A/n: Hello everyone, another new story! It's set around the episode "Human Error". Thanks once again to battlevalkyrie for giving me the idea and beta reading this for me! :)
Chakotay stared at his Captain in disbelief, glad that they were alone in her Ready Room so that no other crewmember could have heard what she'd just told him. "You're monitoring Seven of Nine's holodeck use?" he echoed, trying to keep the horrified incredulity out of his voice. "Why exactly Captain?"
He obviously didn't succeed in neutralising his tone as hurt flashed vividly across Kathryn Janeway's face. "You make it sound as if I'm spying on her, as if I suspect her of something, that's not the case at all." Her eyes took on an accusatory glint, as if it were he who'd shown signs of distrusting her protégé and not the other way around.
Chakotay bit back a sigh but kept his expression calm, his tone patient. "You know perfectly well that Seven has earned the trust of all of us several times over, but what did you expect me to say Kathryn? You're going to have to explain this to me, why are you so concerned?" He ran a hand through his hair as Janeway pursed her lips unhappily, "Haven't you and the Doctor always encouraged Seven to experiment in the holodeck, regain her humanity as such?" Chakotay grimaced briefly as he said this; he'd always considered such schemes to be misguided. He didn't doubt the Captain or the Doctor's good intentions in guiding their beloved joint protégé but he'd always believed Seven would grow into her humanity at her own pace, holographic aids or not.
An anxious, regretful frown furrowed the Captain's well manicured brows, "Of course we have, but…" She trailed off, biting down on her lip as she beckoned him to look at the data sprawling across the screen of her desk's console, "Look how many hours she's logged in the holodeck over the past two weeks. I'm surprised she's found any time to work, let alone regenerate!" She took a deep breath, looking up at him seriously, "Hasn't she seemed…distracted to you recently?"
It was Chakotay's turn to appear unsure. "Well…she's been a little late for a few shifts." He admitted, "I've been letting it go because for years she's put even my punctuality to shame." He explained with a hint of a wry smile the Captain didn't return, instead her face fell guiltily.
"I knew I should've kept a closer eye on her…" She murmured, "After her ordeal with Unimatrix Zero…" She clamped her mouth shut, shaking her head at him, but Chakotay already knew not to pry about whatever details Seven had provided about the shattered dream of individual drones. Resting her chin on her hands, Janeway closed her eyes for a moment and sighed heavily, "And then there was Quarra. Some people are still feeling a bit disorientated from that…"
"We've all had a lot to deal with." Chakotay agreed softly, "I wouldn't blame Seven for letting herself take refuge in the holodeck for a little while; it's something we could all do with more often."
The Captain winced. "Taking refuge…" She echoed thoughtfully, "That can be addictive, especially when you've got as many memories to hide from as Seven of Nine does."
Chakotay nodded solemnly, a painful lump forming suddenly in his throat as memories from his short lived mental link with Seven four years ago involuntarily flooded his mind's eye. "Yes, there'd be no point in denying that." He conceded quietly, "But Seven is resilient if she's anything. She's probably just having some fun…"
Janeway's eyebrows immediately formed an incredulous arch on her forehead. "Seven of Nine? Fun? Are we talking about the same former drone?"
Chakotay gave a sharp sigh of acknowledgement in reply, "Captain, it's nothing…"
"Really?" Janeway retorted pointedly, "Reg Barclay had a holodeck addition, what if…"
Chakotay snorted. "Seven isn't exactly Reg Barclay Captain."
"I realise that." The Captain answered frostily before shooting him a pained look, "You've already admitted that she's acting strange." She waited for his reluctant nod, "I just need to check…"
Chakotay backed away from her desk, hands defensively in the air. "Wait a minute!" He interrupted, "That's called spying Kathryn." He reminded her heatedly, his dark eyes disapproving.
"What if she is in trouble, hurting?" Janeway asked quietly, causing Chakotay to flinch. "Just look in on her for a minute, check she's not doing anything reckless."
Chakotay sat down on the sofa across from her with a heavy sigh. "Captain, I'm going to tell you a story. When my sister was a teenager, my father panicked about her relationship with a certain boy, to the extent where he eventually read her diary. Of course, Sekaya found out and they hardly spoke for a month."
The Captain lowered her eyes, "Did your father find out what he needed to know?"
"He found out he had nothing to worry about but the invasion of privacy scarred his relationship with his daughter." Chakotay replied gently.
