Title: A Study in Human Mating Practices
Author: Brigid
Email: brigidandmike@juno.com
Rating: [PG-13] 
Series: Voyager
Part: 1/1 
Synopsis: P/T 
Seven of Nine is studying human relations. Takes place in Season 5.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters. I thank them for letting me play with them.
Date: November, 2001

Thanks to all of the members of the PT Collective for being an inspiration.

by Seven of Nine

It has been my observation that 'human relationships' is a very complicated subject. The doctor has tried to tutor me in this area but he is a hologram, not a human. Regardless of the work he has put into "humanizing" his program he still cannot explain certain human behaviors. I have chosen another method of studying this interaction; I will observe and take notes of how humans interact with one another. 

The most volatile couple on the ship seems to be Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres.  I have been observing them for several weeks and they seem to vary the nature of their relationship almost daily. Today Lt. Torres is angry. I was in Engineering when Ensign Paris called her to cancel their planned activities for the evening. Lt. Torres was not pleased. The engineering staff made a great effort to stay out of her way the rest of the shift. 

Normally I do not partake of nourishment in the messhall but the doctor feels that it would help with my social skills. So, tonight I will make the effort in spite of the obvious drawbacks: Neelix's food rarely "agrees" with me, no one seems to want to share their insights with me and most of the crew looks extremely uncomfortable when I approach them. The exception to this is Ensign Paris. He seems to greet everyone with a smile. I have heard Ensign Kim comment on the manner in which Ensign Paris 'works' a room. I will attempt to study his methods. 

Lt. Torres' attitude does not seem to have improved judging by the conversation that she and Ensign Paris are having. The crew is accustomed to the two of them airing their differences in public and today is no exception. While they are attempting to talk privately, my Borg implants allow me to hear with far greater acuity than the average humanoid. Ensign Paris is apologizing for breaking their date last evening. He claims to have been on the holodeck with Lt. Nicoletti in a flight simulator but Lt. Torres seems to doubt the veracity of that statement. Ensign Paris has gone to the bridge. 

Several crewmen are discussing the argument they just witnessed, the women seem to think that "Tom" is a "hunk" and they would like a chance to have him all to themselves in a flight simulator. These crew members seem unaware that Lt. Torres has not left the messhall and is listening to their conversation. Ensign Sharpel, female, human, security, acknowledges that Ensign Paris is not all brash and bravado. "Look at the way he makes friends with all the strays, Kes, Neelix. He even watches Naomi for Sam a couple of times a week. And who else would be nice enough to put up with B'Elanna's temper?" 

Lt. Torres seemed to ponder that last statement. I assumed she would confront Ensign Sharpel but instead she left the messhall very quickly. Her presence must be required in engineering.

I was observing outside Lt. Torres' quarters last night when Ensign Paris arrived. He was granted entry immediately but Lt. Torres did not look happy in spite of Ensign Paris' obvious good humor. They proceeded to have a heated discussion. Anyone in that section of the ship could hear it. Several crewmen who passed looked at each other and shook their heads. It seems they are used to loud noises coming from these quarters. I was preparing to close my observation for the evening when I heard Ensign Paris raise his voice again. "You can't be serious, B'Elanna. I was helping her qualify to pilot a shuttle. Tuvok tested her this morning. She passed, in case you are interested."

"I'm not." 

"Look, B'Elanna, I'm sorry. Couldn't we just kiss and make up?" I wonder if that tone of voice is what one calls "wheedling?" 

"Tom, it's over. It was nice while it lasted but it's over."

"B'Elanna, I know we've had some problems lately but I thought we were doing better. Talk to me. Tell me what's wrong."

"WE are wrong, Tom. This just isn't working for me. I'd like to just be friends. For the sake of everyone on the ship we need to stay civil with each other but I can't be more than that. I'm sorry."

