Cold Day in Hell
Warning lights were flashing all over the cockpit as B'Elanna and Seven worked frantically to try to reestablish a stable warp field that would allow them to arrest their terrifying rate of descent toward the planet below. B'Elanna was desperately using the shuttle's thrusters to pitch the craft up in order to prevent their fiery demise in the planet's atmosphere. It looked like they were going to survive, although the landing was going to be pretty rough.
"Seven, launch the emergency beacon," B'Elanna instructed as she concentrated on her flying.
She saw the younger woman hit the key sequence for the beacon launch, and then key it in again in frustration as it became obvious that that system was one of the many that had gone offline after the shuttle flew through a gravemetric distortion that hadn't registered on their sensors until it was too late.
"Brace yourself Seven this is gonna be a rough one."
Seven braced her body in the navigator's chair as the shuttlecraft came screaming down through the atmosphere in a fiery ball that tore through the treetops of the uninhabited planet before plowing up a huge furrow of earth and rock before coming to a stop dead up against a rather large immovable boulder. Despite their best efforts to brace themselves they both fetched up hard against their respective consoles before being slammed back into their seats with the force of a phaser blast. Neither one of them regained their breath or their composure for several minutes, and it was longer still before they were able to move around the cockpit.
"The communications system is down. I am unable to contact Voyager at this time," Seven commented in her usual dispassionate manner.
B'Elanna was also working on attempting to contact the starship when her console shorted out in a brilliant blue arc of electrical energy. The cabin of the cockpit began to fill up with acrid black smoke.
"Seven, we need to get out of here now. The plasma injectors are leaking and one more short like that could ignite the whole ship," B'Elanna cried as she used all of her strength to force the crumpled door of the craft open.
"I am coming Lieutenant I just need a few more minutes to gather some supplies."
B'Elanna leapt back into the ship and grabbed Seven by the arm, pulling her bodily toward the door.
"We don't have a few minutes! We need to clear the area now," she shouted as she pulled the Astrometrics officer from the shuttle and urged her into a run away from the immediate vicinity of the malfunctioning craft. They hadn't gotten very far away when the shuttle exploded with a tremendous roar, throwing both of them through the air like rag dolls.
Slowly B'Elanna forced her eyes open, she closed them again as she felt a searing pain brought on by the brilliance of the sun. Gradually her eyes adjusted to the bright light and she was able to sit up and get her bearings. She saw Seven of Nine slowly getting to her feet in the distance and when she was able to stand herself she made her way over to the former drone.
"Are you alright Seven?" she inquired.
"I am functioning within acceptable parameters. We need to find the equipment I was able to salvage from the shuttle; I lost it when the blast wave hit us. I had two tricorders and a phaser as well as some rations. We may need them in order to remain functioning until Voyager finds us."
"I'm fine Seven thank you for asking," B'Elanna growled, "and you're welcome for me saving your Borg ass from going up in flames with the shuttle," she muttered under her breath knowing the former drone would be able to hear her words. Seven made no reply other than a raised ocular implant and she immediately began to search for the scattered equipment. After a half-hour of searching the area they were able to find only one of the tricorders and the phaser. The rest of the equipment was gone. Neither of their communicators appeared to be working so they sat down to assess their situation and try to formulate a plan that would facilitate their rescue.
"Voyager should be able to follow our warp trail to the planet and it will only be a matter of time before they pick up our biosigns with a sensor sweep," B'Elanna said optimistically.
Seven had been taking readings with the tricorder while B'Elanna talked.
"There is a flaw in your theory Lieutenant Torres."
After a moment B'Elanna grew irritated with the younger woman's silence.
"Are you going to tell me what the flaw is, or do I have to guess?" She snarled.
"We have landed in an area of metallic ore which will interfere with sensor readings and is also probably affecting our communicators. We will have to make our way out of this area if Voyager is going to be able to find us."
"Great," B'Elanna sighed, "so do we just head off in a random direction or do you have a plan?"
"I believe we should head in this direction," Seven stated giving no indication that she heard or understood the sarcasm in B'Elanna's voice. The direction in which she was pointing led toward the peak of the mountain, the base of which was their crash site.
It was a large snowcapped mountain that was part of very large range that ran for hundreds of miles across the deserted planet. B'Elanna hoped they wouldn't have to climb too far in order to reestablish communications with Voyager. Klingons did not tolerate the cold well at all, and she was already feeling weakened from the battering her body had taken in the crash.
