Note of What Has Gone Before: Tom Paris has been restored to the rank of lieutenant.
Seven of Nine began to dream, an experience that put her in contact with Unimatrix Zero, a place where the minds of current Borg drones interconnected in a simulated reality where they retain their individuality. One of these minds was Axum, a drone she had never met in person, but with whom she had maintained a relationship in her dreams for quite some time. Seven pleaded with Janeway to help these minds form the basis for an active Borg rebellion, and the Captain launched a dangerous plan that involved her, Lt. Torres and Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok being captured and assimilated by the Borg.
Equipped with a drug designed to allow them to retain their individuality, the plan collapsed when the telepathic Tuvok falls victim to the machinations of the Borg Queen. Janeway is then interrogated by the Queen, who wished to destroy Unimatrix Zero. She appeared to succeed, although the drones had merely abandoned the dream realm so that they could construct a new one. Janeway, Tuvok and Torres were rescued and their implants removed.
Picard once told me that he still looked at his face in the mirror trying to find his old self. Though he looked the same and often acted the same as he always did, he felt as though something had been taken from him that was not returned. He thought he could see where it was missing even if others didn't. This was even years after the assimilation. I was empathetic, but it was clear I had no idea of the depth of the violation he had endured. There is no way of really understanding without going through it. Never have I experienced or witnessed such a painful and humiliating experience. And I know from whence I speak on that subject. It may have been more horrible for our boarding party because we were still self-aware. Though being thrown into a cacophony of voices may have made matters worse. When all the dust has settled from this adventure, I'll write my dear friend Picard a long letter for the next transmission. I finally feel I can be an empathetic ear for him. And I must have a long talk with Seven about empathy and her lost love. But that would be for later.
The experience did some amazing things to me. One, it made me have a boxier figure that I ever thought possible. I suspect that bitch Borg Queen of having a couple dozen pounds and several inches grafted onto me in the most unflattering places. The ordeal also clinched it for me that the Borg were a very delusional people. I couldn't even begin to comprehend how they could believe that all that mutilation, horror and trauma could result in anything remotely resembling perfection. As my mother would say, they are out of their tree. And the one on the farthest and weakest branch is that Queen. Her biggest delusion though was not about perfection. It was her perception that she ever had any real control.
I was enraged when Tuvok was taken over. I knew that he would view it as a failure and that he would be horrified at such open access to his thoughts and confidences. Like Picard, he is a man of self-possession, dignity and privacy. He would be mortified at having turned on Torres and me physically. I was angry on his behalf, because he would never admit to such a feeling. When I was put into that transferal chamber, I decided that the Queen needed her mind fucked with for a change. I was certain I had the ammo to do it. Besides, I reasoned, it would distract her and give my people and the rebellion time to come to our aid. Though between me, the log and the lamp post, I did it because I knew I could.
"Shall we play a game?"
It was pure foolishness on my part, of course. But was it any more foolish than rushing into Unimatrix Zero for one last goodbye? I'm not sure. It was certainly unwise. Even if the Queen couldn't assimilate me fully, there was a lot she could do to my body while it was attached to that alcove. And judging from the carnage littering her lair, she wasn't beyond just having someone scoop my brains out. Really, I'd never seen such a mess. It was disgusting, especially from someone claiming to seek perfection.
So she was psychotic. But as she strutted around chastising me about my vanity while wearing a much cuter Borg suit than mine, I had a very strong feeling that she was in such a state of mind that all that would matter at that moment was battling with me. Not only did the Queen want her drones back, she also desperately needed to prove herself to be superior to me.
"Game? You want to play games with so many lives on the line?"
I shrugged. "All of our encounters have been high stakes games of strategy and cunning. Why not be up front about it?"
"What sort of game would interest me at this time -- if ever?"
"If that word is too distasteful for you, I'll rephrase," I said with much more calm than I felt. "Are you ready to be educated?"
It was as diplomatic as I could be. 'Would you like to be taught a lesson?' Sounded much too provocative.
She answered in the way I had expected. "What could you possibly have to teach me?"
"A lesson about control," I replied with a small smile. "Who really has it and who really doesn't."
She laughed then. It was not a mirthful one, but then, I wasn't trying to amuse her. "How can you talk of control in your situation? I can end your life very slowly and painfully with a thought."
"True, but I can know the thoughts and feelings of those I choose and even control their wills without being able to actually hear them," I said serenely. "All the technologies of all the races in this quadrant cannot give you the kind of control I have."
She laughed again. "You think me that foolish to entertain such a notion? You're playing for time until your ship can try something futile."
"I see a little proof is in order," I replied icily. "You can hear Tuvok's mind?"
"Quite clearly," she said with a smug smile.
