By Thirds

    by Tenderware (tenderware@gate.net)

VOY J/J/7 NC-17

Warning: This is a sexually explicit story that explores a loving relationship between two female characters. If you are a minor or are offended by lesbianism or sex or both, then please go read something else.

Disclaimer: The characters were created by Paramount, Kate Mulgrew, and Jeri Ryan. I'm just borrowing them to tell a tale. This is strictly a fair-use, freeware, just-for-fun kind of deal. Nothing was exchanged except a few ideas about romance, and the only compensation the author anticipates receiving is a thanks or two from readers, which is the very best kind of return on a labor of love.

Biology Disclaimer: I apologize in advance to all you biology experts out there. I did some research on cell morphology for this story to try making this as plausible as possible, but all I managed to do was learn enough to know that those in-the-know will have to approach this tale with more than the usual willing suspension of disbelief. All I can say is that you please remember this is science fiction.

Summary: A menage-à-trois with a twist ensues after an accident separates the Starfleet-disciplined Captain Janeway from a surprisingly fun-loving Kathryn Janeway, who declares her true feelings for Seven of Nine and leaves the Borg feeling suddenly torn in her affections.

Time frame: Circa 6th Season.

Spoilers: Some for the 6th season episode "The Voyager Conspiracy."

Acknowledgments: My thanks to EmptyFlask for several crucial plot points and developments.
 



 

Prologue

The doors to the Astrometrics lab whooshed open behind Seven of Nine, and in walked Ensign Harry Kim, looking uncharacteristically disheveled.

"Hi, Seven," he greeted tiredly.

"Ensign," the Borg returned in abbreviated fashion. "Welcome back," she added politely.

"Here's the navigational data we got from the Eukarids. I'm glad this mission's over," he sighed.

Seven took the data and began inputting it into the Astrometrics computer. "I was not aware this diplomatic mission was difficult."

"It wasn't....until we began the cultural exchange and then took a tour of their biotech facilities, which included an invitation to observe one of them reproducing," he said with a shudder.

"Yes. The doctor has already informed me, in great detail and with greater enthusiasm, about their reproductive techniques," Seven offered, barely resisting the too human urge to roll her eyes. "He was intrigued that such complex organisms could reproduce through a process of cellular mitosis." She paused a moment to study her companion. "Is something wrong, Ensign? You appear pale."

"It wasn't a pretty sight, Seven," Harry explained, "watching a Eukarid suddenly growing and eventually splitting into two separate life-forms. Even the captain looked a little green around the gills when we got back. She's gone to her quarters to rest. Uh, but she said you should bring her the new charts as soon as you're finished."

"I will. Perhaps you should go rest now, as well."

Harry smiled. "Good idea. See you later, Seven."

*****

"Come," Captain Janeway called in response to the chortle of her doorbell.

The door slid open to admit one tall, lanky Borg carrying a data padd.

Janeway bit back a sigh of appreciation. "Hello, Seven," she greeted warmly.

"Welcome back, Captain. Here are the new navigational charts for this sector," she added, handing her the padd.

Janeway scanned the data briefly. "I'm glad this mission is over."

"Ensign Kim evoked the same sentiment when he delivered the data."

Janeway smiled. "Poor Harry. He barely managed to keep his dinner down during our tour of the autogenesis center. But it was worth it," she added decisively. "We've got guaranteed safe passage through their sector, additional stores of cryogenic deuterium, enough data on a new species to keep the biometrics lab, not to mention the doctor, contentedly mired in research for several months to come...."

Janeway seemed prepared to say more but was brought up short by a suddenly hacking cough. Seven took a step toward the older woman immediately.

"Captain," she called, reaching out and holding her shoulder in concern. "Are you ill? Should I call the doctor?"

"No," Janeway croaked, and then clearing her throat, she continued. "I think I'm just over tired. I guess this will wait until morning," she added, placing the padd on her workstation. She studied her visitor a moment more, an impish grin broadening her lips. "I bet you'd find the physiological data fascinating. Why don't we have breakfast together in the morning? I'll fill you in on all the gory details over some eggs."

A slight smile curled the Borg's lips. And then she allowed her brow to quirk playfully. "I have already been given 'the gory details' by both the doctor and Ensign Kim, on separate occasions. I understand 'eggs' were not involved in the process. However," she added softly, "joining you for breakfast to hear your account of those events would be acceptable."

Janeway smiled back. "Good. Meet me here at 0700." She paused abruptly and then began to frown.

Seven's own brow wrinkled. "Captain?"

"Oh!" the older woman cried suddenly as she doubled over in evident pain.

"Captain!" Seven yelled, lunging forward and catching Janeway before she fell to the deck. "Computer, emergency transport! Two to beam directly to sickbay."

As soon as they had materialized, Seven was on her feet, carrying the captain to a biobed and barking out orders. "Doctor, come at once! The captain is ill!"

"What happened?" he asked tersely, as he rushed to the captain and began scanning her writhing body.

"We were in the captain's quarters discussing the Away mission when she suddenly cried out in pain and collapsed."

The hologram frowned in consternation as he put down the scanner and began palpitating the captain's abdomen.

"Oh! No!" Janeway cried out again.

"Stop it! You are hurting her!"

Just then Chakotay entered sickbay, having monitored the emergency transport. "Stand back, Seven," he ordered in gentle but firm tones. "Let the doctor conduct his examination."

He approached the biobed, the concern evident on his face.

The doctor grabbed a hypospray and pressed it into the captain's neck, instantly calming her as the pain-suppressant took effect.

Seven took a calming breath, relieved now that the captain wasn't crying out. But she couldn't step back, as Chakotay had ordered. Instead, she reached out and gently stroked the captain's hair, not caring whether the intimate caress was observed by the others present.

For the young woman's sake, Chakotay pretended not to notice. "Any ideas about what's going on, Doctor?"

"She's got some kind of growth, but it isn't viral or bacterial." He turned to a nearby console and reviewed the medical data displayed. "In fact, there are no foreign agents in her body that could be causing this kind of growth."

"Is it a tumor, then?"

"I don't think so. The tissues and cells all appear to be normal. It's simply as if she's suddenly growing."

"Growing what?" Chakotay pressed.

The doctor turned back to study the captain, lifting her shirt over a belly that had become noticeably distended. "Growing more of herself," he concluded in ominous tones.


Act I

Seven of Nine jolted awake, as if from a bad dream, and instantly felt a sharp pain in her back. She sat up slowly, reorienting herself to her surroundings. She was sitting in a chair in sickbay and had apparently slumped over an adjacent biobed and fallen asleep. Then she remembered why she was there, having insisted the night before that she should remain in sickbay to assist the doctor. Since she had been off duty anyway and evidently concerned for the captain's welfare, neither Chakotay nor the doctor had even considered objecting, for which she was grateful. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes now and focused on the nearby bed. When she took in the sight before her, she gasped in surprise.

"Easy, Seven," the doctor instructed softly as he came to her side.

"What is happening to her, Doctor?" Seven asked, trying to keep her voice low despite her alarm.

The naked form on the biobed that was once her captain had mutated into a mass twice the captain's normal size, a mass that was only vaguely humanoid given its distended shape and the cocoon-like membrane surrounding it. Through the membrane, Seven could tell that the body was curled up on its side and appeared to be developing additional appendages.

"Don't be afraid," the hologram continued, trying to calm the young woman. "I think they're going to be all right once the process is over."

"'They'?" she asked impatiently.

"Yes, they. The captain appears to be, well, reproducing."

"This is not the way humans reproduce."

"No," the doctor agreed. "But it is the way the Eukarids reproduce. I observed exactly the same stages of growth during the mission."

"But how is that possible? The captain isn't a Eukarid. She is a humanoid female, with reproductive organs that produce unfertilized ova. Humans are not autogenous."

"I'm beginning to think the Eukarids aren't strictly autogenous either. Their mode of reproduction seemed self-generating and wholly a characteristic of their cellular morphology. But I now think that something in their environment, something unique to their planet, must act as a sort of stimulus that induces this complex form of mitosis."

"Why didn't you determine that sooner?"

"There was nothing to base that observation on. Only a small contingent beamed down, and we weren't there long enough for the process to begin. In fact, none of the other members of the mission have been affected."

"Why was the captain affected?"

"She was the only female on the Away mission, and she was ovulating at the time. I suspect that's what made her susceptible to whatever catalyst triggered mitosis in her system. Her ovum provided enough reproductive matter for the process to take effect."

"We should have been warned about this danger by the Eukarids. Why didn't they say anything during the preliminary arrangements for the Away mission?"

"Chakotay contacted them for more information and asked exactly that. They hadn't even considered that other species could be affected the same way. Apparently, few of their off-world visitors have been women, and either their organic composition was too different or they were in a different phase of their personal cycles. There's no way of knowing."

"Even if the captain's body is sufficiently similar to make her susceptible, it isn't designed to undergo this process. How do you know 'they' will be 'all right' after the separation process has completed itself? And which one will be the real captain?"

"I suppose I don't know exactly. In the Eukarids, the two new life-forms are identical in every respect, including intellect, temperament, and memory engrams. They start to develop differences only has they begin having different life experiences. In the captain's case, however, I'm afraid I really don't know that both captains will be identical. Unlike the Eukarids', the human cerebrum, as you know, is functionally bifurcated with each hemisphere specializing in a particular set of higher brain functions. I can't guarantee that those functions will be duplicated in exactly the same way."

The doctor studied the young woman carefully and realized she was having trouble digesting everything he had said.

"I know you're concerned, Seven, but it may not be as bad as you're thinking. The truth is we won't know anything until they wake up. Try not to worry." At that, he returned to his office, deciding his friend needed some time to herself.

Seven blinked back her tears as she looked at the life-forms on the biobed, trying to find some familiar trace of the woman she had come to care a great deal about. She hadn't even had the chance to tell the captain that her feelings ran deeper than friendship, that she was, in fact, falling in love with the woman. And now, she didn't know if she would ever be able to do that.

Unable to face the truth of that just yet, she turned on her heel and walked out of sickbay without another word.

*****

Seven stood nervously outside the doors to sickbay. She had left the captain the previous morning to begin her duty shift and couldn't bring herself to return until a full day and a second shift had passed. Even now, she found herself hovering indecisively in the hallway, torn between her need to learn how the captain was faring and her fear of what she might find.

What little resolve she had been able to muster was suddenly gone. She turned to leave when she noticed Chakotay approaching.

"Seven, I'm glad you're here. The doctor just called me to say that the separation is complete. He's about to revive them, and I think we could use your help. They're going to be disoriented."

"They will not be the only ones feeling that way," Seven mumbled miserably.

"I know," the commander returned in comforting tones. "Whatever we find in there, it's going to take some adjustment for all of us. But we need to be strong. For her. For them," he corrected.

As intended, the reminder filled Seven with a sense of purpose for the captain's sake, helping to dampen her own fears. "I will assist you," she declared, a hint of her Borg determination resurfacing.

They entered sickbay together and immediately noticed that a second biobed was now occupied. The two bodies on the adjacent beds appeared the same in every respect. They were the captain, hair slightly dampened and brushed back, face set in peaceful repose, their naked bodies covered demurely by matching Starfleet sheets in a surprisingly flattering teal blue. Ironically, both Seven and Chakotay had the same thought and smiled to themselves at noticing something so mundane in what were otherwise dire circumstances. They approached slowly and stood at the foot of the two beds, their eyes darting from one form to the other trying to discern some difference.

The doctor entered from his office, carrying two hyposprays.

"I know they look identical," he said, "but they aren't. For one thing, their eyes are different. This captain," he said pointing to the body on the left, "has grey eyes. The other one's eyes are a bright blue."

"Anything else?" Chakotay asked concerned.

"Yes. The grey-eyed captain is showing more brain activity in the left hemisphere, whereas the blue-eyed captain appears to be right-hemisphere dominant."

"Does that mean they're going to behave differently? And will they be able to share command?" Chakotay asked worriedly. He couldn't quite bring himself to voice what truly concerned him: whether either one of these two new Kathryn Janeways would still be fit to command Voyager.

The doctor shrugged. "Let's find out," he said, pressing one hypospray into the neck of the captain he said had the blue eyes. "I'm going to revive them one at a time to minimize the confusion."

Chakotay and Seven nodded absently, silently agreeing with the doctor's plan. Then they carefully watched, breaths unconsciously held, as the captain's lids fluttered open to reveal uncharacteristically bright eyes, as blue as a summer's day.

"Welcome back," the doctor began.

"Hello, Doctor," she answered warmly. Then looking around, she noticed the others present and their serious expressions. "Why so glum, chums? You look like you've lost your best friend."

Chakotay and Seven both looked away, and the doctor coughed uncomfortably, hoping the statement wasn't as prophetic as it suddenly felt.

"Do you know who and where you are?" he asked.

"I'm Kathryn Janeway, and from the look of things," she added, glancing at the walls and instruments around her, "I'd say I'm in Voyager's sickbay."

"What's the last thing you remember?"

"I had just gotten back from a diplomatic mission and was resting in my quarters when Seven dropped by with some charts I wanted. We talked about the mission. I invited her to breakfast the next morning, and then--" She frowned, trying to remember the rest. "Then I think I got a stomach ache. Was it something I ate? Something actually more lethal than Neelix's cooking?" she quipped.

Chakotay smiled. "How do you feel?"

Janeway considered the question. "Not bad," she said with a note of surprise. "In fact, I don't think I've felt this good in a long time. Like I've been on vacation for months." She frowned. "How long have I been here?" she asked cautiously.

"Almost 48 hours."

Janeway idly took in the information but was more intent on Seven, who was uncharacteristically quiet. "So what happened to me in my quarters?" she continued.

Since she was looking at the young woman when she asked the question, Seven felt compelled to answer. "You collapsed in considerable pain, Captain, so I ordered an emergency transport and brought you here."

Janeway smiled. "Thank you," she said softly. "And Seven, since I'm obviously off duty and even out of uniform," she added whimsically, peaking briefly under her sheet to confirm her suspicion, "there's no need to be so formal. Just call me 'Kathryn'."

The permission should have relaxed the former Borg, but it seemed to make her more uncomfortable. Kathryn frowned.

"Captain--" Chakotay began.

"It's just Kathryn," she persisted, noticing it made Chakotay stiffen uncomfortably, too, and wondering why they were so insistent on using her rank.

"Kathryn," he started again, "something happened to you on your Away mission."

"So I gathered."

"Do you remember how the Eukarids reproduce?" he continued.

"How could I forget?" she replied, rolling her eyes.

"Well, it seems there may be an environmental stimulus that contributes to their reproductive process."

"What? Is it their food? Is it some sort of autogenic aphrodisiac that makes them multiply like horny amoebae?" she quipped, snorting at her own joke. "I guess that would explain why it made me sick, given that my body is so different from theirs."

"Not that different," the doctor countered cautiously.

Kathryn frowned. "What do you mean?"

"Cap--, uh, Kathryn," he corrected, "we haven't determined what exactly induces mitosis in the Eukarids, but apparently you were affected."

Kathryn looked down at herself. "Are you saying I'm undergoing the same process? That I'm cloning myself?"

"I'm saying you've already undergone that process." He stepped aside, giving Kathryn her first clear line of sight to the adjacent biobed.

"Oh my god," she called in hushed tones. "It's me."

Seven instinctively took a protective step forward at the note of alarm in Kathryn's voice, but they all remained silent, giving her a moment to digest the news.

"How is this possible?"

"We don't know exactly," Chakotay admitted. "Even the Eukarids didn't realize that other species might be affected."

"Is she....is she just like me?" Kathryn inquired with equal doses of fear and curiosity.

"We don't know yet," the doctor answered. "We decided to revive you one at a time."

"Makes sense," she nodded pensively. "Um, maybe you should wake her up now."

The doctor wondered if he should give her more time to adjust but realized that they needed both captains awake to determine what they had to contend with. He stepped over to the second biobed and pressed a hypospray into the other captain's neck.

The woman stirred and then moaned quietly, a frown wrinkling her brow. Then her lids fluttered open revealing eyes that were a cloudy grey.

"Welcome back, Kathryn," he greeted.

She frowned some more then cleared her throat. "You'd better run a diagnostic subroutine on your memory banks, Doctor. You seem to have forgotten my rank."

Kathryn snorted from the other bed, inadvertently getting the captain's attention.

When she saw her doppleganger, the grey-eyed Janeway bolted upright, clutching the sheet to herself. "What's going on here? Who the hell are you?"

Kathryn looked at the doctor. "Shall I do the honors, or will you?"

*****

Kathryn Janeway's laughing blue eyes took in the sight of her cozy quarters with relief. Then they settled on the moody woman who had trailed her inside, a woman who was at once too well known and an utter stranger. After introductions, endless questions from her other half, and a few final scans to confirm that they were at least physically fit, both captains had insisted that they needed time alone to adjust to being suddenly duplicated.

They understood intuitively that they had each undergone a change, and those changes were becoming progressively more apparent to themselves and to the three senior officers who had been present when they awoke. Kathryn felt oddly light, as though a weight had been lifted from her. The captain, on the other hand, seemed rather grave in her demeanor, definitely Starfleet through-and-through.

Even before Chakotay could raise the issue of how they would share command, Kathryn practically abdicated all responsibility, arguing that the grey-eyed captain was obviously more suited for the job. Kathryn suggested she would be satisfied functioning merely as an informal advisor, if and when she felt she could make a contribution to the functioning of the ship.

Captain Janeway, however, immediately rejected that idea. The doctor had confirmed her suspicions that her personality hadn't duplicated itself in the other Janeway, but had instead split. She argued that until they found out which potentially vital aspects of her personality she had lost to the other Janeway, her command decisions might be lacking. They therefore had to share command until something more workable could be determined. And that meant sharing the captain's quarters, at least until they could decide which one of them would get booted out and how they would divvy up possessions to which they both had legitimate claims.

"Which one of us gets the bed?" Kathryn asked.

"We'll alternate," Janeway replied crisply.