Seven was already up and moving in the direction she had indicated and so B'Elanna climbed slowly to her feet and followed the swiftly moving figure of the Astrometrics officer as she disappeared into the trees. The going was easy at first and at this lower altitude the air was relatively warm and the ground hard packed. As they began to gain elevation however the temperature began to cool off and the footing became more treacherous. The route Seven was taking was quite hilly and steep, on the side of the hills that were still in the shade the going was easy as the ground was relatively frozen. However, on the side of the hills where the sun was beating down, the frost was melting and the ground was a miasma of slippery mud. Their pace slowed to a crawl in these sections, as they had to fight for purchase as they walked using tree branches and plants to help steady them as they went.
B'Elanna was getting tired of taking two steps forward and sliding three steps back as they fought their way to higher ground. She paused for a moment, leaning against a tree to take the pressure off her legs and watched as Seven moved determinedly upwards. The former drone was the picture of concentration as she made each step carefully, digging in with her wildly inappropriate footwear before trusting her weight to the next step. Despite her best efforts, the ground beneath her feet slipped out from underneath her and she went down, slipping several feet back down along the muddy ground while she tried desperately to stop herself with her hands and feet. When she finally came to rest she rolled over on her back and B'Elanna saw that she was completely covered in mud. The half-Klingon couldn't help but laugh out loud at the sight of the normally pristine drone looking so disheveled and indignant. Despite her laughter she moved forward quickly to help Seven to her feet.
"I fail to see the humour in this situation Lieutenant Torres," Seven said in an icy voice.
"I'm sorry Seven, but you should see yourself you are just covered in mud," B'Elanna gasped in laughter.
"I am aware of the state of my clothes Lieutenant."
The steel in Seven's voice finally wiped the smile off of B'Elanna's face as she offered her hand to the filthy blonde. Seven hesitated before reluctantly taking the engineer's proffered hand. B'Elanna pulled and Seven came to her feet and stumbled forward into the Klingon's arms. B'Elanna reflexively caught her and held her close, shocked at the intensity of her feelings at finding the beautiful blonde in her arms. She stepped back quickly.
"Jeez Seven, now look what you've done," she shouted to cover up her confusion over her feelings for Seven, "now you've got us both filthy. Just look at my uniform."
"You seemed to find the situation quite amusing when I was the one covered in mud Lieutenant," Seven said dryly as B'Elanna continued to rant about the state of her clothes.
"What? That was different you looked I mean I'm just gonna shut up now," B'Elanna finished sheepishly.
"Then I suggest we keep moving," was all Seven said in reply.
Seven began to climb back up the muddy hill and B'Elanna once again fell in behind her as they picked their way to the top. At the bottom of the next hill there was a swiftly moving stream. B'Elanna was extremely thirsty at this point so she dropped to her knees and scooped up a double handful of water. She was about to take a drink when Seven's voice stopped her.
"Lieutenant Torres you do not know if that water is safe to drink."
The former drone moved to the edge of the stream and took out her tricorder. She carefully scanned the water before saying,
"I am picking no impurities in the water. I believe it is safe to drink from this stream."
B'Elanna was secretly grateful to Seven for thinking of her welfare in such a manner, but she just couldn't bring herself to thank the stiff young woman.
"None that our tricorders can pick up at least," she grumbled before taking a huge drink of the crystal clear water.
The unlikely pair drank deeply and used the cold water to clean the mud from their faces and hands before they began to make their way up the next hill. Thankfully for both of them they had gained sufficient altitude that the ground was now frozen solid. The footing was good and they began to climb in earnest. At the rate the two young women covered ground they were soon at the snow line. Seven stopped and took some more readings with her tricorder and attempted to establish communications with Voyager, but as yet nothing was working. They decided to keep climbing in the hopes that they would soon reach a spot that would allow them to establish a link with the starship.
B'Elanna was not yet feeling the cold as she struggled to keep up with the ground eating strides of the former Borg. In fact she could feel the sweat trickling down between her shoulder blades as she walked. They were moving through a forested area now and the tree branches were loaded with snow and hanging down overhead. B'Elanna scooped up two fistfuls of snow and rubbed some of it on the back of her neck to cool herself down. She rolled the rest into a ball and tossed it up in the air, catching it playfully, trying to convince herself she was not in any danger, but rather on a recreational hike on the holodeck. An idea came into her head as she watched Seven moving through the trees. She timed her actions perfectly the next time Seven was directly underneath a snow covered branch she lobbed the snowball, dislodging the entire load of snow on the former drone's head.
