DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters. They are the property of Paramount.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Tina LaMarch
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark; professionals built the Titanic.--anon.
Seven regarded the database with growing dread. There was no help for her here. She was on her own if she didn't find another source of data immediately. She tapped her comm badge. "Seven to Torres."
"Torres here Seven. What's up Princess?"
Seven's lip twitched at the nickname. It had started as Ice Princess but in time it had become 'princess' spoken with a kind of rough affection. "I require assistance at your earliest possible convenience, Lt. Torres."
"Be there in a few minutes. Torres out."
Seven greeted the returning children. "Good evening children. I trust that your studies with Commander Chakotay went well this evening."
Mezoti mimicked the stance of her mentor. "Indeed, Seven. We learned that it is necessary to use a holistic approach to the study of anthropology. We studied cannibals that were being killed by their practice of eating brains. It took a medical as well as a cultural approach to understand the mechanics of their deaths."
I'cheb straightened up. "We found it to be a very interesting subject."
"What's an interesting subject?" questioned B'Elanna.
"The devouring of your enemy's brain, Lt. Torres," replied Rebi.
"And the cessation of life that can follow," Azan followed up.
B'Elanna raised her eyebrow at Seven. "OOooookay."
"The children were studying anthropology with Commander Chakotay this evening."
"And he shot right past familial bonds straight to brain eating. Well, guess it made things more fun for you guys."
"I would categorize it as fun, Lt. Torres," Mezoti intoned.
B'Elanna chuckled and ruffled Mezoti's hair. "I bet you did."
"Children, it is now time for you to pursue your independent studies. Lt. Torres and I will be speaking in the hall if you find yourselves in need of my aid."
"Yes Seven," chorused the four former Borg before they went to the small workstations in the back of the Cargo Bay where they studied.
B'Elanna shook her head. "You guys seriously need some real quarters." She looked at the blonde. "You needed my help?"
"Yes Lieutenant." Seven turned and walked out followed by B'Elanna.
B'Elanna took a peek at the Seven Jr. Squad before allowing the bay's door to close. She knew better, but on some level still expected to turn around and catch them making faces or doing something else childlike the moment the elders were turned around. She grinned and followed Seven out.
"Oh for Pete's sake. We've known each other how long? It's ok to call me B'Elanna when we're talking personal stuff. We are talking personal stuff right?"
"This is a discussion of a personal nature."
"There you go."
"Very well, B'Elanna. I wish your assistance on the subject of birthdays."
"Yes, the Captain's birthday is approaching and I am having difficulty preparing."
"Are you experiencing auditory difficulties B'Elanna?"
"No. I'm just a little baffled what you could be having problems with here. You were there for the last one."
"I was not."
"You blew off the Captain's birthday? I thought you two were, you know." B'Elanna leaned against the bulkhead, arms crossed and face fully baffled looking.
"I do not."
"You guys aren't like together?"
"In a relationship?"
"Wow. Guess the pool's still on." Seven tilted her head at B'Elanna, raising her ocular implant high. "Right. How did you miss her birthday last year?"
"It was not compulsory. I did not attend. I felt it irrelevant.."
"Probably hurt Kathryn's feelings that way Seven."
"So I became aware. It is the first reason I have for 'making up for it' this year."
"And the others?"
"The children. The Borg thought such things irrelevant. I did as a Borg would do. I do not wish their progress toward their individuality hampered by my poor example."
"You have it you to be a great mom, Princess. Ok, let's get this problem really defined so we know exactly how much trouble we're going to get ourselves into." B'Elanna grinned.
"There are many possible forms a present to one you respect and hold affection for may take. It is indicated that a 'homemade' gift is more meaningful. Is that correct?"
"Yeah, it can be. Buying a present with replicator rations is easy. Making a present, writing a poem, drawing pictures, these take personal time and energy. Makes a gift like that special. Someone was willing to do that for you? Means something."
"What would I craft? I have little creative ability."
"I don't know princess, you always seem to come up with new and exciting ways to piss me off," B'Elanna replied with a smile.
Seven raised her implant "I doubt the Captain would appreciate a dose of my ability to piss you off for her birthday."
"So we'll find something she would like and find a way to build it or somehow represent it."
"You will aid me in this?"
"Absolutely, especially if you let me put my name on the tag. Low on rations this week and Neelix is serving up marsupial surprise. I have a more pressing need for those rations than a prezzie." B'Elanna chuckled.
"That would be acceptable."
"We gonna get the kids in on this?"
Seven looked toward the Cargo Bay door. "Perhaps we should outline birthday protocols and let the children decide a form that their present could take."
"Not a bad idea. Kids are going to feel more a part of the family if they take part in family rituals."
"Is that from Chakotay's anthropological lessons, B'Elanna?"
"Simple reality. Not as exciting as brain eating but still kind of cool. Let's go interrupt individual studies so we can discuss protocol." B'Elanna laughed at the oddity of birthdays and protocol being used in the same discussion. They walked in to find Mezoti standing on crate. B'Elanna reached up and grasping Mezoti at the waist, helped lift her down.
Seven looked at her charge. "Why were you on the crate Mezoti?"
"Commander Chakotay indicated the value of examining other points of view. I am attempting to see the world from your own perspective, Seven."
B'Elanna snorted. Seven shot her the implant and looked back at Mezoti. "It is admirable that you are attempting to apply the lessons you have studied, Mezoti. However it would be preferable if you were to remain on the ground when you do it."
