DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. However, I sure wish that Paramount would create a new Star Trek series of good quality that would keep the idea alive so that we Fan Fiction writers don't have to do all the work. :)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There are several sex scenes in this story. On top of that, sex is talked about. However, this story is not just sex (talk). It simply turned out to be a good base to build on other stuff. Note that this story deals with a relationship that has a more dominant and a more submissive partner. However, this is not Dom/sub by any stretch. This is merely two people that fit well together where BOTH people have an equal say in their relationship, just that they prefer to fulfill different roles in said relationship. Also, note, the Delaney sisters are in this story and they are close. Very close. So close that some people might have a problem with it, but rest assured it's not so close as some Voyager people would wish it to be. :P On a side note, Tal Celes also has a pretty decent role in this story. If you read some Voyager Fan Fiction, you will probably know her because she is very often featured as a supporting character. But when I was checking out her bio, I discovered that she has actually only been seen in two, count them, two, episodes. My point here is I find it interesting how some characters can just stick with you and appeal to so many; not just Tal, but also the Delaney sisters or Ro Laren. (Ro is not in this story, just using her as an example for this side note.) She was also in only a few episodes of TNG yet everyone pretty much knows her. But on the other hand, characters like Tuvok and Neelix are often nothing more than just mentioned because they are part of the main cast and therefore basically have to be mentioned. Strange.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To mhw.weckseler[at]gmail.com

Twenty-five to Life
By H.W.


Chapter 19

Day twenty-one. (Early morning)

The chime kept ringing, waking B'Elanna. She looked at the temptingly naked blonde beside her and despite the early call, B'Elanna grinned at her wife. "Hey my wonderful be'nal. Would I be right when I guess that it's about fifteen minutes to six?"

"Close enough," Seven agreed before kissing her wife, both of them continuing to ignore the chime. "It is eleven minutes before six."

B'Elanna laughed and stretched. "I knew it."

The chime sounded once more.

"It is interesting," Seven said thoughtfully. "Before we came across this planet I considered Tom Paris close to irrelevant. He was only relevant in the way that he is a good pilot and very capable of translating my sometimes very elaborate course suggestions. But now, in only a few weeks he has become a good friend and somebody whose presence I would miss in my life if our ways were to part for some reason."

The chime once again and Seven smiled before adding, "And now I am also starting to appreciate his ability of finding that line. He knows that coming here so early will annoy you, but he also knows that coming here earlier would truly anger you."

"Yeah," B'Elanna agreed. "That's why I love his friendship so much. Having friends that are more... conservative... than you is a good thing. Harry is a good example of this. Harry is safe, Harry is fun to spend time with. But you need at least one friend that just pushes the line. That always wants to see how far he can go. That sometimes goes a little bit too far, but you are eager to accept that because, damn it, being around him is so much fun."

"And Tom Paris is that person," Seven said in understanding.

"Alright, let's get this over with," B'Elanna said as the chime sounded again. She slipped out of her lover's arms and out of the bed and moved out of the bedroom. She didn't bother with getting dressed. Instead she simply took the bathrobe that Seven usually wore at night. She put it on while she walked into the living room and went to stand in front of the door, not bothering to tie the robe closed before giving the open command.

"What?" B'Elanna said only playing annoyed because she knew damn well who was standing at the other side of the door.

"B'Elanna, you are..." Tom started angry, only to finish weakly, "... naked."

"No I'm not," B'Elanna disagreed, trying very hard not to laugh. "Besides, you have seen me nude often enough so don't start playing the moral high ground here. Now, get in and tell me what you want."

Tom entered and was just about to turn back to B'Elanna when he saw a completely naked Seven walking from the corridor to the kitchen.

"Jesus, what's up with you people?" Tom asked as he turned away a little. But B'Elanna couldn't help but notice that he only turned so much that he could probably still see Seven from the corner of his eyes.

"Stop looking at my wife, Tom. Or else I might have to hit you... again." She walked past him and into the kitchen where Seven was busy preparing breakfast.

"Get in here," she shouted, indicating that Tom should join them in the kitchen. When he came in, she pointed at a chair before sitting down herself.

"In case you forgot, you woke us. So don't be surprised that we walk around in our own damn home the way we damn well want to."

"Um, well, um," Tom started, not really sure what to do. He was married now, he loved his wife, he was going to be a father soon. But damn it, B'Elanna was sitting straight across from him with her bathrobe hanging open and showing so much of those wonderful breasts that he had touched with so much pleasure so often before. And on top of that, Seven was walking around the kitchen nude.

Finally B'Elanna couldn't restrain herself anymore and started to laugh. Looking at Seven she said, "You are a bigger troublemaker than me, my lovely wife. Running around naked, making things... hard... for poor Tom."

"I do not think Tom minds too much," Seven said, turning to face them, "I distinctly remember him talking to some of the Voyager crew about coming up with a way to get me into a bikini, or less."

B'Elanna slowly turned from Seven to Tom, all traces of humor gone from her face.

Seeing her wife's reaction to her words, Seven decided to defuse the situation before it could become problematic. "He was merely playing his part."

"Playing his part?" B'Elanna asked, turning back to look at the blonde.

