As the two women materialised in Sick Bay, the Doctor sprang from his office. "Is this a medical emergency or a clothing emergency?" he asked acerbically, noting their nudity.
"Doctor," warned Seven, the anger blazing in her eyes.
Moving to one side to allow the Doctor to approach, he forgot any further comments as he saw that the dark Klingon was still convulsing.
"That's impossible," he protested, his hands dancing rapidly over a console. "Her cortical monitor is reading normal."
"Treat the patient not the monitor," reminded Seven sharply. Her voice was now rough with emotion as she tried to keep herself together. She was angry for being unable to help her lover herself there was only the Doctor to direct her feelings at.. She concentrated on the task at hand and somehow managed to get the jerking woman into her arms and lift her onto a nearby bio-bed.
Switching to strict professional mode, the EMH prepared a hypospray and began treatment. "Seven, there's a locker over there. You might want to put a robe on," he suggested absently as he watched the convulsing engineer. Making adjustments on the wedge top of the hypospray, he administered a second dose into the woman's neck before looking anxiously at his medical tricorder.
Seven ignored his comment. There was no way she was going to leave B'Elanna's side now, not even for an instant. She felt the hot sting of tears burn her eyes and allowed them to collect on her lashes, the drops building before gravity claimed them and they began to run freely down her burning cheeks. Her stomach contracted and her throat felt raw. Why wasn't B'Elanna responding?
The Doctor, sensing that he would have to sedate Seven before removing her from Sick Bay, decided to leave her where she stood and worked around her. Frantically, he collated data from the scans he performed, trying to determine the source of the problem, looking up worriedly at the fitting Klingon periodically. He stopped for a fraction, trying to make up his mind over the next course of action. Resolution reconciled itself across his craggy features and he administered a third dose from the hypospray. Finally, the engineer stopped thrashing and lay still on the bio-bed.
Seven let out pent-up breath and roughly wiped her face clear of tears, sniffing repeatedly.
The Doctor, feeling safer with B'Elanna's paroxysm under control, was confident enough to resume his normal demeanour. "If you had a robe on, you could use the cuff to wipe your nose."
This time, Seven took the hint, belatedly realising that despite the EMH was quite used to seeing anatomical bodies, it was somewhat unnerving for him to see both B'Elanna and herself in a state of undress. She grabbed a blue silk robe from the locker and another for B'Elanna.
The Doctor looked up, viewing her blotchy tear-stained face with compassion. "Seven, before you ask, I don't know what's wrong yet. I've rendered her unconscious to minimalise oxygen deprivation. I can now perform some tests safely. Once I've got those results, I'll need to wake her and perform more tests." He stopped as he watched the tall blonde nod glumly, a look of guilt written plainly over her face as she covered the unconscious Klingon.
"Don't blame yourself Seven," the Doctor advised gently. "It won't help B'Elanna."
His words provoked Seven to look at him quickly. "She did not suffer seizures before performing the cortical suppressor modifications Doctor," she reminded him, her voice dull. "I am fully aware of who is culpable for her current state." She sniffed again suddenly and then rubbed her sleeve along the bottom of her nose.
The Doctor sighed. He was decidedly uncomfortable at Seven's state. Hours before, she had the luxury of never having to deal with such deep emotions. It was all very well wanting to feel love and wanting to be in love, but the emotions involved with that state were not always happy. For every extreme of bliss, there could be equal measures of guilt, jealousy and insecurity. Seven was having to deal with these extremes without the one person the Doctor now believed might guide her. He regarded both Seven and B'Elanna as personal friends and had seen their friendship deepen significantly over the last two weeks. He wanted them to be happy. The EMH turned his thoughts back to the task at hand and began to sift through the data.
Seven tried to still her emotions but found herself firmly in their clutches. The time she had spent in B'Elanna's quarters untethered her feelings for the Klingon hybrid. She had declared her love for the raven-haired woman and had heard the words returned to her. The paradox of the situation made the ex-drone's heart ache. She had never felt such depth of emotion until B'Elanna had stymied the cortical inhibitor. The close work finding a solution to the problem had allowed them both to recognise and accept the feelings they shared. Now, the process could permanently affect B'Elanna.
