DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters, except Mara Fillmore, who I made up. The others belong to Paramount. This story was a writing exercise only, no intent to infringe, insult or profit is intended
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'd like to give a great big THANKS to CarterFrasier for the support and to all others for their kind feedback. This section sort of got away from me, so I apologize if this is a wee bit disjointed and gets away from what happened in Parts 1-3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Clearing the Air
Tom Paris looked down at the tall blonde woman still lying unconscious on the bio bed. It had been nearly an hour since the doctor and B'Elanna had reinserted the cortical node. They were now only waiting for B'Elanna to return to wake up the former drone and make sure the implants were all repaired successfully. For now Tom watched her with concern.
He and Seven had had their share of disagreements, and Tom admitted with a small smile that many of those he instigated on purpose, just to rile her normally serene feathers. He liked Seven. He knew she had made some mistakes in her endeavor to reclaim her individuality. Some of those, of course had proven highly embarrassing, but he knew that nothing she'd done had been in malice.
"Well, Seven," he said quietly, "If you keep turning up in sick bay, I may start thinking you have a thing for the doctor, or me," he said with a smile. "Look, I know you can't hear me, and I know B'Elanna is taking care of most of your repairs, but I promise that I'll do what I can to help you. I miss having you around to annoy." He smiled once more at the prone woman, and patted her hand gently before going to the office to find out from the doctor what he could do.
A few moments later, B'Elanna entered the sickbay. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw no sign of the doctor and made her way over to the bio bed. The last two days, she'd been so focused on repairing the damage to Seven's implants and the cortical node that she'd barely had time to think about her new feelings for the Borg. But now that everything had been completed, the memory of the conversation she'd had with Seven in Astrometrics, and the awakening of strange feelings of attraction came rushing forward.
Taking Seven's enhanced hand, she finally completed the action she had denied herself earlier. She reached out trembling fingers to stroke the silky blond hair that had been released from its tight restraint. "Please let this have worked," she whispered.
Unbeknownst to B'Elanna, Tom had stepped out of the doctor's office at that moment. Her back was to him so she had no idea he had seen the sweet gesture. She would have been utterly amazed at the understanding yet wistful smile he cast their way as he left her alone with Seven.
Regeneration cycle complete. Seven of Nine opened her eyes and stepped out of her alcove. She turned to walk down the steps and nearly ran over the hovering forms of the doctor and Captain Janeway.
"Captain," she stated, briefly confused.
"This is getting to be a habit," Janeway said softly with a smile.
"Explain," Seven said simply.
"Waiting for you to regenerate after a medical emergency."
Seven was unsure of how to reply to that, so she simply nodded. "Is my presence required, Captain?"
"Not right now, we just wanted to make sure you have fully recovered." Janeway stood back slightly to let the doctor run a tricorder over the taller woman.
"Everything seems to be working normally. How are you feeling?" He asked in that perpetually cheerful voice that tended to wear on Seven's nerves occasionally.
"I feel better," she replied, attempting to incorporate some of the more mundane human responses the doctor had taught her. "Thank you."
"How long have I been incapacitated?".
"Just under three days," Janeway responded, unable to hide the smile of relief at her charge's return to her normal stoic self.
"Were you able to resolve the issue with the attackers?" She asked
"Actually, yes. Mara Fillmore requested that she be assigned to Astrometrics while you were unavailable. It turns out the Ensign has quite an aptitude in that department and she was able to pinpoint a minute frequency emitted by the cloaked ships that allowed Voyagers own sensors to detect them."
"Impressive," Seven said calmly, but Kathryn knew that Seven was sincere. She never said anything she didn't mean.
"Agreed. After a short discussion with the Captain of the attacking ship, it was agreed that Voyager will be allowed to pass through this section of space without further incident."
"I will be sure to commend the Ensign for her actions," Seven replied without arrogance.
"I'm sure she will appreciate that. She seemed quite concerned about you."
Seven's ocular implant made its way up her forehead. "Why?" she asked bluntly. "The Ensign and I have had very few interactions."
Kathryn moved to stand next to the taller woman and looked up at her with a soft smile. "People like you, Seven. Accept it."
Seven opened her mouth to respond, then closed it. How was she supposed to respond to that?