"Then have him tell you of all that concerns the Mistress and Voyager," I replied. My anger threatened to flare anew for I knew that Tuvok would not want to do this. Hopefully, he would know I was the one instigating the probe.
The Queen closed her eyes for only a moment. Then she was staring at me quite strangely -- even for her. It's a shame about the Borg's data interface. She would get no pleasure from the exchange of data compared to reading the accounts. There was no time for imagining the imagery the words painted nor time to mull over the sensations. The transfer was certainly efficient, but she was missing out. However, the information was explosive enough to get her attention.
"This cannot possibly be," she said with incredulity. "How is it that you were allowed to trifle with... a Q and Locutus?"
Boy, those two are way up on the Borg hit parade, I thought. "How was I trifling? At least I haven't made my subjects into living circuit boards."
"And Seven of Nine…" she glared at me in fury. "You have had her sitting at your feet."
"I have had her sucking my toes," I replied. "She was where she wanted to be at that moment."
"What have you done to her?" The Queen hissed. "She was meant for so much more than a life as your plaything."
The Queen thought that she could anger me, but I was rejoicing in her ire. The battle had been fully joined.
"You have Tuvok's recollection of her transformation. He is extremely thorough. And as Security Officer, he is privy to all things on board Voyager. I merely awakened Seven's sensuality. She came to me willingly and she stays with me willingly."
"And what if she were to turn away from you?" the Queen taunted. "How could you bear letting someone go who has given you such pleasure?"
"It would tear me apart for a time," I said solemnly. "The greatest gift we've been given in this quadrant is Seven of Nine. But I would have to let her go. It is the way things are with free thinking beings."
"Ha!" She sneered. "Then why do you chain them for your 'activities' if they are free to go?"
"It is part of the ritual," I said with a smile. "My subjects like to feel owned for a time. They can allow themselves to be taken to the extremes of sensation knowing that when it's over, they are free once more."
"It defies all logic, this behavior," she was as close to sputtering as a Borg could get. I felt an opening on a subject that always made me curious.
"What was Seven meant for?" I asked. "Why did you send her to re-learn human behavior?"
The Queen looked a little startled at the slight change in subject. "The internal workings of the Borg are none of your concern. You should be more concerned for your lives."
"Idle curiosity. If you are as in control of this situation as you believe, why not tell me?" I countered reasonably. "What is the harm in my knowing?"
"Your knowing is irrelevant," she replied. But still she did not answer the question.
"She was to be the next Queen, wasn't she?" I asked quietly.
That got her attention. Her strange eyes were locked on my. "How could you know that? Seven of Nine was not even aware of our plans."
"I may not be able to hear you, Queen," I replied. "But we have been acquainted for some time now. You never do anything without a very good reason. You would not have left her with us then worked so hard to get her back if she were a mere drone with an unusual experience. And she was an extraordinary drone to begin with. I reason that the unpredictable nature of human reasoning has you at a disadvantage tactically. It would be helpful for the Collective to have a Queen that could really think like your enemy."
"We don't need such extreme means to fight an inferior race," she retorted. "We have assimilated humans. We have added their knowledge to ours."
"But the moment you assimilate them, they think like the Borg," I replied. "And we keep changing and continue to remain unpredictable."
She glared at me then and demanded to know details about the virus. It may have signaled the end of our little game, but I didn't think so. She had an interesting expression on her face. I'd seen it before on the faces of those who would seek to denigrate my lifestyle. There would be this certain look in the eyes that told me before the argument was over, the individual in question would be bare assed in the air awaiting the paddle. I had no illusions that this would be the case with the Queen, but I knew that her curiosity had been piqued.
"You inflict pain," the Queen said.
The comment came out of left field in the midst of our battle over Unimatrix Zero. It was almost a non sequitur.
"You inflict pain for pain sake," she continued. "The momentary pain from assimilation has the benefit of adding uniqueness to the collection and achieving perfection."
The problem with Tuvok is that he is very clinical. His recollection of the logs was undoubtedly well and faithfully detailed, but I doubted that they had any of the voluptuous description of the originals. This would make life more difficult.
"First off, I don't inflict anything unless it is at the expressed behest of my subjects," I said indignantly. "Second, nothing I've done is permanent. Third, I don't inflict pain. I give them extreme sensation."
Okay, this is going to be like explaining an orgasm to an android, I thought. Well, with all the millions assimilated during the existence of the Borg, they must have run into a goodly percentage of freaks and even super freaks. It would just be a matter of evoking the right images to tap into their memories.
