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 4

B'Elanna awoke to the smell of banana pancakes and smiled to herself as she lay in her bed. She could get used to this. She could only remember once or twice in her entire life when she felt this relaxed and this cared for. The first time was as a child for the brief period when her father still lived with her and her mother on Kessiks IV, and the other times were briefly with the Maquis. It was a nice feeling, but she didn't trust it. She knew from bitter experience that it didn't last. She grimaced to herself as she lay there. It would be so easy to go out there and pick a fight, or just blow off Seven's overtures of friendship. It would certainly be the smart thing to do. But the last couple of days had been so much fun, having someone to joke with, someone who actually thought she might need looking after, someone who wasn't so self-absorbed that they couldn't take the time to see past her walls to the scared, hurting person beneath. Everyone always thought she was so tough, that everything just rolled off her like teflon, but not Seven. She had seen right through it all, braved the famous Klingon temper and waded right in and started helping. It bothered B'Elanna that she had treated Seven badly in the past, that she hadn't taken the time to even try to see through Seven's walls. But even though she trusted Seven, there was a part of her that was just waiting for the floor to give way beneath her feet, for this feeling of closeness and happiness to be taken away. She really ought to just run like the wind in the other direction, but she knew for a fact that what was going to happen was, she was gonna get up, go out there and eat banana pancakes with Seven and enjoy the hell out of herself doing it. She'd deal with the pain later.

B'Elanna pulled on her robe and walked out into the living room. Seven was busy preparing breakfast. B'Elanna's fears faded as she watched her friend busy preparing her favourite meal for no other reason than she knew it would please her. She wasn't trying to make up for a mistake, or avoid or end a fight, it wasn't in place of an apology, it was just Seven trying to make her happy, and it was working.

"Smells good in here," she said as she went further into the room.

"I'm glad you approve," said Seven with a smile, as she sat a large platter of pancakes down on the table and took a seat.

They ate in comfortable silence; Seven was surprised to discover that now that she ate more regularly she was developing an appetite for solid food. She was often hungry when she awoke in the morning now, and it was a novel sensation for her. It may be an inefficient activity, but it was certainly an enjoyable one.

"Do you wish to tell me what you were working on last night in the Cargo bay," Seven finally asked.

"Uh, well. I was thinking that maybe I could find a way to move an alcove, or some version of portable regeneration unit in here for you. You know, so you wouldn't have to keep going to the cargo bay. It's just a thought," she trailed off, feeling suddenly embarrassed.

"I don't know what to say B'Elanna. No one has ever…" Seven's throat was tight, and she couldn't stop a tear from slipping down her cheek.

"I know…but they should have. I'm sorry I didn't think of it sooner." B'Elanna reached across the table and took Seven's hand in her own, giving it a squeeze. "You deserve better than being stored in a cargo bay, even if it's only once every ten days."

Seven tried to say thank you, but she was afraid that if she did she might begin to cry uncontrollably. Instead she swallowed convulsively and mouthed the words across the table. She then got up and ran into her room, leaving a confused B'Elanna behind. Her first instinct was to give Seven her privacy, but then she flashed on herself, sitting in her room the first night she was here, crying, alone and perfectly miserable. She got up and followed Seven into the bedroom. The former drone was lying curled up in the fetal position on the bed, and from the way her shoulders were shaking B'Elanna knew that she was crying hard. She hesitated for a moment, knowing that if she left now Seven would never know she had been here. In the next second she dismissed that as the worst type of cowardice. She crawled up on the bed behind Seven, and put her arms around the younger woman, spooning their bodies together, holding her close and whispering in her ear.

"Shhh, I know. I know. It's okay…just let it out."

Seven cried harder at B'Elanna's words, and the engineer cursed herself for not knowing the right thing to do. She should have obeyed her instincts and just let well enough alone. Well, she was in it now. She held the sobbing woman closer and continued whispering in her ear. Eventually she began to calm down somewhat, and B'Elanna hoped that the worst was over.

"You don't understand," Seven whispered.

"Talk to me Seven."

"I feel guilty every time you are kind to me…every time anyone is kind to me. I don't deserve my own quarters, and I certainly don't deserve your help or your friendship." Seven was crying again, but softly now.

"Of course you do Seven, everyone does."

"No! You don't understand. The things I've done. I am Borg. I should not even be aboard Voyager. I should be punished, not…"

"Stop, Seven…just stop. You aren't Borg, not anymore. The past is the past…you have to let it go. Trust me I know."

Seven said nothing at B'Elanna's words, but she stopped crying. She was still sniffling, and taking the occasional deep shuddering breath, but it appeared that the storm had passed. B'Elanna tightened her arms, and Seven pressed back into the contact. She knew she didn't deserve the comfort, but she couldn't help but want it, couldn't help but move closer to the warmth and safety. She hated that she was this weak, hated that she needed this contact, hated that she didn't want B'Elanna to stop holding her. She moved her hands down from her face, and when she felt B'Elanna take her hand, she intertwined their fingers and squeezed.

"Thank you."

"It's okay Seven. Everything's going to be just fine." For the first time, Seven actually let herself believe those words.

They lay there for a while longer, before Seven finally spoke.

"We are going to be late for work."

"Yeah, you're right. We should get going. But Seven, you can always talk to me you know. I'll always listen if you need me to."

"Thank you." It was several more minutes before either of them made any move to get off the bed. Seven was still a bit embarrassed by her uncharacteristic display, so she covered with her usual Borg efficiency. "You take the first shower B'Elanna, I'll clean up the dishes."

B'Elanna was beginning to understand Seven's moods and motivations and she knew the former drone was feeling very vulnerable and embarrassed right now. She pulled the younger woman into an embrace, holding her close.

"Everything is going to be alright…okay."

"Okay. Thank you B'Elanna." This time her smile was more genuine.

Seven was slightly more composed when they parted for their shifts, but B'Elanna was still worried about her. She thought about her often during the day, relived the feeling of holding her in her arms, of comforting her. She had never realized how much Seven's past haunted her, and she was more than a little ashamed of herself for not realizing it before now. How many times had she made the younger woman's life more difficult, how many times had she refused to see the person behind the mask. She couldn't change the past, but she could ensure that future was different. After two hours she could take it no longer. She put aside her PADD and left Vorik in charge of engineering while she went up to Astrometrics to check on Seven.

When the doors to the department opened up Seven looked up, and at catching sight of B'Elanna coming through them she smiled widely. Not her usually reserved expression, but an actual, full-blown smile. B'Elanna had never understood the term 'take your breath away' until that moment. When Seven smiled at her she couldn't draw breath; it was like the connection between her brains and her lungs was blocked…at her eyes. Her entire being was dedicated to nothing more than drinking in the beautiful sight of Seven's genuine smile. She could only stand there open-mouthed. Luckily for her, Seven was too busy smiling at her to notice that she was simply standing and staring. After the second that seemed to stretch into eternity, B'Elanna finally spoke.


"Lieutenant Torres," Seven replied, still smiling. "Do you require my assistance?"

"Uh, no. I just wanted to, uh, I just wanted to be sure…" now that she was here she had no idea of what to say.

"I am fine B'Elanna Torres, but thank you for coming. It was…sweet of you."

"Not a problem. I just, was a little worried that's all."

"Well, if you really wanted to make me feel better you could increase the power to Astrometrics by 2%," Seven said with an angelic smile.

"Don't push your luck Borg."

"It was worth a try."

"Keep tryin'. I should get back to work…will I see you for dinner?"

"Are you cooking?"


"Then I will be there."

"See you later then."