"Fine. You take it tonight. You seem like someone in desperate need of a good night's sleep."

Janeway smirked. "I never realized I was so sarcastic."

"And I never realized how dreadfully humorless I can be," Kathryn shot back in a long-suffering tone.

"Look," Janeway began with a sigh, "this is going to be hard enough without our bickering all the time. Can't we call a truce?" she asked tiredly.

Kathryn smiled at her double. "Okay, I'll be nice," she said, making her way to the replicator and ordering up two coffees. "But I'm not surprised we're mixing like oil and water," she continued. "We seem to think differently, to have different priorities, different opinions. I think I'm beginning to understand how exactly our personalities have split. There you are, all Starfleet-Yes-Sir, stiff-upper-lip, I'm-going-down-with-the-ship. And I'm over here wondering why after six years on this tub, Chakotay's the only one allowed to call me by my first name, and then only when we're off duty."

"There's a reason I always kept a distance, but I don't think I was ever distant," Janeway rejoined, sounding almost regretful. She accepted her coffee gratefully and took a sip before continuing. "Obviously we're not entirely different," she offered, motioning to her cup.

"Where it matters, we are. We can't even agree about how the crew should relate to us. How are we going to agree on command decisions?"

"Both of our temperaments stem from Captain Kathryn Janeway. Somehow our progenitor made it work, managed to strike a balance."

"Are you kidding? You could say a lot of nice things about dear old mom, but she was hardly balanced. Don't you remember all the turmoil she went through. Those late nights fretting about virtually everything, especially anything having to do with the crew. My god, especially anything involving Seven! She didn't strike a balance between our two temperaments; she arrived at her decisions by repressing me! I feel as though I've just been let out of jail!" she exclaimed, flopping down on her favorite lounger.

"So what are you suggesting? That you be allowed free rein now?" Janeway asked, as she seated herself across from Kathryn.

"Why not? You're the Starfleet captain, so be the captain. I'm the part she always wanted to be but couldn't because of her pathetic obsession with protocol. We're separate people now. Why can't the crew have you as their captain and me as their friend?"

The comment stung, largely because Captain Janeway could still remember what it was like being Kathryn Janeway, what it was like having those desires for closeness. She couldn't deny, of course, that there was a certain logic in what Kathryn was saying. But she wasn't sure she wanted to give up entirely on her own needs for companionship, or that she could stand watching this other Kathryn Janeway act as her surrogate in their social relationships with the crew. "Where does it leave me?" she asked aloud, not realizing she had done so.

Kathryn was filled with a sense of compassion for her other self. "You know what? It leaves you exactly wherever you want it to leave you. We're each individuals, governed by our own motives and desires. You can befriend the crew, too, but on whatever terms you deem appropriate. And they will simply have to get used to the idea that they now have two people in their lives called 'Kathryn Janeway'."

The captain smiled despite herself, but she nevertheless felt that things weren't going to be as simple as Kathryn insisted they would be.

*****

The following morning, when Alpha shift began at 0800 hours, two captains reported for duty. The crew had been notified of recent events over the ship-wide messaging system, but that didn't adequately prepare them for the sight of two Kathryn Janeways, dressed in identical command uniforms, strolling through the corridors and onto the bridge as if it were just any other day. Those too shocked to remember their manners, which was most of them, openly stared at the two women and began to perceive a few differences. In addition to eye color, one of the captains carried herself with remarkable aplomb and greeted each crew member with a brilliant smile that they found disarming. The other slumped a little more around the shoulders and was far more curt in her greetings.

The captains and the first officer had apparently discussed the seating arrangements prior to the morning shift, for when the captains entered, the first officer relinquished the command chair with a nod and situated himself at the starboard engineering station. He immediately appreciated the additional workspace and computer consoles it provided and decided he could adapt easily if this were to become a permanent arrangement.

The blue-eyed Janeway noticed Seven of Nine was manning the aft engineering station and graced her with a smile and an uncharacteristic wink before casually seating herself in Chakotay's vacant chair. She then wiggled a little as she fitted herself to the chair, surprised at the wide dent her bulky first officer had imprinted in it over the course of their years together.

The grey-eyed Janeway took the captain's customary seat, activated her monitors and barked out what was at once her first order and her millionth. "Report."

"Captain," Chakotay responded, "we're approaching the Cirrus star system and have already had first contact with one of their merchant ships. They're interested in trading and are awaiting our hail to begin negotiations."

"Hail the merchant vessel."

"They're responding," Harry Kim called.

"On screen." As soon as the image materialized, Janeway introduced herself. "I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship Voyager."

"Greetings, fellow traders! I'm Captain Demitrius of the Cirran vessel Solanar, and I'm afraid I may have to make a visit to my sickbay, Captain Janeway, because I do believe I'm seeing double."

"Your eyes are fine, Captain Demitrius," Kathryn chimed in with a laugh. "I'm also Kathryn Janeway, co-captain of Voyager."

"Are you part Eukarid captains?" the alien commander inquired.

"We are now," Kathryn murmured cryptically.

"I beg your pardon?"

"My colleague and I are the result of a recent visit we made to the Eukarids' planet," Janeway explained, silently annoyed by her counterpart's lack of formality.

"Ah, yes. Our government received a recent communique from the Eukarids warning us that a female off-worlder had just been affected by their planet's reproductive agents and advising us that they would be instituting new visitation protocols to avoid similar....mishaps. How are you adjusting to your new circumstances, may I ask?"

"Quite well, thank you," Janeway lied. "Have you had a chance to review the manifest we transmitted earlier, Captain?"

"Getting right down to business, eh Captain? I like that. Unfortunately, I don't see much on your trade inventory that is of particular interest to us."

"Oh?" Janeway replied with concern. "Perhaps if you sent us a list of the items you're looking for, we could come up with something more suitable," she suggested earnestly.

"Alas, it would take weeks to translate our particular needs into something you might have. But fear not, Captain, we're willing to take some of your little items in exchange for whatever you need from us."

Janeway's message light flashed on her console, indicating that she had an urgent communication from Kathryn, a strategy they had agreed upon the previous night for sharing advice covertly and making their co-captaincy more seamless. "He's getting ready to haggle us. Let me handle this." Janeway took in the message in one brief glance and dropped her chin in a subtle nod of assent to her counterpart.

Kathryn picked up the reigns in the next beat. "I'm sure you'll understand, Captain Demitrius, that our situation dictates that we use some discretion when trading with other species for the first time. Since we never know, on first contact, which vessels are honest merchant traders like yourself and which are predatory pirates, it's our custom to list only the portion of our manifest that we assume will be most attractive to those we're engaging in trade. Evidently, we miscalculated in your case and for that you have my sincerest apologies. It's a pity you can't provide us with a list of your wants, but we certainly won't waste any more of your time. Helm," she called, addressing Lt. Tom Paris, "how long will we be in Cirran space?"

"Three days, Captain," Paris answered smartly.

Kathryn returned her attention to the alien trader. "Well, it would seem you have some time before we leave this area, Captain Demitrius. Perhaps you'll be able to come up with a short list of items in that time and contact us again. Either way, it's been a pleasure," she concluded in a deceptively dulcet tone.

"I doubt that, Captain, so I'll bid you farewell now. May you have a safe journey through our space and beyond." He nodded cordially before the screen went blank.

Kathryn noticed her own message light flashing, indicating a communication from Janeway. "Are you sure? Chakotay's initial scans indicate they have stores of biogenic compounds that we could use." Kathryn tapped in her response, and Janeway read the following: "I guarantee they'll be contacting us again, probably on Day 3, when they think we'll be the most desperate to conclude a trade before we depart."

Janeway saw the logic in that and gave another quick nod of approval, satisfied that their first task as co-captains had gone well. "Steady as she goes, Lt. Paris."

"Aye, Captain."

Kathryn watched as Janeway stood and made her way to the tactical station to have a word with Tuvok. Already feeling antsy herself, she followed suit, stretching a bit before making her way to Seven's station.

"How's it going, Seven?" she asked casually.

"I have just completed additional scans of this system, Captain," Seven answered, mistaking the personal question for a professional one.

"Good, good," Kathryn replied trying to sound business like. "Uhm, anything to report?"

Seven's brow quirked at the uncharacteristic hesitation. "Nothing of note, Captain. Three M-Class planets, as Commander Chakotay's initial scans indicated, eight other uninhabited L-Class planets. No stellar phenomena worth investigating, although I do detect a thick ring of gas particles surrounding this system's sun similar to the one surrounding the Eukarid sun. If this is a property characteristic of most of the systems in this region, it would account for the lower levels of solar radiation reported by the Eukarids in the astrometrics data they gave us for this entire sector."

"Does the Cirran ring exhibit the same refractive properties?"

"Yes, Captain," Seven replied with a frown, not understanding the relevance of the question.

Kathryn leaned in close to Seven and put her hand casually on the woman's shoulder as she studied the data. "Mmm," she mused. "Sounds like the Cirrans enjoy spectacular sunsets, too, then."

Seven resisted the urge to shift away from the uninvited contact, which seemed suddenly too familiar given that she was just getting to know this Kathryn Janeway. "Yes, Captain," she replied tersely.

"I really wish you'd call me 'Kathryn'," the blue-eyed Janeway purred.

Seven's eyes widened. "Even on the bridge?"

"I don't mind," Kathryn replied lightly, but she could see that, for some reason, Seven did mind. "Well, I think I'm going to go get a cup of coffee," she announced, squeezing Seven's shoulder before releasing it. "See you later," she said flirtatiously.

The exchange had not gone unnoticed by Captain Janeway, who watched now as Kathryn made her way to the Ready Room. "Thank you, Tuvok," she said, finishing off her conversation with the security officer. She then trailed her counterpart. "You have the bridge, Chakotay," she called back just before the Ready Room doors closed behind her.

*****

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the captain demanded, taking a seat at her desk.

Kathryn idly fingered her coffee cup and quirked a brow. "I have no idea what you're talking about," she equivocated, seating herself regally in the chair opposite Janeway.

"You were touching Seven, out there on my bridge!"

"Our bridge," Kathryn corrected. "And I simply brushed her arm."

"Who are you kidding? You were flirting with her, and it made her feel uncomfortable. You're pushing her into something she's not ready for!"

"I wouldn't push Seven into anything," Kathryn objected hotly. "However, I do intend to pursue a relationship with her, if it's any of your business."

"It is my business. Seven is a member of my crew, and I have a responsibility to protect her. You're still a captain when we're out on that bridge together. And even when you're not on the bridge. That complicates any relationship you have with a crew member."

"It's going to be strictly consensual."

"How do you know that? Seven may consent because she doesn't want to oppose a person she identifies as her captain."

"She isn't as naive as you think, Janeway. Besides, I'm aware of the effect my rank could have on her, which is precisely why I intend to let her call the shots on this one. We're going to go as slow as she wants."

"You shouldn't be 'going' at all! Not with Seven!"

"This isn't about Starfleet protocol, is it?" Kathryn accused.

"Of course it is," Janeway dissembled.

"I don't think so. You're acting a little too proprietary over our resident Borg for this to be a simple matter of rules and regulations. And while we're on the subject of who has the more legitimate claim on her, let me remind you that if it wasn't for me, Seven wouldn't even be here."

"How do you figure?" Janeway challenged.

"I'm the risk taker, Captain. I'm the one with the imagination and sense of adventure it took to fashion a plan to ally with the Borg against Species 8472 so that we could gain safe passage through Borg space. And therefore I'm the reason Seven of Nine came onboard to function as liaison between us and the hive mind."

"And which of us gets the credit for keeping her here?" Janeway countered.

"That was a little of both of us."

"That's right. As was the original plan. It took discipline and artifice. Equal parts logic and imagination. It was artful strategizing, Kathryn. That's what made our former self so formidable. And that's why you and I still have to work together, sharing the responsibilities of this captaincy. You have to maintain some distance. No matter what your feelings are. Seven isn't here just so she can make us feel less lonely!"

"No, she's not," Kathryn agreed softly. "But as you've just inadvertently admitted, it's lonely at the top. And those feelings you and I both have for Seven? You know as well as I do that we didn't want them or ask for them. They just snuck up on us. I have a chance now to act on them, for my sake and Seven's. Don't you see the way she looks at us? There's a longing there, an acute sense of loneliness. That was the first human emotion we unwittingly introduced her to when we severed her from the Collective. She may have found a way of adapting to the silence, but in its place she has a newfound desire for human companionship, a basic need to connect with someone on an emotional level. And I'm sure that the person she most wanted to share those feelings with was Captain Kathryn Janeway. The original captain. Frankly, my biggest fear is that I won't be enough for her."

"Then why pursue it?" Janeway persisted with a touch of compassion now inflecting her tone.

"I have to," Kathryn said simply. "To avoid the risk, to give up before I've even tried is too tragic a failure, especially with a reward as sweet as the possibility of winning Seven's heart."

Janeway blinked back tears and swallowed against the lump in her throat, understanding that sense of failure to her core.


Act II

A happy chaos ensued at one end of the mess hall as Seven of Nine sat at the other end quietly observing the new individual that was at the center of all that laughter: the blue-eyed Kathryn Janeway. The crew had taken to her with alacrity, as if they'd been waiting all these years to see this side of the captain.

It was ironic. The former Kathryn Janeway, with the doctor's help, had tried, time and again, to show Seven how to be more human. But it wasn't until now, watching the crew relate to this friendlier Kathryn Janeway, that she truly understood how much that mattered to her shipmates.

Two weeks had passed since the accident that had caused the captain to duplicate, and in that time, ship and crew had managed to adapt quite adequately to the shared captaincy of the two Janeways, which already boasted one success. Captain Demitrius, as Kathryn had predicted, did contact Voyager again on their final day in Cirran space. And with the combined force of Kathryn's talent for reading people and Captain Janeway's disciplined attention to detail, they had been able to outmaneuvre the alien trader, concluding an exchange that was at once fair and remarkably advantageous to Voyager.

Seven had been stationed at the aft engineering console on the bridge during most of those negotiations and on several other occasions since then. From there, she had a clear line of vision to the data console that sat between the two command chairs where the two captains sat. As a result, she was more aware than any other crew member that the shared captaincy of the two Janeways was not as seamless as it appeared. Indeed, despite their outward placidity, the two captains often bickered about command decisions and worked out their differences secretively by posting messages back and forth on the console between them. That observation made Seven more acutely aware that, even in their responsibilities as captain, the two individuals called Kathryn Janeway were, in fact, vastly different. And being aware of their differences, Seven couldn't help comparing the two women, eventually coming to the conclusion that this irreverent Kathryn Janeway she was currently observing unnerved the former Borg considerably.

"Hello, Seven."

The young woman looked up to find the now familiar grey eyes of Captain Janeway staring back at her, and as always, she found them clouded by an innate sadness that always made her heart clutch.

"Hello, Captain," she answered softly. "Would you like to sit with me?" she added politely, remembering her social lessons with the doctor.

Janeway nodded and sat down next to the Borg, silently observing her counterpart for a few moments.

Seven sensed something in that look. A subtle jealously, perhaps, tinged with what seemed like regret. "They are telling 'off-color jokes'," she explained.

Janeway smiled, perceiving the subtle disapproval in the young woman's tone.

"Do you wish to join them?" Seven asked curiously.

"No, I--I think I'd put a damper on the fun," Janeway admitted.

"Why do you say this?"

"Because it's true. They perceive me more as their captain; whereas with Kathryn, they can let their hair down, so to speak. They're more comfortable around her."

"I believe I feel more comfortable around you, Captain."

"Maybe I just seem more familiar. After all, my former self was equally reserved in her emotions. But Kathryn was always there," she added quietly.

"I often found the former captain to be exceptionally good company, even though she did not tell jokes that began with phrases like 'There once was a Borg from Nantucket'."

The captain's eyes grew wide, and she suddenly craned her neck to observe the gathering more closely. "None of the children are with them, are they?"

"No, Captain. The jokes began shortly after they all retired for the evening."

"Good," Janeway said with a sigh of relief.

Seven cocked her head curiously. "Are you concerned about the effect Kathryn is having on the crew?"

Janeway flinched internally at hearing Seven call the other woman by her given name, which seemed suddenly too intimate. She swallowed back her reaction, however, and considered Seven's question.

"Actually, I think Kathryn is probably good for the crew. She can be there for them in a way that I or even the former captain never could."

"I don't understand."

Janeway struggled a moment for a way to explain her comment to Seven. "I always felt it was more....efficient to maintain some distance from the crew, that maintaining my rank and authority in all my relationships with them would help them continue to see me as their leader, as someone they could count on to make all the necessary decisions for our welfare. For most people, there's a sense of safety in being able to cede authority over to someone who is capable of leading and protecting them. And because they acknowledge me as the person in charge of their safety, they're better able to accept my decisions in all matters. That was especially crucial when we first got stranded here, given that Starfleet and Maquis crew members were suddenly thrown together as shipmates and that we were in an area of space hostile to all of us. But underneath all the rank and protocol, I think some of the crew have needed something more from me, a friendship and closeness that I couldn't give them because of the distance I have to maintain as captain." She nodded toward her counterpart. "Kathryn can give them that now."

"What if they wish to have that closeness with you?"

Janeway smiled sadly. "Why would they? Anything I could give them by way of friendship is magnified ten times over in Kathryn."

"But she is too frivolous," Seven countered. "Captain Janeway and I were in the habit of having philosophical discussions. I cannot imagine Kathryn being interested in that."

"Well, you can still come to me for those discussions," she said with a smile. "But don't underestimate Kathryn. She has a serious side, too. And she's certainly opinionated enough to give you a good debate. Don't forget that she was involved in those conversations too, Seven, and she would miss having more of them with you. I think you should give her a chance."

Seven considered that. "I will try, but I do not think she would miss me that much with all the new friends she is making."

The captain paused a moment, becoming once again pensive. "You know, we spoke of you shortly after the accident," she continued carefully. "Kathryn argued that she was the reason you're here with us."

"That is not true!" Seven objected.

"I didn't buy her argument either," Janeway offered with a grin.

