By Rebelgirl

Part X

As she hurried down the corridor towards Torres' quarters, Janeway found her mind racing over events and, more importantly, her own actions. Things had got out-of-hand very rapidly. Suddenly the distance to her destination felt a lot longer and she tried to put perspective on what had occurred. She halted in front of the door as her mind whirled. Her behaviour had been motivated by her own selfish desires to establish an intimate relationship with Seven.

She reached down to press the entry chime but pulled her hand away suddenly, as if the control could burn her fingers. If she truly loved Seven, surely she would not wish to harm her or jeopardise her happiness, yet Janeway had been prepared to do just that to promote her own goal. Her conduct was certainly not worthy of a captain of Starfleet, let alone her own moral standards. Unfortunately, she had said and done things that would now take a great deal of explanation to restore the good faith and trust of both B'Elanna and Seven. Thinking over her recent actions, Janeway began to feel guilty and ashamed. Her behaviour had been deplorable. However, was the damage she had caused irreparable? No one had ever accused her of lacking courage. Squaring her shoulders and steeling herself for the task she was about to undertake, she glanced down to press the chime once again when the door hissed open and her resolve faltered.

Seven, dressed in an electric-blue bio-suit, raised her eyebrows in surprise as she came face to face with Janeway and halted her stride to avoid walking straight into her. The younger woman felt her stomach flip as she recalled the previous night's events but she clamped down on her temper and acknowledged the Captain's presence with a curt nod.

"Seven, I know you're angry with me and you have every right to be angry but I really do need to explain," Janeway rushed her words out but tried to keep her tone neutral and undemanding.

"I am on my way to visit B'Elanna in Sick Bay, I do not have time to listen to your explanation," retorted Seven coldly.

"Please, it won't take too much of your time. It's important." Janeway asked again.

Seven stared at the Captain while she considered. She so desperately wanted to see B'Elanna but felt vulnerable and, for some inexplicable reason, guilty over what had happened. If B'Elanna picked up on her mood, she could end up revealing last night's occurrence and trigger another seizure. She certainly did not want that to happen. Stepping to one side, she allowed Janeway to enter the Chief Engineer's quarters and followed her back into the living area.

Once the doors closed, Janeway spoke again. "What I did last night was unforgivable so I'm not asking you for absolution. I want to explain my actions, if I can, and maybe repair some of the damage I caused," she told the tall blonde woman. The captain began to pace as she searched her mind for the right words. This was more difficult than she thought it would be.

Sighing, she stopped and faced the Astrometrics officer once again, one hand resting on her hip as she used the other to gesture, animating her words. "Seven, I love you…"

"Captain," Seven interjected, her voice harsh with shock.

"Please, let me finish," retorted Janeway forcefully.

Rocked by the bluntness of her revelation, Seven complied and continued to listen, standing straight with her hands clasped behind her back in a familiar pose.

"I have loved you for a long time, Seven," Janeway started again. "I always believed it to be a maternal love. I've watched you develop and mature, find your humanity again and I hope that I've had some influence in that development. Somewhere along the way, my love turned into something altogether different. I wanted so much for you to return that love, so that we could build a relationship together as a couple." Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose as her mind raced to phrase the next part of her monologue. "When you entered into a relationship with Tom, I realised that you were starting to experience real feelings and wanted to explore your emotions. Your predicament with the cortical inhibitor made me understand how much more you had to unleash and, I thought selfishly, that I could be the person to guide you through your new feelings." Janeway began pacing again, her nerves returning. "When I discovered that B'Elanna had beaten me to it…"

"There was no race," objected Seven indignantly.

"No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that," Janeway back-pedalled. She sighed, her shoulders dropping slightly. "It felt like a race to me, despite the fact B'Elanna was oblivious to it. You and B'Elanna have developed a relationship and I was jealous of it," she continued simply. "What I should be doing is supporting it, knowing how happy it's making you."

Seven nodded, not trusting herself to speak just yet.

Janeway steeled herself and faced Seven squarely. "However, as your captain *and* as your friend, I feel it's my duty to voice my concerns too," she continued.

Seven's eyes darkened as she answered. "I will brook no interference from you, Captain," she told her flatly.

