DISCLAIMER: All these wonderful people belong to Paramount, more's the pity. Just playing with them. Won't hurt them, they may even enjoy it. No money earned.
NOTES: This is actually the first story I ever wrote, shelved due to being sidetracked by you lot and your challenges. Which I thoroughly enjoyed!

The Away Mission
By alastria7

Part 1

"I don't know where the Hell you think you're going with that!" Chief Engineer, B'Elanna Torres suddenly appeared from behind a unit, glaring fire at Seven of Nine.

"I am sorry, " stated Seven flatly, "you did not appear to be here. The Captain requested."

"and you're in the habit of just taking.?!"

"You did not."

"I was fixing something," yelled the half-Klingon, "behind there!" B'Elanna flung out her right arm, pointing wildly.

Seven studied the Lieutenant, Borg implant enhancing her raised brow, as a half-smile played on her lips and eyes.

"What's so damned amusing, Borg?"

Seven hesitated. "I have noted in the past, as now, that much of your conversation appears. confrontational."

"And that amuses you?" B'Elanna was caught off guard: she folded her arms, as a puzzled expression fought with a frown for possession of her face.

"I find it. appealing."

"What?" hollered the Chief Engineer. Seven looked suddenly embarrassed and B'Elanna considered how unusual that was.

"Janeway to Seven of Nine."

"Go ahead, Captain." Seven replied.

"Seven, I need that."

"On my way," interrupted Seven, scooping up her prize and moving towards the door; watched by the crew, who were looking from one to the other woman, with the collective expression of a tourist watching an active volcano. Had Seven glanced backwards, however, before exiting engineering, she would have noticed B'Elanna's mouth slightly ajar, in surprise.

Two hours later, B'Elanna jumped visibly as Carey moved close and said into her ear, "Are you alright, Lieutenant?" obviously not wanting his colleagues to hear.

"Why wouldn't I be?" B'Elanna half-turned towards him, quizzically.

"Well, it's just that." said Carey, looking down at the handful of components B'Elanna was fiddling with, doing completely the wrong thing with them, "You've never done that before.!"

Caught out and in spite of herself, B'Elanna studied the mistake lying in her hands, and had to smile.

"Seven. Report!" barked the Captain efficiently over her combadge to Seven of Nine in Astrometrics.

"The necessary modifications have been made, Captain, and are functioning within normal parameters."

"Good work Seven. Janeway out." The Captain eased herself back in the Bridge Command Chair, and relaxed. `All's well. Again,' she thought. Gazing absent-mindedly at the padd in her hands, Kathryn wondered how she had ever gotten along before Seven of Nine joined her crew, as a frightened, angry Borg that no-one but she had considered rescue-able! Oh, there had been many times when she had cheerfully wanted to kill Seven, but she had progressed to a stage now where she was grateful to have found the young woman. Seven was certainly turning into an asset to this ship and voyage. Her thoughts were interrupted.

"Captain, I'm picking up a ship on long-range sensors," Harry Kim looked expectantly at his Captain.

"On screen. Magnify. Can we identify it?"

"No, Captain."

"Seven to the bridge," Kathryn said into her combadge. "Well done, Harry." Harry Kim blushed slightly, looking down. He loved a word or two of praise, and Kathryn knew it. Once again she was aware that she had to be so much more than a Captain to these people - her crew - she almost had to be family.

Minutes later, with no change in the situation, the Bridge doors whoooshed open, and in strode Seven, stopping at the barrier, placing her hands on it and looking intently at the viewscreen. "Captain?"

"This is as good as it gets on magnification. Can you identify the vessel, Seven?"

"I believe I can, Captain. Species 504, the Q'wari. The Borg thought them unimpressive in their achievements, and overlooked them." Seven gave her best deadpan expression to her Captain.

Kathryn frowned at her and then turned to Kim. "What's the status of the vessel?"

"Dead in the water, Captain."

"Move us closer, Mr Paris."

"Yes Ma'am."

After a few minutes, Kathryn asked, "Are we within hailing range, Mr Kim?"

"Yes Captain."

"Open a channel. The Captain nodded briskly towards him, and then turned towards the viewscreen. "Q'wari vessel: this is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. Do you require assistance?"