She had to work hard not to laugh out loud at the disconcerted look on Seven's face when the icy snow landed on her. Seven whirled about and glared at B'Elanna, somehow not quite believing the incident was an accident. B'Elanna returned her accusatory look with one of wide-eyed innocence. As Seven continued to try to remove the snow from the back of her collar B'Elanna caught up with her finally.
"How much further do you think we are going to have to climb?" B'Elanna inquired.
"I am uncertain Lieutenant, tricorder readings do not indicate the presence of any of the metallic compounds that were previously interfering with the signal, but I am still unable to establish contact with Voyager. I believe the best course of action is to keep moving upward in case the mountains themselves are the cause of the interference."
While Seven delivered this entire speech in her usual monotone B'Elanna could sense that the Astrometrics officer was becoming alarmed at their inability to contact the ship. There was little or nothing on this planet that would serve as food and as the temperature continued to drop it was becoming increasingly obvious that they would survive one night at the most on the exposed shoulder of the mountain. Seized with an unfamiliar sense of empathy for the former drone B'Elanna put her hand on the younger woman's shoulder in an attempt at comfort.
"We just need to keep moving Seven; Janeway is probably pulling out all the stops to find us. It's only a matter of time before they track us down to this rock and beam us the hell out of here."
Seven smiled at B'Elanna's transparent attempt to cheer her up, and suddenly the young Klingon felt a whole lot warmer. Covering the engineer's hand with her own Seven was shocked by how cold the raven-haired woman's hands were to the touch. Taking both of B'Elanna's hands into her own she rubbed them vigorously in an effort to warm them up. B'Elanna was once again taken aback at the effect physical contact with Seven had on her, and she withdrew her hands after a few moments, putting them in her pockets and shifting her feet awkwardly.
"We should keep moving Seven; Voyager may already be in orbit and unable to pick up our biosigns."
"Of course Lieutenant," Seven replied surprised herself by how much she missed the feeling of holding B'Elanna's hands in her own.
They climbed until the sun went down and it became obvious that moving around on the mountain in the pitch black was a much more dangerous proposition than remaining still. They were long clear of the treeline so there was no wood to burn for warmth and it was obvious that their situation was grim. Still they cleared out a patch of snow in the lee of a large boulder and sat down to wait out the night. They sat apart and in silence for some time until Seven noticed that B'Elanna had begun to shiver. Without a word the former drone moved until she was behind the young Klingon, pulling the engineer between her legs and wrapping her arms around her from behind. B'Elanna's first instinct was to protest and pull away, but the sense of warmth she felt radiating from Seven's body was too much to resist and she settled back into the other woman's embrace.
Even Seven's body heat could only do so much for B'Elanna and soon she was shivering again. Slowly a sense of warmth and sleepiness crept over her and she felt her head begin to sink. She started back awake only to drift off again a few moments later. She awoke again to an insistent shaking.
"Lieutenant Torres, you must not allow yourself to go to sleep. You are exhibiting the early signs of hypothermia. If you go to sleep you may never awake."
B'Elanna was beyond caring about such considerations. She wanted to just let herself drift away into the warm embrace of Morpheus and forget all about being stuck on this barren planet.
"B'Elanna, please don't leave me," Seven said in a tiny voice.
This was enough to bring B'Elanna back from the edge and she forced herself to sit up straighter and keep her eyes open.
"What's the first thing you are going to do when you get back to Voyager Seven?" B'Elanna inquired, hoping that if they kept talking they would both stay awake.
"I will change my clothes and regenerate."
"Okay, I guess that makes sense, but what's the first fun thing you're going to do?"
"I do not know. I play Kadis Kot with Naomi Wildman and Velocity with the Captain for recreation, but aside from those activities I do not have 'fun'."
"Well, we are just going to have to change that then Seven. The first thing I'm going to do is book the holodeck and spend a few hours in the blazing sun on a tropical beach. Anything as long as it is hot. I feel like it would take a warp core breach to warm me up right now."
"Given the two options I believe I would chose the tropical beach."
B'Elanna laughed until her cold seared lungs turned laughter into a racking cough. She was grateful for the strong arms of Seven holding her close as she struggled to maintain control of her breathing again.
"Then it's a date Seven, as soon as we are back onboard the ship we are heading for a tropical vacation on the holodeck."