B'Elanna hurried back to engineering. She had a lot of paperwork to complete before the end of her shift, and she wanted to make sure she had time to cook a decent meal. Before she went into her office she sought out Vorik and Carey.

"I need you guys to increase the power output to Astrometrics by 2.5% before the end of the shift."

They looked at her as if she had grown a second head. Never before had the volatile chief voluntarily agreed to increase the power to Astrometrics, and unless they had missed a memo, neither of them had seen a request or an order from the captain. Still, they knew better than to question the Lieutenant, not to mention that she seemed to be in awfully good mood the past couple of days. The power savings to the ship from the deflector upgrade should more than cover her request. They were already starting to work as B'Elanna went back to her paperwork. She knew that Seven had only been joking with her request for more power, but she also knew that she had made similar requests several times in the past and that she had turned them down simply because Seven had made them. She figured it was about time she started to make amends. She smiled when she thought of the look on Seven's face when the power flow increased to the lab in the middle of her shift.

Part 5

B'Elanna and Seven arrived home at almost the same time. B'Elanna had hoped to be a little earlier so she could have dinner ready for the younger woman's arrival. She tried to get Seven to relax, but the former drone insisted on helping with dinner preparations. She hadn't said a word about the power increase to her beloved Astrometrics, but B'Elanna knew how pleased she was by the way she kept glancing at her out of the corner of her eye, and looking tremendously pleased. B'Elanna was feeling pretty pleased herself, and she was enjoying cooking with Seven, even if she did keep correcting her method of preparation, and insisting on uniform sizes for everything. B'Elanna didn't mind…she was actually growing fond of Seven's little quirks.

After dinner they drifted over to the sofa and sat down, still talking about work. Seven put her feet up on the coffee table as they talked, in imitation of B'Elanna's usual posture. They were discussing sensor resolution, but B'Elanna was staring at Seven's feet.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Don't those shoes hurt your feet? I mean you stand up all day; it's just gotta be painful after a while."

"They can be…uncomfortable by the end of my shift," Seven replied after a few seconds of thoughtful silence.

"So why do you keep wearing them?"

"The doctor created them along with my biosuits. He has my best interests at heart, and I trust his expertise in this area."

B'Elanna tried not to laugh out loud at the thought of the Doctor having actually designed Seven's outfit with her best interests at heart as opposed to his own.

"Do you like the biosuits?" B'Elanna asked the question she had always wondered about.

"They are efficient."

"That isn't what I asked Seven."

"I sometimes wish that my mode of dress didn't set me even further apart from the rest of the crew," was the most Seven could admit.

"Try something for me Seven."

Seven looked apprehensive, but she knew B'Elanna wouldn't ask her to do anything that would bring her harm.

"As you wish."

"Take off your shoes and just walk around for a while in your bare feet."

Seven hesitated for a moment. She was uncomfortable at the thought of being even slightly unclothed in front of B'Elanna, and even though she had come a long way in her individuality, she was still shy of trying new things. But she was eager to please B'Elanna.

"C'mon Seven…give it a try."

"I will comply," she said finally as she bent over and began to pull off her shoes.

She sat for a moment staring down at her bare feet, and then she stood up slowly. She took several tentative steps on the carpeted deck plating; slowly a smile began to spread over her features. She had run to the bathroom in her bare feet before, but this was the first time she had ever truly paid attention to the sensations. B'Elanna couldn't help but smiling to herself as she watched Seven's excitement at discovering something new. She could see a small starburst implant on the younger woman's left ankle. She actually thought it looked good, which puzzled her to no end, but she couldn't stop staring at it as Seven moved about the living room. She finally came over and sat back down on the couch, putting her feet up and wiggling her toes.

"Your feet must be sore."

"I have become accustomed to the discomfort."

B'Elanna didn't have time to think before the next words were out of her mouth.

"Here, give me your feet," B'Elanna indicated that Seven should lean against the arm of the sofa and she took the former Borg's feet and pulled them into her lap. She picked one of them up and began to massage the bottoms of Seven's feet, softly at first, but growing firmer as she watched Seven's head loll back.

"That feels soooo good," she moaned.

"That is kind of the point," B'Elanna laughed.

Seven was blushing furiously now. She was unused to doing anything for simple pleasure, and the fact that she had allowed herself to be so undignified in front of B'Elanna was embarrassing to her. The feel of B'Elanna's hands on her skin, however, quickly drove all thoughts like that out of her mind. The engineer's hybrid heritage left her with a body temperature that was higher than that of a human being, and so along with the wonderful feeling of the massage, came the soothing heat of her hands caressing Seven's skin. Once again she let her head fall back onto the arm of the sofa, and she simply gave herself over to the feelings. When B'Elanna rubbed her thumb over the implant on her ankle, she felt a shiver run up her spine, but it was superceded by her embarrassment at B'Elanna finding another one of her Borg imperfections.

"They are everywhere," she said with disgust in her tone.

"I like 'em," B'Elanna replied. "They suit you."

"They are hideous."

"Hey…none of that. You can't hate them without hating yourself, and that is not a road you want to go down…trust me." They sat in silence for a while; B'Elanna was still rubbing the implant. "When I was growing up on Kessiks IV I used to hate the way I looked." At Seven's inquiring look she explained further. "I hated my forehead ridges. I tried everything to cover them up…hats, scarves, bangs, you name it. It took me years to figure out that I was just making myself miserable, hating myself for things I couldn't change. I still struggle with it," she finally admitted.

Seven was shocked to hear that B'Elanna hated things about herself in the same way that she did. She had always thought that the engineer was extremely self-confident. It never occurred to her that B'Elanna used her anger in the same way that she used her cool unfeeling efficiency to cover for her own feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing.

"I think your ridges are very distinguished," she said finally. She had wanted to say beautiful, or even fascinating, but something stopped her.

"Just what every kid wants to hear," B'Elanna laughed bitterly.

"You know what I mean." B'Elanna smiled sadly at Seven's admonition. She was uncomfortable with how personal the conversation was getting.

Seven had a revelation as she saw B'Elanna's wry little smile. She had always thought the smile was cocky and self-assured, but now she that it was sad…a cover for the fact that she didn't believe she would ever really get what she wanted. Her heart went out to the beautiful young engineer.

"Hey…I have an idea," B'Elanna said suddenly, her smile widening into something much more genuine.

"Now I am getting concerned," Seven jumped at the opportunity to move the conversation in a less personal direction.

"I was thinking…wondering actually. Would you like to try on a uniform? You know, instead of wearing the biosuits."

"I don't have permission to wear a Starfleet uniform."

"We can deal with that issue later, Seven. I'm just asking if you'd like to try one on…see if you like it."

"Can it be blue?"

"It can be any colour you like," B'Elanna smiled at Seven's childlike enthusiasm.

"Then, blue."

B'Elanna squeezed Seven's feet one last time, and stood up, walking to the replicator and ordering a blue science uniform to fit Seven's physical parameters, which were already programmed into the computer. When the uniform shimmered into existence, she picked it up and carried it over to the still-reclining woman.

"One science blue uniform," she said with a smile.

"Seven took the proffered gift, holding it reverently in her hands. She set it on her lap and ran her hands over the material, feeling the rough, sturdy material gave her almost as much pleasure as it had to feel the silky softness of B'Elanna's dress.

"Try it on," B'Elanna encouraged.

Seven took a deep breath, and then swung her feet onto the floor and went into her bedroom. She was gone so long that B'Elanna was starting to get worried, but eventually she came out, wearing her new clothes. She came into the centre of the room, and at B'Elanna's signal she turned in a circle so the engineer could check out her handiwork.

