By Susan McCrackin

Legal Disclaimer: Star Trek and Voyager belong to Paramount. No infringement intended.

Copyright 2002 by Susan S. McCrackin. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

The Doctor hummed as he worked, straightening up the sickbay, preparingfor his afternoon. As he glanced at the chronometer on the wall, the sickbaydoors swished open behind him. Without turning, he called his greeting.

"Right on time, Mr. Paris." He swiveled his head, adding, "Muchto my surprise."

Tom laughed. "Well, I know you have special plans this afternoon,and I didn't want to make you late."

The Doctor raised his head and spoke, "Computer, download EMH programto the mobile emitter." He waited for the beep to indicate the downloadhad been completed, then lifted the mobile emitter from its special holdingplace and placed it on his arm, giving it a gentle pat to ensure it wasfirmly attached. Giving Tom a smile, he said, "I appreciate your thoughtfulness."He waited, anticipating a smart, cutting quip.

"Well." Tom picked up a tricorder that had been left on theconsole and put it away. "I know you've been looking forward to thisafternoon for a while." He turned away from the Doctor before continuing."I know it isn't often you get to spend time with... huh... well...I... huh... I know you don't get to take advantage of much time off."He turned back to the Doctor. "I just hope you have a good afternoon."

The Doctor blinked, not quite certain what to say. He licked his lipsquickly, forcing a smile to his face. Nodding his head affirmatively, hesaid, "I'm sure it will be an enjoyable afternoon, Mr. Paris."He took a step backwards and started looking around.

"Lost something?"

"No, Mr. Paris." The Doctor's eyes continued to sweep aroundthe sickbay. "I'm just looking for my tricorder."

Tom walked up to him, slapping him on the back and guiding him gentlytoward the sickbay door. "Doctor, you have the afternoon off. Go. Enjoyyourself. Let me worry about the sickbay and patients."


"No buts, Doctor."

"If there's an emergency...."

"You're wearing your combadge. I think I'll be able to contact you."Tom pushed him through the opening doors. "Go. Have a good time. Anddon't come back early."

"Ah. Very well." The Doctor looked down the corridor and stooduncertainly, patting his mobile emitter again, then nervously squaring hisshoulders and tightening his mouth into a slight grimace."


The Doctor turned his head toward the Lieutenant. "Yes, Mr. Paris?"

"Enjoy yourself."

The Doctor gave him a sheepish grin.

"Don't worry about a thing here, Doc. I've got it under control."

The Doctor shuffled his feet slightly, then grinned. "Thank you,Mr. Paris." He stepped back from the doors, and they closed. Sighing,he squared his shoulders one more time and started walking.


When the doors of cargo bay two opened he strode through without slowing.

"Hello, Seven. Are you ready for our afternoon stroll through oneof the greatest art collections ever assembled?"

She did not stop working. "Doctor. Our afternoon will have to bepostponed."

He stopped cold, working not to let his disappointment through in hisvoice. "Why?"

"There is a dysfunction occurring in the shield connections inthe Jeffries tube near the shuttle bay. I am on my way now to repairit."

"But we had plans this afternoon."

"They must be canceled." She walked over to a storage containerand lifted a small toolbox from it.

He fell into step beside her. "Can't someone else fix it?"

"I told Lieutenant Torres I would do it."

"But the holodeck is only available this afternoon." When shedid not respond, he tried again. "I spent a lot of time working onthis program."

"You should go on without me."

"But it wouldn't be the same." Suddenly, he realized she hadstopped. He stumbled, trying not to bump into her.

"I do not see why that would be the case. The paintings would bethe same regardless of whether or not I was present."

He gave her a forced smile. "But part of the enjoyment of seeingthe paintings is being able to share them with someone you... considera friend."

Her face twitched slightly, and her eyes cut away from him as she consideredhis words. Just as he was starting to be hopeful regarding her response,she turned from him and started walking. "I have a task to complete."