"As in, acting like the womanizer that wants to sleep with every woman on the ship," Seven elaborated. "In that same discussion he also talked about how he sure wouldn't mind seeing you like that either; or preferably naked. And it was at a time, I now know he had done far more than merely see you naked."

"Ah," B'Elanna said in understanding. "One of those innocent corridor discussions people have that don't realize that you can hear a fly breathing from ten kilometers away."

"One of those," Seven agreed before reminding, "In any case, I am merely keeping the promise I make to you last night. I promised you that I would make you breakfast this morning in the buff, as you called it."

"Hmm, that's right, you did," B'Elanna agreed. "I just didn't know that we would have a guest this morning."

"You should have known," Seven accused mildly. Then she kissed her wife and then continued with preparing breakfast.

B'Elanna shook her head amused and turned to look at Tom again. "Well Tom, as you can see, a side effect from Seven and I being in a relationship is that my lovely be'nal discovered that she actually likes being a sexy Lady of the House more than being the cold and emotionless former Borg drone. Personally I can't blame her, though I sincerely hope that she won't start running around nude in front of people all the time."

"I will not," Seven assured as she started to put plates on the table.

Tom noted that the blonde had also put a plate in front of him. He still had to eat breakfast at home and was about to decline when he realized that maybe it was not such a bad idea to have breakfast with his friends, since seeing Seven, the woman he had more than one fantasy about in the past, walking around naked had indeed made things hard for him. If he was lucky she would get dressed before he had to leave.

"However," Seven continued, "knowing that the two of you have been lovers, I figured that it was alright if he saw me nude."

She looked at Tom directly before admitting, "I wanted to see how comfortable I would be with somebody else but my lover and the Doctor seeing my body." She smiled. "You were my test subject, and I think I like the reaction."

She looked at B'Elanna before continuing, "It helped in making me understand more what you said one of the first times you saw me naked, the first times we now remember. I asked you about my implants, and how they affected my looks, and you said that you had not even noticed them. I thought that to be an exaggeration, yet it seems that Tom had a similar reaction."

Coincidentally, B'Elanna had turned back to face Tom, so she was perfectly situated to see his reaction to Seven's words. The trace of shock, the eyes once more going to Seven, drifting over the body, taking in the curves, the angles that so many had dreamed about, and yet, just like B'Elanna that day, only seeing the implants now. She smirked before asking, "It's interesting, isn't it? Seven is so sexy to look at, that you miss the implants. And when you are reminded of them, you see them, and it makes her only all the more sexy."

Tom cleared his throat. "It's um, I guess, it's the rarity of it. It's kinda like seeing an alien, and no matter what, most of them look sexy."

B'Elanna nodded. "Have a Human with a deformed head and people will pity her, have a Klingon for mother, and people want to get you into bed because you must be a wild one."

"You can be," Seven teased before asking, "You suggested I wear other clothing. Clothing that shows off my natural looks. Would you mind if some of them were... daring?"

"Daring?" B'Elanna repeated.

"Yes, for instance if I have to wear a more formal dress, I think I would like one with a deep cut in the front to show some of my breasts." As she said this, Seven used a finger to trail a V shape from her shoulder to her breastbone and then back up to the other shoulder.

"Tease people with a divine cleavage, you mean," B'Elanna corrected amused.

"With the right clothing, yes," Seven agreed. "Though I do see that it should be clothing where a cleavage is part of the design and makes it whole, instead of the design being nothing more than an excuse to show a cleavage. If I have to wear a swimsuit on the other hand, I think I would like a bikini, a small bikini. The kind Tom and his friend back then were talking about. Things like that."

B'Elanna nodded eagerly. "I think that's a great idea. I like showing you off, I like people to know what a beautiful wife I have. As long as you keep it within the line where I don't have to start knocking people senseless."

"I will," Seven assured.

B'Elanna curled her finger at the blonde while she herself stood up. She kissed her wife passionately while cupping and then softly squeezing one of the ample breasts. They broke apart with Seven quickly stealing another small kiss. B'Elanna took off the bathrobe and handed it to the blonde. "There, put that on before poor Tom explodes."

"And he will not explode from you being nude now?" Seven asked amused as she put on her bathrobe.

"Well, at least me he has seen nude often enough that despite liking what he sees he will be able to get up in a couple of minutes." She winked at her friend. "Right Tom?"

Tom shook his head and decided not to answer, to the question at least. "Remind me to not come over this early in the morning next time. The two of you could kill a man."

The luck of timing made sure that Seven happened to be at the table to put a plate with pancakes down. B'Elanna pulled her close and onto her lap. They kissed again and Tom was once more treated to seeing a breast being fondled for a moment.

"Yes, we sure could kill a man," B'Elanna agreed. "But we prefer each other and don't like to share. So we stick to each other. And guys... or any other gender for that matter... are shit out of luck."

She leaned down a little and flicked her tongue over a too tempting nipple before sucking the bud into her mouth; making Seven hum in approval.

Finally she let the bud go and pointed at Tom with a grin. "And that, my friend was a goodbye present for what we had between us. Don't expect to ever see anything like that again. Well, maybe you'll see Seven nude or in her bathrobe again somewhere in the future if you happen to come by at the right time; we really do like to be comfortable around the quarters. But I just want you to know for sure that you will never see any fun and games, if you know what I mean."

