Disclaimer: All hail the Gods at Paramount. Theirs, not mine. This was their idea anyway. I hope they don't mind sharing their sandbox with me.
Author's Note: I didn't want to do it, but "Human Error" made me. Thank you to Liz for the beta.
You didn't expect to start your day like this. You didn't expect her to be the first person you see this morning.
You left your quarters at the usual time, nodded a few greetings and kept your comments terse, because you haven't had coffee yet this morning.
And damn, after last night, you really need that coffee.
Of course, when the Captain finds out, you're going to need more than just coffee, but of course you're hoping nothing will get out. You're hoping no one knows.
You're also not stupid.
Small ship, loose mouths.
You don't want to think about it.
And so you're still trying to figure out what happened. Trying figure out if you liked what happened last night and here she is in the turbolift, cool as can be, regarding you with the same analytical eye she reserves for the charts in Astrometrics.
You feel uneasy, a bit warm, but step into the turbolift anyway. Door closes and there you are, the two of you, together.
Just like last night.
You think of what you ought to say. A million things run through your head. You consider something simple like "Good morning" or "Hello," but your mouth dries up and you realize, for the first time in years, you've lost the ability to speak.
You hope she goes first, but you know how she is; always the difficult one, never flustered, never bothered. She probably didn't think twice about last night.
You certainly have.
You've been replaying last night in your head, a slow motion reel like those old sporting events Tom likes to watch on television, the ones that show you each move frame by frame, second by excruciating second.
You think about how she turned up at your door with some suggestions (you don't remember about what now) and you looked over at the table, set with candles, wine and dinner for two. The Captain had cancelled for reasons you're still pondering and so you invited her in. Asked her to have a seat, have dinner. She accepted the invitation and then you regretted it immediately. After all, the two of you have never been close, never seen quite eye to eye. But there you were, eating angel hair pasta, tossed with basil leaves and carefully diced tomatoes. Caesar salad on the side, warm rolls with a pat of butter, and a mushroom cream soup complete the meal.
You really outdid yourself last night. The Captain would have loved every bite and you thought about that as you twirled the pasta around your fork.
Conversation was stilted, but you expected that; she's not known for her social skills. So you did most of the talking and for some reason, she hung onto every word. Her eyes never left your face and you felt good about that. For a single evening, you felt completely wonderful. You might have even thought that Seven adored you, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, all right?
A little bit of wine, well, a lot of wine, and some sultry jazz music later, you reached across the table, gently brushing the curve of her jaw. Perfect symmetry, you said. And then you asked very softly, What does your hair look like?
And she looked at you in confusion, not quite understanding. She said something about obvious. Wasn't it obvious? she asked. But you shook your head and it was a simple move then from jawbone to the wing of gold hair just above her ear. She didn't flinch when you pulled out the little pins holding the hair in place.
You don't remember how you got out of your chair; you just did. One moment the table separated you from her, and the next minute it was you, her, nothing in between.
You touched her hair, wrapping the soft strands around your fingers and then without thinking, you leaned in for the kiss. Lightly brushing those full lips. You might have stopped then, might have pulled back, if she hadn't put her hand on the back of your neck, pulling you closer.
You were very aware of her last night. Aware of her in a way you haven't been since she came onboard. You never noticed before how her lashes curled or how her ears are perfectly shaped.
You never noticed because you never thought of her in this way before.
She was awkward at first, not quite knowing where to put her hands, but she kissed you back. It wasn't an earth-shaking kiss by any means, but nice, sweet, and you - you cared all the more because you knew it was the first kiss. And so you pulled away.
This isn't right, you said even though you didn't mean it. And she stared back at you with those deep blue eyes and you couldn't resist. You saw the flush in her cheeks and you knew what she didn't say. Her hand grabbed yours and you could tell that she didn't plan to let go. Not tonight.
Thank you for dinner, she said. And then she kissed you again. On the cheek, on the chin, on the neck. Soft little kisses. You held her close, feeling the warmth of her body through the oh so thin material of her suit. Your hands found their perfect resting spot: the little dip at the small of her back. You liked the way holding her made you feel.
You discovered that she was self-conscious; she flinched when you ran your fingers over the curved silver metal above her eye. So you did the only thing you could do; you told her she was beautiful. She regarded you with her patented look of skepticism. Her cynicism didn't bother you because you knew from experience that most women don't believe you when you tell them that they are beautiful. You say it to make them comfortable, you say it because it's true, and last night, you said it because you wanted to.
You were gentle because you knew that this was important. Knew that this was the next step in exploring her humanity and in a way, you were proud she had chosen you. Or did you choose her? Did it matter?
Somehow, you got her out of that suit of hers, cursing the Doctor every single second it took, and then you ended up on the bed, kicking off the covers as the two of you rolled across it. It never occurred to you that her skin could be that warm, that smooth, that flawless - free from all trace of Borg technology. And then you remembered the Doctor's dermal regeneration treatments and realized that some scars are below the skin, hidden where you can't see them.
