Categories: Ship, Het, Drama, Humor, Alpha Quadrant
Pairings: EMH/7, implied J/C, past tense C/7, mentions of P/T
Characters: Seven of Nine (primary), the EMH, mentions of others.
Spoilers: The entire series through Endgame.
Summary: Now that Voyager has reached Federation Space, Seven of Nine struggles to find her place on Earth. Novel canon largely ignored, except for a few convenient earlier bits of Homecoming.
A/N: Written for Samantha McKay, who bought me in the Support Stacie Author Auction.
Credits: Thank you to Anne Rose for certain suggestions.
Disclaimer: Stolen from Paramount or CBS or whoever owns Trek these days. I promise to throw all of the toys out of the pram when I'm finished.
Seven found the breakup disappointing.
The literature had indicated that at this stage she would undergo intense emotions such as heartache and angst, and perhaps even crave a frozen dairy product. She had looked forward to the experience, and found the reality of it less than satisfactory.
Chakotay's departure from their romantic association incited nothing comparable to the amusement park ride of emotional responses that she'd been promised, and she even failed to experience simple jealousy when she saw him with the captain later that day. The literature had been very clear about the importance of jealousy.
Perhaps she had neglected some vital custom. She returned to Voyager's cargo bay to consult her vast collection of reference material. Once she diagnosed and corrected her error, she would hopefully experience rejection and bitterness. Then she could count her first romantic affiliation as complete.
She would delay beaming down to the planet until she accomplished the task.
The Doctor transmitted the last of the crew's records to Starfleet Medical as requested, and then lingered at the terminal. His last official act as Voyager's CMO -- a momentous occasion, and he wished his last case had proven a little more interesting than Freddy Bristow's customary hangover. Perhaps he'd just choose to view Miral Paris as his final patient instead.
"Doctor, I require your assistance."
"Seven!" His smile faded as he took in her condition.
"I am experiencing discomfort." She clutched her abdomen, and his tricorder indicated disturbingly high levels of blood sugar.
"I should think so. Exactly what did you eat? And how much?"
"Ice cream. The prescribed amount."
That gave him a moment's pause. "Prescribed for what, and by whom?"
"The literature recommended the consumption of one tub of Death by Chocolate."
"And that means . . . " He blinked at his tricorder. "Seven! Your blood glocose level -- and the lactose, the caffeine! Two liters of fudge-laced chocolate ice cream? You ate an entire two liters? How did you even manage that?"
"The task was not simple."
He fetched a hypospray and prepared the treatment. "So why in the galaxy -- "
"My research indicated this was the expected procedure after the termination of a romantic relationship."
She handed him a PADD.
"Harlequin romance novels, television comedies, Captain Proton fanfiction -- Seven, this is hardly the quality research I'd expect from someone of your intellect."
"I tried consulting various members of the crew, but when I asked for advice regarding Commander Chakotay, they always changed the subject."
Or ran away, the Doctor rather suspected. He tried to contain his own glee at the ending of this particular relationship, and instead focus on comforting his friend. "I understand how unhappy you must feel, Seven, but trust me. Given a little time, your outlook will improve."
"My 'outlook' falls within my normal parameters. The breakup was the logical and expected conclusion to the romantic association."
The Doctor had no argument to that statement. He felt, however, that some question was in order. "Then the ice cream was not an attempt to lift your spirits?"
"Unfortunately I am not experiencing low spirits. However, I do wish to adhere to the protocols of the experience."
"Protocols," he said.
"The next item on my agenda is to seek out a rebound relationship." Seven stared at him like a xenobiologist meeting a member of species 8472. Well, not exactly. The xenobiologist would at least pretend to be subtle about it. "Would you care to accompany me to a musical performance?"
The Doctor could have sworn he felt his program reboot.
Seven tried to demonstrate patience as she waited, but she had anticipated a swift affirmative in response to her inquiry, and his facial expression puzzled her. "Doctor?"
"I'm sorry, Seven, but I must decline your offer."
"As I have not yet designated a time, it is impossible for you to be obligated to attend a conflicting event." She frowned at the unexpected weight in her stomach -- she'd found the ice cream induced discomfort preferable to this sensation. It felt like the time she'd failed in her work with the omega molocule, only more intense, and less expected.
