Disclaimers in part 1

"Yeah, he was really upset." Tom told Harry after recanting the tale of
events.

"Boy, I guess I'd feel the same way." Harry secretly envied the Doc, at one
time he'd been infatuated with Seven as well.

"Poor, Doc. And this makes it even worse being her doctor and all. He's
got it bad." Tom shook his head.

"Well, he has been spending all that time with her, they've gotten close, I
guess. Is there anything we can do to help him?" Harry looked at Tom with
concern.

"He says that all we can do is wait. I'm sure he'd doing everything
possible. I'm going to check back later and see if her condition's
improved."

"I'll go with you."

"Okay." Tom looked at his watch and jumped up. "Come on. We're going to be
late."

Meanwhile, Neelix was contemplating the new tidbit of gossip he'd overheard.
He never eavesdropped, at least not on purpose. He'd have to drop by and
see how the patient was doing. It seemed like a tense situation. He was
rather concerned for Seven, but his main thoughts lay with the Doctor. His
friend the hologram could use some of his special counseling. Perhaps his
daily viewers would be interested in this budding romance with such a
dramatic turn.

**********************************

The Doctor stood beside Seven her hand lightly in his, his thumb tracing
circles over the unmarred flesh.

"I don't know if you can hear me in this state but just in case you can,
there are some things I'd like to discuss." He paused as if to wait for a
response. "Well, I've come to see that our friendship is very important to
me. Take today for example, you didn't show up for a lesson and I come
barging into your quarters." He laughed a dry laugh.

"I've been trying to tell this you for a long time now. When we're apart I
feel incomplete. I can't wait until I have another moment to spend with
you. Last night when I held you in my arms I felt a whole world open up.
When you kissed me it was like breathing for the first time--although my
breathing is simulated and you were asleep." He frowned at himself for his
usual pessimism.

"I need you, Seven. Please come out of this."

Just then the doors opened and the captain came in. He tried to look as if
he'd been examining the scan as she walked over.

"How is she?" Janeway asked softly.

"From what I can determine, her implants have now reactivated. The
concerning matter is what damage has been done, and that I can't determine
until her cells have finished regenerating. I have a
neurocortical-stimulator relaying her synapses for her." He checked the
configurations as he spoke.

"It sounds like you've done everything to help her." Janeway suggested,
hoping he had more to say on the situation.

"Of course, I have. I've checked all of the scans twice and displaced every
error that could occur."

"Then why are you still so concerned?" She asked. He didn't have an answer
for her. "What is this I hear about something going on between the two of
you?" She said dropping the proverbial bomb on him.

"Captain, I assure you nothing is 'going on' with Seven of Nine and myself."
He was utterly confused.

"Then I should have to talk to Neelix about where he gets his topics."

"Mr. Neelix?! How does he kn--where would he get such an idea?" The
Doctor's mind raced as the situation grew worse. Mr. Neelix's topics?
"What topics, Captain?"

"The ones he uses for his program. I'm sure you're aware of it."

"Yes, but I was not aware that I was the topic of discussion. And I still
don't know where he could have come up with this."

"So, it's not true then? You don't have feelings for Seven?" Janeway
waited for his response, he was being quite defensive.

"I'm her doctor, I have feelings of concern and as her friend I have the
feelings of one friend to another--"

"Romantic feelings, Doctor?" She was aware she was baiting him, but he was
the one squirming. She had nothing better to do than to get to the bottom
of this little rumor.

"I...I...what does it matter if I do?" then upon realizing he was still
addressing the captain added quickly, "sir?"

"There's nothing wrong with having feelings for her, Doctor, she is after
all your friend, that's how most relationships begin. Weren't you telling
her these same things in her lessons?" She spoke with a more supporting
tone. "Have you told her?"

"I was going to do so this morning, but as you can see I was unable to
comply."

"I see. Would it help if I talked to Neelix? I'm sure he'd retract the
statement."

"Yes, I wouldn't want the crew to think their doctor is a lovesick fool. I
still don't know how this all got around."

"We'll deal with one thing at a time. Good day, Doctor."

"Yes, good bye, Captain." The Doctor returned to his work station to check
on the progress of her synopses. Everything looked fine. He now felt
confident that she would recover with no permanent damage. She could wake
in the next day or so. He breathed a sigh of relief.