In spite of the fact that I was now standing in close proximity to the door of Lt. Torres quarters, I barely heard Ensign Paris, "I'm sorry too, B'Elanna." I quickly moved away and watched him from around the corner as he left. I decided to follow him for a while since I really wanted to ask him to explain the nature of his relationship for my study. However he looked sad and seemed to be lost. I almost inquired as to whether he needed help finding his quarters. He circled several decks before finally reaching them, walking with his shoulders hunched and his head down. He barely acknowledged the other crewmembers he passed. They looked surprised; Mr. Paris is universally friendly and this was out of character. 

Ensign Paris was equally out of character the next morning. I was seated at a table behind Ensign Kim in the messhall when he called Ensign Paris. 

"Tom, where are you? You're late."

"Sorry, Harry, I overslept. I'll see you on the bridge."

Ensign Kim looked perplexed but he seemed to get over it quickly when Lt. Torres entered the messhall. "Hey, B'Elanna. I'm glad you're here at least. Tom stood us up." 

Lt. Torres seemed to hesitate before she crossed the room to speak to Ensign Kim. "Sorry, Harry, I just came to get a cup of coffee. I'm headed straight for Engineering."

"Lunch?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Probably not. I've got a big day. See you."

I must say Ensign Kim's face "fell" as he watched her leave the room. He looked disappointed and a little confused. Most of his meals as well as his off-duty time is spent in the company of Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres. I decided to approach Ensign Kim on the matter of relationships since he was now eating alone. 

"Ensign Kim, could you describe for me the nature of the relationship between Lt. Torres and Ensign Paris?"

"Seven, why would you need to know the nature of Tom and B'Elanna's relationship?"

"I am studying human interactions. They seem to interact a lot."

"Their relationship really isn't all that normal. Couldn't you find someone else to study?"

"Why is their relationship not normal?"

"They are two very different people but they're also very much alike. They're both kind of insecure when it comes to people. They know they're the best pilot and engineer in the Delta quadrant but neither one is sure why anyone would really care about them otherwise. Tom hides his insecurities behind a mask of indifference; B'Elanna hides hers behind her temper and her work." 

He paused and looked at me strangely, "Why am I telling you all this?"

"I simply wish to improve my social skills and they seemed to be an appropriate study."

"If I were you, Seven, I would find someone else to study. I think Tom and B'Elanna would be more of a hindrance than a help in studying human interactions."

Ensign Kim left then to take his place on the bridge.

My observations continued for several more days but I saw little or no interaction between Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres. They seemed to function at optimum efficiency. When they both attended the same briefing they gave their reports in an unusually efficient manner. Ensign Paris in particular seems to be taking his duties very seriously. I have observed that he has greatly increased the training the pilots under his direction must undertake. I hear them complaining about it in the messhall as well as in the corridors. It seems his goal is to force them to become as good as he is. He no longer wants the honor of being the best pilot in the Delta quadrant. I fail to see why.

Commander Chakotay fails to see why also. His conversation with Ensign Paris was meant to be private but they were in the next corridor and I couldn't help but hear. 

"Tom, several of your pilots have come to me to complain about the amount of hours they are having to spend in the simulator as well as the difficulty of the tests you're putting them through."

"Commander," (I have observed that Ensign Paris only calls Commander Chakotay by his rank when he is angry) "I am tired of being called to the bridge every time Voyager has a crisis. There is no reason that some of these guys can't fly this ship as well as me. They need to be trained, if only so I can get a good night's sleep." 

"Very well, Tom. I can see your point and I'll tell your pilots they are just going to have to endure the training until you feel they've reached the skill level that you require."

I heard Ensign Paris start to move away but Commander Chakotay addressed him again. "Tom, is there anything else you want to talk about?"

"Like what?"

"You seem unsettled, unhappy. I only want to help."

"You can help by telling the complainers that I expect their efficiency ratings to be up 20% by the end of the week." 