"No," the Doctor said. "The scheduling is not the issue." He looked away from her, and started rearranging medical equipment that was already arranged with adequate efficiency.
"Do you wish to avoid my company?"
"Of course not!"
"We are friends," she said. "Please be direct."
"Your agenda, Seven. It's unnecessary. You've already accepted the end of the relationship. All of these formulaic reactions in your research are just flawed methods of coping with the mourning period. You never had any real feelings for Commander Chakotay, and therefore you have nothing to mourn."
"My failsafe device has been removed, Doctor. I am perfectly capable of experiencing real emotion." She decided that this conversation had ceased to be productive, and marched out of sickbay.
She ignored him, and returned to the cargo bay. How dare he imply that her emotions were less than valid. She had worked hard to adapt to human culture, but if her alleged friends refused to see her progress, then what place did she have on this planet they all valued so highly?
The Doctor tried to follow Seven, but Billy Telfer intercepted him in the corridor, and by the time the recovered hypochondriac had finished thanking him for patience he was certain he had never exhibited, Seven had locked herself in the cargo bay.
Seven's emotional responses were understandably confusing for her. She'd spent years studying human social interaction, often with his guidance, but he'd always thought her emotions should be allowed to develop naturally. Now she was trying to force it, and he found himself uncertain as to how he could help her.
He did know that the last thing he wanted to do was serve as her rebound relationship.
No, that wasn't quite true. The actual last thing he wanted was for Seven to feel completely alone, and for that matter he didn't particularly care to be alone himself. The rest of the crew had families, friends, and career opportunities on Earth, or at least in Federation Space. Even Icheb, a native of the Delta Quadrant, had Starfleet Academy in his future.
The friendships forged aboard Voyager would endure, he had little doubt of that, but he also knew that daily contact was a thing of the past, and people would certainly see each other less often. Life could become very lonely if he failed to make an effort to keep his friends close, at least in spirit.
Seven needed him more now than she ever did on Voyager, and he'd be damned if he'd let a silly misunderstanding cause a rift in their friendship. It was an abuse of the privilege, of course, but he used his medical override to let himself into her cargo bay.
"Doctor -- "
"I'm here to apologize," he said. "I had no right to speak dismissively of your relationship, and I'm sorry. For the record, I'd forgotten all about your failsafe device."
"Is your program malfunctioning? I could run a diagnostic on your memory -- "
"No, that's not what I meant either. My comments were out of line, but I was not referring to your failsafe device when I made them, and I certainly had no intention of questioning your emotional development. Not that it makes me any less wrong, but the barb in my comment was meant for Chakotay, not for you."
"I see," she said, after a long moment. "Perhaps I should apologize as well. I reacted rashly. Your rejection of my invitation confused me."
"I didn't mean it as a rejection. I'd be delighted to spend time together, Seven, but I'd rather skip the part where I perform a scripted role in your experiment. Our friendship means more than that to me, and I hope it means more to you as well."
"You are correct."
"If the offer still stands, I would like to get together for a concert," he said. "As friends."
"I would find that enjoyable," she said, and perhaps she might have said more, but both of their combadges chose that moment to chirp, and minor duties pulled them away.
Seven extended her hand to the aunt she'd never met, and found herself drawn into an awkward hug by the shorter woman, who then led her into a brightly lit dwelling filled with objects that appeared to serve no practical function.
"Your room is through here," Irene Hanson said. "I'll have the tea ready in a minute. Unless you'd prefer coffee?"
Beverages served an important function in social situations, so she refrained from stating that she did not require a liquid supplement, and instead stated a preference for tea.
"So tell me, Annika," her aunt said, "What did you do for all of those years in the Delta Quadrant?"
Seven ignored the use of her given name and outlined her duties in the astrometrics lab. Her aunt nodded along and smiled encouragingly as she set out a plate of cookies and poured the tea, but Seven inferred from the imprecise nature of the woman's responses that the initial inquiry was simply an attempt to make conversation, rather than an indication of genuine interest in the topic.
The Doctor had taught her that people enjoyed talking about themselves, so she tried a question of her own. "What duties do you perform in your community?"
