New Fic: "The First Date" (Romance, PG)

Title: The First Date

Rating/Codes: PG, Romance/Drabble

Summary: Just what the title says. This is one idea of what their first date could have been like.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or STV and don't make any money off this.

Warnings: None

When the idea of taking Seven out had first occurred to him, it had just been an absent thought. As the day progressed, the idea solidified into a means to get her out of the usual routine. Seven spent way too much time working. She needed to get out and socialize. That was the mantra he had chanted to himself for three full days until he realized that's all it was... just words.

He had almost put the notion aside to forget about it, but once in his head, the idea of taking her out wouldn't leave him alone. And by the time he worked up his courage to speak to her about it, there had been absolutely no getting around the fact that he was asking her out on a date and it was as much for his pleasure as for hers. He didn't know when that became an agreeable action, but it was.

The plan was simple and traditional. A night out with friends at the movies and then Sandrine's was, according to research and personal experience, the perfect first date. Chakotay hadn't used that exact word when he posed the question to his shipmate. He had actually shied away from the term, choosing instead to call it a means for friends to get better acquainted. Changing the name hadn't fooled the beautiful woman he asked, though he did have a sneaking suspicion that it was a contributing factor to her agreeing to go with him. After all, Seven didn't date. She barely even socialized anymore. Not that she had ever been a social butterfly.

"Are you all right?" Chakotay looked at his companion with mild concern. He knew she visited the Doctor on a weekly basis and rarely got sick. However, Seven appeared distinctly pale and even clammy when Chakotay appeared in Astrometrics to pick her up for their night out.

Seven forced herself to breathe deeply. "I..." she struggled for a moment with how to word her feelings so they wouldn't cause her date distress. Date. That was a word she usually cringed at and even now couldn't associate with what she was about to do. Even when experimenting on the holodeck she hadn't really thought of the Commander as a partner, at least not at first. He had been a compilation of photons and computer programming: an experiment. It wasn't until she had gotten carried away with her newly discovered emotions that she began to think of him as a... well, she really didn't have a word for it.

"Seven?"

"I am unaccustomed to having my personal life open to the scrutiny of the rest of the crew." The words were rushed and accompanied by heated cheeks. This complaint wasn't the only thing causing her anxiety, but it was all she would admit to.

It was suddenly difficult to meet Chakotay's gaze, but she forced herself to look up. Would he be angry or disappointed? She risked a quick glance.

To her surprise, Chakotay appeared thoughtful, not upset at all. He scratched his neck, eyes focussed inward.

"I'm not used to it either," he admitted with a sheepish grin. He hadn't thought of it before, but neither one of them had outgoing personalities, a necessity if one was going to openly date on a relatively small ship - or do what would appear to others as dating. Feeling short-sighted, Chakotay realized maybe traditional trysts, such as public group outings, were unwise.

"I'm sorry. I didn't even think about it. If you like, we can reschedule." He did his best to keep the disappointment from his voice and expression. It was difficult. He had been looking forward to this night the entire week.

"Oh."

It was gratifying that Seven didn't look any happier about that prospect than Chakotay felt. Her rosy lips turned down at the edges and her blue eyes flickered downward, briefly hidden by her lashes.

"Or..." his heart gave a strange thump when she raised her eyes to his, hope endearingly obvious in her guileless face.

"Or?"

"We don't have to tell anyone it's a date."

"You want it to be a secret?"

The idea that anyone would want to keep dating Seven a secret made Chakotay break out into laughter. "No, I don't mean that." He gave a few last chuckles, amused more by Seven's look of confusion and surprise. He wondered if his sense of humour was becoming warped.

"I don't understand."

"I know." He didn't bother trying to explain his laughter. She didn't understand and he couldn't explain it properly. "I wasn't implying that we should keep it a secret. I just meant that we could be discrete, let people know when and if we choose."

She still looked confused.

"We can still call this a date, but it'll be more relaxed, just friends."

"Friends getting to know each other better?" She repeated the phrase Chakotay had used when he broached the subject of their date in the first place. It was also one of the definitions for dating she had come across in Voyager's database. It made sense to her and made her feel less like she was keeping secrets. This was more like keeping Chakotay's privacy. Ever since her lies to the Captain about her obsession with the holodeck, just the thought of lies had filled her with the queasiness of excessive guilt and remorse. Such feelings were unacceptable and to be avoided at all costs.