"What do you think?" she asked.

"I think you look great…but how does it feel?"

"I…I like it."

"If you'd like, I'll talk to the Captain for you."

"No…I will speak with her. But, thank you. For everything."

"You know…you don't need her permission to wear more comfortable shoes with your biosuits," B'Elanna said with a sly grin. Her smile got wider as she saw Seven's answering grin.

"Let's do it," the former drone said, practically running to the replicator.

Part 6

Their friendship was well and truly sealed after the events of the last few days. Both of them were loving the feeling of having a 'girlfriend.' It was novel to both of them. B'Elanna's friends had usually been men; she found she usually had less difficulty dealing with them. Seska had been a friend, but they had never been that close; nevertheless she had felt betrayed when Seska had turned on Voyager. She was happy now, happier than she could ever remember being. For Seven's part, B'Elanna was her first true friend. The Captain and the Doctor were like friends, but their roles as her mentors precluded the kind of closeness and silliness that she shared with B'Elanna. She had never laughed so much in her life; she was beginning to see the relevance in human emotions and relationships. They maintained their separate work lives, but Seven was often to be found in engineering assisting in upgrades or projects, and although the fighting never completely stopped it was much more productive in nature now than their fights of old. B'Elanna was learning patience and orderliness from Seven, and the former drone was learning passion and intuitiveness from B'Elanna. Together they were helping one another become more complete in all aspects of their lives. Both of them found that they had an easier time dealing with all members of the crew and not just one another as a result of their friendship. Seven had obtained the Captain's permission to wear a Starfleet uniform and she felt that it helped her blend in better with the crew as well. She would always be grateful to B'Elanna for getting her to try it on.

Seven was surprised when she came home from work a few weeks after their discussion of the alcoves to find B'Elanna hard at work as usual. It wasn't that she wasn't used to finding B'Elanna working at home, she usually did, what was surprising, was that B'Elanna had apparently forgotten this evening's dinner party.

"Why are you not getting ready for the party?" she asked when it became apparent that B'Elanna wasn't going to remember on her own.

"What party?" B'Elanna was truly puzzled.

"Ensign Kim's birthday party. Dinner begins at 1900. If you hurry we won't be late."

"Seven, I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Did you not receive an invitation?"

"No. I think I'd remember that. I was planning on treating Harry to some time on the holodeck later next week." B'Elanna had a sinking feeling that she knew what was going on. "Who sent you the invitation?"

"Lieutenant Paris is hosting the party. He sent the invitations over the computer late last week."

"Well there you go," B'Elanna tried to laugh, but the truth was she was hurting inside at being excluded completely. Harry had been her friend too.

"I do not know what you mean," Seven could see that B'Elanna was upset. It never occurred to her that she might not be included in the celebration for her friend.

"Tom obviously doesn't want me there. I'm not invited to the party Seven." B'Elanna turned back to her work in an effort to hide her emotions.

"But you are Ensign Kim's friend. You should be at his birthday party."

"Well, Tom apparently doesn't agree with you."

"Lieutenant Paris is an idiot." B'Elanna couldn't help but laugh at Seven's judgmental tone of voice. "Very well, I am inviting you to the party. Hurry, I do not wish to be late."

"Seven, you just can't invite me to Tom's party."

"Of course I can. The invitation was for Seven of Nine and guest. I was going to attend alone, but now I wish to take you with me." Seven's tone of voice told B'Elanna that she would brook no argument. Nevertheless she tried to talk her way out of it.

"It would be awkward for everyone if I showed up. Go and have fun. I'll do something with Harry later."

"It will be awkward for Lieutenant Paris if you show up, and I am not concerned with him. Harry and the others will be only too happy for you to attend. And I wish to take you as my guest."

"Thanks Seven, I appreciate it, I honestly do, but I have nothing to wear."

Instead of answering Seven simply marched into B'Elanna's room. She came out a few minutes later with the black cocktail dress on a hanger.

"You should wear this."

"Don't you think that's a little much for a birthday party Seven?"

"The invitation said semi-formal. You will look beautiful, and you will make Paris crazy."

"How do you figure?"

"He will see that he lost the most beautiful woman in the room through his own stupidity."

B'Elanna was at a loss for words at Seven's statement. She had no idea that the ex-drone thought she was beautiful.

"I, uh…I don't know what to say," she managed.

"Good, because we don't have time to talk. You must get ready or we will be late." As Seven spoke she held the hanger out to B'Elanna, who, realizing she was beaten, took it and went into her room.

She changed into the dress and regarded her reflection in the mirror. She sneered at herself. 'The most beautiful woman in the room...I look like a Targ in a dress.' In B'Elanna's opinion Seven would be the most beautiful woman in any room she ever entered. She didn't question why she had these thoughts about her friend; she just accepted them. In truth she was afraid of looking too closely at her feelings for Seven as she was afraid of what they might reveal. She was happy now, and she wasn't willing to risk that for anything. She was startled out of her thoughts by a knock at the door.

"B'Elanna are you ready yet?" Seven called through the door.

"As I'll ever be," B'Elanna said quietly.

When she stepped out into the living room she was again struck by Seven's beauty. The Astrometrics officer had elected to wear loose black pants and a white silk shirt, over it all she was wearing a long black, tailored jacket that came to just below her knees. She looked stunning. B'Elanna smiled when she saw the flat-soled shoes. Apparently Seven wasn't willing to punish her feet with heels even on social occasions. For her part, Seven thought that B'Elanna looked stunning in the black dress. She recognized that she was staring open-mouthed at the beautiful engineer, but she was stunned at the sight of her friend. She had always known B'Elanna was beautiful, but she had never realized just how beautiful until this moment. The dress showcased her athletic frame to perfection. It seemed like an eternity before her heart began beating again, and she regained her ability to speak.

"You look…" her voice trailed off as she was at a loss as to how to express her awe of B'Elanna's appearance.

"We should get going or we'll be late," B'Elanna interrupted. She was afraid that Seven would tell her she looked 'acceptable' or 'distinguished' and she just couldn't deal with that on top of everything else. It was hard enough going to the party as a pity date for a friend.

"Of course," said Seven awkwardly.

They were both feeling a little uncomfortable so they simply left for the party. When they arrived at the holodeck, B'Elanna stopped.

"This really isn't a good idea Seven. I think I'll just go home."

"Oh no you don't," Seven argued. "Harry is your friend and you should be at his party. Now let's go in." She offered her arm to B'Elanna, who took it after a slight hesitation.

They walked into the room together, and B'Elanna felt immediately self-conscious as almost everyone there turned to stare at the sight of the two of them arm in arm. Seven felt the engineer stiffen and attributed it to the look Tom Paris was shooting their way. She placed her free hand over B'Elanna's in an attempt to reassure her. Tom came over quickly.

"What the hell are you doing here B'Elanna?" he demanded.

Before B'Elanna could form a reply, Seven answered the question.

"B'Elanna is my date for this evening. Is there a problem with that?" Her cold stare told Tom that he had better back down quickly or suffer the consequences.

"She's your DATE is she?" he said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

B'Elanna was dying inside. Poor Seven had no idea about the nuances of words. She was being completely literal and had no idea that she had just implied that they were more than just friends. Seven had a hard enough time fitting in on Voyager and B'Elanna didn't want to add to her difficulties by having people think she was involved with another woman on top of that. Not that the crew was judgmental about these things particularly, but B'Elanna was afraid of what people would think if they thought she was seeing her in particular. B'Elanna was afraid Seven might be blamed for breaking up her relationship with Tom, and she certainly knew Seven could do better than a cranky old engineer. It also hit just that little bit close to home. Seven was unwittingly saying the very thing that B'Elanna was hoping would be true, but wasn't. She pulled her arm away from Seven's.