He gave himself a second, then hurried to catch up with her. "Youhave a task to complete, and you must comply. Right?"

She simply looked at him out of the corner of her eye.

He saw the look and gained hope. "Seven, you should learn to relaxand enjoy yourself. You work too hard. I'm certain someone else can completethis... task."

"I told Lieutenant Torres I would do it."

He could tell by the way she was walking and holding her body tight thathe would not be able to talk her out of getting the job done. Continuingto walk beside her, he thought quickly. Finally, he said, "All right,then. I'll help you."


"Yes, me. I've learned quite a bit about Voyager's systems.I should be able to assist you in completing your task. Then," he smiledbroadly at her, "we'll be able to take advantage of the rest of theafternoon on the holodeck."

She stopped and looked at him. He could see she was searching for a validargument to keep him from joining her. He could also see she could not findone. Without speaking, she gave him a curt nod of her head and resumed walking.He joined her, his determination to make the best of this afternoon growingwith each step.


They crawled through the Jeffries tube, finally coming to the third juncture,near the shuttle bay that housed the main connection point for the aft shields.Seven pulled herself through the opening and stooped to place the smalltool kit on the floor. Lifting a tool, she immediately started to removethe plate covering the connection box.

The Doctor moved in behind her. "What's happening?"

"I am removing this plate."

"No, I mean with the shields."

She pulled at the plate, slow to answer, "The shields are unableto achieve a one hundred percent efficiency. A diagnostic indicated therewas a problem at this connection point."

"Oh." He tried to sound as if he understood what she was tellinghim. "Can I help you with anything?" She cut her eyes at him asshe reached for the toolkit only for her hand to hit his leg. He lookeddown, giving her a quick smile. "I'll hand you the tools." Reachingfor one, he handed it to her. "Here."

"That is the wrong tool."

"Oh." He grabbed a different tool and offered it to her. "Thisone should work."

Glaring at him, she reached past him, picking a different tool.

"Oh." He grimaced, realizing he had repeated himself. Forcinga smile to his face, he said, "Right. That one." He shifted, movingcloser to her to watch what she was doing.

She turned to him, her look stark, almost cold. "You should standout of the way."

He forced himself to smile at her. "Yes. Of course." Backingup, he asked, "Is this better?"

Without replying, she returned to her work. He stood, shifting from footto foot, uncomfortable and uncertain that he should have insisted on comingwith her. He stayed quiet, trying not to interrupt her, hoping that shewould ask for his help. That she would say something to him, anything tobreak the cold silence. He watched her as she worked, her concentrationtotally focused on the task in front of her. He wondered if any part ofher mind thought about him, considered him, was even aware that he was lessthan three feet from her. He could sense the light fragrance of her hairin his olfactory subroutines, aware that the warmth in the juncture wascausing her to perspire, enhancing the sweetness of the smell. He watchedher face as it crinkled in concentration, eyes focused on the small enclosure,her mouth working lightly. He saw the gracefulness of her body as it moved,and he thought that not even the great masters in the art exhibit he hadspent hours working to create just for her had ever painted any paintingas beautiful as the one he was seeing in front of him. He closed his eyes.

She was real. He was not. He sighed and decided it would be best if hejust left. He started to open his mouth to tell her, then slowly closedit. He would simply leave. He turned to go, but before he could take a fullstep, Captain Janeway's voice filled the confines of the small area, theurgency in her voice immediately apparent.

"The bridge to Seven of Nine."

Seven immediately stopped work and touched her combadge. "Yes, Captain."

"Seven, what's the status of the shields?"

Her face did not change expression. "I am trying to repair themnow. One of the connections appears to have shorted out."

"How quickly can you fix it?"

No frown. No reaction. "I should have the problem fixed in fivepoint four minutes."

"Hurry, Seven. We've identified a subspace anomaly that will convergeon us in about three minutes. We need to jump to warp immediately."

