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She won. That da** Borg had let her win. No, she had /made/ her win. What B'Elanna Torres was angry about was that the Borg's last gambit in their on-going quarrels had been the one that made B'Elanna win, gave her back what she had before the ex-Borg had joined the crew. Miss Torres, best engineer aboard Voyager, sole Mistress of Engines, Relays and Conducts for the rest of their journey. Never again the blonde woman's face in her domain and never again remarks that would have questioned her status as chief engineer. Never again. SHE was the winner, got it all, got what she had wanted, even more, by the heroic decision of what she once had thought was the hardest, most stubborn, annoying, challenging, closest, ... dearest... adversary she ever had.
"B'Elanna? Hey, B'Elanna, where are you?" A small pale hand waved in front of her face and brought her back from her musings. She looked up against the sun, shielding her eyes from the still bright light.
"Oh Susanna. I didn't hear you coming. I'm sorry. I guess I was daydreaming again."
The child, not much older than 10 standard federation years, smiled softly at the dark woman. As if she knew more than she let on. The child was very smart for her age. No wonder, considering her mother's extraordinary intelligence.
"You were thinking of my mother, weren't you?" The child's voice was mild, with a tone of understanding and a hint of sadness.
"Sanne, I- " B'Elanna did not know what to tell her daughter. Yes, she was thinking of Seven. Annika... She had never called her Annika, never called her by her real name... Thinking of Seven made her sad. She knew that Sanne was very sensitive and always aware of her moods. Sanne did not know Seven. All she ever had and knew was B'Elanna.
"Mom, you're always thinking of her when you're sitting here. Or maybe you sit here to think of her."
In the corner of her eye B'Elanna noticed that the child had sat down beside her. The little girl let out a deep-drawn sigh. Despite her doleful mood B'Elanna smiled.
"I don't know her. But you are my mom. I don't want you to be so sad. I know you're thinking of her often - because you're sitting here so often."
The girl stopped for a moment to look at the woman next to her. B'Elanna knew she was a pathetic sight, but did not bother to straighten up under the close examination of her daughter. "Mom, I saw you cry. You cried a lot lately..."
"Sanne, don't, please..."
"Mom, you said you two were fighting so much, all the time, you've never been friends... Why are you thinking of her so often? Why does it make you cry? She didn't like you. I don't know if I would like her. Because I love you, and if she did not-"
That was all it took. Once again the tears started to roll down her cheeks.
"Sanne, please stop. You don't know..."
She halted her sentence and wiped some tears from her cheeks. What could she tell her daughter? Was there anything to tell?
Sanne was silent. Raising her eyes B'Elanna saw directly into steel blue eyes. She had seen that look before. It was so familiar, burnt into her memory... once, just once Seven had looked at her like that. Pleading, with concern, demanding, daring, calling in a favor, asking her to keep a promise she had made only a few weeks before.
"What do I not know? You told me you were never close. Her work was more important to her than I was. She gave me away. She didn't want me. And... she didn't want... to be your friend..."
B'Elanna knew she had to say something. She was glad the girl considered her to be her mom, but she never wanted to be called 'mom'. It just didn't seem right. Seven had been Susanna's mom, no matter what. She was happy the girl loved her as much as she loved the girl, but it was sad that she never knew the love her real mom could have given her, and had given her as long as she could.
That Susanna didn't like her real mom was partly B'Elanna's fault, but she just never knew how to explain to a child what had happened that day. What she had seen, what she had felt. And frankly, she herself had never been sure of these things. Until a few weeks ago Janeway had called the old Voyager crew together to remember gone and lost friends. Everyone had been asking about Susanna, how she was, what she looked like, if she was anything like Seven, ... if she reminded her of Seven at all.
From the beginning everybody had wondered why Seven had chosen B'Elanna as the guardian for her child. But no one had ever questioned the decision. Susanna was doing very well and they all had told B'Elanna that the mother role suited her, that she was doing a great job with the kid.