The bridge is another good place to study human interactions. Sometimes things are very quiet and almost dull. There is a lot of comical interaction at that time, usually led by Ensign Paris. He seems to derive pleasure from making people laugh. 

The Captain and Commander Chakotay interact differently there as well. Sometimes they are almost playful and other times they seem very remote from each other. But in a crisis, they are an efficient team, working in tandem to keep Voyager and its crew safe on the journey back to the Alpha Quadrant. 

Today was one of those crisis days. The ship hit a pocket of turbulence, serious enough that Captain Janeway was about to recall Ensign Paris to the bridge. But Commander Chakotay stopped her. "Give Baytart a chance. Tom's been training his pilots hard, this might be an opportunity to see how well they've done." The captain nodded but the look on her face was dubious. 

The ship experienced some unsettling moments. Lt. Torres sounded extremely irritated when she called from engineering to ascertain the cause of the turbulence. There was silence after the commander assured her that Ensign Baytart was handling the situation very well. Her voice held uncertainty as she answered, "Baytart? Yes, I guess he's doing all right."

The turbulence lasted approximately 47 minutes and Ensign Baytart looked exhausted when it was over but strangely exhilarated. "I did it, Captain. We made it. Paris is right, we don't need him on the bridge any more." 

I noticed Captain Janeway's face held a strange look, I think it would be called shock. I saw her look at Commander Chakotay as she answered Ensign Baytart, "You did just fine, Ensign. Take it down to warp 2 so Lt. Torres has a chance to make repairs."

"Aye, Captain." 

Ensign Paris would have said "Yes, ma'am." It's something he says frequently at the resolution of a crisis. The captain leaned over to talk quietly to Commander Chakotay, "I know Tom has been moody and withdrawn lately but you don't think he's considering leaving the ship do you?"

"I don't know what he's thinking, Captain." 

The Captain and the Commander retired to the captain's ready room after that and I heard no more until dinner that night in the messhall. Captain Janeway and the Commander often eat dinner in their quarters but tonight they chose the messhall. Perhaps they were studying crew interactions also. Their table was somewhat secluded, they could see the rest of the diners but few could see them. I chose a table equally unobtrusive but close enough to hear their discussion. Their interaction was different from any others on the ship and as valuable to study as Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres had been. The ensign and the lieutenant have had no discernable interaction in the last month so I have abandoned that study for the time being. However it seems that Captain Janeway would like Commander Chakotay to begin his own study.

"What has happened to them, Chakotay? They were so happy together and now they act like strangers in staff meetings. I don't think I have seen either one of them smile in weeks." 

"I wish I knew, Captain. Neither one of them is interested in confiding in me. Their work is exemplary so I really have no reason to call them in for a conference. What would you like me to do?" The commander sounded frustrated.

Ensign Kim passed their table at that moment and the captain asked him to sit with them. "Harry, can you shed any light on what is bothering Tom and B'Elanna?"

"I don't have a clue, Captain. I haven't seen Tom except for an occasional lunch in a couple of weeks and B'Elanna isn't saying a word. I've tried to ask both of them what's wrong but they just clam up on me. I have to assume they aren't together any more but I don't know why." 

Neelix chose that moment to make his presence known. I assume he'd been hovering all along but for some reason I had failed to notice him. "Captain, if I may?" indicating that he would like to sit.

"Of course, Mr. Neelix. Do you have any light to shed on this?"

"I might. You see people don't see me in the messhall, I'm just one of the fixtures. So nobody really pays any attention to what they say around me. Most of what I hear I let go in one ear and out the other but I've been watching Tom and B'Elanna and they're not very happy right now."

"Go on."

"Anyone could tell how Tom feels about B'Elanna, it's written all over his face. And right now there's a lot of pain on his face too. He tries to hide it but I know what to look for and he is in pain. Tom has trouble believing in himself. Oh, I know he acts cocky but he's not. He is always trying to prove himself, constantly trying to make up for the mistakes he's made. Your approval, Captain, and yours, Commander, are very important to him. But B'Elanna's approval, that was something special. She seemed to love him unconditionally, for himself, not his family, or his position, or his piloting skills, but just for himself. He has always worried that he might not have enough honor for her and his fears seem to have come true."