Silence. Turning her head, Kathryn's eyes met Harry Kim's, who silently assured her everything was working as it should be: she opened her mouth to try again. when the viewscreen suddenly lit up with flashes, as a hissing sound interspersed with clicks and bangs, sailed over the com. Clearly the ship was damaged and complaining. A violet face with protruding cheeks and a mottled forehead appeared amidst the flashes. Kathryn fought a smile as the word `hamster' popped into her mind.

A high-pitched voice, which strangely matched its diminutive owner chirped out in staccato, "That would be very kind, Captain. Please. Yes. Assist us."

"And you are.?" The Captain's smile becoming obvious.

"My manners. I am Jakar, said the violet-hued Q'wari. He motioned a hand off-screen and was joined by another of his race, a female: "My life partner, Setara."

"What happened to you?" Janeway asked, frowning.

"Our own fault, Captain. Silly really. We attempted to negotiate with the Zelora. We should have known better. Indeed, we should."

Kathryn glanced at Seven, for her reaction to the name Zelora, and was in time to catch the famous raised brow. Seven made eye contact with her and recognised the unspoken signal to tell what she knew. "The Zelora are infamous for their lack of honour and fairness in their dealings with what they see as `lesser species'." The Captain turned back to Jakar's image.

"We were cheated. When we. attempted. to take back our property, we were fired upon. Heavily, yes. We should have known," he shook his head, "We were warned." Jakar looked suddenly tired.

"Are you alright?", asked Kathryn, gently.

"Captain, we have systemswide damage, and are both slightly injured. Our sickbay is offline. Our food supply system is damaged."

"If you are agreeable, Jakar, we will beam you directly to our sickbay, and also beam some officers over to your ship, to assess the damage and begin repairs."

Jakar looked surprised, "Very acceptable. Unexpected. Thank you, Captain. Most kind."

"Are we within transporter range, Mr Paris?"

"Yes ma'am."

Kathryn turned to Jakar, "Stand by" and tapped her combadge, "Janeway to the Doctor."

"Here, Captain."

"There are two slightly wounded Q'wari in a stricken vessel off our portside bow. They don't appear to be badly injured but I want them checked out. Beam them to sickbay, Doctor. Janeway out." The Doctor acknowledged. Kathryn watched the two shimmering beings disappear and then turned to Seven. "Seven, you and Lieutenant Torres beam over to the Q'wari vessel and see what you can do. Standard Away equipment and rations. Call on anyone you may need to make the necessary repairs."

With a brisk nod of the head, Seven replied, "Yes, Captain," and exited the Bridge.

"You again!" greeted B'Elanna, as Seven entered engineering. The staff looked up, and pleased expressions went around like germs. Everyone in engineering was beginning to realise that these two were a good show; they were so entertaining, they could have sold tickets! B'Elanna, however, seemed unaware of their interest, as did Seven.

"Collect what you need to accompany me to the Q'wari vessel, where we are to assess the damage and make repairs - you will also need a standard Med Kit, and rations - and meet me in Transporter Room 2 in l5 minutes," delivered Seven.

"I suppose a please is out of the question? Honestly, Borg, after all this time you are still issuing orders to your collective. Talk to me. I am important. Request, don't order."

"It is the Captain's order that we."

"Oooh Seven," B'Elanna made fists, holding them down low by her knees `, "You're missing the point!" She attempted to stem the flow of Klingon anger that was arising in her.

"Indeed", again the quizzical look and the raised brow. "Whatever your point, I will see you in Transporter Room 2, in 15 minutes." With that, Seven turned and exited Engineering, with an audience of more than one.

If B'Elanna had stopped to analyse her quick temper towards Seven at that moment, she would probably have realised that Seven's rudeness, and proud arrogance, were a little too close to home.

The Doctor quickly learned from his scans that there was nothing in the Starfleet medical logs on the Q'wari. Not that he expected anything. Oh no. That would make his job too easy. And why should it be easy! It never had been. This was going to have to be yet another occasion when his superlative talents save the day. Actually, he realised as time progressed, it was going to be more about asking the Q'wari for their own diagnosis, and then complying with their need. Frustrating, but efficient.

