by: Heather Cook
rated: PG-13 (K/7, some P/T)
Thanks: Jinny, for reading, and for putting with me and all my hare-brained ideas; to Jonathan, for everything; and to Jacquie, for starting the story set in the first place.
Legal Mumbo-Jumbo: Paramount owns these characters, and unfortunately, I never will. *sigh* So, no lawsuits please, I'm only trying to entertain myself and my email friends...
Author's Note: This is part of a larger work in progress...the other parts may be found at the links that I will provide at the end. WARNING! Some of the related materials are R and NC-17! If you are not 18, DO NOT read them. For the purposes of this story, Harry Kim is still known as Harry, but I decided that Annika is more in keeping with the tone of the story than 7of 9. So Annika it is! And now, on with the story...
Harry and Seven were off-duty, and on their way to the mess hall to sample Neelix's latest culinary experiment.
"I still do not understand why everyone eats Mr. Neelix's food if it is so bad. Would it not be more efficient to find another person to cook?" Seven looked puzzled, and if the truth were to be told, more than a little apprehensive. She was going to eat Neelix's food for the first time, and listening to the crew talk about the offerings had filled her with doubts as to the intelligence of the operation.
Harry had to grin at the look on Seven's lovely face; her brow was furrowed and her mouth pursed as if she could already taste the Talaxian's cooking. "Come on Seven, its not as bad as all that. I eat in the mess hall all of the time, and I'm still alive. Its just that some of the food looks strange, or tastes odd. It is hard for us, to be so far from home, and to not be able to have familiar things to eat or drink very often."
Seven pondered this for a moment, and then continued with, "But you just said that you eat in the mess all of the time. Does this mean that you do not require familiar food?"
"No, Seven, it doesn't. I just choose to use my replicator rations for other things."
"What other things?"
Harry flushed a brilliant scarlet, and stammered out a reply. His mind was racing as he tried to think of a way to change the subject with out being obvious. He didn't want Seven to find out that he was the person who had been leaving the fresh cut flowers at her work station in Astrometrics...
She had looked puzzled the first time that she had come across the gift, and Harry had heaved a sigh of relief when she sniffed at the bouquet, and a smile had spread across her face. After some inquiries that had not revealed the identity of the sender, Seven had spoken to the Doctor, who had in turn explained to her that sometimes a gift giver chose to remain anonymous. He counseled her to accept the gifts if they made her happy, and to not worry about the giver's identity. He himself had an idea of who the giver was, but he wisely decided that Ensign Kim would tell Seven about the flowers when he was ready...
Harry was thinking that maybe he should tell her soon, so that he wouldn't have to divert the conversation every time someone mentioned the flowers, or the replicators...
"Ensign. Ensign Kim?"
Lost in thought, Harry didn't answer.
Seven placed her hand on his arm, and called, "Harry."
As soon as she touched him, he stopped dead in his tracks, causing Seven to bump into him. He heard what she had called him, but he had to be sure. Turning to her, he asked, "What did you call me?"
"When you did not answer me, I thought to get your attention by calling you Harry. Was that not correct?"
"Yes. In fact, it would be correct for you to call me Harry when we are not on duty." He could still feel her hand on his arm, the skin beneath his uniform tingling at her touch. She looked so...unsure...as she looked up into his eyes. He thought that she had never looked more beautiful and right then, all he wanted to do was kiss her. He could feel himself begin to blush, and his head began to inch closer to Seven's. He noticed that her eyes began to dilate, and she licked her lips. She began to tip her head and Harry slid his hands up her arms to her shoulders.
At that moment, a laughing Tom and B'Elanna rounded the corner, and stopped dead in their tracks as Harry and Seven jumped apart guiltily. Tom's mouth fell open, while B'Elanna merely smiled as she used the gentle pressure of her index finger under Tom's chin to close his mouth.
"Ummm, hi. We aren't interrupting anything are we? Ow! B'Elanna what was that for?" Tom was clutching his right hand in his left, and looking at B'Elanna in some confusion. "I think you broke it."