"Give it a rest Paris." She growled.

Tom walked away laughing. He always loved flustering B'Elanna, and she was certainly fit to be tied now. He had to admit they made a handsome couple, but B'Elanna and the Borg…it was a ridiculous thought. He was going to enjoy this.

B'Elanna grabbed Seven's arm. She needed to explain this so Seven would understand. The last thing she wanted was for Seven to be hurt on her account.

"Look Seven… you can't just tell people that I'm your date."

"But you are." Seven was logical as ever.

"People will get the wrong idea if you say it like that."

"The wrong idea?" Seven felt a hollowness begin to form in the pit of her stomach.

"They might thing that we're…that you and I are…" damn it…why couldn't she find the words to explain this properly.

"I see. You do not wish anyone to think that you and I are involved." Seven's voice was flat.

"It's not that simple Seven," she wanted to try to explain herself. Unfortunately when she tried again, she was interrupted by Harry who came up to greet her. He was smiling widely; glad to see his friend at his celebration.

"Harry, happy birthday," she exclaimed. She was torn; she wanted to talk to Seven, but she couldn't be rude to Harry at his own birthday party.

"Yes, happy birthday Ensign Kim," Seven said in an emotionless tone.

Seven was devastated by B'Elanna's reaction to her choice of words. She had thought that they were friends, and that perhaps someday they might be more than just friends. Over the past few weeks she had thought she had seen signs that B'Elanna thought of her as more than just a roommate. She had even thought that the beautiful engineer might be attracted to her, but apparently she had been wrong. B'Elanna's anxiety at being referred to as her date told her that the engineer didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about them. She didn't want to be associated with Seven in a romantic way. Perhaps it was because they were both women, or perhaps it was her Borg past. It didn't matter. B'Elanna had made it clear that she didn't want anyone to mistake the nature of their relationship. She was obviously worried that being involved with her would damage her in some way. She smiled at Harry, and attempted to gloss over what had happened, but she felt as if she was dying inside.

They made small talk with Harry and several others before dinner was served. While they were eating Tom took every opportunity to mention Seven and B'Elanna's 'relationship.' Both of the women could sense the other getting more and more uneasy as the evening wore on. B'Elanna was furious with Tom for trying to humiliate Seven like this; Seven of course was worried that B'Elanna was angry with her. She was afraid that her actions may have ruined their friendship. Still, there was a small part of her that was almost angry with B'Elanna for having such a problem with this situation. If B'Elanna were truly her friend, and truly thought of her as human and an equal on this ship, why did she have so much trouble with this? If they were really friends, surely she would just laugh off the misunderstanding, not become so upset by it. Seven didn't want to believe it of B'Elanna, and there was a part of her who knew the honourable Klingon would never act in such a two-faced manner. But her insecurities were so great that her logic couldn't compete. She was devastated.

When dinner was through Tom announced that dancing was to follow. B'Elanna desperately wanted to get Seven alone so she could explain her previous comments, but Seven was studiously avoiding her. She finally asked the ex-drone to dance. Seven tried to refuse, but B'Elanna wouldn't take no for an answer. When she got her out on the dance floor, B'Elanna tried to bring up the topic, but Seven cut her short. She claimed to know exactly what B'Elanna had been saying. She said that she was simply feeling a little overwhelmed by the social situation, the new clothes and that she was hoping that they could leave soon. She smiled at B'Elanna, but the smile didn't run any deeper than her eyes. B'Elanna knew that Seven wasn't happy, and that she wasn't being completely honest, but she thought she would give the younger woman some time to calm down before she broached the subject again; besides she was feeling exhausted herself. She smiled wanly at Seven, and when the dance was over they made their excuses and left. Harry tried to talk them into staying, but they insisted they were both tired and they left.

Seven said nothing as they made their way back to their shared quarters. Seven told herself bitterly that they no longer felt like 'home.' B'Elanna knew she was upset but simply didn't know how to bridge the gap that had sprung so quickly up between them. As soon as they were inside, Seven wished her a chilly good night and went into her room. When she sat on her bed she finally allowed her tears to fall. B'Elanna didn't fare much better. She was worried that she might have irreparably damaged her friendship with Seven. She was afraid that Seven had divined her feelings by her reaction to Tom's teasing and was attempting to distance herself; trying to let B'Elanna know her feelings were in no way reciprocated. She was angry with herself at having ruined the most important thing in her life, and for having no idea of how to fix it. She vowed to speak to Seven over breakfast.

The next morning she got up early to start breakfast preparations. She had everything ready, but still Seven hadn't stirred. She finally got up the nerve to knock on her door. She got no reply. She knocked twice more before she gave up and let herself in. Seven's bed was neatly made and Seven was nowhere to be found.

Part 7

Seven hadn't slept at all last night. She had paced around her room, reliving the events of the night in her mind. B'Elanna was ashamed of her—it was the inescapable conclusion that she kept returning to again and again. She didn't want anyone to think she was involved with Seven, didn't want anyone to get the 'wrong' idea. The fact was that Seven cared very much for B'Elanna. Although she hadn't turned out to be everything Seven had thought she was, she refused to be a party to causing her any embarrassment or humiliation. The walls were closing in on Seven and after an hour or so of pacing, she left the room and made her way down to the cargo bay. She remembered the night that B'Elanna had accompanied her down here. Looking at the partially disassembled alcove beside the one she regularly used, she realized that B'Elanna was still working on her idea to create a more portable method of regeneration for her. So the engineer's caring wasn't all a lie. Seven was torn. She wanted to believe the best of B'Elanna, but she was thwarted in this by the fact that she always believed the worst of herself. How could she ever have imagined even for a second that B'Elanna would want to be romantically associated with a Borg? Perhaps Tom's teasing had already done damage to B'Elanna's reputation among the senior staff, all of whom had been present at Harry's party. Despite the fact that her heart felt as if it were breaking, she decided that she must do something to rectify the situation. After another hour of pacing she knew what she needed to do. Unable to face returning to the place she once thought of as home, she stepped into her alcove and began a regeneration cycle.

B'Elanna's heart fell as she realized that Seven hadn't slept in her bed last night. Her dress clothes from the party and her uniform were all hanging in her closet. Even the comfortable shoes they had replicated to go with her biosuits, when she wore them, were still there. The computer informed her that Seven was in Astrometrics, but by the time she got there, the younger woman was already gone. She was about to go in search of her, but a comm call from the Captain about a set of overdue reports sent her running back to engineering to upload them into the main computer. There was a blow out in the EPS grid that occupied the rest of the morning and by the time she had a chance to look up it was late into the afternoon. She had scheduled emergency shut down drills for the rest of the day, and there was no way to get out of them at this point. She resigned herself to having to wait until dinner to speak with Seven. She briefly thought of calling her over the comm, but this wasn't exactly the kind of conversation you could have if you weren't face to face. Another minor malfunction kept her in engineering for the first hour of the Gamma shift, and by then she was ready to tear her hair out. When she was finally free to leave she nearly ran to the Turbolift. She arrived back at her quarters in time to see Seven step out of her room dressed in her blue biosuit.

"Hey Seven," she said, relieved to at last be face to face with her friend. "What do you feel like having for dinner tonight?"

"I already have plans for dinner," Seven said brusquely.

"Really? What are you up to?" B'Elanna was taken aback, this was the first time that Seven had made plans for dinner since they had begun living together.

