"Forever By Your Side"

by Michelle Paquette

"You're only just a dream boat
Sailing in my head
You swim my secret oceans
Of coral blue and red
Your smell is incense burning
Your touch is silken, yet...

It's only when I sleep
See you in my dreams
Got me spinning round and round
Turning upside down
But I only hear you breathe
Somewhere in my sleep"

~"Only When I Sleep"

Seven of Nine stepped out of her green-hued regeneration alcove with a disturbed look on her face. Even though she knew she was alone in Cargo Bay Two, she still darted a quick glance around the room to be certain.

She'd just had another one of those dreams. The ones that had become almost a daily occurence now. And these were no ordinary dreams. They distressed her greatly, for they involved The Doctor. But in her dreams, he was more than just her friend and mentor. Much more.

Of course, she had not told anyone. She was sure they would only think of her as weak or silly. But in the back of her mind, Seven wondered to herself if she could, perhaps, have romantic feelings for The Doctor.

Abruptly, Seven of Nine dismissed the notion with a shake of her blonde head. She told herself she must put these foolish thoughts out of her mind. After all, even if she did care for The Doctor, her feelings for him were irrelevant. She was involved with Lieutenant William Chapman now. Seven took a deep breath to calm herself and exited the room.

* * * * *

"You bored me with your stories
I can't believe that I endured you for as long as I did
I'm happy it's over
I'm only sorry that I didn't make the move before you

I never really loved you anyway
No, I didn't love you anyway"

~"I Never Loved You Anyway"

Seven sighed to herself. She had a date with Chapman in less than an hour, and she was in no state of mind for a social outing. The problem was her dreams of The Doctor. No matter how hard she tried, she could not keep the fantasies from resurfacing in her mind. Apparently her feelings were deeper than she had first imagined.

This was no good. Seven felt it was unfair to Chapman to continue seeing him if her mind was elsewhere. They weren't seriously involved; their few encounters consisted mostly of friendly small talk and group outings, but regardless, she felt perhaps the relationship should be terminated. She usually had an engaging time with the lieutenant, but their 'dates' were nowhere near as enjoyable as the times she spent with The Doctor. As he himself had once put it, the two of them had "a rapport".

Then Seven realized something: The Doctor had been the one to push her into starting a relationship in the first place. With this thought, she reaffirmed her belief that The Doctor could never know how she'd been feeling toward him. There was no way he could feel the same for her. If he did, why would he have suggested she begin a relationship with someone else?

* * * * *

Seven arrived for her date precisely on time. William Chapman was already there, waiting. He was seated at a table in Sandrine's, nursing a glass of champagne, and staring into the air as if his thoughts were someplace else.

"Lieutenant," Seven announced formally as she approached the table, startling the young man. She proceeded to sit down in the chair opposite him.

"Seven!" he replied, a trickle of his beverage dribbling down his chin. Seven tried to hide her disgust as she wordlessly handed him the cloth napkin from the place setting in front of her.

Chapman wiped his face and handed the napkin back. "Thanks," he said. "So, how are you doing?"

Seven decided it would be best to be direct and get straight to the point. "There is something I must discuss with you." William nodded, waiting for her to continue. "I feel that we should terminate our personal relationship and keep things on a proffessional level."

Lieutenant Chapman was clearly taken aback. "What?!" he managed to get out. "You mean to say... Are you breaking up with me?"

Seven answered honestly. "I believe that is the term; yes."

"I don't believe this!" he exclaimed. "We were only beginning to get to know one another." He shook his head wistfully. "May I ask why?"

Seven thought out a way to word her reply. "The reason is... complicated."

Chapman sighed. "It's me, isn't it? You just don't like me."

"On the contrary. You are a very... interesting individual. I assure you that your behavior is not the reason."

William Chapman looked Seven of Nine directly in the eye. "Is it another man?"

Seven averted her eyes, but that did not prevent the lieutenant from seeing the flush in her cheeks. She decided there would be no point in lying. "Yes," she answered simply.

"Well, then," Chapman said aloud, rising from the table, a look of disappointment visible on his face, "I guess it's time for me to leave. I wish you luck with your new companion." With that, he turned on his heel and was gone.

Seven turned to look after him. There was no point in clarifying that her 'new companion' didn't even know she cared for him, and probably never would.