Chakotay smiled, glad she was grasping the concept. "Exactly."

Seven smiled back. "Then we should go, or we'll be late."

Inclining his head, Chakotay's smile widened and they fell into step together. It was a natural instinct to match his gait to hers. As they passed through the doorway he drew back, allowing her to go ahead of him. He was nothing if not a gentleman.

As they made their way to the holodeck, Seven's movements were swift and controlled, each flex of her muscles an exhibition of a natural strength and subconscious elegance. As always, Seven moved like she was on a mission, each foot placed quickly and carefully forward.

He had never stopped to admire the way Seven moved before now. He took advantage of their alone time to appreciate it.

Seven noticed nothing unusual about herself, lost in her own thoughts. Able to contemplate numerous things at once, she was thinking ahead to what the evening might be like, and planning her schedule for the next day. She wasn't even paying attention to where she was going. It was a good thing she had the hallways of Voyager memorized.

Beside and a little behind her, Chakotay was entranced. She moved the way he thought a woman should... not like a Borg at all. How had it not occurred to him before now to pay more attention? Certainly almost every other male on Voyager had watched her at one point or another, had seen the womanly curve of her waist, the natural swing of her arms. Despite her thin, almost harsh contours, her body moved gracefully. Even in her purposeful stride, her legs moved like water, not like the machine he had first thought her to be.

He didn't like to remember how against her existence he had been when she was first brought onto Voyager. It had felt like a slap in the face to have to deal with the conflicts she started when her abrasive personality rubbed the normal crewmembers the wrong way, to have to see her almost every day and remember. His memories had been his worst enemies then, catalysts for his temper and constant challenges for his outward appearance of calm.

He had never vented his feelings to anyone before, but in those first few months, she had been like a fishing net dragging up all the muck from the bottom of his heart. She had served as a living, breathing reminder that he and Kathryn would never be on the same wavelength, never had been and never would be. And if given an ultimatum, Kathryn would take whatever route suited her best.

More than his conflict with Janeway, Seven's presence reminded him of his pain and heartache when he was forced into a Borg link himself. It had not been easy feeling what the rogue drones had felt, thought what they thought. The physical pain had been coupled with his feeling of helplessness. Both had been eclipsed in the end by the painful way in which they parted. Worse than this, by her very appearance, Seven reminded him that there were still Borg out there and probably always would be, waiting for an opportunity to assimilate anything and anyone.

Most of all, she reminded him of the lives that had been stolen by the Borg. The conflict he felt about this was the worst because even as he hated her for stealing peoples lives, he couldn't help but remember the images of her own lost childhood. Since the day their minds had been connected and he used her dormant memories to distract her from destroying Voyager, those images had been burned into the back of his mind. He couldn't forget them even for a minute. So strong was the Borg link that they felt like his own memories, probably more so than they felt like hers. It drew him to her, despite his fierce resistance.

That the monstrosity of her existence wasn't her fault was perhaps the hardest thing for him to get over. He and many others in the crew wanted to just hate her and her kind and leave it at that. Her working with them and eventually saving their lives made that impossible. No matter how hard he had tried, he couldn't hate the Borg/woman whose human memories were so normal and heartbreakingly sweet, cut off at the end like a nightmare come true.

Now, long over his resentment and suspicions, Chakotay watched Seven do something so meaningless that it was laughable that he was growing so intrigued with every step. Without his conscious choice, his gaze roved over her body, taking in the way her muscles flexed, the shine in her hair, the pink in her cheeks. She was beautiful, like a spring flower coming out to bloom. He had seen roses with the same tint that coloured her cheeks and lips.

Realizing what he was doing, Chakotay's eyes quickly rose to stare at their intended destination: the holodeck doors. He didn't like feeling like a pervert. He had been raised to think of women as something more than just idols to watch. Sure, he was a human man, but he liked to think of himself as a gentleman too and watching Seven didn't seem too gentlemanly. He forced himself to keep his eyes up by remembering his promise that this could be a night of friendship.

The holodeck program was already running. A 20th century theatre was a quarter full of people meandering up and down the aisles, looking for seats in front of the giant, black screen, still enshrouded by a red curtain. A vendor at the back was selling bags of popcorn, the smell of the old snack wafting throughout the enclosed space.

