormhole research was vitally important to him on a personal level-- it was not only his route home, but it had been the subject of his research before an accident with it had brought him here, and he believed it was vital to the salvation of his people. He was extremely driven to perfect it and return home to them.
This was a problem.
Scorpius had encountered humans before, in the person of one human-- an astrophysicist named John Crichton. He had told Captain Janeway that he and Crichton had been research partners, trying to develop wormhole technology for the salvation of his species and for Crichton's return home. The problem was that John Crichton had been lost at the very end of the 20th century, and history said nothing about his ever having returned home. Had he returned home, with alien technologies such as a microbial universal translator and a faster-than-light drive that worked on similar but not identical principles to warp, it would have drastically changed history. And wormholes had the ability to transit through time as well as space. Either Crichton had jumped 400 years into the future when he had gone into the space of the Sebaceans, the species Scorpius owed his allegiance to, or Scorpius had gone into the future when he'd come to the Delta Quadrant. And at this point there was no way to tell-- the stars were too far away and no real-time data existed to tell Voyager's crew whether species such as the Scarrans and Sebaceans still existed. Scorpius seemed to think that if he didn't get home with wormhole technology, the Sebaceans would be wiped out by his enemies the Scarrans-- but if he got home with wormhole technology he'd give it to Crichton, and if that was the past, and Crichton went home, then the timeline would be changed and Voyager would probably cease to exist.
Janeway had told Seven that she was to monitor Scorpius, assist him in his research, and attempt to determine whether his time period was now or the past. If he came from the past he couldn't be allowed to go home. The damage he could do to the timeline by sharing his information with his human research partner, who'd then use it to go home, would be enormous. Personally Seven wasn't sure why Janeway didn't just make him swear an oath not to share the information with Crichton, as she assessed Scorpius as a trustworthy person. But then, perhaps Janeway was biased. Or perhaps Seven herself was. She had to recognize that possibility.
She had begun to recognize that perhaps there was another problem, at least from a purely personal perspective.
Humans such as Tom Paris, Harry Kim and Captain Janeway, and other beings such as Neelix and the Doctor, had tried to tell Seven about the nature of human romantic feelings. She had considered such information irrelevant-- romantic feelings for a specific individual seemed pointless to her, unless one specifically intended to reproduce and even then there were more efficient ways to do it. Seven had always assumed that her Borg nature made her incapable of sexual and romantic feelings, a situation she considered to be probably for the best. But she had been made familiar enough with how the physiological symptoms of arousal, as viewed from the outside, translated into subjective feelings, to recognize the possibility that this was what she was feeling.
Scorpius was intelligent, perhaps the only person she had met as intelligent as herself. She respected Captain Janeway, but while the Captain had skills as a Captain that Seven would never have, as a scientist she was far from Seven's equal. B'Elanna Torres could have been Seven's equal if she would view the world with dispassion and carefully test her hypotheses instead of constantly jumping to wild conclusions and using her intuition to throw an answer together very rapidly-- a useful skill for a combat engineer, but not desirable in a scientist. Like herself and Tuvok, Scorpius believed in keeping his emotions under control as he worked, in carefully testing his hypotheses and not letting his enthusiasm or personal desires interfere with the search for the truth. Like Captain Janeway, he was incredibly strong-willed, his individualism, thoughts and personality not subject to change from outside pressure, a state Seven desperately aspired to. If it was not possible to be guided by a quadrillion voices working in concert-- and Seven no longer even wished such a thing, having discovered the pleasures of private thought and personal opinion-- then it would be better to think the correct things on one's own, without other people's desires impinging and changing what one would want. To do so, of course, it was necessary to be very intelligent, and knowledgeable, and to use reason rather than emotion in coming to one's decisions, or the personal ideas one would have would not be correct. Part of the reason she had centered her life around Janeway's desires was that the Captain had that ability-- to use reason and intellect in concert with will to derive results that were generally satisfactory and could be used to guide others-- and it made Janeway both a superior guide and a role model. Scorpius had shown himself to have the same ability.
Unlike Janeway, however, Scorpius looked like a Borg.