But all that attention, the small commemoration, all the faces she hadn't seen in such a long time - it all triggered her own memory and in the days after the gathering she had started to remember, waking up from a year long dream. And now, being ten years older and wiser, things appeared in a different light and much fell into place that had felt odd for so long, so long ago...
B'Elanna hadn't moved and the child apparently felt uncomfortable.
"Mom? B'Elanna?! Hello? Will you cry again? Don't cry. I don't want you to cry."
B'Elanna did not answer. Still partly lost in her thoughts she focused on the girls face.
"Sanne, you have her eyes, did you know that? Have I ever told you that your smile reminds me of her?"
Slowly she brought her hand up and brushed her fingers through the soft golden hair.
"You even have her hair. I have never felt it, but it looks exactly the same..."
B'Elanna knew that the girl must be confused, but she had to do this, and she had to do it her way. She knew that, in the end, Sanne would understand. And she also knew that Sanne trusted her and would patiently wait and listen what her mother would have to tell her. This was the only one she really trusted and loved, and she believed that a part of Seven was in there, in that young innocent human, that looked like a replica of her mother.
"Sanne, it is true. Your mother and I have never been friends. There was a time when we were practically enemies. We learned to respect each other, but we never really grew close. Humans would say we were like fire and ice."
"I know ..."
"No, you don't, Sanne. Please hear me out."
The child nodded. As if to encourage B'Elanna to go on she took her hand into her smaller one and squeezed it lightly. B'Elanna was partly amused, partly proud of her daughter for that simple, yet so mature and adult gesture that brought so much assurance. She took a deep breath and continued with a low voice, almost whispering.
"She loved you, Susanna. She only had you for a few weeks, but she really loved you. After your father was gone she clung to you - before your birth, and even more so after you were born. You were the only one she had left. You were her lifeline.
I... I don't know what happened, what changed things.
I had not planned to go to your baby shower. I was no friend, so I was not invited. But I showed up anyway. I had no gift for you, I didn't even know what to say."
B'Elanna paused and a quick glance at her daughter told her that she had her undivided attention. Big blue eyes were trained on her lips to not just hear but see every word.
"And then I saw her alone for one moment, standing at the window. She held you in her arms and showed you the stars. She looked so sad and lost in that moment - it made my heart ache.
Later, when everyone had given their gifts and best wishes it was my turn. She was still surprised to see me there. I had no gift, but I wanted to give you something. So I made a promise. She had lost your father. And seeing the sadness in her eyes I swore to myself and to her and above all to you that I will do everything in my power to protect you from any harm."
B'Elanna waited for Susanna to say something. But the little blonde didn't say anything. B'Elanna had never told her about that. She had never told her that there had been a time when things had been different between the two adversaries.
At least a bit different... at least for a moment.
The small hand released B'Elanna's. And then B'Elanna got one of the most beautiful smiles from her daughter. A small, quiet smile. But so beautiful. Like the one Seven had bestowed on her when she thanked her for the wonderful gift she had given her daughter. That day Seven had silently put her trust in B'Elanna. The half klingon wouldn't know until later how much exactly Seven had appreciated the gift and how much she had believed that B'Elanna had truly meant it.
"You know, Sanne, everybody aboard the ship would have done that anyway. Everybody would have given their life to protect you. They all loved you. But I, I had to say it out loud. I felt so bad that I had to reassure her that I would do what was a matter of course to everybody else."
B'Elanna shook her head. Even more than ten years later she was still ashamed.
"Mom, what happened? Why did she give me away?"
"Sanne, she saved your life. She didn't want to give you away. She loved you more than anything else."
B'Elanna swallowed and suppressed the next tears. She had to tell this.
"She loved you. She wanted you to live. She saved your life. She saved us all, but for her you were everything that counted. She did it for you, Sanne."
B'Elanna looked at the horizon, the beautiful sunset. The flickering hot air made it look as if the dark woods were on fire.