He saw her hands quickly move to the connections. He saw her increasethe intensity of her work. He stood, wanting to help her, but not wantingto break her concentration. Unconsciously, he reached to grasp the rungof the ladder than ran up the wall near him.

"Seven, what's your status?" Janeway's voice was demanding.

"A few more minutes, Captain." Seven's hands did not slow.

"We're running out of time, Seven! We...."

The ship suddenly rocked. The Doctor tightened his grasp. He watchedas Seven put out a hand to brace herself, then reached back into the openingas Janeway's voice filled the small area.

"Prepare for impact! Prepare for...."

He did not hear anything but a horrible concussive sound as if a thousandbombs had exploded at once. He watched as the area where Seven was eruptedin a brilliant light and saw her thrown back as the ship turned upside down.He reached and barely managed to grab her, but could not do more than slowher crash into the bulkhead behind her. Holding onto the ladder, he managedto pull her to him, covering her with his body as the metal surroundingthem warped out of shape.


He watched her eyes, relieved when they started to flutter open.

"Seven. Wake up, Seven. You must wake up." He made certainhis voice was strong, knowing she would respond to the sounds of authority.

She looked up at him, her eyes slow to focus in the dim light. He watchedthe pupils as they dilated. He held up his finger. "How many fingersdo you see, Seven?"

She frowned, her eyes narrowing slightly as she did. "Two. No, three."Her voice was uncertain and weak.

He did not react. "Good."

She tried to push herself off the floor, but he put his hand on her shoulder,pressing her back down. "No, don't try to get up, Seven."

She relaxed a moment, then gave him a surprised look. "I cannotmove my legs."

He nodded at her. "I know. The Jeffries tube here collapsed andyou seem to be caught." He looked down at her body where it disappearedunder a mound of metal, almost afraid to ask his question. "Can youfeel your legs?" She nodded at him. "Is there any pain in yourlegs?"

She concentrated for a moment, then answered, "No."

"Good." He did not let his relief come through. "Can youwiggle your toes?" She concentrated again then nodded to him. "Great,Seven. That is wonderful news." He held up his finger. "Stillthree fingers?"


"Okay." He made his voice light, almost cheerful. "Good."Glancing around at the lights flashing in the enclosure, he said to her,"I want you to stay awake, Seven. I need for you to keep talking tome so I can monitor you."

"There is nothing wrong with me."

"I'm certain there isn't." He looked at the blood tricklingthrough her hair. "But I want you to humor your doctor here. Thereisn't much else for me to do right now but be a doctor and I'm afraid you'rethe only patient I have." He reached for her wrist, wrapping his handaround it, monitoring her pulse, noting with relief that it was steady.

"What happened?"

He shook his head as he replied, "I don't really know. I heard somethinglike a huge bang and suddenly you were flying through the air."

She lifted her free hand, frowning. "I am damaged."

He nodded at her. "Yes, I think that whatever you were working onover there exploded, and you were burned." He watched as she eyed theburns on her hand. "I'll fix that as soon as we can get you to thesickbay."

She dropped her hand beside her. "Pain is irrelevant. I will adapt."

He shifted to sit closer to her. "It's okay to admit you hurt, Seven.It's only human." She moved her eyes quickly to him, and he saw herwince. "Head hurt?" When she did not respond, he said, "Youhit your head pretty hard." He hesitated, then added, "Seven,I think you have a concussion."

She stared at him a moment, obviously trying to focus. "I will adapt."

He took a deep breath. "Seven, I want to check your condition."He shifted, making certain not to move too quickly, afraid that doing sowould hurt her in some way. He held up his finger in front of her. "Followmy finger," he began, then caught his error and quickly amended, "fingers,Seven." He watched as her eyes struggled to focus and follow his finger,seeing how they strayed, then jerked back to hunt his finger, trying todecide which was the finger to follow. After a few minutes of testing, hesat down closely to her and picked up her hand, this time feeling how quickenedher pulse had become. "I think you probably have a pretty serious concussion,Seven. I want you to keep talking to me. I need to be able to monitor you,and I can only do that if you are awake."

