By Elizabeth Carter
B'Elanna returned to her quarters a little worn from the day's excitement. Two duty shifts, night terrors of a seven-year-old girl and getting promoted, the confrontation with Chakotay had all been draining. Of course not to mention finding out the blonde bombshell was secretly in love with her, and the heated confrontations with the helmrat, drinking, hangovers and p'tahk crewmembers had also taken its toll on the young spirit.
Taking the austere bun out of its tight confinements B'Elanna shook the long locks of gold until they hung down just past her shoulders. Somehow it was relaxing to have the long tresses free. Besides no Klingon wore their hair in such a way. If their manes were bound it was always in either a braid or a thick pony-tail. 'Ha maybe I can convince Seven to wear her hair down. Though she might go and crop it short like Rothery. Looks good on her but it wouldn't on Seven Hell if she saw her hair down through my eyes, I just might convince her to do so.'
B'Elanna smirked as she went to the replicator and ordered a leather hair clasp and bone pin in Klingon style. "A gift to celebrate your promotion Sev " B'Elanna justified to herself. A deeply buried part of herself, the part that was still a child was almost giddy with the idea of presenting Seven with the tiny gift. She placed the gift in a replicated box wrapped in blood-red paper and hid the gift under her bed.
"Hey Toby." She addressed the purple plush targ. "You guard this ol'buddy." She smiled as a silver mesh hand reached out and ruffled the much-loved purple fur.
Satisfied that the gift was secure B'Elanna moved to her dresser and withdrew a muscle shirt and a pair of long legged flannel pajama bottoms. Stretching the long body she inhabited, B'Elanna felt a rise of appreciation for the athletic form. Seven had the body of a young warrior that would have been the envy of many in the Empire. "Hell Seven with a little training, you could be a warrior that the Empire would take pride in having you among the fold." Shaking her head B'Elanna frowned slightly a little taken back at the thought that had entered her mind. Before her experience with the Barge of the Dead, the young woman had very little interest in her Klingon heritage. But she had made a vow not only to Kah'less, K'otare, but more importantly her mother Miral that she would never again shun her proud heritage. B'Elanna had shocked herself in the way her mind drifted to Seven becoming a warrior a daughter of the Empire.
'She'd do well though as a daughter of the Empire. I remember when we thought we were going home when that Beast tried to devour us. Until the Borg Queen took her I don't think I had ever seen her face flash in such terror. The poor woman thought that Starfleet would hand her over to a bunch of scientists who would dissect her.' B'Elanna looked at the silver meshed hand, flexing it, causing the tubules to snake out then back in. 'But what if they do ? What if they want to dissect her? They were going to dissect Commander Data I remember reading something about that I wouldn't put it past Starfleet to want to do something like that. Kah'less she isn't a fucking machine with a brain! She has a soul! She she's not a mindless drone she deserves a hell of a lot more then that ' Rage flared in the fiery temper of the 'Klingon.' 'No way no how am I going to allow a bunch of dishonorable Starfleet p'tahk to take her apart. She's a member of this crew and she's endangered her life to save us more times then anyone can count she may aggravate me but I am not going to allow her to be butchered.' B'Elanna was now prowling the circumference of her quarters
Her anger ran her mind in circles.
She went back over the fact Seven had missed one of the biggest things in her life. Not only did the Captain praise her; Kathryn had commissioned her as an officer. It was long over due in B'Elanna's mind. Even when they were hostile, the young Engineer had always thought privately that Seven deserved to be recognized as an officer. Seven didn't deserve to be overlooked, just because The Powers That Be thought she should be a simple civilian. Those same powers tended to think Seven deserved to be treated only as eye-candy when there was a magnificent brain contained within that body.
Trying to settle her nerves B'Elanna concentrated on finding her center as Tuvok had instructed her. She went to her armoire and withdrew one of the thick candles and the igniter and set it upon the glass-topped coffee table.
"Okay Lanna time to make it up to her. The Captain might be willing to re-take the giving of the pips and giving Sev her rank, but she'll not be able to replay what happened tonight. Time to lock onto that eidetic memory and at least you can replay tonight in your mind's eye. I just have to make sure you can." Sitting lotus style B'Elanna lit the taper and closed her eyes. And centered on the memory of the Captain's dinner.
The Lieutenant had not known that Tuvok had been helping Seven through her own traumatic past. What B'Elanna had not expected was upon her meditation the memory synapses in Seven's cortical node activated and thus she was completely unprepared for what was to happen:
B'Elanna looked around her not recognizing where she was or what she was doing. She knew only that things seemed to be quite a bit large then they normally would. Chairs, tables, computer consoles all larger then what she was accustomed to. It was as if she was only four feet tall.
She looked at her hands; having been in the body of Seven of Nine for two days the young Klingon had grown accustomed to having a left hand encased in silver mesh work there was no such device upon her hand. Indeed her hand was tiny in fact it was about the same size as Naomi Wildman's.
Looking around her, the girl now saw that she was in the crew quarters. There was a full-length mirror in the bathroom revealing a child who had long blonde hair, bright blue eyes and apple cheeks.
"Annika!" A very tall sandy-blonde male approached.
"Papa." The child wrapped her arms around her father. "Please don't go today."
"Sweety we talked about this your mother and I have work to do. Now I want you to stay away from the bridge consoles. No more stargazing."
"Papa " Little Annika pouted. "But today is my "
"I am not going to go over this again. Now stop being difficult."