He wasn't Borg-- his cybernetic implants merely regulated his body temperature, and rather inefficiently at that. But he looked far more like Seven's lifelong image of physical perfection than any of the soft, weak, pink or brown bodies on Voyager. His skin was naturally the stark white of nanites under the epidermis, he wore black full-body armor of a similar material to Borg armor, he had physical strength that even Tuvok could not match and that might be a match for Borg enhancements, and he was enhanced with an implant, albeit one that merely performed a function humans could perform naturally and more efficiently. The combination of Borg-like visual appearance, high intellect and strong will made her think of the manifestation, the Queen. The only other person who had made her think of the Queen was Janeway... and Janeway did not look Borg. She could not help looking soft and weak and imperfect, and no matter how Seven tried to convince herself that such imperfection was actually aesthetically preferable to Borg starkness, she could not. In her mind, perfection was black body armor and white skin and physical strength and visible cybernetic enhancement. She was aware that in fact Scorpius' body was imperfect, or he would not need his regulatory implant, but it didn't appear to be a perception that was amenable to reason. He looked closer to perfect than Janeway, or any other human, could. And it seemed, quite unexpectedly, that that mattered to her, in the way her own physical appearance seemed to matter so much to so many male humanoids, and some female ones. As she appeared to be their ideal of physical perfection in a female, Scorpius appeared to be her ideal of physical perfection in a humanoid. Unlike the males who considered her physically perfect and then were apparently repulsed by the imperfections in her human personality, however, Seven saw Scorpius' personality as adding to his perfection.
Her heart beat faster when she saw him, when he spoke to her, when she thought about spending time with him. She felt her galvanic skin response markedly increase when his gloved hand touched her, on the bare hand or the clothed arm or shoulder, to the point where she was forced to actively regulate herself to avoid jumping from the shock. Internal sensors told her that her pupils dilated when he was in her field of vision, and her nanites worked to govern her breathing to keep it even. These were the symptoms of arousal, as observable from the outside. From the inside she felt as if she had been hooked in to a high-energy source-- she felt warmer than usual, and unregulated, as if she were burning that energy faster than normal. Under most circumstances such a feeling would be accompanied by fear, because it would only occur in combat. This was a little frightening because of its strangeness, but it was not like combat, not like life-threatening danger. It was also, despite its strangeness and the discomfort of it, a feeling she found herself craving.
The question was, what to do about it? If their research was successful, either Scorpius would return to his home in the Beta Quadrant and she would go to Earth with Voyager and Janeway, or she would have to betray Scorpius and prevent him from returning, in order to protect the timeline. This did not seem like an auspicious basis for any sort of relationship. She didn't think she could consult either Janeway or the Doctor on this matter; as Janeway refrained from romantic involvement and the Doctor was neither female, as she was, nor actually subject to the emotions of human physiology, they didn't seem to be knowledgeable guides. In fact there was only one person Seven knew reasonably well who was both female and experienced at romantic involvement, and Torres was not exactly a friend. Still, Torres had worked with both her and Scorpius on the wormhole project, and Seven needed advice. She could choose simply not to pursue these sensations in any way, on the grounds that she was not knowledgeable in these matters, but she would never acquire any knowledge if she failed to pursue that which she knew nothing about.
"I have retrieved the probe. The data is downloading now. It will take two point six hours to fully index and analyze after downloading."
He nodded. "We had best take a break until tomorrow, then. I'll review the data in my room once the download is available. Will you be regenerating?"
"I will not need to regenerate for another twenty-three hours, but I do have other duties to complete."
"Very well. I'll see you in the morning, then, Seven. Perhaps fortune will smile on us then."
There was nothing more to be done here. Seven headed for Engineering. She did, in fact, have other duties... but she also needed to talk to Torres.
"A personal matter?" Torres removed her head from the manifold tubing she had been looking inside, and looked at Seven hard. "What kind of personal matter?"
"I require advice."
"You go to Captain Janeway for advice. Or Tuvok. Or the Doctor. You come to me when you want to whine about inefficient practices in Engineering."
"I am not pursuing the matter of increasing efficiency in Engineering right now. And the subject I wish to discuss is one I do not know if Captain Janeway has personal experience with. I consider it doubtful that the Doctor does, and I know you do."
"What about Tuvok?"
"Vulcans do not conduct romantic involvements as humans do, and biologically I am human."
Torres' jaw dropped. Up until now Seven had thought that merely a metaphoric phrase, but there was no better way to describe the way the engineer's mouth suddenly went slack, gaping open. "You want to ask me about romance?"
"You have been successfully romantically involved for some time."
"For loose definitions of 'successful', I guess."
"If you and Tom Paris continue to be involved and have not ended your relationship, that would be defined as 'successful.'"