She gave him an uncertain stare, finally saying, "Your tricorder?"

He gave her a short laugh. "I'm afraid I left it in the sickbay.What's the matter? Don't want to talk to me?"

"No. I mean, yes." She stopped, and he could see how confusedshe had become. He knew thinking was difficult for her. "I mean...I will talk to you," she finished lamely.

"Good." He lifted her hand again. "Don't be afraid, Seven.I'm sure they will get us out of here soon."

Her eyes wandered lazily around the juncture. "How long was I unconscious?"

"Actually, you weren't out that long. About five or ten minutes."

"Have you contacted Captain Janeway?"

"I tried, but communications seem to be down."

"Have you tried to go for help?"

"Yes." He did not react to the accusatory tone of her voice."I tried, but it looks like Voyager took a pretty hard beating.The Jeffries tube has collapsed on either side of us. I don't seem to beable to go up, down, left or right. We're stuck in here until someone comesfor us."

"The Captain knows we are here."

"Yes, she does." He tried to make his voice comforting, seeingfrom the look in her eyes she thought of what he had already thought of-- that there might not be anyone to rescue them. Before Seven could sayanything, he spoke. "They'll be here soon. Don't worry about it. CaptainJaneway won't leave us in here for long." She raised her chin, hereyes starting to close. "So, I think you're supposed to be talkingto me." The eyes opened, then started to close again. He spoke again,his voice stronger this time, "Seven. Talk to me."

She started slightly, then stared at him a moment. "About what?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Anything you want to talk to me about."

He waited while she considered. Finally, she said, "I do not knowwhat to talk about."

"Well," he cast about for an idea, "you could talk tome about how you are feeling. Or about what you want to see when we getto Earth, or about something you are working on in astrometrics. Anythingyou want to talk about."

He waited, not certain that she would actually start speaking. Aftera few moments of awkward silence, she started to tell him about the projectshe was currently working on in astrometrics. As she talked, he thoughtabout how typical that was of her. There was nothing in her life but work.She worked, and she regenerated. She limited her contact with most membersof the crew. He was probably the closest thing to a friend she had. Thing.What an interesting choice of words. He was a thing. Photons and force fields.Nothing that could ever be more to her. Nothing that would ever be enough....

Suddenly, he noticed her words were slowing. Forcing his attention backto her, he said, "Isn't there anything fun you would like to do, Seven?"

She stopped, her eyes settling on his. "Fun?"

He laughed. "Yes, fun. Something not work. Something for pleasure."


"Is not irrelevant, Seven." He leaned over her. "Pleasureis important. Pleasure is the part of life that balances the work. You needboth to be a complete human being." He focused on her eyes, seeingthem wander slightly. "Do you remember playing as a child?"

Her look clouded, and she shifted her body uncomfortably. "No."

But he had seen something. He pressed on. "No? I'll bet maybe youdo. Or you could if you tried." He waited.

She sighed. "I remember a doll."

"A doll?"

"Yes." She hesitated. "It was a ballerina."

"A ballerina?"

"Yes." She turned her head fully away from him. "I usedto... dance with her."


She nodded. "I would dance with her in the living quarters of ourship. She was the only company I had while my parents worked."

"Didn't you have friends growing up?"

She was quiet a long moment. When she answered him, her voice was a whisper."No. We never stayed in a place very long. At least, I do not rememberdoing so. I only had my doll."

"What was her name?"

She bit her lip. "I do not remember."

He started to ask her again, then stopped for some reason. Her look toldhim she did not want to talk about the doll anymore. "What else, Seven?Tell me what else you remember."