"I hate the Borg!" Annika stomped her foot. "They're really, really scary and they have weird voices and and and they're mean. They Ass ."
"Enough! Annika you're being extremely difficult."
It was quite evident that this was an old argument. The child placed her arms over her chest glaring at her father. Her mother as blonde and blue-eyed as Annika approached. "Nicky we'll be back in a few hours. Okay? Then we'll have a little family time." The Nordic beauty kissed her daughter upon her forehead and ruffled the locks of gold.
"Can't you go tomorrow? Today is "
"We'll be back sweety." Erin Hansen softly assured her daughter. "Magnus we won't have this window for long. We are so close to gaining information on the Queen. Junior is active."
The adults moved to the transporter-bay and fizzled out of the ship.
Annika stared at the empty space feeling suddenly very much alone. She hated being alone for it was a state she commonly found herself in. "Today is my birthday I am Six today." She sighed. "You forgot you forget everything."
She padded back into the main quarters and looked at the model of the Borg Cube. Rage built in the child. She picked up the model and threw it against the bulkhead. There was a satisfactory smash of plastic bits as it collided with the metal of the wall. "I hate you! I hate you! I hate the Borg!" She fell to the floor holding her knees to her chest crying. "I hate the Borg! I Hate the Borg!"
"I can understand." Came a soft purring voice.
Annika looked up to see the pale face of a female. She wore Borg armor or rather it looked as if it had been painted upon her petite gaunt frame. She was bald with five tubes arcing like a topknot out of her head and going back into her neck. Her eyes were a color Annika had never seen before and could not describe but only to say they seemed to glow. Her greenish-grey face lit up into a cruel smile. Annika's knee jerk reaction was to pull back, sucking in an air of dread.
"You know who I am don't you?" The Borg purred.
"You you are the Queen "
"Go away!" Annika was now on her feet and started to run for the opposite side of the room. Her electric blue eyes looked frantically for a way out. Her voice shaking as she spoke. "You you can't be here! Go away!"
"I do not intend on staying aboard the USS Raven, AnnikaHansen. However I do intend on "tagging" what is mine."
"I will never be yours!" Annika screamed as loud as she could.
"I disagree." The Queen smiled. "Resistance is futile. One day you will come to appreciate this. You will be mine AnnikaHansen. And you will be trained in a designated path for I sense a unique spirit. You will be as I am. Your distinctiveness will be added to our own. You will become apart of Unimatrix Zero-One.' She moved as a panther taking Annika by the chin her lips pulling back into a cold smile. Tubules snaked out of her hand causing the child cringe.
"No!" Annika pushed against the Queen, believing that resistance was NOT futile.
"You will be a difficult one. But it will be irrelevant in the end." The Queen stood up again flashing a slight smile that would make an iceberg shudder in terror. "WE will see one another again AnnikaHansen. By that time your designation will change. I will personally assimilate you insuring that you will not be an ordinary drone. I will show you perfection in such a way your small being can never imagine. You are small however in time you will be as I am. I have very special designs for you AnnikaHansen." The cruel lines of the smile deepened.
B'Elanna shuddered trying to force her mind back to herself but a new memory flashed into her mind.
"Papa . please listen to me! We have to leave now!" Annika's voice was shuddering as she was pleading with Magnus Hansen.
"Annika I know you're a little upset we forgot your birthday but we had so much important work to do "
"I don't care! Papa the Borg they were here the Queen she was here! Papa please...Mama Mama make him listen! She said she's going to assimilate me she she "
Magnus had just about had it with his little girl. Granted they had forgotten it was her birthday today, but that was no reason to throw a temper tantrum. "Annika you shouldn't make up stories."
"I'm not! She was here." Annika insisted.
"The queen? Do you expect me to believe that Nicky? Really you know better than to lie."
"I'm not making it up! She was here!"
"Enough!" Magnus gave a swat to the girl's behind that had immediate effect. Annika snapped her mouth shut.
"Magnus she's a child a female drone could have beamed over "
"Erin the Raven is hidden. The Borg haven't noticed us in all the years we've been here. And I hate to say it but even if a female drone beamed over they would have assimilated Annika. She's only trying to get attention. We were a little forgetful of her birthday and she is only trying to get back at us. But allowing her to dive into these fantasies will be detrimental to her. She has to learn she can't get away with it."
"Erin no. If we let her pull this tantrum now she will never learn "
Annika shook off the spanking and stood ramrod straight in front of her father with her arms tight against her little body. "Papa, listen to me! She was here I'm not lying I'm not making it up!"
Just then the ship rocked.
Both adults looked at the main viewer.
"Annika! Get to the other room now!"
"Its her I told you I told you!" Annika screamed.
"Annika in the other room now!" Magnus ordered as the ship bucked one more.
"Now!" The tall man barked once more.
It happened too fast. There were explosions everywhere Erin Hansen was cast into a bulkhead and was out cold. Magnus was fighting hand to hand with three drones. His voice calling out to his little girl: "Annika hide. Hide Annika!"
The small child ducked under the command console trying to make herself smaller. The last image she saw was a drone assimilating her Papa before another of the drones picked her up.
When Annika opened her eyes again she was facing the Borg Queen. "Resistance is futile," she purred. One hand cupped the girl's chin as the other reached out with the tubules stabbing the small Nordic child in the neck.
A little voice screamed out in terror filled agony. "Mamaaaaaaaaa"
B'Elanna shuddered back to herself.
