DISCLAIMER: All characters and settings are borrowed from Star Trek: Voyager and everything in the Star Trek Universe belongs to Paramount/Viacom. No infringement of copyright or trademarks is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only. This story depicts a loving relationship between two women, if this is something that will offend you please read no further. If you are under 18 or this is illegal where you live please read no further.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Close Quarters
By T.J

Part 1

Seven of Nine was concerned. Actually she was worried. When B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris had married she had finally been assigned her own quarters—B'Elanna's old quarters. She did not wish to return to the Cargo Bay. True she had to regenerate every 10 days, but she finally felt as if she were more human, more a part of the crew now that she had quarters like everyone else—a room of her own. She desperately did not want to give that up. But these were B'Elanna's quarters and now that Tom Paris had been caught cheating and they were divorcing, Seven was afraid that B'Elanna would want them back and she would be relegated back to storage in the cargo bay. Voyager was full to bursting and there were no spare quarters at the moment.

She wasn't completely self-absorbed. She knew that Lieutenant Torres was going through a rough time—that her pride was injured and her dignity shattered through Tom's actions. She decided to go to the Captain and explain the idea that had just come to her in hopes that it would solve both of their problems. She took a deep breath and looked around 'her' quarters for what might be the last time, then she squared her shoulders and left for the bridge.

The Captain was surprised to say the least when Seven approached her with her plan. She knew B'Elanna would hate the idea, but she thought it might be good for both of them in the long run, so she decided to proceed with it and hope for the best. She called B'Elanna to her ready room.

"Not a chance in hell Captain. No way, no how."

"As you were Lieutenant," the Captain commanded loudly.

B'Elanna heard the steel in the Captain's voice and knew she was crossing the line. She forced herself to calm down and sat back in the chair she had leapt out of upon hearing the Captain's unexpected words.

"Captain…Seven won't want to share quarters with me anymore than I do with her."

"It was her idea B'Elanna. I think she's concerned about you."

B'Elanna was shocked to say the least to hear that Seven had come up with this scheme.

"Still, it won't work. Why doesn't Tom have to share quarters? He was the one who cheated on me." The Captain heard the tears in B'Elanna's voice and her heart went out the hurting, angry woman in front of her.

"All I ask is that you give this a try. I don't think you should be alone right now. If you give a try and it doesn't work out, we'll see about moving Tom in with someone else…does that sound fair?"

B'Elanna wanted to scream that nothing about this was fair, but she knew the Captain would be disappointed in her. She felt backed into a corner, but she had no place to go and she did wish to please her Captain.

"Fine…okay. I'll do it," she capitulated.

B'Elanna's mind was reeling for the rest of the day. Her marriage was over; she'd been publicly humiliated in front of the entire crew, and now she was forced to share her old quarters with Seven of Nine—Borg Ice Queen—while Tom kept his nice comfortable quarters all to himself and whatever tramp he decided to bring home that day. Maintenance had been down to erect a wall across the living room so she would have her own room, but she would still have to spend time every day with the Borg. She shuddered at the thought. Oh well, she could always set a record for the biggest number of double shifts pulled by a Starfleet officer. She put off returning 'home' until well into the Gamma shift.

Seven was nervous about sharing quarters with B'Elanna. She knew the temperamental engineer was not a big fan of hers, and probably wasn't thrilled about having to live with her. She was tempted to hide in her room and avoid the problem as much as possible, but it wasn't in her nature to avoid unpleasantness. She decided to simply wait for B'Elanna to return to the rooms and see if she needed any help moving in, as a pretext for feeling out how B'Elanna was going to react to living with her.

B'Elanna entered the codes to her door and walked in, hoping to find the living room deserted. Her heart fell when she saw Seven sitting stiffly on the sofa hard at work with a PADD in her hand. She didn't know exactly what to say.

"Uh… hey Seven," she finally managed.

"Welcome home Lieutenant," Seven replied stiffly, instantly regretting her decision to wait up and talk to B'Elanna. "I thought you might require assistance in moving your things here from Lieutenant Paris' quarters, er, your old quarters."

B'Elanna hadn't even though of returning to the quarters she had shared with Tom. She looked down her body…she had shown up on Seven's doorstep with only the clothes on her back. Suddenly she started to laugh at the ridiculousness of her situation. Seven looked on puzzled as the Lieutenant dissolved into helpless laughter. Of all of the reactions she had come to expect of the engineer, laughter wasn't one of them.