"Actually, I have a date…a real one," Seven replied.

"What? With who?" B'Elanna's head was spinning.

How could Seven possibly have a date? She had never mentioned being interested in anyone. B'Elanna's heart fell. Seven must have been so upset at being mistaken for B'Elanna's date at the party last night that she had gone out and found someone else so the crew would know that they weren't involved. B'Elanna was afraid she was going to cry.

"Ensign Lockhart has expressed an interest in getting to know me socially for some time now," Seven said.

She was stopped from any further explanation by the sound of the door chime. The young security officer was standing in the doorframe when Seven called for it to open. He came in and shot a sheepish grin at B'Elanna.

"Lieutenant Torres, good evening," he said. "Seven, are you ready?"

"Yes. Good night B'Elanna," she said with a nod, and before B'Elanna could even think of anything to say, they were gone.

"What the hell just happened here?" B'Elanna asked aloud.

She began to pace around the living room, muttering to herself, trying to figure out what Seven was doing out on a date with a guy she barely knew. There were only two possible explanations, but neither of them sat well with B'Elanna. Either Seven really did want to be going out with this guy, or she was so afraid of being mistaken for B'Elanna's partner that she was using Lockhart as a way of deflecting gossip. She had certainly never mentioned Lockhart in all of their conversations, so B'Elanna had trouble in believing the first explanation. On the other hand, B'Elanna couldn't believe that Seven cared so much for the opinions of other people that she would go to such lengths just to avoid gossip. She wished she could just talk to Seven and straighten this out. She sat down on the sofa to wait. When she awakened at 0200 hrs, Seven still wasn't home. She asked the computer where she was and was informed that she was in Holodeck 2. B'Elanna gave up and went to bed.

Seven hadn't been completely lying to B'Elanna about Lockhart's interest in her. After her disastrous attempt at dating with Chapman, he had approached her once and asked her to go one of the Doctor's recitals with him. She had declined and they had never spoken again until today, when Seven had asked him to go to dinner with her. She had no particular interest in him, but she needed to protect, and distance herself from B'Elanna, and this seemed like the perfect solution. After dinner, Lockhart suggested Sandrine's and she had agreed. She didn't want to return to her quarters until she was certain that B'Elanna would be asleep. She was bored silly during dinner, and things only got worse when they arrived at the bar, but she forced herself to smile and endure. He was a nice enough fellow and she hoped she would adapt in time.

Seven finally arrived home at 0230 hours and accepted a kiss on the cheek from Lockhart before falling into bed, emotionally and physically exhausted. She asked the computer for an early wake-up call, as she wanted to be out of the room before B'Elanna awoke. She was relieved in the morning to find that B'Elanna was still sleeping. She left for the mess hall immediately, dressed in her maroon biosuit, complete with heels. She just couldn't bring herself to put on her beloved uniform again.

B'Elanna felt as if she couldn't breathe when she realized that once again Seven had left the quarters before she had awakened. Whatever the misunderstanding between them had been, she was afraid it was fast approaching the point of no return. She knew she had been a good friend to Seven; the only problem was that she was pretty sure you weren't supposed to be attracted to your girlfriends the way she was attracted to Seven. Every time she looked at the former drone she was struck by her beauty, and when they came into physical contact, as they often had, she felt her heart skip a beat. She had been terrified that Seven was going to find out how she was feeling and that it would ruin their friendship, and it appeared that it had. B'Elanna had never thought of women this way before, but she could no longer deny that she was falling in love with Seven. The only problem was, that as soon as Seven had seen any sign of her attraction she had immediately run into the arms of the first available man. B'Elanna was at a complete loss as to what to do.

When Seven finally did speak to B'Elanna, she was certain to tell the engineer what a good time she was having with Ensign Lockhart. B'Elanna forced herself to smile and to try to be happy for Seven. She was having trouble believing that everything was exactly as Seven said it was, but she did look reasonably happy. B'Elanna just hoped it wasn't an act. It would be easier to let go if she thought Seven was truly happy.

Several nights later, B'Elanna was in her room, still working diligently on her plans to build a regeneration unit for Seven that would fit in her room. She heard the door open and soon she heard voices in the living room. Her heart fell as she realized that Seven and Lockhart were going to spend at least part of the evening here, in their quarters. What if he spends the night, B'Elanna thought to herself in horror. Her Klingon hearing allowed her to pick up on some of the words being spoken, but she tried to force her mind to concentrate on her plans. She heard Seven's musical laugh several times, and then a long moment of silence. She was grinding her teeth, driving herself insane trying to figure out what they were doing. Suddenly she heard Seven's voice saying 'no.' There was some murmured conversation and then Seven's voice, again saying 'no.' She began to shake with rage. If that bastard thought he could force himself on Seven he just think again.

She jumped to her feet, pacing around the room, unsure of what to do. When she heard Seven's voice again saying 'no,' she had had enough. She came storming out of her room and into the living room. Seven was seated on the sofa, and Lockhart was sitting beside her, his hand on her leg.

"Get your hands off her before I rip your arms off you p'tahk!" she yelled.

She wasn't sure who flew off the sofa faster, Lockhart or Seven.

"I wasn't…I swear I only…" Lockhart stammered, afraid for his life, despite the fact that he had only tried to kiss Seven.

"Get out," B'Elanna thundered. She didn't have to ask again, as Lockhart fled out the door at light speed.

"What do you think you are doing?" Seven demanded.

"I heard you tell him no. It was obvious he wasn't going to stop. I just…" It was B'Elanna's turn to run out of words. Seven was looking at her with fury on her features.

"I was in complete control of the situation. I don't need you to come storming in here like the wrath of Kahless. I can take care of myself thank you," she stormed.

"He shouldn't be touching you," B'Elanna shouted.

"Why not? Are you afraid that I will contaminate him?" Seven felt a tear slip down her cheek, but it was a tear of rage, not sorrow. There would be time enough for sorrow later. Could it really be that B'Elanna thought she should be alone forever?

"What? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

"Then why do you care whether he touches me or not?"

"I don't want anyone touching you," B'Elanna knew she was crossing the line, revealing too much, but she was too angry to care.

"So you think the Borg should be alone and untouchable forever?" Seven couldn't believe that her worst fears about B'Elanna were being confirmed.

"No! I just don't want anyone else touching you."

"Anyone else?" Seven was still angry, but now she was puzzled as well.

"That's right. I don't want anyone else touching you," she raged. "You don't get it do you?" At Seven's puzzled look she continued. "I don't want anyone but me to touch you." At last it was out in the open. She hung her head and awaited Seven's rejection.

"But you don't want to touch me. You were upset that anyone thought that we were involved."


"At Harry's party, you said you didn't want anyone getting the wrong idea about us."

"That was for your sake. I was worried that you were having a hard enough time fitting in, without people thinking you were involved with someone like me." B'Elanna didn't lift her eyes from the floor the entire time she was speaking.

"Then you are not ashamed of me?" Seven's voice broke as she voiced her fears aloud.

"Ashamed of you? Oh Seven…I could never be ashamed of you. I…" She was afraid to speak any more lest she lose control completely.

"So you are telling me that you wish to touch me." B'Elanna only nodded. "I was afraid that you were ashamed to have people think you were with me because I am Borg." She was afraid that B'Elanna would be angry with her for thinking so little of her. She decided to make a clean breast of it, and admit her duplicity. "I did not want the rest of the crew to think poorly of you, so I asked Ensign Lockhart out so that the others wouldn't think I had feelings for you."

"You do…you have feelings for me?" B'Elanna couldn't believe her ears.