Jakar had received treatment from a dermal regenerator and his partner was now lying on the bed. His hand was gently resting on her arm and a look of quiet assurance was on his face as Captain Janeway entered Sickbay. "Ah, Captain. Sincere thanks. You and your crew, so generous." His smile towards Kathryn was sincere, but his eyes quickly returned to his partner.

"How's our patient doing, Doctor?"

"I'm not sure, Captain. We know nothing about their physiology. I have treated a broken arm and minor burns." The Doctor passed his medical tricorder over his patient. "There do not appear to be any internal injuries; she should be fine."

Kathryn rested her hand on Setara's arm, lowered her voice and said, "Believe me, Setara, you are in good hands". She looked up at the Doctor and smiled, patted Jakar's arm reassuringly, and left Sickbay: the Doctor watching her receding form with grateful surprise at her praise. In the corridor outside, she ran into her Chief Engineer, who looked a little more flustered than usual. "B'Elanna.?"

"You could have sent Carey. Or Jackson. Or anyone else! Why Seven?"

Kathryn stifled a smile. She was really very fond of this fiery young woman. "I simply sent in the best persons for the job, Lieutenant. You have a problem with that?"

B'Elanna caught herself and attempted control. "No, Captain," she said reluctantly. She parted from the Captain and made her way to Transporter Room 2, for the task ahead. A task worse than riding a Klingon Targ. bareback, she thought.

Kathryn strode onto the Bridge and headed off to the right. On the way through, she raised her left hand up to Chakotay and said, "As you were, Commander," before entering her Ready Room. It was good to be alone sometimes, she thought; out of the glare of the crew, who were always expecting something from her. "Coffee, black", she ordered of the replicator, and it rewarded her with a steaming stainless steel mug of pure joy. Tasting it and smiling, she sank down into her chair, by the window and allowed herself to switch off for a moment. A very small moment, as it happened.

"Captain to the Bridge."

She sighed and placed her cup on the table in passing, as she re- entered her Bridge.

"What is it, Commander?"

"There appears to be a." - he didn't finish his sentence before the ship bucked and lurched beneath him. Standing, Kathryn was at a distinct disadvantage and was thrown forward, unharmed.

"On screen!" she said urgently, frowning. But her look changed to one of puzzled wonder, as she stared at the waves and ribbons of spectacular colour bands that had engulfed their ship and surrounding area. "What IS that?"

"I can't tell, Captain - whatever it is, it's interrupting our ship's functions."

Kathryn's one thought, survival, was etched into the frown in her eyes as she whipped her head around to look at Chakotay. "Life support is still functioning," he said, feeling her need. She rolled her eyes with a look of `thank goodness': "What have we lost?" she asked, cautiously.

"Weapons systems are down, transporters are off-line."

"Tom, can we manoeuvre in this?"

"I'm not sure, Captain."

"Try ahead, one quarter impulse."

"Ahead, one quarter impulse," Tom replied, and moved his fingers over the panels. "We're not moving, Captain."

Kathryn turned to Chakotay, "B'Elanna? Seven?"

"They transported to the Q'wari vessel a short time ago. They're already there, Captain."

"Can we get a channel open to them, Mr Kim?"

"I'm transmitting Captain, but there's no reply."

"Do we have any way of scanning for damage on that vessel?"

"No, Captain."

"We have to assume they are in a similar position to us, Captain." Chakotay's statement was reasonable and Kathryn held onto it, but she always felt terribly nervous when her people were Out There and away from the protection she, and Voyager, offered. She stared out at the coloured bands: it took her some minutes to realise that, although they had lost many of the ship's functions, they appeared to be in no immediate danger. At least, not at the moment.

"Lieutenant. Respond!" urged Seven of Nine, to a supine Torres. They had had time to make some initial checks of the damaged ship's systems, and begin a list of requirements from Voyager, plus listing necessary crewmembers to help in the repairs.

B'Elanna had been standing near an already unstable console when the anomaly came upon the Q'wari ship. The console blew, throwing B'Elanna back against a wall. It was Seven's guess that the Lieutenant was simply winded. But winded or not, there were some pretty impressive light shows, as damaged cables spat out sparks, and her fellow crewmember had to be moved to safety.

Coming to in Seven's strong arms, B'Elanna said shakily, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Taking you out of harm's way. You were in danger where you were." She gazed down at the protesting face, "Although I can return you there, if you insist."