"I indicated as much to her Seven. She was insistent." I'Cheb stood up and faced the two adults.
B'Elanna couldn't stop the chuckles this time. "Resistance is futile," she teased in a sing song as she went to sit on the alcove dais.
Seven tilted her head and stifled a sigh. "Children, Lt. Torres and I have something we wish to discuss with you."
"Are you intending to mate with her Seven?" inquired Mezoti as she sat beside B'Elanna who was having trouble with an unhinged jaw.
"No Mezoti. The nature of our personal relationship is not the subject of our discussion." Seven continued on as if nothing untoward had happened.
B'Elanna was feeling a slight, well, major case of shock. 'Where did that come from?' her brain screamed. She tried to focus on the discussion on hand.
"Then what is the subject of our discussion?" Rebi inquired politely as he and his brother came over to join the discussion.
"We are discussing the anniversary of the Captain's birth. In the society in which she was raised, it is traditional to have a party and to offer gifts."
"Why?" asked I'Cheb.
"Sport, when you hear tradition, usually asking 'why' is like using an umbrella full of holes. Doesn't do a lot of good," explained B'Elanna from her perch.
Seven tilted her head. "Indeed, I have found that to be true. It has come to my attention that homemade gifts are considered superior and therefore, Lt. Torres and myself will be making a gift. We thought we would offer you all the opportunity to do likewise."
"May I work with NaomiWildman Seven?" Mezoti asked.
"Of course provided her mother also agrees."
"We would like ."
"To work together," offered the twins.
"I will work independently. What are the parameters of the project Seven?"
B'Elanna snorted. "Parameters are you make something you think she'll like that won't blow up the ship or get anybody locked in the brig."
"Succinctly stated B'Elanna."
B'Elanna mock saluted and grinned. "Live to serve princess."
"There is a great deal about crafts in the computer, children. I do request that if you wish to use any medium in which you have not been previously trained that you ask for assistance from myself or one of the individual on the RAL."
"RAL?" B'Elanna got lost on that one.
"RAL is the Responsible Adult List Lt. Torres. It is a list of adults who have been granted a level of trust sufficient to oversee our supervision, Lt. Torres." I'Cheb straightened up with pride, being able to offer aid to one of his heroes.
"Really?" She looked at Seven. "So am I on it?"
"B'Elanna, your's is the first name listed."
B'Elanna and Seven went to the Holodeck after seeing the children to their alcoves. Seven had asked the computer for a slot. "I wish to examine the possibilities further," she indicated when B'Elanna asked.
As they entered Seven went to the panel. With a few deft taps, Seven brought up an image of the Captain's Ready Room. The blonde pointed at the door that normally led to the Bridge. "That now leads to an image of the Captain's quarters."
B'Elanna looked around. "You do know that its slightly stalkerish and creepy to have people's private spaces in your files, right?"
"I have stored images of all the private quarters that I have ever been in. I at one time entertained the possibility that I might be given private quarters of my own. I created these holograms in order to better understand ways in which I might utilize my space. While I never received private quarters, I have failed to erase the programs."
"Why didn't you ask?" B'Elanna shook her head. "No. Don't answer that. You shouldn't have had to ask."
"It was more efficient to utilize the spaces that I have been allowed. Private quarters "
"Private quarters are the right of every crewman _especially_ when they have a family to take care of."
"Thank you B'Elanna."
"Thank me after I remind some folks of that fact. Now what are we doing here?"
"We are looking for ideas."
"Right." B'Elanna started strolling around the Ready Room looking at everything. "What do you make for the Captain that has everything but a way home and a crew that can stay out of trouble for more than a week at a go?" She picked up a vase. "Am I really on top of that list?"
"Though our personal relationship has been a bit strained at times, you have always been honest with me. You do not shy away from or shirk responsibility. You showed kindness to One and since their arrival, the children. I consider you to be to be an acceptable mentor for them."
"You are welcome B'Elanna. I believe I may have an idea. It will be difficult, but it will appeal to both her practical nature as well as her emotional one."
B'Elanna joined Seven by the desk. "Let's hear it."
B'Elanna looked at taller blonde with just a touch of utter disbelief. "Now that's one I didn't think of. Probably cause it would take tons of rations, time and its just a little weird. Could we even pull it off?"
"I have no doubt that the two of us are more than capable. I have the 'tons' of rations this project will require and only regenerate one day out of ten. I have the time. However, if you believe the Captain will find it weird, perhaps we should consider other options."
B'Elanna grinned. "Well, when I think about it, weird works for us. If you got the rats, I got the know how."
"Excellent. How shall we begin?"
"You take the rest of this holo slot to write up the programming. I'm going to go back to my quarters and start the design work. Join me when you're ready and we'll get the planning done. We'll just have to schedule around four kids and two jobs. Nothing easier in the world."
"Mr. Neelix 'owes me one.' Perhaps I can encourage him to take the children one evening this week."
"Even better. Ok. Off I go. Have fun." B'Elanna smiled and waved as she went out the door.
Seven ended the simulation of the Captain's Ready Room and walked over to the console. She smiled slightly as she began to work. She enjoyed having an opportunity to spend time with B'Elanna. She outlined the program in her head and let her fingers fill it out on the screen.