Her tongue ran across her lips, and she blinked a couple of times. "Iremember being on a planet. A planet with an orange sun and yellow trees."Her voice became dreamy. "I remember playing in the water with my mother.We were splashing each other." She looked down at the burn on her hand."I remember the warmth of the sun on my skin." Her eyes driftedback to his, and he could see the sadness in them. "It is the onlytime I can remember feeling the sun."

He reached to wipe a trickle of blood from around her eye, aware thatthe blood had started to clot high on her head, aware that her sun-coloredhair was now closer to the color of a blood-orange sun, the irony of itmaking him feel heavy inside. Brushing his hand gently against her cheek,he said, "What else, Seven?"

She took a deep breath. "I remember my parents fighting, and mymother crying. I thought I had done something wrong. I hid under my bed,afraid they would leave me on the planet with the orange sun and no oneelse. I...." Her voice trailed off.

He shook her gently, forcing her eyes fully open. "No, Seven. Youmust not go to sleep. Talk to me. Why were you afraid your parents weregoing to leave you?"

"I heard them talking about leaving me. They were going to leaveme with my aunt. I knew I must have done something awful for them to wantto leave me." She blinked slowly, then focused her eyes on his face."I finally ran into the room and begged them not to leave me. I beggedthem to take me with them." Her voice caught. "I told them I wantedto chase the Borg with them. I promised to be good."

He looked at her in shock, seeing in her eyes the guilt and responsibilityshe felt. "Seven." He started, then stopped. Wrapping his fingerstightly around her hand, he pulled her hand to his chest and held it there."Of course you did, Seven. You didn't want to be separated from yourparents. No child does. You would have done anything to be with them. Yourparents should have known better. Not you." He watched her face. "That'sit, isn't it? You thought that you asked to be assimilated by the Borg,didn't you?"

He waited. She slowly nodded her head, wincing slightly as she did. Hereached with his free hand to gently brush back her hair. "Seven, whatyou did was a natural thing. What happened to you was not your fault. Don'tbe angry with yourself. If you want to be angry with someone, be angry withyour parents. They're the ones who truly deserve your anger." He continuedto brush her hair and smiled at her. "But one day, if you let yourself,I think you'll be able to forgive them also. After all," he chanceda grin, "they were only human."

He did not move as she searched his face. He waited, now totally unsureof her reaction. Finally, her face dissolved into a tentative smile, thefirst he could ever remember seeing. "Yes. You are correct. They wereonly human."

Before he could respond, a noise crackled and the air seemed to becomecharged with electricity. Then, Janeway's voice was heard.

"Janeway to Seven of Nine and the Doctor. Come in."

He quickly slapped his combadge, "Doctor here. We need an emergencybeam out to sickbay."

"Give us a minute, Doctor. We're about to have the transportersback on line." He heard a hesitation. "Is Seven okay?"

Looking at Seven he saw her eyes closing and knew she was losing consciousness.He quickly responded, "She's been injured, Captain. We need to gether to sickbay as quickly as possible."

Torres' voice crackled over the com system. "Prepare for transport,Doctor."

Before he could look back down, the world around them disappeared ina wash of blue light.


He was concentrating on returning instruments to their place. Once he hadeverything in order, he would need to catch up on his reports. He realizedhe was probably a week behind in his logs and was glad that his was a computermemory. Still, he would need to go through the motions of filing officialreports and bringing order back to his sickbay.

The last week had been a flurry of injured crewmembers -- both thoseinjured during the collision with the space anomaly and those injured whilemaking repairs to Voyager. He was glad things were finally startingto return to normal.

He was concentrating so hard, he did not hear the sickbay doors openand close behind him. He only became aware that someone was in the roomwith him when he heard the accusatory voice.

"You are late."

He looked up, surprised. "Seven?"

She stood, her feet spaced slightly apart, her hands clasped behind herback. Her head was cocked slightly to the right, her blue eyes focused intentlyon his face. "We were supposed to meet in the holodeck at seventeenhundred hours."

He glanced quickly at the chronometer. "Oh, I'm sorry, Seven. I'vejust been so busy. I guess I just let the time slip up on me."

