DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. I'm just borrowing them for a bit. When I'm done I'll put them back right where I found them, honest. No ex-drones or human/klingon hybrids were harmed in the writing of this fan fic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

After Midnight
By Sparx

"The first time it happened I was mildly interested, but otherwise unconcerned.

When Lieutenant Torres interrupted my regeneration cycle, she merely asked, 'Does interrupting your regeneration have any detrimental effects, Seven?'

My answer had been, 'No it does not, Lieutenant. Unlike sleep, I do not need to regenerate for long, uninterrupted intervals. If there is a need to stop the cycle, the unit merely 'picks up where it left off' when I am able to resume regenerating.'

She had nodded and reinitiated the cycle.

The next night, she returned. On that occasion, she asked me for further clarification on some minor matters that had occurred during our duty shift. We spoke for 6.3 minutes, then she resumed my regeneration cycle."

"And you didn't find this odd, Seven?" Captain Janeway asked with small frown. The two were sitting on the couch in Janeway quarters. While Kathryn sipped at her ever present cup of coffee, Seven sat in the corner of the couch with her feet curled up under, as had become her habit during these occasional evening visits. Kathryn had long since giving up on trying to get the young woman to relax farther.

"No, I did not," the tall ex-Borg responded. "You, yourself have 'awakened' me on many occasions to obtain information. My regeneration has also been interrupted by other members of the crew, for reasons relating to ships business."

"I suppose that makes sense." The captain reluctantly agreed. Despite the young blonds superior intellect, Seven was still very innocent in many ways. "So, what happened next?" Janeway asked gently.

"She awakened me again. The lieutenant asked me about a suggestion I had made the previous week, regarding upgrading the EPS manifold. The discussion lasted for 8.2 minutes at which time she resumed my cycle." Seven replied promptly.

"So, she's been 'waking' you nightly?" Janeway questioned.

"In the last 58 days she has interrupted my regeneration 46 times." Seven answered. Seeing the captain's confused look, she added helpfully, "The duration has been from 4.3 minutes to a maximum of 72.4 minutes, with 17.2 minutes being the average."

"What!?" Exploded Janeway. "This has been going on for over 2 months?"

"Yes, Captain." Seven affirmed calmly.

"Lieutenant Torres has been...been..." Janeway stuttered to halt, unsure of just what was going on, or where this conversation was leading.

"Talking to me." Seven supplied, with a lift of her enhanced brow.

"Seven, I'm confused. What's been going on and why haven't you said anything until now?" Janeway asked quietly.

And so Seven told her.

Seven had no reference for evaluating the oddity of the situation and so, she had simply accepted it.

The fiery Klingon attitude was nowhere to be found during these visits. Torres' usual temper and antagonism was absent and after only a few days, Seven found she was actually looking forward to spending time just talking to the dark woman.

There seemed to be rules for the visits. Seven would 'wake' in her alcove, to find the Klingon at the main console. The smaller woman would stand with her hand near the controls. If Seven attempted to leave the alcove, she would immediately reactivate the program. Since there was no ships emergency, she would not regain consciousness until the cycle was complete and by then B'Elanna would be long gone. Seven also discovered that any discussions had during the night were not to be commented on during normal hours. Any comments or questions were completely ignored. B'Elanna would calmly and quickly answer most of Sevens questions during one of her visits, but never at any other time.

After the first few days, B'Elanna began to insert personal comments or questions into the nightly conversations. At first the topics were inconsequential.

One night, after talking about a supernova Voyager had been fortunate enough to catalogue recently, B'Elanna had asked. "Did you think the Supernova we saw was beautiful?"

"I found it's beauty or lack thereof irrelevant." Seven had responded.

"I didn't ask you if it was relevant." Torres had replied with a smile. "I asked you if you thought it was beautiful."

"Its appearance had pleasant aspects. I determined that it had no bearing on the matter of its study, so I disregarded it.." Seven had replied in her usual arrogant tone.