B'Elanna grabbed up a set of PADDs and pulled up some circuitry configurations on her workstation. She went to her closet to get a tricorder she had been tinkering with in her spare time. "Looks like you're getting a new lease on life." She tossed it on her desk with a set of tools and the large mug of raktijino she replicated. "MMMM fuel," she muttered with her first sip. She frowned slightly.
She tapped her comm badge. "Torres to Janeway."
"Captain, mind if I ask a dumb question?"
"Why is the Family Seven living in a storage space?"
"There are no family quarters as such and their unique needs "
"With all due respect, their unique needs include getting to feel like crew members rather than crates of biomatter. Requesting permission to build them quarters in Cargo Bay 2 Captain."
The Captain did not answer for several long moments. She sighed and said, "Of course B'Elanna. Thank you for taking care of this. I seem to forget to take care of business when it comes to Seven."
"Common problem. I have a personal matter to attend to so I can't do it just yet. I'd like them to know it's on its way though. When can I start pulling the necessaries from Stores?"
"You send me a list of what you need and I'll forward it. If you have Engineers sitting on their hands, feel free to pull them off to work on this as long as we don't wander into another crisis."
"Yes Captain. Thanks."
"Thank you. Janeway out."
"Now that's taken care of, let's see what kind of progress I can make for the birthday girl's present."
It was almost 0100 when Seven and B'Elanna called it a night. B'Elanna stretched and yawned. "We got a lot done. Actually, I think that with just a few detours, we are done with everything but the just build it part of this project."
Seven raised her implant as the half Klingon made cracking noises during her stretch. "Unfortunately, the 'just build it' portion will be substantial."
"Nothing we can't handle. You and the kids have breakfast at 0600 in the Mess Hall right?"
"Yes B'Elanna. May I ask why?"
"Thought I'd invite myself to join you guys. Give us a chance to work on the project schedule and spend time with the kids, maybe find out about their projects. As one of the responsible adults it would behoove me to find out if I'm gonna need to invest in flame retardant clothing up front." B'Elanna smiled at the blonde and went to recycle her mug.
"That would be very acceptable. The children would enjoy your presence. I would as well." Seven got up and crossed the room to stand just outside the door sensor's range.
"Good. See you in the morning then Seven."
"Good evening B'Elanna." Seven began to walk out. In the doorway, she turned and said, "Sweet dreams."
B'Elanna smiled at the closing door. She straightened up the desk and went to collapse in the bed.
Her alarm went off way too darned early and she was cursing the time even before her eyes tried to open. She managed to shower and change and grumped her way up to the Mess. She was still trying to get her right eye to open up when she heard the choir behind her.
"Good morning Lt. Torres."
"Morning kids. Seven? You been giving them lessons on how to sneak up on me?"
"First thing in the morning B'Elanna, a rabid targ with a head cold and wearing bells could sneak up on you," Seven said in a monotone. Her implant lifted and the side of her mouth lifted.
"Oh you're a riot. Kids, you go first. I gotta decide whether I want the muffins or to ask for the special order of Seven on a roasting spit."
"Thank you Lieutenant. Lt. Torres?"
"I must point out that the high metal content of her body would make Seven unpalatable."
"Thanks I'Cheb. Go eat while I talk to your primary caretaker."
"You are welcome." I'Cheb followed his siblings into the line for breakfast.
"Seven? Can we make it clear to Chakotay that cannibalism is an inappropriate discussion topic, at least until they're less literal."
"That would perhaps be for the best."
"I see you chose the muffins Lt. Torres."
"Yeah. Easier on my stomach I'Cheb. So why don't you kids tell me what you're all thinking for projects."
Mezoti whose engines always ran hotter first thing in the morning chirped up first. "I will need to consult with NaomiWildman and her mother, but as the Captain enjoys Talent Night I thought perhaps we might do a skit or a song together. I thought perhaps a magic show but I'Cheb informs me that magic is frivolous and Seven informs me that I am not allowed within five meters of NaomiWildman with a saw."
B'Elanna snorted into her raktijino. "I have to agree with Seven, but I'Cheb? The art of illusion has kept this crew alive more than once. It would be a worthwhile study."
I'Cheb considered it. "If it has proved useful in the past, perhaps I should make a study of it myself."
"What about you I'Cheb? Any thoughts?"
"The Captain's affinity for coffee is well known. I will make a cup out of clay in the Da Vinci studio and further fabricate a device to keep the coffee therein warm."
The brunette nodded. "That's great thinking Sport. I bet she'll like that a lot."
When she turned to look at them the twins looked at one another and then back at her. "We are still researching."
"This is great. I bet the Captain loves the presents from the Family Seven. I can't wait for her party."
"Lt. Torres, Seven, may I ask what you are making for the Captain?"
B'Elanna smiled. "A surprise. Pass the butter Sport."
"The Family Seven?" Seven quirked implant as she repeated the phrase.
"Yeah, the of Nine Family didn't have the same ring. Hope it's ok."
"It is acceptable."
"Grand. So Double Trouble, you need any help with your research, you'll look me up right?"
Rebi and Azan smiled at her and nodded as one. B'Elanna chuckled and finishing off her muffin, got up. "I got a butt load going on today. See you guys later, ok?"
"Good day Lt. Torres," the kids chorused.
"Have a good day B'Elanna." followed Seven softly.
B'Elanna walked down to the Holodeck after her shift. After querying the computer, she found that the Family Seven was in there. She was curious how the kids were coming with their presents. She walked in Da Vinci's studio just in time to see the Maestro throw his hands in the air and stomp out.