"Are you functioning within acceptable parameters Lieutenant?" she queried seriously.

Seven's words caused B'Elanna to laugh even harder…tears were streaming down her face. Seven was becoming increasingly concerned. She went to the replicator and ordered a glass of water, which she wordlessly held out to the shaking engineer.

"Thanks Seven," B'Elanna managed between gasps for breath. "I think I don't think any of this has really sunk in yet." She took the glass of water and finished it off in one long pull. "I completely forgot about moving my things out of my old quarters. I guess I really should at least go and get my toothbrush huh?"

"That would seem like a good idea. My offer to assist you stands."

B'Elanna called Tom over the Comm and upon finding out that he was out in Holodeck one, and likely to be there for several more hours, decided that now would be a good to get her stuff and make the break from Tom final. Having made that determination, she turned to go without giving another thought to Seven.

"Lieutenant." B'Elanna stopped in her tracks and turned to face Seven. "Do you require my assistance?" She felt her familiar irritation with B'Elanna's brusque behaviour rising, but she forced it down. If they were going to live together it was in her best interests to keep things between them civil.

B'Elanna's first instinct was to decline Seven's offer. The last thing she wanted was the Ice Queen tagging along while she disassembled her life, but, on the other hand, sometimes a cool emotionless head could be an asset in a situation like this. If Tom came home early from the holodeck, she was reasonably certain that Seven would stop her from killing him. Anyway, if they were going to live together it was in her best interests to keep things between them civil.

"Sure Seven, thanks."

They walked without speaking to the turbolift; in fact, they didn't pass a word between them until they were inside the Paris/Torres quarters. B'Elanna looked around and heaved a sigh. She hadn't been happy here in some time, practically since the moment they moved in together, but she still felt like the empty quarters were mocking her with her failure as she tried to determine where to start. While she was standing there she heard Seven go over to the replicator and order it to produce two large duffel bags. Seven tossed one of the capacious bags to B'Elanna.

"Where do you suggest we start?"

"Uh, the bedroom I guess," B'Elanna said with a sigh. She could think of about a million things she'd rather be doing right now.

They walked into the bedroom and B'Elanna was immediately greeted with the sight of an unmade bed. She shook her head and walked to the closet. She threw her duffel bag on the bed and began to remove her uniforms and toss them in the general direction of the bag. Seven watched the pile grow for a moment before she went over and began to fold the clothes and place them neatly in the bag. After a moment the items changed from Starfleet issue to civilian attire. Seven noted that the clothing was all in muted hues of greens, blues, and grays. B'Elanna was apparently not one for ostentatious displays. The last item out of the closet surprised Seven somewhat; it was a black silk cocktail dress. She had never seen B'Elanna wear anything but slacks. The dress felt like cool water as it slid through her fingers. She couldn't help herself from holding it up and staring at it. B'Elanna caught her staring and snatched the garment from her hands and stuffed it into the duffel bag.

"I have never seen you wear such an article of clothing," Seven knew she was pushing the limits with her question, but she was fascinated by the dress. The B'Elanna Torres she knew didn't wear such clothing.

"I've never actually worn it. I saved up my replicator rations and had it made for our anniversary…next week." She grabbed it back out of the bag, "I should recycle it."

"No!" Seven wasn't certain why she cared so much, but the dress was lovely and she couldn't help getting an image of the Lieutenant wearing it. She didn't want to see the dress destroyed.

B'Elanna shoved it back in the bag. "I'll probably never wear it now," she said as she walked to the dresser and began to sort through the clothing there.

Seven took the dress back out of the duffel and folded it neatly, zipping up the bag and opening the other one to receive the clothing B'Elanna was tossing at her now. When it came to socks and underwear, B'Elanna simply pulled out the drawers and dumped the contents into the bag. When Seven reached into the duffel to fold the items, B'Elanna grabbed her arm.

"Just leave 'em Seven."

Seven raised her ocular implant.

"I do not understand the human need to pretend that such garments do not exist."

"That's why they call 'em personals, Seven," B'Elanna said with a grin. "So no snooping."

"I do not snoop," Seven replied with the tiniest of smirks.

"Just the same I'm keeping my eye on you," B'Elanna joked, relieved to have something to take her mind off the awkwardness and humiliation of her personal life.

"Don't forget your toothbrush," Seven ordered.

"Right," B'Elanna went into the bathroom. When she was gone, Seven looked into the duffel bag. She picked up a tiny slip of black silk fabric and held it on the tip of her finger. 'Frivolous,' she thought to herself as she shoved the underwear back into the bag.