Chakotay tapped Seven on the elbow, wordlessly asking with a look if she wanted popcorn. A slight shake of her head and they moved off to find seats.

They were soon joined by Tom and B'Elanna, who settled down in the row in front of Chakotay and Seven. Harry, Naomi, Icheb, and five others trickled in. They waved or paused to chat for a minute.

Icheb and Naomi took the seats next to Seven as B'Elanna and Tom stretched around to talk.

Chakotay wasn't a hundred percent pleased with this, but it gave him an excuse to keep his mind and his actions in check. Just friends. That was the rule tonight. Internally, he berated himself. Had he taken just a minute to think, they could be having a private dinner and conversation right now.

One look at Seven's smile, though, and his disgruntlement vanished. If it made her happy, he wouldn't argue.

There were cartoons and previews and then the movie, an inane action about mythical creatures that drank blood. It was absurd and badly done, the original language dubbed over so that the lip movements didn't sync with the words. Chakotay didn't know whether to laugh or roll his eyes. He did both, catching Seven's gaze as he did. She raised a hand to her lips, hiding a smile of her own after one of the characters delivered a particularly droll line. The action drew his attention more than he would have expected. It was just so human, so warm and speaking of a humour he didn't know she had.

Looking around her, Chakotay's smile grew. Apparently he and Seven weren't the only ones who found the movie tedious. At some point Naomi had decided to cuddle, leaning her head against Seven's shoulder, where she now slept. Chakotay caught Seven's eye, uncertain what he would find in her expression. There was amusement and something he would never have attributed to her... a sort of maternal indulgence. Her arm curled protectively around the young girl's shoulder, comfortable and comforting. It was endearing. It was a dangerous road.

With a jolt, Chakotay realized what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. She was Kathryn's protege. They had nothing in common. Did she even know what it was to be in a relationship? These things held against him were nothing new. They had always been there, whispering in the back of his mind, but they entered his consciousness now with force. Seeing Seven next to Naomi, side by side like the best friends they were, was a harsh reminder to him that Seven was little more than a child herself in many ways.

"What?" Seven whispered, her gaze curious. She was perceptive, even if she couldn't always identify what she was seeing.

Her eyes were wide in the darkness, highlighting the youth in her face and yet there was a mature intelligence there too. Chakotay found himself trying to interpret every aspect of her expression. He doubted he could do so even if he stared for a year. It was such an insignificant moment, and yet he could sense a growing understanding of her many facets. She was both woman and child, Borg and human, confused and knowing, hidden and yet open. Or maybe he was only seeing what he wanted to.

Chakotay realized he had been staring at her a bit too long to be considered normal. He shook his head. "Nothing."

She frowned, not believing him, but turned back to the movie nonetheless. With others so close, it wasn't the place to talk.

From then on, Chakotay kept his gaze fixed on the screen. Here and there, while sitting in the darkened theatre, he thought he felt eyes watching him. He resisted the urge to turn and confirm that feeling. He wasn't sure if he wanted to know.

The rest of the movie passed too slowly for Chakotay. It was difficult to sit still through choreographed fight scenes and overly gory special effects when all he wanted to do was find a quiet place to think.

Once the last fight scene was done, the curtain dropped and the lights came back on. Seven blinked once and her eyes were once again accustomed to the brighter light. She took the extra moment of visual clarity to sneak another look at Chakotay. She wanted desperately to know what he was thinking. Her efforts to understand the stoic expression were futile and it frustrated her.

She had never been good at reading people's expressions or body language, which was perhaps why there were only two types of people she really enjoyed being around: those like Harry Kim and those like Chakotay. Both were honest and open, but in different ways.

With people like Harry, Tom, B'Elanna, and the Doctor, mind reading wasn't necessary. Every expression openly held their thoughts, waiting for notice. And if you couldn't guess their expression's meaning, then they put it into words. B'Elanna was especially good at that. Even if she didn't understand or choose to acknowledge it, Seven could see the emotions.

With people like Chakotay, Tuvok, Janeway, and Icheb, it was pointless to try interpreting facial expressions. They held their thoughts so carefully that rarely anything gave them away unless they allowed it. And yet if they were asked, they would each explain what they were thinking. That Chakotay had brushed off her question earlier was disturbing because she had no other way to understand him without direct inquiries.