Rather than being offended, Torres had laughed. "You should pay more regard to it." she challenged. "There's nothing wrong with taking pleasure in the things around you." After punching in a few commands, she continued. "I think you'll like this. Next time you're in the mess hall give it a try." With that, she set the controls and Seven slept.

The next day, Seven of Nine, former adjunct to Unimatrix Zero, found herself sitting in the mess hall staring at her tray. On it was a freshly replicated bowl of chocolate ice cream. As she raised the first spoonful to her lips, a movement caused her to look up.

"Hello, Seven." B'Elanna said, as she sat across from the taller woman.

"Good afternoon, Lieutenant." Seven replied quietly. She waited for a beat to see if the smaller woman would comment. After all, it had been Torres who had left the replicator code, as well as her suggestion that she should try it.

She watched B'Elanna wolfing down Neelix's 'special of the day' and realized that this too would be another topic left for later, when they were alone in the cargo bay, with Seven in her alcove and Torres hovering over the controls.

Ignoring the strange feeling that idea caused, she bit into the ice cream.

"Did you enjoy the ice cream?" B'Elanna asked, as Seven opened her eyes.

"I...did..." Seven answered hesitantly. "Thank you. It was a pleasant experience."

"So, you're saying that you enjoyed the indulgence?" B'Elanna questioned.

"Yes. I...I did." Seven stammered, embarrassed to admit that it was true.

"Ice cream? She interrupted your cycle to talk about ice cream?" Kathryn asked incredulously.

"We spent a further two point six minutes conversing during which Lieutenant Torres made other dietary suggestions." Seven responded.

"I'm still confused Seven. What else has she done?" Kathryn asked. Truth be told she had no idea what to ask and was simply saying the first thing that popped into her head. Maybe if she heard more she could get some clue to her engineers odd behavior.

Seven opened her eyes. As she had come to expect B'Elanna was standing at the control console.

"I found the Gagh to be unpleasant." Seven said as B'Elanna chuckled. In the past week, B'Elanna had made several suggestions. Seven had dutifully tried them all and had found them to be pleasant. That is, until B'Elanna had suggested the Gagh

"I find it to be incredibly unpleasant too, horrible actually." B'Elanna admitted with a rueful grin.

"Then why did you suggest I attempt to ingest it?" Seven asked crossly. So far these visits had been interesting and somehow pleasant in an odd way. This time she felt vaguely angry and somewhat foolish for assuming there was something worthwhile in these night visits.

B'Elanna did not miss the upset in Seven's tone or expression. "I wasn't being cruel." she told a suspicious glare. "Without a comparison, you can never truly appreciate the things you do like."

"You will resume my regeneration cycle now." Seven replied with icy calm. When B'Elanna looked like she wanted to say more, she made as if to step from the alcove. As she knew would happen, B'Elanna reflexively tripped the controls and her cycle resumed. It was not interrupted again that night and when the computer announced the cycle complete, B'Elanna was long gone.

"She did all this just to trick you into eating Gagh?" Kathryn interrupted confused.

"No." Seven answered.

"No? No!?" Kathryn asked with even more confusion. "Seven, if you want me to help you I need better answers than that."

"I understand Captain and I apologize." Seven answered, meaning it. "I am not accustomed to dealing with personal matters and am somewhat unsure of which events require further clarification."

"Fair enough." Janeway replied. "I think, for the purpose of this discussion, we should assume that everything needs clarification. I want to help you but I can't if you keep it all in."

"I understand Captain." Seven stated before continuing.

"If I had told you that you would hate Gagh, would you have tried it?" B'Elanna asked the instant ice blue eyes opened.

"I would not have." Seven affirmed coldly. Looking at a point slightly past the smaller woman's left shoulder, she pulled herself to her full height and proceeded to focus all her attention on ignoring the hybrid.

"I watched you at dinner tonight. You smiled when you took your first bite." B'Elanna waited for a beat, but Seven refused to acknowledge her. Undaunted she continued. "Before, you found those foods to be somewhat pleasant. Today, you discovered what it was to truly enjoy them.

After a long minute of silence B'Elanna sighed and reached for the controls. Just as her hand was about to touch the panel...