Tom lifted his hands. "I know what you mean, and believe me, I'm fine with that. I never thought that I would say this, but it's really true. I have a wife I love, and she's all the woman I need. But thanks for the present... now I need to explain to my wife why I'm horny as hell when I get home."

B'Elanna laughed while Seven smiled. Both of them really liked the fact that Tom was at least honest enough to admit that he had liked what he had seen.

"Laugh it up," Tom said, pretending to be annoyed. "Just wait until my wife comes knocking because you were teasing her husband."

B'Elanna winked. "Well, she's a woman, maybe we would show her a little more."

"And now you are just mean," Tom persisted. Not wanting to become too serious, or sound whiny, he winked at Seven. "But just for the record, Seven, you are one hot lady. Hehe, I meant lady as in woman, but come to think of that, yes, my House truly does have one hot Lady."

"Thank you," Seven said sincere before getting up and finishing with preparing breakfast. As she was doing so, B'Elanna got up and quickly went to put on a bathrobe as well.

Once they were all sitting down and had their first pancake on their plates, Tom got to the reason that brought him to his friends so early in the morning. "And talking about House, do you have any idea at what time I went to bed yesterday, or better said today?"

"No, and I don't care," B'Elanna happily informed him. "Tom, you brought this on yourself when you started to run around asking people to join my House. So don't come crying to me now just because they contacted you when you want to sleep."

"Yeah, but you told them to contact me after work," Tom accused.

"I did," B'Elanna agreed. "And I sure enjoy telling them that. But Tom, as much as I enjoyed that, I also had to tell them that. The deal was, and is, that the House would not interfere with the running of the Fleet. And you talking for hours about the House while on duty is interfering with the Fleet. You have a job to do on Voyager. And just because you don't have much to do as pilot at the moment since we are merely orbiting on autopilot, that doesn't mean that you can spend on duty time for off-duty things. Sure, answering a question or two, that's something different; I do that too. But spending hours of on-duty time? No."

Then an idea came to her and she suggested, "Say, why don't you simply set aside a few hours after work? After all, you wanted to be the promoter of the House."

"No I didn't," Tom disagreed. "You simply said that I was the House recruiter now. I was just talking to a few people before that."

"A few people?" B'Elanna repeated. "You might just as well have sent out an 'invitation all' message. People are practically standing in a freaking line to join the House."

"Maybe some leniency is called for," Seven suggested. "With most people he talked to, even I would not have realized the ramifications of it if I had been in his position. Talk to a cook while getting some food? I did that myself. Talk to Jennifer and Megan? It is well known that Tom is good friends with the Delaney sisters. I myself would consider them my friends too, just that Tom is closer to them than I am at this point. Therefore it is not surprising that he would talk to them about this new twist in his life."

Seven hesitated before adding, "If you think about it, if he had actually planned this it might not have worked as effectively because he would probably have approached other people first. People that seem like a logical choice but would not necessarily increase the number of people that want to join our House with more than one person. Harry for instance, or Chakotay."

"Alright," B'Elanna relented. "Fine, Tom, you are lucky in the fact that I can see Seven's point. Jennifer and Megan, the cooks, just some people to talk to. No way for you to know what the result of that little talk would be. But what about Olik and Kinal?"

Tom lifted his hands in defense. "That wasn't planned. Come on, B'Elanna. I see this huge tattooed guy asking directions to the mess-hall. I figured that since I was going for a snack anyhow, I might as well show him the way. We started talking while we were walking. And before I truly knew what was happening I was suggesting to him and his sister that maybe joining the House would be of interest to them. I had no idea that they were Clan. Hell, at that point I didn't even know anything about Clans. And most certainly not that they were part of the biggest Clan around."

Tom sighed. "B'Elanna look, I truly do like the idea of the House and I'm more than willing to put a few hours of my time in. Hell, now that I have a wife that I love madly I don't feel the urge to play on the holodeck as much anymore as I did before. I need a hobby I can do at home. I feel comfortable at home now instead of cooped up like before. I could make the House that hobby. But I don't want to be contacted throughout the day whenever people feel like it."

"Why do you not use the social network?" Seven asked while pouring some syrup over her pancake.

"The what?" B'Elanna and Tom asked at the same time.

"The social network," Seven repeated. Seeing the confusion, she explained, "The Urdians realized long ago that not every message, not all information, was of the 'need to know now' kind. So they dedicated a certain percentage of the computer networks to the purpose of people contacting each other to improve social interaction."

B'Elanna grinned before teasing, "Seven, baby, that's called a comm. link."

Seven rolled her eyes. "Funny. What I mean is that this system is more designed for those occasions where contacting somebody directly over comm. link is actually something you do not want to do. For instance, if you know that your friend is probably asleep. You can then leave a message on the social network. Your friend will then get the message when they contact the social network the next time. One of the interesting things about the social network is that messages can be accessed in two ways. You can contact the computer verbally and then hear the message that has been recorded for you. In that case you will hear the voice of your friends. But you can also access a social network from a computer station or PADD. If you do that then you have the option of listening to the messages or having the computer translate the message into text."

"Hey, that doesn't sound too bad," Tom said clearly brightening at the idea. "People could leave me messages there and I could get back to them when I have the time."

"But at that time they might actually be the ones that are unavailable," B'Elanna reminded.