B'Elanna looked over to the light show and Seven was rewarded with a half-smile. "I'm sorry," she said quietly.

"Can you stand?"

"I don't think I'm gonna find out, up here!"

Seven gently lowered B'Elanna to the floor and stood supporting her arms. "Have you been damaged, Lieutenant?"

"A little woozy, but nothing hurts."

"Then you may assist me," Seven instructed. " We have sustained further damage,"

"From what?"

Seven let go of the Lieutenant, who was managing to stand upright on her own. B'Elanna clearly had no recall of what had just happened.

"From that!" commented Seven, holding her hand up to the viewscreen.

B'Elanna looked confused. "Where's the stars? What's happened?"

"I do not know," replied Seven. "The ship suddenly lurched, that console blew, and I saw you thrown off your feet. When I looked up, I saw this," she indicated the viewscreen. "We do not have the correct instrumentation to help formulate ideas. Some kind of anomaly.." Seven trailed off, still looking at the ribbons of colour outside.

"And Voyager?" asked B'Elanna, worriedly.

"I have been unable to open a channel, either with our combadges or through this ship," stated Seven without fear. "Transporters are off- line and many of the ship's systems appear to have just. shut down. However, life support is fully functional."

"Well, that's a blessing!" B'Elanna rubbed her haunches with both hands, arched her back and then looked around. "Where to begin..?" She mused. Seven answered with raised brow, and the two women began to discuss priorities.

Kathryn Janeway was at a loss. And not for the first time in this incredible voyage. Being out of control did not sit well with her; she felt awkward - superfluous, almost. The anomaly was continuing to incapacitate her ship, and the weight of her guilt was re- materialising on her shoulders. Usually she was able to bury the fact that she had wilfully stranded these people here, in favour of the Ocampans' lives, and use her frustration to fire her mind and actions. Today, alone and temporarily redundant in her Ready Room (on her seat in front of what should be stars) she allowed her shoulders to drop. She quietly studied her hands, clasped and fidgeting, in her lap.

Then the tears came. It surprised her, but she felt it necessary to release these feelings, and felt she had time alone to do so.

Rudely, the Ready Room door heralded someone seeking entrance. Trapped, Kathryn breathed in sharply, wiped her eyes and cheeks with her hands and stood up, facing the window. "Come in." She tried to sound strong and, in part, managed it.

Chakotay entered the room and said, to her back, "Captain, this anomaly. Its crippling of our ship is selective, which suggests an intelligence at work. I think we should try to ascertain whether or not it is a lifeform..."

Kathryn turned, sat again and looked at her First Officer, who saw at once that she was struggling with the Command Mask. "Captain." She looked down as he sat beside her and put a hand on her lower arm, waiting silently.

Kathryn closed her eyes for the longest time and then, not trying to hide a thing, looked into his concerned face. "Sometimes it's all. just a little too much. This guilt." she blinked: one single tear escaped and was captured by Chakotay's caring fingers.

"Kathryn, I often wonder how you remain so strong. You are a role model for all of us. I think we can allow you a tear or two," he said, smiling.

A watery smile met his eyes as his Captain leaned against his arm and allowed her silent tears. She felt almost safe - for the first time since she had stranded them in the Delta Quadrant. Time passed. Kathryn felt she wanted to climb into someone's pocket and let them take over.

But that was not going to happen, after all, she was the Captain, no one else. This was her job, and she was well trained to do it. Pulling back, she patted Chakotay's arm and looked at him. "I'm alright, Commander. Thank you," she said sincerely. She crossed her Ready Room to the drawer at her desk, stooped, and found a small hand mirror and a tissue. Moments later Chakotay's Captain, strong and sure as ever, returned to sit by him.

"A lifeform, huh? I suppose it's feasible; after all, its effect on us does seem to be selective, which should suggest intelligence. She rubbed her chin with her hand. "Call a meeting in the Conference Room in one hour. Bring all available data that you and the others can glean by then." She paused. "Any news of Seven and B'Elanna, or the Q'wari ship?"

"Our sensory equipment is off-line. We know nothing, Captain. The ship was already damaged following its encounter with the Zelora - we can only assume it has further suffered the level of disruption that we did.

Kathryn looked concerned but nodded and said, "Keep me informed."