"It is similar to how I've been told you react to having your head reconnected to your body," I began. That was perhaps the oddest sentence I've ever said. "Those clamps cannot be considered comfortable, yet you enjoy the intensity of the sensation. When I use an implement, it's to make the flesh feel heat and electricity. It makes the skin so sensitized that even the slightest air current can bring immense pleasure."
Her head was slightly tilted and her expression was distant. I was unsure whether she was accessing information on what I was saying or trying to find Unimatrix Zero. It was a harrowing few seconds.
"This kind of pleasure is known to us," she conceded. "Still, you do punish your 'subjects.'"
"In a manner of speaking," I replied. "I punish because that is what they seek. You know that."
"How do you know what they seek? How do you know that Seven wants to be bared and beaten?" she demanded.
Back to Seven. That was good. She remains a sore point, because she once could hear her. And she had never heard what I've heard.
It was no wonder the woman was so insatiable once she experienced pleasure. Sensation was almost non-existent in the Borg suit. All body functions were being handled by the implants and mechanical interfaces. I had no sensation of hunger, nor did I need to relieve myself although both sensations should have been present. We had been away from the ship long enough. There was nothing. I couldn't even feel my own skin. Twenty years without real sensation could make someone really hungry for it.
The Queen was becoming more agitated. My taunting and her growing fury and fear over the renegade drones was taking its toll. I was enjoying her discomfort. I would have enjoyed hanging her from a hook and introducing her to Big Woody with liniment in every orifice even more. She evoked the hardcore Mistress in me. I have never met any singular being who needed to be shown how little she was in control. I would have very much liked to hear her scream in agony. She would be expecting that, and a good Mistress always gives a bit of what's expected. But then I would surprise and humiliate her by making her come hard and often. She was the type that could get hooked on such trifling. But that was not to be. And it was time to try to pull her away from the destructive path she had chosen in response to the virus.
"If you are so certain that your way is the right one, go talk to them," I suggested. "You have their memories retained in your mind. You know them. Speak to them as I do my crew or my subs."
She looked at me like I was a raving lunatic.
"If there's one thing the Borg have always been willing to share is their philosophy. Why would you hesitate with beings who have been part of the Collective?" I asked. My tone was calm and reasonable.
She left my sight then. I was growing apprehensive. I couldn't remained blocked from assimilation indefinitely. There was so much to lose personally. And I was afraid for Voyager. They would undoubtedly do something more foolish than my little gambit to free us. I didn't want them to risk their safety. I didn't want any of them to go through this horror. Not for me. I decided to be more diplomatic when the Queen returned -- if I was given an opportunity. I had the satisfaction of knowing that she knew I had seriously rattled her cage. It was time to find a way out of this scenario.
My change in tact was well-timed. The Queen looked absolutely panicked upon her return. I had to get Voyager to destroy Unimatrix Zero or the whole trip would have been for nothing. Luckily for me, my crew knows how to read me almost as well as I can read them. While we waited, the Queen ventured into our little game once again.
"You can't really know them without hearing them," she said resolutely."You can't look at their faces and know what's in their minds. Your little Circle is a contrivance."
"Yes, you can know. But you must be willing to look and listen. It takes years of openness and patience," I said. "But you can learn another individual's body, mind and soul as well as you know your own. And they will then stay beside you willingly through anything."
"I will have everything you have from your crew and your subs when the hive is whole," the Queen said as the cube began to batter my ship in earnest. Her voice was calm enough but her eyes sheened with emotion. "I will hear Seven of Nine again."
"You will fail," I said in a quiet reply with the certainty of a Borg.
It all hit the fan at that moment. One moment I'm terrified that
Voyager is about to be assimilated, the next thing I know I'm in Sickbay
indebted to the most interesting Klingon I'd ever seen. Buddies with the
captain of a Borg sphere. More things to explain to Starfleet Intelligence.
But for the moment, I had other things to think about. First, I had to
recover my humanity. Then, I had to help some of my crew recover from this
most unusual adventure.
For a long time, or at least it seemed to be a long time, I unconscious. I was aware of the Doctor's voice telling me to move this way or that. He assured me that I was doing fine and my hair was growing back quickly. There were brief glimpses of Torres and Tuvok sleeping nearby. When I voiced a concern about the unshakeable fatigue, the Doctor informed me that we were under heavy sedation for the time being. There was a lot of pain involved in changing us back.
"Besides," he quipped. "Being assimilated then un-assimilated -- procedures that alter the body from the cellular level -- within a very short span of time is bound to tucker a body out."
And while he was keeping others at bay for the sake of my recovery, he managed to tell me all about Seven's lost love in Unimatrix Zero. He was clearly vexed with her and didn't seem the least bit concerned that my recovery might be delayed for worry about her. Of course, he had barred her from seeing me. I was too dopey to argue at first. Besides, knowing my pets as I did, they would find a way to me.