"You can do a lot more than merely leave messages," Seven said as she got up. "Excuse me for a moment."

B'Elanna and Tom looked at the blonde leaving the kitchen. Then Tom turned back to look at his friend and winked. "The two of you are really cute together. I can't believe that only a few weeks ago you were talking about hating her and saying that I was crazy for suggesting that maybe you should give staying married a try."

B'Elanna grinned. "Yeah, I would have much rather died then marrying that irritating, obnoxious, self-absorbed, cold, heartless bitch that I got to know on Voyager. But you know what? It didn't take me long to find out that this person never existed. The problem was that Seven and I started off on the wrong foot and things went quickly downhill from there. Mind you, she was just as much to blame than me for the hostility between us. But here, here we got another chance and this time we were both smart enough to take it. Kahless, I couldn't imagine my life without her now. She truly is the other part of my soul."

"As you are for me," Seven, who had just entered the kitchen again, said. She kissed the Klingon before assuring with a voice filled with emotion, "I love you my beautiful be'nal."

She set down beside her lover and put a PADD on the table. "Computer, link to the PADD lying on the kitchen table."

The computer and the PADD beeped at the same time and B'Elanna shook her head. "You got to love the Urdian's computer system. The computer of Voyager, well, the old computer, would merely have said 'insufficient data' and would have requested the serial number of the specific PADD in question. But this system just checks where you are to see what kitchen you are talking about, then checks your vicinity for a table, and then for a PADD lying on it, and knows what PADD you meant."

"Computer, use the PADD to access the social network," Seven said.

The PADD beeped once more and showed the words 'the social network' in front of a nicely decorated background. Seven browsed the different directories for a moment until she came across a familiar name.

"Brika has a directory on that thing?" B'Elanna asked the obvious.

"She and about half of the people of the Fleet," Seven pointed out. "Every person in the Fleet is allowed one location on the social network. A location is basically what you just called a directory. At that location you can have different areas, as they called that, where you can do different things. You would call them subdirectories I guess, but it is still all under one location. The core structure is called a location, which houses areas. A person can have only one location, but a virtually limitless amount of areas. I say virtually because it is limited by the amount of space taken up in the computer's storage crystals, and the Urdians have located a rather impressive number of crystals for the social network."

Seven stopped while she accessed several directories before speaking up again. "At the moment the user that takes up the most space clearly sacrificed their account to support their collective of like-minded people. The location is dedicated to a group that indulges in artistic painting. Yet, even though this is the biggest location on the social network, they only take up 0.006 percent of the space allocated to the social network."

"Well, data crystals don't take up much space," B'Elanna reasoned. "The Urdian ships are so big compared to Voyager that Voyager's old data core can be tucked away in somebody's closet. Let alone a secondary computer system with the more compact data crystals of the Urdian design."

"True," Seven had to agree. "We could create a location for our House, and then have different areas for different things. For instance, we could put the rules up so that the next time when somebody asks about just what being part of our House means, we can simply point them to the location of our House on the social network. We can also make a different location where we could put information about our recruiter, and at which times to contact him. And we could add an option for leaving messages for him."

"I like that idea, if you agree," Tom said while looking over different locations from different people. "Oh, look at this one. He has an area called 'what's new'. We could add that as well to inform people of new stuff, like Ina joining the House. We could even add an area where we could list all the members of the House."

B'Elanna nodded her head in agreement. "Alright, let's do that then. Since I'm the Lord of the House, let's use my... what do they call it again? Name, account, duh, my location of course. Let's use my location for the House. That way we can use Seven's location for if we want to set up something private that has nothing to do with the House. You approve my be'nal?"

"I do," Seven assured. "Though I would suggest that you give Tom clearance to change data on your location or else you will have to keep track of it and add all changes yourself. Somehow I think that you will not like maintaining this location while he will actually love doing so."

"Good point," B'Elanna agreed. Then she pointed at Tom. "As soon as we set up a location we'll let you know and we will set it up in such a way that you have... almost... unlimited access. Tom, Seven and I decided that we will do this House thing for real. So no goofing around with the location. No outrageous and bogus claims. You can use words to spin a pretty picture, but everything you say has to be true and hold up if someone decides to dig deeper to see if claims are true. Before the location goes live and for all to see we will go over the layout together and if you want to make some changes to the layout at a later point, we first want to see it."

She grinned. "Not that I don't trust you. I know that if you take this serious you will do a great job. It's simply that we might disagree on what should be put up and I don't want to be put in a position where I have to defend something that has been put up in the name of my House while I myself actually also disagree with it."

"Don't worry, I'll show you if I make some structural changes, so to speak." Tom puckered his lips before saying, "just to give you an indication. That Ina will join the House is something that I would have put up without asking you, once I was sure of course. But I would check with you before stating that she will train everyone that wants to be trained as long as they join the House."

B'Elanna nodded. "That's a good line, keep to it and you can knock yourself out with taking care of the House's location on the social network."

They ate a moment in silence before Seven said thoughtfully, "I wonder when we will reach the point of no return."

"The point of no return?" B'Elanna repeated in a questioning tone.

"The point where people join our House more because it is what 'everybody' is doing than because of because it is what they themselves truly want," Seven clarified.