"Oh Kah'less Seven." The young Klingon wept for her friend. "I am so sorry I am so sorry "
Seven finally understood the sayings 'dead on your feet' and 'dead tired'. She was. She wasn't used to constant neediness a non-Borg enhanced body required. She had felt hunger pains and taken care of it. Now, when she knew she once could stay up and busy for seventy-three hours, staying up for twenty-eight had nearly done her in. Not to mention the stress factors that she had endured during those hours.
Her muscles hurt (even if they did belong to B'Elanna), her neck hurt, something she never experienced before, her legs and feet hurt from all those hours of standing. It was no wonder that others on the ship insisted on sitting. It hurt to stand for eight hours, let alone eighteen. Perhaps next time she was told or asked to sit she would not be so hasty to reply, "I prefer to stand." She could now definitely understand the merits of resting and sitting.
Finding yet another new experience, for the first time in the eighteen years she was Borg, Seven of Nine yawned. It was a very odd sensation, and, oddly, somewhat satisfactory.
She managed to make it back to B'Elanna's quarters on automatic pilot. Keying in the code she had seen the Klingon use previously, the 'ex-Borg' let herself in. The smell of candle wax was the first thing the sensitive nose picked up, but there was no sign of a burning taper. B'Elanna must have just blown the wick out. Scanning the room, the young woman noted that there was a silent form laying on the bed in a fetal position. It was odd to see her body so relaxed. Odder still to see her body holding what looked to be a purple furred, stuffed targ. Saying nothing, Seven moved to the end of the bed where B'Elanna had thoughtfully set out a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a muscle shirt. The blankets had been set out, as well as an extra pillow for making a bed on the couch.
Too tired to think of the purple targ or what on earth would possess the fiery Klingon to sleep with it, Seven changed her attire and made a bed on the sofa. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
There was another saying Seven came to appreciate. 'Is it morning already?' During her deep sleep on the sofa, she had thought she heard her name being called by the captain. But she tapped the combadge or would have had she been wearing one, and there was no reply. Dismissing the call, Seven slept on.
The badge designated to Seven of Nine had beeped; B'Elanna wore it at the time. The young engineer ducked into the bedroom, so not to wake Seven, and answered the hail. "Seven here," she said.
"Report to my Ready Room." The Captain ordered.
"On my way."
B'Elanna thought of what had happened last night, about the discovery of the Hansen's betrayal of their little girl. For that was what they had done. They had betrayed Annika to the Borg. They had left her alone all the time expecting her to simply accept it. Then, the Borg came and essentially raped her. For that was what they . no the Queen had done. The Queen raped her innocence. The Borg Queen stole the life that could have been Annika's, and turned her into a drone. They took love away from her and gave her the hunger for perfection.
"I understand. I understand you Sev I understand." Smiling sadly the young woman left to answer the summons to the Ready Room.
B'Elanna didn't have to wait long to find out what the Captain wanted. Chakotay was in the room as well. Janeway didn't look pleased. In fact one would say she was pissed, but the force ten glare was set for Chakotay.
"Lieutenant." Kathryn greeted.
This stopped B'Elanna in her tracks. "Captain." Oddly enough the word, whether said to Seven by B'Elanna, was said with the same tone. It was almost enough to cause the Captain to smile.
"I take it Chakotay told you what happened." It was not a question.
"He did." She gave him a look of disdain. "I have to say, I am a bit surprised that you were both able to carry this on as long as you did."
"You're not the only one." B'Elanna smirked. "Captain last night Sev she missed it." There was a great remorse in the 'Klingon's' voice. "I think she deserves to feel your pride in her. She deserves to see that she is a part of us. I know one of her greatest fears is to be forgotten; that she'll be alone. To have you give her the pips with others watching it would mean so much to her."
Kathryn inwardly smiled. She was very proud of her Chief. The commander's punishment was a bit unorthodox, but apparently it had the affect Chakotay was going after. It seemed all other attempts to stop the hostilities between the two favored daughters of Voyager had failed. Until now.
Chakotay had revealed how it was he was able to switch the essence, the spirits of B'Elanna and Seven into the other's body. No, it was not a power he personally possessed. Rather it had dealt with a ritual of summoning the ancient spirits of his Tribe. By using an Olmec relic of the deity dedicated to Cukulcan, a spirit who among other things, had the power of transfiguration. As a shaman, Chakotay had been able to summon totem spirits of crewmembers, send others on vision quests, and one of the more difficult rites was to initiate the transplantation of the soul of one being into another. The drink he had them drink was a potion, of sorts, that allowed the spirits of the bodies to rise up, more quickly than meditation would have induced. In the Spirit worlds, it was a matter of re-directing those spirits into a different vessel.
Kathryn had cut him off at that point. She was more than irate that Chakotay would induce "drugs" on her crewmembers and get them "high." The commander said it wasn't a narcotic and the transcendental state was not damaging. What took time was the summoning of the spirits in the world-beyond and beseeching their aid. The toll took more out of Chakotay than it did those who underwent the rite. The first time he had invoked it, it took him a full day to recover.
"Chakotay leave us. I want to talk to B'Elanna alone."
Seven woke two minutes after B'Elanna had left the quarters. The sofa had done nothing to alleviate the crick in her neck, but she felt rested. She didn't know why exactly but she was disappointed that she had not seen B'Elanna this morning. Not that yesterday morning had been a wonderful awakening. For further notice, Seven decided that she would not try to invoke the sensation of a hangover again. This morning was different. It was a sense of loss.