"Do I want to ask what his problem was?"
"Good afternoon Lt. Torres. I'Cheb informed Mr. Da Vinci that while he was an extraordinary painter and inventor, he has nothing to teach him in the art of coffee cup making. Mr. Da Vinci was most displeased." Mezoti took up B'Elanna's hand and led her to a chair on the second floor. "NaomiWildman and I are ready to demonstrate our present for the Captain. Will you give us honest theatrical critism?"
"Sure Shorty. Let's see what you guys have come up with."
Naomi and Mezoti walked to the far end of the area and held a whispered conference. Mezoti stepped forward. "We will be performing the first act of Waiting for Godot for Captain Janeway."
"Any particular reason you picked that one?"
"It had two characters."
B'Elanna nodded. It was as good a reason as any she supposed. Personnally she would have picked the dialogue between Rosalind as Ganymede and Orlando, or heck even a two person hip hop version of the Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet, but too each their own. She put on her composed face and sat back to enjoy the show. Seven walked over a couple minutes in and placed her hand on B'Elanna's shoulder. B'Elanna looked up and grinned before turning her attention to the girls.
When they got to the part about hanging themselves and erections, B'Elanna just couldn't do it. "Um Shorty? Spike? Can I talk to you?"
Mezoti and Naomi came to stand beside her. "Is there something the matter?" inquired the small former Borg.
"Did we do something wrong?" ask Naomi.
"Not wrong exactly." B'Elanna looked up at Seven who lifted her implant. No help there. "Maybe you should think about something a little less dark for the Captain on her big day. After all, she has to deal with all kinds of tragedy and difficulty maybe you should try something a little less . Um, mandrakey and hangy."
Mezoti considered for a moment and turned to her partner in crime. "Perhaps, we should consider Protocol B?"
"Protocol B? What's Protocol B?" asked B'Elanna with a certain amount of hope.
B'Elanna amazed herself by keeping the smile on her face. "That's a great idea. Let me know how that goes, girls."
B'Elanna turned to Seven as the girls wandered off to begin a giggle filled conference. "Howzit going?" She followed the blonde down the stairs.
"B'Elanna. It is my understanding that you are responsible for the large quantities of building supplies in the Cargo Bay."
"Shoot. Was hoping to talk to you about that before it got delivered. Captain gave me permission to start work on quarters for you and the juniors when I've got the time and manpower." B'Elanna looked apologetically at the former drone.
"Thank you B'Elanna. Thank you for helping with the gifts, for the new quarters."
A large volume of highly charged Italian came from the far side of the studio. "I understand Italian about as well as I speak tribble and even I know that can't have been PG language." She strode in the direction of the outburst. Seven was hot on her heels.
I'Cheb was standing stiffly before the red-faced Maestro. "Again with the coffee cup?" asked B'Elanna.
"Mr. Da Vinci, while a figure representative of creativity and innovation, apparently has rather structured ideas about the creative output of others," offered I'Cheb, raising his chin.
"Boy! You should .."
"Whoa whoa whoa!" B'Elanna stepped between the two. "Ok. Let's try this. Da Vinci, you gave your opinion."
"Yes. The en.."
"Ah. No." B'Elanna held up a finger. "I'Cheb. Did you listen before you decided not to take his advice?"
"Mentor and teen mentee. Maestro, don't know about you but that sounds like every relationship I've ever seen with a teenager. Actually better than 'cause he heard you out before he blew you off."
Da Vinci shrugged. "It is so."
"Great. Solved." B'Elanna turned to Seven. "Thanks for the help, princess."
"You do quite well on your own B'Elanna."
B'Elanna snorted. "Fine be that way. As long as I am being Super-responsible Woman where are those twins?"
Seven's lips quirked upward as she began to walk toward another section of the studio.
B'Elanna looked at Seven. It was kind of weird but the woman was . "Oh Kahless, you're enjoying me being all large and in charge with the kids and their projects." B'Elanna put her hands on her hips and glared at the former Borg.
"I must admit it is a very interesting change. You indicated that I have the potential to be a great mother. You also have such potential.."
"Well let me just go pop a few out then." B'Elanna laughed.
"You already have several who look up to you."
"Guess so. It's kind of weird. I guess we each give the kids something."
"Structure and chaos?" Seven's implant went up..
"Borg teasing? I'm not sure how much more my heart can take today. Come on. We need to find the twins and see if they can finish me off."
"I would feel the lack of your company deeply, B'Elanna. Perhaps we should put it off."
B'Elanna smiled. "I think I'd miss you if something ever happened to you too princess." She turned and walked toward the back room in which the twins were ensconced. Seven followed after a moment in thought.
They walked in to find the twins each hard at work on opposite sides of the console. Their fingers were moving almost too fast to be seen.
"Wow. Hard at work. What are you two up to today?"
"We are ."
" .making the Captain's gift."
"So, um, wanna clue us in kids?"
"It's a surprise."
"It will not blow us up ."
"Nor put anyone in the brig."
The twins looked at one another. They shook their heads at one another and went back to work.
Seven looked B'Elanna. "You were the one who set the parameters, B'Elanna."
"Thanks for reminding me. I had forgot," replied the engineer dryly. "Well if you guys need any advice or anything, Seven and I would love to help."