"Half of the Fleet?" Tom guessed.

"I do not think so," Seven disagreed. "The 'everybody' in 'something that 'everybody is doing' can be a surprisingly small percentage if they are the right people. For instance, take the Clans. Percentage wise they are only a relatively small number of people of the entire Fleet. The Defense Force members make up an even smaller number. Yet the fact that both of these groups want to join our House does more for its notability than if five thousand people were to join us of the much larger percentage of people that is not affiliated in a group with clear name recognition. Depending on who else decides to join we might already be very close to that point of no return."

"The last time I checked, which is right before I came over here," Tom spoke up, "there were two-thousand-six-hundred people wanting to join the House. Numbers wise it's only thirteen percent, but if you look at the groups... Even if not everyone of that group wants to join, people are still going to say that 'everyone' of that group joined because such a big percentage of them did. And groups wise we have some very important groups wanting to join. We have the Clans, the Defense Force members,"

"You should really not underestimate the importance of the cooks," Seven interrupted. "True, they do not have the kind of position that demands respect for nothing more than the fact that they are part of a group. But they have something much more important. They have the ears of the people and virtually unlimited access to them. Even though the Urdians have embraced the replicator rations system, they still strongly encourage eating most of the meals in the mess hall because they realized that the mess halls are amongst the most important social interaction places on the ships. Going as far as making the mess halls the only places on the ship where you can get your food for free, and as much as you want of it. Even though the people in charge of the mess halls are called cooks, they are much more than that. They are the managers, the guardians, and yes, the cooks of the mess halls. As such they see everyone on this ship at least once a day, and often even twice or three times."

She nodded to the breakfast items in front of them. "Eating relaxes people. Because of that the cooks see them in an environment where people let their guard down, relax, are more susceptible to comments made in a 'by the way' manner. Even if the cooks do not actively approach people and suggest that they might want to join the House, there is still talk. Somebody at a table sitting nearby will hear them and exactly because nobody is actually trying to persuade them, they are all the more susceptible for indirect persuasion."

"True enough," B'Elanna agreed.

"Alright, but that's more long-term, we were talking right now," Tom reminded. "I'm not dismissing them as a group. Hell, I'm not dismissing anyone. To me everyone that approached me is a person, it's just that some of them talk for groups instead of just for themselves. And on the subject of groups, we also have Ina. True, technically she is, or will be, part of the Clans group. But her name is spreading like wildfire through the ships and gives a whole different angle... reason for joining... than the Clans themselves do. So much so that I consider her a group of influence all by herself. And as of last night we have another group that is relatively small in numbers but huge in impact. Go on guess who I am talking about. I give you a hint. We are talking about exactly three-hundred people; exactly fifteen per ship."

B'Elanna thought about it for a moment and then pointed at Seven when she saw the blonde opening her mouth. "You hush and let me think. It is not fair to simply compare the numbers with the crew manifest and then see of which there are exactly fifteen per ship."

"Why is it not fair to do something the easy way?" Seven reasoned. "In fact, you can do the very same thing by addressing the main computer. I merely skip the step of addressing the computer."

"Uh hu," B'Elanna replied with a grin. "Sure you do, and act all superior and 'oh look at me' while doing it."

"Acting superior is easy if you are superior to most," Seven said seriously before adding, "It is all part of the Borg package; just like it is another implant. We simply know that we are 'that' good."

"You know something?" B'Elanna asked, still grinning. "A month ago such a comment would have pissed me off to the extreme."

"And now?" Seven asked.

"And now? I love the fact that you are you and you are all mine, and comments like that make me hot and horny for my private Borg drone to the point that I'm seriously contemplating to kick Tom out and screw you right here on the table."

Seven looked at the table, then at Tom, and then back at B'Elanna with a thoughtful look. "Tempting."

B'Elanna barked a laugh while Tom snorted, before she asked, "I can't think of the answer. So why don't you impress me?"

"Very well," Seven said before she leaned in and treated her be'nal to a searing kiss that left the Klingon panting and in a bit of a daze.

"Impressed?" Seven asked with a deserved smug look on her face.

B'Elanna was very close to jumping the blonde but she remembered just in time that they had a guest. So instead she said it all with a single growl.

Seven smiled and brushed some hairs out of her lover's face with a surprisingly tender touch compared to the passionate kiss of mere moments before.

B'Elanna captured the hand and placed a kiss on the knuckles. "So, tell me, which group are we talking about?"

"The senior crews," Seven said.

"All of them?" B'Elanna asked Tom amazed, not even bothering to first ask him if her wife's guess had been correct.

"All of them," Tom affirmed.

"But surely not all of them can be really interested, I mean there are bound to be some of them that are not interested. Maybe..." B'Elanna let her words trail off, not really sure what to say.

"You alright, some of them aren't really that interested," Tom agreed. "About half of them are really interested in wanting to join, for different reasons. But they are the senior crews and have to think a little bit further than just themselves just now. They know that they as the senior crews have to portray a united front, so to speak. So since some people really wanted to join, and the ones that weren't that interested also didn't absolutely not want to join, they decided that all of them would join. Just that you will probably see more enthusiasm from some of them than the others."