"That is ridiculous. You can not miss what you do not have." Seven chided herself. "Wasting energy on such is an inefficient use of resources. The emotion must be made to be irrelevant. They are damaging " Seven sucked in a bit of air and believed herself to have steadied her nerves. She knew it would only work for a little while, but it would be enough. At the very least, B'Elanna wasn't hostile anymore. Of course Seven had ceased to antagonize the fiery woman.
Taking care of her privy needs, Seven emerged from the bedroom dressed in a fresh uniform and was ready for her or rather B'Elanna's duty shift. Seven smiled soon she would be in her rightful body and B'Elanna then could enjoy the small holoprogram she had written for her. She could have that moment back.
Trying to concentrate on work proved more difficult than the proud ex-Borg was willing to admit. Being excited and distracted about what would happen in the afternoon was in a word inefficient when there was work to be done. Finally, she resorted to over looking some of the reports that needed the Chief of Engineering's attention. Seven had just sat down in the chair behind B'Elanna's desk when there was a chime at the door. A smile crept to her face thinking it was her Bella. Of course that was illogical considering this was the Lieutenant's office and there was no need to chime the door. Of course, Bella was in Seven's body, so for the pretence, she might anyway.
Samantha Wildman walked into the room. The blonde ensign did not look happy. The smile of hope faded quickly. For a dreaded moment, Seven thought of Naomi, something dreaded had happened to the girl then another thought, if so, Samantha would not have informed B'Elanna Torres but Seven of Nine. In her best Lieutenant's impersonation Seven said. "Something I can help you with Ensign?"
Samantha Wildman approached the desk standing stiffly in a near parade-rest. "I want to talk to you."
Seven wanted to raise an eyebrow. B'Elanna didn't raise an eyebrow as an expression. "Your tone of voice I'd say this isn't about ship's business."
Seven suddenly understood another expression. 'I could kick myself for this but ' "Look I am really busy here, can it wait?" That was B'Elanna all the way.
"It will only take a moment. Off the record, woman to woman, not officer to junior officer."
There was something that sounded very much like a growl coming from the throat of the Klingon. Samantha Wildman was not intimidated. She would have been, but she was on an important mission, albeit a private one, but nonetheless important.
"Very well." Seven relented. In an unconscious act of imitation Seven crossed her arms in front of her. "Out with it."
"I know I am treading on dangerous ground. And I know people come down on you about " Samantha took in a sudden sharp breath, wondering if confronting the Chief was such a good idea after all. She had been gun-ho at first, all sorts of things she had wanted to say, thought she needed to say. But now facing the Klingon all thoughts and all words suddenly vanished or seemed like a very bad idea.
"About what, Ensign?" Seven said a bit more sharply than she wanted to. Samantha was a dear friend, one she confided in, one that had allowed her to pour her heart out with. One that was trusted and even loved; Samantha didn't deserve to be snapped at.
"Seven." Samantha said suddenly. "Lieutenant she ah shit " Samantha grumbled.
Seven was a bit surprised that her friend was here trying to defend her to the Lieutenant. And two, Samantha's swearing. For some reason, Samantha didn't curse in front of her any more than she did Naomi. Privately, Seven wondered if Samantha would react in the same way as she had when Naomi said "damn it". Having her name called out sharply was something she was used to, ingesting soap was not. Samantha, Seven hypothesized, would react with a similar sense of shock to hear her curse. Seven thought it curious that in some respects, Samantha treated her in the same manner she treated her daughter. Now, she was here in the Chief of Engineering's office to what . champion Seven?
"What about Seven?" The arms that were folded were now placed on the surface of the desk.
"I can't tell you only that I think she deserves a little more consideration from you."
"She had you come down here to tell me this?"
"No Lieutenant. Seven has no idea I am here. I think she'd be a little mortified to find out I am here."
"Then why are you?"
"Because she's my good friend. And she hasn't really been herself. Naomi is really worried about her. What concerns my little girl concerns me. I just think maybe you should look at why you two are so hostile."
"Ensign, I am sorry, but I have more important things to worry about than the hurt feelings of the Borg."
"See, that is just it. I don't think you see her as a person. She is. Look, a lot of people hated the fact you were put in charge of Engineering. One, because you were / are Maquis. And two, some people are a little bigoted when it comes to Klingons. I am not one of them, but there are a few. And well Voyager gave you a chance and, yeah, I'll admit I was one of the first not to trust Seven. But when Naomi reached out to her, I saw a wounded child under that frosty facade. You, me, every adult aboard this ship had a chance to grow up Seven never really had that chance. She went from being six to a drone to a twenty-something young woman and expected to behave as such without really knowing what that meant."
"Ensign " Seven was touched at the great length Samantha was going for her. She was almost at a loss for words. Her analytical mind had a hard time processing everything her friend was saying to the person she thought was B'Elanna Torres.
"Please just consider something Seven well er looks up to you. So she takes things a little too close to heart when you come down on her." Samantha shuffled from foot to foot. "In fact she cares about what you say and what you feel maybe more than she should."
'Well this was unexpected.' Seven thought. 'I can't let this continue '
"SamanthaWildman." Seven said the name as one as she had Naomi's. "I am sorry."
Samantha just stared.