Irene laughed. "I teach a pottery class at the community center, and I help organize events for the historical society, but since I retired, I don't have any responsibilities pressing enough to be called a duty, thank goodness. To be honest, I spend most of my time knitting or gardening."
"Voyager has a hydroponics bay."
"How interesting. Did you grow many exotic species, or just Earth varieties?"
They discussed horticulture for the remainder of the meal. Seven thought the Doctor would be quite proud of her. She even managed to remain polite when her aunt had made the illogical suggestion that real dirt made carrots taste better. Her small talk skills had grown formidable.
She decided to focus her research on agricultural topics before the next meal, and hoped that the bond with her aunt grew to the companionable silence level within a reasonable span of time.
"But surely you must have hobbies!" Irene stopped chopping vegetables for the evening meal and stared at Seven. "Everyone has hobbies."
"I recently learned to cook."
"That's a skill, dear, not a hobby. A hobby should be just a little bit frivolous."
Seven found that concept perplexing, and doubted the accuracy of the statement, but she kept her thoughts to herself. Her strategy required that she refrain from introducing friction into the relationship at this stage. Once she established a rapport with her aunt, then she could correct such inaccurate perceptions.
She started to doubt that strategy, or at least regret it, later that evening, when her aunt presented her with a a box of supplies for needlepoint.
"These schematics lack precision." She looked up from studying them as her aunt returned from the kitchen with more tea. "Please clarify the meaning of continental tent stitch."
"I'll teach you." Irene crowded in next to her and began to explain with imprecise language and analogies related to rabbits.
Seven had studied many species native to Earth, and she knew that Sylvilagus floridanus was unlikely to display such behavior, particularly when pursued by a member of the genus Vulpes. Again, she kept her thoughts to herself, and focused her attention on her aunt's actions.
Her words emphasized the importance of keeping the stitches uniform, but Irene failed to heed her own advice, and Seven detected a .06 millimeter variance in stitch size, and a .12 millimeter horizontal deviation in stitch placement.
When Seven took over, she undid the flawed stitches and made the necessary corrections before continuing the pattern. She found it tedious work, and she was grateful when her aunt retired for the evening. Once alone, she laid the project aside to read. The Doctor had recommended a favorite novel, and she found it curiously compelling.
Still, the unfinished nature of the needlepoint project gave her an unsettled feeling which she identified as forboding regarding more time spent on the endeavor. The solution was simple enough. She extracted a few nanoprobes, programmed them accordingly, and then returned to her reading with acceptable focus.
Irene's smile had an insincere quality when she surveyed the completed needlepoint.
"You are displeased," Seven said. "Please clarify."
"It's perfect, Annika," Irene said. "It's just that, it's a little too perfect. It lacks soul."
Seven once again ignored the issue of her name. "It is an inanimate object."
"But it's art, and art should feel alive."
It was hardly the first time Seven had encountered such an argument, but hearing it applied to the meticulous recreation of an adolescent feline frockling amid a field of Narcissus sylvestris struck her as particularly illogical. "This piece followed a schematic. It is not an original creation."
"Oh! Would you prefer to create something from scratch?" Without waiting for an answer, Irene rushed out of the room.
Seven frowned, and wondered if she could also now exit the room without being perceived as rude. Before she decided on her next action, Irene returned and thrust a large box into her hands.
"Oil paints! Now where shall I set up the easel?"
The woman disappeared again, and when she returned a second time, her face was flushed and she had the aged and dusty remains of an arachnid's former web clinging to her mussed hair. "This window has the best light. What do you think?"
"My ocular implant is able to compensate for any inadequacies in the light source," Seven answered.
"Splendid." Her aunt smiled. "That's . . . splendid. Here, I'll just set this up for you and then you can get started."
Seven took a seat and picked up a brush. She needed to adapt to this living arrangement, and that meant cooperating with her aunt. Even if it meant humoring her on the subject of hobbies. Captain Janeway had pointed out the importance of taking full advantage of this family connection, and she needed to forge a relationship.
The rest of the crew had scattered to reconnect with their families. She needed to do the same. Perhaps once repairs on Voyager were complete, she could return to Starfleet. For now, she would adapt.