"I look forward to our date B'Elanna," Seven said softly.
They continued talking softly but as time passed and the cold crept ever more deeply into their bones they slowly fell silent. It was all Seven could do to maintain her hold on the engineer's body, but she was determined and even as her head fell forward to rest on B'Elanna's shoulder her grip remained firm. A few moments later she roused herself again and shook B'Elanna awake. They again attempted to talk to keep themselves awake, but they both knew they were fighting a losing battle. B'Elanna struggled to turn her body sideways so that she could wrap her arms around the young drone's slender frame.
"I am sorry B'Elanna," Seven whispered, "there is so much I wish I could tell you."
"I know," B'Elanna replied pulling the younger woman closer, "I know."
Slowly, imperceptibly they slipped into unconsciousness.
" team .ager ..we'll be in orter range "
Deep in sleep, Seven heard a tiny insistent sound. She tried to ignore it and return to the wonderful dream she had been having but the voice would not go away. Some primitive survival instinct in an ancient part of her brain flipped on and Seven struggled to awaken.
"ead ..orres ..spond."
She tapped the comm badge on her chest.
"Seven of Nine to Voyager do you read me. We require an emergency beam out immediately," she managed to croak.
She glanced down at waxen face of the woman in her arms and prayed that Voyager had arrived in time. Even as the pull of the transporter beam engulfed her, she refused to relinquish her hold on B'Elanna.
When Seven and B'Elanna materialized on the transporter pad, the transporter chief took one look at them and immediately beamed them directly to sickbay. When they materialized there Seven refused to let go of B'Elanna's motionless body, not even to allow the doctor to touch her; the Doctor finally had to sedate her in order to begin treatment of the young engineer. B'Elanna's heartbeat was so slow as to be almost imperceptible and it was obvious that much of her skin was damaged through frostbite. Even the alveoli of her lungs had begun to freeze and the doctor had to remove a portion of her third lung. It was several hours until she was out of danger.
Seven was less damaged by the cold; her biosuit as well as the ability of her nanoprobes to compensate for the temperature mitigated the harsh conditions to a certain degree. Even so she was suffering from frostbite and her body temperature had dropped significantly. Once the doctor was certain that B'Elanna was stable he turned his attention to Seven and began to heal her injuries. It was over half an hour before he felt he could safely awaken the unconscious drone. She opened her eyes and took stock of her surroundings for several moments until she finally spoke.
"Is Lieutenant Torres going to be all right?"
"I expect that B'Elanna will be her usual charming self in a few days Seven. And just in case you are interested you will also make a full recovery," the doctor quipped in his usual acerbic tones.
"May I see her?" Seven demanded.
"Of course. She is only in the next biobed, but it will be at least a day before she regains consciousness, and you yourself will require at least a day of regeneration before you will be able to resume your duties."
Seven did not reply but got slowly to her feet and made her way to B'Elanna's side. She moved a lock of hair off of the half-Klingon's forehead, tucking it gently behind her ear. The former Borg gazed intently down at the still figure of the young engineer for several moments until she heard the doctor clear his throat for the third time. Finally she placed a kiss on the brow ridges of the unconscious woman.
"Get well soon B'Elanna," she whispered in tones so low the doctor could not make out her words despite the fact that he was straining to hear them. She straightened up and turned to leave sickbay.
"Take care of her doctor," was all that she said as she left the room.
"Well that's gratitude for you," he complained out loud to himself, "I believe Lieutenant Torres has been a bad influence on our young Seven." Despite his complaints he hurried over to the occupied biobed to check on B'Elanna's condition.
B'Elanna opened her eyes, squinting against the light and trying to recall where she was, and how she ended up there. It took a few moments before she realized that she was alone in sickbay. She felt dizzy as she sat up and swung her legs off of the biobed. She paused, legs dangling while she regained her equilibrium. She felt very weak, but otherwise appeared to be undamaged.
"Computer activate EMH," she croaked. Her throat felt raw and her voice was husky.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Oh, it's you Lieutenant. I see you have rejoined the land of the living."
B'Elanna cleared her throat before replying. "Um, yeah, what happened how'd we get back to Voyager Is Seven all right?" At the last question her voice rose in what could almost be described as panic. She looked frantically around the room to confirm that the former Drone was indeed nowhere to be found.
