Chakotay stepped through the familiar doorway into the captain’s ready room, still finding it difficult to believe that this was the last time he would ever do so as Voyager’s executive officer. Although nothing about his future was official yet — they’d only just arrived at Earth, after all — word had it that the former Maquis aboard the ship would soon be granted pardons and be honorably discharged from Starfleet. They were all heroes in the wake of Voyager’s battle with the Borg, after all, and heroes didn’t end up serving time in rehabilitation facilities.
The captain glanced up from her ever-present cup of coffee. Although Chakotay had been about to suggest some champagne instead, in honor of the occasion, he thought better of it when he saw the forbidding look on her face. If he hadn’t known better, he might almost have thought they’d made a mistake and brought back that grim apparition of her future self, instead.
“Sit down, Commander.”
He noted the use of his rank instead of his name. As if her tone and expression could have left him in any doubt whatsoever that Captain Kathryn Janeway was pissed as hell.
“Perhaps you would care to explain your appalling behavior of the past few days. I’m referring, of course, to your completely inappropriate fraternization with a very naïve and vulnerable young member of this crew,” Kathryn continued.
So that was why she’d summoned him to her ready room. One last moralistic lecture on Starfleet ethics. While he usually admired Kathryn’s strength of character, there were times when the woman was a thorough pain in the posterior.
“Seven is a civilian, after all.”
“You know that’s not what I mean.” Kathryn picked up her coffee cup and drained the contents with a grimace, as if the brew were entirely too bitter for words. “Seven is not a fully mature woman. She’s an adolescent, both socially and emotionally. She isn’t ready for a sexual relationship, as you would realize if you’d been thinking with your brain instead of your gonads. And I didn’t pluck her from the depths of hell itself so that you could take advantage of her innocence. I won’t let you hurt her.”
That unexpected vehemence left Chakotay taken aback. He protested, “But I would never do anything to hurt Seven. I really care for her. I haven’t felt so alive with a woman since . . .”
“Spare me the details of your mid-life crisis, Mister Chakotay. I’m not interested.” Kathryn slammed down the empty cup explosively. “Although I may no longer be able to give you orders, if you harm Seven in any way, you’ll answer to me for it, one way or another. There are millions of other women on Earth, and I suggest that you start looking. Dismissed.”
Now there’s a maternal instinct out of control, Chakotay thought as he turned to leave the room. Mama Borg protecting her cub, or something of the sort. The cub in question, though, wasn’t in need of any more mothering. Seven was capable of making her own decisions. Sure, he’d thought of Seven as a child years ago, but she’d matured quite a lot since then.
The bridge was still fully staffed on the night shift, although there wasn’t much for the bridge crew to do while everyone else made their preparations to leave the ship. Harry Kim was officially in command of Voyager at the moment, mainly to allow him the opportunity to impress his parents by having a conversation with them from the captain’s chair. Chakotay pretended not to notice the ensign’s unmistakable look of jealousy as he crossed the bridge and entered the turbolift. Everyone knew that Harry had been hopelessly in love with Seven since the moment she’d come aboard Voyager, but the chump had never gotten up the nerve to admit it to her.
Too bad, Chakotay thought cheerfully as the turbolift whirred into smooth motion; it looks like you lose. A luscious babe like Seven of Nine couldn’t be expected to stay available for long. And Kathryn was dead wrong in her sarcastic remarks; Seven needed a confident older man, one who wouldn’t be intimidated by her strength and directness.
The truth, whether or not Kathryn was willing to accept it, was that he genuinely cared for Seven and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. He couldn’t believe that it had taken him so long to realize that she was the perfect woman for him. The moment when he had come to that realization, in the primitive village of the Ventu, was brightly emblazoned on his consciousness. Since then, Seven had been all he’d thought about in every waking moment, not to mention numerous wet dreams. He felt as infatuated as a teenager. Why, if he didn’t know better, he could swear there’d been some aphrodisiac in those herbs the villagers had used . . .
The doors opened and then closed again as Chakotay just stood there staring at the turbolift’s walls, pondering this very unwelcome possibility. Nah, couldn’t be. The Doctor had checked him over thoroughly upon his return to Voyager, and anything like that would surely have been detected.