The twins looked up. "Thank you," they chorused before turning back to their work.
"The Captain is gonna flip isn't she?" B'Elanna whispered to the blonde.
"Why would she do acrobatics?"
B'Elanna opened her mouth to explain but thought better. She sighed. "Let's get our project done so that I can start on your new quarters, princess."
B'Elanna looked up from the relay she was working on. The gift for the Captain was moving at an impressive rate. 'Course half the team almost never sleeps, er, regenerates,' thought B'Elanna. She got a small wistful smile on her face.
"You should do that more often," said Seven who had caught the expression as she brought over the processing unit she had just finished.
"Smile. You are beautiful at all times, but more so when you smile."
"Full of compliments today. Has Hell frozen over already?"
Seven looked at B'Elanna quizzically. B'Elanna grinned and shook her head. She looked down at the relay for a moment. "Seven? You seeing anyone?"
"No, B'Elanna. I am not."
"You wouldn't want to be my date for the party, would you?"
Seven hesitated only a moment before answering. "I would be honored."
B'Elanna grinned. She had found herself seeking out the former drone's company even when they weren't working. She had to admit a certain attraction for the brilliant woman. "Great. Let's put this puppy together."
Seven sat beside B'Elanna and they wordlessly worked together. They were finished by the time the ship started waking up. B'Elanna grinned at Seven. "We have something to celebrate. What say we grab the kids and hit the Mess Hall?"
"I am certain that they would enjoy having your company at breakfast again. I find that they are most vociferous about their time with you."
"I make them chatty."
B'Elanna snorted. "Let's chat 'em up then. Think they'd like banana pancakes?"
"If you suggested it, I am sure they would love it."
"I love being the bad influence."
"I am gratified that you love being the bad influence," Seven replied dryly as she followed B'Elanna out.
B'Elanna was grinning at Naomi and Mezoti trying to work out which music was appropriate for a dance about the Captain. She looked up at Seven who was also apparently amused by the sight.
"Do you have a suggestion Lt. Torres?" inquired Mezoti..
"What are you trying to convey?"
"What do you mean?"
"Is the dance about the Captain? The woman behind the force 10 glare? Are you guys looking at a specific event?"
"I think Mezoti and I were trying to say thanks for my being the Assistant and her being on board."
"So, is it a quiet thanks or a 'would give you a huge hug if you weren't Captain' kind of thanks?"
The two girls looked at one another. They looked at B'Elanna. "I believe it is the second, Lt. Torres."
B'Elanna thought about it. Seven answered. "Perhaps one of the more expansive pieces of music. Something with a great deal of brass, perhaps."
B'Elanna grinned at Seven. "Great call Seven. You know I have no idea what your favorite piece of music is."
Seven softly sang a short portion of "You Are My Sunshine."
"That was lovely."
Seven nodded. "Thank you B'Elanna."
B'Elanna smiled. Her comm badge beeped. "Torres here."
"Need you in engineering, Lieutenant. We're about to wrap up the warp core diagnostic."
"On my way. Torres out."
"Well guys. Gotta run. See you all after shift."
"We would find that "
"most acceptable," offered the twins.
"Indeed," seconded I'Cheb.
She waved and walked out. The Chief pulled up short at Mezoti's call. She turned and kneeled beside the child.
"What's up Shorty?"
Mezoti gave her a kiss on the cheek. "You would be an appropriate mate for Seven and second mother for us. Please be advised that we children have reached unanimous consensus on that question." She stood at ease for a moment before grinning and running back into the Mess.
B'Elanna smiled. "Would have been nice to get the first date out of the way first but nice to know I got the kids' blessing." She chuckled and went back to work.
B'Elanna swung by the Cargo Bay about halfway through the work day with a passel of otherwise uninvolved engineers. It took the rest of the shift to wall up half the Cargo Bay up to the second floor and put together the skeleton of the former Borgs' new home. She stood on one of the beams that would provide support to the soon to be second floor and put her hands on her hips. She smiled broadly. "Looking good." She balanced her way across to the curving staircase and trotted down.
She came out just as the kids came into the Bay. "Hey guys."
"Hello Lt. Torres," the children greeted. Mezoti came forward and hugged the startled engineer. The little one looked up. "You have been making a home for us."
B'Elanna got down on her knees. "As a matter of fact yes. The first floor is almost done. The second is going to take a bit more time. We're doing this between projects. Hope you don't mind."
"It is acceptable, Lt. Torres," offered I'Cheb.. He looked curiously toward the now no longer visible alcoves.
"Will I have my own room?" asked Mezoti.
"Yep. It's going to be on the second floor, but when it's done you and Naomi can have sleepovers and stuff."
"That would be acceptable, Lt. Torres." Mezoti ruined the toneless Borg delivery with a grin. "Will you be living with us at that time?"
"Sweetie, can Seven and I go on a date before you marry us off?" asked B'Elanna with just a hint of exasperation.
Mezoti thought it through carefully. "That would likewise be acceptable. However, I do not advise delay as Seven is what Lt. Paris would refer to as a 'babe' and therefore would be subject to advances from other quarters. We children have made our choice."
B'Elanna grinned and ruffled Mezoti's hair. "I'll keep that in mind short stuff."
"Good afternoon B'Elanna. You have been busy."
B'Elanna stood up and after brushing off her knees she turned and grinned at the blonde coming in from her shift. "As a matter of fact, I have been. There's still no second floor, but I was thinking I could give you guys a tour of what we've got almost done on the first floor."