"Aye, Captain." On Kathryn's dismissive nod, Chakotay stood up and returned to the Bridge, followed by his Captain, who had had the courage to allow her feelings out to him. He felt greatly honoured.

"Report!" barked Kathryn, with businesslike clarity.

"No change, Captain," replied Tuvok.

Kathryn's eyes met Harry Kim's, who silently concurred. She sat back down in her Command Chair, crossed her legs and leaned back, studying the anomaly through the viewscreen. "We need answers, people," she said, to no one in particular. She stared at the coloured bands a little longer, then rose from her chair. "I'll be in engineering. Chakotay, you have the Bridge."

"Aye, Captain."

The uniform allowed one to be brave, but only when surrounded by others in uniform, thought the human side of B'Elanna. She and Seven had worked for the best part of an hour, and had managed to tidy up most of the general disarray and get some of the ship's systems back on-line. There hadn't even been any fighting, she reflected. Seven's matter-of-fact manner was beginning to rub off on her, and she felt more calm.

"It's puzzling," stated Seven.

"I didn't know you could be puzzled. What?"

"We have run a diagnostic on this transporter unit, and can find nothing wrong. And yet, it does not function."

"I know. I can't explain it, either. The only invariable is That!" B'Elanna waved an accusatory hand at the coloured bands of light swirling around the ship. "Most of these. things.. have the decency to move on past us, but this. It's just hanging there." B'Elanna strode up to the viewscreen and raised both arms in the air. "What do you want from us.?" she demanded. What followed had her staring, open-mouthed, in surprise.


"Go ahead, Commander."

"There has been a change in the anomaly. You'd better come and see this."

"On my way." Kathryn excused herself from Lieutenant Carey in engineering, and made her way to the Bridge. As she walked, she mulled over Carey's suggestion. Pressure suits. Jet packs. And a rescue mission. It wouldn't have been a bad suggestion at all, except that it would be like looking for a broken-down car on the state highway - in the fog! She was still considering it's pros and cons as she entered the Bridge. And stopped, dead - staring. "Are they. faces?" she whispered, incredulously.

"It's been like that for the past few minutes, Captain," Chakotay offered.

"Do we have communications yet, Mr Kim?"

"No, Captain."

Out of the viewscreen, all around were shapes, like faces. They were incomplete, more like just eyes in unfinished orbs. And hazy, undefined, but faces! Looking at them, Kathryn had a gut reaction - she knew she couldn't open hailing frequencies but she moved close to the viewscreen and delivered her usual greeting anyway: "This is Captain." but more slowly and carefully than usual, like she was talking to someone she doubted would understand."Kathryn Jane."

"Kathryn Jane." said what sounded like an echo, but it was not in her voice, and it resounded around the Bridge. "

Kathryn took a deep breath. "Of the Federation St." she continued.

"Starship Voyager," the voices continued.

"They're telepathic!" Kathryn said, looking at Chakotay, like a child meeting Santa.

"They're telepathic," repeated the voices.

"Do you understand me?" Kathryn queried, looking generally in the air around the Bridge.

"Understand, yes. Becoming enabled."

Kathryn smiled, fascinated. "Commander, cancel that meeting in the Conference Room. I think we will find our answers here." Turning back to the viewscreen she asked, "What is that you want from us. Can we help you?"

B'Elanna looked around the sea of shapes, shapes that looked a little like faces, and felt an intelligence there. "You have us at a disadvantage," she stated quietly. "You are clearly very powerful and."

"To HAVE the power and to ACT on that power are two different things," the entities conveyed. "We have simply disabled systems which may have been used against us, for our own protection. We are a peaceful race."

"Oh, sure. You know, you could have just said `hi - can we talk? Let's have lunch', instead of this elaborate."

"We had to see what was in your hearts first; how you would react, both to us and towards each other in this situation."

"Did we pass?"

"B'Elanna Torres, we know you to be argumentative and quick to temper, and yet we see a deeper love within."

"Now who are you to know me in this one small moment. You know nothing about me!" Looking around at Seven to enlist her help with the argument, B'Elanna was shocked to realise that Seven was holding her own dialogue with the entities - AT THE SAME TIME! It was profound, by the look on her face, although B'Elanna could hear nothing of it. She realised her own dialogue had been telepathic. Looking at Seven at this moment, she saw how vulnerable the Ex-Borg looked, and how beautiful. her last thought momentarily surprised her.