She tried to visualize a scene to reproduce on the blank canvas. The Omega molocule perhaps? Even a trained artist would fail to replicate such precise harmony. She considered using the opportunity to redesign a more efficient warp core, but suspected that her aunt would complain about a lack of aesthetics in such a practical creation. Most humans expected art to serve nothing more than a decorative purpose. A pulsar cluster qualified as beautiful. She calculated the necessary quantity of black paint, and began.
"My painting fails to capture the nature of a pulsar cluster." Seven poured the tea as she and Irene sat down to lunch later that week. "The electrons should emit electromagnetic radiation at each neutron star's magnetic poles, creating a spectacle which is viewed as pleasing, and oil paint is incapable of reproducing the phenomenon. My nanoprobes could -- "
"I think it's very pretty," Irene interrupted. "Perhaps you could try painting a landscape next?"
Seven tried to think of a way to politely decline the suggestion, but her aunt frowned at her.
"Did you enjoy painting?"
"I found the experience interesting."
"But you didn't enjoy it. Maybe something less artistic. Your grandfather collected stamps."
"Postage stamps. They -- "
"Beginning in 1847 the United States Post Office Department issued small adhesives to serve as a payment system for mail delivery," Seven said. "But that system has been obsolete for centuries. Why would anyone attempt to gather specimens?"
"They have historical value," Irene said. "Your grandfather used to say that every stamp told a story."
Seven still failed to see the point, but saw little value in pursuing the discussion. The silence stretched with that kind of tension that many of her crewmates -- former crewmates -- would have covered with awkward and unnecessary conversation. Seven considered attempting such small talk herself.
"Collecting isn't really a hands-on kind of hobby," Irene said finally. "After all of your travels you might enjoy something a little more exciting. Perhaps you'd like to try knitting?"
For three excruciating days, Seven learned to knit. Simple mathematics and fibers spun from the hair of Ovis aries. The Borg did not have a term for boredom. Perhaps because they had never encountered a need for scarves.
"You should try an afghan next." Irene handed her yet another book full of knitting schematics. "There are several good patterns in this one. Or you could create one yourself!"
By the time she retired to her quarters for regeneration, Seven had produced one eighth of something called a lap robe, which Seven chose for its relative size rather than for its function. Her aunt gushed over the unique design, but Seven suspected she'd be less enthralled with the object if she realized that the decoration in question represented Voyager's shield harmonics.
Seven's small afghan was nearly finished when the problem with her cortical node arose. The symptoms served as minor annoyances for the better part of a morning, but she found herself cheered by the chance to interact with the Doctor, and show him the progress she had made in adapting to her new living arrangements.
He smiled brightly when she greeted him at the door and led him into the living area. "Your aunt has a lovely home. I trust you are finding your visit a pleasant experience?"
"It has proven educational."
"It must suit you."
Seven frowned. "What leads you to that conclusion?"
"A moment ago, I could have sworn I saw you smile."
Seven raised an eyebrow.
"Perhaps not," the Doctor said. "What seems to be the trouble?"
Instead of pointing out that she'd clearly stated her difficulty in her communication, Seven found herself repeating her symptoms. She frowned at her own redundance.
Aunt Irene bustled into the room. "May I offer you some tea?"
The Doctor declined politely and removed his medical tricorder from its case.
"Coffee then? Or perhaps a cold drink?"
Seven did her best to stifle her annoyance, but she had already explained the Doctor's holographic nature to her aunt in an attempt to prevent such awkward interruptions. She did not wish for her friend to avoid future visits.
"I'd quite enjoy a tour of the lovely gardens Seven described," the Doctor said diplomatically. "After I'm finished here of course."
"Then I'll leave you to it." Aunt Irene smiled at the Doctor, patted Seven on the shoulder, and left them in peace.
"I spoke with Tom Paris this morning." He adjusted his tricorder. "The baby is sleeping through the night now."
"I was unaware of any difficulties with the child's sleeping habits."
"Most infants sleep fewer than two hours at a time for the first ninety days. They need to eat frequently at this age."
"That sounds . . . inconvenient. How are the parents expected to arrange their duties to fit such a schedule?"
"So you see why Mr. Paris is so pleased to have reached this milestone. Of course, I didn't have the heart to tell him that her sleep pattern will likely adjust once again when she hits her next growth spurt."