"Perhaps that would be for the best given that we will need to know the new location of our alcoves before this evening." Seven quirked her implant.
B'Elanna chuckled and swept a magnificent bow. "But of course your majesty." She straightened up and led the way to the door of the new family quarters.
After the brief tour, B'Elanna and Seven led the Borg ducklings to the Mess. "Tomorrow's the big day," B'Elanna reminded the kids as they waited on their turn. "Hey Neelix."
"Hello B'Elanna, Seven, children. Are you all looking forward to the Captain's party tomorrow?"
"Yes we are Mr. Neelix," replied Mezoti. "NaomiWildman and I will be dancing for her."
"So I hear Mezoti. I am positive the Captain will be thrilled."
"As am I," Mezoti answered firmly. B'Elanna had to fight down a grin at Borg cuteness.
"And the rest of you? Are you doing something for the Captain?"
"I am making a coffee cup and warmer," announced I'Cheb proudly.
"A most appropriate gift, I'Cheb."
Everyone looked expectantly at the twins. They looked at each other and then back at Mr. Neelix. "It's a surprise," they chorused.
"We couldn't get it out of them either," joked B'Elanna.
"And your gift?"
"Seven and I are also gonna have to go into the surprise category."
Neelix smiled. "Fair enough." He started dishing out the food. "Hope you're all hungry today. We have a special batch of Marsupial Surprise today."
B'Elanna felt the grin freeze on her face. She loved the Talaxian to death but she was not a big fan of his cooking. She had a redundant stomach. She could take the taste. She despised prehensile tails in her teeth.
"MMmm thanks Neelix. Sounds good. Doesn't that sound good, kids?"
Seven raised her ocular implant at B'Elanna as the kids chorused their assent. B'Elanna shrugged and picking up her heavily laden tray walked over to a big table to take her seat. "Now Double Trouble, not trying to annoy you or anything, but just to confirm . No ship will be harmed by your project and I'm not going to be trying to talk the Captain out of putting you two in the Brig, right?"
She was surprised at how nervous it made her when the two boys stared at one another for several long moments before shrugging and shaking their heads at one another.
"That would be "
"correct, Lt. Torres."
She looked at Seven whose implant went up. She wasn't the only who read a certain lack of conviction in their voices. B'Elanna rubbed her forehead ridges. "Those with wrappable gifts wrap them up tonight. When she heard that the Family Seven was contributing theatricals and other gifts, the Captain changed the time on the party. Made it early enough so you kids can really enjoy yourselves."
The second half of her shift was once again spent working on a new home for the Borglings. She smiled as they laid the last floor plate. B'Elanna sighed in satisfaction as she wandered into each room to check everything. The furniture began to arrive and she oversaw the placement. There was no personality to anything in there, but she had no doubt that the personalities of Seven and the kids would shine through in no time.
She walked over to the replicator and took the rose and PADD to the coffee table. She wrote, 'Hope you like your new home. Seven, I am very much looking forward to our date tonight. See you soon, B'Elanna..' The engineer put her hands on her hips and did a slow turn to take in the new living room. "Looking good." She smiled and walked back to Engineering to punch out a little early.
B'Elanna stopped by Astrometrics. "Hey Seven."
Seven gave a slight smile. "Good afternoon Lt. Torres."
"We are on duty."
"You are at any rate. Thought I'd pull the twins out of their studies, take 'em for a walk "
"Seek their assurances about the nature of their project." Seven finished for her, quirking her implant.
"Yup. Wanted to check that it's ok with you, see if you wanted some interrogation fun for yourself."
"I would be interested however I have been experiencing sensor echoes. I am attempting to localize the source. I do however have faith in your ability to make them sufficiently chatty to get the required information."
B'Elanna smiled warmly and stood up from where she had been leaning. She walked up to the taller woman and gave her a peck on the cheek. Seven looked at her in surprise. "I'm looking forward to our date. Anyway, I'll pick you and the kids up at your new quarters for an early dinner. We can grab a bite to eat before the party. Fill everyone up so they don't fill up on cake. Or more specifically, so I don't fill up on cake." B'Elanna chuckled and patting Seven's arm, she walked to the door.
"I am looking forward to our date as well."
B'Elanna smiled and went to go hunt up Rebi and Azan.
She found them talking biology with the Doctor. B'Elanna grinned as she leaned on a wall near the door to watch. The four Borglings were wearing on even holographic nerves when they were like this. They were firing off ever more intricate and indelicate questions and the Doctor was fielding them all and trying to keep the discussion on a level that would not be deemed inappropriate for minors.
The Doctor spotted her, he scurried over to her. "Lieutenant. Please state the nature of the medical emergency, please."
"Lt. Torres," the kids chorused before descending on her. She started laughing as she became the new target.
"Are you well?"
"Are you injured?"
"Is inappropriate laughter a sign of incipient mental illness in half-Klingons?"
"You are still taking us to the party right?"
"Of course she's taking us to the party."
"Unless she is ill."
"Are you ill?"
B'Elanna held up her hands. "That's where I came in. I'm fine. I'm just taking Double Trouble here for a little walk."
"Why?" the twins asked. They had a certain nervousness under the Borg cool that confirmed the need for the walk. B'Elanna looked at the Doctor.
"Seven gave me the ok to grab them. Anything they should know before we go?"