Now the hard part, he thought to himself, referring to the task of
explaining his feelings to her without losing his best friend.

***********************************

Up until the minute that Seven opened her eyes the Doctor was at her side
leaving her only to tend to the occasional patient. He tried to distract
himself with more work, but he'd done it all everything in order everything
noted. All that was left was the work that her own body had to do for her.

The entire staff of senior officers came down at least once a day to check
on her all filled with concern. Tom and Harry were the most frequent
visitors next to the captain. Captain Janeway was also concerned with the
Doctor's well being since he hadn't deactivated his program at all in three
days. She considered both of them valuable parts of her crew and it was now
especially that she saw their humanity, one caring and one vulnerable.
Neelix offered his services to the Doctor almost to the point of annoyance.
But this time the Doctor was bereft of arrogant quips and sarcastic remarks,
it was almost disturbing to the crew that knew him.

Finally, she awoke and the diagnosis had been made that she was indeed in
good health. The Doctor was the first person she saw.

"Well, I'm glad someone decided to wake up and rejoin the world." His eyes
betrayed more softness than his words. "You shouldn't try to speak yet to
give your vocal chords a chance to regain pliancy."

Of course, she ignored his advice. "That is fine, but I want to know what
happened." Her voice was raspy and squeaked a little. She tried to sit up.

"Wait," he adjusted the bed to support her, "if you must know right now,
your implants suffered a synaptic malfunction and it effected your neural
tissues. In effect, your brain shut itself down to deal with the problem.
I fixed it and now you're here."

She took a minute to process and then looked up. "Thank you, Doctor."

He mentally winced at the word 'doctor'. Before he could reply or think
anything else the captain entered sickbay.

She smiled at the now awake Seven. "How's the patient this morning?"

"She is doing quite well, Captain, but she ignores my advice on saving her
voice."

"We were all very worried about you." Janeway said with maternal warmth.
"How do you feel, Seven?"

"I feel sufficient given the circumstances. When shall I return for duty?"
She said with her usual tenacity.

The captain raised her eyebrows and glanced toward the doctor.

"My prescription is a week of rest and rehabilitation. Then we shall see."

"Well, then keep me abreast of your progress and we'll get you back in
Astrometrics in no time. I'm afraid I have to get back to the bridge. Take
care, Seven."

She nodded and the captain was out the door.

The doctor cleared his throat and readdressed the matter at hand. He
wondered how much damage her memory had suffered.

"What is the last thing you remember, Seven?"

"I recall my alert going off and I was getting up for duty. That is all I
remember."

"Hmmm...your memory seems intact but I'll run another neuro-scan to make
sure." He tried to be methodical, but he couldn't shove away the fear that
she'd forgotten their friendship.

"Thank you." She said looking at him, his back to her.

"What for? I typically run these scans at any instance of trauma." He
turned to see her smiling at him.

"For taking care of me. Daniel." She no longer looked pale. Her face was
coming back to life. She reached out for his hand. Her voice took a
serious tone. "I had a nightmare. I dreamt that I was captured and alone.
You were the one who found me. You rescued me and I am grateful."

He guessed that under the state of unconsciousness her mind had still been
playing out scenes. She was still in recovery. He'd lost his will to tell
her again. It just wasn't the right time, she'd just come out of a coma.
There was always later.

"You're welcome, Seven, though it was a dream. Would you like someone to
escort you back to your quarters?" He had hoped to escort her himself, but
he'd let her determine that. The thought of being without her again
darkened his mood but he had done all there was to do for her.

"Would you be available to escort me?" She asked her voice still scratchy
and hoarse.

It was like she could read his thoughts. Still cautious he answered her.

"Certainly. I'll get your clothes, unless you'd rather wear that biogown.
It isn't very flattering." He smirked.

"Yes, my clothes." The Doctor went off to fetch them while she stayed
seated on the biobed. She still felt weakened and a little disoriented.

He returned with her clothes neatly folded. "The changing room is all
yours."

She slipped down from the bed and took the clothes. Stumbling a bit at
first, the Doctor caught her by the arm.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, I'm slightly unsteady. It will pass."

He watched her leave and enter the small room off to the side. He was
slightly disappointed. Now it was very doubtful he'd ever get to tell her
how he felt, but perhaps it was for the best.