"It will take to long to explain. But B'Elanna and I... Seven have been interchanged with our bodies and our essence. It was a form of punishment I walk a mile in the other woman's moccasins' as Commander Chakotay explained it. I tell you now, I am Seven of Nine in the body of B'Elanna Torres.
"Oh God." Samantha fell down into the chair in the office. "Oh God."
"Samantha." The voice was B'Elanna's but the tone was Seven. "I am sorry for the deception, but it was a necessary part of the punishment. We were not to disclose any information regarding the switch. But that will be irrelevant, for today, we will be restored."
"Seven... er... um when did this happen?"
"Two days, five hours and "
"Two days ago?" Samantha paled. "Oh God."
"Why are you praying?"
"Seven um I told you well B'Elanna how you felt about her."
"I admitted well... its not like I did it on purpose, but I was telling you or her to confront her or you... God, it's confusing. Anyway, I said that B'Elanna should be confronted considering how you feel about her. She/you asked me to clarify and I told her you loved her."
"Seven, I am really, really sorry, but the Lieutenant knows you're in love with her."
Seven utilized yet another phrase she had learned from B'Elanna and thought appropriate. "Oh shit."
Janeway stared at the austere beauty of the Nordic blonde, reminding herself for the umpteenth time that this was B'Elanna Torres. "Lanna I know Chakotay told you not to say anything about the switch but last night you should have told me."
"I wanted to." B'Elanna almost shivered. "But the threat look I can't change what happened last night. I haven't told Seven about her commission which I feel was long over due I was hoping that you would do it again maybe in front of the senior staff."
Kathryn smiled. Once more her chief gave her cause to be proud of her. "That's a great idea Lanna." She grinned wider. "I gave her the private ceremony because I felt she would be more comfortable with it. But I think you're right the senior staff looking on as she receives her pips will mean a lot more to her. It means, in front of her peers, she is accepted."
"Kathryn, you have no idea how much that means to her. To be accepted. For the last two days, I was the object of a child's affection, and the center of sexual ridicule. Oh god, I felt her pain when she was assimilated. I didn't mean too, I was trying to lock last night into her eidetic memory and tapped into the surface thoughts that must always be there. It is a moment of such pain. Her p'tahk parents first, they ignore the little girl's sixth birthday, then they ignore her pleas to leave and the fact the Borg Queen was on the Raven threatening her. Kah'less she was barely more than a babe in arms and the Queen comes down on her. She was so scared. Terrified. I felt it all, Kathryn, as if the pain was my own!" B'Elanna was near tears. She stood up from the sofa and stared to pace.
"You know they neglected her? The Queen practically raped her there are ensigns aboard this ship that harass her. She doesn't say anything she can hear everything they say. I don't know how she puts up with it. I couldn't. No wonder she puts up that cold, Borg front. It's safer that way. She tries to convince herself that emotions are irrelevant. That she'll adapt, yet... she cries on Samantha Wildman's shoulder. Did you know that? All along, I thought she went to you but she is so afraid you'll look down on her that she hides things from you. You have no idea how important you are to her " Blue eyes looked to the Captain. "Sometimes she obeys your orders without question as if you were the Borg Queen. I figured that out. She just does it. It's not being rude, any more than Spike questioning her mother's orders. Yeah sure, both may protest, but both pretty much do it anyway. I never actually saw that before. She doesn't think she's better than us and doesn't have to follow regulations she just does it, like Spike would, you know?"
B'Elanna stopped moving and now stood in front of her Captain. "And she's so new to expressing emotions I guess I just wanted to think she didn't have any. Really I kinda did know. I just didn't want to. I knew sometimes I could hurt her, but if I made myself think she couldn't be hurt then it never mattered what I said to her." Sighing heavily B'Elanna sat down. "I have a lot of making up to do more now because "
"What?" Kathryn whispered gently
"I can't, not yet. There's something I have to talk with her about first. And find out ."
"Lanna?" The Captain patted the cushion next to her. "I think maybe this experience was good for the both of you. I hope she learned about you as well." Kathryn smiled. "You know... I told you well I guess it was Seven at the time but now you should know. I said I was so very proud of you. That no Starship Captain had a better Chief of Engineering. That not even Montgomery "Miracle Worker" Scott could touch your skills. Lanna what you just said emphasizes those thoughts."
B'Elanna was speechless.
"Granted I want to send Chakotay out of an airlock for not informing me what he did. But I think the end results almost justify the means." Kathryn flashed a wicked grin. "First I am going to make him sweat for not telling me...and I think a week of leeolah-root stew will make him think twice about not informing me about the details of his punishments in the future."
B'Elanna chucked. "So what punishment did he tell you gave us?"
"That you and Seven were to share quarters."
B'Elanna howled with laughter.
"Janeway to Torres please report to my Ready room." Seven's combadge beeped.
"Understood." The 'ex-Borg' responded.
Dark Chocolate eyes studied Samantha and a small smile appeared. "I have to go." Seven walked quickly to the door, then turned. "And for the record, I am not angry that you told B'Elanna that I am that I have feelings for her. You had no way of knowing that you told her. There is not fault here."
"Seven what are you going to do?"
Before answering the young woman paused and considered her words. "I believe the term is "I will cross that bridge when I come to it."
Seven was about to walk into the Ready Room when she recalled B'Elanna's words about politeness. She gently pushed the panel at the side that would alert the Captain she was there.
"Come" she heard the com say.