"You are the one responsible for my being here," the young woman continued.

"No, Seven," Janeway countered gently. "It was both of us." She paused, allowing Seven to digest that information.

"But it was your sense of duty and your desire to protect Voyager that led you to seek safe passage from the Borg," Seven protested. "And it was your sense of responsibility toward me that led you to keep me onboard, even against my wishes."

"But it was Kathryn's imagination that helped us come up with a solution as unique and risky as allying with the Borg, and it was her acute sense of empathy and compassion that made us reach out to you when you were feeling so lost and that further compelled us to offer you a home here when it would have been safer and more logical to leave you somewhere for the Borg to pick up later. It was also Kathryn who first began to draw you out by sharing her Da Vinci program with you. And," she added, deeply regretting what she was about to say, "I think it was a bit more Kathryn than me that came after you when the Borg Queen tried to take you back." She hung her head a bit at the admission. "I'm sorry," she said. "But when I think back to what we did, it just doesn't make sense to have put the ship and crew into that much danger to rescue one crew member." She looked up then and added forcefully, "Although I do remember hating that you were in danger. I hated it with everything that I am."

Seven considered the captain's words carefully. "I always wondered why you did come after me," she said pensively, observing Kathryn Janeway on the other side of the room. Then she returned her attention to the captain. "Perhaps, however, it was not only Kathryn who made that possible. Perhaps your own concern for me is what compelled you to acquiesce to such a risky plan, even against your better judgment," she said softly.

"Perhaps," Janeway conceded with a small smile.

*****

A week later, Seven entered the Cargo Bay accompanied by Kathryn. After responding to a few of the blue-eyed woman's recent attempts at conversation, she began to recognize one or two familiar traits, which helped her let her guard down more and accept the social invitation Kathryn had extended the day before.

"I'm glad you finally agreed to have dinner with me, Seven, and that you let me walk you home afterward," Kathryn purred.

"It was pleasant," Seven said honestly.

The older woman nodded then frowned slightly. "I was worried you wouldn't accept my offer. You've seemed so distant. I was afraid I'd done something to upset you."

"You did not, Kathryn. I simply wasn't used to the way you behave."

"I know I seem like I've changed and maybe I have, in a way, but I was always underneath the surface of the Kathryn Janeway you knew before. And some of what she shared with you stemmed from my part of her personality. You understand that, don't you?"

"I hadn't initially, but I'm beginning to. Captain Janeway explained to me that you were 'always there', and she said I should give you the opportunity to befriend me."

"She did?"

"Yes," Seven answered. "Does that surprise you?"

Kathryn's lips quirked up sardonically. "A little. We've had a few 'philosophical discussions' about the wisdom of my getting too friendly with the crew, letting them call me by my first name and so forth."

"Captain Janeway explained her reasons for thinking it prudent that a captain maintain some distance from her crew. Her motives are honorable, but....." Seven hesitated, not sure she wanted to criticize her captain in front of a woman she still considered somewhat of a stranger.

"But?" Kathryn prompted gently.

Seven took a breath. "I have seen the way the crew respond to you. It is important to them to have that closeness with you. Perhaps as important as the distance the captain needs as captain."

"Yes," Kathryn responded. "I'm so glad you see that."

"But," Seven began again.

"But?" Kathryn repeated, suddenly amused by their little game of give and take.

Seven looked her squarely in the eye before continuing, which made Kathryn sober.

"But," Seven pressed on, "I do not know if your own motives are honorable."

Kathryn swallowed hard and had the good grace to bow her head in partial admission of Seven's accusation. "I suppose they aren't as honorable. In fact," she conceded, looking up to meet the young woman's eyes, "I know that a good portion of my motives are selfish. I've been needing this closeness for a long time. But...." she paused, trying to choose her words carefully.

"But?" Seven prompted gently, resurrecting their game to reassure Kathryn.

The older woman smiled in gratitude. "But, I come by my feelings honestly, even if they aren't always honorable. My affections are real, Seven."

This time it was Seven's turn to swallow hard, wondering if she had interpreted Kathryn's deliberate inflection correctly.

"Do you remember the day you commandeered the Delta Flyer, prepared to destroy Mr. Tash's catapult and yourself in the process because you were convinced that I was conspiring against you?"

Seven nodded.

"It broke my heart seeing you so hurt and knowing that, in your own mind, I was the source of all that pain."

"You reminded me of everything we had been through together," Seven noted softly, "of all the ways you've cared for me."

"Yes. I needed some way to get through to you, some way to remind you of who I really was. This is who I really am, Seven. This is the woman I've wanted to be when I'm with you, especially that day on the Delta Flyer. I was so overjoyed when you decided to trust me again. I wanted desperately to show you how I felt. When I came to you and knelt before you," she whispered softly, "I was so close, Seven, so very close to showing you what I felt. I knew that if I just tilted my head forward a few centimeters, you'd know everything that I felt for you, everything that I still feel for you."

She stopped, trying to gauge Seven's reaction to the admission she had just made. She saw desire and affection, but also confusion and alarm, and seeing the latter, Kathryn decided not to press further at the moment. She stepped back a bit and sighed.

"It's late. I should get going. I hope you'll agree to go out with me again. I mean, as first dates go, this wasn't so bad, was it?"

Seven reconnected with Kathryn's eyes. "This was a date?" she asked, shades of excitement coloring her tone.

Kathryn smiled brilliantly. "Of course. What did you think it was?"

"I--I thought you just wanted to be friendly to me."

"Well, dating goes a lot more smoothly when you're friendly to your date," Kathryn joked. Then, sensing that Seven needed a serious response, she added, "I'm also hoping that, when you're ready and if you want it too, maybe we'll be able to become....more than friends."

Seven gasped slightly.

"When you're ready," Kathryn repeated. She approached the Borg then and kissed her chastely on the cheek. "Good night, Seven," she whispered. Then she turned and left.

Seven brought her hand up to her cheek, capturing the warmth and affection Kathryn had placed there and holding them to herself.

*****

"What do you mean you need me somewhere else this evening?" Captain Janeway asked with equal parts incredulity and ire.

"I've got a date," Kathryn explained curtly.

"A date?" Janeway asked more incredulously.

"Yup."

"With Seven?" Janeway followed up, this time with more ire.

"Yup," Kathryn answered again, barely suppressing the urge to whistle.

She and Seven had had another three dates since their first dinner together, and the relationship between them had been progressing nicely. In fact, she had decided not to initiate any more physical contact between them since that first peck on the cheek in the cargo bay, and apparently Seven had missed the contact enough that on their last date, the young woman had pulled Kathryn into an awkward embrace and had planted a kiss on the corner of Kathryn's mouth. She sensed that Seven had wanted to place the kiss directly on her lips but hadn't quite worked up enough nerve for that yet. Kathryn hoped that the more intimate surroundings of her quarters might help Seven relax enough to hit her target tonight. She hummed to herself at the thought.

"Kathryn?" Janeway called, sure she was interrupting an inappropriate reverie. "I won't be kicked out of my quarters so you can have a tryst!"

"It isn't a 'tryst'; it's a date. And when did you become such a prude anyway? You made yourself scarce for your other roommates during our Academy days."

"That's just it, Kathryn. We aren't cadets anymore; we're starship captains. And this isn't a fellow cadet you've invited over; this is a member of our crew!"

"Relax, will you? It's just dinner. You can come back by 2300 hours."

"And what am I supposed to do in the meantime?"

"Chakotay wanted to meet with one of us to go over personnel evaluations, and he said he was free tonight. Why don't you take care of that?"

"I hate going over personnel evaluations as much as you do," Janeway groused. "Anyway, you agreed to share our responsibilities, and that means sharing all the tasks."

"All right, I'll tell you what. You handle a third of the evals tonight, and I'll agree to do all the rest tomorrow with Chakotay. How's that?" she asked expectantly, hoping to strike a bargain that would get Janeway out of her hair for the evening.

"Fine!" Janeway barked. Then she stalked out.

*****

"Come in, Captain," Chakotay greeted her moments later.

"That woman is insufferable!" she said in response, as she stalked into his quarters.

The first officer suppressed a laugh but couldn't keep his dimples from deepening. "I assume you mean Kathryn Janeway," he said, unable to keep the amusement entirely out of his voice.

"Don't you start," she warned, not missing the double meaning in his comment. The only thing that spared him from becoming the surrogate target of her anger was the sure knowledge that he had more than paid his dues with Captain Kathryn Janeway: all versions of her.

"What did she do now?" he asked cautiously.

"She called roommate-privacy privileges on our cabin....for a date with Seven!"

"Maybe it's time we found other quarters for one of you."

"No kidding," she said sarcastically, as she paced back and forth.

"May I ask you something, Captain?"

"What?"

"Are you upset that she kicked you out of your quarters or that she's dating Seven?"

Janeway took a breath, not sure how much of her personal feelings she wanted to share, even with her first officer. "Both," she admitted finally. Then she felt the need to dissemble. "There are Starfleet protocols against this sort of thing, and precisely to protect vulnerable personnel from unwanted advances from their superiors. I can't think of a more perfect example than Seven for why those protocols matter. She's so naive."

Chakotay sensed that there was more to the captain's objections than just Seven's naivete, but he doubted this Janeway would be inclined to discuss those other reasons with her first officer. He decided the most judicious course was an indirect one.

"Captain," he said gently, "I've known Kathryn Janeway a long time, in all her guises. And there's no doubt in my mind that she wouldn't do anything that would intentionally hurt a member of her crew, especially when that person is someone she cares as deeply about as Seven of Nine. The Kathryn Janeway I know wouldn't toy with Seven's affections.....and she also wouldn't stand in the way of those affections if she saw that Seven had a real chance at being happy, at being cared for by someone she loves."

Janeway looked at Chakotay. "Do you think she loves Kathryn?" she asked earnestly.

He frowned considering how best to answer that question since the issue of Seven's affections was more complicated now than before the accident.

"Do you know how you got to sickbay the night you began separating?"

"Seven called for an emergency transport," she said with a nod.

"And do you know where Seven went after bringing you to sickbay?"

"No," she replied with a frown. "Where did she go?"

"Nowhere. She insisted on staying with you until her shift started the following morning." He paused a moment to allow her to digest the information. "I think," he continued carefully, "that Seven of Nine has been in love with Kathryn Janeway for a long time."

He didn't say anything more, but Janeway understood his meaning perfectly--that he knew the feelings were mutual and that now there was a Kathryn Janeway willing to act on those feelings.

Janeway took a calming breath. Then, because she didn't want to think anymore about what might be going on in her quarters, she moved on to ship's business. "So I understand we have some personnel evaluations to go over?"

"Yes, Captain. Are you up to it? " he asked with a twinkle in his eye. "If we work over dinner, we could probably get through half of them tonight.

"Oh, no! In exchange for vacating my quarters, I got my sentence reduced to a third."

The first officer chuckled. "I'll try to make it painless for you."

"Don't bite off more than you can chew, Chakotay," she quipped without breaking a smile. "So, how many people do we have in the engineering department?"

"Thirty-eight," he answered.

"That's close enough to a third," she said decisively. "You and I'll do engineering tonight. You can corner Kathryn for the rest tomorrow."

Chakotay knew that thirty-eight personnel accounted for only about a fourth of the crew complement, but he understood that pointing out the discrepancy right now would border on insubordination.

"Yes, Captain," he agreed wisely.

*****

Seven of Nine had visited the captain's quarters often, although she had seldom felt as disquieted being there as she did this evening. She knew Kathryn had invited her there because the surroundings were more intimate, but Seven was having a difficult time disassociating the place from the person she knew as her captain, both the former Kathryn Janeway and her grey-eyed successor.

"Where is Captain Janeway?" she suddenly asked her blue-eyed companion.

"She said she had some evaluations to review with Chakotay and that she'd be out most of the evening," Kathryn replied, trying to sound casual in her reconstruction of the truth. Well, she reasoned, Seven didn't really need to know that the appointment between Chakotay and the captain was one that Kathryn had arranged on her counterpart's behalf. She approached the leggy Borg, who was seated delicately on the edge of the couch with her knees and waist folded at precise right angles. Kathryn tucked herself next to Seven less geometrically and handed her a glass of wine.

"I think you'll like this. It's light and dry--" Like you, she wanted to add, but she wasn't sure Seven would get the gentle teasing.

Seven took a sip. "It is acceptable," she said distractedly, suddenly unsettled by how closely Kathryn had positioned herself.

Kathryn perceived the discomfort in Seven's demeanor and shifted away a little. "Did you have a pleasant day?" she asked, trying to fill the silences.

Seven frowned not quite understanding the relevance of the question. "It was uneventful." A moment later she remembered the doctor's lessons regarding "small talk" and followed up with what she hoped was a suitable response. "Did you have a pleasant day, Kathryn?"

"It was also uneventful. Actually, it was downright boring."

"So you and the captain did not argue today?" Seven couldn't help asking, both since she was aware that they did bicker often and because she couldn't quite get the other Janeway out of her mind.

Kathryn's eyes widened a bit. "What makes you think we argue?"

The Borg's brow quirked up. "When I am stationed on the bridge, I can see the console between the command chairs. I am aware that you and the captain use it regularly to discuss your command decisions."

Kathryn chuckled at the emphasis on discuss, which had become a polite euphemism between her and Seven for to argue endlessly. "Does anyone else know?"

"I suspect Commanders Chakotay and Tuvok are aware."

"Yes, they seldom miss anything," Kathryn agreed. "Does it bother you?"

"That you and the captain argue?"

"Yes."

"It did initially. It....it made me more aware of the differences between you. But you are clearly able to arrive at workable compromises in a manner that maintains the semblance of cohesion. That is commendable."

"Thank you, but I was asking how you felt about it personally."

"I......I am learning to appreciate the differences between you," Seven responded vaguely.

"But some differences still bother you," Kathryn guessed, nudging Seven to elaborate.

The young woman took a breath. "I believe the captain disapproves of our relationship."

Kathryn wanted to deny the suspicion, but she knew she couldn't embark on a relationship with Seven that was founded on dishonesty. "It's....more complicated than that," she finally admitted.

"You mean because in addition to her professional objections, the captain is also jealous of your relationship with me," Seven commented, surprising Kathryn with both her bluntness and her perceptiveness.

"I think that's right, although Janeway won't actually admit to having feelings for you."

Seven's head drooped a bit at the comment. "That is what makes her the captain," she said sadly.

Kathryn was surprised again by Seven's acute understanding of Captain Janeway. "I'm sorry," she said sympathetically. And then she asked the question she had been avoiding from the beginning. "Where does that leave us?"

Seven looked back up at her, making Kathryn's heart clutch as she watched tears welling up in the young woman's blue eyes and then cascading in rivulets down the smooth slopes of her cheeks.

"When I am with you, I miss the captain. And when I am with the captain, I miss you."

Kathryn's own eyes began tearing. "One of us isn't enough, is it?"

Seven took a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry," she said this time. Then she turned away slightly. "Perhaps I should leave."

"Don't go," Kathryn asked, placing her hand gently on Seven's forearm. She took a deep breath and gazed intently into the young woman's eyes. "If one of us isn't enough, then we'll just have to come up with another 'workable compromise'," she said, repeating the phrase Seven had used earlier.

"I do not see how a workable compromise can be found. I cannot date both of you?"

"You know, Seven," Kathryn began, "sometimes we have to think outside the box, use our imaginations. Trust me, I do it all the time," she said with a smile.

"As you did with the Borg," she said, a hint of pride and hopefulness coloring her comment.

Kathryn smiled brilliantly. "Yes."

Seven frowned. "Is it not unusual for humans to become romantically involved with more than one individual at a time?"

"Unusual, but not unheard off. Plus our circumstances are unique. If you'd been married to Kathryn Janeway before the separation, you'd still be married to both of us after the separation, no?"

"I assume so."

"Then why should it matter to anyone whether you have a relationship with both of us now?"

Seven considered it and couldn't think why anyone would care. "Nevertheless, it will be difficult."

"Well, sure. I mean, there will certainly be some logistical issues we'll have to contend with as a threesome that couples don't face, but I know we'll work those out."

"Logistical issues?"

"Yes, like uh....well, I can't think of an example right now, but if anyone can adapt to unusual circumstances I can't think of three better qualified people than a couple of Starfleet captains and a Borg!"

Seven smiled. "Very well, Kathryn, let us try. What do you propose?"

"Have you ever considered seducing a Starfleet captain?"

"Often," the young woman blurted in a long-suffering tone.

Kathryn burst out laughing. "Excellent," she said.

"The captain will not be a willing participant."

"Tell me about it," Kathryn agreed. "But we have the advantage."

"How so?"

"We know how she thinks. Plus, the numbers are stacked against her. It's two against one. We'll simply have to convince her, on her own terms, that this won't destroy the ship, that it would be good for you, and that it might actually help her command better."

"Do you really believe all those things, Kathryn?"

"I do, Seven. I really do."


Act III

Janeway returned to her quarters a little after 2300 hours, relieved to see that Seven had already left.

Kathryn was reading from a padd as she lounged on the couch, which she had fitted with sheets for the night. "Welcome back," she greeted cheerily. "How was dinner with Chakotay?"

"Productive," the captain responded curtly. "We got through the engineering department evaluations."

Kathryn frowned. "Only engineering?"

"Yup."

Spiteful bitch, Kathryn thought to herself.

And then she remembered the plans she and Seven had devised over dinner. They had decided that Seven would begin to spend more time with Janeway, trying to get the captain to let down her guard more. Kathryn, for her part, would start dropping hints that Seven wasn't adapting well to having two Janeways because she cared deeply for both of them. Then, when the time was right, they were going to seduce Janeway. The one issue Seven had insisted upon, however, was that if they were going to try making a life together, all three of them, Kathryn had to stop quarreling with Janeway.

"No problem," Kathryn said. "I'll handle the rest tomorrow."

Janeway frowned but shrugged it off after a moment. "I thought you had the bed tonight."

"That's okay. Consider it a thank you for letting me hog the cabin this evening."