"Seven of Nine is fine; she should be finishing her regeneration cycle at any moment. You were both a little the worse for wear when you arrived back on board, but you were definitely in worse shape than Seven. I had to operate to remove a part of your lung and to repair extensive damage to your skin as a result of exposure. As to how you were returned to Voyager, that is a question you'd best ask Ensign Kim. I believe he was the one who picked up your biosigns on the planet and beamed you both back here. Now if you'll just hold still I need to run a few microcellular scans before I release you back to your own quarters."
B'Elanna had been about to resist treatment until she heard the last part of the sentence. At that she reluctantly subsided and allowed the doctor to finish his assessment. When he was finished he affixed a cortical monitor behind her ear to keep track of her vital signs and alert him to any difficulties she might encounter. He then released her to her own quarters after informing her in no uncertain terms that she was off duty for at least two more days. She was about to protest when she realized just how tired and sore she really was, so instead she merely nodded and left sickbay to head back to her room.
Halfway back to her quarters she began to wonder if she shouldn't stop by Cargo Bay 2 and check on Seven's condition. She started out in that direction but again her own fatigue stopped her and she turned back toward her quarters and her bed. When she entered the familiar surroundings of her living room she didn't even pause, she kept walking straight into the bedroom and fell into a dreamless sleep.
When she next opened her eyes it was almost 18 hours later. The computer informed her that it was 1300 hours and her stomach informed her in no uncertain terms that it was time for lunch. She showered and dressed in civilian clothing before leaving for the messhall. When she walked into the dining room she was almost bowled over by the small furry form of Neelix who rushed over to envelope her in an enthusiastic hug. He ushered her to a table by a star bow and informed her that he was going to whip up a batch of her favourite banana pancakes to celebrate her return to the ship. Several other crewmembers came by to wish her well and it seemed like no time at all before the fuzzy little chef was back with a plate piled high with heavenly smelling pancakes dowsed in sticky sweet syrup.
She tucked into her food and barely looked up until the plate was clean. She was leaning back and sipping a cup of cocoa when she saw Seven of Nine enter the messhall looking as pristine and perfect as ever. B'Elanna felt a twinge of guilt that she hadn't even bothered to check on Seven's condition personally after being back on board for almost a day. 'Its not like she dropped by to see me either,' B'Elanna thought to herself in an effort to assuage her own sense of guilt. She had no idea that the former drone had tapped into the medical channel so that she could monitor B'Elanna's vital signs for herself as the engineer slept.
She watched the tall blonde retrieve her regular nutritional supplements from Neelix and was shocked to see the former drone make her way through the crowd on a direct course for B'Elanna's table.
"May I join you Lieutenant," she inquired.
"Of course Seven have a seat," B'Elanna replied.
The younger woman sat down and sipped from a tall glassy of brown viscous fluid.
"I trust that you are feeling better now Lieutenant."
"Yeah I'm fine Seven how are you?" B'Elanna was embarrassed by how awkward this all sounded given what they had been through together recently.
"I am functioning within acceptable parameters," was Seven's terse reply. She once again fidgeted with her glass of nutritional fluid. "Have you had your tropical vacation yet Lieutenant?" Seven asked.
It took a few moments for B'Elanna to figure out to what Seven was referring. Her memories of the last few hours on the planet were still a little foggy.
"No, actually Seven I've been asleep ever since I was released from sick bay. This is the first time I've stepped foot outside of my quarters."
"Do you still wish to run the program with me?" Seven's voice was small and timid.
"Sure Seven as soon as we can book some time on the holodeck I'll show you my beach program."
"I believe the holodeck is empty at this time Lieutenant if you wish we could spend the afternoon there."
B'Elanna had never seen Seven so eager to spend time in such a frivolous pursuit, however she vaguely remembered promising the younger woman they would go to the holodeck when they were huddled together in the snow so she agreed to meet Seven there in an hour.
B'Elanna went back to her room to gather up a bathing suit, towel and some other essentials for an afternoon at the beach. She looked at her face in the mirror as she pulled a shirt on over top of her bathing suit. As she gazed at her reflection she was hit with a flashback to the night on the mountain, and how it felt to be in Seven's arms. She shook her head to chase away the memories and finished dressing quickly before she left for the holodeck.