The tall Astrometrics Officer's mind was in turmoil. She felt foolish for not considering how *all* her emotions might amplify once the inhibitor had been removed, guilt included. It was a decidedly unpleasant side-effect of the depth of feeling she had for B'Elanna. It was something she would have to deal with later though because dwelling on these sensations now, would not help the Chief Engineer.
Taking several shuddering breaths, she found a new focus and gently removed the cortical monitor from behind the unconscious woman's ear, placing it on a workstation. The Doctor had said that it had shown normal readings. Recalling earlier events, Tom Paris had stated that his tricorder displayed normal parameters the first time B'Elanna reacted.
Was there a connection or was it purely coincidence?
Out of the corner of his eye, the doctor saw Seven move to a console and begin work. He nodded in satisfaction.
The doors to Sick Bay hissed open and Captain Janeway strode in. She had heard the emergency transmission and came down to check on her Engineering Chief.
"Doctor, what's wrong with her?" she asked without preamble, even as her eyebrows raised slightly at seeing Seven standing at a console wearing a short robe instead of her normal bio-suit.
"That's what I'm trying to determine," the EMH replied testily. There was a perfectly good communications system in place. Why did the Captain insist on checking in person?
"Perhaps I should re-phrase that," Janeway remarked. "What happened?"
"B'Elanna suffered another seizure," answered Seven from her console. "I was with her so transported straight here." For a reason that escaped her for the time being, Seven felt reluctant to go into details about her relationship with B'Elanna.
Not until she was well enough to share the telling perhaps.
Janeway looked at Seven through narrowed thoughtful eyes. There was more behind this episode, but now was not the time or place to delve deeper. "Perhaps we should leave the Doctor to his tests?" she suggested.
"I am not leaving Sick Bay yet. I have tests of my own to run." Seven didn't look up as she spoke, running a correlative set of analyses.
The Captain tried again. "Seven, you're still tired after the procedure. You shouldn't be working."
Seven's eyes came up to meet the Captain's with a blaze of fury. Remarkably, she held control of her voice and her tone remained cool as she replied. "Captain, I am well aware of my own condition. However it is not I who lies sedated on a bio-bed. I need to do this."
The Captain blanched at the vitriol lacing Seven's words. However, it had taken years of training to become a Starfleet captain and she was well used to the arguments of her crew now. "Seven, if you overwork yourself now, what use will you be to B'Elanna when she wakes? You need time to recover," she reminded the ex-drone.
"If I am overwhelmed by my exertions then I am in the right location for treatment," Seven rebutted logically.
"And you'll succeed in diverting the Doctor from treating B'Elanna," riposted Janeway.
"Then assign Mr Paris to Sick Bay," snapped Seven, tired of the manipulation the Captain was attempting. "I am staying here," she stated with finality.
Realising she'd get no further with Seven, Janeway turned to the Doctor. "Are you happy for Seven to remain here?" she asked.
"I agree that she needs to regenerate Captain," the Doctor answered. "But I suspect that she has higher priorities at this time and I have no objection to her working on them," he continued cryptically.
Seven looked up gratefully and gave a tiny nod towards the physician, indicating her thanks for his understanding. Janeway noticed the gesture and finally comprehended the dynamic between the ex-drone and her Chief Engineer. Disgusted with the burning jealousy she felt toward the unconscious Klingon, the Captain decided that it was time to retreat.
"Keep me informed Doctor," she advised before leaving, barely sparing a glance for Seven.
The EMH and Seven worked on their own tasks in silence but Sick Bay gave out reassuring beeps from the devices monitoring B'Elanna and Seven found herself registering every sound as she continued to plough through the data, looking for anything that might help her stricken lover.
"Seven, I'm going to wake B'Elanna now," the Doctor advised, startling her out of her study. She nodded and approached the bio-bed, grasping B'Elanna's hand in both of hers.
The EMH placed the hypospray at B'Elanna's neck and injected its contents. For a second, nothing happened. Then the dark lashes fluttered and B'Elanna opened her eyes hesitantly. She turned her head slightly to focus on the woman squeezing her hand tightly.