He shrugged. "Which is also why they didn't mind the joining. After all, you can also join a House and then just sit back and basically ignore it if you want. Well, as long as you live by the rules. But my point is, even if you join you don't have to hugely change your way of living or put a lot of work in if you don't want to. So those senior crew members that aren't that interested simply join for the sake of that united front and then just basically leave it at that."

Tom hesitated before adding, "I guess you could say that this 'point of no return' thing already happened with them exactly because they are such a small group. It was Captain Aklian who came to see me last night in name of all the senior crews. Though he didn't say it with words as such, it was pretty clear to me that the others... well actually all of them... felt comfortable in joining because you have made it very clear that while there will be a House, this won't touch the command structure on the ships. They will still be the ones in charge, they will still be the ones that make sure that the ships and their crews are not misused."

"Well," B'Elanna said thoughtfully, "considering that we decided to fully go for it with the House I would say that the senior crews are a welcome addition. First of all its extra members, and second of all, I think that it will be a very good incentive for people that join just because others are, to actually give it their best. Because House or not, you don't want to be seen as slacking at anything when there is somebody of the senior staff standing right beside you doing the same thing without complaining. Speaking proverbially of course since it's not like giving them a task is really our job."

She grinned. "That is the beauty of it. We can have our House, while all that other stuff like ordering people to do jobs is part of Fleet business and therefore no business of ours."

"We are coming very close to having three thousand potential members," Seven reminded. "That means that soon we have to appoint a House Justice. Do you have any thoughts about who this could be?"

"A House Justice?" Tom asked before B'Elanna could reply. "What exactly does that mean?"

"When a House reaches a certain number of people a justice is appointed to mediate disputes between members of the House," Seven explained. "This is mostly done so that the Lord and Lady of the House do not have to deal with the smallest of disputes; their time is considered too valuable for that."

Tom nodded his head. "Yeah, I can see the point in that. It's kinda like those city courts back in the Federation. They only reside over small cases that are really unimportant to anybody but the people involved. But for the bigger cases people usually have to beam to the Provincial Federation Justice Center."

"Something like that," B'Elanna agreed. "But the fun part about a House Justice is that the Lord and Lady of the House select somebody based on what they want in a judge. And it's more important to select somebody that thinks along the lines of the general House mentality. In other words somebody that makes sure that what is 'right' is what the House considers right. And if the Lord and Lady think that the Judge's point of view has shifted too much over time, they can just fire them and appoint someone else because we are, if you want, the highest judge in the House."

"Oh that's fair," Tom said, the sound of his voice making it very clear that he actually meant the opposite.

B'Elanna shrugged. "Tom, we 'are' talking about a Klingon House. If you want fair and honest judgments then you have to go and find a Vulcan court, because even the Federation courts are influenced by their own mentality and idea of what's right and wrong. With a Klingon House it's more important that over all the House is seen as honest, honorable, proud, strong, glorious... oh and maybe fair along the way."

"Having said that," Seven spoke up, "since B'Elanna is the Lord of the House and I am the Lady, you can be assured that honesty and fairness to all House members is part of our credo."

"And so it is, because our Lady has decided that it should be so," B'Elanna said playfully before assuring Tom that she was fully behind her lover on this by stating, "what she said and then double."

"So, do you have any idea who this House justice should be?" Tom asked before adding with a grin, "I'm just asking out of my own curiosity here. I would only make something like this public House knowledge once you have spoken to that person and that person has agreed."

B'Elanna grinned as well. "You learn quickly, my friend. I knew I liked you for a reason. As for who this person should be... now that is quite complicated. As much as we are talking about a Klingon House, we have to keep in mind that we are actually a group of people existing out of all but Klingons. If it comes down to it I can be considered the only Klingon, but even there half of the people on Qo'noS would not consider me... um... Klingon enough to form my own House. But even for the ones that do consider me Klingon they can argue that there are only two Klingons in the House; me and my wonderful wife since she is married to me."

"But Qo'noS is very far away from here," Tom reminded. "So, your point being?"

"My point being," B'Elanna repeated, "that the House Justice has to be somebody that can understand the Klingon traditions we are basing the House on. That can also understand that pretty much every member of the House is, well, I guess you can say tainted, by the fact that they grew up in a society that in most cases never even heard of Klingons. So the Justice has to understand that in some cases where it's not really important for the House just what decision is made, that then the Justice takes the original upbringing in mind and basis judgments on that, while still having the House's best interest in mind. Not forgetting the fact that the other plaintiff might actually be from a whole different upbringing. And on top of this, that this Justice is also capable of forgetting for a moment the task this Justice has in the Fleet on a daily basis."

"So," Tom said before surmising, "you mean that if this Justice happens to be one of the Captains that this justice is willing to rule in a certain way even if this means that as a Captain they might miss a certain valuable member of their crew for a certain time."

"That pretty much covers it," B'Elanna agreed.

"What about my sister?" Seven asked. "I think that Kathryn will be very suited for such a position. As my sister she already is an Elder in the House. She has years of final decision making experience. She knows more about Klingon customs than most, if not all, of the new members of the House do. She has a firm grasp on the Federation rules that the Fleet will follow for the most part. Plus we already asked her to do a task for the House that compares, just on a smaller scale. She would look at the House rules and make sure that they are fair. Becoming the House Justice would merely be the next step in that task. And let us not forget that she has a partner who is very knowledgeable in the Urdian and Fleet laws who I am sure she will ask for advice on numerous cases."