B'Elanna had very few other items to remove from her quarters. Several pictures and a few knickknacks of sentimental value were all that remained. She quickly put them in the bag and then took her Bat'leth off the wall.

"Maybe you should carry this," she said holding it out to Seven. At the formers Drone's raised ocular implant she continued, "just in case we run into Tom in the hallway on the way back."

Seven hefted the weapon in her hands. "Afraid you might miss him?"

B'Elanna shook her head and laughed. "Let's get the hell out of here."

Once again the trip back to their quarters was made in silence. When they were inside, Seven followed B'Elanna into her room and set the duffel and Bat'leth on the bed.

"I am sorry for your situation Lieutenant. I hope you will be comfortable here." With that Seven left the room and went straight into her own room, shutting the door quietly behind her.

"Thanks Seven," B'Elanna said to no one. She was alone. She sat down on the bed and finally gave in to her tears.

The next morning B'Elanna was furious with herself from the moment her feet hit the floor. She had overslept terribly and barely had time for a shower before she was due in engineering to begin a warp core diagnostic that she had scheduled a week ago. The entire shift was involved and it would take the majority of the day to complete. She couldn't afford to be late, and if she didn't hurry she was going to be. She wrapped herself in a towel and made her way quickly to the bathroom. She gave the computer the order to start the sonic shower. The emitter heads sputtered for a few seconds before they erupted with an ear-piercing wall of sound. B'Elanna was instantly in agony as she tried to cover her ears to block out the painful noise. The mirror over the sink shattered as B'Elanna pried the access panel for the shower off the wall. As she worked Seven rushed into the bathroom also covering her ears.

"Turn it off!" she cried.

"I'm trying damn it," B'Elanna shouted back over the din.

She reached into the access panel, and, in a completely unrecommended procedure, turned off the flow of power to the emitters by hand. When the silence finally descended, B'Elanna banged her head against the wall twice before hanging her head.

"Damn it. I don't have time for this…I have to get to engineering for a diagnostic that starts in 10 minutes."

Seven leaned over inhaled deeply.

"Your personal odour is inoffensive Lieutenant. I do not believe anyone will notice if you don't have a shower."

"Gee, thanks Seven. I feel so much better now," B'Elanna snarled.

She reached back into the access panel.

"I will fix the shower Lieutenant. You should go to engineering."

"Fine…thanks," she said brusquely as she got up and hurried back to her room.

Seven went back to the living room to retrieve her tricorder so she could diagnose the problem with the emitter heads. She saw B'Elanna rushing out the door, zipping up her jacket as she went. She shook her head at the chaos that was B'Elanna Torres and returned to the bathroom to fix the shower.

B'Elanna finally got the diagnostic underway; thanks to Seven she had been on time. The morning was shaping up to be slightly less than a total disaster. She went into her office after two hours of work to go over the preliminary results of the test. She had just sat down when the door to her office opened.

"I don't have time for this," she growled without looking up.

A plate containing a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich appeared under her nose.

"What the hell is this?" she growled.

"I noticed that you didn't have time to consume your breakfast this morning. You will be more efficient if you are properly fed."

"Kahless Seven, I'm not a child. You aren't my mother and you aren't my friend. I might have to live with you, but I don't have to like it. Just stay the hell away from me."

She knew she was being hard on Seven, but she hadn't invited the former drone into her life and now she was there every time B'Elanna turned around. She saw the tightening of Seven's jaw and knew she had crossed the line. Seven turned and left without saying a word.

"Dammit!" She ran out of her office. "Hang on Seven…just wait." Seven stopped in her tracks. "I know you meant well, and it was a nice thing to do…I'm sorry I yelled at you. You didn't deserve that."

"Apology accepted," Seven said quietly. "I must return to Astrometrics." B'Elanna watched her go, feeling like three kinds of shit for the way she had treated the former drone. She knew that Seven had only been trying to help…she just wasn't used to anyone caring about her, and she hated that Seven was privy to so much of her private life. She wanted to be left alone almost as much as wanted someone to break through her barriers.

She went back to her office. She sneered at the sandwich for a minute as she sat down then, slowly, she began to eat.