Kathryn was surprised, to say the least. What the entities had just told her was so true; they seemed to be looking directly into her soul. She felt wonderous, and more than a little embarrassed that her Bridge crew were effectively evesdropping: she wasn't entirely happy that they should get to know of this softer side of herself, if they were to continue to believe in her strength. However, it quickly became obvious to her that she had been the only one to hear what was being said to her, and that her reply had not been aloud.

With one sweep of her Bridge crew's faces, it became clear to Kathryn that they were ALL locked in dialogue. Their expressions were different to anything she had ever seen them display before; open and vulnerable, and she became suddenly protective. "You won't hurt them, will you?" she asked of the entities. "I love these people," there was a sudden wave of emotion in her voice.

"It is the love within you all that we are here to nurture. We have been in existence for aeons, and we have come to see a great degradation in the energy you call `love'. We have dedicated our collective selves to helping to rectify that imballance."

Full of questions but momentarily calmed, Kathryn looked from one to the other of her crew. She gazed at Tom; a tear fell from his right eye. Unbeknown to her, he was just admitting to loving his father, Admiral Paris, deeply.

"I had the tattoo done in honour of my father, but it never did heal what went between us," Chakotay was telling the entities. "And now, every time I look at it, it reminds me of the distance between us, nothing more."

"Is there ever distance within love, Amal Kotay?" asked the entities gently. "Those who love can be worlds apart and yet be in each others' hearts. It is not necessary to agree with someone, to love them: for your father to have a place within you, all you have to do is let go of the past and invite the love to come home." Chakotay's face contorted with the pain of the past. "Allow your guard down. Welcome him by the fireside within you, and just be with the love you felt. Here you CAN demonstrate it."

Tuvok was surprised to see a tear in Chakotay's eye, and yet the First Officer's face was radiant. As Security Officer, he had been fighting the urge to say, `Intruder Alert', and set off alarms, since the anomaly had settled. Looking around now at his fellow crew members and Captain, they all seemed to be having a profound experience of some kind. He alone remained unaffected, staring dispassionately.

"To love, one has to feel. One cannot love without allowing feelings, one cannot truly live without allowing love. Have no fear, Tuvok, love will conquer all the negative emotions your race is so afraid of. It will be the tempering force, not the destructive force, if you allow it."

"No", said Harry firmly. "It's never worked for me. I have it, and I give it, but I always get hurt."

"What is this love you are giving, Harry? We read much desperation in your need to make unlikely situations `work', because you are filled with this desperation to feel love. You cannot push love any more than you can push water uphill. Allow it to come to you and, until it does, simply express the love within in your daily life. One day, someone will come and see this expression, and will want to share it with you."

"In you, Captain, the love is strong, and you display it every day." Embarrassed, Kathryn looked down. "But you will not allow yourself the joy of knowing love."

"Oh, but it was easy to allow it on Earth, but we're not."

"And so your heart must shut down towards yourself, and yet open to everyone else? The human chemical make-up requires the love energy, to fully exist to its greatest potential. Those who allow love in their lives have healthier bodies, happier minds. Those who close against it can develop sadness, bitterness maybe, which often causes the body some distress. Open to your feelings."

Kathryn looked round at Chakotay, and allowed herself to feel a sudden rush of affection. She was surprised and caught off-balance slightly when she saw it being returned.

"In love, always courage, Kathryn," the voices said. "You can move beyond the need for courage into Trust, in time."

"That's just it!" B'Elanna agreed. "It's just as though there are two of me! The loving one has to carry this argumentative, non- trusting Fireball around inside, and it inhibits what I can feel."

"And if a small child is arguing with you, fists clenched, knuckles white, expecting you to fight back and increase its distress, how would it react if you just put your arms around its neck and gave it a loving hug?"

"I don't know. If you showed it the opposite of what it expected," she paused, "I guess there would be confusion and mistrust."

"But if you persisted in loving it...?" the entities replied gently.

"Uh, I guess it would eventually relax and love you back."

"Do you know now how to proceed with what you see as the `two halves' of yourself?" B'Elanna looked wonderously at the faces.