It was Kim who first appeared at my bedside. I thought I was dreaming, but then I realized I could feel his hand stroking my short hair.
He looked stricken at having woke me. I just managed to snag his hand before he pulled it away entirely. I pulled him closer holding his hand against my chest.
"I didn't mean to wake you," he whispered. "The Doctor's going to have a fit."
I quieted him. "The best thing for me right now is to see my Dear Ones."
"We all want to see you," he said. "It's making us kind of nuts not actually seeing that you're… okay."
"I am," I assured him with a squeeze of his hand. "I'm almost 100 percent."
He looked unsure but nodded his head.
"What else is troubling you?"
He looked very sad. "Seven. She's miserable but won't let anyone near her."
"I figured as much. If she was alright, she would have busted in here by now," I replied with a sigh. "Stick close to her and be her friend as you always have, Harry. She'll turn to you when she's ready. There is a lot she needs to process."
"I know," he said. "I guess I needed to hear it from you that I wouldn't be intruding on her."
"You are still very sweet, Harry," I whispered pulling him to me. He held me gently against him for a moment, then carefully arranged me in bed.
"Get rested, Mistress," he murmured kissing me chastely on the forehead.
I nodded. "I'll be with you very soon."
The next time I awoke that same night, I found Tom standing between my biobed and Torres' though he was staring at Tuvok.
"Tom?" I whispered.
He was immediately at my side. "Captain…" He said the word like a caress.
"Have you talked to B'Elanna?"
"Yeah, she actually just dropped off," he said. "I thought I'd wait a little to see if you would wake up."
I smiled at him He took my hand and kissed the back of it. "You should know that I was a handful with Chakotay while you were gone."
"When are you not a handful, Tom?" I asked with a small smile. "What did you do to him?"
"I announced that I was First Officer and then may have been a little vocal about securing the landing party's return," he said.
Of course he did. His favorite wenches were on board. I wondered how hard he had pushed Chakotay at a time when the poor man was trying to squelch his own personal feelings for the safety of the ship. I still couldn't believed he had held my hand like that in public. We'd never looked at each other like that so openly before. But there was no help for it. Poor Tom. He and timing were not great friends.
"Are you on report?"
"Then he's not upset. I just wouldn't make challenging him that way a habit," I said. "But thank you. Voyager did a lot to vex that bitch. And you got us back."
My pilot seemed to have more on his mind than a visit.
"What's troubling you, pet?" I asked. I knew somehow that this wasn't a matter for the Captain.
"This can wait, Mistress…Until you're stronger…"
"No, Tom, it can't," I replied. "If you're worried enough to bring it up, I need to hear it. You don't want me lying here wondering, do you?"
"No, of course not."
He sighed. "I'm not sure -- and that's just it," he said. "I have this feeling that something is really wrong between B'Elanna and me, but I can't put my finger on anything unusual."
I nodded. I had been watching the very strange dance between them for some time. "We'll have a long talk together, just you and I. We haven't been alone in so long."
"I'd like that."
"So, just make sure you visit her other than your duty shifts and be very attentive," I said. "No diversions until she's fully recovered."
I patted the hand that held mine. He still sounded disrespectful, but he was adorable. I realized that I had not spent enough quiet time with him or Harry of late. They were still very much mine, but I needed to show them that. If the Queen taught me anything at all it was to not take anything for granted.
"Er… when will you be…" he asked. "You know."
I sighed at his crooked grin. It was good to be home. "As soon as I have strength enough to hold a paddle. Now, let me get back to resting or it'll take longer."
"Yes, ma'am!" He smiled and was gone.
The Doctor roundly praised Chakotay as the only one of my Dear Ones to not give him a hard time about visiting, but I know he had been checking on me personally. He had been since I got out of surgery. I didn't see him until he was officially allowed to visit, but I knew he had been around several times. I'd be able to feel that intense man's presence in a coma. I certainly knew his touch on my brow and in my hair. The first night after the de-assimilation, I know he rubbed his cheek against mine. And he kissed me on my forehead on more than one occasion. But every time I started to really waken, I'd feel him withdraw then I'd hear the doors to Sickbay swish open and close.
As always, he was a maddening man. Since he was being so clever at defying the Doctor, I wanted him to go further and hold me. I needed his solid heat around me when I slept. Since the Doctor began to decrease the amount of sedatives in our systems, I began to have nightmares. And were they gruesome and creative. They ranged from things like the Queen setting Tuvok's head on a platter and scooping his brains out to trying her hand at being a Mistress and whipping Torres to death. All the while, I was plugged into an alcove awake and aware watching my crewmen being killed. Each time I woke up, I worked on the log of my encounter with the Queen. It made me feel a little better remembering her face when I told her that she would fail. It gave me some satisfaction to know that she was suffering.