Then again, the wonder-hologram wasn’t entirely infallible.
Chakotay redirected the turbolift to sickbay. Everyone aboard Voyager had been ordered to get full physicals before leaving the ship, anyway, to ensure that they didn’t unwittingly infect Earth’s population with some kind of Delta Quadrant pestilence. Might as well get it over with. No doubt the Doctor would reassure him that everything was completely normal.
“Right as rain,” the Doctor said merrily.
Far too merrily, Chakotay realized. Since when had Voyager’s chief medical officer possessed anything that remotely resembled a pleasant bedside manner? And somehow, he didn’t think the excitement of the ship’s return to Earth could account for the transformation.
The Doctor was definitely hiding something.
“How about the residual effect of those Ventu herbs?” Chakotay kept his gaze steadily on the Doctor as he spoke. “I think you know what effect I’m talking about.”
The new refinements to the EMH’s personality subroutines were definitely more lifelike, Chakotay observed. The Doctor actually squirmed.
“But it’s not a permanent effect, Commander. When you returned from your aboriginal adventure, your hormonal functioning approximated that of a 15-year-old. Now, slowly, your hormones are beginning to return to normal. There’s been no harm done.”
Well, that explained the outbreak of pimples he’d noticed shortly after his return. Ditto the incessant wet dreams.
“Just when were you planning to tell me about it?”
“You and Seven make such a lovely couple.” The EMH sighed, very long and theatrically. “And she deserves happiness, Commander.”
Seven of Nine deserved something, all right. With her ability to observe and analyze human vital signs at a glance, there was no way she could have overlooked the fact that he wasn’t his normal self. And with her devious Borg mind, whatever game she was playing wasn’t likely to be the mere girlish crush that Kathryn envisioned.
“I want an antidote. Now.”
The Doctor sighed once more before he complied.
Alone in the cargo bay, Seven paced impatiently. Last night, she’d managed to escape from Chakotay’s tiresome lustful passions by informing him that she needed additional time to regenerate after her recent surgery. Which was literally true. She needed an extra 5.8 minutes. Since awakening several hours ago, she’d spent the rest of the night waiting for the start of alpha shift, so that Chakotay would be on the bridge and safely out of her way.
Her romantic attempts never quite seemed to work out, no matter what she did. Upon first becoming acquainted with Harry Kim, she had inadvertently reduced the unfortunate ensign to quivering terror, just because she’d inquired whether he wanted to copulate. And just how was she supposed to have known that humans weren’t so direct about it? She hadn’t been any more successful with Harry by playing hard to get, which was a time-honored human romantic strategy, according to her research.
That was why Seven had moved on to the next tactic her research suggested — making Harry jealous. Upon initial analysis, Commander Chakotay had seemed the ideal partner for that endeavor. He was the most excruciatingly boring, duty-bound bachelor aboard Voyager, and one who was unlikely to display any lasting attraction to her. Once again, she’d been wrong. Although she had thoroughly rehearsed a variety of potential interactions with Chakotay on the holodeck before initiating the strategy, she’d had no way to predict the result of the commander’s sojourn among the Ventu. Which could easily have been avoided if Chakotay had any concept of how to keep a shuttle on the proper flight path.
The commander’s highly unexpected display of mindless lust had seemed, at first, to be an effective catalyst to provoke Harry’s jealousy, which was the reason why Seven hadn’t said anything about the cause of Chakotay’s aberrant behavior. Unfortunately, the timid Ensign Kim, who could never be mistaken for an alpha male, had simply decided to avoid confrontation, as usual, by leaving her to Chakotay. This was a tremendously frustrating situation. Why she still made any attempt to attract Harry Kim was beyond her understanding.
To hell with love, Seven thought, realizing that she quite enjoyed the resonance of the curse along her neural pathways. Another attribute of humanity that merited further experimentation, perhaps the next time Chakotay made an attempt to drape his sweaty, stinking body over hers. She’d already tried to break up with Chakotay by pretending to be concerned about how he’d feel if he lost her, but the big oaf had been too dense to take the hint.
Alpha shift had now begun, Seven noted, which meant that dutiful old Chakotay would be at his post on the bridge, and she was free to leave the cargo bay without incident. She turned toward the doorway.