"I don't intend to interfere. I'm being honest with you. That's what friends are for. It's why I told you straight away that I love you. I am not trying to deceive or coerce you. I'm just trying to offer some guidance," Janeway explained earnestly, pacing again absently as she spoke.

Seven raised an eyebrow, the borg implant quirking high onto her forehead.

Janeway took it as a signal to continue. "All I want you to do is consider how this relationship developed. Up until a short while ago, you could barely tolerate each other's presence. B'Elanna's generosity in assisting you with the cortical inhibitor problem meant that you had no choice but to spend time together. Then, when things went wrong for B'Elanna, you felt guilty about the procedure affecting her that way. She would not be in this predicament if she had not volunteered to help you." Janeway paused before delivering the final punch. "I just don't want you mistaking your feelings of friendship and obligation for anything else."

"You told me to search my feelings last night, Captain," Seven reminded her curtly. "Right before you took advantage of my emotional state and kissed me."

Janeway flinched at the reminder but was determined to continue. "So have you considered your feelings?"

Seven paused, her eyes losing their focus momentarily before she answered. "I was somewhat distracted last night after our meeting. I slept for most of the night. However, I do not doubt my feelings." She pinned Janeway with her eyes. "I love her," she said simply. "I cannot put condition or qualification on it."

"And you're sure that she feels the same way about you?" continued the Captain, already reeling at the revelation.

"I know she does." Even as Seven stated her answer, she realised that it was the plain truth.

Janeway felt a crushing sensation in her chest but she stood up to the inner disappointment. She had lost Seven to B'Elanna but, when eventually the pain eased, she knew that she would feel glad for them both. "For some reason, I needed to hear that, Seven. Please believe me when I say that I am truly happy for you," Janeway smiled with genuine warmth toward her protégé.

Seven suddenly felt a weight being lifted from her. She had always wanted the respect of the Captain and despite last night's proceedings, sought her friendship. She had thought that it would be in serious jeopardy and had been disturbed by that. Now that her mentor had expressed approval of her relationship with B'Elanna, Seven felt that they could re-establish the trust they once shared and continue their amity. "Captain, I cannot forget what happened last night but I accept your explanation *and* apology," she pulled her lips into a rare smile. "I hope that our friendship can continue," she stated hesitantly.

"It will," assured Janeway. "And I hope that you can trust me enough to come to me if you have any problems at all, about anything," the Captain continued, qualifying her final statement lest Seven think that she was wishing her relationship with B'Elanna to fail.

Instinctively, the older woman closed the distance between them and enveloped Seven in a platonic hug. Relieved to have resolved this one problem, Seven returned the embrace somewhat awkwardly but was grateful nevertheless of its sentiment.

She looked up as the door opened and her smile intensified as she recognised B'Elanna at the entrance.

B'Elanna never made it over the threshold. The door had hissed open to reveal Seven in an embrace with the Captain. Even more alarming was the smile that was radiating from her. She had seen that smile before during some of their most intimate moments. Now, Seven was directing that same smile at Janeway.

Somehow, her mind told her not to react instantly as she would be in danger from another seizure. Instead, she turned abruptly and raced down the corridor, determined to get as much distance as possible from the scene before trying to come to terms with it. She headed for the only other safe haven she knew on Voyager; Engineering.

Seven was confused by the action and released herself from Janeway's grasp. She looked down the corridor but there was no sign of the engineer. She turned as she heard Janeway groan.

"Why did she behave like that, Kathryn?" Total bewilderment clouded the ex-drone's features.

"I told her about the kiss," Janeway explained, unwilling to reveal the whole truth concerning her behaviour.

Seven stiffened. "And now she has jumped to an incorrect assumption," she completed. "I must find her. She could suffer another seizure."

The Captain reacted instantly. "Computer, locate Lieutenant Torres," she barked.

"Lieutenant Torres is in Main Engineering."

"Let's go," Janeway stated and the two women strode purposely toward the nearest turbolift.

B'Elanna worked furiously at the console in her rarely used office. She needed to be alone to think things through, and if she knew Janeway and Seven, they wouldn't allow her that luxury. Fortunately, the task at hand was complicated enough to keep her mind from wandering back to the scene she had just witnessed. Part of her was fighting to suppress the emotions that threatened to consume her.