The nightmares left me deeply shaken, and that was troubling enough. But they also compounded the debilitating fatigue. I wasn't able to sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch. And I was frustrated at not being able to run my ship. I was allowed to review reports, but still couldn't focus well enough to participate in ship functions. With Tuvok down as well, poor Harry was logging in a lot of time at the Con late at night while Chakotay was handling almost all administrative functions. I was at a loss as to what to do.
Seven finally came by. She put on a brave face, but I haven't seen such sadness in her eyes since we lost One. I desperately wanted to talk to her. She promised to come to me once I was released, but who knew when that would be. The Doctor was clucking about my not making progress the way I should, but wasn't suggesting anything helpful.
"I think I need to get back to my quarters and start getting back to work on my own schedule," I said. "No offense, but this biobed is a little too reminiscent of an alcove. I can't rest here."
"None taken, but do you think it's wise?" he replied archly. "You're barely able to close your eyes with all the nocturnal maneuvering. I can't imagine what would be going on if you weren't restricted here."
I raised a brow at him.
"I keep an eye on things even when I'm off line," he said. "Especially where the Captain is concerned."
I was about to comment when Chakotay entered the room. He walked over with a grim expression and a padd in his hand.
"I gather you got my report on the Captain's progress," he said.
The Commander barely acknowledged the statement with a slight nod. He was looking at me drinking me in. I realized that he hadn't seen me conscious since I left him on the Bridge. Suddenly, I wanted to cry. I needed him so much, and there was no way that I could have him hold me or anything else while I was stuck in Sickbay.
Chakotay was reading my face very closely. His expression changed from grim to knowing to a look I knew very well and was surprised to see there. He was going to kiss me. I felt my eyes widen, but I couldn't seem to find a way of objecting. And then I was in his arms, pressed against his chest. My mouth was being thoroughly ravished. I vaguely heard the Doctor object, but I didn't really care. For the first time in days I felt really alive. I found myself clinging to him even after his mouth left mine to nibble on my ear.
"Have you taken leave of your senses? This is Sickbay not a bordello," the Doctor sputtered. "You didn't even lock the door. Anyone could have walked in here."
"I'll apologize for that," Chakotay conceded. "But not for the kiss. It was what she needed. What she still needs among other things."
"I'm afraid to ask what that might be," the Doctor quipped. "And I must admit that our Captain's lack of progress is puzzling me. Perhaps familiar surroundings would facilitate rest. I'll release you from Sickbay. But you must stay in your quarters and take it easy. No heavy work load and not too much 'play time' for at least another week."
"Yes, sir," I replied dryly.
Chakotay got me out of there and settled in my own bed before the Doctor could change his mind. He climbed in with me though he kept his clothes on. I was soon wrapped up in his warmth being kissed once again.
"How did you know?" I asked.
He smiled. "I didn't until I saw you. I came to Sickbay because the Doctor's report worried me. When I saw your face, I knew you needed some human contact. And I found that I needed it, too."
He squeezed me. "Oh, yeah. But less so now."
"Much less so," I agreed.
"I'm not going to stay, Kathryn. I don't want your parole to be revoked," he murmured.
"I know," I replied. "Stay until I'm asleep?"
I settled into him and drifted into a deep sleep that lasted for
hours and was undisturbed by nightmares.
Upon waking, I sent Chakotay my private log about the Borg Queen. I had to talk to Seven about it, but I had to make sure he knew first. I was certain that she would come to me as soon as she knew that I wasn't in Sickbay. That extraordinary woman was sensitive enough to be uncomfortable talking about Axum around the Doctor. I had just come from a bath when my door chimed. I had tea waiting. It didn't take her long to open up.
"I just don't understand why this has made me so sad," she said. "We've never met physically. It was a virtual relationship."
"You are very attached to Barrows," I said mildly. "The relationship was real where it counted for you. It's perfectly alright to mourn the loss."
Her eyes welled up. "And I felt so guilty about you and the Circle. I wanted to… stay with him."
"Seven," I murmured. "I would never stand in the way of your happiness. As I told that Borg Queen, this is the way things are. In my life as a Mistress and in my life as a Captain, I've had very dear people that have moved on to other things. You don't have to be by my side to keep a place in my heart."
Seven's tears came in earnest then. I managed to get her to my bed where I held her until the final sobs trembled through her. I wiped her face while she rested against my chest.
"I need to tell you about what happened on the cube with the Borg Queen," I said gently. "I've left you a detailed account to read. But I wanted to tell you personally that I regret having to betray a confidence -- especially one so special that we share, but it bought us all time and it made her suffer."