Janeway frowned again, wondering why Kathryn was being so nice. And then she decided she was too tired to care. "Well, good night then."

"Uh, I still have to brush my teeth. Mind if I pop in there shortly?"

"No, I'll just be a few minutes getting ready for bed. Then you can come in."

Janeway entered her bedroom and crossed into the bathroom, peeling off her uniform as she went. She put on her nightgown and had just finished using the facilities when Kathryn came in.

"I seem to remember that we used to knock before entering a bathroom," Janeway said with a smirk.

Kathryn chuckled. "You just reminded me of Phoebe. Remember how upset she used to get when we barged in on her in the bathroom."

Janeway couldn't help returning a smile as the warm memory flowed through her. "And we'd always say the same thing--"

"It's not like you've got anything worth looking at!" Kathryn and Janeway recited in unison. Then they began to laugh, and once they started they couldn't stop.

"The look on her face," Kathryn continued.

"She always took us so seriously," Janeway added, laughing some more. She washed up and then shared the sink with Kathryn as they both brushed their teeth between chuckles. "I haven't thought about that in a long time," Janeway commented as they finished up.

"Me either." The comment suddenly struck them as absurd given that they had shared the same body until just a few weeks before. They looked at each other and broke down laughing again.

"Oh! Oh, God!" Janeway said gasping. "I think I'd better stop before I rupture something."

"That's okay," Kathryn shot back, "I've got spares of everything!" That started them up again.

By the time the laughter subsided, they found themselves on the floor with tears streaming down their faces.

"Ah, I guess we needed that," Janeway suggested, still amused.

Kathryn agreed. "It felt good, didn't it?"

Janeway nodded. "Come on," she said with a smile as she rose from the floor, "let's have some hot chocolate."

*****

Sometime later, Kathryn and Janeway sat together on their couch huddled over the holovid display on their laps.

"Geez, you looked dorky back then," Kathryn accused, pointing at the image of a gawky, teenaged Janeway accepting her valedictorian certificate.

Janeway smirked. "I looked dorky? Look at you with all those curls in your hair. What were you thinking?!"

"Hey, you're the one who let Phoebe talk us into that."

It had been a running joke with them all evening as they reminisced, each one accepting credit for a good look or a deed well done and alternately blaming the other one for anything in Kathryn Janeway's past that had gone awry, like the unfortunate perm she had allowed Phoebe to coax her into trying the day before her high school graduation.

"Poor Phoebe," Janeway lamented. "She paid dearly for that one."

The laughter began to bubble up again as they remembered the stunt they had pulled on their younger sister as payback.

"Oh, ouch," Kathryn cried. "I can't laugh any more."

"We should probably call it a night, anyway," Janeway said with a chuckle.

As they caught their breath, they studied each other, realizing that something had changed between them.

"You know," Kathryn began cautiously, "I think maybe we're going to be all right."

Janeway considered that as she watched Kathryn set the holovid display aside. "If we're going to really make a go of this, I need to start by offering you an apology."

"What for?"

"For being an idiot about Seven."

Kathryn's eyes widen.

Janeway laughed. "Don't look so stunned. I have been known to make an apology....once or twice," she added wryly.

"I'm not sure I understand. Have you had a change of heart about me and Seven?"

Janeway considered that. "Maybe a little. I'm still not sure dating a crew member is prudent, but I.....I want Seven to be happy," she admitted quietly. "She's been through so much. Losing her family, her childhood, having to relearn what it means to be human. If you're really what she wants, I can't stand in the way of that."

Kathryn studied her lap as she thought over her plan with Seven. She realized that dropping hints was no longer necessary. In fact, she now wondered if helping Seven seduce Janeway was even appropriate. Their relationship was going to be complicated enough. If what they wanted was a true partnership, all three of them had to go into it with their eyes wide open. She suddenly felt the need to be honest with her counterpart.

"What Seven really wants is.....more complicated," she began carefully.

"Things aren't going well?" Janeway asked with sincere concern.

"Seven almost walked out of here just before dinner, ready to call the whole thing off."

"Why?"

"She didn't put it in quite these terms, but I think she felt that she was cheating on you," Kathryn summarized, suddenly realizing that this was very likely what Seven was feeling given her demeanor.

"I don't understand. What did she say exactly?" Janeway asked.

"She said that she thought you were probably jealous of my relationship with her. And when I asked her point blank where that left us, she said, 'When I'm with you, I miss the captain. And when I'm with the captain, I miss you'. She wants us both, Janeway."

"And when you told her that was impossible, she was heartbroken and started to leave," Janeway guessed sadly.

"No. She started to leave because she already assumed it was impossible. She decided to stay when I convinced her she could have us both."

"What did you say?" Janeway demanded with a mix of confusion, disbelief and alarm.

"I told her she could have us both," Kathryn repeated, internally bracing herself for the coming storm. "In fact, we spent the rest of the evening figuring out how Seven was going to, uhm, seduce you."

"Are you crazy?!" Janeway blurted. She got up off the couch and began to pace, suddenly remembering why she found her counterpart so insufferable. "I knew it. I just knew it! I knew Seven would wind up hurt! She was already upset that things weren't working out between the two of you, an experience which, by the way, she wouldn't have had to suffer through if you hadn't been so hell bent on pursuing this. And now, by convincing her she can have a relationship with me too, you've managed to set her up for an even bigger disappointment!"

"Don't flatter yourself!" Kathryn shot back angrily. "Trust me, she was already disappointed enough. She's been disappointed since the first moment she realized she had feelings for us, and we wouldn't even touch her! Not even a hug just to say 'Welcome back' when we rescued her from the Borg Queen or to say 'Gee, I'm glad you're still alive, Seven,' when that goddamned Borg vinculum nearly tore her mind apart. How can you be so blind? Seven's been hurting all along!"

"It's worse now. Don't you see that it's worse?" Janeway asked, her anger turning into entreaty, willing Kathryn to understand.

"It's not worse," Kathryn countered, calming down herself. "It's....it's hope."

Janeway shook her head. "It's false hope. Seven's going to get hurt," she insisted.

"You know, there's something you haven't realized in all this, and it's about time you did."

"What?"

"The only way Seven's going to get hurt is if you say 'no'."

*****

Kathryn walked onto the bridge the following morning and hesitated when she saw Janeway already seated in the command chair. She also noticed that Seven was stationed on the bridge for this shift, and when they made eye contact, she saw the hopeful look in the Borg's eyes. That made her feel worse.

Nothing had been resolved between her and Janeway the previous night. After telling Janeway that Seven would be hurt only if the captain refused her, she had watched her counterpart escape to the bedroom without another word. Kathryn hoped that meant that she was thinking very hard about her statement, and from the sounds of pillow punching she could hear coming from the bedroom long into the wee hours of morning, she figured that was exactly what Janeway was doing. She doubted, however, that the captain had come to any kind of resolution yet. No matter. Kathryn would try again.....when the dust had settled a little. In the meantime, she had a couple of promises to keep.

"Good morning, Chakotay," she greeted as she approached the starboard engineering station her first officer was currently occupying.

"Good morning, Kathryn," he greeted back.

"Would you care to join me in the Ready Room? I believe we have some work to do."

He seemed surprised that she was being so proactive about getting the evaluations done, but he didn't comment. "Of course," he said simply, rising and following Kathryn into the Ready Room.

Janeway noticed the exchange, subtly pleased, despite her other concerns, that Kathryn was making good on their deal. Too bad she can't make good on all her promises, Janeway thought wryly. Then she stopped herself, thinking about Kathryn's final comment the night before. She sighed, admitting to herself that Kathryn was right; it wasn't up to her to make good on that promise because the ball was squarely in Janeway's court.

She had spent what was left of the night lying awake in bed thinking about the situation. And any way she looked at it, she realized that Kathryn's and Seven's expectations weren't as unrealistic as she'd insisted. She--the captain--was the only thing standing in the way of Seven's happiness. And maybe that's the way it's been from the start, she considered ruefully.

Frustrated with herself, she shot up from her chair restlessly and decided to make a circuit of some of the bridge stations.

"What've you got, Ensign?" she asked Harry Kim as she approached the ops station.

There was nothing of note to report that wasn't already in the data logs posted earlier that morning, but Starfleet personnel quickly learned how inadvisable it was to tell a superior officer what was and wasn't noteworthy without letting said officer determine that for herself. The truth was that until one passed the rank of ensign, one wasn't considered seasoned enough to use one's judgment in determining noteworthiness. And since it looked as though Harry was going to be an ensign for the long haul, he dutifully reported his findings, no matter how mundane.

"The solar systems in this region continue to exhibit the same characteristics as the Eukarid system, Captain. Since the solar rings are having a filtering effect throughout this sector, we've compensated by increasing power to the Bussard collectors."

"Seven," Janeway called, "have you determined how far these ringed solar systems run?"

"I believe so, Captain."

Janeway approached the Borg's console, trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach.

The young woman brought up a sector map and pointed to a quadrant just a few days ahead of them. "Long range sensors detect an increase to near-normal levels of solar radiation as we approach this system. We're still too far away to determine the exact characteristics of its sun, but preliminary readings indicate that it either has no ring or else has one far less dense than we have been encountering."

Janeway tapped the display to indicate the system in question. "Is there any information about that system in the Astrometrics data we got from the Eukarids?"

"No, Captain. For whatever reason, the Eukarids do not appear to have explored very much beyond this point," Seven replied indicating an area a few light years shy of the system.

As Seven pointed, her hand brushed against the captain's who hastened to move away from the accidental contact. When she looked at Seven, however, she saw a glimmer of anticipation suggesting that the contact may not have been accidental. She was caught a moment by the hint of longing she also saw there. Looking intently in Seven's eyes, she asked softly, "How long before we reach that system?"

Seven seemed equally mesmerized by the eye contact. "Approximately 2.5 days, Captain," she droned.

Janeway blinked. She recognized Seven's look. It wasn't some fanciful desire that Kathryn's exaggerated promises had put there; it was the same familiar gaze Seven had often given her in the past several months, before the accident. Janeway had agonized all night over what to do about Seven, certain that Kathryn had put ideas into her head that the young woman wouldn't have had otherwise. But as she stared into her eyes now, she realized that Kathryn's input only gave her hope, not the underlying sentiment. The longing would still have been there, in Seven's eyes. Janeway shook her head slightly wondering why she had never before recognized that look for what it was. "Thank you, Seven," she said, still more softly. Then she nodded and crossed the bridge to her Ready Room.

"Commander Chakotay," she called from the doorway, "would you take over the bridge? I need to have a word with Kathryn."

"Of course, Captain," Chakotay called from inside the Ready Room.

She stepped aside moments later to let Chakotay onto the bridge, then she entered the Ready Room and let the door slip shut behind her. Janeway stopped in front of the desk and looked at Kathryn.

"Okay. I'll try it," she said simply.

The frown on Kathryn's face as she looked up at Janeway dissolved slowly into a brilliant smile. "Whew!" she said, as she slumped back in the chair. "How about dinner tonight? Just the three of us?"

Janeway nodded. "Fine. You arrange it with Seven. We'll.....we'll just take it slow."

"Okay. So am I off the hook?"

"Provisionally."

"Great. Believe it or not, I don't much enjoy fighting with you all the time. Plus I really liked what we were starting to share yesterday, Janeway. It's been a long time since we've had an equally ranked counterpart to talk with, and in our case, we have our whole history in common. I really don't want to squander that opportunity by bickering with you constantly."

Janeway nodded. "I agree. Last night was nice for me, too."

Kathryn looked down at her desktop, noting the large amount of work that still had to be done. "I don't suppose this truce means you're willing to go halfsies on the evals?"

"Fat chance!" Janeway said sternly. Then she turned and left.

"Well, you can't blame a person for trying," Kathryn told the air.

*****

"That was acceptable," Seven said politely, as Kathryn picked up the dinner plates.

"Glad you liked it," the blue-eyed captain answered warmly, amused by the young woman's way of putting things.

"Yes, it was very good," Janeway chimed in. "We usually burn the pot roast. How did you manage it?"

"She did not," Seven blurted.

"Tattle-tale!"

Seven ignored the comment. "Kathryn was completing the replication of the meal as I arrived, while you were still in your bedroom changing. Her first attempt at the 'pot roast' failed miserably. As she put it through the recycler, I ran a short diagnostic on the replicator and discovered that one of you had increased the temperature output by 22 percent."

"Coffee's never hot enough," both Janeways explained. They then laughed in unison as Seven quirked her brow.

"Perhaps you should remember to reset the temperature protocols before replicating other nutritional supplements," she suggested.

Both captains nodded, duly chastised.

"Well," Janeway continued, "thank you for rescuing dinner, Seven."

The meal and the conversation accompanying it had been a surprisingly pleasant affair for all three of them. Seven had calmed considerably when Kathryn had greeted her at the door and whispered a soft "Relax, it's just dinner" in the young woman's ear as she pulled away from the welcoming hug. Kathryn had also managed to distract her counterpart by prompting her to share bits of their childhood with Seven. That plan, too, had worked, as the two captains reminisced, enjoying more of the wonderful memories of home and family they'd shared the night before and simultaneously indulging the Borg's curiosity about her captain. The young woman was enormously gratified, in the process, to see a side of her captain she relished: a calm and happy Captain Janeway.

"I hope you two left room for dessert," Kathryn announced, as she placed a small, round, and delicious looking confection in the center of the table.

"Is that chocolate-caramel torte?" Janeway asked with evident anticipation.

"Yup. Mother's recipe."

"I'll cut the cake," both captains offered simultaneously, and then both blurted, "Oh, no you don't."

Seven blinked. "Would you like to 'draw straws'?" she suggested.

The two women stared at her.

"It is a technique Neelix taught me for handling disputes among Naomi, Mezoti, and the twins," she explained unnecessarily.

Kathryn snorted.

"Sorry, Seven," Janeway said. "Mother's torte was always such a treat at our house that Phoebe and I would fight over who got to dole out the portions since whoever cut it always kept the biggest piece for herself."

"That is unnecessary. It is possible to share the dessert equally among the three of us by cutting it into thirds at precise angles of 120 degrees."

"Which is precisely why you should do the honors," Kathryn smiled, handing Seven the server.

The young woman bit her tongue slightly in concentration as she began partitioning the torte into three exact pieces, not noticing the way that both Kathryn and the captain were resting their cheeks in their hands as they gazed at her fondly.

"There," the young woman announced, evidently pleased with herself.

"Thank you, Seven," both captains purred warmly.

*****

In yet another repetition of the previous night, Kathryn and Janeway pulled out the holovid display and sat on the couch reviewing old family images, this time with Seven seated between them and holding the display in her lap. At first, the young woman didn't know which way to turn, but she quickly settled back and was pleased when the two captains positioned themselves on either side of her and huddled close to point and explain what they were viewing. It made Seven feel warm and protected in a way she had never felt before.

"It is difficult to imagine you that young," Seven commented as she watched a six year old Kathryn Janeway opening Christmas presents.

"Thanks a lot," the two captains burred in her ears.

Seven laughed, looking first at Kathryn and then at the captain. She was pleased at the evident amusement she found in both their demeanors.

They pulled up another holovid, this one of Kathryn Janeway at thirteen, delivering a school speech of some sort.

"Ooooo!" both captains cried.

"Look at those stringy legs of yours, Kathryn," Janeway called.

"Goes with that stringy hair of yours, Janeway," Kathryn shot back.

Seven rolled her eyes, by now thoroughly used to and secretly amused at the way the two women bantered playfully with each other. She then turned to Kathryn curiously. "Why do you call the captain 'Janeway' instead of by her first name."

"She doesn't like us using her first name, remember?"

Janeway snorted. "Actually, it's just Kathryn's way of reminding me that I'm so Starfleet."

"Do you object?"

"Not really. All of my instructors called me 'Janeway' when I was at the Academy."

"See what I mean?" Kathryn chimed in. "She's Starfleet through and through."

"There's nothing wrong with being called 'Janeway'. It's what a lot of people called Dad when they spoke of him."

"And when they were being nice," Kathryn added with a wink.

Seven seemed quiet, as if she was puzzling through something.

Kathryn noticed first. "What is it, Seven?"

"I believe that I should use a designation less formal than 'Captain Janeway' to address the captain when we are in a personal setting like this one," she said, addressing Kathryn. Then turning to the captain, she added, "but I would not feel comfortable calling you 'Janeway'. The Borg Queen addressed you that way," she explained with distaste.

"Well you could always follow Q's lead and call her 'Kathy'," Kathryn suggested unhelpfully.

Janeway looked past Seven to cast daggers at her counterpart. "You're the one who acts more like a 'Kathy', Kathy," she shot back.

"No, thanks!" Kathryn retorted. "But, you know, it's going to get pretty confusing if she calls us both 'Kathryn'," the blue-eyed captain offered in her defense.

"We'll adapt," Janeway insisted.

"Hey, that gives me an idea," Kathryn suggested, still addressing Janeway. "How about we take the Borgs' lead and adopt the designations 'One of Kathryn' and 'Two of Kathryn'? You can be number two."

"Listen, you--" Janeway began.

"Please," Seven requested, placing a restraining hand sweetly on each captains' hand.

The entreaty and the contact immediately softened both women. "I will call you both 'Kathryn'. My Kathryns," she said decisively.

The two captains sighed as Seven made eye contact with each in turn and intertwined her fingers with the ones she held gently in each hand.

Kathryn picked up the holovid display and set it aside then returned her attention to Seven. The young woman was gazing into the grey eyes of her captain, who swallowed hard at the intensity of that look. Then she watched as Seven moved her face closer to her counterpart's and pressed her lips delicately against the captain's. Grey eyes closed at the contact as Janeway melted into the kiss, her first kiss from Seven.

As Seven turned her head more into the contact, Kathryn spotted an irresistible spot just behind Seven's left ear. She gave into the urge to nuzzle the spot and began depositing kisses there. All three women moaned. Without skipping a beat, Seven turned her head the other way to find Kathryn's lips as Janeway kissed her way across Seven's right cheek and found a matching spot behind the young woman's right ear to nuzzle and love.