"No, no. We were about to wrap up. We will simply review relevant information until it's time for the children to go back to the Bay."
"Ok. That's us out of here Rebi, Azan." B'Elanna shooed the boys out of the Sickbay.
"Why don't we go take a look at the new place and you two can pick out your rooms." They nodded as one and followed B'Elanna.
"Lt. Torres, you and Seven are insightful individuals."
"We considered that you might be interrogating us further on our project.
"We would like your opinion on its impact,"
"So we propose a trade."
"A secret for a secret."
B'Elanna turned and looked down at the twins. She chuckled. "Why do I feel like I just got outmaneuvered by experts?"
"Do we have a deal, Lt. Torres?"
"Let's talk about this in the new quarters, guys." B'Elanna shook her head and led them into the Cargo Bay.
B'Elanna started roaring with laughter. She sat back in the big chair in the living room and tried not to look at the twins because every time she did, she started laughing again. "You guys know that you've been driving Seven to distraction with your test fires, right?"
The twins looked at each other then turned their attention to the floor. "We were not aware."
"It's gonna be ok. You are going to freak the Captain out mightily tonight, but I think you're right, no one in the brig and the ship won't blow up." B'Elanna shook her head. "You two have a have an evil couple of minds. I like it."
She sat between the boys and throwing her arms over their shoulders gave them each a one armed hug. "We'll keep each others secrets til tonight, right boys?"
"Yes Lt. Torres," they intoned. She was pretty sure she saw the patented Borg almost smile on both their faces.
"Go get ready. The others will be here soon and I have a date to get ready for. You guys ok on your own for a few minutes?"
"Yes Lt. Torres."
B'Elanna chuckled and then levering herself off the couch, headed out. She waved to I'Cheb and Mezoti as they walked toward the Bay. She tapped her badge. "Torres to Seven."
"You can wrap up for the night. I found the source of the sensor echoes. You have a date to get ready for, Princess."
"Indeed I do. May I ask what the source of the sensor echoes?"
"You can ask."
"But you will not tell me."
"Nope. You'll know tonight."
"Then I had better hurry and get ready."
"Indeed. Torres out." B'Elanna chuckled and ordered the turbo lift to her floor.
"Crap. What am I going to wear?"
B'Elanna raided her closet and eventually chose a rust colored silk shirt and black slacks. She nervously fidgeted with her hair until it was time to leave. 'Why in Gre'thor am I so freaking nervous? This is Seven.'
She laughed at the way she answered her own question. The blonde had a knack for getting under her skin. Once upon a time all it did was piss her off, lately, it was different story. The engineer wanted to give the former Borg a perfect date. She couldn't guarantee perfect, but she was glad to know that there was no way to avoid interesting.
She got to the Cargo Bay in record time and went to chime the new front door. Mezoti met her at the door dressed head to toe in black. "Hey Shorty. What's with the get-up?"
"In our research, NaomiWildman and I found that many chose to wear such costumes to make the dance the important part of what was on stage."
"Very cool. Everybody else ready too?"
Mezoti ushered her into the new quarters. "Seven is still preparing, but we are all ready for nutritional supplements and cake."
I'Cheb stood up from the chair. "I will knock and inquire as to her preparation time, Lt. Torres."
"That will not be necessary, I'Cheb." Seven came out of the master bedroom which was located just off the staircase. She walked down the stairs wearing a sleeveless pale blue dress and hair drawn back slightly at the temples but otherwise loose to stand in front of a shocked engineer. Seven smiled slightly.
B'Elanna whispered, "You look incredible."
"Thank you B'Elanna."
B'Elanna offered her arm and led the procession up to the Mess Hall. The Borglings were chattering all the way. They were intent on experiencing all the rituals of attending a birthday party this evening. "Just remember to wish the Captain a happy birthday guys. The rest will take care of itself." Mezoti took B'Elanna's other hand.
B'Elanna looked down. "We have researched the topic thoroughly and will conform to all norms for partying."
"Do I have to worry about the types of parties you've been researching?"
"Are there wrong kinds of parties?"
"At your age, yes."
"Then perhaps you should worry."
They finished up an early supper and headed down to the Holodeck. Originally, the plan was to have the party in the Mess, but when she heard that Naomi and Mezoti were going to perform, she moved it so there could be a small stage at one end of the room.
The Captain came over and greeted everyone with a big smile on her face. She raised eyebrows at B'Elanna when she caught sight of how her arms were each taken. The entire lot of them chorused "Happy Birthday."
Janeway smiled and waved into the room. "Thank you all so much for coming. It means a great deal."
"I apologize for missing last year's festivities, Captain."
"You're here now. That's what's important." Kathryn smiled and patted Seven's arm.
The clan placed their gifts on the table meant for them and then everyone circulated. B'Elanna smiled at the children cornering one after another of the adults at the party with discussions ranging from cannibalism and medicine with the Doctor and Chakotay to a discussion of the relative value of studying twentieth century film with Tom Paris. She smiled at her date. "The kids are having a blast."
"Indeed. As am I."
"Should have come last year then?"
"Yes. For the Captain. I however would not have enjoyed it. I believe my date is what is making this event truly worthwhile for me."
B'Elanna smiled. Neelix called out that it was time for cake and presents and everyone scrambled to find a seat near the Captain to watch the opening of gifts. After an assortment of smaller gifts from various officers, Janeway opened I'Cheb's gift. It was a beautiful green glazed coffee mug inscribed with the location of Earth using various quasars as locators. "This is magnificent, I'Cheb. I'll really love drinking coffee out of this."