"Oh, come here you big baby, and let me see. Can you move your fingers, make a fist?"
Tom wiggled his digits and curled his hand into a fist, wincing as he did so.
B'Elanna smiled, and told him, "It's not broken, flyboy, so quit whining."
As Tom and B'Elanna spoke, Harry and Seven's breathing returned to normal, and Harry could feel his heated cheeks begin to return to their normal color. Bless you B'Elanna, he thought, as he watched them banter. You always seem to know when I need Tom to back off. He risked a glance at Seven, and saw that she was again wearing that puzzled look that he had come to know so well. She had been confronted with yet another part of humanity that she didn't understand. Maybe later he would be able to explain, and finish with a demonstration...
B'Elanna grabbed Tom and pulled him in the direction of the mess hall, and Harry and Seven fell in step behind them. The only sound as the foursome continued on to the mess hall was Tom and B'Elanna's chatter; Harry and Seven were each struggling to regain their composure and to figure out what to do next.
As they arrived at the mess hall, the doors parted and all hell broke loose. A sudden drop in pressure and a whoosh of cold air assaulted everyone in the corridor and those that were just inside the room. As she turned to see what the problem was, B'Elanna was terrified when she saw Harry and Seven of Nine disappear in a flash of light.
Her first thought was that Q was back, and playing some awful joke. Slapping her commbadge, B'Elanna said "Captain, Harry and Seven of Nine just disappeared."
"What do you mean disappeared?" Janeway asked.
"They were right in front of me, and then there was a flash of light, and they were gone, Captain," B'Elanna answered.
"Computer, locate Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine," Janeway commanded.
"Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine are not on board, Captain, " came the answer.
"Is anyone else missing?"
"All other crew members are accounted for, Captain," the computer answered.
"Captain, I have found no anomalous readings on or outside the ship and no sign of the Ensign or Seven of Nine," Tuvok said.
The Captain looked around the bridge. "What is going on here?"
"They didn't disappear until we entered the nebula. It's logical to assume their disappearance is connected to it." Tuvok said. "Maybe we should alter course and leave the nebula, Captain."
"Not without Harry and Seven of Nine, we won't." Looking around the bridge at her crew, Janeway said, "Senior officers, meeting at 2200 hours. I want some answers."
Tom and B'Elanna looked at each other. Realizing that they had a few hours to find their friends, and some answers for the Captain, they turned as one in the direction engineering, dinner forgotten.
Harry was sure that the pounding of his heart could be heard above the ceremonial music in the bonding chamber. It seemed that the steady thump-thump had been getting louder as the minutes passed, and now he was sure that his family and the others could hear it. Harry turned to look at his mate, covered in heavy veils, and wondered if she was as nervous as he was. He couldn't tell. Her hands were calm and still, her back ramrod straight, and her head held high. Annika looked straight ahead, and her voice was clear and precise when she was required to give a response. He watched her calm performance and had to conclude that she was either not nervous or just really good at hiding it.
Harry brought his attention back to the matter at hand; the final blessings were being spoken, and the acolyte was binding their hands together. Harry was puzzled by the slick metal that his fingers encountered in her grasp, until he remembered that she was enhanced for computer interfaces. As the final knot was tied, Annika squeezed his hand and Harry tightened his grasp reflexively. The ceremony was at an end, and as one Harry and Annika turned to lead the procession out of the temple and into the gardens, fingers woven in a tight and unbreakable grasp.
The dinner seemed to go on forever, and if it was possible, Harry seemed to get even more nervous. His palm was slick against Annika's, and he couldn't eat. Two thoughts were chasing each other through his head. What if they didn't like each other? And what if he liked her, but she didn't like him? A lifetime was too long if your bond- mate was someone that you didn't like. Harry saw this as the biggest problem with how Saarlians were mated. When a child reached the age of twelve two things happened: they were assigned a posting, where they would perform duties to better society, and they were matched with their bond mates. Neither of the children was consulted, nor were they allowed to see or speak to their bond-mates. This meant that some matings were not happy, usually because the two were not compatible, but sometimes merely because one found the other unattractive. Harry hoped that he would be able to rise above his disappointment if Annika proved to be unattractive, but he had heard that she was tough to get along with-brusque and somewhat blunt. Couple that with an unattractive woman, and Harry thought that he would go crazy...