Just as Chakotay walked in.
Her initial assumption was that the commander’s hormonal maladjustment had rendered him unable to perform his duties, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case. His breathing, heart rate, and pheromones were consistent with anger, not lust. Either Chakotay had begun to experience mood swings, or else he’d found out about the Ventu herbs. She suspected the latter, which was soon confirmed.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, Seven, but it’s over, right here and now. I have no intention of allowing myself to be a test subject for any more of your bizarre experiments. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“That outcome is acceptable,” Seven replied coolly. She had to use all of her Borg control to resist the sudden impulse to break into a loud rendition of every human cheer in her cortical processor’s database.
Chakotay, who felt as if he might as well have a very large cartoon thundercloud sketched over his head in the general vicinity of his tattoo, stomped into the mess hall to get some breakfast. He was supposed to be on the bridge, even though the crew would be leaving Voyager in a few hours; but frankly, he didn’t care any more. Not to mention that he didn’t feel like facing Kathryn, now or in the foreseeable future. What an unholy fiasco.
The galley was closed, of course, and anyone who wasn’t too excited to eat breakfast had to get it from the replicator. The mess hall was nearly deserted. Harry Kim sat across the room with his usual bowl of cornflakes, alone, of course. Chakotay got some hash browns and cantaloupe from the replicator before joining the ensign. Might as well call it the losers’ table, he thought. For those of us who make fools of ourselves any time we go near a woman. Seven of Nine hadn’t been particularly kind to Harry, either, he recalled. All the same, Harry still pined for her, the idiot. In Chakotay’s opinion, those two would definitely deserve an eternity with each other.
Hmmmm . . .
Maybe Harry didn’t actually deserve what he was about to do, but then, Chakotay had gotten himself into the most abominably foul mood of all time, and a little payback aimed at Seven might just leave him feeling better.
“Have you seen Seven yet this morning, Harry? I can tell she’s got the hots for you, big time. That brain surgery really turned on some of her basic human instincts, if you know what I mean.”
Harry blinked in confusion. “But I thought you . . .”
“No.” Chakotay, stifling the urge to snap at the clueless ensign, forced himself to grin in response. “It’s you she really wants. I can’t compete, Har, I’ll freely admit it. But you’d better go and find her now, before the more interesting effects of the surgery begin to wear off.”
Bumping his chair into the next table in his hurry to get up, Harry left most of his cornflakes uneaten as he made a mad dash for the door.
Chakotay took a bite of hash browns and chewed slowly. Yep, he definitely felt better now. Maybe he’d go on up to the bridge in a little while, after all.
Sipping his cappuccino in a San Francisco café a few days later, Chakotay couldn’t help but to overhear the conversation across the room as Seven of Nine had her first meeting with Harry Kim’s parents. Or rather, Harry’s mother conversed while everyone else, completely unable to get a word in edgewise, just listened helplessly.
“What a lovely girl you brought back from the Delta Quadrant, Harry. I’m so proud of you. A beautiful figure, and such unique alien jewelry.”
Chakotay blinked in amazement and rubbed his eyes. No, he hadn’t imagined it. The woman was actually pinching Seven on her cheek, right next to one of the Borg implants.
“And she’s bright and can cook, too!” Harry’s mother sounded positively ecstatic. “She’ll make a wonderful bride for you, I’m sure of it. And the grandchildren, they’ll be perfect in every way. I’ll simply adore helping the two of you take care of them. I’ve already had the architect start drawing up plans for an addition to our house, just so that I can keep you lovebirds close.”
Poor Harry looked as if he wanted to sink through the floor, and even Seven had lost much of her usual smug expression.
Chakotay knew he ought to feel guilty, but to be honest, he didn’t. Not at all. Taking another sip of cappuccino, he turned his attention back to his companion and spoke again.
“And that’s how it happened. I’d like to blame it all on the hormones, but the truth is, some of it probably was middle-aged foolishness. I guess I acted like a real jackass.”
“That happens to the best of us at times.” Kathryn was smiling. “I’ve made some foolish mistakes in the area of romance, myself. Errors of omission, you might say.”
Chakotay returned the intimate smile, thinking that he was a hell of a lot luckier than he had any right to be.