Seven felt a little sad now that Chapman was out of her personal life. Even though she had never really cared for him as more than a friend, losing him made her feel strangely empty.

* * * * *

"When I'm sad he comes to me
With a thousand smiles
He gives to me free
It's alright, it's alright, he says"

~"Little Wing"

After a few more moments in the holodeck, Seven composed herself and returned to Cargo Bay Two. She intended to relax and catch up on her personal logs for the past few days. "Computer, begin personal log, stardate today." The computer complied, and she began.

"I don't understand what's going on. I have been frequently experiencing mental images of The Doctor in the duration of my regeneration cycles. Dreams. I am... unsure of the exact meaning of these dreams, but they have affected me strongly. I cannot stop thinking about The Doctor. He is my greatest friend and my trusted mentor, but nothing more. At least, I think nothing more. I am feeling confused.

"This afternoon I 'broke up' with Lieutenant Chapman. He seemed disappointed with my announcement. But there was no other choice for me to make. I cannot continue to spend time with Chapman on a personal basis while I am pondering the extent of my feelings for The Doctor." Here Seven paused. Then she opened her mouth to begin her next statement.

Just as she started, a series of beeps announced that there was someone outside the door, waiting to be let in.

Seven quickly gave the command to end her log, and then called out, "Come in!"

The doors slid open to reveal The Doctor. He appeared to be in a good mood. Obviously his day had gone well. At the sight of her friend, Seven again felt a rush of feeling. She ignored it and tried to put a normal expression on her face.

It didn't work. As soon as he came near enough, The Doctor noticed right away that something was not right. "Seven? Is everything alright?" he asked, concerned.

"I'm fine," she lied. Seven didn't want him to know that he was the cause of her distress.

The Doctor shook his head. "There's no point in lying. I can tell something's wrong."

Seven remained silent. It seemed that the hologram could read her like a book, and he was very close to finding out the truth.

"Are you having a problem with Lieutenant Chapman?"

Seven let out a breath she hadn't known she 'd been holding. She was glad The Doctor was off the mark. She didn't think she could handle explaining the content of her dreams to him at this time. "Yes, I am upset because of Lieutenant Chapman. We broke up half an hour ago."

The Doctor put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"I am not sorry," Seven replied. "I do not believe we were compatible. I found Chapman to be extremely monotonous. Yet I feel a strange void."

"Seven, it's normal to feel empty after a breakup, even if you weren't very involved. Lesson 28, remember? 'Break Up Or Make Up'." Seven nodded, and when The Doctor saw the mournful expression on her face, he reached out his arms to give her a reassuring hug.

Even though The Doctor was comforting her for the wrong reason, Seven felt very grateful for his compassion. She fell into his arms and rested her head on his shoulder. It felt so nice for her to be held like this, and a part of her almost wished she could stay this way forever. But then Seven came to her senses and pulled away. "Thank you," she told The Doctor in a monotone and took a step backward.

The hologram looked confused for a moment by her mood change, but then quickly recovered. "Well, if there's anything I can do for you, don't hesitate to let me know."

Immediately a thought came to Seven's mind but she pushed it away, and merely said, "Thank you" again.

"Okay. Well, I'll see you later." The Doctor gave her a friendly smile and then turned away.

Seven watched him leave and then sucked in a deep breath. The encounter had left her feeling drained, but also strangely exhilirated.

* * * * *

The Doctor left Cargo Bay Two with a smile. He was glad he had decided to pay Seven a visit. Even though he was sorry her relationship with William Chapman had ended so abruptly, in a way he felt relieved she was once again single. It had been hard for The Doctor to stand by as Seven spent personal time with a man other than himself.

Nowadays it seemed as if his every other thought involved Seven, and how it was he who belonged with her. Perhaps now was the time for him to expose his feelings for her, before she became involved with someone else, and he was once again left out in the cold.

The Doctor returned to Sickbay to regroup his thoughts.

* * * * *

"Opened my eyes today
And I knew there was something different
Saw you in a brand new way
Like the clouds had somehow lifted
And if yesterday, I heard
Myself saying these words
I would swear it was a lie

I don't know why, but suddenly I'm falling
Was I so blind
I was loving you all the time
Now I'm hopelessly addicted
Helplessly attracted"

~"Hopelessly Addicted"

Seven exhaled slowly and continued with her log entry.