Commander Chakotay asked Neelix, "Have you heard any rumors of Tom's wanting to leave the ship?"

"Yes, Commander, I have. At first it was a joke among the pilots but lately he's been more withdrawn and I often see him staring out at the stars. I'm starting to believe that he is thinking about leaving."

"I don't like to interfere in my crew's personal lives but right now I think Mr. Paris needs a little reassurance. He is a valuable member of this crew and losing him because he is unhappy is unacceptable. All of us need to go out of our way to make him feel wanted and needed." The captain sounded concerned.

"Should someone try to talk to B'Elanna?" Harry asked.

"I don't think that's necessary yet. She seems to be doing all right, doesn't she Mr. Neelix?" 

"Well, she's been better. B'Elanna can't hide behind a mask of indifference like Tom does so she just becomes angry and disagreeable. Are you getting any complaints from engineering, Commander?" Neelix asked.

"A few, it's been a little worse lately." Commander Chakotay agreed. 

"Well, let's try to help Tom first then we will see what we can do for B'Elanna, if anything." The three officers and the cook all nodded. Neelix went back to the kitchen and Harry went to find other crewmen to share his meal. 

If Ensign Paris is in need of affirmation perhaps I should speak to him. He has made an effort to befriend me; I should try to repay that effort. 

An opportunity presented itself two days later. Ensign Paris was conducting an inventory in the cargo bay where I regenerate. I offered to help him so that he could finish more quickly. We worked together quite efficiently and I decided to make an effort at affirmation.  

"Ensign, may I have a word with you?"

His demeanor was friendly and while his physical appearance was acceptable it could be construed as tired and haggard. I would postulate that he has not been eating regularly but he answered in his usual carefree fashion, "Sure, Seven, what's up?"

"I would like to ask a favor. The doctor has been instructing me in human interactions but I think a human instructor would be more appropriate. Would you consider helping me with this?"

Ensign Paris seemed a little hesitant but his answer was still affirmative. "Okay, what can I do to help?"

"I would like to experience a date. Would you consider going out on a date with me?"

Mr. Paris looked like he was going to refuse but after several moments he answered, "Well, I guess that would be okay, what would you like to do on our date?"

"Perhaps dinner at Sandrine's? It seems to be the focal point of a lot of the social interaction on the ship."

"All right, tomorrow evening at 1800 hours?"

"That would be acceptable. Thank you, Ensign."

"Seven, if we're going on a date I think you should call me Tom." Ensign Paris does have a nice smile, but it seems different from the one he shows or used to show to Lt. Torres. 

"Thank you, Tom. I will see you tomorrow evening."  

We went to Sandrine's for our date. Mr. Paris, Tom, seemed quite comfortable with the program. The only characters present were Sandrine and a waiter whose name I was never given. Tom explained the process of ordering a meal and the finer points of eating several of the items he chose. One does not "slurp" soup, shrimp may be eaten with the fingers and ice cream is always appropriate for dessert. I have discovered that I have a great affinity for ice cream. Mr. Paris also tried to teach me how to dance. It was not a totally successful lesson but it seemed to take his mind off the things that were troubling him. I hope it was an affirming experience for him. My research indicated that it is appropriate to end a first date with a kiss, normally initiated by the male partner. Mr. Paris made no indication that he wished to end our evening in that manner when he walked me back to the cargo bay. He simply said, "I'll see you tomorrow, Seven."

"Thank you Tom, for a very instructive evening."

"You're welcome. Good night."

I would like to pursue another opportunity to date Mr. Paris. 