Seven could only look mutely down at the floor and nod. She was afraid to speak in case she lost control of her emotions, and burst into tears. She was afraid that despite B'Elanna's words, she was again misreading the situation. She hardly dared hope that B'Elanna indeed returned her affections. Finally B'Elanna could take the silence no longer. She opted for the plain, unvarnished truth and hoped that it wouldn't frighten Seven away forever.

"I think…that is to say…I know that I've been falling in love with you ever since the morning I woke up and realized that you had carried me to bed. That was the first time I ever really saw you…saw past the mask you hide behind. Ever since that day I've just been falling harder and faster. I only wanted the best for you, and honestly Seven, you could do so much better than an ex-Maquis, foul-tempered Targ of an engineer. You should be with someone…" She was halted in her words by Seven's fingers on her lips, silencing her words of self-loathing.

"I should be with someone who sees me for who and what I am. I should be with someone who makes me laugh, who opens up new worlds of possibility for me. I should be with someone who loves me so much that they are willing to put my needs before their own…no matter how misguided their attempts on that score turn out to be. I should be with you, B'Elanna Torres."

B'Elanna wanted to argue, or to make a joke that would diffuse the seriousness of the moment, but she knew it wasn't the time. This was the most important moment of her life. She was terrified, but she forced herself to look directly into Seven's tear-washed eyes. All she saw in the ocean blue depths was love. It had been there all along if she had ever really looked; how could she have possibly missed it. She put her hand up, removing Seven's fingers from her lips, retaining the younger woman's hand in her own.

"I love you." She thought she should say something more, something deeper, more poetic, but these three words were all she could manage—they were the only ones that mattered.

No words had ever sounded sweeter to Seven's ears. She had never dreamed that she would hear them directed at her. She could feel herself trembling with emotion, and with something else—anticipation and desire. She had longed for Omega, been willing to disobey the Captain's orders to see it for herself, but never had she wanted anything as much as she wanted to feel B'Elanna's lips on hers. It was a physical need greater than anything she had ever felt before. She squeezed B'Elanna's hand tightly. She simply didn't have the words.

B'Elanna leaned forward ever so slightly, her eyes never wavering from Seven's. Seeing only desire and need, she leaned closer still, drawing Seven's sweet breath into her own lungs. "I love you," she breathed, and then, in a moment of indescribable sweetness, she touched her lips to Seven's.

Seven's heart was pounding, her knees felt weak. She held onto B'Elanna's muscular frame, although whether it was to stop her from falling or floating away she couldn't have said. She felt dizzy, as if the room was spinning; never in her life had she felt so grounded and yet so exhilarated. Her entire world consisted of the point of contact between her lips and B'Elanna's; she could happily live there forever. She thought she could feel no more passion, no more joy, she didn't think it was possible, and then she felt B'Elanna's velvet soft tongue tease its way between her lips and touch her own. The groan of pleasure was ripped from her very soul; she felt completely out of control, her ordered existence happily shattered into a thousand pieces. She had found all of the perfection she would ever need.

B'Elanna was reeling with the effects of the kiss. She felt Seven sink into her arms and knew that if she were to let go the ex-drone would be in heap at her feet. She was feeling complete and utter happiness. When she finally ended the kiss, they clung together, panting heavily. She felt Seven's arms tighten around her, and her head droop down to rest on her own. She heard the younger woman mumble something incoherent.

"Did you say something?" she murmured.

Seven turned her head so her mouth wasn't buried in the delicious scent of B'Elanna's hair.

"I said, I love you." Seven's voice was deliciously sleepy.

B'Elanna smiled softly at the tone of Seven's voice. She leaned back so she could look her in the eye once more.

"I love you too."

Seven didn't think it was possible for her to feel more joy than she was currently feeling. But when B'Elanna reiterated her love, she felt her smile widen and her being expand to infinite reaches, as if the length and breadth of space were not enough to contain the joy she was feeling.

"Welcome home," she said a gentle smile.

The words might have seemed like a non-sequitar, but B'Elanna knew exactly what Seven meant. She felt exactly the same way.

"Welcome home, Seven," she replied as she leaned in to kiss her lover again.

Part 8

After a few minutes of kissing the beautiful blonde, B'Elanna was starting to feel as if her own legs might give out. It took all of her willpower to break the kiss, and just stare into the hooded eyes of the younger woman. Finally she moved out of Seven's embrace, and took her hand, leading her to the couch. They sat down, and Seven immediately leaned in for another kiss. B'Elanna felt her head spinning as their lips once again made contact. She had never felt like this before, usually she was able to remain detached and in control, but this was like a plasma fire, uncontrollable and dangerous. She steeled herself and again moved out of Seven's embrace. The former drone frowned deeply as B'Elanna moved away. She had no desire to cease kissing the beautiful engineer. Her insecurities began to voice their own set of concerns; she was afraid that B'Elanna, having kissed her, no longer desired her.

"Why do you no longer wish to kiss me?" she asked, barely above a whisper.

"I do want to kiss you, Kahless I can hardly think about anything else, but we need to talk about this. We can't just rush ahead. I don't want either of us to end up hurt." She reached out and took both of Seven's hands in her own, squeezing them encouragingly.

"This is all so new…I don't want to mess it up, hurt you or lose you, Seven. I haven't had much luck with relationships in the past." She tried to think of how to explain herself.

At the word past, Seven's smile slipped. B'Elanna saw it, and saw the troubled look in her eyes.

"What is it Seven, talk to me?" she inquired gently.

"I thought it was my past as a Borg that caused you not to desire me."

"No, never. The past is the past…we all have one Seven. You just need to accept it and move on."

"How can I just move on from the things I have done." Seven's carefully controlled insecurities began to bubble to the surface. "You have no idea B'Elanna, the lives I've ruined, entire worlds I helped destroy…" her voice trailed off. "I have never felt as if I deserved love, and do not feel that I deserve to be happy with you now."

B'Elanna felt as if the unspoken undercurrent of the past few weeks was finally being brought out into the open. She was glad that she had insisted that they talk. Secrets and doubts like this were the very things that could destroy their love if they went unattended.

"Everyone deserves to be happy," B'Elanna argued, even though at times she felt as if she didn't merit love and happiness with another. "I know all about the Borg, I know what you must have done, but I also know that you had no choice. You were assimilated Seven and the collective dictated your every action and thought for 20 years. You aren't responsible for what you did. I know that's hard to accept, but you have to accept it and move on. Just like I have to accept my past and try to move beyond it."

Seven knew that B'Elanna had had issues with her Klingon heritage, and that she had been a member of the Maquis rebellion, but she had no idea what B'Elanna meant when she talked of getting over her past. She couldn't imagine why she would equate her history with Seven's own.

"What is it about your past that you must accept?" she asked finally.

"Lots of things really, my father leaving, my mixed heritage. But…"

"What B'Elanna? You can tell me anything. I hope you know that."

In truth B'Elanna was afraid to share too much of her past with Seven. She was afraid her past would ruin her future with Seven. But if they were going to be together she knew she owed the younger woman the truth.

"A long time ago, back in the Alpha quadrant, when I was with the Maquis, I did something…lots of things really. Things I'm ashamed of…things I wish I could change." She paused again, afraid to continue.

"Tell me B'Elanna. It will be okay."

"We'd been fighting Cardassians all along the outskirts of this small Bajoran outpost. We'd managed to free a prison camp…" she drifted off into the past, remembering the horrors of that day. "They were starving them, working them half to death manufacturing torpedo casings that were going to be used to keep them enslaved. Women, children…it was horrible. I'd been in a camp like that for a few months, before Chakotay and his cell liberated it. I knew what those people were going through. The Cardies were cruel beyond imagining. Experimenting on Bajorans in the name of science. You can't imagine." She stopped again, fighting for control.