Janeway shoot him a knowing glance, saying after a few minutes of silence, "I see your point but the last time you told me a story relating to Seven, the advice was wrong, remember? Do this for me."
Chakotay stifled a sigh of frustration as he reached the neighbouring sets of doors which each led to one of Voyager's two holodecks. He couldn't believe he was actually doing this; it breeched several unspoken codes of privacy. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine." He ordered, hoping she'd be back in the Cargo Bay or Astrometrics so that he could dismiss the Captain's fears, abandon this altogether and give some sort of believable excuse to the Captain.
The Computer's unruffled reply destroyed those hopes almost instantly. "Seven of Nine is in Holodeck 2."
"Damn." Chakotay muttered under his breath, unable to stop his own concerns beginning to creep in from the back of his mind. It was radically out of character for Seven to neglect her work even slightly, and as far as he knew she'd always been pointedly dismissive of the holodecks before, probably resenting the Doctor's tendency to arrange "social lessons" with staid holograms. He'd always assumed the strict lacing of her Borg upbringing had left her tied tightly to the realms of reality to enjoy the fantasy the holodecks offered, but obviously that wasn't the case now… Now allowing himself a heavy sigh, he entered Holodeck 1, his steps leaden with guilt. He still didn't really understand what the Captain was so afraid of, Seven wouldn't exactly recreate a Borg Cube or anything…would she? He took a second to look resentfully around the dormant, grey panelled room before heading for the console. "Computer, which programme is running in Holodeck 2 right now?" he asked quietly.
"Programme Seven of Nine Beta 3 is currently active on Holodeck 2." The Computer obediently answered.
Chakotay took a deep breath, "Please run a recording of that programme from the beginning with all participants present." He mentally recoiled from watching what she was doing right at this moment, if he could watch this programme from the point of creation, just long enough to see what it was then he could satisfy the Captain without stabbing Seven in the back.
"Unable to comply." The Computer reported, "The designated programme is only accessible to the registered user.
Chakotay gritted his teeth in unease. "Override privacy protocols with Holodeck maintenance algorithm Gamma 4, authorisation Chakotay Alpha 9 Zeta 2."
"Authorisation accepted, replay of programme Seven of Nine Beta 3 activated." The Computer replied obligingly, making Chakotay's heart sink. He'd hoped that Seven would have blocked out even the engineers from her programme with some of those Borg encryption codes she was so famous for, but it appeared not. She wasn't expecting someone to be so intent on spying on her, a small voice in his head reminded him, but he quickly silenced it for the sake of his own relative state of mind. He wouldn't be here for long, as little as a few minutes…
His thoughts stopped mid flow as a crowd of familiar faces materialised on every side of him, a cheery babble was struck up in an instant. The level of recognition he felt blurred his wits with confusion as he had to remind himself these people, Samantha Wildman, Tal Celes, Johnny Shepherd, Chell, were holograms, mere projections of his old friends. In fact, most of the crew seemed to be represented in the replica of the Mess Hall Seven had created for herself. He automatically searched her, but first his eyes fell on B'Elanna, who was as heavily pregnant as the real version, sitting on a sofa under a resplendent "It's a girl!" banner and laughing at something Tom had just whispered in her ear. Intense relief brought a soft smile to his lips, this had really happened! Seven was just repeating actual events, probably as practice. He'd been at the real party and had witnessed Seven's behaviour then. Awkward and stiff, she'd stayed barely five minutes. He recalled the deer in the headlights expression as she'd hurriedly pushed a pair of baby shoes that could apparently withstand 5000 degrees Celsius, of course it had been amusing, but she'd been so obviously uncomfortable that no one had really be cruel enough to tease her. That was the thing about Seven, her heart was genuinely in the right place, which was why even the least patient of crewmembers had learned to tolerate her over the years, but she was rarely able to express it. Maybe she'd realised she'd made a social misstep and was now trying to "correct" her behaviour as it were. Chakotay sighed, his guilt settling down as the logic of this idea sunk in. The Captain wouldn't quibble about that scenario; hopefully he'd be able to convince her to keep her nose out of Seven's personal development for once… Feeling satisfied that Seven was fine, just getting a little wrapped up in things, he called out to the Computer, "Computer, deactivate…" The order died on his suddenly dry lips as he finally spotted Seven. She always stood out in the crowd, but this time it was for a different reason. She looked completely human, her implants were gone! He shook his head wryly as he watched her come towards him. Her whole demeanour had entirely changed, her posture was relaxed as she weaved easily among the partygoers, and something that he knew would've normally unsettled her. She even paused to talk to people as she passed, a calm smile frequently crossing her features. Men were following her attentively with their eyes, not that that was particularly unusual, implants or no implants, Seven was a highly attractive woman but here everyone seemed less apprehensive of her. A fitted charcoal polo neck sweater and black trousers had replaced her starkly functional biosuits and her hair had been shaken out from her habitual helmet like bun and pulled back into a soft ponytail at the base of her neck. Chakotay couldn't help but think that if the Doctor had let her wear clothes like that from the beginning it might have lifted her confidence in real life.