Part 2

After their first awkward day as roommates both Seven and B'Elanna began to work late in an effort to avoid one another. Neither one of them wanted to risk another altercation that might lead to further hurtful words between them. They decided that avoidance was the best route for now. They often saw one another in the mornings, and neither one of them had gotten used to the sight of the other in her pajamas. Seven had taken the Captain's advice when she started sleeping and had replicated herself some long nightgowns. But once she saw how comfortable B'Elanna looked in her tee shirts and silk boxer shorts, she replicated herself a set and found them to be far less encumbering when she went to bed at night. B'Elanna had raised an eyebrow the first morning she saw Seven an outfit similar to her own, but she hadn't said anything, and Seven was comfortable and not overly concerned with other's opinion of her, so she persisted in wearing the comfortable clothes to bed.

B'Elanna had been working so many extra shifts that she could barely see straight some days. But no matter how late she worked, when she got back to the quarters Seven was invariably still at work. So it was that on this day she decided to leave at the end of Alpha shift and continue her work on the deflector shield upgrades in the comfort of her quarters. She walked in, and found that Seven wasn't there. She unzipped her jacket and replicated something to eat and drink as she settled down to work on the couch. She put her feet up and began to feel almost relaxed for the first time in weeks. Slowly, imperceptibly her head started to nod. She got up and replicated a cup of raktijino and continued with her work.

When Seven came home she found B'Elanna asleep on the sofa, a PADD fallen neglected into her lap. The Lieutenant had been working so many extra shifts; Seven knew that without Borg physiology she must be completely exhausted. She looked pale and drawn, even as she slept. Seven knew the Lieutenant was going to make herself ill if she didn't slow down. She felt her heart constrict with an unfamiliar sensation as she looked at the sleeping form of the engineer. She went to the Lieutenant's side and picked up the PADD, turning it off before setting it on the coffee table. She then picked the sleeping engineer up in her arms and carried her into her bedroom. She laid her on the bed and removed her boots, picking her up again so she could remove the jacket as well. She then unfolded a blanket from the end of the bed and covered the hybrid with it before leaving the room.

B'Elanna awoke in the morning feeling more refreshed than normal. But she couldn't quite remember where she was. The last thing she remembered was sitting on the sofa and working. She opened her eyes and realized that she was in her own bed. She was still clothed, but covered with a blanket. She realized that Seven must have come home and found her on the sofa. She felt a surge of irritation for a moment before she realized how glad she was not to have spent the night on the uncomfortable couch. She sat up and looked around the room. Her jacket was folded on the chair and her boots were lined up perfectly beneath it. Seven had even removed her Maquis rank insignia and placed it on the bedside table to it wouldn't scratch her in the night. She shook her head; she just couldn't figure Seven out. She checked the time and then decided to jump in the shower quickly before Seven awoke.

After her shower she dressed and was about to grab something quick to eat before leaving for work. She stopped in front of the replicator, Seven's recent kindness playing in her mind. She heard the former drone make her way into the bathroom and then she made a decision.

When Seven came out of her room she was greeted with the sight of B'Elanna putting the finishing touches on breakfast for two.

"I, uh, I wanted to thank you for taking care of me last night. I made you some breakfast…if you'd like," she finished awkwardly.

"That would be acc…I would like that, thank you."

They sat down together for the very first time. Seven normally didn't usually eat solid food, but she appreciated B'Elanna's efforts on her behalf and so she took a serving of everything that the engineer had replicated. She started with tiny bites, but soon was eating quickly as she realized the food tasted excellent. She was amazed at how much B'Elanna was capable of eating. For such a small individual she certainly could pack away the food. In between bites they discussed work, and B'Elanna outlined the project she was working on. Seven was intrigued and wanted to look at the schematics that B'Elanna had been working on last night. But she knew that B'Elanna would only be irritated at her 'interference' so she refrained from asking. She didn't want to risk what might be the beginnings of a truce between them. B'Elanna stared at her in silence for a moment. She knew exactly what was going through Seven's mind. She also knew she was probably going to regret her next words.

"Would you like to take a look at the data?"

"Yes…if you wouldn't mind that is," Seven couldn't believe B'Elanna's offer.

"Drop by engineering when you get a chance today and I'll show it to you."

"Of course…thank you." Seven was afraid to say anything else in case B'Elanna changed her mind and rescinded the offer. They finished the meal in silence.

"Thank you for the meal…it was most thoughtful, and delicious," Seven said as they rose from the table. She helped B'Elanna clear the table and recycle the dishes before they went their separate ways.