Seven pulled B'Elanna close, wrapping her arm around the engineer's shoulders, trying to offer support without words. She knew B'Elanna needed to get this out.

"It was almost dark, and I was moving in to secure a forward Cardassian listening post. We'd been bombing them hard from the air all day, so we knew we'd softened up the resistance pretty well. I got to the LP and it had been shelled pretty hard. There was only one of them left alive, and he was in pitiful condition. He was lying broken, bleeding and begging for help. I knew the right thing to do was to take him prisoner, get him some medical attention. He was looking up at me…begging me to help him. He reached his hand up toward me…" B'Elanna's eyes were closed; she was reliving the moment in its entirety. "I just kept staring down at him, while he begged. I just kept looking at him, seeing every Gul that had worked me over in the prison camp. I just kept looking at him." She stopped, a tear running down one cheek.

"And then?" Seven prodded gently.

"And then I shot him. I just shot him."

Seven held her tighter as her control over her emotions slipped.

"I've been living with that ever since. I never told a soul. I just reported that it was a 100 percent casualty rate on the forward positions." B'Elanna waited for Seven's judgment.

"I know that this must be a difficult memory for you B'Elanna, but you were at war; the taking of one life doesn't compare to the atrocities I've committed. How can you forgive me, and not yourself?" Seven was truly afraid that B'Elanna wasn't being truthful about her acceptance of her past with the collective.

"You don't understand…everything that you did was done under the influence of the collective. They controlled your actions. I had free will. I knew the difference between right and wrong and I chose to kill that Cardassian in cold blood. I murdered him. I'm a murderer." It felt good to finally speak the words aloud.

"No B'Elanna, you were a soldier, in the middle of a terrible war." She held up her hand to forestall B'Elanna's argument. "After being in a prison camp yourself, after everything you'd seen, everything they did to you, I'm certain that you must have been suffering from…" she paused and searched her eidetic memory for the correct term, "Post Traumatic Stress disorder. It was a terrible thing to live through, and I'm sure you regret your actions daily," Seven said thinking of her own regrets. "You need to let go, to find a way to forgive yourself and move on," Seven finished.

She was beginning to understand what B'Elanna meant about letting go of the past. The engineer had been unable to do so and it had affected her life in many ways. The engineer's anger, her need to work constantly, her inability to let people close and to trust them was all making more sense to Seven now. She understood that both of them needed to let go of the past; to find a way to make peace with their mistakes and their actions and move forward.

"I love you," she said at last, pulling B'Elanna close.

"Even after everything I just told you?"

"Even more," Seven wasn't sure why that was true, but she knew that it was. Having B'Elanna open her soul to her that way made her love her more.

"I was so afraid if you knew; I was afraid of losing your respect…of losing you."

"That will never happen B'Elanna Torres. I love you…always."

B'Elanna smiled through her tears. She was starting to hope that everything was going to be all right, that maybe, just maybe, someone could love her despite her past.

"We're neither of us perfect I guess," B'Elanna said quietly.

"Except, perhaps, for one another," Seven said with a small smile.

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For loving me," B'Elanna said softly.

"It is my pleasure," Seven replied as she leaned in to kiss B'Elanna gently.

This kiss was gentle, not passionate. It signified a joining of souls, it signified acceptance and forgiveness, and it went on and on…neither one of them wishing to stop. Once again it was B'Elanna who moved away. She looked intently into the ice blue depths of Seven's eyes for long unmeasured moments. No matter how hard she looked she could find nothing but love. She pulled Seven's head down to rest on her shoulder. They simply enjoyed the feeling of being held.

"It's getting late," B'Elanna said at last.

Seven looked at her inquiringly. Neither one of them were sure what to do now.

"I think…much as I'd like to stay with you…it might be better if we didn't move too quickly just yet," B'Elanna was honestly hoping Seven would talk her out of her sensible plan, but Seven just smiled gently and nodded her acceptance. B'Elanna stood, using Seven's hand to help her to her feet.

"I'll, uh, walk you home ma'am," she joked.

"You're too kind," Seven smiled.

B'Elanna walked her to her door and kissed her softly one more time, before walking backwards across the living room to stand in front of her own door. They stood a while longer, just looking, before, as one, they turned and entered their rooms. B'Elanna lay on her bed, tossing and turning well into the night. She wanted to get up and go to Seven, but she knew it was better for both of them to proceed slowly. Seven had no experience with relationships, and B'Elanna wanted to be sure that the younger woman was ready for the next step. There was no way she was going to ruin this by rushing the former drone into something she wasn't ready for just yet. It was over an hour before she finally fell asleep.

Seven was too excited to sleep. B'Elanna loved her! Never in her life had she felt such pure, unadulterated happiness. Her journey toward individuality had begun when Captain Janeway had severed her link with the collective, but her life had not truly begun until the moment B'Elanna told her that she loved her. She lay awake for most of the night, simply replaying the last hour again and again in her head, hearing B'Elanna say the words, feeling the press of their lips together. She wanted to get up and go to B'Elanna, even though she was only a few meters away, it felt like too much. Seven longed to be closer, but she trusted that the engineer was right about them needing to proceed slowly. So she lay, smiling on her bed and awaited the morning, and the sight of her beloved's beautiful face.

Both of them were up well before the alarm in the morning. Neither one of them could wait to see the other again. But as soon as they were together in the living area they both felt a little shy, neither one of them wanting to make the first move toward the other. Finally it was Seven who walked swiftly to B'Elanna, kissing her quickly, before asking what she would like for breakfast. After that they both calmed down somewhat, although the nervous laughter and awkward silences seemed to be more in evidence than they were used to since they had begun sharing living quarters. Even though breakfast was a little awkward, both of them felt wonderfully happy simply to be together. When they were ready for their duty shifts they paused at the door. B'Elanna pulled Seven close, whispering words of love in her ear before they parted for the day.

Although B'Elanna would have loved to spend all of her time with Seven, but she was also eager to get to engineering today in particular. She had finally perfected her plans for the portable regeneration unit. She had already been planning to take the afternoon off to finish building and installing it as a surprise for Seven, that they had declared their love for one another only made the timing all the more perfect. She had a lot of work to do in the morning, however, if she was to get the afternoon free, so she buckled down to work the second she hit engineering.

She met Seven for a quick lunch in the mess hall, and could barely contain her excitement, but she wanted to keep the portable regenerator a surprise so she worked hard to keep her enthusiasm under control. Still, she couldn't stop herself from smiling widely at Seven every time she caught the former drone's eye. She was pleased to see that Seven's own smile was in evidence nearly constantly. She hated to leave Seven so quickly, but she needed every second of the afternoon if she was going to finish the installation on time, so she excused herself as soon as she was finished her meal, and told Seven she would see her at dinner. Seven rose as B'Elanna did, and suddenly B'Elanna found herself faced with a dilemma. She wanted to kiss Seven goodbye, but was acutely aware that they were standing in a very crowded mess hall. She didn't want to make the younger woman uncomfortable, and she was a bit shy of public displays of affection herself. She reached her hand out, then dropped it…uncertain of what to do. She saw a flash of hurt in Seven's eye's when she dropped her hand, and that decided the issue for fiery engineer. She put her hands on Seven's shoulders and leaned in close.

"Is this okay?" she asked quietly.