Her task finished, she wiped the evidence of her work from the computer before locking the console down with one of her toughest encryption codes. Satisfied with her handiwork, she left her office and headed towards an access panel.

Once inside the Jeffries tube, she sealed the hatch behind her. She knew that there were a number of staff in main Engineering that had seen her enter but she didn't care now. She knew every nook and cranny of the Jeffries tube system and was satisfied that she could hide herself away for as long as it needed and allow her mind to go over recent events. She scooted through quickly but halted when she heard her communicator pin chirp.

"Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Torres."

She ignored the hail and carried on, twisting through the junctions before scaling a ladder to change decks.

"Seven of Nine to Lieutenant Torres, please respond." Seven's voice sounded almost desperate but B'Elanna was determined to do her thinking in her own time. She wasn't ready to analyse her feelings yet and she certainly wasn't ready to deal with Seven. She took the brooch from her jacket and held it in her hand as she approached a junction.

"Computer, open all hatchways in Jeffries Tube 8," she ordered. She looked down as each hatch hissed open. Once satisfied that they were all open, she opened her hand and watched the gold pin cartwheel down the decks, hearing a faint clink as the metal finally hit the bottom of the shaft.

Seven frowned in frustration at the lack of response. She turned to Janeway who had finished questioning the engineering staff.

"Computer, locate Lieutenant Torres," the older woman requested again.

"Lieutenant Torres is in Jeffries Tube 8," was the unemotional reply.

Seven grabbed a tricorder and made a series of adjustments before speaking to Janeway. "I've configured this tricorder to locate her," she told the Captain. Janeway nodded and then indicated an access panel.

"Let's go," she told her.

After another series of twists and turns, B'Elanna finally made herself comfortable in one of the least used tubes. She had positioned herself right in the middle of the tube, equidistant from any access panel. Leaning back against the wall, she allowed herself to remember the events that she had witnessed in her quarters. With her memories came her feelings, amplified by Janeway's words spoken to her earlier in Sick Bay. The worst feeling was betrayal. She had laid her heart open to Seven but had been treated as another experiment for the drone who wanted to expand her humanity. The hurt she felt escalated as she tortured herself with the images and her own version of events.

Janeway stared at the gold communicator pin and swore under her breath. Seven reached out and palmed the device, squeezing it gently as if to somehow get closer to B'Elanna.

"She really doesn't want to be found, does she?" the Captain asked rhetorically.

"We have to find her, she could be in danger," protested the blonde woman.

Janeway nodded concurrence before tapping her own badge. "Janeway to Chakotay," she called.

"Chakotay here," came the disembodied reply.

Looking carefully at Seven, Janeway continued. "Chakotay, I need to locate B'Elanna. She's discarded her communicator badge. Can you do an internal sensor sweep for her?" she asked guardedly.

On the bridge, Chakotay opened his eyes slightly in surprise before nodding at Kim. The young Asian ensign hurriedly punched in a series of commands at the Ops console before looking up in confusion. "Commander, internal sensors are off-line," he informed the Native American.

"Well get them back on-line," retorted Chakotay. In his mind's eye, he could picture the Captain pacing agitatedly, wondering about the delay.

"I can't sir. A block has been put on them. The source originates from Engineering," Harry informed him.

Growling in frustration, Chakotay looked up instinctively as he raised the captain again. "Captain, there's a fault with the internal sensors. There's going to be a delay."

Janeway rolled her eyes at the news before looking at Seven. Seeing how distraught the former drone appeared, she spoke gently. "Come on Seven. Let's get back to Engineering. Maybe we can help repair the sensors," she suggested.

"I would rather continue to search the Jeffries tubes," protested the younger woman.

"There are miles of Jeffries tubes. It will take a long time to search them all thoroughly. At least look at the sensors and approximate how much time it's going to take to fix them. Then you can decide how best to spend your time," Janeway reasoned.

Seven nodded miserably, her hand clenched tightly round the comm. badge. She could feel it cutting into her skin but didn't care. The captain's argument was logical but she felt as though she was abandoning B'Elanna by delaying the search. Blinking back the water that was building up in her eyes, she followed Janeway back disconsolately.