That opportunity presented itself shortly. Mr. Paris was assigned to help me in astrometrics for a period of time this morning. While we were developing navigational charts I requested a second date. I explained that I felt I still had much to learn. He seemed less willing to accept my proposal until I pointed out that I had no experience with earth and perhaps he could pick an interesting location. 

"Okay, I've got just the spot. I'll see you tonight, 1800 hours."

Our second date was to another restaurant, this time in what is called "Little Italy" in New York. There was a great deal of human interaction going on there. At most of the tables I saw men and women engaging in conversation and physical contact throughout their meal although there was one table where two men were obviously attracted to each other. The food was much different than Sandrine's. I felt it was too spicy for my palate but Tom persuaded me to try it. Pizza is an acquired taste but one does eat it with one's hands. Tom seemed to be enjoying himself much more this evening. He seemed to relax and smile a little more on this date. We did not try dancing again but went on a walk through Central Park. It was a very interesting experience. Again, Tom did not initiate a "good-night" kiss so I did. He seemed surprised and reluctant to continue this interaction. Perhaps on our next date he will be more willing to pursue physical contact. I have found that we are very compatible.

Lt. Torres was on the upper deck in engineering when I decided to question her about her relationship with Ensign..., Tom. They have been apart now for several weeks and I need more information to continue to develop my relationship with Tom in a manner which would be acceptable to him. 

"Lt. Torres, may I ask you a question?" 

"Yes, Seven, what is it?" She seems tense but I often get that type of reaction from the lieutenant.

"I would like to ask you about your former relationship with Ensign Paris."

"What business is my relationship with Tom to you?"

"Tom has been helping me with my social skills and I would like to deepen our relationship. I feel that at some time we should be able to mate and produce offspring but I need more information about his preferences."

"Have you asked Tom about his preferences?" Her tone now seems to be angry. 

"No, I have not asked him. I felt it would be better to have this information before I began a sexual relationship in order not to disappoint him."

"Are you in love with him?"

"I am not aware of what it feels like to be in love."

"Does your heart skip a beat when he walks into a room? Can you catch his scent whenever he comes near?" Her voice was soft and it seemed like she was choking on something.

"Of course I am cognizant of his entry into a room, my ocular implants are most efficient. I do not need his scent to tell me when he is present."

She seemed not to hear me but just continued her train of thought, "When he kisses you does it make your toes curl? Do you want to lay in his arms forever?"

"I enjoyed being kissed by Ens-- Tom but I feel that laying in his arms forever would be an inefficient use of our time. I wish to experience sexual intercourse and procreation. Those are the human experiences of which I am ignorant. Ensign Paris is an appropriate subject for these experiences. We are compatible physically and I feel that his intellectual capacity while not as great as mine is certainly acceptable and will lead to exceptional offspring."

"Seven, did it ever occur to you that these things take time? You have to build a relationship step by step."

"I have a relationship with Ensign Paris. We are compatible, work well together and our recreation has been a pleasurable experience."

"You don't understand any of this. You can't just use Tom to fill your needs. What about his needs?"

"When you were in a relationship with Ensign Paris, how did you fill his needs?"

I posed the question so that I could have more information to better meet Tom's needs but it only served to anger Lt. Torres. I saw the engineering instrument leave her hand and my reflexes allowed me to remove my head from its path. When I looked back at Lt. Torres she was walking away and looked very angry.

I seemed that further questioning of Lt. Torres would be unproductive so I decided to pose my question directly to Ensign Paris. He was in the messhall when I approached him. 

"Ensign, I have a matter I would like to discuss with you."

"Sure, Seven, go ahead and remember, it's Tom."

"I would like to experience sexual intercourse and procreation. I feel that you would be a very compatible partner in this endeavor."

Tom seemed to have trouble finding words to answer me. He looked around the room. There wasn't a large number of people in the messhall but they all appeared to be watching us. "Seven, this isn't the place to talk about this. Let's go to my quarters."