Still bound together, Annika and Harry were led to their quarters. Their mothers accompanied them, and helped to settle them. As the women left, Harry could feel the tension leave Annika's body. She reached up with her free hand and pulled the veils from her face. "I have always thought that it was unfair that the woman is able to see her bond-mate during the bonding ceremonies, and that the man had to wait until after the deed is done." She looked into Harry's eyes, and continued. "Am I pleasing?"
Harry couldn't believe his eyes....she was breathtaking. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a twist, swept away from a face that defied description. Eyes bluer than the sacred waters of the River Saarlia stared at him, unblinking in a sea of pale translucence. Her generous mouth was a delicate pink, the same shade as the sky at sunset. She reached up to rub self consciously at the implant above her left eye, and Harry's glance was drawn to the gesture. Again his eyes made the slow circuit from her hair to her mouth, as he said, "Yes, you are very pleasing."
"Then why are you just sitting there? Have I done something wrong?"
"Ummm...I just thought that we could ummm, you know, talk, get to know each other before we, ummm...." Harry could feel his face getting red just thinking about it, and he wished that he wasn't so inexperienced when it came to sex. All of his friends had either gone to "professionals" or were married. He supposed that a man of twenty six turns who only had sex once was odd, but he had not wanted to turn sex into something cheap, and so he was nervous and unsure of what to do next. This could be a disaster, Harry thought to himself. She probably has tons of experience, and is just wanting the whole thing to be over.
Looking at him, Annika seemed to notice his nervousness for the first time, and said, "Yes, I believe that talking and getting to know each other would be beneficial. Proceed."
Her tone was all business, and Harry snapped to attention. With a start he noticed that she was abrupt, her voice and speech patterns shaped in clipped and short bursts. Not much for pleasantries was the first thought that flashed into his mind. The next was a mental slap....stop it Harry, maybe she *is* just as nervous as you...maybe this how she expresses it.
"Ummm, would you like me to play my clarinet for you? I play for the symphony." Great. Where had that come from?
"Yes, Harry, that would be nice. But don't you need both hands to play? We are to remain bound until we have sealed the bond." Raising their clasped hands, Annika looked doubtful.
Winking, he replied, "I won't tell if you won't."
A genuine smile crossed her face at this, and her eyes lit up as she reached to pull tug at the silken cord that held their hands together. At the same moment, Harry reached for the tasseled end and their fingers met. Harry pulled away as though burned, and a look that Harry couldn't define crossed over Annika's face.
He mumbled an apology and again reached for the knots that held him to her. This time when their skin touched, Harry managed to keep his hand in place, but his indrawn breath again caused Annika to look at him strangely. He wasn't sure, but he thought that she was upset by his reaction. He himself was puzzled; he had held her hand all day, and not felt this searing heat shooting into him...why should now be any different?
Annika was far from upset; as a matter of fact, she too felt as though Harry's skin was burning her when they touched. She wasn't sure how to deal with this new sensation. Her first impulse was to catalog it, put it away to study later, but she realized that this was important, and she mulled it over as she watched Harry's fingers fumbling with the ties at their wrists. She had held his hand all day, but there hadn't been this intensity in that touch. Perhaps the reason was that when they were holding hands it was a mutual clinging, for support. This touch was different somehow...it was gentle and unanticipated, smooth fingers against smooth fingers. That's when she realized what the difference was...this touch was of skin on skin, not of skin onto computer interfaces.
At this revelation, her eyes shot up to his, and she reached up with her free hand to caress the side of Harry's face. The contact was like a jolt of electricity, and both she and Harry sucked in a deep breath of air. His fingers stopped moving at their wrists, and his eyes closed as he smiled. When she saw his expression, Annika slid her hand up along his jaw to the curve of his ear and into his hair, watching his mouth twitch as she did so. His eyes popped open when she stopped, and his startled eyes locked onto hers.