Seven's body was overwhelmed with sensations as she felt her two captains simultaneously kissing her lips and cheeks and neck. She still held Kathryn's right hand in her left and the captain's left hand in her right, giving each a slight squeeze as the kisses continued. Then she felt each captain bring her free hand into play, starting at her knees and each caressing upwards to stroke the insides of her thighs. The contact was so intimate and so perfect that Seven felt the area between her legs flood with desire. She let her head drop back, exposing more of her neck to the delicate kisses from her two Kathryns. Then she felt their teeth nibbling lightly on her skin, followed by the tickle of their tongues retracing the same areas. Her own mouth hungered for a similar taste of flesh, so she turned her head first to Kathryn, meeting her lips again and then nibbling down to her neck to sample it for long, exquisite moments. She worked her way back up slowly and then turned to pay the same homage to the captain's lips and neck, finding them just as sweet.

As the kisses and caresses continued, Seven felt her nipples harden against her clothes, suddenly aching for attention. She was not yet ready, however, for that more intimate contact. As if by unanimous agreement, she felt the other two women pulling back to catch their respective breaths.

"Are you okay?" Janeway asked her, desire and concern mingling together in her tone.

"Yessss," Seven hissed emphatically. "I have never been more 'okay'."

Kathryn chuckled provocatively, making Seven's toes curl. "I guess we've still got it, old girl," she joked, addressing her counterpart.

Janeway couldn't help laughing.

"I would like to be 'okay' again tomorrow evening?" Seven asked awkwardly.

Kathryn and Janeway laughed tenderly at the hesitant request.

"That would be acceptable to me," Kathryn said. "How about you, Janeway?"

The captain looked back and forth between her counterpart and her.....her heart. "Yes," she said simply.

Seven smiled.


Act IV

Captain Janeway entered her quarters and immediately froze, surveying the suddenly transformed surroundings. The artificial lights had been dimmed and replaced by the warm, yellow glow of candles placed strategically throughout the living area. In addition, the coffee table had been moved out of the way, and in its place was a smaller and shorter round table surrounded by cushions. She could smell sweets and spices mingling with the scent of burning wax. Rounding out the look and smells were the sounds of a sultry jazz piano melody accompanied by the lilting tones of saxophones and clarinets.

"Hiya," Kathryn called, as she entered from the bedroom wearing a soft white blouse and slacks. "Seven'll be here soon. Don't you want to shower and change before she gets here?"

"I thought we were going to take it slow?"

"We are. But there's nothing wrong with setting the right mood to make sure we eventually get there. Know what I mean?"

"Too well," Janeway smirked. "But did you have to make the place look like an oversexed bachelor's den?"

"Well you're half right," Kathryn shot back. "Anyway, what are you complaining about? It's not like I replicated a bear-skin rug or anything," she added, making it sound more like a warning.

Janeway caught on immediately. "Uhm. Right. Shower." She escaped to the bedroom, hoping Kathryn wouldn't follow through with her threat just to spite her.

*****

As she showered, Janeway thought over the day's events. She'd been grinning like a Cheshire cat in her Ready Room as she listened distractedly to Chakotay's personnel report when the first officer had interrupted his speech to ask the captain what was going on. Janeway had frowned wondering if she should tell him and then realized that, at some point, the crew would find out about the new developments in the two captains' personal lives. Repressing the urge to maintain that distance she so cherished, she confided in her first officer, watching closely for his reaction. To her surprise, Chakotay smiled from ear to ear and said simply, "It's about time." And then he frowned wondering if Seven would now start calling the captain "Kathryn," too, and asking if that wouldn't get confusing. "We'll work it out," Janeway had said simply. And as she thought about her response now, she decided that working it all out was exactly what they would try to do from now on.....all three of them.

Moments later, Janeway emerged from her bedroom dressed in a simple black silk blouse over deep blue leggings that managed to look at once casual and elegant. She was happy to see that Seven had arrived, looking every bit as fetching as the day before, this time wearing a teal blouse-and-slacks set that enhanced the blue of her eyes.

"Ah, there you are," Kathryn greeted. "You clean up nice....if I do say so myself," she joked.

"Indeed she does," Seven agreed, sounding far more sincere.

Janeway blushed despite herself and immediately shot a look at her counterpart, daring her to comment.

Kathryn pursed her lips, pointedly indicating that she'd try to play nice this evening. She silently handed Janeway a glass of wine.

As the captain sipped it delicately, Kathryn continued. "I thought we'd have a little 'smorgas-borg' tonight."

Janeway choked on her wine.

"Ah, I mean smorgasbord," she corrected in mock innocence.

"What is a 'smorgasbord'?" Seven asked.

"A buffet of different cuisines, so we can sample a little of this....a little of that," she said seductively.

To Janeway's surprise and Kathryn's delight, Seven picked up on her blue-eyed companion's innuendo and responded in kind. "And will we indulge in this smorgasbord before or after dinner, Kathryn?" she asked suggestively.

Kathryn laughed, and even her grey-eyed counterpart smiled at their date. "Why don't we have dinner first?" Janeway suggested after a few moments.

"Fine with me," Kathryn chuckled.

*****

The dinner was a surprisingly quick and forgettable affair, shy smiles and suggestive glances passing between them with as much frequency as the dishes of savory meats and vegetables.

The conversation was even spicier, as Kathryn continued in the same vein, peppering her comments with innuendos that became decidedly saucier as she became more sauced. She was careful, however, not to imbibe to the point of drunkenness. If they wound up on the couch kissing and petting, as they had the night before, Kathryn intended to remember every moment.

"Does anyone want dessert?" she asked in a manner that made it clear she hoped the answer was no. To her utter relief, both her companions declined.

She was surprised, however, when Janeway turned to their date and asked her to dance. Kathryn liked the idea but noticed Seven blanching at the request.

"I have not been able to master that particular activity. In fact, my previous attempts resulted in injury," Seven explained.

"Don't worry, Seven, we Janeways are pretty sturdy," Kathryn encouraged, already starting to move the furniture aside. "Come on, it'll be fun."

"I don't know," the young woman hesitated.

"What if we teach you?" Janeway suggested. "You could watch us awhile as we explain the steps and then join in when you're ready."

"Yes, how does that sound?" Kathryn added.

Seven enjoyed seeing her two captains evidently happy and agreeing on something, since that happened so seldomly. She also admitted to herself that the idea of watching them dance appealed to her. "Very well," she relented with a smile.

The bickering began again, however, when Janeway suggested they start with something simple.

"The box-step?" Kathryn objected. "That's so boring. How about the cha-cha?"

Before Janeway could respond, Kathryn ordered the computer to play a Latin dance selection and started demonstrating the moves, wiggling her hips suggestively as she chanted "cha-cha-cha."

Seven was instantly enchanted with those hips.

Kathryn held her arms out to Janeway. "Come on, let's show her. I'll even let you lead," she quipped.

Janeway snorted but relented, her own hips already responding to the seductive rhythm of the music.

The young woman was enthralled by the sight of the two women before her. She began at their feet, carefully noting the precise placement that perfectly matched the three beats repeating themselves throughout the music selection. Her gaze moved up their legs to their hips, momentarily transfixed there as the rounded globes of her dates' respective bottoms repeated the tempo of the music. Despite all that movement, however, she noticed how their bellies and breasts stayed firmly pressed together, helping them move as one. The captain's right arm encircled Kathryn's waist as Kathryn's left hand and forearm encircled the captain's right shoulder. Their other hands were joined and held up a little away from their bodies at about shoulder level. And as Seven's eyes finally moved up to their faces, she saw a giddy kind of enjoyment there as they traded off saying "cha-cha-cha." They were having fun.

"You're turn," Kathryn called, as the two captains released each other. They reached out and each grabbed the nearest hand to pull Seven to her feet. "Come on, we'll do it as a line dance first," Kathryn suggested, as she and Janeway continued holding hands with Seven, on either side of her, and demonstrated the moves.

"That's it," Janeway encouraged, as the young woman began moving her feet and then her hips to the beat of the music.

They continued in the same vein for several minutes, the three of them laughing at Seven's missteps, and then marveling at how quickly she perfected her technique.

"Yes, Seven. Wiggle those hips," Kathryn cried, cheering her on. "Okay, now try dancing with Janeway. Just follow her movements," she coached.

The captain embraced the young woman with her right arm and pulled her in close. "Just relax, Seven, and feel the way I move."

Seven nodded and paid attention to the cues the captain's body gave her. "Oh, sorry," she said, as she took a misstep and bumped Janeway's left foot.

"That's okay," Janeway assured her. "I've got you."

After a few circuits around the living room, Janeway released Seven and twirled her expertly into Kathryn's waiting arms. The young woman was momentarily surprised but recovered instantly as she picked up the tempo with her new partner, who kept the same rhythm but exaggerated her movements just a little more.

"You're doing wonderfully," Kathryn complimented her. "Now all we have to do is add the cha-cha-cha's. Ready?"

Seven nodded and when, in the next moment, the three beats repeated themselves, she sang out, "cha-cha-cha!"

Kathryn and Janeway laughed and began chanting along happily.

On the next cha-cha-cha, Kathryn twirled Seven back into Janeway's arms, and again Seven picked up her new partner's technique without missing a beat. As the captain pulled her in close, Seven felt Kathryn pressing herself against her back, and joining the other two in the dance. Seven couldn't have been happier, feeling her two captains' bodies molding themselves to her as the three of them moved in rhythm.

During the next refrain, however, Kathryn began to grind her hips more firmly into Seven, pushing her into Janeway and causing a contact that was far more intimate than any they had shared so far. The added closeness made all three women falter and then begin to slow down their movements.

Kathryn was the first to act on the change in mood, ordering the computer to play a slow, seductive dance melody as the three women continued grinding their hips provocatively against each other.

Seven heard Kathryn's breathing become more heavy as she felt her lean in close and begin to nuzzle behind her ear. Meanwhile, Janeway matched the gesture from the front, dropping her head to kiss and nibble a tender spot along the young woman's neck. Seven gasped at the double contact, and then she felt hands, lots of hands, stroking the gentle curves of her hips and waist, down the outside of her thighs, back up and past her waist, along her arms, down the slope of her shoulders, along the swell of her hip again, until finally, one of those hands, she wasn't sure whose, began intimately stroking the outer curve of her right breast.

Seven moaned into Janeway's mouth, deepening the kiss. She then reached out for that one bold hand and grabbed it before it could move away. In the next moment, she tilted slightly to her right and brought the palm of that hand firmly over the top of her breast.

"Oh, Seven," she heard Kathryn whisper from behind.

The young woman's nipples hardened further, more from the desire in Kathryn's voice than from the way she was being petted. She felt her need to be touched begin to burn painfully in her lower belly and move hotly up to her nipples, making her feel suddenly as if her skin was on fire. She pulled away slightly from the two women and began pawing at her own clothes, desperate to remove them. To her utter relief, her two Kathryns sensed her urgency and began helping her disrobe, Kathryn working on her pants as the captain unfastened her blouse. Within moments, she was standing naked before the two women, the cool air of the cabin doing nothing to counteract the searing heat of their gazes.

"I need to see you, too," Seven begged, addressing both of her partners.

"Yes," they answered in unison, as they ripped off their own clothing.

Seven's breathing became even heavier as she saw two perfect sets of breasts pop free from their confines and bounce provocatively in the air. Moving entirely on instinct, she reached out and immediately grasped each captain's right nipple, eliciting simultaneous moans. She then bent her legs slowly and sunk down to the carpeted deck of the captain's quarters, gently pulling on the nipples she had captured to draw the two women down with her.

As soon as all three women were on the floor, with Seven on her back and the two captains propped up on either side of her, Kathryn immediately brought her right hand to Seven's right breast and began fondling it as Janeway mirrored her gesture perfectly with its partner, each content to have her own breast to play with. Seven threw her arms up over her head and arched lithely into the double contact, moaning almost constantly now.

"My Kathryns," she called, her face a study in rapture as she watched them fondling her breasts through eyes heavy-lidded with desire. She simultaneously saw and felt them pinch and roll her nipples, releasing them and then plucking them up progressively harder each time until they ached sweetly and turned an even deeper red.

The two captains escalated their gestures in perfect unison, as if by some silent compact they had agreed to share each new experience of Seven at exactly the same time. That innate instinct drove them now to grab the young woman's breasts and squeeze gently, pushing the tips up further. And when the two nipples were straining upward, poised at attention, each captain brought her hot, wet mouth down around the entire tip of the breast she held in place and began consuming it noisily.

Seven cried out at the contact, immediately bringing her hands down to stroke and encourage the heads she held to herself.

Kathryn and Janeway responded to those caresses, sucking up harder on Seven's nipples and then bringing their teeth into play. They bit down gingerly and then licked the soreness away, repeating the gesture over and over again.

"Oh!" Seven called out, surprised at how wonderful it felt to have her nipples consumed with such fervor. She couldn't imagine a more perfect sensation until both women turned their heads slightly and began chewing the tender tips, first gingerly and then more hungrily in a feast that persisted for several long moments.

The pleasurable ache in Seven's nipples was constant now, forcing her to writhe uncontrollably. The two women held her down, however, and continued indulging their hunger, spurred on by Seven's moans and the "yeses" she couldn't resist blurting out.

Swallowing against the hoarseness in her throat, Seven looked down and grew still more titillated by the sight of her two nipples and their surrounding rings being engulfed almost entirely by her Kathryns' sweet mouths. It was too much.

Just when she thought she couldn't take any more, she felt the two women begin to lick and suck her nipples tenderly as if to soothe away the ache. Gentle kisses followed and then the flat of each woman's tongue pressed wetly against each nipple and paused there, the strong muscles vibrating slightly. Seven then felt those hot, rough, wet tongues lap across her nipples and along the sides and bottoms of her breasts until their entire surfaces glistened with moisture. She then watched as the two captains pulled back and blew cool air on her nipples to soothe them further.

At that moment, both women looked up at Seven, smiling seductively when they caught her looking. And when they were sure they had her full attention, they descended again on her sore red nipples, beginning to suck and bite and chew in a repetition of the hungry feast they had just enjoyed.

Seven wasn't sure why her partners were so fixated on her breasts, but she couldn't help responding to the relentless attention they were being given. Kathryn and the captain repeated the rhythms of their feast another four times, pulling back finally to pinch and fondle her sore nipples, all the while studying the young woman's face.

"How are you doing, Seven?" Kathryn rasped, the concern only marginally evident underneath a voice heavily laced with desire.

"Are we doing this too much?" Janeway followed up, her own tone also dripping with desire.

Seven swallowed. "They are tender," she admitted. "But I do not want it to stop."

Kathryn lifted up briefly and reached behind her, returning with the ice bucket that held their wine. "This will help," she said, handing Janeway a piece of ice and then grabbing one for herself. They then began smoothing the cubes over the young woman's nipples as she gasped from the sudden cold.

"Here, take a sip of this," Kathryn suggested, handing Seven the wine bottle.

The young woman rose up on one elbow as she tipped the bottle and took three long swallows of liquid, feeling instantly refreshed. She then returned the bottle to Kathryn and sank back into position, throwing her arms over her head and jutting her large breasts upward to signal her readiness to be fondled some more. She was pleased when she felt the two women resume the gentle soothing of her nipples with more cubes of ice from the bucket.

"Better now?" Janeway asked, bringing her face up close to Seven's.

The young woman nodded. Then they kissed deeply as she felt Kathryn nuzzling and kissing her neck.

Her lovers' mouths moved slowly down her chest again until they were fastened once more around a plump nipple and sucking up the soothing chill. This time, however, their hands released her breasts and started trailing down her abdomen. Seven's stomach twitched at the new contact, and she was surprised to feel her thighs lurch apart a little, as if spreading themselves open was a natural reaction to this new stimulus.

As the two women began chewing her nipples again, Seven felt their hands move down her thighs and pull them apart even further, guiding her knees upward and to the sides. She then felt her right thigh being positioned between Kathryn's legs until it was pressed against her sex, which was dripping with moisture. In a perfect symmetry of motion, her left thigh was pulled up the same way simultaneously until it, too, was pressed up against the captain's dripping sex. Before she knew it, Seven's own wet sex was completely splayed open with her thighs effectively trapped in place between her two captains' legs as they continued sucking and biting her nipples.

"Yes!" she cried out.

"Seven," the two Kathryns purred back.

Seven imagined what she must look like, opened up and vulnerable, the folds of her sex naturally spread apart by and for her two Kathryns. The image she saw in her mind's eye caused a fresh flood of excitement to leak from her womanhood. She inhaled sharply at the sensation and was surprised to find the air thick with the scent of her own excitement. She hoped the two women would notice how ready she was because she wasn't sure she could wait any longer. She wanted them to look at her, to inspect her, to touch her.

She felt them begin to stroke her inner thighs, moving closer to their mark but with deliberate slowness. No longer able to tolerate their pace, however, she voiced her need: "Please, touch me," she rasped.

Seven watched with anticipation as Kathryn and the captain pulled back from her bosom and looked at her. Then they sat back a little more and began to gaze at Seven's sex.

"Poor darling," Kathryn sympathized when she saw how engorged Seven's lips and clitoris had become from all their attentions.

The young woman continued staring back at them as she saw them reach down and begin to pull back the folds of her sex.

She gasp as the cool air hit her.

"Oh, Seven," Janeway called.

In the next moment, she felt their hands begin a very private petting of her sex, fingers stroking around her opening, along her folds, and just to the sides of the sensitive nub at the top. She moaned then as Kathryn and the captain's thumbs took turns gliding in circles around and across her clitoris. Then she watched as the two women made eye contact with each other and intertwined their fingers, looking down at the mouth of Seven's sex to insert just the tips of their index fingers inside. When their digits were properly poised, they snuggled back down alongside Seven and alternately kissed and watched her as, together, they slowly penetrated her sex.