Seven was standing in the corridor outside holodeck 2 looking distinctly uncomfortable. She had trouble catching B'Elanna's eye when the Lieutenant arrived, and the young Klingon covered her own nervousness by quickly calling up the program she wished to run and motioning Seven to precede her into the room. Seven stopped just over the threshold to take in the tropical paradise that B'Elanna had programmed. The sea was vast and the surf was breaking rhythmically over the powder-fine white sand beach. There were several umbrellas set up to provide shade and a few palm trees, but otherwise the place was entirely deserted. Seven approved of the simplistic beauty of the design.
They proceeded down the beach and laid out towels underneath one of the umbrellas. B'Elanna had brought along skin diving gear for the both of them and she and Seven spent the afternoon snorkeling along a coral reef and enjoying the exotic beauty of the marine life that resided there. The water was warm and the sun projected a beautiful coruscating light on the sea floor that was almost as beautiful as the reef itself.
When they had exhausted themselves in the water they climbed back out to the beach and stretched out on their towels. They lay in the sun, soaking up the heat they now regarded as precious. They made no attempt at conversation, both content simply to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sand. Finally it was B'Elanna who forced herself to break the silence by asking Seven if she was hungry. Seven shyly admitted that she had also been thinking of food, so B'Elanna suggested that they walk down the beach to a beachside café that was part of the program. Again they found themselves at a loss for words as they walked, and they were both happy to be distracted by waiters and menus once they reached the café.
When they had ordered they sat in silence that stretched uncomfortably for several minutes before B'Elanna finally spoke.
"Look Seven I really want to thank you for everything you did for me on the planet. The Doctor told me that if you'd let go of me I probably would have frozen to death down there. I owe you my life and I'm not going to forget it."
"I had nowhere else to be at that particular time," Seven tried to lighten the mood by joking. "I was also aware that if I allowed you to perish that I would miss our fights in engineering and I would miss our date."
"Date!" The panicked look on B'Elanna's face at the word 'date' caused Seven's heart to constrict painfully in her chest.
"Yes, you said that we would have a date on the holodeck if we ever managed to get back to the ship." Seven felt an unfamiliar prickling sensation behind her eyes at the realization that she had misread the Klingon hybrid's intentions regarding this evening.
"I can see that I was mistaken, and I apologize for placing you in an awkward position. Perhaps it would be best if I left now," Seven managed to get the words out despite the fact that she felt as if her entire world was crumbling around her. She rose awkwardly to her feet and began to exit the holodeck.
"Seven wait, please," B'Elanna cried as she jumped to her feet to go after the retreating drone. She had been unprepared for Seven's forthright statement and she was more than a little ashamed of her behaviour, but she simply wasn't ready for this discussion.
She finally managed to catch up with Seven at the door to the holodeck; to her surprise there were tears staining the young drone's porcelain cheeks and Seven refused to look up at her, preferring instead to stare at the ground. B'Elanna had no idea what she was going to say now that she was actually standing with Seven, but she couldn't stand the thought that her actions had caused the Astrometrics officer so much pain. Seven couldn't really have such deep feelings for her could she?
"I'm sorry Seven. You just caught me by surprise that's all. I mean, other than almost dying on that planet this is the first time we've really spent any time together outside of work. I guess you calling it a date just startled me a little bit."
"You were the one who called it a date Lieutenant. I took that to mean that you were interested in me in a romantic sense. I'm certain that my behaviour will provide you with much entertainment when you tell the others how the stupid drone actually thought that you might have feelings for her."
B'Elanna was shocked at the bitter tone of Seven's voice as she spoke. The truth was she had never thought of Seven as someone who possessed deep emotional levels, and she certainly never would have guessed that the former drone was interested in pursuing a relationship with her.
"Seven, I would never laugh at you over something like this."
"Why would this be any different than the other times you have ridiculed my behaviour and made fun of me with your friends when you thought I couldn't hear your conversations."
"I " The truth was that B'Elanna had been guilty of everything of which she stood accused. She had no excuse for her behaviour, and her lack of honour appalled her. Even more so given that she had been attracted to the beautiful blonde for some time now but had hidden her feelings behind a wall of anger and ridicule.
"You're right Seven all of it, everything you just said is true. I'm sorry. I don't know what else to say except that I'm truly sorry."
"Why do you hate me so?" Seven's voice was broken and ragged with tears.
"I don't hate you Seven. I've just been so afraid."
"Afraid of what?"
"Afraid of being hurt, afraid of how I've been feeling."
"How have you been feeling?"
"I think what I mean is look I don't know Seven. I'm no good with emotions. I mean I do pissed off pretty well, but aside from that I've never had any luck. I just want you to know how sorry I am for hurting you. You deserve better and if you'll let me I'll try to make it up to you."