Seven turned at the sound of the light soprano voice coming from just behind her. She looked up to see the hauntingly beautiful face of Voyager's Chief Engineer.
"Lieutenant," she responded politely. "Would you care to join me?" Both the Captain and the doctor had ordered her to the mess hall for her required nutritional supplements before performing any other activity. She was surprised to see the Klingon standing next to her, as normally she had to be dragged from Engineering.
"Thanks, thought you'd never ask," B'Elanna replied with a smile as she put her tray on the table and pulled up a chair next to the tall blonde.
Both women were silent for a while as Seven drank the unappealing supplements and B'Elanna picked at the mystery meat currently occupying her tray.
"Wanna trade?" she grinned at her dining companion.
Seven eyed the grayish blob on B'Elanna's tray then back up at the engineer and the corner of her mouth lifted in a small smile. "I believe I will pass."
B'Elanna laughed out loud at that. "Lord, I've missed you," she said grinning.
"Although I was unconscious or regenerating for the last few days, your absence was felt as well." She looked straight into a sparkling pair of dark brown eyes, and for a moment Seven forgot how to breathe.
B'Elanna felt her grin slowly fade as she looked into Seven's serious blue eyes. Those eyes told her so much more about what the former drone was really feeling than her words had. She couldn't look away. Both of her hearts dropped to her feet when Seven tentatively reached out her human hand to cover one of B'Elanna's.
"I-I I find myself at a loss for words," Seven muttered with confusion.
"That's a first," B'Elanna teased in a voice that had turned slightly raspy.
"Funny, Lieutenant," she replied. "I'm afraid I'm having difficulty finding the words to thank you for saving my life."
B'Elanna turned her hand over slowly so that she was now holding the other woman's hand. She felt a tremble and didn't know if it was Seven's or her own.
"Seven, I "
"Hello, ladies," came the cheerful voice of Tom Paris. B'Elanna ripped her hand from Seven's and flushed in embarrassment. To her irritation, the blonde didn't look remotely disconcerted by the interruption.
"Lieutenant Paris, Ensign Kim" she greeted politely as she looked up at the friendly blonde man and his companion, Harry Kim.
"I'm glad to see you up and about," Tom said sitting next to B'Elanna. Harry took the seat to the side of Seven.
"Me too," Harry added with a warm smile that Seven couldn't resist. He was a very pleasant individual. As was Tom Paris, aggravating though he could be.
"Thank you," she replied to both. Then she turned her eyes to Tom. "I would like to thank you for your efforts in assisting the doctor and the Lieutenant," she said.
"You're welcome, but it was really B'Elanna who did the hard stuff," he smiled at his wife, than back at Seven. He hadn't forgotten what he saw in sickbay, nor had he missed the glances and the hand holding that had been going on when they arrived. He knew what was coming, even if the two women didn't and to his surprise he wasn't particularly upset by the realization. He grinned even more as he saw blue eyes drill deeply into brown ones, and the cheeks of the normally volatile Klingon darken.
"I am aware of that. Lieutenant. I hope she is aware of how grateful I am, and that I am unsure of how I will reciprocate," Seven responded not looking away from B'Elanna.
"You could start by refraining from messing with my engines," she muttered.
"I am unable to comply," she replied cheekily then turned back to Paris. "Still you're assistance is appreciated. I am relieved that you will once more have someone to 'annoy'. It would be inefficient for that particular talent of yours to go unused," she said with a curve of her lips, throwing his words back at him.
Tom's eyes widened. "You heard me?" he said surprised and a little embarrassed. Seven just nodded once in confirmation, but the look on her face said she was teasing him. He laughed. Harry joined in, relieved to see things almost back to normal, the only thing out of place was the obvious yet unexplained discomfort B'Elanna was feeling.
They spent the rest of their lunch filling Seven in on what she had missed while she had been incapacitated and how many people had gone to check up on her. Both Icheb and Naomi Wildman had been in sickbay constantly, worried to near tears for their friend. Twice Naomi had to be carried out of sickbay after falling asleep with her head resting on Seven's arm. Seven was torn between concern for little Naomi, and a rare feeling of warmth that both children cared about her.
"That little girl is crazy about you," B'Elanna said with a warm smile reading Seven's reactions. As is Icheb."
Seven cocked her head and nodded. "I am fond of them as well. I will pay them both a visit, now that I have had my lunch."