Once we reached his quarters Tom instructed me to sit on his couch while he requested two cups of black coffee from the replicator. 

"I have no need to ingest caffeine at this time."

"I do and if you don't want yours I'll drink that one too." He already seemed quite agitated and I failed to see where more caffeine would have a positive effect on his mood but I hesitated to bring it up at this time.

I proceeded to carry on the conversation in a logical manner. "I have checked your medical records. We would produce offspring of exceptionally high quality. Your intellectual capacity is closer to mine that many of the others on the ship and your physical prowess is discussed by a great many of the female crew members."

"Seven, there is more to a relationship than intellect and physical prowess. Two people have to feel an attraction for each other. It helps if they are at least friends before they become sexual partners."

"Are you planning on leaving the ship?"

"What makes you say that?"

"I have heard that you are training the pilots so that they can handle Voyager as well as you can. Are you planning on leaving the ship?"

"I don't know if I'm staying or leaving but that has nothing to so with this conversation."

"Why are you no longer in a relationship with Lt. Torres? Are you no longer friends?"

"I'm also not going to discuss my relationship with B'Elanna. Let's just say, it's a matter of honor and I have none, at least not enough for a Klingon."

 We sat in silence for quite some time and I finally felt compelled to ask, "Would you like me to leave?"

"Seven, what I want is for you to understand that you can't just jump into a relationship, particularly not a sexual relationship. Give it time. Find someone you enjoy being with, talking to, and then see where it goes after that." 

I must have nodded in agreement because Tom stood up and escorted me to the door. 

This situation has become very confusing now and I would like to get another opinion on how to proceed. The captain has always been a willing advisor. Perhaps I should consult with her, tomorrow. Tonight I feel the need to regenerate.

"Captain Janeway." 

"Yes, Seven, what can I do for you?"

"I have a personal dilemma on which your opinion would be greatly appreciated."

"Of course, sit down. Can I offer you something to drink, tea perhaps or coffee?"

The captain often seems more comfortable if those with whom she is having a conversation have a hot beverage in front of them. I fail to see the relevance of this but in order to amplify her degree of comfort I agreed to a cup of tea.

I began the conversation with an outline of my relationship as it stands with Ensign Paris. I explained my dates with him and my reasons for wishing to procreate with him. The captain seemed to be having trouble swallowing her coffee; perhaps it was too hot. Once she was able to catch her breath she asked me, "Have you had intercourse with Ensign Paris?"

"No, we discussed it but he didn't seem to think that I was ready or that our relationship was at that stage. I also had a conversation with Lt. Torres regarding her relationship with Ensign Paris." The captain began to choke again and I seriously considered calling the doctor. Her blood pressure was rising and her face was quite red. 

"What did Lt. Torres tell you about her relationship with Tom?"

"None of it made much sense. She asked if my toes curled when he kissed me and if I wanted to lay in his arms forever. She also asked if I could identify him by his scent. What does any of this have to do with procreation?"

"Oh, Seven, she's talking about being in love. Humans mate because they are in love. If two people want to have a child together they need to have a relationship that allows them to make a home for that child. It's not just a biological function." 

"Why does Ensign Paris feel that he doesn't have enough honor for Lt. Torres?"

"I don't know, Seven, but you and I do know how honorable he is. He's also proven that he is a good friend."

"But nothing more?"

"I don't think so, at least not yet."

"Should I continue to pursue this relationship?"

"I can't answer that. Those are decisions for you and Tom to make. Just remember that if his relationship with Lt. Torres is truly over it's going to take him some time to recover. He loved her very much."

"Why does she not return that love?"

"I don't know that she doesn't return it."

"Would Lt. Torres be able to persuade Ensign Paris not to leave the ship?"

"What do you mean?"

"I have overheard the pilots complaining about the training schedule and your concern about his wanting to leave Voyager. As I understand it Commander Chakotay also shares your concern."

"Seven, have you been eavesdropping on private conversations?"