"You will notice an additional thickness to the bottom. It is designed to keep coffee hot for 1.3 hours longer than a standard mug."
"Even better." The Captain smiled at I'Cheb and handed the mug to Neelix. "Fill this up for me Neelix? I've got a craving."
"You've got it Captain. Coming right up."
"And now I think its time for the young women of the ship to give their gift."
"Indeed Captain," agreed Mezoti.
Mezoti and Naomi stepped up onto the stage. "We call our dance 'Thank you Captain Janeway' and we hope you will find it an adequate birthday present."
"I'm sure I will," replied the amused Captain.
B'Elanna choked on her cake and the Captain on her coffee as 'Tijuana Taxi' started playing. B'Elanna got her breathing under control and whispered to her date, "Expansive brass." as she struggled not to giggle.
The applause took quite a while to die down after the girls finished their dance. Naomi ran and hugged her mom afterwards. Mezoti, seeing this behavior, ran and hugged Seven, a moment later she hugged B'Elanna. "It was adequate?"
The Captain put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "It was more than adequate. You two need to perform together more often."
Mezoti looked over at Naomi who grinned and nodded. "Will the next Talent Night be acceptable Captain?"
"Very much so, Mezoti," replied Janeway with a smile. "Thank you both for such a beautiful gift. That just leaves two gifts. Which should I open first?"
"Go for the little one first. The boys worked hard on it."
"Rebi, Azan, will you sit with me while I open it?"
"Put the mug down in the center of the table first."
The Captain's brow raised before doing just that. She gingerly took the gift and with a look at B'Elanna opened it. She pulled out a small grey box with a red button on it. She looked at each of the boys and at their nods, pushed the button.
Seconds later, the ship went to red alert and everyone but the twins and B'Elanna shot up. She waved her arms. "False alarm." She reached and pressed the button again. The ship stood down.
"What in blazes was that?"
"I told the kids about illusion helping save our collective butts from time to time. The boys created an illusion."
"It is a sensor echo," Rebi replied
"It projects a second Intrepid class ship off our bow," Azan continued.
"Only a visual inspection would have spotted the fake "
"and given that few ships use a visual inspection as their primary source of data on other ships,"
"they would be more likely to assume the fake is real possibly discouraging an attack."
"A brilliant plan Azan and Rebi. I love this gift. I hope you don't mind if I turn it over to B'Elanna so she can 'bulk it up'?"
"That would be acceptable," they answered.
Janeway handed the box to B'Elanna. She looked at the table. "One really big box left. Seven, B'Elanna, before I even open it, thank you. Having my two party dodgers here without compulsion means everything to me, the gift just makes it more special."
B'Elanna and Seven smiled as the box was brought over with a little bit of playful grunting by Tom and Harry. The Captain stood up to tear into it.
Kathryn Janeway looked down into the box and gasped. She looked at her Chief Engineer and Astrometrics Officer. "What did you two do?" She reached in and pulled out a large red puppy. She looked at it with a tear in her eye.
"She's a tricorder Captain." B'Elanna grinned at her friend's expression. "We thought a puppy would be a nice companion for you and actually for quite a few dog lovers on board. In addition, just 'cause we can't resist being practical, she's a tricorder." She reached in and pulled out a PADD.
"There have been worlds that were too dangerous to explore, places where anything other than short term exposure would have been deadly, small openings to caverns with sensor blocking metals in the walls. Molly II is designed to go those places, send data to the PADD or the ship's mainframe, and come back to fetch balls."
"She has been programmed with all relevant safety protocols. Molly II will not wander into restricted areas. If you release her from your company, she will go to public areas to help Mr. Neelix with his morale work," continued Seven.
Captain Janeway looked from one to the other. "So she's a dog, except when I need a tricorder on four feet?"
Kathryn stroked the long red head and was amazed at the tongue that came out and licked her hand. She smiled. She briefly buried her face in the long fur. "She even smells right. Thank you both so much." She placed Molly II on the floor and gave her two friends big hugs.
B'Elanna and Seven looked happily at one another at the successful reception of their gift. "We need to put our heads together more often," commented B'Elanna as she watched the Captain toss a hastily put together gift wrap ball for the cybernetic puppy.
B'Elanna turned and kissed Seven gently. "This has been the best week, Seven. Thank you." She felt tugging on her shirt and looked down into the earnest eyes of Mezoti.
"Now that your first date has been successful, perhaps you should ask her to marry you. It seems an inevitable progression." Mezoti looked up.
B'Elanna laughed. She ruffled the Shorty's hair. "We're getting there. This stuff doesn't happen all at once."
Seven quirked her ocular implant. "Are you not the one who informed I'Cheb that resistance is futile when dealing with Mezoti?" Her lips quirked.
"Honest to Kahless, I don't know which of you is gonna make me more ragged ."
"Are you interested in finding out, B'Elanna?"
"Indeed. Second date tomorrow night?"
"And with you Mezoti?"
"Acceptable, however I counsel that you leave us children at home as you need quality adult time."
B'Elanna snickered. "Yes O Mighty Shorty. Now go play with the puppy."
"I will comply."
Seven and B'Elanna kissed again and then settled into the couch together to watch the kids play.
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