Later that morning Seven made her way down to engineering and went over the designs for the upgraded deflector dish with B'Elanna. The designs were ingenious and Seven was once again impressed with how well the Lieutenant did her job. The improvements would allow the dish to be used for more functions than ever, as well as improving the efficiency with which Voyager cut through space, thus improving fuel efficiency. Seven had many ideas involving Borg technology for enhancing the dish, but she was aware that B'Elanna never liked adding alien technology to her beloved ship, so she bit her tongue and made only one or two small suggestions to start with. If things went well between them she could offer further suggestions later. B'Elanna was also biting her tongue as Seven made changes to the schematics, but she had to admit that all of her suggestions were valid. They managed to get through the meeting with a minimum of friction, which was a relief to both of them.

Despite the fact that she had gotten more sleep than usual last night, B'Elanna found herself exhausted at the end of her shift. She decided to bite the bullet and go home after she had dinner in the mess hall. She ate quickly, yawning widely several times and then made her way back to the quarters she now shared with Seven. There was no one home when she entered, so she stripped off her jacket and overshirt and called up the schematics for the deflector dish on the console in their quarters and settled in to work.

Seven was surprised to find a sleeping engineer in her quarters for the second time in as many nights. This time B'Elanna had fallen asleep at her console; she was sprawled out across it, with the files still open. Seven again felt her chest tighten inexplicably at the sight of the exhausted young woman. She eased B'Elanna back in her chair and then picked her up gently in her arms, once again making her way the Klingon's bedroom. This time however she had picked B'Elanna up so that she couldn't simply set her down, her head would be at the foot of the bed were she to do so. Seven stood for a second before simply crawling up onto the bed with the sleeping woman in her arms. She laid her down gently, but when she went to straighten up and get off the bed, B'Elanna tangled her arms around Seven's neck and whimpered.

"Don't go Mommy, please just stay a little longer."

Seven knew that B'Elanna was fast asleep and unaware of her actions, but still the Klingon's hold on her was firm. She remained bent over awkwardly for a few seconds before deciding to simply lie down until B'Elanna released her of her own accord. She settled down gently beside the sleeping engineer. B'Elanna's arms tightened around her and she found herself lowering her head to rest on the Klingon's shoulder. She could hear the beating of her heart, and found it soothing, she allowed her own tired eyes to drift shut for a second. She felt an overwhelming sense of peace and connection. For the first time in her short life as an individual she felt safe. Slowly, inexorably she felt herself snuggle closer to the warmth that was B'Elanna Torres. She inhaled deeply of the fresh, clean scent of the older woman. It made her head spin in a way she hadn't experienced since her first and only run in with synthahol. Since Seven had started sleeping she had never slept through the night. Her sleep was troubled, interrupted with images from her childhood, and dark disturbing memories from her time with the Borg. She knew even if she drifted off for a second or two she would wake up and be able to go back to her own room without disturbing B'Elanna. She let her eyes close, and in a very few moments she was fast asleep.

B'Elanna was wrapped in a most wonderful dream; she was feeling warmer and more comfortable then she had in a very long time. She drifted further into a state of wakefulness, and felt an unfamiliar weight on her shoulder, almost as if there were someone there, holding her close, keeping her safe. Much as she hated to admit it she didn't like being so alone. She knew she should open her eyes and put an end to the dream, but she didn't want to lose the warmth just yet. She kept her eyes shut and just soaked up the feeling for a few more minutes. When she finally opened her eyes she was shocked that the 'dream' didn't disappear. With a yelp of surprise she realized that all of the warmth and comfort was being generated by Seven of Nine. She pushed away from the younger woman with all of her might, rolling out of the bed and landing on the floor with an audible thump. Seven, feeling the push, came awake with a start. She realized that she had fallen asleep and that B'Elanna had awakened to find the two of them in one another's arms. She tried to leap backward out of the bed, but as it was pushed up against the wall she had no luck, and only succeeded in hitting her head roughly against the bulkhead. She let out a yip of pain.

"What the hell do you think you're doing Borg!" B'Elanna was furious.

"I…I wasn't doing anything. I took you to bed and I must have fallen asleep…"

"You took me to bed?" B'Elanna couldn't believe her ears.

"Not like that. What I mean to say…I would never take advantage of you…of anyone."

B'Elanna was furious, but she realized that they were both fully clothed, in fact, they were both still wearing their shoes. She began to calm down.

"Why don't you start from the beginning? Just tell me what the heck happened here."

"You were asleep at the console, so I carried you to bed, just as I did once before. When I put you down you cried out and would not release me. I only meant to lie down for a moment, until you relaxed your grip on me. I must have drifted off. I am sorry. It was never my intention to cause you discomfort."