"My audio implants allow me to hear conversations much more clearly than the average person. It is not intentional eavesdropping, I just listen more carefully than most."

The captain's eyes narrowed somewhat, as if she didn't quite believe everything I was saying. "Let's watch that in the future, okay?"

"Yes, captain, I understand."

I resumed my station on the bridge while Captain Janeway called Commander Chakotay into her ready room for a conference. When he resumed his seat some time later he seemed quite amused and asked Ensign Kim to speak with the Captain next. While Ensign Kim was in the captain's ready room Ensign Paris arrived on the bridge for the afternoon shift. The captain entered the bridge a short time later and announced a senior staff meeting at 1600. She asked me to attend the meeting, which is not all that unusual, but the look on her face was one of anticipation. 

The senior staff gathered in the briefing room at 1600. Commander Chakotay and Commander Tuvok were discussing personnel issues. Ensign Kim sat next to Commander Tuvok and appeared to be studying a data pad. He looked up when I entered and indicated a chair next to him. That left two empty chairs side by side for Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres. While these had been their usual spots until a month ago, since then they had made an effort to sit as far away from one another as possible. I questioned the wisdom of forcing them into close proximity but Ensign Kim began a conversation with me. It would have been rude to leave in the middle of it. Ensign Paris arrived next and took his seat with a perfunctory greeting to everyone in the room. Lt. Torres was the last to arrive. She seemed discomfited by the seating arrangement but did not offer any comment. 

The captain began by thanking everyone for their promptness. She then spoke on the true subject of the meeting, "It has come to my attention that there is a situation that is getting out of hand. It is interfering with the efficiency of the ship. Engineers are cringing whenever you come near them B'Elanna, and Tom, the pilots are complaining about the difficulty of the training they have to endure. Seven has offered a possible solution which I would like to discuss." The captain let her glance rest on everyone in the room. Commanders Chakotay and Tuvok looked quite comfortable as did Ensign Kim. Lt. Torres and Ensign Paris simply looked confused.

The captain addressed her next statement to me. "Seven, you have indicated an interest in pursuing a relationship with Ensign Paris."



"He is an officer of nearly equal intelligence level. We seem to have many compatible interests and I have checked the medical database. Any offspring would be of exceptionally high quality."

"Tom, how do you feel about this?"

Ensign Paris' face was a deep shade of red, "Captain, with all due respect, I don't think this is the forum for this discussion."

"This is the forum for anything that has to do with the efficiency of this ship."

"My efficiency rating hasn't been that bad." Tom was indignant.

Commander Chakotay entered the discussion, "You are training pilots to their maximum and have made it known that you want them to be ready so that if the opportunity to leave this ship presents itself you can do so with a clear conscience."

I noticed that Ensign Paris was no longer looking at Commander Chakotay. He was looking down at his hands which were clenched on the table. Lt. Torres was looking at Ensign Paris when the Captain addressed her. "B'Elanna, your engineering staff is in fear of their lives most of the time. Why is that?"

"I may be a little testy but they have no reason to fear for their lives. It's just a rough spot in our relationship." She was looking at Ensign Paris as she said this but he didn't appear to notice.

"Seven, how is the efficiency in Astrometrics?"

"At its peak, Captain. Why?"

"No problems with toes curling? No overpowering scents?"

"No, captain. When Mr. Paris walks into a room I do not notice any change in my physical reactions unlike Lt. Torres. We have kissed once but my toes did not curl. We have never slept together so I don't know if that is some place I would like to remain forever. None of the symptoms that Lt. Torres described seem to be afflicting me. Are you saying that my desire to pursue a relationship with Lt. Paris is inefficient due to this?"

"I don't know. Tom, what do you think?"

The captain's words had been directed at Ensign Paris but he seemed to have his attention riveted on Lt. Torres and his answer was a question to her. "Did you really say those things?"

"Yes, but..."