You realized she had much to learn, realized you had so much to teach her and for a moment, you felt strangely powerful. But then you relented and knew that it wasn't about you; it was about her. And so you did your best and you were rewarded when she closed her eyes and shuddered in your arms.
Later she left, saying something about needing to regenerate, and you lay there alone in the bed, clutching a handful of sheet and looking at the indention in the mattress where that long, slender body had pressed up against you.
So you couldn't sleep. You stayed up all night, paced your quarters, and realized that when the Captain found out, there would be hell to pay.
The rule about fraternization, inconsistent as it is, applies consistently to the Captain and the First Officer. Everyone else can make their own rules.
So you start the morning with a headache and Seven is the last person you want to see.
It occurs that to you that you might get a reputation, the kind you don't want; the reputation that says you're the type of man who takes advantage of those serving beneath him. So you figure you ought to say something before it's too late.
You know you shouldn't, but you do anyway; you start with a cliche.
"About last night," you say. And Seven regards you coolly. If you hadn't seen it for yourself last night, you would think that her facial muscles are frozen in place, that that quizzical and slightly superior expression never quite changes; she is, even in this moment, impassive. So you try again. "We need to talk."
"I agree." Cool, clipped, utterly without emotion. You marvel at the coldness. In fact, you're slightly perturbed by how fascinated you are by Seven's sheer emotional control. Unfortunately - or fortunately - you wear your feelings across your face, where everyone can see them. It's the reason why you never really took up poker; everyone knew when you held a good hand and when your cards signified a fold in the first round.
"About last night," you say again. And this time she turns and faces you directly.
"You wish to discuss our intimate relations," she says.
"Begin," she states flatly. In the past, you hated the way she gave directives, the way she seemed ignorant of protocols - or maybe she simply ignored them - and you would constantly find yourself correcting her. But now, you find her terseness oddly endearing. She is the epitome of the opposite that you desire. Mind twister, isn't it? You know who you want, know you can't have her, so you settle on the exact opposite. There is something vaguely desperate about that and you don't like the way it makes you feel.
You wonder if you hate yourself.
You wonder if you hate her.
You wonder how you're going to get out of this gracefully.
"Not here, not now," you tell her hastily. Your timing is impeccable; the turbolift doors open and Seven steps out. She takes a few steps and then turns, looking almost shy, soft. You're amazed at the transformation as she looks back at you.
"Thank you," she says.
You're confused now. Hell, who wouldn't be? You take a step closer, putting your hand against the edge of the turbolift door to keep it open. You see no one in the corridor and realize that yes, Seven does mean you. She's still looking at you with a thin-lipped smile, the best she can possibly offer you. So you take it at face value and know she doesn't hate you. At least that's something.
You wonder about the appropriate response. You wonder about a book that gives you the proper etiquette in situations like this. You've never had this many questions before. Well, maybe, but not with Seven. Never with Seven.
"Are you available for dinner tonight?" her voice is light and the words roll off her tongue in a smooth and natural cadence. You remember her with that golden hair streaming down to her shoulders and that distant hazy look in her eyes. You remember touching her cheek and running a light finger over her shoulder before settling your lips against the curve of her neck. And you remember her hot breath against your cheek.
You think this is a bad idea. You think about your reputation.
You say yes.
Again that sweet smile and you wonder if she practiced that last night when she was supposed to be regenerating. She walks away and you focus on her retreating figure for a second longer than appropriate. You note the sway of her hips and it bothers you that you never noticed the way she moves before.
You step back and the turbolift doors close. The next stop, the doors open revealing the Captain.
You greet her with a nod because you still don't trust your mouth to form the right words.
"You look like you could use some coffee, Commander," the Captain says pleasantly. You notice the empty steel mug in her hand. "Join me?"
"Sounds good," you say, even as your stomach lurches at the thought.
You don't dare to look at her because you know the minute your eyes meet, she'll know. So you keep focus straight ahead and when the turbolift doors open again, you let her exit before you.
Chivalry, you think, but it's really an excuse for something else.
It's been a long time since you've kept a secret from the Captain.
You don't like how that makes you feel.
The Captain tells you, over her shoulder, that yesterday's problem in Engineering took longer than expected but that she enjoyed working through the issues with B'Elanna; it reminds her of the days when she was a pure scientist. And then she apologizes for missing dinner again. You tell her not to worry. She smiles at you and says she hopes dinner was delicious, even without her. She's teasing and you know it. You don't answer this comment.
In the Mess Hall, as Neelix places a steaming mug of coffee in front of each of you, you can't really concentrate on what the Captain is saying. You're distracted by the cool, elegant figure standing by the windows. You inhale sharply, try to listen to the Captain, but you can't help it if your thoughts wander; you're already anticipating tonight.
~ the end ~
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