B'Elanna watched her hands. She could see them tremor slightly through the wracking sobs she was shedding. The raven-haired woman instinctively knew that it was a sign. She was going into seizure. Bizarrely, she realised that she had no form of communication. No one would locate her. She was going to die alone one day after discovering the love of her life. She felt her body keel over from its sitting position but then oblivion washed over her as she went into paroxysm, her eyes fixed open in a visionless stare.


"Sick Bay to the Captain," the EMH hailed Janeway, a sense of frantic urgency tainting his voice.

"Go ahead," prompted the disembodied reply.

The Doctor paused for a fraction of a second after detecting the irritation from the comm link. "Lieutenant Torres' cortical monitor indicates that she's having a seizure. I tried contacting her before they became too advanced but I haven't been able to raise her."

Janeway and Seven looked at each other from across the console in main Engineering, wide-eyed. "The monitor!" they exclaimed in unison.

"Doctor, can you get a fix on the monitor and pinpoint where B'Elanna is?" asked Janeway hurriedly. The comm link was silent for a few moments. Janeway felt herself getting tenser by the second and wondered how Seven was coping. A slight glance with her peripheral vision indicated that the ex-drone was feeling the strain just as much, her normally composed visage replaced by a concerned frown.

"Captain, I'm having difficulty locating exactly where B'Elanna is, but I can give you an approximation," the EMH eventually responded.

"Do it," ordered Janeway tersely.

"According to my read-out, she's somewhere in Jeffries tube 12, sub-section 15. I'm sorry I can't be any more specific."

Janeway nodded despite the fact the EMH could not see her. "Thank you Doctor, we'll get her to you as quickly as we can," she vowed. "Janeway to Chakotay," she hailed the bridge.

"Go ahead, Captain," invited the Commander.

"We've narrowed down where B'Elanna could be. Jeffries tube 12: sub-section 15. Can you get a lock on any life-form in there and beam it directly to Sick Bay?" she made the question seem like an order.

"Sorry Captain. Because the internal sensors are down, we can't detect anything," he told her, his annoyance evident by the deeper timbre of his voice.

"Then we do this the hard way," Seven told Janeway as she strode toward the nearest access panel. Had the situation not been so fraught, Janeway would have drawn the ex-drone's attention to her disregard of the chain of command. Instead, she followed the blonde woman quickly into the network of service tunnels.

Seven set a demanding pace, and the older woman could hear her breathing becoming laboured as they closed in on their destination, her body unused to the continued crawling. Janeway could feel the sweat building on her brow and knew that it was only a matter of time before it started running down her face. Pausing briefly as Seven opened the next access panel, the Captain noticed that their exertions had not taken nearly so big a toll on the ex-borg. She barely had a hair out of place.

Sparing her companion a glance, Seven led the way again. They were in Jeffries tube 12 now. Somewhere in here was B'Elanna. The Doctor had not called to indicate that the readings from the monitor had stopped, so Seven knew B'Elanna was still alive. But as every second passed, she knew the message might come. She had never felt like this before, on any away mission, or whenever she had been in danger herself. Her heart was pounding in her chest, almost trying to escape. Her throat felt raw and constricted, her mouth dry. She could feel her skin was slick with sweat. Her mind's eye flashed unbidden images of B'Elanna slumped in death, with Seven powerless to help her. The visions spurred her into upping the pace. Seven heard Janeway grunt as she sped up but dismissed the Captain's discomfort. She would recover; B'Elanna might not.

As she scooted round the next bend, the Astrometrics officer lifted her head to see where she was going. Halfway down the corridor she could detect movement. A black shape with a mustard flash told her that it was someone in a Starfleet uniform. "B'Elanna," she called desperately, not expecting any reply.

She raced toward B'Elanna, absently wondering why tears were streaming down her face. Seven tugged the Klingon's convulsing body into her lap and hugged her, cradling the engineer's head in her arms gently, protecting the woman from harming herself whilst subjected to the seizure.

Janeway, slightly less emotionally attached, tapped her communicator pin. "Janeway to Chakotay, we've found her. Use the transporters to lock onto our comm. badges and transport us all to Sick Bay," she ordered, the sentence broken slightly as she gasped for breath.

"Transporters can't get a lock on you without internal sensors working," Chakotay reminded her. "You'll have to carry her out."