"You wished to show me that one cannot fully appreciate a positive experience without also experiencing its opposite?" Seven asked the space behind B'Elanna.

"To a degree. I wanted you to see that everything has an opposite. You don't have to experience the bad to be able to enjoy all the good. But I think you can't truly appreciate the good if you have no awareness that the bad also exists." B'Elanna replied softly.

There was another long moment of silence while blue eyes studied brown. Finding no deception, Seven simply forgave.

"What is the opposite of Gagh?" She asked with a slight but unmistakable smile.

"That is a relative concept. For a Klingon, that would be prune juice." At the slight frown she chuckled. "But for you, I think this will do." A few keystrokes and the information was set and ready for her to retrieve the next morning.

"Cheesecake?" Kathryn asked with a raised brow as Seven set two plates on the low coffee table. When Seven had gone to the replicator, she had not really given it any thought. Though Seven rarely accepted either food or drink, she had been eating more lately and she had always been comfortable in helping herself on those rare occasions she required something. 'Something' was usually a nutritional supplement. This was a more than pleasant surprise.

"Strawberry cheesecake." Seven confirmed. This talk had gone longer than she had thought possible. She knew the Captain would be hungry by now, and she was also ready to enjoy a break and one of her newfound favourite foods.

"B'Elanna's suggestion?" Kathryn asked as she took a bite.

"Yes." Seven replied. "She was correct. This is most definitely the opposite of Gagh." she commented as she took a bite herself. The smile was evident as she enjoyed the smooth, rich flavour.

Janeway smiled but said nothing as she ate her own cheesecake.

After the plates had been cleared Kathryn got back to the subject at hand.

"This is not just about food. What else have you and B'Elanna talked about during these visits?" Kathryn asked.

"But how did it make you feel?" B'Elanna asked calmly.

She was always amazingly calm during these visits. No matter the answer, the B'Elanna who yelled and growled would not make an appearance. For some reason this sometimes worried Seven. An angry B'Elanna she was used to. Though she liked this one better, she had a greater fear of disappointing her.

"I found it to be unpleasant. I did not feel anything." Seven stated. The play had been boring. The crew had seemed to enjoy it immensely, but Seven had no knowledge of that part of human history. 'A Chorus Line' proved by its title alone, that it was not something an ex-drone would ever be able to appreciate.

"So you felt nothing? Thought nothing?" B'Elanna persisted.

"My only thought was that my time could have been better spent elsewhere." Seven replied stiffly.

"So, you felt bored. You felt that you disliked the play." B'Elanna softly stated.

"That is correct." Seven admitted quietly.

"You also feel that you did something wrong in not enjoying the play." B'Elanna stated with the same calm though her eyes seemed to burn into Seven while she waited for the answer.

"You enjoyed the play." Seven said almost accusingly.

"I'm half human and have enough experience with humans to understand and appreciate the concept of the play." B'Elanna replied. "You on the other hand, were raised away from humans and have no basis to form an understanding or an appreciation for that particular type of entertainment."

"I should have studied the....." Seven began but was cut off by B'Elanna's low laugh.

"There's nothing wrong with not liking the play Seven. As a matter of fact, it's perfectly normal that you won't always like the same things as other people." B'Elanna said with a smile. "As much as you are learning how to feel and experience your humanity, never forget that every human is a unique individual."

"B'Elanna the philosopher." Kathryn muttered surprised.

"We continued that particular topic for several more minutes and then she bid me goodnight and resumed my cycle." Seven said.

"And since then?" Kathryn asked.

"Then everything changed." Seven said, looking at the floor.

"B'Elanna, why do you come here?" Seven asked as soon as her eyes opened. She had taken to using the Klingons given name some days ago, B'Elanna had smiled, but made no other indication that she had noticed. She had been calling her by name ever since.

Now the smaller woman frowned slightly. "I just do. 'Why' is not something we need to discuss."

A quick pause and the night went as it always did. An hour later, Seven was regenerating while a strangely intent B'Elanna watched her for another hour before finally going back to her own quarters to get what sleep she could.