Janeway was mildly amused and surprised to see that Seven had taken the time to chime her presence. But then again the young woman didn't know that her Captain was aware of the truth of the body switching. She was behaving, as the Lieutenant would have. B'Elanna Torres doesn't just walk into the Captain's Ready Room.
"Captain you needed to see me?" The tone was almost exactly as the Engineer.
"I spoke with Chakotay earlier. Seven, I know what happened.
The mouth opened up then closed. Seven was struck dumb.
"I see. I apologize for the deception in Engine "
Janeway put up a hand. "Seven, its okay. B'Elanna pretty much said the same thing."
It was so odd to see such a very Sevenish expression as a raised eyebrow in a Klingon's face.
"I imagine this has been a unique experience for you."
"Indeed." Seven said.
"I know what your answer will be, but would you like sit?"
Now it was Janeway that was mute. It took a tractorbeam to get Seven of Nine to sit down without protest. Seeing the confusing flash across the austere face of her Captain, Seven explained.
"B'Elanna's body lacks the reinforcement of the Borg skeletal structure. I have found that sitting alleviates certain discomforts that long periods of standing create."
"I see." Janeway grinned.
"Captain, am I to assume that you called me here to inform me that you have learned of the reprimand Commander Chakotay initiated?"
"I want to know your thoughts on it." Kathryn nodded. "It must have been difficult to adapt."
"At first yes. Bella... erm Lieutenant Torres " Seven stopped. "I find it difficult to speak of these things " Seven steadied her breath. "I have always thought her a more than a talented Engineer. I have assisted in the assimilation of thousands " this last bit was said with regret and bitter repulsion of self-loathing. "But I do not think that I have come across one such as B'Elanna. Captain, what you told me in her office you must tell her. She looks up to you in ways you do not know. You and your approval mean so much to her, I do not think you realize this. B'Elanna is a woman of great feeling and great depth. But she hides it.
"She fought her darker side and triumphed, something I still struggle with. She restrains much yet she is capable of so much. Much more then you know Captain." Seven let out another sigh. "I there are things I can not tell you because I feel that it would betray her."
The Captain placed a reassuring hand upon the arm of the younger woman. "I understand. And I appreciate your protectiveness of her privacy. I think she would too. And Seven I told her what I said yesterday in her office to you."
A caramel face lit up immediately. "She needed to hear it."
"Seven, when you and B'Elanna are switched back I think you two need a couple of days to sort things out. This has been a profound experience for both of you. One I can't even imagine." Placing a warm hand upon her shoulder. "Seven just like B'Elanna we've butted heads a few times but what ever happens you can come to me with anything I want you to know that. I'll never look down at you for feeling overwhelmed." Janeway had to be truthful with herself. She was a wee bit jealous that Seven had gone to Samantha for comfort instead of her. "You can trust me."
"Kathryn, I know that." Seven admitted slowly. "I have always known that."
'Then why do you go to Samantha Wildman instead of me?' Kathryn couldn't help but ask herself, even if Seven never heard the question.
As if the younger woman had heard her thoughts, Seven said, "Kathryn there are things in my life I don't understand, had never hoped to understand. Everything I was feeling compounded my confusion and I wanted nothing more at that moment to than to be an emotionless drone once more. Ensign Wildman was there that night when you were not you were gone on an away mission. She helped me understand that it was normal to feel to feel I that was lost. She clarified a few things. Maybe it is because she felt the same. Not about well she and Neelix love one another, she felt lost because of it and because of her husband in the Alpha quadrant."
"I can relate. But we're not talking about Samantha Wildman here Seven."
"No, but our dilemma was the same. She had feelings for an individual she thought was forbidden. Now that we can at times communicate with the Alpha Quadrant Samantha out of fairness terminated her relationship with her husband so he might go on living. She had told him of Neelix and he gave his blessings as she had with the female he had started to love "
"Seven are you trying to say you have feelings for someone?"
"I " The dark raven head bowed. "It would not be returned."
"Are you so sure?"
Chocolate eyes narrowed in question. "Captain?"
"Seven I don't know what advice Samantha gave you, but if you never take the chance, you will lose it. Don't let that happen."
"But she is on a break with her significant other."
"If she is on a break Seven I think the term is insignificant other. And believe me I believe you have that rat beat hands down any day."
There went a dark eyebrow arching right up into raven black hair.
"Seven take the chance. If you have to confront this OTHER, then do it. But you have to tell this person you have unrequited love for that you have feelings for her."
Dark wine lips curled into a smile. "Samantha Wildman said similar things."
"She called me a coward for not addressing this unrequited love " Dark eyes closed once more then opened. "She was not far from the truth."
"Seven it isn't cowardice, not really. But you will always regret it if you let this pass without telling her." Kathryn had a pretty good idea who it was Seven had fallen for. And what she had seen in B'Elanna perhaps the rejection of love was an exaggeration. Perhaps the fiery Klingon was in denial for her affections for Seven. It wasn't the fact Seven was a woman, it was that Seven was well Seven.
"I think I must first apologize to her."
There was a sheepish expression on the cameral features. "Because there were times when I deliberately antagonized her."
"Why would you do that?"
"Passion is passion whether derived from love or anger."
"So if you couldn't have the one you would take the other?" Kathryn winced. "Oh Seven that isn't healthy "
"I know. It was illogical. Samantha Wildman also pointed this out, and yet it is not uncommon. Though she could not explain why. She suggested I ask you."
"But you didn't." Kathryn pointed out.
"No. I was ashamed of my actions. I could not reveal this to you."