"Perhaps if they employed a feeding system. B'Elanna could modify a biobed to -- "
The Doctor gave a wry laugh. "I'm afraid this is just one of those little life experiences that everyone must face. I'm sure the Paris family will weather it successfully."
Seven took the Doctor for a walk through the garden. She pointed out the various plant species, and to the Doctor's delight, even smiled a time or two.
"You seem relaxed here," he said.
"You're smiling, enjoying yourself." He frowned. "Or you were, before I commented on it."
"My aunt believes I need to acquire a hobby," she said. "I have found the process somewhat tedious."
"What about music, and astronomy? You could share those interests with her."
For a moment, she seemed to regard him with genuine shock. "Perhaps I will. Thank you, Doctor."
He swallowed and braced himself. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, after all. "Speaking of music, there's a performance at Starfleet Academy next week. We could attend, if you're interested."
"I would enjoy such an event."
He smiled, and suppressed a sigh of relieve that she did not request clarification regarding his intentions. Rebound or not, he had no wish to specifically rule out a date, and yet he still felt reservations about using the label directly.
"My aunt told me about a nearby historical marker. Would you like to see it?"
"That's a splendid idea."
As they continued their now extended stroll, they spoke of the Voyager crew, as well as Seven's exploits into the world of arts and crafts. It sounded like a rather dreadful ordeal, and the Doctor said as much.
"The captain suggested that I delay contacting Starfleet about a posting," she said. "But perhaps I should look into my options now, instead."
"You've never had any true leisure time, Seven. It will take a period of adjustment. Maybe if you got out of the house a little more?"
"Mr. Paris mentioned an event of historical significance; if you're interested, I could find out more. An automobile exposition, tomorrow I believe."
Seven smiled. "Tomorrow? I would definitely like to attend."
A young woman in a bikini gave them a map of the conference center and a balloon.
"For historical accuracy," Tom Paris insisted. "Cars were associated with youthful vitality in the twentieth century."
"By which you mean that automobile manufacturers favored marketing which pandered to the male gaze," the Doctor replied. "Of course our society has evolved beyond such prurient interests."
Both men proved the fallacy of that statement even before the Doctor completed it.
Seven -- now with a new understanding of B'Elanna's decision to opt out of attending -- marched through the gate and read the placard in front of the first display. 1984 Plymouth Reliant, as immortalized in the classic song 'If I Had a Million Dollars.' Four cylinder engine. Related automobiles include the Dodge Aries and the Chrysler LaBaron.
The Doctor joined her. "Tom has been distracted by something called a Zed 28. I told him we'd prefer to view the exhibits in the intended order. I hope that's all right with you?"
She nodded. "According to the available schematics, this vehicle required one gallon of fossil fuel to travel only twenty-five miles. Yet people considered this a selling point."
"Earth culture at that time did lack efficiency," the Doctor said. "It's somewhat disheartening to realize that the current state of human thinking represents such a drastic improvement, but at least they're coming along."
Seven smiled, and they moved down to the next automobile, a 1951 Studebaker Champion. "This exhibit does not seem to follow a logical pattern."
"This one reminds me of you," the Doctor said. "I'm not quite sure why . . . " He studied the ancient vehicle, finger tapping his chin to emphasize his thoughtful pose. His eyes wandered to Seven.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"It must be its distinctive . . . elegance."
They strolled through the exhibit, comparing the various automobile designs and trying to discern a pattern of evolution. Certainly the aerodynamics did not improve over the decades. One model would demonstrate superiority in that area, only for the manufacturers to completely ignore the design in favor of blockier styles. The engines seemed to gradually improve in overall efficiency, and yet again, some models did not take advantage of the same advances demonstrated by their contemporaries.
"I believe many of these designs valued aethetics over function," Seven said. "Perhaps the automobile not only provided transportation but also served as an art form."
"Mr. Paris would agree," the Doctor said. "He's often tried to convince me of the beauty of these machines."
"Are you sure he was referring to artistic beauty?" Seven raised an eyebrow. "On more than one occasion, Lieutentant Paris has attempted to convince me that these vehicles possess sex appeal."
"They do seem to inspire a certain nostalgia for a bygone era, a phenomenon that many humans find romantic. Perhaps that is what he meant?"