"I've just had an encounter with The Doctor. He was very... caring and kind to me... I cannot help but feel a romantic attraction toward him. No doubt these feelings were triggered by the dreams I mentioned before. But perhaps I have always felt this way toward him. Maybe I just never realized it before.

"I feel strange feeling this way about The Doctor. He has always been a good friend to me. Whenever I need someone to speak with, or I require advisement, or just desire company, The Doctor has always been there."

Seven paused to think about her last statement. Saying it aloud had jerked her into realizing just how much she relied on The Doctor in everything she did. Where would she be without the benefit of having him as a friend? That fact was exactly why Seven could not reveal her new-found feelings to The Doctor at any cost. If he did not reciprocate her desire to carry their relationship further, she might lose his friendship. It was just too much of a risk.

"Computer, end log," Seven said aloud absentmindedly. She now had a lot to think about. Realizing she cared for The Doctor in a way beyond mere friendship was a big step.

* * * * *

"I've caught myself smiling alone
Just thinking of your voice
And dreaming of your touch is all too much
You know I don't have any choice"

~"Don't Say You Love Me"

"Is there a problem, Seven? You've been staring off into space for a full ten minutes!" B'Elanna's harsh Kingon-laced voice cut into Seven's thoughts like a sharp knife.

"No!" Seven's reply came out louder than she had intended. She lowered her voice. "I mean, no, there is no problem."

B'Elanna looked only partially convinced. "Well, I'd appreciate it if you continued on that plasma manifold."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

B'Elanna squinted at the former Borg drone suspiciously but then moved on.

Seven mentally scolded herself for having been distracted by her thoughts once more. She couldn't believe how foolish she had been acting all day, letting her thoughts run away with her. But she just couldn't get The Doctor out of her mind. Memories of his smile, his voice, and most of all, his touch filled her subconscious.

Seven gritted her teeth and willed herself to concentrate on the manifold.

* * * * *

"It's good for me you have no idea

That I'm walking through the clouds
When you're looking at me
I'm feeling like a child
Vulnerability
I am shaking like a leaf if you move beside me
And you're all that I see
But it's no good for me"

~"No Good For Me"

Seven wasn't paying much attention to where she was going. She almost collided with someone who was going the opposite way in the corridor. It was The Doctor.

"Seven!" he exclaimed as he caught her and kept her from crashing to the ground. "I'm sorry!"

"There is no need for you to apologize," she replied. "I was to blame."

"It looked as if your head was in the clouds," The Doctor agreed. "I know! How would you like to go down to the holodeck for a little singing? It might help you take your mind off Chapman." He smiled at her.

Seven didn't return the smile. The Doctor was the man of her dreams. Literally. And since she didn't want him finding out, the less time she spent with him, the better. "No thank you. I do not wish to spend time with you on the holodeck." Seven paused as she realized how bad that sounded. She tried to make a quick recovery. "I mean, I do not wish to spend time on the holodeck." She bit her lip.

"Oh." The Doctor's face fell. "Very well then." He gave her a half-hearted wave and continued on his way.

Seven sighed resignedly. She felt bad for blowing off The Doctor's invitation, but it was for the best. Too much time with him might just serve to encourage her feelings.

* * * * *

"Who knows; I might feel better
If I don't try and I don't hope

What can I do to make you love me
What can I do to make you care
What can I say to make you feel this
What can I do to get you there"

~"What Can I Do"

The Doctor sat in his office in Sickbay, doing nothing. Nothing besides thinking about Seven, that is. Her behavior mystified him. At times he felt almost as if she had feelings for him, but then at other times, such as their most recent encounter in the corridor, he felt as if she didn't care for him at all.

It was all just too much. This wondering was driving him crazy. The Doctor decided right then and there that no matter what the result, it was time to come clean with his feelings.

* * * * *

"Just when I thought it was safe
You found me in my hiding place...
Closer, closer I moved near you
The way I want you makes me fear you"

~"Love Gives, Love Takes"

Seven was sitting at the edge of her alcove, staring so intently at a PADD that she felt her eyes were going to bore holes right through it.