She emerged dressed. Seven took the Doctor's arm and leaned on him for
support. She was still very weak.

There wasn't much conversation during the walk to the turbolift nor to her
quarters. The tension hung thick with things unsaid. She sensed his
apprehension and began asking him questions about the ship while she'd been
unconscious. He answered her questions but ventured forth no more. He was
close to her physically but his thoughts were miles away.

They entered Seven's quarters and she walked to a chair under her own power.
He stood with his gaze cast downward and she sat down.

"Is there something bothering you, Daniel?"

"No, it's nothing. I can I get you anything?"

"I want to ask you something about the Alpha Quadrant." That finally made
him look at her.

"What do you want to know?" It was an odd question.

"What will happen to you when we return to Earth?"

Oh that. He hated to think about it sometimes. "Well, I suppose they will
run tests on me to figure out how to duplicate my program. Then, who
knows?" His gaze had lingered out the window and suddenly returned to her,
"Why do you ask?"

She paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "Daniel. You are my
friend, appropriately my best friend." She looked up to make sure he was
still with her. "Would it be possible for your program to be downloaded and
made...portable?"

"I'm not sure I understand what you mean." He was quite puzzled.

"When we return to Earth it is most likely that I too will be tested and
experimented with. And when that is done, I will be alone. As I told you
about my dream the thought occurred to me that you will be alone as well.
Would you consent to being alone together?"

This was the first time he knew of that Seven hadn't made perfect sense.

"You are a sentient being so your wishes as to where you are to go are your
own. You can do anything you want, go anywhere you want. I'm asking if you
will be with me."

Be with her? How? As a friend? A colleague? Whatever way she wanted him,
he knew he wanted to be with her.

"Yes." He answered so softly she wouldn't have known he'd really spoken
except for the movement of his lips.

"Good. It is settled then."

Not hardly. His mind raced with a million different ideas. He had not
thought about that part of his life with anticipation until now. But what
if she did settle down...and had a family? He took a deep breath and
decided whatever happened he'd take it.

"You should rest." He gestured toward her bedroom. Then he took a lighter
tone, "Doctor's orders."

She nodded and walked carefully to the room. He waited outside as usual
until she'd undressed and got into bed. He went in when she called. She
was sitting up in bed wearing a teal chemise and her hair draped loosely
over her shoulders. She also had a look on her face that he couldn't
identify.

"Aren't you tired, Seven?" He noticed her rubbing her neck. "Is your neck
bothering you?" She had been in the reclining position for several days.

"Yes." He sat down next to her and began kneading her neck muscles. He
found the knot and worked with it. Urging the muscle to relax, he dragged
his thumbs along until it let go. He repeated the process on various
muscles until they loosened up.

Her eyes were closed and she breathed deeply as he continued his work. Next
he rubbed the sore muscles commanding flexibility. They complied slowly.

She could feel the tensions leaving her body and the massage becoming more
enjoyable. His hands were strong and warm on her cooled flesh. He began
taking in more area with his strokes becoming more broad scaping. He ran
his palms up and down her spine generating small shivers from Seven.

He heard a few sighs as she rolled her neck in time with his hands. The
Doctor changed positions to be directly behind her and rubbed her shoulders.
She was enjoying the sensations immensely.

Suddenly out of the quiet, she spoke. "Do you find me attractive?" She said
it as if it were a statement rather than a question.

He stopped his manipulations. "You are a beautiful woman, Seven." He said
deeply so his voice wouldn't quiver, his hands still on her shoulders.

"Then why havn't you made any advances toward me?"

He swiftly removed his hands. She had him in a corner. "You are my
student, it would not be prudent. Oh dear, what am I saying?" He shook his
head and grimaced. "You're my friend."

"Didn't you say that most relationships begin with friendship? We are well
beyond that." She smiled innocently. She turned around to look him in the
eye.

"Yes, but--" She cut him off with a kiss. Grabbing him by the cheeks she
dragged him into the kiss and he could do nothing to resist.

Quickly he gained composure enough to kiss her back. He couldn't tear
himself away from her, she was fiery and alive and he needed her. His
tongue sought hers and his hands found flesh. She moved closer to him and
he inadvertently held one perfect breast in his hand. She gasped at the
contact and nearly bit his lip.