Seven cried out as she felt herself being filled by her two Kathryns, pulling them into a tight embrace as the penetration deepened. Her mouth found the nearest one and pressed against it, her tongue rolling against one of her partners' tongues as she felt one of her nipples being sucked again by her other partner. The thumbs continued teasing her nub as the two fingers began stroking her deep inside.

When she pulled away from the kiss she was enjoying to take in fresh gulps of air, she was surprised to hear herself call out for more. The index fingers withdrew and then she felt her opening being stretched further as two sets of intertwined index and middle fingers pressed slowly back into her. Her thighs trembled at the sudden girth of the extra fingers, which paused themselves inside her just past the first knuckle so that she could get accustomed to them.

"All right, darling?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, yes," Seven repeated impatiently. She was so close.

Janeway smiled and Kathryn chuckled. Then Seven felt them each descend on a nipple again as their fingers pressed themselves slowly but firmly past the opening until they were deep inside, stretching her fully and strumming her to ecstasy.

Seven nudged her thighs against her partners' own damp patches to try spreading herself further. Perceiving her intent, the two women left off sucking her nipples and scooted their other legs around and inside Seven's so that their hips now pushed up against the backs of her thighs, spreading her open as much as they could. With the extra room and leverage, they were able to begin pumping their fingers into Seven more deeply, the force making the young woman's massive breasts quake from the impact.

Since the two women had pulled away from her upper body, Seven found herself yearning for some contact. As she groped blindly, she accidently rubbed against the damp surfaces of her own thighs, feeling the remnants of the two women's own excitement. The sensation titillated Seven even more, knowing her lovers were experiencing the same passion she felt. Soon, she thought. Soon her own passion would be sated and she'd be able to turn her attentions toward driving her two captains to the same ecstasy she'd been feeling all evening. Soon....but not yet.

She bit her lower lip as the pumping became more forceful. She could hear her Kathryns joined hands slapping wetly against her sex, a softer sound of suction as they withdrew interspersing itself with the louder noise of contact as they plunged back in. She was sure she should have reached her peak by now given the way she was being pressed upward with each thrust, but orgasm seemed to elude her. Then she felt the two women angle themselves and lean over her so that they could reach her sex with their other hands. Seven welcomed the weight pressing down on her hips, feeling loved and protected by their bodies as they continued pounding into her with more force. Then she felt the thumbs of their free hands press along either side of her engorged nub, stroking it deliberately as if to milk it. Her thighs began to tremble, mimicking the rhythm of that stroking. After several more exquisite minutes of having her sex pumped and milked, Seven's body arched and erupted. She cried out in climax, feeling her passion overflow and leak out of her in shuddering spasms of liquid ecstasy.

"Seven, oh, Seven!" Janeway rasped, further dampening the young woman's lower body with wet kisses as the last tides of her climax ebbed out of her.

"So beautiful!" Kathryn added, mimicking her counterpart's own rapture.

Before Seven realized quite what was happening, the two women lifted her hips up and brought their faces to her sex, taking turns lapping her thoroughly.

Seven cried out at the new sensation of those rough, wet tongues insinuating themselves in places she never imagined a tongue would go. It was so incredibly private and sexy and exciting that, before she knew it, her lower body was beginning to shudder from the onset of a second climax. As she began to peak, she felt one of the women latch onto her clitoris and begin sucking vigorously while the other one pressed her tongue inside her sex and licked her deeply.

That orgasm came and went barely noticed by the two women except for the new flood of juices that flowed out of Seven's sex. They lapped that up, too, and continued feasting on the young woman in a desperate need to feed their own sexual appetites now. Seven caught her breath, mildly enjoying the continuous licking and sucking as her lower body shuddered through a few aftershocks.

She then raised herself up on her elbows and watched her two partners, suddenly wondering if they'd forgotten about her. They were moaning in evident enjoyment, making indelicate smacking sounds as they continued indulging their hunger for her juices. She realized that with all that noise between them, they couldn't tell that she wasn't one of the ones they heard moaning. Perhaps this was one of those 'logistical issues' of being a threesome that Kathryn told her they'd have to work out. With couples, one could always tell who was moaning. In their case, they'd have to rely on other forms of communication.

Seven started to call out to them, but stopped abruptly when she saw how happy they were. As she looked on fondly, she realized that she didn't have the heart to tell them she was done.

Sighing quietly to herself, she settled back down and decided to let them indulge. She was enjoying her climaxes anyway and considered that their relentless attentions might yet bring on a third one. And Seven suddenly found that she had a real affinity for things that come in threes.

*****

Janeway was the first to notice that things had gotten a little quieter among them. When she looked up, she saw Seven lying back with her hands cupped under her head. Instead of rapture, she saw a look of consternation on her face.

"Seven?"

The young woman looked down surprised and then smiled. "Kathryn?" she greeted back.

"What?" Kathryn said, popping her head up thinking she had been called.

"She was talking to me," Janeway explained with a smirk.

"Told you that would get confusing."

Janeway ignored her, sensing that in their enthusiasm, they'd missed noticing their partner was no longer responding. "Seven," she began embarrassed, as she moved up to join the young woman, "oh, Seven....where was my head?" she lamented.

"Want me to draw you a map?" Kathryn shot back, as she joined them.

"Shut up, you," Janeway warned. Then returning her attentions to the young woman, she said, "Seven, I'm sorry."

"I am not," she replied sincerely.

"Still, I should have been paying attention." Janeway turned an accusing look on her counterpart. "Why didn't you say something?"

"It's not polite to talk with your mouth f--"

Janeway's hand to Kathryn's mouth interrupted the latter's comment before she could finished.

"In your case, it's not polite to talk at all!" Janeway concluded.

"I am not upset, Kathryn," Seven said, trying to assuage her grey-eyed partner. "On the contrary, I am very 'okay'," she countered with an uncharacteristically silly grin.

Kathryn chuckled, and even Janeway couldn't help smiling.

"I'm glad you're 'okay', my love," Janeway said.

Seven frowned. "I do, however, have a 'logistical issue' I am hoping you and Kathryn can help me resolve."

"What is it, darling?" Kathryn asked.

"While you were finishing, I was lying here thinking how much I wish to reciprocate what you just did for me. But despite all the time I had, I was not able to determine how best to accomplish my goal so that both of you will be satisfied."

"Seven, there's nothing that says you have to make love to both of us at the same time," Janeway suggested gently.

"Perhaps not always," Seven allowed, "but this first time..." she fumbled for a way to explain herself.

Kathryn smiled. "It's okay, Seven. You can do it if we help."

Kathryn demonstrated by turning to lie along Seven's right side and straddling her right leg. She then brought her sex into contact with Seven's thigh and began slowly grinding her hips against her.

"Yes," Seven called. Then she turned to her other lover and reached out for her with her left arm.

Janeway surrendered immediately to her sweet invitation, straddling Seven's left leg and bracing herself with one arm on the floor and the other along Seven's strong shoulder and chest.

Both women began riding Seven's thighs with rapidly increasing excitement, rekindling the fire that making love to Seven earlier had already ignited. Within moments, they were moaning.

At one point, Kathryn arched, and Seven took the opportunity to seize one of her nipples and begin rolling it roughly between her fingers. As Kathryn cried out in appreciation, Seven turned and found one of Janeway's nipples, treating it to the same delicious abuse. After a few minutes, she had both her captains crying out in pleasure.

Janeway leaned into the contact and suddenly found her other nipple being pulled into the most exquisitely silky wetness she had ever experienced. She felt her blood pulsing at the tip, drawn there by the tight suction of Seven's hot mouth.

"Oh, yessss," she hissed.

Seven played with the nipple for long moments, sucking with as much force as she could manage as she tweaked its partner tightly between her fingers in a grip that was at once painful and exciting. Janeway's nipples began to ache wonderfully, her pleasure smearing itself copiously along the young woman's thigh.

Unable yet to treat both of her other Kathryn's breasts to the simultaneous attentions of a hand and a mouth, Seven used her free hand to alternate back and forth between Kathryn's nipples, pinching and rolling them more severely to make up for the lesser contact. After several long minutes, Seven pulled back to scrutinize her handiwork and was gratified to see both women writhing rapturously against her, their nipples plump and red and straining outward for more attention. Satisfied that her grey-eyed Kathryn's breasts would make do with just a hand for awhile, Seven turned her head and sucked one of her blue-eyed lover's nipples into her mouth.

Kathryn responded to the new sensation with a jolt. "Oh! Oh, Seven!" she cried out.

The sensation was unlike any the older woman could ever remember having experienced before. She was sure her nipple had just doubled in size from the pulling pressure of Seven's forceful suction. It seemed to drain the blood in her brain, making her feel light-headed as the red liquid flowed hotly down her chest and into her breast to pool painfully at the peak. The rapid rhythm of Seven's firm lips made the blood ebb and flow quickly, thumping gloriously against the inner tip of her nipple in tempo with Seven's sucking.

"God! You have the most wonderful mouth!" Kathryn declared, vaguely dissatisfied with her understatement.

The comment was so emphatic, however, that Seven had to struggle to keep from laughing, not wanting to lose her grip on the delectable treat between her lips. Then, just to make sure she had a secure grip, she bit down on the nub. Within moments, Kathryn was riding her leg in a frenzied rhythm that signaled her ascent.

With one partner poised for climax, Seven turned her head quickly and bit down on her other partner's nearest nipple. That, too, did the trick, sending her grey-eyed Kathryn on the same road to ecstasy. Seven pulled back then, gazing from one lover to the other, marveling at the sight before her.

"Beautiful!" she gasped.

Both women had their heads thrown back, eyes closed against all distractions and faces enraptured, as if they'd been seized by a force they couldn't even imagine resisting. Seven was instantly wet with desire just looking at them. She reached around and gripped each of her lovers by a cheek, pressing them into her slick thighs to increase the friction. Both women whimpered and then began to quake. They stroked themselves against her thighs four more times and then cried out their climax partway into one final thrust.

Seven watched her Kathryns descend slowly into consciousness, but she couldn't bring herself to release them just yet since she, too, was now on the verge of another climax. Sensing her need, both captains reached for her sex with their nearest hands and plunged into her.

"Yes!" Seven yelled, feeling her own excitement begin to peak as her two lovers continued riding her toward more climaxes of their own.

Long moments later, Seven became vaguely aware that one of her partners had cried out again. She reached out blindly for contact and pulled when she felt flesh. It was her grey-eyed lover.

"What is it, my love?" Janeway asked.

Seven merely pulled her in for a searing kiss, unable to speak with words but needing to communicate her desperate need to taste, to use her mouth.

Janeway perceived her need, removing her hand from Seven's sex and letting the young woman plant kisses down her neck and torso, all the while feeling Seven nudging her upward. When she understood where Seven wanted her to wind up, Janeway took the lead, scooting up to the young woman's head and then turning to face her body. Having positioned herself in the right direction to be able to play with Seven's body while the young women indulged herself with hers, Janeway straddled her blond lover's face and then squatted down until she could feel warm breath on her intimate folds.

"Yessss," she heard and felt Seven say. And in the next instant, she felt her young lover's exquisite tongue take one long exploratory swipe through the entire length of her sex.

"Seven!" Janeway cried out. "Oh, yes!"

She leaned forward for support and immediately found the buoyant bounty of Seven's breasts. She grabbed the masses as her lower body shuddered through several more bold swipes of Seven's surprisingly skillful tongue until both body and tongue discovered a complementary rhythm. Then Janeway gripped Seven's nipples for support and began riding the young woman's hungry mouth.

Recovering from her own second climax, Kathryn immediately felt the empathetic pangs of a third one when she saw Seven's mouth loving her counterpart's sex. As she took in the tableau, it slowly donned on her that with Janeway tending to and being tended by Seven's upper body, Kathryn had Seven's lower body to play with all to herself. Scooting down quickly, she almost whistled to herself from the pure joy of not having to share her dessert this time. Then, with a smile, she pulled apart Seven's lips and took long moments to study what she hadn't had the opportunity to appreciate before.

Seven was slick and red again, the blond fuzz of her mound having grown dark and matted with the juices of her own excitement. Kathryn pinched each flap of her small inner lips, pulling gently to unfurl them, and then she began to lick their burnished, pebbly surfaces. Finding them too slick to get a good grip, she released one of them and sucked it for long moments, wiping it clean of Seven's more slippery juices. Then she pulled it open again to dry slightly in the cool air and repeated the maneuver with its partner until it, too, was clean. Able to grasp her inner lips more firmly now, she unfurled Seven's sex again, pulling harder to spread her completely open for inspection.

Having Seven's sex yawning open like that, so poised and so vulnerable, made Kathryn's mouth water. She nuzzled the area lovingly as she continued holding Seven open and then licked and nibbled on all the exposed surfaces, occasionally letting her nose nudge playfully against the little bundle at the top. Using just the tip of her tongue, she painted her intent around the distended rim of Seven's sex for long moments and then poked it partway inside the hole a few times to tease the young woman.

Kathryn pulled back to scrutinize the effects of her titillating probes, gratified to see a little more of Seven's excitement leaking out of the opening. She lapped at the small dribble of juice just underneath the hole and then moved away again to pull up a little harder on the lips. She began to tweak and wiggle them vigorously, knowing the sensitive nub at the top would feel the teasing vibrations. Then she let her tongue play itself hungrily all over Seven's wide-open sex, moving it roughly over her clitoris and lips and hole in a feeding frenzy designed to drive the young woman mad. When Seven's sex began to shudder, Kathryn withdrew again to inspect her work, smiling to herself as the young woman groaned. Pulling back a little more, she blew on the entire length of Seven's sopping sex, watching it twitch with anticipation.

Looking at her companions a moment, she noticed Janeway arching upward a bit and was surprised to see Seven's lips puckered and apparently blowing on her counterpart's sex in the same way she had just done to Seven's. Kathryn's brow quirked up, wondering if the young woman was mimicking her maneuvers. To test her theory, she poked just the tip of her tongue out and played it against Seven's tender nub. Sure enough, an instant later, Seven's tongue reached up toward Janeway's nub. Kathryn grinned to herself, sensing that a very interesting game was suddenly afoot, so to speak. Wiggling her brows with devilish delight, she wrapped her lips around Seven's clitoris and began sucking it noisily, gratified when she heard a similar sound echoing back to her from somewhere between Janeway's legs.

Time to get creative, Kathryn thought, deciding that this would be an efficient way to teach Seven a few new tricks while also teaching her rather stuffy, undersexed counterpart a lesson or two on the advantages of having such a willing and winsome partner as Seven for a lover.

Pulling back a moment, she brought her thumbs up to either side of Seven's nub and pushed down on the base until the delicate head poked out from under its little hood. Then she watched Janeway for a reaction as she nuzzled into Seven's sex, licked the sensitive head, blew against its exposed surface, and then began grazing her teeth across it in a show of force that caused the little bundle to lurch in fright. When Janeway's body jolted up from Seven's mouth, Kathryn smiled, knowing she'd hit her target.

Realizing Janeway could easily escape the ambush that Kathryn was setting for her by proxy, the blue-eyed woman released Seven's sex and brought her arms underneath and over her lover's hips and thighs, effectively trapping Seven's lower body in her grip. An unwitting accomplice now, Seven parodied the gesture, bringing her arms over Janeway's thighs and reaching around to hold her in place by gripping her two cheeks. Kathryn was satisfied that her counterpart wasn't going anywhere when she saw Janeway's eyes widen a bit at her apparent predicament. Then she leaned in and began gently biting the vulnerable nub before her, knowing from the way Janeway was also moaning and twitching that Seven was putting her own teeth to work against the fleshy center of her captain's sex.

Kathryn alternated nibbling and sucking until she felt the little bundle begin to shake with the onset of climax. Then she pulled away, not wanting to end the double lesson too soon. When both Janeway and Seven groaned in frustration, Kathryn had to fight hard to stifle her laughter, not wanting to give herself away before she'd had her fill. She then licked her way down to the dripping mouth of Seven's sex and plunged her tongue forcefully inside, making her partner and, by proxy, her counterpart both jolt from the force. Flexing and rolling her tongue, Kathryn spent long moments tasting every bit of Seven's inner flesh that her long, rough muscle could reach.

When she was satisfied she'd licked Seven clean, she decided it was time for the final part of her provocative lesson. Better buckle up, Captain Janeway, she thought. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

Pulling her tongue out slowly, Kathryn began swiping it up to Seven's clitoris and then back down over the mouth of her sex. She repeated the languorous swipes several times until she was sure, from the expectant but calmer look on her counterpart's face, that Seven had settled into the pattern and was trying it out on Janeway's sex. Then, when Kathryn reached the mouth of Seven's sex on the next downward swipe, she moved quickly beyond it and immediately pushed her tongue past the tight ring of muscles in Seven's rear, not stopping until she was all the way inside. Seven gave a little yelp of delight, and then Kathryn heard a very surprised, "Sevvvennnn!!!"

The look of utter shock on Janeway's face almost made Kathryn gag on her own laughter, but she managed to stifle that, too, concentrating on snuggling her tongue into Seven's more private opening as the young woman's bottom wiggled with delight. Taking another look at her counterpart, Kathryn smirked when she noticed how Janeway, despite herself, was settling into the rhythm of a newfound ecstasy.

After long moments of indulging her impish nature, Kathryn finally gave herself over to the pure enjoyment of lovemaking, licking and probing and sucking every inch of Seven's sex, sure in the knowledge that Seven was giving as good as she got. A short while later, Janeway and Seven shuddered and climaxed with echoing wails of pure, unadulterated pleasure.

Finally spent, Janeway pulled herself off Seven's face and collapsed next to her blond lover, turning toward her as she caught her breath. "Seven," she gasped, "I never knew you could be so....inventive."

Seven smiled proudly but realized she couldn't take all the credit. Gazing down fondly at her other lover, she explained simply, "I was inspired."

Shocked grey eyes turned slowly to discover twinkling blue ones feigning innocence, but the way Kathryn unrepentantly licked her lips gave her away.

"Ugh!" Janeway cried, as she dropped her head back down to the floor in disgust. She felt as though she'd just been molested by her dirty old self.....and reluctantly realized that she loved every minute of it.