"You are forgetting to balance."

He looked up quickly, seeing the humor in her eyes. Laughing, he said,"Yes. I guess I am." Placing the instrument firmly on the console,he squared his shoulders. "So, I'm ready. Are you?" He lookedup into her face, unable to stop himself from examining her closely. Oncehe had gotten her into the sickbay, he had been able to make quick workof repairing her injuries. She did not even have a scar from her head wound.He had made her regenerate for two complete days just to make certain shewas fully recovered. He had turned his attention to caring for the vastnumber of other crew members who had been injured, finding that he had nothad much time for Seven except for a few quick exams. Today was their firstopportunity to spend any time together since the collision.

They left the sickbay and walked toward the holodeck.

"How are you feeling today, Seven?"

"I am well." She hesitated. "And you?"

Surprised, he quickly said, "I'm fine." They walked a few moresteps and he said, "Thank you for asking." When she did not sayanything, he said, "I also want to thank you for suggesting we do thistoday."

"It seemed a shame to let all of your efforts go to waste."

He did not reply, but watched her out of the corner of his eye, awarethat she was walking closer to him than she normally did. He sensed shewas also more relaxed than usual. He started to say something, but decidedhe did not want to do anything to ruin the mood. He stayed silent and enjoyedbeing near her.

As soon as they entered the holodeck, he ordered the computer to initiatethe program he had worked on, and the world around them changed into a beautifulart museum, full of color, shapes and figures. They started walking, andhe introduced her to the world of art. As they moved around, he felt herarm brush against his. He wondered if it was an accident, then felt theback of her hand touch his and rest lightly for a moment before she movedoff. He stood, slightly disappointed, then saw that she had moved to standin front of a particular painting. Smiling to himself, he moved to standnext to her, his own hands held firmly behind his back.


"What?" She did not turn to look at him.

He looked at the painting in front of them. "This was painted byDegas."

She reached out to touch the holographic painting, running her left indexfinger along the skirt of the dancer in the painting. "They are ballerinas."

"Yes. This painting is called Ballet Rehearsal."

She did not speak, but continued to run her hand across the painting,tracing her finger down one of the dancer's legs and finally along the longpointed toe shoe. When she finally spoke, he had to strain to hear her."They are beautiful."

The words were out of his mouth before he realized. "Not as beautifulas you."

The Doctor and Seven of Nine

She froze, but did not look at him. He stood still, afraid of what shewould do next. Finally, she moved back and sat on a small bench and facedthe painting. He waited a minute, then joined her on the bench, carefulnot to sit too closely.

"Her name was Dora."

"Excuse me?"

"My doll. Her name was Dora."

He stayed silent, waiting on her to continue. When she did not, he asked,"How old were you when you got her?"

"I think I got her for my fifth birthday."

"You had her for a year."


He placed his hand down to rest on the bench. She slowly lowered herhand to rest beside his, close, but not touching. He lifted his eyes backto the painting in front of them. "Some friends are only in your lifefor a very brief time, but it is enough for what they mean to you. For whatthey give you while they are there."

She stayed silent, and he kept his eyes focused on the painting in frontof them. Suddenly, he realized her hand was touching his. He moved his eyesto look at their hands on the bench, side by side, now touching ever solightly. Then, he lifted his eyes to the painting, and they sat and lookedat the paintings of beautiful ballerinas.

The Doctor thought that for the first time since he had come into existence,there was something inside him that was real, something more than photonsand force fields. It was something that she had put there. It was hope andbelonging and being.

Seven sat, looking at the painting, but concentrating on the feelingof being close to the Doctor. She sat, wondering exactly what this feelingreminded her of. Then, she knew. This, she realized, felt like the heatof the orange sun on her skin.


© 2002 by Susan McCrackin. Drawing © 2001 by Janet D'Airo. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced on the OfficialRobert Picardo Home Page with permission of the author and artist.

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