"I accept your apology Lieutenant."
"Just like that?" B'Elanna couldn't believe that Seven was just willing to let it all go that quickly and that easily.
"Yes," she stated simply.
"Then will you please come back and have dinner with me?"
"Is this a date?" Seven inquired, not wanting to have any further misunderstandings between them.
B'Elanna still wasn't ready to deal with that issue so she prevaricated.
"Lets just say it's two friends having dinner together so that they can get to know one another better and leave it at that."
"Acceptable," Seven said after a moment's hesitation. She was disappointed that B'Elanna did not appear to return her feelings at this time, but nevertheless the fiery Lieutenant had seemed sincere in her desire to make amends for her behaviour, and she had called her 'friend,' maybe things would turn out after all.
The dinner conversation was stilted and awkward at first, but as the evening wore on B'Elanna was surprised to find that she was having a good time. She was beginning to see that Seven had a sense of humour, albeit an unconventional one, underneath her cool exterior. She was startled when the computer's voice cut in on their conversation and announced that their holodeck time had expired. The hours had flown by and the engineer was shocked to find that she was disappointed that the evening was coming to an end.
When they exited the holodeck Seven turned to make her way back to Cargo Bay 2 and B'Elanna fell into step with her. When they reached the cargo bay the doors automatically opened and Seven walked straight inside. B'Elanna hesitated for a moment unsure of what to do; Seven turned and looked at her expectantly and B'Elanna threw caution to the wind and followed her inside. Once the doors closed behind B'Elanna Seven realized that she had nowhere for the Lieutenant to sit down, and as there were no replicators in the cargo area she could not offer her friend anything to eat or drink. She found herself experiencing embarrassment for the first time in her life.
"I must apologize Lieutenant. This is hardly the ideal spot for entertaining."
"It's okay Seven, really. I'm really tired and I should probably be getting to bed soon anyway. I'm pretty sure that you could use an extra long regeneration cycle as well after everything that we've been through the last few days."
Seven felt a pang of disappointment that B'Elanna was already leaving, but she recognized the logic in the engineer's words. She was not yet operating at peak efficiency and neither was B'Elanna.
"Thank you for sharing your holodeck program with me Lieutenant," Seven said hiding her insecurity and uncertainty behind her typical Borg formality.
"I had fun Seven. I'll even take you back there sometime if you promise to start calling me B'Elanna when we're off duty."
Seven smiled widely at that and B'Elanna felt her stomach constrict at the unabashed look of happiness on the younger woman's face.
"Well, I guess I should be going. I'll, uh, see you tomorrow." Despite her words B'Elanna made no move to leave the cargo bay. Finding herself content to simply smile back at the former drone. Finally she forced herself to turn and walk toward the doors, when they opened automatically in front of her she stopped once again. She was angry with herself for running away from her emotions yet once more. 'Coward,' she berated herself silently. She turned on her heel and strode back across the cargo bay, pulling Seven into a rough hug. Her heart was hammering in her chest as she felt the beautiful Borg's arms wind around her shoulders and pull her close. They stood in one another's arms completely unaware of anything but the sensation of being held. Finally B'Elanna gave her a final squeeze before stepping back.
"Goodnight Seven," she whispered and then she left the cargo bay.
B'Elanna practically ran all the way back to her quarters. She was confused yet exhilarated by what had just happened. She sat on her couch with her head in her hands as she tried to sort through the maelstrom of emotions with which she was being bombarded. She finally fell asleep on the couch when the adrenaline that had kept her going over the last few hours finally ran out.
For her part Seven had stood motionless after the cargo bay doors swished shut behind the retreating figure of the chief engineer. Finally she had taken several steps backwards and sat on the dais in front of her alcove. Over and over in her eidetic memory she replayed the sensation of being held in B'Elanna's arms, the look on the Klingon's lovely face as she wished her a good night. It was over an hour before the young drone forced herself to begin her regeneration period.
The next day B'Elanna found herself at loose ends with nothing to do. She felt as if she should go and see Seven, but somehow she still couldn't bring herself to initiate contact with the former drone. She knew she was acting like an honourless coward but she was afraid of what allowing herself to care for the Astrometrics officer might mean to her. She had fought for acceptance her entire life, and she was afraid that to become involved with another woman, and a former Borg at that would be to banish her to the fringes of the only family she had ever known. She paced her room like a caged animal berating herself for her cowardice, but she still couldn't convince herself to activate her communicator. When she heard Seven's voice hailing her over the comm system she stood frozen, her hand halfway to her communicator and said nothing.