"Yeah, I guess if you're defining it that way. What do you want to know?"
"I am attempting to determine if it would be appropriate to initiate a romantic involvement with Scorpius."
Torres blinked. "Why would you want to?"
"I don't understand the context of the question. If I am to become human, surely I should at some point pursue romantic relationships."
"Well, yes, of course, but why him?"
Seven raised her eyebrow the way she'd seen Tuvok do. "I find him attractive. Is another reason required?"
"You think he's attractive?" Torres shook her head. "Your taste in men is terrible, Seven."
"I don't expect you to share my assessment. I believe the man you have selected looks weak and sickly, and frequently acts as if he were a buffoon, but I don't question your taste in men. What is the point of our individuality if we cannot have differing personal tastes?"
Torres was obviously angry. Seven didn't understand why, but then, Seven never understood Torres. "Here's a piece of advice for free, Seven. If you want advice on your love life from a woman, insulting her husband is maybe not the best way to go about getting it."
"I did not insult your husband. I explained that he does not suit my tastes, but that this does not lead me to insult you and your taste in men."
"Whatever." Torres shook her head. "Okay. You think Scorpius is attractive. Do you know if he's interested in you?"
"No, I don't. He does react to me, but it is a far less dramatic or severe reaction than other men exhibit toward me. This may be because he is emotionally more controlled than they are, or it may be that he is less interested than they are."
"He's not going to be with us for the long term, you know. You're not going to get anything long lasting out of this, if you do go after it."
"I understand this. What I don't know is whether or not that presents a problem. I have seen others on this ship form short-term liaisons with citizens of other planets."
"It depends on you and what you want, Seven. Do you want to get involved with a guy who isn't aboard Voyager for the long term? Someone who might just go back home, and then you'd never see him again?"
"It's likely that if we find a way to send Scorpius home, we would also be returning Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant. I think that if such a drastic change were to occur, it might be preferable to end all romantic involvements first in any case, to avoid complications."
"You wouldn't want to have someone by your side when we get back? Someone to help you adjust? Deal with all the bull we're going to have to put up with when we get back?"
"I already have several people I can turn to for guidance. I was unaware that was a component of a romantic relationship."
"It can be. If a man loves you, and you love him, you stand beside each other. You're supposed to help each other with your problems. In theory."
"But it is different in practice?"
"It can be. You just-- sometimes guys don't understand you well enough to be of any help. And sometimes you need to deal with things on your own."
"So it isn't necessary for me to expect guidance from a romantic partner."
"Well, no." Torres sighed. "Look, Seven, you don't know anything about this guy except what he's told us. He comes from a part of the galaxy we've never explored, we don't know anything about his species, or his culture--"
"I know a great deal of data about over eight thousand different species and cultures," Seven said. "We have discovered very few life forms, aboard Voyager, that were new to me. I am interested in exploring the universe in order to learn what I do not already know, not to remain circumscribed by what information I already possess."
"It sounds like you've already made up your mind."
"What is the most negative possible outcome of pursuing an involvement?"
Torres shrugged. "If he's a real psycho he might get off from breaking your neck."
"I consider that highly unlikely."
"Then the worst thing that's likely to happen is that you could get your heart broken. He could reject you, or he could accept you and then turn out to be bad for you, or he could accept you and then you'd have to split up when he goes home."
"I will not suffer negatively if he rejects me. His personal taste is not necessarily a reflection of my worth. As for the other outcomes, will the probabilities change if I accept from the beginning that this would be unlikely to be a permanent liaison?"
"If you can keep it that way, yeah, it might help."
"Then I believe I should at least investigate the possibilities."
"Sure. You do that. Now let me get back to work."
Seven considered. At the moment neither she nor Torres formally had duty, or she would never have approached Torres with the question. Both women tended to work long hours, far past their standard shifts, but it wasn't required. "Is there any critical matter in Engineering you need me to attend to?"
"No, there's nothing I need you to attend to. I'm perfectly competent to handle things here. Why? You wanna go off duty and see if Scorpius is free for dinner?"
"Would that be the most effective way of initiating an involvement?"
"From all I hear, marching up to men and saying 'We can copulate now if you want' hasn't worked so well for you in the past."
Seven felt a sense of increased heat for a moment before her nanites compensated. She knew enough now to know that her approach to Harry Kim had not only been inappropriate, but that her interest was supposed to be as important in a romantic liaison as the male's, and therefore her lack of such interest in Kim should have prevented her from making that approach.