Seven nodded against me. "What the Captain or the Mistress does is always in our best interest. And I find that the thought of her suffering pleases me."
She grew quiet in my arms. I fell asleep stroking her hair.
When I awoke, Seven was gone. Chakotay was in my bed in his pajamas. I could smell his very delicious soup nearby. I had barely opened my eyes before he started kissing me. It was my favorite kind of kiss -- full body contact under his marvelous weight. It was over much too soon for my liking, but my stomach growled. He gently ended the kiss, then settled me sitting upright on the bed and placed the tray in front of me.
It was then that I noticed some of his personal items on my dresser and some of his clothes folded neatly in a nearby chair.
"Have I had a change in status since my nap?" I inquired mildly.
"No," he chuckled. "I'm working double shifts. I don't want to waste any of my off time away from you. Protocol will have to suffer a little."
I nodded. Again, I couldn't push him away. Something about the whole ordeal made me feel needy. It felt good to have him there, and I trusted that he would never use my extreme vulnerability to do an end run around my feelings about a public relationship. He wanted my surrender to come when I was in full charge of my faculties and my ship.
The Commander gazed at me with a mix of lust and exasperation. Since I knew I hadn't done anything to exasperate him since returning to Voyager, I deduced that he had read the log.
"What possessed you to have a pissing contest with the Borg Queen?" He asked.
I glowered at him over my soup spoon. "Females don't have pissing contests. It was a bitch fight. And she had it coming. My only regret is not having Q's riding crop and five minutes alone with her."
Chakotay sighed. He reached out to stroke my cheek. "That was exceedingly dangerous, Kathryn. And it may yet come back to haunt you. The Borg have a very long reach and longer memories."
"I know, Chakotay," I replied. "But she'll have a lot more pressing issues to deal with for some time to come. Meanwhile, we learn more practical ways of fighting them and staying the hell out of their way."
He shook his head. "This was just too close. We came a hair's breadth away from losing you. And we don't know what impact this ordeal will continue to have."
"I'm fine," I replied. "I do need to have a lot of skin to skin contact, it seems."
Chakotay smirked at that. "I could tell. I couldn't believe you gave me that look in front of the Doctor and then didn't fight my kissing you."
I felt myself blushing. "If I'd felt better, there would have been a lot more than kissing."
"I'll be more than ready when you are," he said softly. "Meanwhile, I'll give you all the contact I can. And I'm certain that the others will fill in while I'm on duty."
That surprised me. Usually the Commander likes to oversee my recovery personally. He shrugged at my inquisitive gaze. "With Tuvok down, I'm on duty more. I don't want you left alone."
I put down my soup and curled up against Chakotay. After a very long, searching kiss, I fell asleep.
The change in venue was helping as was the company. I was sleeping more hours straight through. It wasn't as much sleep as my body was crying for, but it was better than the few restless hours I was getting in Sickbay.
Then things started to get surreal. Not that it was in anyway unpleasant, just very strange. I went to sleep with Chakotay wrapped about me, but I awoke draped over Mr. Kim. I nuzzled his neck inhaling his delicious scent. He began to gently rub my back.
"Not that I would dream of complaining," I murmured. "But what are you doing here?"
"Chakotay's request," he replied softly. I could hear the smile in his voice.
I rose on one elbow to look at him. "Commander Chakotay… muscular guy with a tattoo on his face?"
"That's the one," Kim replied.
"He told you to get into bed with me?"
"It was practically an order," Kim replied with a chuckle. "He came to me and Seven and Tom and said that you needed contact to sleep soundly."
That man could always surprise me. Just when I thought I would have to battle him squatting in my quarters, he does this.
"You're not to be left alone," he said.
"Thank you," I replied. He held me close once again. I rested my head on his shoulders. "The same will probably be true for B'Elanna when she's taken off the sedatives."
"I wondered about that," Kim said.
"You and Seven should ask Tom to allow you to stay with her as well. I don't think he'll object," I said.
"You can ask him, Mistress," Kim said. "He's coming to relieve me."
"What about Torres?"
"The Doctor still has her under. Tom is with her when he isn't on the Bridge," Harry said. "He'll be coming here when he usually tries to sleep. He jumped at the chance."
I shook my head. That man still amazed me with how sweet he could be.
"All right," I said. I really couldn't object to the thought of such a virile young man in my bed. That leaves Tuvok."
"The assimilation and the reversal is bound to have a profound effect on him," I said. "He'll probably be the first one up and about though because of the way Vulcans heal physically. I want you to seek him out to play kal-toh. You'll be able to tell how he's doing by whether or not he's playing well."
"What if he isn't concentrating?"