'B'Elanna right Seven, you are a woman of many layers.' "I understand Phoebe was in a similar relationship. The only difference was she was married to him. And he hit her. Seven I think if you confront these emotions and those you have them for things will have away of working out. Good or bad at least you will have a resolution and can move on from there."
Kathryn stood and went to the replicator. She was still having a time relating the fact that her Seven of Nine had all but admitted she was in love with B'Elanna Torres. The captain was confused herself for her feelings for her protégé... well in truth both of them. Love as a maternal figure as an unrequited lover she didn't quite know. What she did know was that if in fact these two misfits found one another, she would be ecstatically happy for them. Because the two souls she treasured had been able to find some measure of happiness so deserving to each of them.
"Seven... actually there is something I do need to address. There has been something that had been shamefully overlooked; B'Elanna brought it up to me. Quarters. As a member of this crew you should have your own quarters. And as luck would have there are two openings one the VIP quarters near my quarters or Neelix's old quarters that are next to B'Elanna's."
Seven thought for a moment. "Captain there are those who already believe I have preferential treatment. The VIP quarters will only further that stigma. Neelix has vacated his quarters?"
"Only this morning. He and Samantha are sharing quarters now."
An eyebrow arched. "Indeed." She smiled. "Then I think I shall take his quarters."
"I thought you might." Kathryn grinned. "I'll put the order in. Maintenance is there now and it should be ready for you by the end of Alpha shift. You can move in then. There is no reason for you to live in the Cargo Bay as if you were a bit of equipment. Seven you are human a person and people need a place to call their own."
Kathryn was ready for anything. Well she thought she was. She was not prepared for Seven to hug her. Granted it was B'Elanna's body that did the actually hugging but it was Seven.
"You're welcome." The Captain grinned. B'Elanna had been right; the issuing of quarters had been long over due.
Commander Chakotay's quarters.
Four people were gathered, the Commander, Seven, B'Elanna and of course the Captain as she had insisted on being present for the ritual. As it was before, the room was dark with thick candles burning as well as the heady scent of sandalwood incense. On the center of the glass top table was a vial of the purple-blue liquid that had been used in the previous ritual.
"Am I to assume we are to ingest this liquid?" Seven said.
"Just like before, yes."
Both young women looked at one another, both eager to be in their rightful place. So neither said anything further as they took the long frosted vials of "juice" and drained it in one swallow. The effect was almost immediate. Not unlike drinking far too much alcohol, both ladies passed out.
"Now what?" Kathryn watched with her arms folded over her chest.
"I invoke the calling of the resident spirits," the Commander commented. Moving to the wall the Olmec Shaman took down a ceremonial obsidian dagger from the wall mount. He took B'Elanna's hand and gently slit her palm, pouring a small droplet of blood into a very small obsidian bowl. He did the same to Seven's hand. Taking a dermal regenerator he healed both palms. "Blood is the symbol of life," he said before Kathryn could ask the question. "It is a necessary part of summoning the quintessence to make the ritual work."
Kathryn looked to the slumbering beauties. As if reading her worry, Chakotay further explained, "I have given them a mild sedative derived of peyote that allows them a rapid ascension into the astral plane. Once they are adrift and Shadow-Walking, I merely guide the astral projected souls back into their proper bodies. By now their spirits are in-between the world of the mortals and that of the Dream Time."
Chakotay closed his eyes breathing deep the scent of incense. Allowing for his own body to ascend into the Astral Realm. A lifetime of meditating and Shadow-walking, the Native American could easily slip into a transcendental state without the aid of his "peyote sedative."
Janeway watched with baited breath. It was like watching them sleep. They almost looked angelic in their restful repose. And vulnerable, so much so that Janeway could not resist but feather back the locks of hair from either woman. "Godspeed." She whispered warmly then in a maternal move, planted a butterfly kiss on both foreheads of the "sleeping" women. Then, as if waking from REM sleep, both Seven and B'Elanna started to rouse. Chakotay was already "awake" and aware before the women came to.
Two pair of eyes blinked desperately trying to register what it was they were seeing. A raven headed woman turned to a blonde. Two lips curled into a smile. As if existing unto themselves, the women embraced one another tightly.
"Welcome home." Janeway grinned widely.
"No place like it." Came the voice of B'Elanna.
"Indeed." Seven said, and then arched a silver eyebrow.
Both women had yet to relinquish their hold on the other.
Blue eyes fell into the gaze of dark brown. A slight ghost smile tickled the corners of the ex-Borgs mouth. Then slowly Seven drew away from the body that had for two day's contained her essence.
"It has been an experience."
B'Elanna flashed a wide toothy grin. "Indeed."
"Ladies it is fortunate that you have the next two days off. I think it would be wise to draw a little closure on what you both experienced." Janeway placed a hand upon both shoulders. "And a test of friendship is having them help you move."
"Captain?" B'Elanna questioned.
"As it has come to my attention by a senior officer, Seven of Nine has for too long gone without quarters. She will, therefore, move into Mr. Neelix's old quarters."
"Seven, congratulations." Was the first thing Chakotay said since the ritual.
"That's great Sev, it's about damn time." B'Elanna was still smiling.
"Thank you. Captain, I do not, however, require aid in moving in." Seven said in her normal monotone voice.
"Seven?" B'Elanna almost sounded hurt.
"I have very few possessions. It will not take long to move them. I need only one storage crate."