"I am aware of that. I'm asking what would be an effective tactic, not whether ones I have used in the past are ineffective."
"I don't know if it would work, but you could try it."
"Very well. I will."
"Fine! Now go away and let me work!"
Seven did so.
After some internal debate, she came to the conclusion that if she were going to follow this plan, she may as well do so right away. Scorpius had indicated that he would be awake for some time, despite the hour, and if one had decided on a course of action it seemed pointless to delay it.
She rang the chime to his quarters.
The room was extraordinarily cold, though within the acceptable range for living quarters' temperatures aboard a starship with a primarily human crew. Seven's nanites compensated to increase her body heat. This, plus the arousal she was already feeling and the nervousness and excitement generated by the thought of her plan, hit her with a metabolic rush that made her feel very much as if she were in the midst of battle, except for the lack of imminent potential death. "What brings you here, Seven?"
Now that it had come to it, she was tongue-tied. She was supposed to ask him to dinner, but if he had already eaten he would logically refuse, and then she would have to proceed to another overture. Harry Kim was human, and for all his high intelligence fairly emotional and illogical, as were most humans. Scorpius was emotional, but did not let that rule him. Surely he would appreciate efficiency. "I have... a question... to ask of you."
"By all means, go ahead."
Despite the compensation of her nanites, she felt a lack of oxygen, a tightness in her chest. Seven took a deep breath. "I do not know if you are aware of my history."
"Captain Janeway told me that you formerly belonged to the Borg, a little over two cycles ago, and that you were originally born human. Is there something else I need to know?"
"I am... inexperienced... in matters of... romantic interrelationships. Or matters... of sexual desire. I am... I have discovered I am..." She took another deep breath. "I have come to ask if you would teach me."
He studied her intently for several moments. The sensation of heat, accompanying both embarrassment and excitement, increased beyond the nanites' ability to quickly compensate. "That is... an intriguing proposition. I do wonder, however, why you are turning to me."
She wondered why it seemed so impossible for everyone to imagine her seeking a romantic involvement with Scorpius. First Torres, and now Scorpius himself. "I find you attractive."
"I don't think most humans do."
"I am not merely human. I am also Borg."
"Ah, yes." The last word came out almost as a hiss, though it did not seem to be caused by distress. He stood up, circling around her slowly as she remained in place. "I hadn't thought what that would be like for you. They made you Borg as a child, didn't they?"
"I knew that Lieutenant Torres was a hybrid, like myself, but it does not seem to have a great deal of impact on her life. You, though..." He shook his head. "By the technical definition you are not a hybrid, but in the ways that matter, you are. And you, too, work to protect the people that don't understand you from the people who raised and abused you, who would destroy everything if they are not stopped. I hadn't considered it, but you and I have much in common." He came next to her, standing slightly behind her. "Do you feel ambivalent at your superiority to the humans, Seven? You have many gifts they don't share, and yet they look down on you for the signs of being Borg that you still show."
"I don't feel ambivalent at being superior. To be Borg is to seek perfection. I no longer believe that a lack of individuality is perfection, and I believe that I should explore what my heritage as a human has to offer my quest. But when I observe that humans look down on me for being superior to them, I do not wish I were not superior. I wish..." She hesitated. "I wish they could be like me. I would rather raise them to my level than be lowered to theirs."
"I think perhaps that's wise. It is a question I struggle with, on occasion. In the end it is foolish to want to be something one is not, and yet..." He put hands on her shoulders. "Humans and Sebaceans look very similar. Not identical to my eyes, but similar. I am Sebacean enough to find you attractive and Peacekeeper enough to question why you would want an obvious alien, but that's not the way of your Federation, is it? You do desire what's different. You have no notions of... purity."
"Humans are a highly xenogamous race," Seven admitted. "And while Borg do not experience sexual attraction, Borg are fascinated by what is different and unknown, and seek to bring it into their Collective to share in its distinctive strengths." She looked up at him, twisting her head. "I think it may be true, as you say, that few humans find you attractive. You look rather similar to a Borg. As you say of Sebaceans and humans, not identical. But similar enough that you resemble what all my life I considered physical perfection, while obviously displaying mental traits I have come to find superior to Borg collectivism. Thus you are highly attractive to me."