Seven's heart was pounding. She had been afraid at first that B'Elanna was not going to acknowledge their relationship in public. She was afraid that the engineer was ashamed of loving a Borg, but here she was asking her permission to make their love public. Every time she thought she had experienced the ultimate happiness with B'Elanna, the fiery Klingon did something that caused her heart to soar even higher.

"Please," she whispered in a voice choked with emotion.

B'Elanna moved the final inches and gently kissed Seven on the lips. It was a brief kiss, but when it ended B'Elanna leaned her forehead against Seven's for a moment, before she stepped back and flashed a crooked smile at the former drone.

"Have a good afternoon."

"I will see you this evening," Seven said, her cheeks flushed with emotion.

B'Elanna worked fiendishly for two hours before she was ready to begin installation of the regeneration unit in Seven's room. She had barely enough time to finish the job before she expected Seven home. She was having trouble with several of the connections and she was worried that she wouldn't be ready on time. She was getting frustrated, and running out of time. She made a decision and made a quick comm call.

"Torres to Kim."

<Go ahead>

"I need a favour Harry. I'm working on a surprise for Seven, but I need about another hour. Could you go down to Astrometrics, and um…delay her for a while…please?"

<This wouldn't have anything to do with a certain incident I heard about in the mess hall at lunch time would it?> B'Elanna could hear the smile in his voice.

"You know I never gossip Harry," B'Elanna joked. "But, every once in a while the gossip mill gets one right," she finished, knowing that Harry would only be happy for her and Seven.

<Um…I think I can come up with an important task or two.>

"Thanks Starfleet. I owe you one."

<And I won't be forgetting that any time soon Maquis. Kim out>

She smiled and buckled back down to work.

True to his word Harry kept Seven busy in Astrometrics for well over an hour. He actually enjoyed himself as Seven's irritation at the delay was obvious, but her dedication to duty wouldn't allow her to make an excuse and leave until the job was complete. He had to stifle a laugh several times at the muscle working in her jaw as he peppered her with 'irrelevant' technical questions. Finally, when he began to fear that her control was slipping and he might actually be in physical danger, he relented and quickly helped her finish the job. When she swept out of Astrometrics without a backward glance or a word of goodbye he tapped his comm badge and gave B'Elanna a heads up. She assured him that she was finished and thanked him profusely for his assistance. He tried his best to wheedle some clue as to what the surprise might be from her, but she just told him to wait and see. He could picture her smile as the connection closed.

B'Elanna had only finished the last of the installation when Harry called to tell her that Seven was on her way back to their quarters. She barely had enough time to wrap her gift before the former Drone would arrive. She had wanted to have a shower and change, but there was no time now. As she suspected Seven arrived just as she finished tying the bow on the top of the small box. She jumped to her feet and put her hands behind her back, hiding the box from sight.

Seven was taken aback by B'Elanna's furtive actions as she came through the door to their quarters. She stood just inside the doorway and observed young engineer standing with her hands behind her back, looking for all the world like Naomi Wildman caught replicating cookies without Samantha's permission. She raised her ocular implant and stepped further into the room.

"B'Elanna Torres…what have you been doing?"

"Doing…me? Nothing, why do you ask?" B'Elanna said with impish grin.

Seven began to circle the engineer, trying to get a glimpse of what was behind her back, but she was thwarted by the fact that B'Elanna kept turning with her. Seven decided another tack was in order.

"Do you not wish to kiss me? I have missed you all day," she said in a soft voice, glancing up through her eyelashes at the young Klingon.

B'Elanna's heart melted at the former Drone's words and tone. She stepped forward and with one arm pulled Seven into an embrace. She felt her heart begin to pound as their lips met. She felt Seven's arms go around her waist.

"Hey…none of that," she cried, twisting out of Seven's arms as she felt the younger woman attempting to grab her other hand.

"Come back here," Seven demanded in a petulant voice as B'Elanna scurried out of her reach.

"Nope," B'Elanna laughed as she put the coffee table between her and the curious blonde.

"What are you attempting to hide from me Lieutenant Torres," Seven practically stamped her foot as B'Elanna continued to elude her.

"That's for me to know and you to find out," B'Elanna challenged.

"You are aware that resistance is…"

"Futile," B'Elanna interrupted. "So you keep saying, but you still don't know what I have in my hand."

Seven gave chase as B'Elanna skirted around the table and actually leapt over the easy chair in an attempt to stay one step ahead of her. After a few minutes of leading Seven in a merry chase around their quarters B'Elanna decided enough was enough. She ran up and over the length of the sofa and straight into Seven's room, where she was immediately tackled onto the bed. She still struggled to hide the box from Seven, but gave in when the former drone resorted to tickling.

"Okay, okay…you win," she gasped, handing over the small black box.

"Victory was inevitable," Seven crowed as she snatched the box from B'Elanna's hands and tore at the ribbon.

B'Elanna leaned back on her elbows and watched with an indulgent smile, as Seven indulged in childlike behaviour the rest of the crew would never have the privilege of seeing. It amazed her that she could have gone so long without seeing what a special person Seven was beneath her carefully constructed exterior. When Seven finally had the box unwrapped she reached in and pulled out two small power cells. The look of confusion on her face sent B'Elanna into peals of laughter. Whatever Seven had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been that. She looked up at B'Elanna with a puzzled expression on her beautiful face.

"They're power cells," B'Elanna said, as if somehow Seven wouldn't have recognized the type of technology.

"I can see that," Seven said with a small frown. She didn't like not knowing things.

"Here, let me show you," B'Elanna said as she rolled of the bed and onto the floor.

Seven got off the bed as well and watched as B'Elanna reached under the bed and rolled out a small piece of obviously Borg technology. Seven merely raised her ocular implant, she was beyond guessing at this point.

"It's your new portable regeneration unit. You charge the power cells in the original alcove—I made two of them, but we can always make more if you are going on an extended away mission. Then you just plug the cell into this receptacle." B'Elanna took one of the cells and plugged it into the portable unit. The regenerator came to life, glowing green. "This conduit leads to the interface receptacle here," B'Elanna said as she twisted back the covers of Seven's bed. "You can just lie on your back and regenerate, and when you're done…you just roll over and keep on sleeping, the unit will shut itself off." She had cut a small hole up through the mattress and installed the power interface flush with the top of the mattress so that Seven could simply lie down once she had programmed the cycle into the regeneration unit. "Do you like it?" B'Elanna asked, suddenly shy.

"It…it is the most wonderful gift I have ever been given," Seven replied with tears in her eyes. She ran her fingers reverently over the power cell she still clutched in her hand. "I cannot believe that you went to all of this trouble for me. Thank you," her voice was barely above a whisper.

"I'm glad you like it," B'Elanna said, happy that Seven appreciated the gift.

"I love it, and I love you," Seven said, pulling B'Elanna into her arms.

They sat on the floor, holding one another close for several minutes, then to B'Elanna's surprise Seven got to her feet and reached down, pulling her up as well.

"Get dressed."

"Excuse me?" B'Elanna was taken aback by the sudden change in Seven's demeanour.

"I wish to take you out to dinner to celebrate, and to thank you. You need to get dressed, the restaurant I have in mind is rather formal. Your black dress will be suitable attire."

"Uh, Seven, unless you have holodeck reservations I don't know about I doubt we can have one of the holodecks tonight."

"I can be very persuasive," Seven said with a small, but very determined smile. "After all…"

"I know, I know…resistance is futile," finished B'Elanna, shaking her head. She had no doubt that Seven would be able to talk her way into one of the holodecks if she put her mind to it. She kissed the former drone quickly and went to her room to change.

To Be Continued

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