The Captain's voice rang loud near his ear, but she was addressing Seven. "Are you enjoying yourself Seven?"
A slightly sheepish smile joined a blush on Seven's face as she replied, "Yes, very much so Captain."
The holographic Captain's smile widened, "Good, I know Tom and B'Elanna will be pleased to hear that."
Seven nodded as she moved to join the Captain beside the galley counter. "I am glad her pregnancy has been progressing well."
"It's a relief." Janeway agreed, "As for you, the Doctor told me that the last of your implants have finally been removed." Seven's head immediately dipped a little, Chakotay was sure he could see guilt in her eyes for a split second as the hologram patted her arm reassuringly, "You're doing great, you look really well."
"Thank you Captain." Seven replied sincerely her expression became nervous, "Captain…the Doctor has informed me that I need no longer regenerate, I can sleep. I was…hoping that I could be allocated…"
"Quarters?" The Captain finished with a grin, laughing when she saw Seven start in surprise and giving the younger woman a small hug. "They're already arranged, you're moving in tomorrow. How does Deck 3 suit you?"
Chakotay felt an unexpected surge of empathy for Seven as she swallowed thickly, overcome. "That would be…wonderful Captain." She murmured gratefully.
"It will be." The Captain said warmly before snatching a brightly wrapped parcel from the counter. "Now, I'd better go and give this to the happy parents-to-be."
"Of course." Seven answered, sighing as the Captain left her, her gaze distant. Chakotay now knew for sure that he'd underestimated the depth of these stimulations. They weren't just social lessons; they were her idealised version of reality brought to life. He studied the room with fresh eyes, this party wasn't the same as the one he and Seven had both really attended. Some of the decorations were different, table positions had been altered. Suspicion grew within Chakotay, Seven would have recreated the real party precisely, she was exacting by nature…
"Computer, when was this programme originally run by Seven of Nine?" he asked the Computer sharply.
"This part of the programme began on Stardate 78547.1 at 1103 hours." The Computer supplied, causing Chakotay to groan as he stalked up to the recording of Seven.
"You ran this programme before the real party…" He whispered, "Why couldn't you let your guard down with us, like you did here?"
Of course, she didn't answer his bemused question, but her lips did form his rank, making him jump. "Commander?" she said nervously.
Chakotay followed her gaze and was shocked to see an exact replica of himself smiling warmly at Seven. "Hey, how are you feeling?" The hologram asked, concern evident in his soft voice.
Seven returned the smile instantly, and the real Chakotay stared at her, uncomfortably aware of the shine in her eyes. "I'm fine Commander. The Doctor says I am fully recovered from the last of the operations."
"That's good, you've had to go through a lot." The hologram Chakotay replied, his eyes never leaving her face, which was rapidly taking on the pink tint of a blush under the light of his attention. "It's a huge amount of change for you though…"
Seven gazed up at him, obviously appreciative of his understanding. "It's been a great deal to adapt to in a short time." She admitted softly, "It's been difficult."
The hologram squeezed her shoulder supportively. "You'll be okay, but don't rush yourself." He advised gently. Suddenly his frame stiffened nervously, "So…the Captain said you're moving to new quarters?" he asked, abruptly changing the subject.
Seven was equally embarrassed, "Yes, tomorrow." She answered shakily.
The Chakotay hologram swallowed hard before saying simply, "Call me when you're moving in and I'll come to help."
"I don't think I'll need…" Seven began to splutter but changed her mind, saying instead with a smile, "I will Commander."
"It's Chakotay." He corrected with a grin, catching her happy surprise before being distracted by Tom.
The real Chakotay knew he should leave, make up some lie for the Captain, but his feet were frozen to the floor. One realisation echoed unsettlingly through his mind, his hologram had been flirting with her…
A/n: So, what do you all think so far? PLEASE REVIEW! :D