He smiled. "Only you, Seven, could be quite so... dispassionate... in describing your sexual tastes. It makes you seem almost like a Peacekeeper. Tell me-- I understand that human custom is for long-term liaisons with great emotional weight, rather than mere release of tension. I do not come from the world you're returning to, and if we're successful, we will be going our separate ways. Are you different from humans in this, that that doesn't matter to you?"
"I believe the human expression is to 'see where this goes'. I am not seeking a long-term liaison. I don't know enough about sex and romance to know what I would want in a long-term liaison. I want to learn more about human sexuality, and you are the first person I've met that I seem to actually be interested in learning from."
"Well." He released her and sat down again. "I am certainly... amenable. But there are certain things you must know. I am not... anatomically... similar to a Sebacean male... or a human one for that matter. I can teach you many pleasures, but not the actual act of genital coitus. Does that change your desire?"
Actually, it heightened it. It aroused her curiosity, and attracted both her human xenogamy and her Borg thirst for knowledge of the alien. "No. I am still interested."
"Then come sit next to me." She complied. He leaned into her ear. "Do you have an objection to taking your first lesson now?"
The nanites could not quite smooth out her breathing completely. "No. In fact I would commend your efficiency if we began without delay."
His arm circled her, pulling her close. He pressed his face into her hair, then slid down to her neck. She could feel his breath on her skin, small blasts of hot air in the chill of the room. It made her shiver, which struck her as odd. Wasn't shivering a physiological reaction to cold, not heat? And shouldn't her nanites make either reaction unnecessary?
She felt his lips on her neck, felt the flick of a tongue, light wet jabs against her flesh. The hand that wasn't holding her traced her facial implant, a finger swirling around her temple, down her jaw line, across her cheek to her nose and then around the orbits of her eyes. This was unusual. She had studied human copulatory practices, and they seemed to rarely involve so many regions of the face, concentrating usually on neck and lips alone. He had warned her that his practices were not normal for a humanoid. She wondered why humanoids didn't typically engage in this practice; her face felt very sensitive, a pleasurable light burning wherever his gloved fingers touched. If it was enjoyable for humanoids to be touched this way, why didn't they usually do it? Or was she misinformed?
Seven tried to mimic with her own hand what Scorpius was doing with his. His hand reached and caught hers as she neared his implant. "Where I am covered in my protective suit, I have very little sensation, and the implant is mildly painful. What I am showing you now is for your benefit."
"I would like to know how to benefit you as well."
"While I appreciate that desire, you did come to me for lessons. I am rather unusual-- knowledge of what to do for me won't necessarily generalize to others. It makes more sense to begin with you."
"That is acceptable. But you will show me later what you require."
"If you insist," he said, sounding amused.
He resumed doing what he had been doing, sensually tracing her entire face. When he brushed a finger over her lips, she wondered if his requirements for temperature regulation were so severe he could not take the gloves off. She turned on the bed to face him, pulling her legs up onto the bed and facing her entire body toward him. This, however, had the unintended side effect of separating them, since she was not flexible enough to fold her legs in such a way that they didn't lay between the two of them. With a sound that was almost a growl, Scorpius grabbed her by the arms and lifted her up and onto his lap, almost effortlessly despite the extra weight her implants gave her. She could feel the intense heat of his body even through the cooling suit, warming her back. His hands roved over her front, tracing circles around her breasts, across her belly and sides, along her thighs and hips.
"You are avoiding the best-known human erogenous zones," she pointed out.
"That's correct. Do you know why?" His lips were next to her ear, his tone soft, words coming out as puffs of warm air against the side of her face.
"The regions of the body that are most stimulating in themselves do not heighten arousal so much as they satisfy it. Sex is the satisfaction of a need, and the more one needs, the more pleasurable the satisfaction is. Peacekeepers believe in sex primarily to satisfy the need as quickly and efficiently as possible so as to keep it from distracting them." His hands continued to roam over her body, alternating randomly between light finger strokes and full hand massages. "A useful enough philosophy, but only if one ignores the fact that above all, sex is supposed to be about pleasure. Quickly satisfying one's desire is not nearly as pleasurable as heightening it until the need becomes desperate, and only then allowing satisfaction."
"I see." Her voice was almost ragged. Her nanites were barely compensating for what these sensations were doing to her breathing at all. "Is that why we have not yet removed our clothing?"