"But I don't really know how to feel," said Seven helplessly. She had slid her back down against a wall and was sitting on the floor with her arms around her knees. "I have only been used to order," her eyes searched the floor beneath her. "Feelings create chaos and I am ill-equipped to handle the resultant state."

"Chaos is a state outside of love. It is not what happens to you in life, it is your reaction to it that makes it either `good' or `bad', ordered or chaotic. If you allow the love within to come to the fore, without reacting to your feeling of being out of control, you would find yourself settling into it."

"You're saying that, truly, resistance Is futile." Stated Seven, and not without humour.

"I'm saying live and feel, and don't be afraid of it."

B'Elanna looked at Seven again, and was surprised to find her smiling. Moving closer, the Chief Engineer sat on the floor beside the Astrometrics Officer, and allowed the silence between them. The entities also had fallen silent.

At length B'Elanna delivered a speech out loud to her knees, slowly and deliberately. "Seven, I have fought with you for so long. because you show me the stubbornness - and the rudeness within me! I, uh, I was fighting myself!" This self-revelation was clearly startling to B'Elanna; she fell silent again and studied her knees, but the need for clarity would not let her be. "As I was verbally pushing you away, I was pushing away that part of me. What I should have been doing," she paused and searched the air for the words, "was embracing and loving those aspects of me more, because they needed it more." She drew in a large breath and let it out all at once in a `phew' sound. "Well, that was unusual! " she said incredulously.

"There is so much to admire about you, Lieutenant." Slowly, carefully, without looking at B'Elanna, Seven continued, "I. I have always been taught to bring order into chaos. To me, you symbolised," she paused, and the end of the sentence was almost a whisper, "the person I may become. if I let the chaos of feeling into my life. So I fought you."

If B'Elanna was surprised, she was trying not to show it. "Well, hey, I am half-Klingon! Uh, it's kind of expected, you know, to go off half-cocked at life every now and again!" She smiled, stopped, and smiled again, as both women returned their attention to their knees and fell silent for a while.

"You said you found it appealing." B'Elanna stated abruptly.

"I do not underst."

"In engineering, you said you found the confrontational side of me appealing."

"Yes, you remind me of Naomi Wildman, with your tantrums." Seven smiled. "I am very fond of Naomi Wildman..." B'Elanna gave a surprised sideways glance at a woman who just didn't `do' feelings. Seven continued her dialogue to her knees in her matter- of-fact voice, "I suppose I'm saying. that I'm very fond of you, too."

B'Elanna looked quickly at Seven again, embarrassed and half-smiling, but said nothing. Some cold spot inside her began to warm, in a way it had never done before.

"In allowing my feelings for you," Seven continued, "I would be exploring that part of me that is wild and unrestrained, I cannot see how to do that and yet remain in control," she stopped and pawed her metal fingers with her human hand. It seemed, suddenly, that ribbons of light and colour appeared inside her head. With a new light of hope in her eyes, she marvelled, "Now I realise that if I do not descend into fear, I will be safe, whatever occurs."

"Seven, embracing that rudeness in you was like OK'ing it in me, and I'd never been able to do that! Not until now. Now I know I need to embrace that part of me - the wild side, the rude side. and love it." She took Seven's hand slowly and studied her fingers, then slowly looked up at two pale blue eyes that were filled with a childlike trust that said `please don't hurt me.'

"I love Naomi Wildman, I am sure. I think I love you too, Lieutenant," Seven smiled shyly, and then added, "B'Elanna. Yes," she decided, "in a different way, I love you, too."

"You want me, Seven? This half-Klingon fireball? I've never truly loved anyone before, because I couldn't love myself. These entities have shown me. I am ready to love now - myself as well as you." She opened her mouth and exhaled quickly, in amazement at the conversation they were having.

"I am unsure how to proceed."

"Oh, Seven," B'Elanna took the hand she held to her lips and kissed it tenderly. When they looked at each other it was with a deep peace that neither had ever felt before, as they found in each other a deep acceptance of their own inner selves; fighting against it no more. Their kiss was slow and exploratory, like savouring a fine wine gently, slowly, endlessly.

Suddenly, B'Elanna pulled back. "Oh God, Tom!"

Part 2

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