"Such as it was," mumbled Harry looking at the now empty glass.
"I need to be getting back to Engineering as well," B'Elanna replied somewhat distractedly but with a warm smile at her new friend.
"I'll walk with you," Tom chimed in. "I have a few minutes left." He knew this wasn't the best time but he didn't want to delay the inevitable conversation. He knew as soon as he saw B'Elanna with Seven in sickbay that their marriage was over. What he witnessed a little while ago only confirmed it. What was surprising was that he wasn't angry, or even that upset. He was somewhat sad as he did love the fiery Klingon, but he wasn't in love with her. And he knew she's wasn't with him either. They were best friends and always would be, but B'Elanna was a woman with a lot of love to give, and needed to be able to give it to someone who would value it for the gift it was. And both Seven and B'Elanna deserved to be loved with nothing less than someone's total heart. Tom knew and regretted that he was not that person.
Seven of Nine finally entered the Astrometrics lab ready to get back to her duties. She had stopped to see Icheb who was studying with Tuvok, to reassure him of her well being, then stopped to see Naomi. Though she would never admit it openly, she had come to love the little girl and enjoyed the hugs that the small child often thrust upon her. A small irrational part of her very human brain wondered how she would react if it were B'Elanna's strong arms that wrapped around her.
When she entered the lab, she was somewhat startled to find the red haired Ensign Fillmore working diligently in front of the massive view screen.
"Ensign Fillmore," Seven stated, causing the tall redhead to turn and face her.
"Uh-hello," she stuttered, looking the former drone straight in the eye. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to I'll go now." She stammered. Her cheeks were well on their way to matching the shade of her red hair.
"That is unnecessary, Ensign," Seven stopped the young woman. She approached the console where Mara had been working and inspected her work. She nodded in silent approval of what she saw and looked once more at the Ensign. She had only seen the Ensign a few times since that day in the mess hall, and still knew little about her, except that she was obviously a talented Astrometrics officer.
Still uncomfortable with expressing her emotions, she assumed her usual pose of hands behind the back and looked at the other woman. "Ensign, I was informed of your actions while I was in sickbay. I appreciate your volunteering to take over the responsibilities here. If I may ask, why did you? Volunteer that is."
She watched curiously as the red haired woman's cheeks colored again. "Well, I uh, I just thought you may need someone to help out."
"But why would you wish to assist me?" Seven asked curiously.
Mara shifted uncomfortably. Unlike many of her fellow crewmates, especially those on Gamma Shift who rarely if ever saw the former Borg, she had never feared the mysterious woman. She'd only seen her a few times since being moved to Alpha Shift, but couldn't help but find her stoicism and cool demeanor somewhat intimidating. But Seven was also one of those individuals that seemed to draw people to them. Whether they wanted to be drawn or not.
"I don't know. It just seemed like the thing to do," Mara equivocated. Seven let her answer go at that, not wanting to push the younger woman.
"I see. Thank you," Seven replied simply.
"You're welcome," Mara returned, pleased she wasn't going to receive an icy tongue lashing for interfering in the Borg's realm.
"I also wish to commend you for your actions in resolving the cloaking issue so quickly, and the Captain assures me that if you would be agreeable, she would be willing to reassign you to Astrometrics on a permanent basis."
Mara's green eyes widened considerably. "Really?"
"Yes. Is this acceptable?"
"You wouldn't mind?" Mara was suddenly rather nervous about working with the infamous Astrometrics Officer. She was so brilliant, Mara wasn't sure she could live up to the expectations.
"I wouldn't have stated the offer, if I minded," Seven replied calmly.
"Of course," Mara blushed again. "Thank you. I would very much like the opportunity to work here."
"I will inform the Captain," Seven turned to leave then looked back and gave a small smile. "Relax, Ensign. You have already proven yourself to be efficient." With that she left, leaving a startled Ensign staring after her.
"Well I'll be damned," she muttered, then turned back to her work.
B'Elanna entered her quarters with a sigh of relief. It had been an exhausting week both mentally and physically and between repairing the ship and repairing Seven of Nine, she'd had little opportunity to sleep. When she did get the chance to sleep, she was plagued by her concern over the blonde, as well as the strange and nearly overwhelming feelings that filled her whenever she thought about Seven.