"I hadn't intended to remove our clothing. What you're wearing will protect you against the cold I require to complete this, and seems to be thin enough to afford me as much access as I need." Gently, briefly, his hand brushed between her legs before sliding back up to stroke her hips. She gasped. "As for me, my biology wars with itself... the cold I need to maintain an acceptable brain temperature is painful to my skin, so generally I never remove my suit unless I have water to assist me in temperature control."
"Is it possible to engage in sex without removing any clothing? I thought direct contact was required."
"If sex is defined as pleasurable activity that results in orgasm, then no, direct contact is not required. As I said earlier, I cannot engage in coitus with a Sebacean female, and the compatibility of human males and Sebacean females leads me to assume human females are much the same in design."
"Yes, I remember."
"Have you changed your mind?" His hands left her body.
She shook her head. "No. You may resume." Her attempt to maintain her usual calm in her voice was belied by the heavy breathing she could not seem to regulate properly.
She had little sense of the passage of time, of anything but the way his hands and lips and breath moved over her, making her almost dazed with sensation. By the time his hand finally came to rest between her legs and stayed there, she felt that she had reached that point he'd referred to before, the point of desperate need. What she needed, she wasn't clear on, except that what he was doing was it. His thumb pressed against her clitoris, through her tight bodysuit, and drew it in tiny circles of alternating pressure; the rest of his hand was stroking her external genitalia, her thighs and the lower part of her buttocks. Through the daze of pleasure she registered that she was actually sitting on his hand, that he was lifting her so her entire weight came down on that hand. His other arm was playing with her breasts, occasionally pushing her back against him, occasionally stroking her belly or neck. She felt that she required the support of his body behind her, or she would fall, lacking strength and focus to keep herself upright. She began rocking back and forth very slightly, almost unconsciously, as if a subroutine she had no access to had taken control of her body and only through effort of will could she override it. Seven felt acutely as if she were barely solid, as if she required only a small amount more of heat and pressure to liquefy, and that she wanted that final melting more than anything.
And then the pleasure peaked and held. Seven whimpered, feeling herself on some sort of edge. A state change, only moments away. She just had to-- just needed-- just a little more--
She felt the moment of melting as an acute sweetness between her legs, spilling back into her body and flowing through every part of her. Suddenly exhausted, she lay back against Scorpius, slumped in his arms. It really did feel as if she had turned to liquid. She couldn't quite muster enough focus to move any muscle; it felt as if she no longer had bones.
There was no sound in the room but the two of them breathing-- hers evening out, his more ragged than she remembered from the last time she'd been in any condition to notice. She tilted her head up and back to look at him sidelong. "I believe it is your turn now."
"I'm in no great hurry." He smiled. "You were quite spectacular to watch, my dear. Especially since you were so restrained. That's quite unique."
"Most people vocalize considerably more than you did, and move their bodies more. It's a signal to indicate the intensity of their pleasure to their partner. With another partner you might do better to adopt those signals. However, I don't need them-- I can see your pleasure in your heat aura, and the contrast between the restraint in your body and the ecstasy you display in your aura... intrigues me."
"As a matter of curiosity, or do you mean that you find it arousing?"
He laughed lightly. "One can't even get away with euphemisms with you, Seven. I mean that I found it very arousing. As I said, however, I'm in no hurry. There's no need for you to do anything for me until you're ready."
She sat up and then stood, extricating herself from him. "I'm ready now. What do you want me to do?"
He removed one of his gloves and extended his hand toward her. "The skin is rarely exposed, and very sensitive to touch as a result."
Seven took that as an invitation to stroke it, gently. The skin was white and supple, covered with tiny transparent scales. Scorpius let his head loll back, breath escaping him as a sigh, as she traced her index finger along the back of his hand. Remembering how his breath and lips had felt on her neck, she took the hand in hers and lifted it to her mouth, where she pressed her lips to it. He turned the hand, letting the palm face her mouth, and she kissed that, trying to remember how the information she'd studied on various species' courtship rituals discussed performing a kiss.
"Now," he said softly. "Take a finger-- or two-- into your mouth and suck on them."
She did so, and was gratified to see him respond-- she couldn't read heat auras as he could, but he was not nearly so quiet and still as she'd been. It reinforced what he'd said before that a partner needed to receive signals from the other to be sure that the other was experiencing pleasure. Experimentally she ran her tongue along the fleshy part of his fingertip. He gasped. She did it again.