He couldn't believe what was happening. And as usual his mind got in the
way. He broke the kiss and held her face in his hands.

"Wait. You know that you can't procreate with me, are you sure you know
what you're giving up?"

"Daniel, what's the most important thing to humans?" She looked confident
and not unsure in the least.

"Well, that's a very complex question--some want success or a family or--"

"Love?"

"Yes, that's certainly one of them." He shrugged his shoulders. "Seven,"
this was as good a time as any, "I do love you. I just don't think that we
could have a future together. I can't give you anything." He said sadly.

She was surprised at his honesty. She hadn't expected him to admit to his
feelings so readily. It was hard for her to put her own feelings into
words. His last words sparked a passion in her. He had already given her
everything what else did he lack?

"Daniel, that is far from the truth." She put her hand on his. "You have
given me everything I have, you gave me humanity and friendship and now
love. Everything." She paused and said, "And in case I have not been clear,
I'm saying I love you, too." And she sealed it with a kiss.

If he didn't have her in his arms he would've jumped for joy.

She spoke again, "Can you stay?"

A dark cloud that threatened to mar the moment. "I want to stay with you,
but I'm always on call. If anyone needed medical attention I'd have to
leave. I don't think I could handle that, and I don't want to leave you
alone."

"No, if you had to leave I would understand, it's your job. I would also be
asleep. And I know you would come back."

He couldn't flaw her logic. He just hoped no one asked where he was. He
would just have to order the computer to alert him to any presence in
sickbay, that way he could leave immediately. The Doctor grimaced, he
didn't want to leave her as much as he didn't want her to be alone. But it
was his job.

"Very well. I will stay as long as I can."

"That is enough for me, but I expect to see you directly afterward." She
said in a mock commanding tone.

He smiled as he lay down beside her and she curled up on his chest. He put
his arms around her and she exhaled contently. He thought to himself, "I
feel sorry for the next person that walks into sickbay." He smiled down at
the woman sleeping next to him, amazed that such a wonderful thing could
happen to him.

*********************************

Later that week...

Sandrine's was buzzing with rumors about this and that as usual but the most
popular one was of a romance between the ex-Borg and the EMH. No one had
actually seen them together but there were reports of the Doctor missing at
late hours of the morning. Tom and Harry stood around the pool table as
usual chatting with a few attractive female ensigns. A number of the voices
quieted and Tom looked up to see why. Harry was concentrating on the
would-be winning shot.

"Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle." Tom said as he saw the Doctor enter with
Seven on his arm. He grinned in their direction and the Doctor nodded his
hello.

"What?" Harry said looking up from the missed eight ball. His eyes
followed Tom's grin to the quiet table where the couple was seated. "Oh, I
see. Cool."

"Do you think it was a mistake coming here?"

"You suggested it, remember?" She smiled at him teasing.

"We seem to be drawing attention."

"They are our friends and merely processing the facts. Whose attention is
more important to you, mine or theirs?" Again she smiled reassuringly.

He relaxed visibly, "Of course, you're right. I'm just a bit nervous. As
much as I'd rather we be alone, I do want us to be comfortable interacting
socially. It's a major step in our development as a couple."

"I promise that it will be over soon enough, and we can go back to the
quarters."

The Doctor, not having any space of his own outside of sickbay, had been
joining Seven in her quarters on more and more frequent occasions.

"It's strange having you reassure me for a change." He said giving her hand
a squeeze.

Tom and Harry walked up from where they'd been watching although not too
secretly.

"Hey, Doc, Seven. How's it going?" He was still smiling.

"Fine thank you, Mr. Paris. You know, excessive smiling has been proved to
cause wrinkles." The Doctor was teasing.

She nodded acknowledgement and smirked at the Doctor's joke.

Harry was silent for a moment. "Congratulations, to both of you."

"Thank you." Seven said. It was the first recognition anyone had made to
their relationship.

Tom was being called back into a game from the pool table and Harry was apt
to follow. Tom said something about a double-date over his shoulder but it
fell on deaf ears. The two had fallen into a conversation of their own.
They were happy.

One might have suspected a hint of jealousy in Sandrine's that night, but
mostly there was approval of their happiness. And soon everyone else melted
into the obscurity that is a public place, both noisy and quiet, but mostly
friendly.

It was a nice place to be.

THE END

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