B'Elanna knew there was more to the incident than Seven was letting on, but she also knew that Seven was completely honourable and would never have taken advantage of her moment of weakness. It surprised her that she was so certain of that, given the nature of most of her interactions with the former Drone. Maybe it was fact that she had finally gotten a good night's sleep, or maybe it was the look of dismay on Seven's face. In any case she felt her anger dissipate.

"I know Seven. I was just…startled is all. Sorry I yelled."

Seven couldn't believe that incendiary Lieutenant was actually apologizing. She rubbed the back of her head, while trying desperately to think of something to say.

"Did you hurt yourself?"

"It is just a bump. Nothing serious." Seven tried to crawl out of the bed, but the heel of her shoe caught in the folded blankets and she tumbled out onto the floor, bringing the blankets down with her.

B'Elanna had never seen Seven look so disheveled or undignified. It was the most human she had ever see the former drone look. It was almost endearing. She reached out and helped Seven up off the floor.

"I am sorry," Seven reiterated as she climbed to her feet.

"It's okay; I trust you," B'Elanna was unused to such personal conversation, so she decided to tease the usually stiff young woman just a bit. "You know…since you took me to bed…the least you can do is make me breakfast in the morning."

"It is morning," was all Seven could think to say.

"Good, then I'll have a short stack of banana pancakes," B'Elanna said with a grin.

She was a little surprised at her own ability to handle the situation without losing her temper even further than she had. She was even enjoying watching Seven squirm. It was almost as much fun as teasing Harry.

"I think I'll have a quick shower before breakfast. You don't mind do you Seven?"

Seven's eyes were wide in disbelief.

"Nno, of course not."

"Don't forget the maple syrup," B'Elanna said as she grabbed her towel and headed to the shower.

Seven stood in the middle of the room for a moment, replaying in her head everything that had just happened. She had spent the night in B'Elanna's Torres' bed; she had had the best sleep of her life, and B'Elanna had told her that she trusted her. It was a little overwhelming to Seven, who was unused to the vagaries of human emotions and actions. In this situation she did the only thing she could think of to do. She went into the kitchen and began to replicate banana pancakes and maple syrup.

B'Elanna stood in the sonic shower, feeling the waves of sound pounding over her body, cleansing her completely. As she stood there, she couldn't help but remember how it felt to wake up surrounded by warmth the way she had this morning. Even though it turned out be Seven she was with, she had still felt a sense of peace and comfort that usually eluded her, even when she was in a relationship. Maybe that was why it had proven impossible for her to stay angry at the former drone. She had to admit, it was a lot more fun teasing Seven than it was shouting at her. Maybe they might even be friends some day; stranger things had happened, she was almost sure of it. She shut off the shower and stepped out into the bathroom. She could already smell the pancakes. She smiled to herself and hurried to get dressed.

At first they said nothing during breakfast. B'Elanna was finally feeling the awkwardness that she had been ignoring since waking up in Seven's arms, and Seven's mind was preoccupied with a question she wasn't sure she had the courage to ask. Finally she could take it no longer.

"Did you mean what you said B'Elanna?"

"About what?"

"Do you really… trust me?"

"Believe it or not, I really do," B'Elanna replied after a moment's thought, unable to look Seven in the eye as she spoke.

"Thank you. That means a great deal to me."

"Sure," was all B'Elanna could manage in reply. It touched her somehow that her trust mattered to the former drone. It was a strange, but not entirely unpleasant, feeling.

There was a moment or two of silence in which both of them tried to deal with the unfamiliar situation, and then B'Elanna broke the silence by asking Seven about her ideas for the deflector shield project. Seven began to outline a few of her thoughts, and soon the two of them were discussing and discarding ideas at about a mile a minute. It seemed like no time at all before they had to leave for their shifts. They chatted all the way down into the turbolift and were still talking when the doors closed between them. B'Elanna shook her head as the lift continued on to engineering…it wasn't often you felt like you made a new friend on Voyager, but today that was exactly how she felt.

Part 3

For the first time since she had moved in with Seven, B'Elanna left engineering almost as soon as her shift was done. She no longer felt the need to avoid her quarters, and she was hoping maybe Seven felt the same way. She thought maybe she'd cook dinner for the both of them, and then perhaps they could do some more work on the deflector project. It had been fun debating courses of action with Seven this morning, much as she hated to admit it, Seven's insight was invaluable. She almost called Seven to ask her about dinner, but didn't want to push. She was hoping that the former drone would leave Astrometrics and come home of her own accord. It she wasn't there in an hour or two B'Elanna would call her and request her presence.