Ever since her encounter with The Doctor in the corridor a few hours before, Seven had been trying to concentrate on small, unimportant tasks to keep her mind occupied. It hadn't worked all that well, but it was helping to pass the time.

Then came the dreaded sound of a visitor at the door. Seven hoped with all her heart that it was anyone other than The Doctor. She didn't know how much longer she could keep her feelings to herself and spending time with him would not help her in the matter.

Her wish obviously held no precedence, because the visitor was The Doctor. This time he did not look cheerful. Instead, he looked rather disturbed.

"Seven, may I speak with you?" he inquired.

In the few quick seconds since he had entered the room, Seven had made up her mind. No matter the cost, she had to tell The Doctor how she felt. It was eating her up inside. "Yes," she answered. "But there is something I must speak with you about first."

"By all means; go ahead," the hologram replied. Something in Seven's voice had sounded urgent.

* * * * *

"We come into this world alone
From the heart of darkness
The infinite unknown
We're only here a little while
And I feel safe and warm
When I see you smile"

~"Intimacy"

"I have been experiencing romantic feelings and thoughts of you," Seven rushed on before she could stop herself. "I do not expect you to reciprocate, of course, and I hope this will not affect our working relationship. I just felt I needed to tell you of my love for you. I require your assistance to purge these feelings. Tell me what I can do to avoid this emotion." She immediately felt better after admitting her secret.

The Doctor stared at her. He could hardly believe his auditory subroutines. Could Seven really feel this way? Even though he consisted merely of photons and forcefields, The Doctor could feel his heart pounding in his chest. "You... love me?" he asked slowly.

"Yes. You are the most valuable part of my existence. I would be lost without you." Seven smiled weakly at her friend.

"Seven, this is wonderful!" The Doctor exclaimed. "You can't imagine how long I've been wanting to tell you those exact words! I can't believe you feel the same way!"

Seven was not sure what he meant. "You have been experiencing the same feelings for me? Why did you never tell me?"

"I... Well, frankly, I didn't think you could ever feel the same way for me."

"That is the same reason I did not come to you sooner."

The Doctor smiled. "I can't believe we both felt the same way, but we were just too scared to admit it."

Seven smiled back. "So, how do we proceed?"

"You shouldn't try to purge your feelings, Seven," he told her. "Love is not an emotion you can just get rid of at will. It is something that grows with time. We should explore this love we feel for each other."

* * * * *

"I find that I can't breathe and I can't sleep
When he's not around
His mystique is one of innocence
I feel I'm lounging in lovely in his big brown eyes
And I would be preening in paradise
If I were always by his side"

~"When He's Not Around"

Seven found herself gazing into The Doctor's beautiful, warm brown eyes. The way he was looking at her made her feel so safe and cared for. "I would like that very much," she told him softly.

The Doctor gazed back into her equally beautiful blue eyes. "I'm glad," he whispered to her.

Almost involuntarily, they found themselves drawing closer together. The Doctor placed his arms around the young woman and she did the same. They moved closer until their lips touched gently together.

Seven closed her eyes and allowed herself to be lost in the moment; to forget her inhibitions and give in to her instincts. She pressed in closer to The Doctor.

Just then, at the worst possible of moments, they both heard the distinct sound of the Cargo Bay's doors whooshing open. Seven and The Doctor broke apart reluctantly.

Harry Kim strode into the room confidently. "B'Elanna sent me to take a look at--" He broke off when he noticed the couple's flushed faces and hypothesized what he must have interrupted. His face turned cherry red and his mouth hung open. "Oh, um... I'm sorry. I'll just... come back later..." He turned around quickly, almost tripping over his own two feet in the process. He left the way he came.

* * * * *

"It really doesn't matter that we don't eat
And it really doesn't matter if we never sleep
No, it really doesn't matter, it really doesn't matter at all"

~"So Young"

Seven burst out laughing as soon as Harry dropped out of sight. The Doctor joined in. The look of shock on the young ensign's face had been priceless.

They recovered quickly and The Doctor again drew her close. "I love you," he said sofly.

It was at that moment that Seven knew, without a doubt, that this was meant to be . She would always be happy with The Doctor, for she cared for him more than anything else in the universe.

"I wish to be forever by your side," she whispered to him.

The Doctor smiled and held her close. He felt exactly the same way.

THE END