"But you didn't mean them?"

"Yes, I did."

"I have no honor to offer you."

"Tom, you are one of the most honorable men I have ever met. But why would you want to pursue a relationship with me?"

"You mean other than because you're beautiful, brilliant and fascinating?"

"So is Seven."

"Yes, but I'm not in love with Seven."

At this point in the conversation Captain Janeway nodded to Commanders Tuvok and Chakotay. They quietly stood and followed her to the door. Ensign Kim took my arm to lead me out also. I started to protest but he shook his head and pointed towards the door. It seems I had little choice but to follow.

It was an hour later when Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres finally came out of the briefing room. Strangely enough all of the bridge officers were still at their stations. Ensign Kim was giving his replacement a very detailed explanation of some anomalous readings that had occurred much earlier in the day. The captain and Commander Chakotay were tense and ill at ease, discussing minor details of today's reports. Ensign Paris and Lt. Torres seemed startled to find so many officers on the bridge.

Ensign Kim broke the awkward silence, "Are you two okay?"

Ensign Paris, Tom, smiled at Lt. Torres and then at Ensign Kim, "Yeah, we're fine. But I'm looking for a best man. Are you interested?"

The captain seemed particularly pleased with this question and walked over to embrace Lt. Torres, who looked embarrassed. But she also looked happy. I don't think her engineering crew has anything to worry about right now. Ensign Kim and Commander Chakotay joined in the embracing. Even Commander Tuvok looked pleased, for a Vulcan that is. Ensign Paris left the group after a few minutes. I noticed that he communicated his intention to Lt. Torres without words. I felt a stab of loneliness as I watched them. They did have something special together.

Ensign Paris came over to my workstation, "Seven, I hope you know that I really was just trying to be your friend. I never meant for you to believe it could go any further."

"I understand, Ensign. I still don't understand all the rules of human mating rituals but I appreciate the help that you have been able to give me."

"You're welcome. That's what friends are for." He smiled at me then but I noticed that it was not the smile he reserves for Lt. Torres. The smile when he returned to her side was very different. 

Ensign Kim came over and asked me if I would like to accompany him to the messhall for dinner. I considered telling him that I did not need oral nutrition at this time but instead I agreed to go with him. For some reason I did not want to be alone. 

When we reached the messhall he picked up a tray for each of us and asked me what I would like to try. None of the offerings looked very appetizing and as I considered the selection a craving came to me, a craving for chocolate. Mr. Kim looked perplexed when I answered his question by requesting chocolate. But then he smiled. "Seven, you have no idea how human you really are."

He replaced the trays and walked over to the replicator. "Two hot fudge sundaes."

We were eating our sundaes when I asked Mr. Kim, "Why did I feel a sudden need for chocolate?"

"It's called comfort food, Seven and it works as kind of an anti-depressant."

"Why would I need an anti-depressant?"

"I would guess there were some feelings of rejection. You were making a play for Tom and he chose B'Elanna instead. How does that make you feel?"

"I felt that Ensign Paris was the logical choice for a partner but if he doesn't feel that way then it would be an inefficient use of my time to pursue the matter."

"Yes, Seven, but how does that make you feel?"

I didn't seem to be enjoying my ice cream as much as I thought I would. "On the bridge I experienced something that I thought might be loneliness. I think I might have been a little jealous of the happiness that I saw in their faces." 

Ensign Kim didn't laugh as I suspected he would. He nodded in understanding. "I know what you mean. Tom and B'Elanna are my best friends and now they share something that I can't be a part of. I'm a little lonely too."

"Would another ice cream sundae help? I have plenty of replicator rations."

"Thanks, Seven, but one is my limit. Would you like to do something?"

"Ensign Kim, do you feel that we can cancel each other's loneliness by interacting?"

"It's worth a try, don't you think?"

"Yes, I think I would like to try."

Perhaps I should check the medical database for Ensign Kim's records.

The End