But now, Seven seemed to be functioning normally, and Voyager's systems were back up to one hundred percent. She went to the replicator and ordered a hot drink. She removed her jacket and tossed it on the couch and sat down, replaying the conversation she'd had with Tom as he walked her to engineering.
So, is there anything you need to tell me? Tom had asked curiously.
No, should there be? B'Elanna had a feeling she knew what Tom was asking, but refused to admit it.
Come on, B'Elanna. This is me you're talking to. I saw you holding Seven's hand just now. And I saw you in sickbay when she was unconscious. You have feelings for her.
Don't be ridiculous, Tom. She's my friend. I was concerned for her. That's all.
Are you calling me a liar?
Tom laughed. "Don't go growling at me, Torres. I'm not calling you anything. I do think you are deceiving yourself however.
Forget it, Paris. I don't have feelings for her. She's a woman for crying out loud. Plus, I'm married. To you. Remember?
Oh, I remember. But I'm thinking that perhaps you shouldn't be.
Tom stopped as they approached the doors to engineering. Fortunately the corridor had been vacant except for the two of them.
Look B'Elanna. I know this isn't the best time or place, but after seeing you and Seven in the mess hall, I just didn't want to put this off any longer. You know I love you, and I know you love me. But we're friends. Best friends. And that's it.
Tom, you don't
Yes, I do know what I'm saying. And you agree with me. You won't hurt my feelings B'Elanna. I just want you to admit it. To me, and more importantly, to yourself.
I can't. She repressed the urge to wail.
Yes you can. Look. Up until Seven got ill, we both were comfortable with things the way they were. We could have made it work and been happy. But now you've found real love and we both know that you can't, and shouldn't settle for anything less. And I've realized I shouldn't either.
B'Elanna sighed. She and Tom exchanged a hug and a last kiss. They agreed to meet with Captain Janeway in the morning for the formal dissolution of the marriage.
She was saddened by the failure of the marriage but was in fact relieved. Tom was right. She would have been content to stay married to him, but once she realized that she had feelings for Seven, that contentment went out the airlock. She would never have been satisfied staying with Tom, while longing for the embrace of another. It wouldn't be fair to her, to Tom or to Seven.
Suddenly needing to see the object of her thoughts, she reached for her jacket and hit her comm badge.
"Torres to Seven of Nine."
"Can you meet me at my quarters?"
There was no response, and B'Elanna felt a twinge of nervousness. Perhaps this wasn't such a
"Of course, Lieutenant." Seven interrupted her thoughts. "I will be there in six minutes."
B'Elanna couldn't help but laugh. "It's not an emergency. You don't have to drop what you're doing."
"I'll be there in six minutes," Seven stated again coolly, but B'Elanna could hear the amusement in the husky voice.
Exactly six minutes and twenty seconds later, B'Elanna heard the door chime
"Come on in Seven."
She watched as the cool blonde strode into her quarters. "I apologize for my tardiness. I ran into Mr. Neelix in the corridor and he wished to exchange pleasantries."
B'Elanna raised her eyebrows and laughed, but she couldn't decide what was funnier; Seven being accosted by the friendly Talaxian and trying to find an escape, the almost frustrated look on her face, or her considering twenty seconds as tardy.
"Just don't let it happen again," she said with mock ferocity, laughing again when she saw the ocular implant lift arrogantly..
"Was there something in particular you wished to discuss, Lieutenant?"
B'Elanna refused to be taken in again by the superior tone in the former Borg's voice. "Have a seat, Seven." She saw Seven's mouth open and cut her off. "I know, you prefer to stand, but I'd prefer it if you sat down."
Seven sighed and sat down at the end of the couch farthest from B'Elanna. She had no idea what the small engineer wished to discuss with her, but she hoped it wouldn't take long as she wasn't sure how long she could refrain from acting on her feelings for the dark haired woman.
"Thank you," B'Elanna offered with a smile. "Can I get you something?"
"No. Thank you." Seven looked around the comfortable, spacious and tastefully decorated quarters. While she accepted her need to regenerate in cargo bay 2, she couldn't help but wish for a place such as this where she could be alone when she wasn't regenerating. Feeling eyes on her, she turned to look at the dark haired beauty who'd requested her presence.
"Do you require my assistance, Lieutenant?"