"Come here," he said, his voice a deep growl she hadn't expected. Usually his voice deepened when he was angry, but she could tell he wasn't angry now. He reached for her, pulling her close in, and she went, pressing herself against him as he sat on the bed. His finger was still in her mouth. She remembered what he'd said about exposed skin being sensitive, and tried stroking his face, the parts exposed by his mask. "Ah. Yessss."
He removed his finger from her mouth and put both hands on her arms, pulling her bodily onto him, falling backward onto the bed. She was pressed up against him so tightly it was almost uncomfortable. Seven squirmed slightly to get to a more comfortable position, and Scorpius hissed with pleasure, eyes unfocused. "Oh. Seven. Do that again."
Of course. The cooling suit would block mild sensations of any kind-- he needed pressure, and he needed it applied to as much of his body as she could reach. "Position me and tell me how to move."
"Put one leg between mine-- yes, yes, that's right. Slide your entire body up and down me, bearing down as much as you can as the majority of your weight comes onto me."
She did so. At first she was cautious-- where her leg was, it would be too easy to accidentally lean her knee on his groin, and she knew that would cause a human male pain. Scorpius didn't seem to think it was a problem, though-- he arched his back under her, rocked his hips up to meet her leg. The sight of such a controlled man lost in pleasure she was causing was arousing. Seven clamped her legs down on Scorpius', finding that the sliding motion she was performing was pleasant for her as well when she did it right. In doing so she put more pressure on his groin, but he still didn't seem to mind.
"Bite me," he growled. "On the neck."
"That seems rather Klingon," she observed.
"I don't care who else does it. I need that."
She complied. The suit tasted strange, more organic than a Borg exoskeleton.
"Harder," he gasped.
"It doesn't hurt you?"
"Not when I'm this aroused, no." He lifted his head slightly. "It isn't pain I enjoy. It's sensation. Increase arousal to a certain point and almost all sensation becomes pleasurable. The more intense, the greater the pleasure. I only need you to make me feel."
Remembering what she had read of human mating behavior, she kissed his lips, pressing against them hard, letting her tongue slip out and run along them as she had done with his finger. Scorpius moaned, and flipped them over suddenly, so she was pinned under him. He kissed her back, even more ferociously than she had done to him, his tongue entering her mouth. She tasted salt. His body writhed on top of hers, and since he'd said he wanted sensation, she used all of her somewhat augmented strength to pull his bucking hips down against her own. This seemed to excite him even more. His hips thrashed as if trying to escape her grip, but since she expected he would tell her if he actually wanted her to release him, she maintained her hold. The pressure of his body against her groin and all over her was pleasurably exciting. He lifted his face from hers, no longer kissing her, his eyes rolled back in his head and lost. She rocked her own torso up from the grip she held on his hips so that she could reach his neck, and bit him, hard, as he'd asked before.
He cried out, a sound almost more like an animal roar than a human cry, his spine stiffening. Seven fell back against the bed as Scorpius' movements became weaker, more erratic, aftershocks rather than the purposeful motion of before. He rolled off her, and his implant activated, the cooling rod popping out of his head, bright red.
Seven could see where the case of cooling rods was. Before he could ask, she was off the bed and reaching for the case. Carefully she removed the heated rod and replaced it with a freshly chilled one. He grimaced as the implant whirred back into his head. She wondered how his brain was shaped, that his skull could accommodate such an implant.
"Thank you," he said. "That was quite pleasant."
"Does it hurt when your implant activates?"
"Implant... activates? Oh, I see. When the cooling rod needs to be exchanged?"
"It is... not exactly painful. Not a sensation I'd seek if it weren't necessary, but I've grown used to it." He sat up on the bed and leaned back against the wall. "I was pleased to be able to finish before overheating, at least. On occasion the heat overwhelms me before the pleasure does."
"Can you never remove your cooling suit? You seem to crave sensation so badly, and yet you have said it prevents you from feeling a great deal. I have worn Borg body armor; I doubt it is the same thing but I do know how much such things impair physical sensation."
"I crave sensation precisely because it's dulled, in the suit. Without it, I'd be extremely sensitive." He looked at her. "I can take off the cooling suit in a well-regulated full-body bath. There isn't one in this room, unfortunately."
"No. For such a thing we would require the holodeck."
His eyebrows went up. "Really. My people don't have luxuries like your holodeck; the thought hadn't occurred to me. If you found tonight to your liking, perhaps we could experiment with that, another day."