"That will be difficult," I conceded. "It's not like he'll allow us to crawl into bed with him."
Harry really laughed at that. Even though I was very worried, the thought made me smile as well. "I'll think of something. Right now, I'm sleepy."
"Go to sleep, Mistress," he whispered.
"Kiss me," I said.
I was on my back with Kim gently covering me. Lord, I love his sensual mouth. He explored my mouth gently, but I still felt his hunger. I drifted off as he ended the kiss.
Fortune smiled upon me at the next shift change. I was awakened when Harry gently disengaged from me and slipped out of bed, but I didn't open my eyes right away. I was certain that I would fall asleep again. I heard him tug on his trousers and fasten them. That's when the door to my quarters opened and shut.
"Hey, Harry," Paris said.
"Hi, Tom," Harry replied. "How's B'Elanna?"
"She doing great. The Doctor is going to ease her off the sedatives starting tomorrow," he replied.
I opened my eyes a little, but they wouldn't notice. Kim stepped close to Paris. He reached out to stroke his jaw. "How are you?"
Tom lowered his eyes. "I don't know. I was so scared and hyped, now I'm waiting for them both to be okay. I don't know…"
His voice broke. Harry pulled him into a strong embrace and held him. The Ensign nuzzled my pilot's neck. Tom combed one hand though Kim's hair. The other one stroked his back. Soon they were kissing.
"Any time…" Kim said between kisses. "Anytime you need me… want me, Tom… anytime. No strings... no expectations."
Tom moaned. "Gods, Harry… You should go before I eat you alive."
They parted reluctantly. Tom needed a few deep breaths before he could get undressed. I almost told him not to bother. I couldn't do anything about his erection, but it would have been nice to feel it against me. He sat on the side of the bed with his head in his hands for a moment. I couldn't bear his silent sadness any longer. I closed my eyes and moaned.
I felt him settle in beside me then I was pressed against him. "I'm here, Mistress. I'm right here," he whispered. I felt his warm lips brush my temple. "You feel wonderful. Gods, I've missed this. I never thought I'd just get to be with you again."
I was alarmed at how much regret and sadness was in that whisper. What was wrong with my willful pilot? We really did have to talk and very soon. In the meantime, I entwined my limbs with his and sighed against him. He slowly relaxed.
"Somehow you always know what to do," he sighed sleepily.
I went under again as Tom also fell asleep.
Though I felt considerably better over the next couple of days and was able to spend a few hours at a time attending to ship matters or doing physical therapy, my routine stayed the same. Either Chakotay or Harry or Seven stayed with me for part of the day. While I was able, they helped me go over reports or we talked about the latest in ship's gossip. I felt a lot less isolated and a bit stronger. Chakotay remained my roommate, and thus far, the crew was oblivious.
Torres was out of Sickbay, so I didn't get to be with Tom again. I was a little disappointed about that. We had a very peaceful night and he looked so sweet in repose. But he had to have his priorities straight. B'Elanna did need the contact, but hadn't had the problems I had with sleeping. She left Sickbay stronger. Thus, Tom thought he could handle her needs alone. I left him to it. I was feeling much stronger anyway. I could even have Harry split his time between Tuvok and me.
I found myself in the Ensign's arms that night. He was kissing me as soon as my eyes opened. I was definitely feeling better. My desire had returned if not the energy to act upon it.
"Okay, Mister," I murmured. "How's the Vulcan?"
Kim's glow faded a bit. "I think he's having problems. He looks very tired and he isn't concentrating. I actually beat him at kal-toh a few times. He barely noticed it."
"Thank you for looking in on him," I said. "I'll have to do something."
"Anything in mind?"
"I have a cunning plan," I said. "Hopefully, I do know my Vulcan
well enough without being able to hear him."
I was best at mid-morning, so that's when I sent Mr. Kim off on an errand and slipped my chain. Tuvok's quarters weren't far, but getting there did tax me which made the plan all the more workable.
Tuvok answered the door in his flowing meditation robes. Kim was right. It was very obvious that he wasn't sleeping. His eyes had bags and they weren't as clear as usual. He was surprised to see me.
"Hello, Mr. Tuvok," I said. "May I come in? I'm a little tired."
"Of course," he said.
"Am I interrupting your meditation?" I asked.
"No, I find I am unable to focus," he said indicating a chair. "Would you like some tea?"
"If it's no trouble."
He moved to the replicator while I settled myself on his sofa.
"I'm here for a number of reasons. All of them pressing," I said. "First off, how are you?"
"My recovery is progressing. I've had some trouble focusing on my meditation, but that is temporary," he replied handing me a mug.
"I've had some terrible nightmares," I said. "I've never had any that vivid."