Seven was pacing around the cargo bay, wondering why B'Elanna hadn't contacted her yet. She had checked with the computer and she knew that the engineer was awake and in her quarters, but obviously despite their closeness of the previous evening the Klingon was not interested in pursuing their relationship further. Finally she forced herself to tap her comm badge and call B'Elanna. She heard the channel open but there was no reply to her hail. The ship's logs confirmed that B'Elanna's communicator was functioning she had simply chosen not to acknowledge the hail. Seven felt her heart aching painfully in her chest and despite her usual forthright manner and her Borg efficiency she did not know what to do about the situation in which she found herself. She felt a cold that chilled her more deeply than even the wind and snow on the deserted planet had. Suddenly she knew what she had to do. She stepped to her console and her fingers flew as she wrote the program she knew would end her pain. Once the information was entered into the computer she made her way quickly to the holodeck.
"Computer, deactivate safety protocols, lock doors with encryption code Pi Alpha 7, and run Seven of Nine protocol Omega Tao Beta." She turned her back to the doors and began to walk.
After several hours of pacing in her quarters B'Elanna had had enough. She'd had enough of her own cowardice and her own inability to act. Once she made up her mind she squared her shoulders and stepped out of her quarters and made her way to Cargo Bay 2 with a look of fierce determination on her face. When she reached the cargo bay she went inside and was surprised to find that Seven of Nine was nowhere to be seen.
"Computer locate Seven of Nine."
<Seven of Nine is in holodeck One>
B'Elanna made her way to the holodeck and was surprised to find that the doors would not open at her command. The computer could not tell her what program was running, and it took several minutes of hard work before she could discern that the safety protocols had been taken offline. She worked furiously for over an hour before she was finally able to bypass the encryption codes that Seven had put in place. Even so she had to force the doors open by hand, using all of her strength to slide the heavy doors open enough to slip through. The door immediately slid shut behind her.
She was assaulted by a gale force wind blowing frozen pellets of snow in her face. She could barely stand in the face of the wind, and the temperature was well below freezing. The snow was trackless and the landscape bleak.
"Computer end program."
<Unable to comply>
"Computer reactivate safety protocols."
<Unable to comply>
"Computer, raise temperature by 15 degrees."
<Unable to comply>
After spending a few more minutes attempting to rectify the situation inside the holodeck B'Elanna realized that Seven had locked out all voice and command codes except her own.
"I guess I'll just have to do this the old fashioned way," B'Elanna said out loud, the wind whipping away her words as soon as they left her lips.
She squinted into the wind, trying to get a sense of which way the young blonde might have gone. She recognized the scenery from their night on the uninhabited planet and she set off in what she hoped was the direction of their last stand on the mountain's shoulder.
It took her less than half an hour to locate Seven on the holodeck, but even so by the time she saw the motionless body of the Astrometrics officer B'Elanna's lips were already turning blue and she was beginning to shiver uncontrollably. The former drone was lying on her side beside the same boulder she and B'Elanna had used for shelter on the planet. Her eyes were open and staring, and B'Elanna could detect only a slight movement of her friend's chest as she breathed. The engineer ran the last few steps to Seven's side and dropped to her knees, grabbing the motionless woman and shaking her fiercely.
"Seven, Seven can you hear me? Wake up damn it!"
Seven's eyes slowly focused; she raised her head and looked at B'Elanna.
"You should not be here B'Elanna."
"What the hell do you think you're doing Seven?"
"When you didn't answer my hail this morning I thought I was afraid that you I cannot bear to be alone anymore."
B'Elanna's heart broke when she saw what her lack of honour had done to Seven.
"You are not alone Seven, not anymore. I'm here," Seven's pain filled eyes looked up at B'Elanna, "I'm here Seven I'm not going anywhere."
"Please do not deceive me B'Elanna. I could not bear it if you did."
"I love you Seven do you understand me I love you, always. I should have said so before but I was too afraid," even as she spoke B'Elanna pulled Seven into her arms, rubbing her briskly in an attempt to warm her up.
"Come on Seven give me another chance. Let me try to make this right. Just let me love you Seven please."
Seven looked up into the eyes of love and spoke softly,
"Computer end program."
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