"That's true enough," B'Elanna agreed. "After all, as we ourselves know from our time on Voyager, the words, 'this is classified don't discuss this with anyone', only lasts until you get home and your partner looks at you and asks concerned, 'what's wrong, tell me about your day'."

She puckered her lips in thought. "Yeah, I think you're right. Of all of the people in this Fleet she is the best suited to become House Justice. More so because she knows as nobody else that sometimes you have to make choices that are better for the group than for the individual who actually deserves a different choice."

"Um, I'm not really sure how to say this," Tom said slowly, "but you do remember that, um, Janeway has somewhat of a history of not making the best choices."

"You think we could have done any better in her place?" B'Elanna reasoned. "You have to keep in mind that in the end most of her choices worked out. Sure, there were moments where I was certain that it would be best if Kathryn would be put in some insane asylum. But in the end? Making an alliance with the Borg? That woman was insane, had to be. But in the end?"

B'Elanna softly caressed Seven's cheek, who leaned into the touch. "But in the end I am damn glad for the choices she made."

She continued, mentioning a few other occasions in which at the time all of them were pretty much questioning Janeway sanity. But each and every time eventually her choices worked out. It was a matter of discussion if they were the right choices, but they always work out.

"This is also not something we have to worry about this time," Seven reminded. "Because this time there is a higher power above her. If Kathryn does become the House Justice, then I as Lady of the House and especially B'Elanna as Lord of the House both out-rank her and can nullify any verdict she may have given in a trial concerning House members."

"You can?" Tom asked surprised.

"We can," Seven assured. "As stated before, the task of a House Justice is not to make all decisions for the House; it is to make all of those judicial decisions that are not considered important enough to take up time of the Lord and Lady of a House. And, though not stated before, if a House reaches the size where more than one Justice is needed, then the task of the House Justice shifts more to overseeing their work and handling those cases that are considered too important for lower judges but not important enough to bother the Lord or Lady of the House."

B'Elanna nodded her head. "The most important part through it all being that it's still Seven and me that makes the final decisions... if we want to."

"Of course, the big question is if she even wants that extra work," Tom reminded.

"I am almost certain that she will," Seven said confidently. "In fact, she will welcome the idea. Remember, even though Kathryn will join the house, she was not thrilled about the idea, to say the least. One of her main concerns is the fact that a House has, and makes, laws. She was worried that people would do things because the House demands it and in the process ignore their tasks for the Fleet. She was worried that the command of the House would outshine the command of the ships, if not even the Fleet. But as Justice of the House she will have a firmer control over that. We stated clearly how important the running of the Fleet is, so if people start ignoring the Fleet for the wellbeing of the House, she can actually use House law to reprimand or punish those individuals for not fulfilling their task to the house; which is keeping the Fleet that the House is a part of healthy."

"And we shouldn't forget that Kathryn is not someone to sit still," B'Elanna reminded. "Sure, she enjoys the occasional day off where she does nothing. But for the rest she enjoys a good day of work. Now that we are part of a Fleet, scurrying for resources is a general thing. More often than not it will now be the concern of another Captain or of the Captains as a group. Add to this that we now that we have a ship that is in top condition and a lot more automated than it was before, and you'll see that her job as Captain will take less time; about the amount of hours it actually says on PADD it should take. She will be itching to have something to do with the rest of her time. And what better than to settle disagreements and butt into people's business in a way that she is not allowed to as Captain because of privacy reasons?"

Tom grinned. Knowing only too well that besides being Captain, Janeway was still human, and she loved to know private things from people just as much as the next person. Just that normally she couldn't indulge in that because of her rank.

"Alright, that brings me to my next question," He said while he watched how Seven leaned in and licked away a drop of syrup that had dripped between B'Elanna's breasts where it was plain to see because B'Elanna had not bothered to close her bathrobe. She might have most of her breasts covered, but there was still a lot to see with an open hanging bathrobe. The he saw that once the syrup was gone, Seven started to lick up the side of one breast. "Oh for crying out loud, will you two stop it already. Good God, I feel like I just walked into one of my own holo-programs."

B'Elanna laughed and Tom was surprised to see Seven join in. Not just smiling or any of the other amused expressions he had seen the blonde use before. No, this was an unrestrained laugh at even made her bend forward a little as she slapped the table softly with her hand. As he watched the blonde, he realized that he was seeing the woman that had captured B'Elanna's heart. This wasn't the cold Borg with a hot body that everybody fantasized about getting in to bed. This wasn't the seductively graceful Lady of the House he had seen walking around naked not long before. This was the real Seven, the warm person that could charm you with nothing more than a smile or a laugh.

"Alright, alright," B'Elanna finally said. "I think we are pretty much done here now anyway. "I'll see about contacting Kathryn sometime today to see if she is interested in the job. So, House Promoter, anything else you want to bring up now before the House becomes so big that even our Promoter needs to make an appointment with us just to talk to us."