He nodded. "I've had them as well. It was the contact with all those terrified anguished minds for me. The carnage and the crew's peril for you."
"Yes. I've had problems sleeping without someone touching me. I think the lack of sensation also had an effect on me," I said.
Tuvok considered that. "The Doctor mentioned some possible psychological fall out from the experience. I had not considered lack of sensation, but it is likely to have a deep impact."
So far so good. I thought by talking about my own problems, I could draw him out.
"I wanted to apologize," I said quietly when the conversation lulled. "First, I should have realized that someone as telepathic as you would have a hard time blocking assimilation even with the drug."
"There is no need to apologize, Captain. I weighed the risks myself," he replied. "I thought that I had enough control to block them out. I underestimated them… and put you and the mission in great peril."
"Tuvok, we were doing the best we knew how," I said. "It's not like we had a manual. I also wanted to apologize for having the Queen probe your mind."
"No need," he said. "I thought that using your lifestyle was a shrewd maneuver against an opponent who considers herself a seductress and manipulator. You have wounded her psyche and enraged her. Her distraction from our efforts gave us the time we needed. The intrusion was worth that."
"Thank you, Mr. Tuvok. I won't take up any more of your time. I need to rest."
I stood up faster than I should have, and the wave of dizziness that hit me was very real. I felt myself buckling. Then I was in the air held against Tuvok's strong chest. I wrapped my arms very firmly around his neck.
"I'm sorry. I think I've over done it this morning," I murmured.
"Shall I call someone?"
"No," I said quickly. "Please… I hate to impose, but I don't want anyone upset over my foolishness. And I don't want to go back to Sickbay."
"What should I do?"
"Sit down and get comfortable," I said. "I need to rest for a little while, but I need contact with someone to do it... please…"
Tuvok complied. I sensed that merely touching me had relaxed him. He got comfortable with me in his lap. I wouldn't let go of his neck. In fact, I rested my head on his shoulder. Amazingly, his embrace grew firm. Within minutes, his head listed and rested against mine. I allowed myself to fall asleep as well.
We woke only a couple of hours later. Harry was worried when he didn't find me in my quarters. He was going to come walk me back. Tuvok helped me to my feet. I yawned and had the good graces to blush. The Vulcan was not embarrassed.
"I took the opportunity to rest as well," he said. His eyes looked clearer. He seemed more serene. "I'll be able to meditate now."
I thanked him as Harry led me away. He nodded graciously.
I worried all thought the day and that night as to whether I made an unforgivable breech in Tuvok's privacy.
Barrows lifted my spirits a little. She was very amused by my tete a tete with the Borg Queen and promised me an extra special session once I recovered. Praise from the Mistress helped, but I still fretted over Tuvok. Mr. Kim was attempting to cheer me up with a lovely jazz recital on the clarinet. I was enjoying it. I would have preferred that he play naked, but I was receiving visits from the crew and couldn't risk the impropriety. As it was, Chakotay's residence was becoming more of a problem. I tried to relax, but my mind kept wandering. I was just short of working myself I into a lather about it again when Tuvok appeared at my door with a padd in hand. My thoroughly started state of mind must have shown.
"Am I disturbing you, Captain?" he asked with concern. He looked exhausted again.
"No. Please, come in," I replied. It was true. Other than sitting there worrying about Tuvok, I was trying to write a letter to Captain Picard. "Mr. Kim is my keeper for this watch. Commander Chakotay was not amused at my escape. What can I do for you?"
"Your theory about sensation deprivation appears to be quite accurate," he replied. The Vulcan seemed unphased by Kim's presence. "I have not been able to sleep for any appreciable length of time since you visited my quarters. I can only surmise that the variant was our contact. I too, am not anxious to return to Sickbay… I am here."
Somehow, I kept my expression absolutely neutral. I didn't want to pain him further by actually having him state the request. I knew what he needed. "Well, if you have some reading or writing to do, we can certainly share the couch. Mr. Kim can chaperone. I hope you don't mind a little music."
"Not at all. That would be satisfactory," Tuvok said. "Thank you, Captain."
I was going to discuss the letter to Picard as well as bring him up to speed on ship's business. However as soon as we were settled next to each other barely touching at the arms, the Vulcan fell deeply asleep. His listing head came to rest on my shoulder. I motioned for Harry to get a blanket for him. Then, we continued as we were. I smiled to myself and included the thought in my letter. The Borg Queen really was missing out with her drones. Aside from no real control over them, she would never know surprise from them. I knew that Tuvok would likely concur with my findings about post-assimilation stress, but I didn't think he'd be sleeping against me while Harry serenaded us. Though I knew my crew and my subs very well, they were always a delightful surprise.