*****

The following morning was unlike any other Seven of Nine or Kathryn Janeway, in whatever form, had ever experienced. Having wound up together on the captain's bed with one Seven of Nine snuggled cozily between two adoring Kathryn Janeways, the threesome awoke feeling more loved and more sore than any of them could ever remember feeling. After the computer sounded their wake-up call, three plaintive sighs filled the silent air of the cabin.

Then Kathryn reached over blindly and began petting an exposed cheek.

"Do you mind?" Janeway groused.

Two sets of blue eyes looked down at Kathryn's hand to find it had inadvertently made contact with Janeway's and not Seven's bare bottom.

"Sorry," Kathryn sang insincerely, as she pulled her hand away and brought it to Seven's smooth belly. Then she scooted up and gave Seven a kiss on the lips. "Good morning," she said when it was over.

"Good morning," Seven purred back.

"Oh, and a good morning to you, too, Grumpy," Kathryn said playfully, reaching over to give Janeway a companionable peck on the cheek and to tousle her hair.

"Ugh, morning breath," Janeway complained, but she couldn't help smiling back at her counterpart's friendliness.

*****

During the morning briefing, those in the command crew who had not spent the previous night in the captain's quarters quickly surmised what had transpired there from certain facts that presented themselves as the meeting progressed. First, Seven of Nine, who seldom smiled, had a surprisingly silly grin on her face every time she looked at the captains. Second, the captains, who were usually bantering back and forth about something, were not only cordial with each other, but were actually cracking jokes between them. Third, all three women, typically the picture of poise and grace, kept wiggling and shifting uncomfortably in their seats and even winced a couple of times, though the pained looks disappeared instantly behind brilliant smiles whenever Seven and one of the Janeways made eye contact.

Despite her lapses, Captain Janeway struggled to maintain an air of professionalism, bringing the meeting to order and asking for the usual status reports. About the only issue of even passing interest was the fact that they would be entering a new solar system around mid-afternoon, but since it wasn't inhabited, there wouldn't be much to do except run some quick scans for any materials--ores, chemicals, plants, and so forth--that Voyager could use.

"Harry, let's not take any chances with those ramscoops. As soon as you start detecting an increase in solar emissions, bring power back down to normal levels."

"Yes, Captain."

"Anything else?"

When no one responded, Janeway dismissed the staff with a nod of her head. Kathryn hung back, and when the two women were alone, she addressed her counterpart.

"Buy you a cup of coffee, Captain?"

"I could use a whole carafe after last night," Janeway admitted, causing her counterpart to laugh and nod in agreement.

They exited the briefing room and crossed the bridge together until they reached their Ready Room. "You'd better check the replicator settings," Janeway warned. "Seven was in here yesterday running a diagnostic on it to make sure we didn't burn anything else."

"How nifty!"

"What?"

Kathryn turned to her counterpart smiling. "She reset the temperature protocols but corrected our specifications for coffee. Mmmm," she added, sampling her cup, "and she got it perfectly right."

Janeway accepted her cup of coffee. "She takes care of us," she commented unnecessarily.

"Yes, she does," Kathryn agreed, a fond look on her face as she thought about their Borg. "We should do something nice for her."

"Like?"

"I don't know. How about a little shore leave in this next system if it has anything hospitable to offer? A little romantic getaway.....just the three of us?"

"You make it all sound so normal."

"Are you having second thoughts, Janeway?"

"I just want to make sure we don't get carried away....like we did last night. There's two of us, after all. I think we need to be careful we don't place more demands on Seven than she can handle."

"You mean sexually."

"Well, yes, to put it frankly."

"Point taken, but may I remind you, old girl, we've got fifteen years on our twenty-six-year-old lover. And let's not forget those remarkable Borg nanoprobes of hers. Seven's got more stamina than both of us put together!"

Janeway smirked but couldn't help agreeing with her counterpart. She thought back to the previous night and smiled fondly when she remembered how, just before they went to sleep, Seven had tried initiating another round of lovemaking and had been vetoed by both of her overtired partners.

She sighed thinking about other things that weren't quite as pleasant. "It just looks so unseemly," she persisted after a moment. "Two Starfleet captains thumbing their noses at protocol and bedding not just any crew member, but an innocent who's never even had a romantic relationship before."

"Well, that's not really about Seven, is it?"

Janeway flushed a little, unable to deny the point. "No," she admitted, "I guess it's not."

Kathryn took a thoughtful breath before continuing. "Are you in love with Seven?"

Janeway looked up, her expression earnest. "Hopelessly."

"Do you remember when we realized we were in love with her?"

"I don't think I wanted to admit it to myself, but probably when the Borg queen came for her. I knew I felt something more than concern for a crew member when I went after her."

Kathryn nodded. "And do you think Seven's in love with us?"

Janeway studied her steaming cup of coffee, letting it remind her of all the little ways that Seven expressed her affection. "Yes."

"Then there's your answer, to Starfleet and protocol and anyone else who might ask why two Starfleet captains are romantically involved with their Borg crew member. We're involved because we're in love," she said softly.

"You make everything sound so simple."

"We're captains on a lone Federation starship stuck thousands of miles away from home in a quadrant full of Borg, Vidiians, Kazons, Hirogens and all manner of other nasties. Things are complicated enough without us inventing problems where they don't exist."

Janeway grinned. "I thought I was supposed to be the logical one."

"I may be right-brain dominant," Kathryn quipped. "Doesn't make me a half-wit."

Janeway laughed.

"So how about I venture down to Astrometrics and see if Seven can scare us up some nice little M-class planet? The crew would welcome a little shore leave, too. Don't you think?"

"Okay, but how is it you're the one who gets the plum assignment of visiting with our resident Borg?"

"I thought of it first," Kathryn retorted unrepentantly.


Act V

"Beautiful!" Kathryn said, marveling at the sunset before her.

"Indeed," Seven agreed, bringing her arms around her blue-eyed lover.

Kathryn looked around for the rest of the Away team, making sure they weren't too near as she leaned back against Seven. Not that it mattered to her whether or not she engaged in public-displays of affection with Seven while on duty, but if the fact made its way into the mission report that Janeway would surely read, she'd never hear the end of that lecture.

As it was, she'd had to pull rank with Tuvok and negotiate with her counterpart so that she could join the preliminary Away team in evaluating the planet's adequacies as a site for their shore leave. And as she surveyed her surroundings, she decided this would do nicely. The sunset wasn't quite as spectacular as the last one she'd witnessed, on the Eukarid homeworld, but with Seven accompanying her and Janeway on this "mission," she doubted they'd spend that much time contemplating sunsets. Her smile grew wider as she mused about the captivating visions she'd be contemplating in their stead.

"I guess we'd better head back. The sooner we return to Voyager, the sooner we can start this shore leave," she added, taking Seven's Borg hand in her right one and beginning to lead her to the beam-out point.

Seven paused.

"Hey, what's wrong?" she asked, seeing the look of concern on her companion's face.

"Your hand, Kathryn," Seven noted with alarm as she brought their joined hands up.

When the older woman looked down, she noticed the back of her hand had grown slightly bulbous and was undulating slightly, as if there were something underneath the surface.

Seven tapped her combadge, not bothering to wait for a response from her partner. "Voyager," she called, "emergency transport. Two to beam directly to sickbay."

Within moments, the two women were materializing in front of the ship's CMO. "Doctor, there is something wrong with Kathryn's hand," Seven reported with alarm.

"Really, I feel fine," Kathryn protested. And then suddenly she didn't. "Oh!" she cried out in unexpected pain as the disturbance in her hand shot up her arm. She collapsed seconds later into Seven's arms, vaguely struck by a sense of deja vu.

Seven was remembering the same incident, suddenly wondering if Kathryn was reentering a stage of mitosis.

"Doctor, is she reproducing again?"

"I don't think so, Seven," he said scanning the affected area.

Just then, Janeway and Chakotay entered sickbay. "Report," Janeway ordered even before the doors had time to shut behind them.

The doctor put down his scanner and pressed a hypospray into Kathryn's neck, which barely took the edge off her discomfort.

"Kathryn is experiencing an acute form of cellular degradation, Captain," he explained.

"Brought on by what?"

"I'm not sure yet."

"Can you treat it?"

He was already passing a cellular regenerator over the affected area when Janeway asked. "The process is slowing marginally, but I don't seem to be able to counteract it," he said, adjusting the settings to try again.

"Tranporter," Kathryn croaked.

"What?" Janeway asked, approaching the head of the biobed to stand next to Seven and lean down to her counterpart.

Kathryn swallowed. "I think the transporter made it worse," she explained haltingly.

Janeway looked to the doctor for confirmation. "Is that possible? Her molecular signature wasn't in the pattern buffers that long, was it?"

"If her cellular structure was already unstable, it's possible the transports brought this on," he guessed.

"But what would make her cells suddenly unstable?" Janeway asked.

"I have a hunch, but you won't like it," the doctor said, beginning to scan Janeway.

She was surprised when the doctor turned his medical attention to her, but tried not to show her alarm for Seven's sake.

"My hunch is right, Captain," he declared with concern. "Your cell structure is showing signs of the same instability."

"No," Seven whispered, tears beginning to well in her eyes.

Janeway reached over and held the young woman's hand for comfort. "Is this related to our separation?" she guessed.

"I believe so. What I don't know yet is whether this vulnerability is unique to the two of you as humans or whether this instability is a typical reaction to some other externality the Eukarids also failed to warn us about," he said with a smirk.

"But my cells aren't degrading yet, right?" she asked for Seven's benefit.

"No, Captain," he responded, understanding her intent and resisting the urge to add "not yet."

"What about Kathryn?" Seven asked, desperate that they find some way of helping her.

"I need to run some more scans," the doctor said. "Then I'm recommending we put her in stasis until we can figure out what to do."

Janeway nodded, then leaned into her counterpart. "Is that acceptable to you?"

"Yeah....except for one thing?"

"What?"

"I won't be able to make sure you behave yourself," Kathryn quipped.

Janeway smiled. "I'll try to be a good girl," she said, her voice catching uncharacteristically. She cleared her throat and whispered to her counterpart. "You okay?"

Kathryn whispered back so no one else would hear. "Hurts like hell. Don't tell Seven," she added unnecessarily.

"I promise," Janeway replied, vowing more than just her silence and gratified when Kathryn nodded her understanding. Then she reached up and pressed a tender kiss against her counterpart's forehead. "Rest well....Kathy."

Kathryn's eyes narrowed in mock anger. "I'll get you for that....number two." After Janeway pulled back, Kathryn reached out for Seven. "I want you to keep an eye on her....while I'm in stasis," she added, but she meant more by the request.

"I will," Seven vowed. Then she leaned down and gave Kathryn a slow and heartfelt kiss on the lips.

Kathryn smiled as Seven pulled away. "I'll be back soon for more of those," she joked.

By the time the three of them were done exchanging words, the doctor had run the additional scans he needed and had even taken some tissue samples for testing. So he activated the stasis unit built into the biobed and watched as the container elevated around Kathryn's body and encased her. Within moments, she was in cryogenic sleep.

"Doctor, how much time do you need to run those tests?" Janeway asked solemnly, already missing her noisy counterpart.

"About an hour, Captain. And, if I may, I'd like a sample of your tissue as well for analysis."

Janeway nodded and turned her head, allowing the doctor to press a hypo-extractor against her neck and draw the sample. When he was done, she continued.

"Chakotay, would you please send a subspace message to the Eukarids and see if they can enlighten us? Then brief the senior staff and call a meeting for when the doctor completes his analysis."

"Aye, Captain."

"In the meantime, Seven and I will go over the biometric data we got from them. Okay, Seven?"

The young woman nodded, recognizing the request as an efficient attempt to solicit her help and distract her from Kathryn's predicament.

*****

After their separation, the two captains had developed the habit of seating themselves close together in the briefing room, Janeway taking the customary captain's position at the head of the table and Kathryn occupying the chair immediately to her right. When Janeway joined her staff for the emergency meeting they'd called that afternoon, she noticed that her senior officers had left Kathryn's chair unoccupied, in deference to her status as an absent but irreplaceable member of their family. Janeway swallowed back her emotions and called the meeting to order.

"What have we learned?" she asked simply.

"The Eukarids weren't much help, Captain," Chakotay began. "They claimed they've never experienced any problems with cellular degradation, and they finished off with a statement that didn't make any sense to me."

"What?"

"They said that their traditions prohibit them from 'traveling too near to the bright suns'."

"I'm afraid the statement does make sense to me," the doctor countered. "The Eukarids evolved from a form of phytoplankton on their world that is similar to the Terran dinoflagellate, which was known to undergo cellular degradation in response to environmental stresses like increases in solar radiation. I suspect the ringed suns in their region of space is what allowed them to evolve into such complex life forms that still reproduce through mitosis."

"Yes, Seven and I discovered those similarities when we reviewed the biometric data."

"Does that mean they can't travel outside their region?" Harry asked.

"No, I don't think so. My own analyses suggest that they've evolved a less vulnerable cell morphology."

"They must have somehow inherited an incipient fear of 'bright suns' from their ancestors," Chakotay offered. "That would explain their cultural taboo. It's become part of their mythos."

"But was does that mean for the captains?" Seven asked impatiently.

The doctor frowned. "Terrans also evolved from the less complex marine life on their homeworld. But some characteristic traits of those early life forms, like autogenesis, became dormant and recessive as other genetic traits developed and evolved. Whatever spurred mitosis in the captain tapped into those dormant, recessive traits and their vulnerabilities."

"So when Kathryn beamed down to a planet with normal levels of radiation, her cellular structure destabilized?" Seven summarized.

"Actually, I suspect it was the combination of transporting and being exposed to higher levels of solar radiation that caused such an acute reaction." He turned to the captain ominously. "But once we entered this region, it was only a matter of time before her cells began degrading."

"So the same thing is going to happen to Captain Janeway," B'Elanna concluded.

The doctor merely nodded.

"But you can counteract this," Seven stated emphatically, unwilling to cast her comment as a question and admit any doubt.
 

"Part of the problem is that your human cells weren't meant to be split like that," the doctor responded addressing Janeway. "It weakened the overall structure, although that inherent instability didn't manifest itself until we entered this solar system." He took an unnecessary breath before continuing. "The only way I can think to counteract the process is to fuse the cells again. "

"How do we do that?" Tom Paris asked.

"You need to rejoin us," Janeway concluded in low tones.

"With what?" Tom asked again, even more stymied.

"A transport?" B'Elanna suggested.

The doctor nodded. "Harry and I ran some tests with the tissue samples I took from Kathryn and the captain. We dematerialized two cells and rematerialized them as a single cell. It stabilized the structure and retained the same genetic encoding."

"Doesn't the transporter pose the same risk to the captain as it did to her counterpart?" Tuvok asked.

"It would if we rematerialized them as separate individuals, but the point is to stabilize the captain's cellular structure by rematerializing them as a single individual."

"Our plan," Harry explained, "is to place both captains on the transporter pad and use one annular confinement beam to dematerialize them. We'll hold them in the pattern buffers while we narrow the beam and reset the transporter with an archived pattern overlay of one of the captain's previous transports, from before she was split. Then we'll rematerialize the captain."

"But which one of them will come out of the transport?" Tom asked.

"Both," the doctor replied. "Since the stored pattern overlay has a mapping of the captain's original molecular structure, we anticipate the process will reintegrate their two personalities. The captain should rematerialize as the person she was before the accident."

"If Kathryn were here, she'd be making a rather rude remark right about now," Janeway said with dry humor. She was gratified when a few of her officers smiled at the comment, but she noticed that Seven wasn't among the ones smiling.

"All right," she said decisively. "Make the necessary arrangements and call me when you're ready. In the meantime, I'd like to have a private word with Seven."

Janeway watched silently as the rest of her senior officers filed out. As soon as the door closed, however, she dropped her head to the table and began to weep despite herself. Within moments, she felt Seven's warm body pressing against her and echoing her sobs. They held each other for long moments until their tears slowed.

"I'm sorry, darling," Janeway began, unable to resist feeling embarrassed for her loss of control, even in front of Seven. "It's just that....as difficult as things have been between Kathryn and me, it's been....such a relief having someone around with whom I could share my responsibilities and my.....and my fears," she admitted. "I'm going to miss having that," she added quietly.

"I'm going to miss her, too," Seven stated plaintively.

"No, my love," Janeway countered gently. "So help me, whatever it takes, I'm going to make sure I never give you a reason for missing that part of me," she vowed. "I swear, we're not going back to the way things were before the accident. We've started something here, all three of us, and we're going to go forward with it.....if you'll let me," she added, suddenly less sure of Seven's resolve.

Seven studied her captain, not sure of everything she was feeling beyond a profound sense of loss. But the longer she looked into those grey eyes, so filled with love and conviction, the stronger her faith in Kathryn became. "I believe you, my Kathryn. But what if the doctor's plan fails? What if..." her voice caught. "What if I lose you both?" She finished off quietly.

Janeway hugged her fiercely. "Oh, Seven. Everything's going to be all right. I promise. Remember what Kathryn told you when you were afraid you'd hurt us if we danced with you?"

Seven smiled through her tears. "Yes. She said Janeways are 'pretty sturdy'."

The captain smiled back. "And don't you forget it."

They were interrupted by a call over the comm system. "Doctor to Captain Janeway. Report to Transporter Room 3."

"We're on our way, Doctor," she called back. Then without another word, she took hold of Seven's hand and exited the briefing room, deciding that the crew would survive seeing their captain holding hands with her girlfriend.

*****

Kathryn's stasis chamber had already been brought into the transporter room by the time Janeway and Seven arrived. The doctor was present as well, of course, but Janeway was surprised to find B'Elanna at the transporter controls.

"Not that I don't trust your abilities implicitly, B'Elanna, but since Harry was the one helping the doctor with the tests, shouldn't he be here?"

B'Elanna started to answer, but the doctor jumped in. "Uh, that was my suggestion, Captain. I thought you'd feel less awkward with Lt. Torres here instead of Ensign Kim."