"Oh." The Klingon looked down. "Well, how about a hand anyway?"
Seven nodded almost shyly. She dreaded facing the Lieutenant alone. She knew that B'Elanna was aware of her affections for her. Her heart raced with thoughts of imagined encounters, confrontations. Setting her jaw she forced back the dread and accepted the Chief's aid. There was another part of her that enjoyed spending time with her Bella. Though she moaned the loss, for she believed without a shadow of a doubt, B'Elanna would regret the friendship because Seven was secretly in love with her.
"First, I want to stop by Mess hall. I am starving. When was the last time you fed my body, Seven?"
"Approximately thirteen hours, five " Seven stopped. "I believe last night was the last time I ate." She smiled. "I indulged a little knowing I would be back into my body and forced to ingest liquid supplements."
Without asking, without a second thought, the two women rose and walked out of the Commander's quarters.
"Yeah about that "
"It seems your approach to their disagreements worked." Janeway nodded smiling as the women almost walked arm in arm out of the room. "If you do that ever again without my consent " Janeway paused. "You really don't want to know what I am going to do. Oh and you are on a weeks rations of leeolah root stew."
The ruddy skin of the aging male turned green.
To say that Seven of Nine was skittish was an understatement. In fact she was acting like a feral tikka cat. Just tame enough to stay within the residence but as soon as you came near she would long to dart away. B'Elanna could take a giant leap in speculation and guess why. For the last two days they had a bizarre though intimate relationship.
B'Elanna herself was a little put off by the relationship, as well, the information she had learned, and the small intimate details she came to understand. Yes, she could definitely understand why Seven was jumpy. What had the younger woman learned about herself? What made her so skittish that she seemingly wanted to run from the young Klingon?
"Look Sev, I don't want to go to the Mess Hall if it is all the same to you."
Seven nodded. She understood why. The Lieutenant knew the truth of how she truly felt for her. Bella (No she had to be Lieutenant Torres, the blonde closed her eyes inwardly wincing) would not wish to be near the Ice Queen knowing the drone was in love with her. "I understand." The voice became cold and monotone. Seven continued on her way to Cargo Bay Two.
B'Elanna was almost floored. 'Okay I've been in your mind what are you thinking? I know what some of this crew thinks of you Your greatest fear is to be alone. Rejection eats away at you. Okay, I can do this.' Sev had just assumed rejection of her company. "Sev we can eat in my quarters I mean we could in yours if you want, but I thought we could have dinner there after we move you in."
"What?" B'Elanna shrugged. "It's been a hell of a day. I am not up to being around others. How about you?"
"I agree it has been 'a hell of a day.' And I do not wish to take nutritional supplement in the mess hall."
"Lunch, Sev, not nutritional supplements."
"Bella what you consume is lunch. What I have to consume is "
"Nasty tasting pasty shakes." The young Klingon made a face. "Okay, I get your point."
B'Elanna wondered quietly where she was supposed to go from here. She was used to seeing Seven as emotionless. She was a talented engineer, one damn fine astrophysicist, but knowing under that Borg-shielding lay a heart of passion, a heart capable of so many things, was something altogether different. And she could never exorcize the image of a terrified little girl pleading to deaf parents that the Borg were coming. The image of the Queen herself promising to assimilate her was forever branded in the woman's mind and heart. That scream B'Elanna would forever hear that scream of complete agony, and terror. She was only a baby just a baby and the Borg had taken her, the Queen had ordered it so. The Queen had violated the child. B'Elanna would always see the image of the queens pale hand coming to Annika's throat, stabbing her in the neck, pouring her poison into her. Then seeing the dead eyes looking back at her in a reflection.
Seven had only known betrayal for most of her life. Her parents ignored her because she was an inconvenience. The Queen wanted her for her own and stole the woman's life from her. Then Janeway severed her from the Collective, the only thing Annika ever really known and she was lost. Forced to find her humanity, Seven of Nine had stumbled along the way. And the woman she fell in love with had, in the end, betrayed her too. Betrayed her because of her blind hate of the Borg, the blame placed on Seven's shoulders for something she had no control over. Seven was not only a reminder of the Borg, but of what B'Elanna was. Lost in the world of humans and Klingons, of Federation and Maquis. B'Elanna was angry with Seven because of the outward cold shield she so easily used, whereas, the only shield Lanna had was fire. Fire was a very visible shield. Ice you slipped on it and moved away from it. B'Elanna wanted ice not fire.
Seven followed B'Elanna in silence. She didn't know where to go from here. It was not a pleasant experience. It was chaos and Seven loathed chaos. Making sense of it all was proving to be futile. Having the knowledge of her love, B'Elanna was not reacting as Seven was, hypnotized. She wasn't made a part of the hull. She wasn't yelled at. Wasn't threatened. Wasn't made fun of. Wasn't accused of acting out some Borg practical joke. There was nothing. And that made Seven more uneasy every moment she stood near the Lieutenant. B'Elanna was a woman of many talents, many of them unsung. She was a woman of great feelings. Perhaps more than the young Klingon wanted to admit. Why did she sleep with a plush animal like Naomi did? B'Elanna was fire and passion. She was alive and filled with intense depth. B'Elanna feared nothing. She was always confident, always sure of herself. She was always honorable in her nature, even when she was mistreated by others aboard the ship. She never questioned her worth. Seven was tired of hiding behind the ice. Fire was warm, intoxicating and powerful. She wanted fire not ice.
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