Seven heard the exchange. "I'll drag her out Captain. Just find the quickest route out of here," she told her grimly, before lacing her arms around B'Elanna's chest and grabbing the smaller woman's wrists.

"Seven, I know you're concerned but I need room to work," admonished the Doctor brusquely as he flew round the monitors surrounding his patient.

"Why have you not stopped the seizure?" Seven demanded angrily, knowing that the longer B'Elanna convulsed, the likelihood of irreparable brain damage would increase. She refused to move away from the bio-bed and maintained her hold of the stricken engineer's left hand.

"I need the statistics from the monitor. The adjustments you made have given me a great deal of information concerning Lieutenant Torres' condition." With a final punch of the console, the EMH spun and grabbed a hypospray. He ejected the contents into the prone engineer's neck and watched as the spasms eased, leaving the Klingon still at last.

Seven exhaled audibly, earning looks of surprise from both the EMH and Captain Janeway, who had been standing at a nearby console monitoring B'Elanna's condition.

"Now what?" asked Seven

"Now I let her rest and recover while I analyse all the data I've collated," the Doctor replied. His tone softened as he looked at the blonde ex-drone. "There's no evidence of hypoxic damage. B'Elanna's exhausted. She needs time to recuperate. However, you're more than welcome to stay here and sit with her while I work on these readings," he invited, knowing that Seven would be too distracted to do anything else.

Seven looked at Janeway for permission. The Captain nodded acquiescence before following the Doctor into his office, leaving the young ex-drone alone with B'Elanna.

Gently, Seven hooked a tendril of dark hair over the sleeping engineer's ear. She allowed her fingers to caress the woman's strong jawline before she removed her hand. "I love you, B'Elanna Torres," she whispered.

Janeway sat down opposite the Doctor without waiting for an invitation. "How long is this going to take, Doctor?" she enquired.

"A lot longer than it need do if I have to put up with continual interruptions," the EMH responded laconically. He fidgeted uncomfortably when he saw the glare Janeway directed at him and came up with a response more suitable for a captain to hear. "It will take approximately forty minutes to correlate the data. I cannot estimate anything after as it depends on the results. Give me an hour Captain. If it's any sooner, I'll update you," he suggested.

Janeway wanted answers now but knew that these things couldn't be rushed. She nodded agreement. "Are you sure B'Elanna wasn't affected by this latest seizure?" she asked, her guilt over being the catalyst resurfacing, now that the Klingon was in a safe environment.

"Quite certain, though I would like to find out what it was that triggered the episode, especially considering her location," mused the EMH.

"Concentrate on finding a cure for these seizures," directed Janeway, eager to deflect away from that line of conversation. The Doctor raised his eyebrows at the directive but refrained from comment.

The Captain stood and left the office quickly to join Seven at B'Elanna's side. "How are you coping?" she asked gently.

"My 'coping' is irrelevant. You should be more concerned for B'Elanna," the ex-drone replied miserably, not even looking at Janeway as she spoke.

"Everyone on board this ship is my concern," the older woman reminded her gently. She laid her hand on Seven's shoulder softly. "I understand why you want to be here. Just remember to look after yourself as well."

"Yes, Captain," concurred Seven, her voice barely a whisper.

The tall, lithe, Astrometrics Officer was barely aware of Janeway's departure, continuing to gaze down at the woman she loved. B'Elanna looked peaceful, with no sign of the stress or torment she had endured now present on her face. Seven felt her heart accelerate as she once again memorised the exotic features and contours of the engineer. She had often wondered why there was contradictory information archived on the emotion of love. She now understood why it was so hard to document. Seven loved B'Elanna in a way that words could not describe. The strength of feeling was glorious; yet sometimes it was so strong, it hurt her. The ex-drone was certain of one thing though. She would not give up these new emotions for anything.

B'Elanna had been instrumental in making her complete, on many levels. The ex-drone knew that until B'Elanna had been cured of the seizures, she would not be safe. Seven would not rest until a solution was found, it was the least she could do. For the moment, however, B'Elanna was secure in Sick Bay. Seven was content to sit with her for a while and revel in the sensation of being with her, even if the raven-haired woman was oblivious to her presence.