Fire. There was fire, too.
"That one day, there was fire everywhere... it was so hot..."
"A fire on Voyager?"
"No, not Voyager. It was a cargo ship. An alien race had agreed to provide us with some supplies. They had been attacked by pirates and their ship was badly damaged. Your mom and I... we were sent to help them with the repairs."
Seven shouldn't have been there that day. But then, without her they might be dead now. All of them. Not...- not only her.
"It was too late, the ship was damaged beyond repair. We tried to save as much of the cargo as we could. Seven- your mother and I tried to keep the ship's hull stable as long as possible. And then, suddenly... there was, - there was an explosion..."
B'Elanna saw the terrified look in those blue eyes. She herself found the memories too disturbing. Suddenly she felt the need of physical contact. She needed to connect to someone she loved. With a swift movement she pulled her daughter on her lap. Susanna put one arm around B'Elanna's neck and looked at the horizon, too.
"No, little one she did not die. Not then. But the freighter's cargo was not only supply for Voyager. The explosion destroyed a force field and revealed that there were also containers with highly explosive substances aboard. We didn't know that. And Voyager was too close to be able to escape the massive explosion in time. We practically had no chance. As soon as we would have returned to Voyager the ship would have exploded and with it the dangerous cargo. But your mom, little one, your mom was smart. She was the smartest of us all."
"Smarter than you?"
"You know I would never admit it, but yes, that day she was right when she told us that she was the only one who could save us. Only she was able to give us enough time to get away."
A tentatively proud smile crossed the girl's face. Then her expression went back to a mixture of curiosity and sadness. She obviously was eager to know, yet afraid to hear. Just like B'Elanna knew, but was afraid to remember.
"She had to stay aboard the ship and keep the force fields and shields stable long enough for Voyager to escape. She was the only one who was fast enough and knew enough about the technology. She was the only one who could do it."
"You really couldn't? There was no one else who could have done it?"
Maybe that was why B'Elanna had never told her daughter about that day. She was afraid of that question. The question she had asked herself so often. Had there really been no one else who could have done it? Did it really have to be the mother of an infant?
"No, Sanne. She was right. She was the best for that job. The only one who could do it." She believed that this was right. She had to believe it. To think differently, to doubt it, would dishonour Seven's sacrifice. And truly, there was no one else Seven had been the best.
"Did she tell you to take care of me then?"
B'Elanna thought back to the very last moment, shortly before she was beamed back to Voyager. Seven had looked at her. She had been calm. Settled.
They had a short argument amongst all the chaos around them. Seven had told her that there was no other way. That she had to accept it. And that she would not accept B'Elanna's assistance, because Susanna needed her. B'Elanna had screamed at her that the child needed her mother. But she instantly regretted that. Only a living child needs its mother. And at this point it had been only Seven who could have saved the child's life. The ex-Borg did not waste another word on her. She had just thrown a look at her that asked her to go, dared her to defy her, and at the same time was so full of sadness... and later, just before she was disassembled into billions of atoms, there had been a tear in Seven's eye. And although B'Elanna always told herself it had been for Susanna, she always knew that it had been for her. For something else that was lost in that moment. - A chance.
She felt a light kiss on her cheek. This child was simply amazing. Like her mother. She just had realized that too late.
"Yes, she told me. Not with words, her eyes told me. She sent me back to Voyager to keep my promise."
"That's how you became my mom?"
"She had kept personal logs. The day after your baby shower she had recorded that she wished I would keep my promise. She wanted me to take care of you when she would no longer be able to. I think she just did not know it would be so soon."
"I wish it had not been so soon."
B'Elanna smiled at that statement. She was relieved. Finally she had told the whole story. Well, not the whole story. The rest will have to wait. She didn't even know if she would ever tell Sanne everything about that special personal log. The one that gave her Susanna; and took so much more from her when, at the end, Seven had said that she wished she would have Sanne's power to win B'Elanna Torres's heart.
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