B'Elanna was only home for a half hour before the doors opened and Seven of Nine entered. B'Elanna looked up from her work and smiled.

"Hey Seven. How was your day?"

"It was a typical day, and yours?"

"Fine…thanks…listen Seven. I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner and then maybe give me a hand on the deflector project. What do you say?"

Seven was flattered that B'Elanna wished to spend time with her, so it was difficult for her to answer the question.

"I would love to have dinner with you, but I regret that I cannot comply with your request to assist you with the project. I…am sorry. I will understand if you no longer wish to share your meal with me."

"Big plans for the evening," B'Elanna joked.


B'Elanna was a bit taken aback by Seven's sharp tone.

"What's up Seven?"

"I must…regenerate this evening." There was a look of distaste on Seven's face as she spoke the words that surprised B'Elanna.

"You don't like regenerating?"

"I have no feelings one way or another about regeneration."

"Then what's the problem?"

"I…dislike being in the Cargo Bay. I find it…unsettling."

"Oh," B'Elanna hadn't been expecting that answer from the usually logical Seven. "I guess I can understand that, being alone and helpless down there would be a little…disconcerting."

"It is not that exactly…" Seven's voice trailed off.

B'Elanna got up and began preparations for dinner. She frowned slightly, mulling over Seven's words.

"What it is about Cargo Bay 2 that you don't like?" she asked finally.

"The name to begin with." There was a petulance to Seven's tone that surprised B'Elanna yet again. "I never felt as though I was member of the crew when I was 'stored' there. It is only since having quarters of my own that I have begun to appreciate my individuality in a real way. Every time I return to the cargo bay I am reminded of my difference."

"And…" B'Elanna knew there was something more that Seven was unwilling to confess.

"I do feel rather vulnerable there. The alcoves sometimes…give me the creeps," she finished sheepishly; using a term she had heard Naomi Wildman use to describe the Borg technology.

B'Elanna smiled softly at Seven's terminology.

"I guess I can understand that," she said quietly.

"It is foolish I know," Seven replied, blushing.

"Not foolish…human," B'Elanna contradicted. "Dinner's almost ready, do you want to set the table?"

Seven nodded in compliance and began setting out plates and cutlery. She was embarrassed at having admitted her foolishness to B'Elanna. She didn't want the engineer to lose respect for her, and she was worried that her childishness may have caused her to sink in B'Elanna's esteem. B'Elanna had never imagined that Seven had any feelings about living in the cargo bay, but as she thought about what that would be like she began to understand why the former drone didn't like going down there alone. She thought about the green glow of the alcoves and felt a shiver down her spine. It was creepy.

Dinner was quiet as Seven was embarrassed and B'Elanna was thinking about what the former drone had confessed to her. They did manage some stilted conversation for a little while, but it was a definite effort and after a while they fell silent once more. Finally B'Elanna spoke up.

"How long do you have to regenerate?"

"Six hours." Seven didn't really want to talk about it.

"So if you started now, you'd be done by 0100."

"Yes. After my regeneration cycle is complete I return to my quarters and sleep for the rest of the night."

There was another few moments of silence at the table, before B'Elanna spoke again.

"Cause I was thinking that I should do an inventory of the engineering supplies in the cargo bay before the next staff meeting."

"Really?" Seven's ocular implant was up somewhere in the vicinity of her hairline.

"Yeah…you know if I start now I'll be done…oh say around 0100…plenty of time to sleep before my shift starts."

Seven was touched by B'Elanna's concern, but she wasn't sure how to handle it coming from someone with whom she usually fought. She didn't want pity.

"Thank you for your concern. Your offer is…sweet, but unnecessary. My feelings are frivolous, and not based in reality. I will be fine." Secretly she wished she could accept B'Elanna's offer. She thought she really would feel better is someone she trusted was with her in the cargo bay.

"When I was a kid, I went exploring in an old abandoned bunker. I didn't tell my parents where I was going because they would forbid me from going. They thought it was dangerous, but I figured…what the heck do they know right? So I took off one afternoon and went down there. It was the coolest place in the world as far as I was concerned. Then, when I was poking around in one of the offices, the floor caved in and I fell down into the basement. The stairs were all broken and I couldn't get out. I was stuck down there for hours in the dark. I was terrified."