"Why would I feel awkward in front of Harry?"

"Because the rematerialization process will be less complex and less risky if we can factor out non-human cells," the doctor explained.

"And?" Janeway prompted.

The doctor frowned. "Captain, I'm not sure you understand."

"Doctor, I realized back in the briefing room that my counterpart and I would have to be naked for this transport. Now, is there a valid reason for Mr. Kim's absence....other than your mistaken notion that I'm a prude?"

"No, Captain...uh....I mean," he stammered on, unsure if he'd just admitted to thinking that his captain was a prude.

"Ensign Kim, report to Transporter Room 3," Janeway called, not waiting for the CMO to finish. "I'll go get ready while we wait for Harry," she said.

Since the individuals regularly beamed aboard Starfleet vessels were extracted from places with all manner of environmental conditions, most starship transporter rooms were outfitted with nearby changing rooms, complete with towels, blankets, and robes. It was there that Janeway readied herself, removing her uniform and putting on a robe to ward off the chill of the room until they began the actual transport.

By the time she exited the changing room, Harry had arrived--looking a little flustered, she thought. She also noticed that the doctor had opened the stasis chamber and was in the process of reviving Kathryn.

Blue eyes fluttered open and focused on the nearest thing to heaven they'd ever seen. "Hello, my angel," Kathryn croaked.

Seven smiled brilliantly. "Hello, my Kathryn," she called back.

Aided by Seven and the doctor, Kathryn sat up gingerly, wincing in evident pain. "Well, some of the usual suspects are here, I see," she remarked, as she looked around the room. Then she spotted Janeway. "Hey, you're out of uniform, Captain," she said in feigned shock.

"Don't look now, but you're sheet is slipping," Janeway bantered back.

Sure enough, Kathryn's sheet had fallen to her waist. She lifted it disinterestedly to her chest. "You're right, I wasn't looking....but Harry was," she joked, unable to resist teasing the ensign and chuckling when he turned beet red and began studying the transport console. "Are we going somewhere?" she added, suddenly realizing where they all were.

"The doctor has determined that our cells are degrading because of the initial split, and he and Harry have figured out a way of restabilizing them," Janeway said, trying to sound matter-of-fact.

Kathryn quickly read off the rest of the explanation from her counterpart's too familiar expression. "They're going to try rejoining us," she said, also sounding matter-of-fact.

Janeway nodded. "They're going to use an old pattern overlay for rematerialization, which should put us back together the way we were before, back to the old Janeway."

"Oh, God," Kathryn groaned in mock suffering. "Not that old bore!" she joked.

Janeway smirked and addressed the others present. "I told you she'd say something nasty," she remarked over their chuckles.

Kathryn turned to Seven, spying the fear in the young woman's eyes. She patted her hand fondly. "Don't worry, darling. Like I've told you before, we Janeways are sturdy."

Seven nodded with a small smile, not bothering to mention that the captain had already given her the same reminder. "Would you like me to help you out of the stasis unit, Kathryn?" she asked.

Kathryn nodded, then felt herself being lifted, sheet and all, into Seven's arms. "I could get used to the way you help me do things," she said fondly.

"I am counting on that," the young woman replied softly as she walked over to the dais and then seated her precious cargo gingerly on one of the pads. When Kathryn was settled, Seven leaned down and pressed their lips together for a few more precious moments of contact, reluctantly letting go only after she'd communicated her love.

"See you soon, Seven," Kathryn assured her.

Seven nodded and smiled again, then turned to Janeway, desperately wanting to repeat the same gesture but uncertain if her more disciplined Kathryn would allow the contact in front of others.

Janeway understood and then pressed into her lips with barely a moment's hesitation, pleased with herself for overcoming her customary inhibitions. Then she nibbled Seven's lower lip lovingly before releasing her.

"I'll be back soon for more of those," she vowed, purposely repeating what her counterpart had said before going into stasis.

Seven's eyes grew wide with recognition, and then she felt suddenly calmer. "Yes," she agreed.

Pleased that the young woman had understood her meaning, Janeway gave her a quick nod and a smile before stepping up on the dais. She knelt next to Kathryn on the same pad and removed her robe, handing it to Seven along with Kathryn's sheet. Then she leaned down and pulled Kathryn into her arms.

The two captains looked at each other a moment, communicating things that even Seven didn't fully understand. She then noticed the captain whispering something into Kathryn's ear that made the blue eyes tear up and close with heartfelt emotion. Seven's own eyes watered in sympathy as she watched the captain press one final kiss against her counterpart's temple.

Janeway looked up and called out to Harry. "Okay. Do it." She then hugged Kathryn closer and settled her eyes on Seven's as Harry activated the transporter.

"Dematerializing," he reported.

Seven watched her two lovers shimmer slowly away. Blinking back tears to clear her vision, she listened carefully to the electronic rise and fall of the transporter control signifying that a beam was in progress. The cadence persisted in the middle ranges for what seemed like an eternity, although logically she knew that the adjustments Harry was making were adding only a few moments to the process. Then, to her relief, she heard the tones begin to rise again signifying a beam in.

"Rematerializing," Harry called out.

As Seven continued staring at the dais, the ghost of an image slowly shimmered into view. It began taking the shape of a small, naked body that looked so vulnerable it made Seven's heart clutch. And when, finally, the transport was complete, Seven saw the figure of her captain seated on the transporter pad hugging herself with her head bowed and her upper body hunched over her raised knees.

Seven approached her carefully and gently placed the robe around her shoulders. Then she watched as her head slowly rose. Clouded grey-blue eyes stared back at her, blinking several times to focus, and when there was recognition, they cleared and turned a bluer grey. When the corners of the eyes crinkled, Seven could tell that Kathryn was smiling brilliantly at her. From somewhere off to the side, they heard the doctor clearing his throat.

"Captain?" he hazzarded.

Janeway looked at him and smiled. "Do you see any pips on my neck, Doctor?"

"Uh, no, Captain?"

"Then how about we save the titles for when I'm actually in uniform and on the bridge? Otherwise, it's just 'Kathryn'.....oh, and for now that just applies to the senior staff. After all a captain can't change her stripes overnight, now can she?" she added with a smile.

"Well around here, she might, Kathryn," B'Elanna suggested playfully, pleased when the captain began laughing heartily.

The doctor brought up his scanner and made a thorough sweep of the captain's body as she recovered from her laughter. "Your cellular structure appears to have stabilized. And judging from your demeanor, I'd say you're two personalities have reintegrated."

"Good, good," Kathryn said distractedly as she tugged on her robe and allowed Seven to help her to her feet.

"How do you feel?" he asked.

"I'm quite tired. I think I'd like to go back to my quarters."

"I will help you," Seven stated softly. "Would you like to dress and walk to your cabin, or do you want Harry to transport us there?"

"It's an extravagance, but let's take the express route," she answered. Then she called over the comm system. "Janeway to Chakotay."

"Chakotay here. Glad to hear your voice, Captain."

"Thank you, Commander. I just wanted to let you know that everything went splendidly. Have you begun the shore leave rotations?"

"Not yet, Captain. The crew wanted to make sure you were all right first."

Kathryn smiled warmly at the concern. "Tell them....." she thought for a moment about how to assure a crew that had become accustomed to hearing more than just orders from their captain. "Tell them Captain Janeway is back in one piece and very much looking forward to sharing a few new jokes with them."

"I'll do that," he vowed, the smile evident in his voice.

"I'll see you in the morning, Chakotay. Janeway out."

"Here you go, Kathryn," B'Elanna said, handing her the clothes she'd retrieved for her from the changing room.

"Oh, thank you. See you all later," she added, as she allowed Seven to help her back onto the transporter pad. "Energize."

*****

Within moments, Kathryn was standing in her living quarters, gently held in Seven's arms. She let her clothes slip from her hands and leaned into the blond's shoulder tiredly. Without a word, Seven scooped her up in her arms and carried her slowly into the bedroom. She placed her gently on her feet and allowed Kathryn to shrug out of her robe while she turned down the blanket and sheets. Then she helped Kathryn settle into her bed and pulled the covers warmly over her tired body. Seven sat on the bed next to her, gazing fondly as she brushed the hair from Kathryn's forehead.

"You look tired, too, Seven. When was the last time you regenerated?" Kathryn asked softly.

"The night before last."

"If you promise to come back and have a late dinner with me, I could be persuaded to let you go regenerate for a few hours," Kathryn suggested in a way she hoped would make clear that she wasn't sending the young woman away.

"Very well," Seven relented, understanding the suggestion was made for her welfare. "I will be back in three hours, my Kathryn." But she did not rise immediately, her brow knitting in question.

"What is it, darling?"

"When you were on the transporter pad, I saw Captain Janeway whisper something to Kathryn that made her cry. I wish to know what you said to yourself."

Kathryn's eyes teared again at the memory of both saying and hearing the heartfelt comment, a comment that let her know she had accepted herself, every part of herself, and was finally at peace with who she was.

"I....I said....'I love you.'"

Seven's own eyes watered as she perceived what that declaration meant for her captain. "I, too, love Kathryn Janeway. Every part of her."

Kathryn smiled through her tears. "And I love Seven of Nine, with everything that I am," she answered back softly.

Seven leaned in and gave her a long, slow kiss on the lips. "Sleep well, my Kathryn. I will return before you awaken."

*****

Kathryn Janeway stirred some time later, awash in the joyous sensation of a soft warm body pressing next to her. When her eyes fluttered open and focused, she saw long blond hair feathering across her chest, the lights from the nightwatch runners reflecting blue off gold. She pressed her face against a nearby lock and inhaled. It felt like silk and smelled like spice and wildflowers. Soft, moist lips pressed themselves lovingly against her breast bone, and then a hand came into view, sweeping the cascade of silken hair aside to reveal adoring blue eyes and a warm, soft smile.

Seven's full red lips approached hers and settled themselves there for long moments, nibbling and sucking her own lips and then opening to deepen the kiss. As their tongues caressed, she felt Seven press her right thigh between her own, gently nudging them open. Warm fingers trailed down her neck, along her shoulder, and then down and around her breast. It was so soft, a tender caress intended to kindle the fire between them slowly. As Seven's fingers stroked her left side, down to the curve of her waist and back up again, the young woman trailed kisses along Kathryn's neck, nibbling and licking the salty-sweet skin when she wasn't kissing it.

Kathryn felt Seven's lips continue their journey after a moment, adoring her shoulders and chest with as much conviction as Seven had shown her lips and neck. Then, on the next upward sweep of Seven's hand, Kathryn felt it cup her left breast, squeezing it tenderly as the young woman's lips descended on that area, too. Full lips kissed around the tip of her breast and then licked slowly across it for long moments. When her nipple was ready, she felt Seven pull it sweetly into her mouth and begin a slow gentle tugging. Kathryn's breathing became heavier, but there was no urgency in it. She simply held Seven's head to herself as the young woman continued feeding languidly at her bosom.

It was an exquisite feeling, Seven's rhythm so timeless that it took her to a place with no beginning and no end, a limbo of pure pleasure that was at once calming and exciting. It seized her in the moment, and she found it so pleasurable in itself that she imagined her body simply existing in a slice of forever. She wallowed in it with such a sense of being there that she lost all sense of time and place.

An eternal moment later, she became aware that at some point in her tender attentions, Seven had allowed her fingers to take over the gentle loving of her left nipple, tweaking it slowly as its partner was pulled into the hot, wet silk of Seven's mouth and treated to the same infinite bliss. Kathryn inhaled deeply at that pleasure, too, slipping into forever again with a shuddering sigh.

Sometime later, she felt Seven's hand stroking in warm circles around her stomach, vaguely aware that her nipples were straining wetly in the cool air of the cabin, tingling with the sweet ache that Seven's attentions had put there. She looked down and met the young woman's dark, impassioned eyes staring back at her. As they continued gazing at each other, she felt Seven's fingers brush the hair of her mound, requesting access. Kathryn brought her left knee up to the side, opening herself to her lover. It was then she felt the young woman's cool fingers separating the folds of her sex. When her womanhood was exposed, Seven began petting her gently, stoking the fire between them with more ardor.

Kathryn suddenly felt the tickle of moisture trickling onto her right thigh where Seven's sex was pressing against it. The sensation made her fingers itch for the same contact Seven's hand was enjoying. She swept her right hand down the exquisite silk of Seven's side until it was pressing underneath the young woman's belly. She then felt Seven shift her own knee to the side to open herself up to Kathryn. Moments later, Kathryn's fingers found the soft fuzz of Seven's sex, rasping her nails against it gently and then cupping the small mound in her hand. Her palm felt suddenly damp as Seven's body shuddered and expelled another trickle of her passion. Then Kathryn tenderly separated the folds of Seven's sex, as Seven had done hers, spreading her open for a mimicking of the same private petting she was receiving.

Still staring into each other's eyes, they spent several long moments in mutual fondling, fingers spreading the wetness in long, even strokes across each other's reddening folds. When Seven's thumb began circling tenderly around her fleshly center, Kathryn mirrored the gesture, painting slow circles around Seven's little nub. Their breaths caught at the same time as their passions heightened.

Seven's face was a study in timeless rapture as Kathryn brought three fingers to the mouth of the young woman's sex. She inserted just the tips and languidly circled the rim in a gesture that was both a question and a promise. A fresh rush of fluid answered her request, signaling Seven's readiness as the young woman's body shuddered again in her arms. Then she felt her own sex straining wider as Seven pressed three of her fingers just inside the rim. Kathryn felt herself shudder and dampen, too, a trickle of her passion overflowing her sex and flowing down the crease between her cheeks. She blinked in mild surprise at her own readiness. Then eyes staring and mouths agape as they struggled for breath, each of them felt their openings being stretched wide and filled almost achingly as they simultaneously pushed their fingers with careful and deliberate slowness into the snug, wet satin of each other's sex. The internal sensation of being rubbed and stretched persisted for several long moments. When they were all the way inside, both of their bodies shuddered as their inner muscles tightened and released, adjusting to the sensual fullness of their love. It was then that they kissed, tongues dancing slowly against each other in a parody of penetration that perfectly matched the mutual penetration of their sexes.

As long fingers bored themselves intimately in languid, twisting strokes, they began to perspire from the intensity of their unhurried lovemaking. Every part of their bodies felt hot and wet, as if the building friction so deep within were igniting them to their core, radiating heat and steam to their surfaces. And when there was no other place from which their passion could flow, it began to leak from their eyes in wet, salty tears.

A sob escaped from Kathryn's mouth and was swallowed up by Seven's, who then echoed the sentiment with her own muffled cry of passion. It was the first and only sound between them as they continued to kiss deeply. The need for air finally made Kathryn pull her mouth away and gasp for breath. Seven nuzzled into her neck, breathing in the smell of womanly sex and sweat as she caught her own breath. They stayed that way, hugging each other fiercely as their passion heightened beyond their control.

Long moments later, Kathryn felt Seven's sex begin to twitch and spasm tightly around her fingers. Her own sex responded with the same shuddering force. When their bodies began to shake, they held on even tighter, riding the storm of their mutual passion through several cresting waves. And when, at last, the storm abated, one final wave settled them gently on the shore of their island, snuggled together and drifting to sleep surrounded by an ocean of calm.


Epilogue

Seven of Nine idly accepted the plate of "barbecued" chicken and other treats Kathryn handed her as she watched her fellow crew members adding wood to the "bonfire" they had going. After Kathryn settled next to her, she pointed to the beach and asked, "Is this why they call it 'shore leave', Kathryn?"

The captain and surrounding officers who had heard the question chuckled.

"Actually, it's a throw-back to maritime practices," Tom Paris explained.

When Kathryn saw the frown on Seven's face, she explained further. "Sailors on seafaring vessels worked nonstop until their vessel arrived at a harbor somewhere. It was only then that they were able to take 'leave' of their ship and their duties by going 'ashore': hence, shore-leave."

"Ah!" Seven said, pleased to be enlightened. "The analogy is apt for a starship, too, although I understand now that having a 'shore' is not necessary."

"Not necessary, but pleasant nonetheless," Janeway stated.

"So, Kathryn?" Harry called, trying to sound casual but still evidently indulging in the privilege of being able to address his captain by her first name.

"Yes, Harry?" she called back playfully.

He blinked. "Uhm, I was just wondering. Do you miss no longer having a double?"

"Are you kidding? I was beside myself!"

Laughter broke out among the senior staff as they caught the captain's emphatic play on words. After they sobered, she offered a more serious response. "All jokes aside, Harry, what I actually learned was how much I needed having someone around to share the burden with. If you all don't mind," she said addressing her companions, "I'm going to start relying a lot more on you....both as fellow officers and as friends."

"I've been waiting a long time for that," Chakotay said earnestly.

"I know. I guess it took a run-in with someone as pushy as another Kathryn Janeway to teach me a few lessons."

"Yup, we've been there," B'Elanna agreed, then back-peddled when she saw the quirk in Janeway's brow. "Uh, ma'am."

Kathryn laughed. Then she heard the sultry rhythms of Latin dance music. "Is that the cha-cha?"

"Yes," Seven answered. "I made a special request."

Kathryn smiled brilliantly. "Shall we dance?"

Seven nodded and stood, leading her partner to the make-shift dance floor. She held Kathryn close and began wiggling her hips in tempo to the music, enjoying the feel of Kathryn's own hips moving against hers. The captain nuzzled her neck and planted playful kisses there, making the young woman laugh. Then she lifted her head and regarded her blond lover.

"So, Seven?"

"Yes, Kathryn?"

"Have I ever told you the story of the Borg from Nantucket?"

The End

 


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This page is from the Delta Quadrant of Venus website. The site was originally hosted on AOL's hometown pages, which AOL shut down on October 31, 2008. The DQV site was resurrected and moved to this new home on November 30, 2008 because fans asked to have it back. Thank you for your continued interest in my stories. I'm truly touched. --T'ware

Posted December 31, 2001. Updated January 2, 2002, to add logo graphic and make corrections.