B'Elanna groaned. There was a vice-like grip around her head and her limbs protested as she moved. Pulling her eyelids apart, her gaze focused on the body looming over her bio-bed. "Doc, why is it that every time I wake up, it's always your face I'm looking at?" she grumbled, glad at least that she had strength enough to speak.

The EMH smiled humourlessly. "It probably has something to do with the season pass you have for Sick Bay," he retorted, waving a tricorder over her head as he spoke.

"Can I get a refund on it?" the half-Klingon muttered as she sat up.

"Non-returnable I'm afraid," rejoined the EMH as he pushed her back down. "Besides," this time the Doctor's face held a genuine smile, "I'd miss the banter." He turned to analyse the readings he had accumulated and missed the look of astonishment on B'Elanna's face. Her next comment died on her lips as she realised that her situation had affected many people on board.

She massaged her temples as the pain in her head continued. "What happened Doc? How come I'm not lying in a Jeffries tube somewhere?"

"Your cortical monitor acted like a homing beacon. The Captain and Seven located you and dragged you out. There was a fault on the internal sensors so we couldn't beam you directly here." The Doctor looked up from his console and his face softened. "Seven stayed by your side until I guaranteed her that I'd contact her if there was any complications. She's very protective of you."

B'Elanna snorted dismissively. "I don't think so," she demurred, recalling the image of Seven in Janeway's embrace.

The Doctor looked at her sharply. "I don't know what happened in the time you left Sick Bay and your last seizure. I do know that Seven is feeling extremely anxious about you and in the six days you've been unconscious…"

"Six days?" exploded B'Elanna, sitting bolt upright as the remark.

"Yes, six days. But it wasn't as a result of your last seizure," replied the Doctor cryptically. B'Elanna narrowed her eyes, prompting him to continue.

"The Captain and Seven found you quite quickly. Once I ran a set of diagnostics, I stopped your convulsion and allowed you to rest. I then set to work extrapolating the results from your latest episode with comparisons from your normal brain signature." The EMH came closer to stand right by B'Elanna. "With Seven's help, I determined exactly which sensory neurons had been altered to trigger your seizures. As you were already unconscious, it seemed superfluous to wake you only to sedate you again for the procedure. Seven and I performed the operation six days ago. I've kept you in a coma for this length of time to allow your brain and essential neural pathways to heal."

"Wait a minute, Doc," B'Elanna interrupted. "Are you telling me I'm cured?" Despite fully understanding the explanation, B'Elanna needed a simple affirmation before allowing her hopes to soar.

"I am just awaiting some more test results to confirm it," the Doctor put a slight dampener on her emotions. "But I believe so."

B'Elanna allowed herself to lie back down on the bed. She rested a hand over her eyes as the words sunk in. She hadn't realised how deeply this had affected her. At least now she could confront Seven over what she had witnessed in her quarters, though it felt like a lifetime ago. "So, what happens now?" she asked, dreading a protracted stay in Sick Bay.

"What happens now is you tell me the encryption codes to get internal sensors back on-line," the gravelly voice of Captain Janeway projected through Sick Bay.

B'Elanna sat up again quickly and saw Janeway approach. "I'm sorry Captain," the Klingon began but was forestalled by a raised hand from her commanding officer.

"I understand why you did it B'Elanna. We'll talk about disciplinary measures later. Right now, I just want things back to normal," the Captain instructed.

B'Elanna couldn't help but grin. "Six days and you still haven't broken it?"

Janeway quashed the grin with a raised eyebrow. "Yes, I'm surprised myself. Once you're fit for duty, part of your punishment will be instructing others on the 'appropriate' uses of encryption codes and how to break them."

Suitably sobered, B'Elanna continued. "If you give me access to a work-station, I'll sort it out right now," she offered.

Janeway looked at the Doctor to see if he had any objections.

"As long as that's the only thing she does today, it shouldn't be a problem," he assessed. Janeway gestured to a nearby console and B'Elanna hopped off the bed and padded over.

"B'Elanna," began the Captain softly, as she joined the engineer at the console.

"Hmmm?" prompted the Klingon, her fingers flying over the console as she worked.

"What you saw in your quarters…"

B'Elanna flew round to face the Captain. "I'm not sure I want to talk about that, Captain," she ground out.