"Annika, I...why did you do that?"
She was confused; why she was feeling like this, with him, she didn't know. She had only just met him and yet, she felt as though she had known him forever. She hedged, giving herself time to process the emotions she was feeling. "I am unaccustomed to tactile sensations. Much of my time is spent with the computers, and there aren't many chances to...interact...with others. I am sorry if I was too forward--"
"No!" Harry lowered his voice when she jumped. "No...you don't have to apologize. It was...nice. I just wasn't expecting it is all." He turned his head, and placed a chaste kiss into her palm.
The quick spike of heat that went from Annika's hand to her center seemed to be blossoming outward; she could feel the flush that was creeping over her skin, and the room's temperature seemed to increase exponentially. She turned away from Harry as surprise was followed by something...else. His full lips remained against her palm, and his hand rose to encircle her wrist when she tried to pull away. He inhaled her scent and tightened his grip on her before kissing her hand again. Dropping her hand, he quickly untied their hands and stepped away.
As Harry released her, Annika wanted to cry out, to stop him, to beg him not to leave. She felt foolish as she realized that he was only moving to where he kept his clarinet. She watched as he opened the case, and deftly put the instrument together before turning to her and asking what she wanted to hear.
Annika prayed her voice would remain steady as she replied. "Anything. I don't know that much about music, so I will let you choose." She suppressed a sigh of relief as her voice behaved, and closed her eyes to think as Harry began to play.
He chose a sweet lilting piece whose notes seemed to fall from the air. The gentle sounds were the background to Annika's confused thoughts...
She was frightened by the intensity of her physical reactions. She had been telling the truth when she told Harry that she was unused to physical contact. Since she had been chosen for augmentation, and begun to interface with the computers, she had experienced very little interaction with people who were *there*. There were plenty of people that she "touched" in the interface, and she was actually uncomfortable without the sound of their voices in her head...Everyone in the interface was the same; nameless, designated by a number only, and sexless, neither male or female. She liked the feeling of belonging, and the comfortable ease that she experienced in the link. She had expected to feel alone with Harry, but these other feelings were something else entirely.
To prepare herself for the bonding, she had accessed the databanks on sex and procreation. The data had been laid out in clear terms, and Annika felt that she knew all that she needed to know. But this...what was this? The databanks hadn't said anything about these...feelings. She didn't understand why her heart was racing, or why her skin had tingled when Harry touched her. Just thinking about the feel of Harry's lips in her palm triggered another wave of heat to surge through her; she was confused and needed to understand what was happening to her. Wishing that she was more experienced with males, she continued to analyze the situation...Thinking back, she realized that she hadn't felt this way when the male acolyte had touched her while binding their hands at the bonding ceremony; she also hadn't felt this way when Harry's mother had taken her arm to guide her to this room...this was troubling. She could only conclude that her reaction was caused by her proximity to Harry.
Annika realized that he had begun to play something else, and she opened her eyes to watch as he played. He looked happy, content. His deep brown eyes were shining, and his skin was flushed. The graceful play of his muscles under his shirt was intriguing, and Annika wanted to know how they felt as they moved. Rising, she crossed to him and ran her fingers up his arm, and around to his back. The flex and release under her hand was interesting and Annika continued in a circle around Harry's stool, running her finger tips along his muscles as she walked.
Harry's eyes had widened as she crossed the room to where he was sitting and his fingers faltered when she touched him. As she continued around him, he stopped playing all together.
"Why did you stop?"
"Ummm...I...mmm, what you're doing its...I mean I can't concentrate--" He broke off as her hand stilled in his shoulder, and he flushed as he blurted out, "Don't stop! I mean, that feels nice..."
Harry's answer was confusing, and Annika didn't know how to proceed. She removed her hand and began to back away. With a quickness that startled her, Harry reached out and grabbed her hand. Dropping his clarinet, he pulled until Annika fell across his lap.
Wide blue eyes widened even further, and her breathing quickened as Harry lowered his mouth to hers.
Part three is coming soon; it may take a little while, as there are two versions (PG-13, and NC-17)