"What happened?"

"My parents found me in the morning, and they pulled me out. I was fine, but to this day I still get a little nervous in dark, enclosed spaces."

Seven regarded B'Elanna with a puzzled look.

"The point is, that even though you logically know that the cargo bay is safe, it's understandable that you get a little creeped out down there with all that Borg technology. It must bring up some bad memories."

Seven looked away. To her horror her human eye was stinging with tears. B'Elanna could sense that Seven was close to a breakdown, and her heart went out to the younger woman. She was no good with emotional scenes like this, but she did have a sense of what might help Seven to regain her composure. She knew instinctively the Borg would hate herself if she broke down in front of her.

"Look, don't let this go to your head, me telling you this stuff. If you breathe one word of this to anyone I'll bounce your worthless Borg butt all over this ship."

Seven's head snapped around at B'Elanna's words. She couldn't believe that the engineer would be so harsh after having just been so kind. She stared open-mouthed at the Klingon for a second before the twitching of B'Elanna's lips gave her motives away. Seven was surprised to find herself smiling.

"You mean to say that you will try to bounce my worthless Borg butt all over this ship."

"Ohhh…think you can take me do ya?" B'Elanna teased.

"With my cybernetic arm tied behind my back." Seven had observed teasing behaviour between friends many times since she had come aboard Voyager, but she had never had the courage or the opportunity to engage in such behaviour until now. She found she enjoyed the experience; she was feeling much better already.

"In your dreams Borg."

"In your nightmares Klingon."

B'Elanna laughed. "You're pretty good at this Seven. C'mon, I'll walk you down the cargo bay."

"I do appreciate your offer, but you don't need to spend the next six hours in the cargo bay on my behalf."

"I know I don't need to, but I want to. How's that for logic."

"Impeccable. Thank you B'Elanna."

Seven was truly touched by the engineer's concern, and with the way that she had diffused the awkward situation between them, and had given her a way to avoid embarrassment by bursting into tears. She had never imagined B'Elanna could be so sensitive…in her own rough way. B'Elanna grabbed a PADD and indicated that Seven should precede her out the door. As they were walking down the corridor B'Elanna cut a look out of the corner of her eye at Seven.

"Do me a favour?" she asked.

"Of course."

"Say 'worthless Borg butt' one more time."

Seven smiled, and shook her head.

"Worthless Borg butt," she drawled in her best Borg monotone.

B'Elanna laughed at the incongruity of those words coming out of Seven's patrician mouth.

"I am happy as always to be a source of amusement for you B'Elanna."

"Don't think I don't appreciate it Seven…cause I do."

"My life is finally complete."

They continued teasing until they reached the cargo bay. Seven went directly to the alcoves and began programming in her regeneration cycle. When she was finished she turned to face B'Elanna.

"I really do appreciate this B'Elanna."

"Not a problem. I'll see you in 6 hours. Sweet dreams."

"Thank you." She stepped back into the alcove. The last thing she saw was B'Elanna, still looking at her as she sank into the cycle.

B'Elanna remained watching for some time. Seven looked so peaceful as she regenerated. She also looked extremely young, and vulnerable. She looked around the cavernous cargo bay. No wonder Seven hated coming down here. Plugged into a wall like some tool that needed recharging, while the rest of the crew went on with their lives all around her. She shook her head; it just didn't seem right somehow. She activated her PADD and started the inventory. It only took her a few hours to complete the task, and time and again she found herself drawn back to Seven's side. When she was done, she again watched Seven, standing peacefully in her cybernetic prison. She activated the alcove next to Seven's and began to examine the circuitry. She was so engrossed in her work that she was startled to hear the computer announce that Seven's regeneration cycle was complete. Seven stepped out of the alcove and immediately raised her ocular implant at the sight of B'Elanna up to her elbows in the circuitry of a Borg alcove.

"B'Elanna Torres…may I be of some assistance?"

"Probably, someday," she yawned, "but not tonight, I'm exhausted. Let's go home."

Seven felt her chest tighten at B'Elanna's words. Home. The captain had often told her that Voyager was her home, but never until this moment had she understood the meaning of the word.

"Yes, let's go home," she echoed, with a soft smile on her face.

When they reached their quarters Seven keyed the door and stood back while B'Elanna preceded her inside. They smiled at one another.

"Goodnight B'Elanna," Seven finally said.

"Yeah, g'night Seven. I'll see you in the morning."

Part 4

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