"I asked her every night after that. Every night she refused to answer me." Seven whispered.

"And so, you came to me." Kathryn stated gently. Seven was visibly upset now and the older woman was somewhat shaken to see Seven like this.

"No. I am here now because I have ruined everything." Seven choked out on a sob.

Taking the now crying woman into her arms, Janeway tried to comfort her. "Seven you did nothing wrong. B'Elanna had no right to invade your privacy like that. I'll put her in the brig if I have to but I promise..."

She was cut off by Seven's vehement "No!"

"No? Seven I don't understand. If you aren't here to have her arrested, then what are you here for?" Janeway asked now completely confused.

'Regeneration cycle complete'

Seven was disoriented, but only for a minute. Stepping to the control panel in front of her alcove she checked the scanners. There had been no sign of entry into the cargo bay. This was not the first time B'Elanna had missed a night. She was not worried, she would wait.

'Regeneration cycle halted'

Seven opened her eyes. Ensign Carlson was startled but only for a moment.

"Is everything alright?" he asked. He'd only ever had to go into the cargo bay while Seven was regenerating a few time. Her cycle had never halted like that when he'd been there before.

Stepping to the controls, Seven reset them. "A small error. There is nothing to cause concern." Seven assured calmly. Resetting the sensor to wake her at the approach of only B'Elanna's life signs, she moved back to the alcove.

"Are you sure? I can send for an engineering team to check things over." Carlson offered.

Seeing the genuine concern in the mans eyes, Seven answered "Thank you, but that is unnecessary. It was a simple setting that I had failed to properly alter prior to my regeneration. Your presence triggered it and now that I have reset the control it will no longer be a problem."

"Oh ok. Then I better get these down to cartography." Carlson answered.

"Ensign." Seven asked suddenly curious. If her plan was going to work she needed to know a few things. "How often is the cargo bay accessed while I am regenerating?"

"Hardly ever." Carlson assured. "Unless it's fairly urgent, we wait until you're awake. Usually we get what we need for the night before your duty shift ends. If we hadn't blown out 15 gel packs in sequence, I'd have left this til morning." He added with a sheepish grin.

"I did not realize the crew went to such lengths to avoid me." Seven answered stonily.

"You misunderstand." Carlson replied quickly. At her skeptical look, he hastened to explain. "It's for your privacy. It's not your fault you don't have quarters like the rest of us. We just do what little we can to make it better for you."

"I am sorry. I did not realize." Seven said sincerely. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, but I can't take the credit. To be totally honest, none of us really gave it much thought at first. It wasn't until Lieutenant Torres explained it to us that we finally realized how unfair it was for you." Carlson admitted with a rueful grin.

"When did the Lieutenant do this?" Seven asked with a calm she did not entirely feel.

"Oh months ago. I think you'd been on the ship for a couple of weeks at most. Once she realized engineering was the only department that stores materials in here, she decided to do the honorable thing. And I quote 'If it were my bedroom I'd kill you all. This is her bedroom and I expect you P'Taq's to respect that.'" Carlson deadpanned.

A few minutes later Seven was alone in the cargo bay. As she resumed the cycle she realized she had much to think about. She was not disturbed again that night.

She opened her eyes and found herself pinned by unreadable brown eyes. B'Elanna gave away nothing by her expression. When Seven glanced to the door, B'Elanna quietly let a small black object spill from her hand to the floor where she ground it under her boot. After a moment of silence, B'Elanna started speaking and the night progressed as it had so many times before.

"You rigged a sensor?" Kathryn asked.

"Yes. To stop my regeneration as soon as she entered the cargo bay, before she could reach the controls to the alcove." Seven answered sadly.

"But why?" Kathryn asked as she took Seven's hands and felt the slight shaking.

"Because I want to make her answer me. I want to know why she comes to me every night. Because I want to know why she protects something as irrelevant as my privacy. Because I want to talk to her and know she will not restart my regeneration if I ask a hard question." Seven said as she began to cry anew. "Because I love her."