"It's not what you think," retorted the captain and then belatedly realised how her words sounded as B'Elanna snorted derisively. She held up a hand to stop B'Elanna. "Let me explain. What you saw was me giving Seven a hug, a *comforting* hug, to show my support of her relationship with you," Janeway decided to keep the explanation as brief as possible. Any excessive dialogue would prompt suspicion from the chief engineer. She waited as she watched the emotions flash across B'Elanna's expressive face. Doubt, understanding, relief and joy were all there.

B'Elanna turned suddenly and busied herself at the workstation, embarrassed by the pinprick of tears that had formed when the Captain's words finally sunk in. She only had one thought now and that was to find Seven and tell her how much she loved her.

"Well, you'll be pleased to know that you have the all-clear, Lieutenant," the Doctor broke in.

"Is she free to resume duty?" the Captain asked, eager to have her staff back to full strength.

"In two days. After everything she's gone through, I feel she needs some time off," reasoned the EMH.

"She is still here in this room," reminded B'Elanna, her sparkling eyes belying the mock irritation in her voice.

"Have you fixed the internal sensors?" Janeway enquired.

"Yes ma'am," somehow, B'Elanna felt the need to be more formal after the trouble she had caused.

"Then I'll see you tomorrow at 11:00Hrs in my ready room to discuss your punishment, and expect you to be back on duty in two days," the captain told her.

B'Elanna nodded and turned to hunt out her clothes.

"B'Elanna," called Janeway gently. The raven-haired Klingon swung back round. "Glad to have you back," the Captain told her with an affectionate grin – one that B'Elanna was happy to return.

B'Elanna hurried back to her quarters. She wanted to meet up with Seven immediately but felt the need to freshen up after her stint in Sick Bay.

She pulled off her uniform jacket as she entered the living area, tossing it carelessly over the back of a chair. As she reached up to remove her shirt, she looked up instinctively and spoke. "Computer, what is the location of Seven of Nine?"

"Seven of Nine is in Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres' quarters," came the reply both from the disembodied voice of the computer and the lilting tone of the ex-drone as she revealed her presence.

B'Elanna stared openly at the tall blonde woman as she made her way from the bedroom to the living area. Seven looked slightly dishevelled with dark circles around her eyes indicating the strain she had been under. To B'Elanna though, she looked perfect and she smiled radiantly at the ex-drone.

Seven looked deeply into the eyes of the older woman. The Doctor had already informed her of B'Elanna's departure from Sick Bay and informed her of B'Elanna's all-clear regarding the seizures. Now that she drank in the exotic beauty of the half-Klingon, Seven could feel her throat constrict and her eyes sting as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her. She had come so close to losing the love of her life. Now she felt awkward and nervous, wondering if anything had changed between them in the short few days since they had first declared their feelings for each other and if B'Elanna was still concerned over Seven's embrace with the Captain, unaware that Janeway had spoken with the raven-haired woman.

"Hey," the engineer spoke softly, suddenly shy for some inexplicable reason.

Catching the mood, Seven dropped her eyes slightly before looking at B'Elanna again. "Hello," she replied, the hint of a smile tugging at her full, dark lips.

Endeared by Seven's hesitance, B'Elanna stepped forward. Unconsciously, Seven opened her arms out and B'Elanna continued to close the distance between them. They crushed themselves into each other's arms, hugging tightly and relishing the feel of each other. B'Elanna could feel Seven's fingers grip her back tightly, pulling her even further into the embrace and her hearts raced as Seven gave in to her emotions.

Seven rested her head down into B'Elanna's shoulder and delighted in the feel and smell of the smaller woman. There was no need for words. She could sense B'Elanna's hearts racing as well as her own increased pulse.

Slowly, B'Elanna lifted her head up and used a hand to pull Seven's head away from her shoulder so that she could look into the deep azure eyes.

Seven allowed herself to get lost in the rich, dark brown eyes that smouldered with passion, a reflection of their owner.

"I love you, Seven of Nine," B'Elanna declared softly, yet with absolute certainty.

"I love you, B'Elanna Torres," affirmed Seven, moving one hand to trace the outline of B'Elanna's jaw as she spoke.

Slowly, inexorably, two pairs of lips grew closer together, until they brushed together fleetingly. The intimate contact ignited passion, and lips and hands sought out more contact as the two lovers allowed their desire and ardour to consume them.

The End

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