"Very funny," Tom said with a grin. "Actually, I don't have something else for right now, but I want to throw something out there for you to think about. Just how exactly are people going to join our House? I know that since it's something Klingon it will involve something with knives and blood for the inner circle. That is also what I told the few people that actually asked about how the joining was done. But in the text's I've been handing out it only says that there is a ritual to mark the joining. It's a bit vague and it would be nice if I could tell people a bit more than that. But as I said... it's unclear. Even in the database I couldn't find any precise description. I do know that I once saw something like someone joining a House in a holoprogram, but there it was nothing more than him being handed the House insignia. So, what is it exactly?"

"Um, I'm not sure," B'Elanna admitted before looking at her wife, certain that the blonde had studied quite some about Klingon tradition by now.

Guessing the unasked question, Seven said, "You are almost correct, in both cases. Someone joining the inner circle of a House, as you called it, goes paired with a lot of tradition. A ceremony, spilling of blood, things like that. Even if the ceremony is made up for the occasion, there has to be some blood. The important part is that it looks impressive, and like something that has been done like that for generations. Personally I like the fact that in this joining there is a spilling of blood. After all, if someone is not even willing to suffer the pain of a cut, do you really want them to be an important House member?"

"Good point," B'Elanna had to agree.

"But the further you move away from their inner circle, the less imposing the joining becomes," Seven continued. "Mere people that just join a House because they want or need to join a House, for them becoming a House soldier is an easy way to achieve that. For such people the initiation is indeed nothing more than just receiving some standard equipment like a House Uniform and some weapons. Along with that, they will also get the House crest to put on their uniform. These people will have to get the attention of the inner circle by their actions while in service of the House. In fact, it is not unheard that someone that has already received their crest when joining the house rises through the ranks until they reached a position where they become of influence. Then to mark that they are no longer just another House member, they then perform the joining ritual that includes the knife and blood just to show their dedication to the House. To show that they are more than just a hired hand that might decide to go work for another House next week."

"Hmm, then maybe we have to find some middle ground there," B'Elanna noted. "After all, they are joining the House as more than just hired hands; we are not hiring them. And while people can easily join another House with the Klingons, unless they are in an inner circle position, here they can't since there is no other House."

"Unless they decide to form their own House," Seven reminded. "Though not likely now because they decided to join our House, some of those groups might have decided to start their own House, down to where every group has their own House; like they are guilds of the profession."

"So... maybe some kind of Oath?" Tom suggested slowly. "That would also make it easier for so many people to join once the House goes active, so to speak. Groups can all say the Oath at once. And the best part is, that Oath is still active once they reach a stage where they can perform a second ritual once they become important House members."

"That could work," B'Elanna agreed. "And it would also fit for that inner circle. We say that same Oath, just that we then go further and spill some blood over it."

"Maybe there could be tradition where once this is done, members have the option to include a personal Oath after the spilling of blood," Seven suggested. "I would like to say something that reflects my position in the House."

"We could do that... we 'will' do that," B'Elanna agreed.

"Hey, now that we are talking about that stuff, care to explain something to me?" Tom suddenly asked. "How come that there are tons of Klingon traditions, so much that I had all the info I needed to explain to people just what a House is and what joining it means, but there is hardly anything written down on how one exactly joins a House."

"There is a lot written down," Seven disagreed. "However, that kind of information is written down in the chronicles of the separate Houses since the rituals are different per House. Once we have had the ceremony it will be Tal Celes' task as our House chronicler to write down these glorious rituals which we have done exactly according to long standing tradition and ancient texts."

"Long standing tradition?" Tom asked confused. "Which we first have to think up yet?"

Seven gave him a small tolerant smile. "Tom, we 'are' a Klingon House. We are allowed to boast, enhance, and rewrite history. As such the words, 'um ritual, there has to be a ritual' is covering both the long standing traditions and the ancient texts, for even millennia ago there were Klingons saying 'there has to be a ritual'.

B'Elanna and Tom both laughed before B'Elanna gave her wife a quick kiss. "You are too funny, my be'nal. And the best part is, it's actually true."

Seven caressed her lover's face before turning back to their guest. "The fact that things like this are only covered in the chronicles of the House is also the reason why you will not find those rituals described in a database. At best you will find the 'blueprint'; the things that have to happen in every House joining ritual."

"I didn't find that either," Tom pointed out. "But I think that it would include the things everyone knows about Klingons anyway. Stuff like the fact that joining will include blood for the inner circle, that there will probably be some promise to uphold the honor of the House, stuff like that."

"Stuff like that," Seven repeated, mostly to agree, even though it was not how she would have worded it.

"Alright," Tom said while standing up. "I really need to get going. I need to go have breakfast with my wife."

"And tell her why you are horny," B'Elanna added with an evil grin.

"And there is that," Tom agreed wholeheartedly while he let his eyed drift for a last time over the seductive forms across from him. Then he added to himself with clear pride in his love for his wife, 'no, not seductive. Vlasana is seductively gorgeous. B'Elanna and Seven are just damn hot.'

He stood up and left with a last 'bye'. As he reached a kitchen door he heard a lustful moan behind him. He decided not to turn around, but instead he kept walking into the living room and then out of the quarters. A grin appeared when he realized the perfect way how he could tweak B'Elanna the next time. He would beam two huge stuffed bunnies into her office. It was perfect. Everyone would be confused, but B'Elanna, who knew some stuff from old Earth because she hung around him so much would get the hint and remember the old saying of going at it like....

Part 20

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