This time the sensor was not such a simple device. It was protected and shielded. It as simple as it was complicated. Once anyone with B'Elanna's unique bio-signature accessed the regeneration units controls, they would lock. Everything would appear normal, but when she tried to resume the cycle the controls would not work. Seven would be able to leave the alcove at any time and B'Elanna would be unable to stop her. She would get her answers.

"Why do you come here?" Seven asked as soon as she focused on B'Elanna.

"Why do you keep asking me that?" B'Elanna asked quietly.

"You confuse me. In the daytime you behave in the same manner you always have. You are aggressive and often rude. But now, like this, you are calm, patient. You speak to me in a way no one else does. Why are you only able to be this way when I am in my alcove and your hand is on the controls?" Seven demanded.

"We often treat people differently in private." B'Elanna said reasonably.

Seven did not try to hide her frustration. "This is not the same. In the day you act like these times do not exist. I demand an explanation."

"No." B'Elanna said simply, quietly, with a hint of sadness.

"You will comply." Seven ground out as she moved one foot forward.

'regeneration cycle complete'

She found the sensor sitting neatly in the middle of the console.

"I found the tracking device she had installed inside the console later that morning. When I did a diagnostic I found two other sensory devices. Scans indicate they had been present since a few days before the first encounter." Seven said tonelessly.

"Then what did you do?" Kathryn asked quietly. She knew where this was going now.

"I removed the devices." Seven replied.

"And she hasn't returned since?" Kathryn finished for her.

Seven simply nodded and let her head rest on the Captain's shoulder.

She wanted to go strangle B'Elanna with one hand and congratulate her with the other. It had been another late night confession like this that had her learning of B'Elanna's feelings for the ex-drone. She had never suspected that her advice to take the time to get to know each other would take such a strange turn.

With Seven spent from telling her side of the , Kathryn took a moment to think through what she had just heard.

In a strange way it made sense. B'Elanna could pick and choose when to talk to Seven. She probably spent hours doing Tuvok's meditations before a visit to the cargo bay. It was a setting that was calm, quiet and best of all private. Showing her softer side, even marginally, would not be something she could ever be comfortable with in a public setting. Seven was too acutely aware of her Borg background and hid her insecurities behind a wall of arrogance. If B'Elanna had approached her openly, it would have probably resulted in bloodshed.

B'Elanna returned to her quarters as miserable as she'd left them that morning.

As soon as she walked in she noticed the light in the bedroom.

With a low growl she stalked into the room.

The first thing she saw was Seven of Nine, asleep in her bed. B'Elanna didn't know what to do and just stared. The tear stains on flushed cheeks almost broke her heart. She gingerly perched herself on the edge of the mattress and gently lifted a pale meshed hand.

"She cried herself to sleep." The Captains voice made B'Elanna growl low in her throat.

"She told you." Whispered. It was not a question.

"Yes." Kathryn replied.

"What are you going to do?" B'Elanna asked quietly. She knew she'd broken just about every rule in the book this time.

"I'm going to tell you to stop being an ass and tell her how you feel." Kathryn grated softly, trying not to wake Seven up.

Brown eyes snapped up. "And if she hates me?" she ground out trying not to growl.

"She told me everything, including the fact that she loves you." Kathryn watched B'Elanna's eyes instantly turn almost black. Just that small bit of knowledge, even though Seven had not yet said the words, was all the encouragement B'Elanna needed.

"Thank you Kathryn." B'Elanna whispered as Seven began to stir. Seeing that Seven was starting to wake up she tightened her grip on the hand she was holding. "Thank you for bringing her here. I promise. No more games."

"See that you keep that promise." Kathryn said with a smile as she turned to leave the room. "And now it's time for Captains to be sleeping. I'm giving the two of you tomorrow off. I don't want to see either of you until this is settled."

"Yes Captain." B'Elanna said with a grin as the older woman left the room.

The outer doors opened and closed and seconds later B'Elanna found herself staring into sleepy blue eyes.

"I love you." she stated simply.

When Seven smiled she knew today was going to be a good day.

The End

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