"I... did. I..." She felt a sense of closeness to him, a feeling she hadn't had at this intensity since leaving the Collective, and it was nonsense, wasn't it? She had no link with him, she couldn't hear his voice in her mind, and yet she felt a bond, a sense that his well-being was her own.
Captain Janeway would be furious. "I have something I must tell you. About the wormhole research."
"Is this the time?" he asked, somewhat casually. He didn't seem to realize how serious she was being.
"Scorpius, I have been instructed to find out by whatever means I can whether you come from the present or the past. And if the wormhole you came through extends back to the past, I am not permitted to let you go home." She took a deep breath. "After... what we have shared tonight... I felt I needed to tell you."
"Because... I do not understand it, but I feel a sense of closeness to you, as if you and I were part of the same Collective."
"That's certainly gratifying, and I thank you for it. But I meant 'why can't you let me go home?' I understand you would not wish to alter time, but it doesn't appear that your species has had any contact with mine in 400 years, so I'm not sure why such a measure would be needed to protect your timeline."
"John Crichton." At his look of incomprehension she elaborated. "You have said he is your research partner, and he seeks wormholes so that he can return home. History tells us that he never did. If Crichton were to return to Earth in the late 20th or early 21st century with the technologies of your people, it would transform Earth's history so dramatically that it could not help but affect Voyager's existence."
"Oh!" He laughed. "Oh, you're afraid I'll share my information with Crichton, and he'll use it to go back to Earth!" Scorpius shook his head. "Crichton and I have had a rather serious falling out. In fact the last time we met he tried to kill me. So I don't feel a great need to share any knowledge I've acquired with him, no."
Seven blinked. "You did not tell Captain Janeway about your falling out with Commander Crichton."
"No, I didn't. All I knew of her was that she was a member of Crichton's species. Advertising that Crichton is no longer any friend to me didn't seem as if it would win her friendship quickly. Whereas you have shown me great loyalty in telling me something you were undoubtedly ordered to keep secret, so I don't think I need fear that you'll turn on me because of my misunderstandings with a single human."
Seven stood up. "I need to give this information to the Captain. It must change how she views our research."
"Positively or negatively?"
"I mean positively. If you will not share the information with John Crichton, it will not affect our timeline one way or another, and so there is no need to try to keep it from you."
"You're right, of course. You do need to tell your Captain. If you prefer, I will tell her directly, so we needn't reveal that you disobeyed her to tell me what she had ordered." He lay back down on the bed. "It doesn't have to be this moment, however." He made a "come here" gesture and patted the bed.
Seven sat down again. "It can wait until morning... however, I am unclear as to what alternative you're proposing."
Scorpius smiled wryly. "Not more sex, not at the moment. Perhaps later if we're inclined. But we needn't be in a rush to depart. You said you felt a sense of closeness with me; well, the appropriate thing to do with such feelings is to-- be close. In proximity, at least, if nothing else."
She nodded. "Very well." It wasn't very comfortable to be sitting; she tried laying flat on the bed. That was better.
"I don't understand how the mere act of sharing physical pleasure could have led me to feel that you and I have a connection," she admitted.
Scorpius looked away from her. "If you're talking about 'love'... or anything similar... I confess, I don't understand it either."
"Have you ever felt this way?" Do you feel what I do now?
"Occasionally. It never ended well." He looked down at her. "Seven, I am deeply impressed at your honesty, and I've enjoyed our time together. But we will, eventually, succeed in our research, and when we do, we will go separate ways and never meet again. It isn't wise to let ourselves become too emotionally involved with each other."
"Let us enjoy what time we do have together, and not concern ourselves overly with ideas of love and close connections. Do you agree?"
"Yes." In principle. She wondered if he could tell that it was a half truth. She knew that what he said was a good idea, and agreed that it was what they should do. She simply didn't know how to do it. Seven hadn't expected to feel a greater closeness with Scorpius after sex, and probably wouldn't have chosen to do this if she had. It was a good thing they could avoid misunderstandings, so she wouldn't have to betray him-- but he was right; Janeway would not have wanted her to give him that information. She had disobeyed her Captain, run the risk of betraying her entire Collective, because she didn't want a secret agenda to stand between them now that she felt this increased closeness. This was not a sensation she had expected, or wanted, and now that it existed she had no idea how to get rid of it.
Seven looked up at the ceiling, not at her lover, and wondered if she'd made a terrible mistake.