B'Elanna didn't take her eyes of the blonde woman. "Yes. First of all, I would like you to call me B'Elanna." She waited for Seven to nod her acknowledgement.
"Good. The next thing is, I needed someone to talk to."
"You wish to talk to me?" Seven was unable to keep the surprise from her voice or her face.
B'Elanna chuckled softly. "Yes. That would be why you're currently sitting on my couch."
B'Elanna shook her head in amusement at the childlike expression on Seven's face. "You see, Tom and I are getting a divorce."
Both human eyebrow and ocular implant rose to her hairline. "Why?" Despite the shocked facial expression, her voice remained composed.
B'Elanna swallowed. She knew what she had to do what she needed to do and she wasn't going to let the opportunity pass. She stared intently into confused blue eyes and slowly scooted closer to the taller woman who sat stiffly on the edge of the cushion, looking as if she would flee at any moment.
"We decided that staying married when we aren't in love with each other is not what either of us wants."
"You aren't in love with Lieutenant Paris?" Seven asked quietly, suddenly finding the tops of her knees immensely fascinating.
"Nope. And he isn't with me." Since Seven was busy staring at her knees, B'Elanna took the opportunity to drink in the other woman. She swallowed the baseball sized lump in her throat and reached out carefully to take an enhanced hand into her own. The lump went down a few sizes when the hand didn't resist. B'Elanna ran her thumb across the back of Seven's hand finding the texture of metal and skin fascinating.
"Lieutenant. What are you ?" Seven was unable to finish as the thumb running across her hand apparently destroyed her ability to speak.
"B'Elanna," the Klingon said quietly. "I'm just following your example from earlier today. You held my hand. Remember?"
Seven was only able to nod once.
"Anyway," B'Elanna continued in a voice that had suddenly dropped an octave, "Tom and I realized that by us remaining married, even though neither of us had a romantic interest in the other, I would be unable to pursue the feelings I was having for someone else."
Seven's eyes shot up at that, and met B'Elanna's velvet brown eyes with an intensity that nearly seared the Klingon's soul. B'Elanna prayed that at least one of her hearts would start beating soon.
"What are you playing at, Lieutenant?" Seven asked cautiously, her words barely audible.
B'Elanna reached up and ran a fingertip along Seven's hair line, and across the soft skin on her forehead that concealed her cortical node. The fingertip trailed down Seven's soft jaw and under her chin. "I don't play," she whispered before leaning in and brushing her lips against the startled lips of Seven of Nine.
It didn't take long for passion to erupt. B'Elanna slid her arms around Seven's slim shoulders and her long fingers lifted to release the silky blonde hair from its confinement. She let her fingers thread through the soft strands as Seven closed her arms around B'Elanna, stroking up and down the strong back, then up through B'Elanna's own soft dark hair as the kiss deepened.
B'Elanna pulled back a little to see Seven's reaction. Seven's eyes were closed as if she were savoring the feeling she had just experienced. Slowly the lids opened and B'Elanna swallowed hard at the look of passion that had darkened the blue eyes to near black. No one had ever looked at her like that before and it was overwhelming.
"You are so beautiful," B'Elanna breathed staring helplessly at the blonde woman.
Seven blinked in order to pull her thoughts into some sort of order. "My looks," she subconsciously lifted a finger to gently trace the ridges of B'Elanna's forehead, "are irrelevant," she said simply. "They are a result of my life with the Borg, and the doctor's enhancements. He created this image." She was staring so intently at the other woman's face she was barely aware of her own words.
"Seven, I "
"But you," Seven interrupted, her eyes following her fingers over the smooth skin of B'Elanna's face, "you are as nature made you. If the Borg truly sought perfection, they would be looking for you."
B'Elanna was taken aback. That was the strangest compliment she'd ever received, yet it brought tears to her eyes none the less.
"I don't know what to say," she started. Seven's eyes were still roaming over her face, so B'Elanna put a finger under her chin to bring the blue eyes back to her own. "Thank you."
"There is nothing to thank me for, B'Elanna. I am only stating the facts. You steal my breath away and I don't know what to do about it."
B'Elanna looked into blue eyes that seemed to be pleading for something. Her lips lifted in a gentle smile and she leaned forward. "Then take mine," she said quietly, lowering her lips once more to Seven's.
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