"Hi," she began softly, smiling weakly.
The single word brought tears to Seven's eyes but she blinked them back rapidly as she returned the greeting, her voice hoarse with emotion. "I'm sorry B'Elanna."
A look of confusion stole across the dark engineer's face. "What happened?" she asked, glancing back towards the Doctor.
"You suffered another seizure B'Elanna," the EMH supplied. "I don't know why yet. I ran a set of tests while you were sedated but I need to do some comparative analyses while you're conscious. Hopefully, with those results we can work out what's going on and do something about it," he continued softly.
"So I'm stuck in Sick Bay then?" she asked resignedly.
"For the time being, yes," he replied.
B'Elanna turned back to Seven as she felt the pressure on her hand increasing. "Why are you sorry?" she asked the tall blonde, placing her other hand over Seven's.
"If I had not proceeded with this project, you would not be in this predicament," Seven replied brokenly, overwrought.
"Shhhh sweetheart, don't blame yourself," soothed the recumbent engineer. "I told you from the start that I was prepared to do this for you."
"You are injured, B'Elanna," Seven protested. "Perhaps permanently."
"Well let's wait and see on that one. Don't you realise that I would have done this regardless of the risk? I've loved you far longer than since this project began." B'Elanna only realised as the words came out how true they really were. She smiled warmly at Seven.
"I cannot say the same simply because of the inhibitor B'Elanna," replied Seven apologetically. "But if it's any consolation, I can find no adverb to describe the
depth of love I feel for you now. I just hope that we can continue to share and explore those depths," she finished poetically, drawing a tear from B'Elanna's eyes.
"Oh we will, honey, we will," the raven-haired engineer reassured her.
"Touching though this scene is," the Doctor interrupted, "I still have work to do," he explained as two pairs of irritated eyes scorched him.
Seven nodded in understanding. "I need to finish my analysis too," she stated. She squeezed her lover's hands tightly. "I'll only be at the other console," she reassured.
B'Elanna smiled and then frowned as she thought on what had been said. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"No!" Seven and the Doctor replied in unison. B'Elanna pulled a face and was about to protest when she realised that she was outnumbered. She realised that she felt exhausted so settled back and allowed her eyes to close while she listened to the other occupants of Sick Bay bustling around. The Doctor prodded her unceremoniously and she opened one eye irritably.
"I wanted you awake for these tests," the EMH reminded her shortly. Grumbling, B'Elanna adjusted position slightly, knowing that if she stayed in a more uncomfortable position she was less likely to drop off. It also gave her the opportunity to gaze at Seven and for that, she was thankful. Her heart quickened as she watched the tall blonde's graceful movements, the barest trace of a frown furrowing her forehead.
"Not that my opinion ever counted for much, but I think you suit each other perfectly," the Doctor whispered in her ear discretely, making B'Elanna flush to her hairline.
"Thanks Doc, I appreciate it," she smiled back at him.
"As do I," agreed Seven and then quirked her eybrow toward the Doctor, earning a snort of laughter from B'Elanna and an aggrieved grunt from the EMH as he continued with the tests.
"I still can't work out why your monitor failed to warn me that anything was wrong," the Doctor commented conversationally as he worked his console.
"I am trying to ascertain if there is a link between that and Mr Paris' tricorder readings," Seven told him from where she stood.
"Do you think it might have something to do with it getting wet?" asked B'Elanna sheepishly.
"What?" exploded the Doctor in disbelief.
"I took a shower and I didn't want to take the monitor off," explained B'Elanna hurriedly, cringing at the EMH's reaction.
"Well that's got to go down in the Ship's Log," retorted the Doctor sarcastically. "Since when did delicate scientific monitoring equipment like getting wet?"
"Oh come on Doc," protested B'Elanna. "That stuff ought to be impervious to all sorts of nastiness."
"Do not worry B'Elanna, the monitor is functioning correctly," interjected Seven. She looked up sadly at both of her companions. "I'm afraid I have an answer to your predicament," she stated in a dull voice.
The Doctor left B'Elanna and joined Seven at her console, looking at her data quickly. B'Elanna, frightened by Seven's tone did not want to go over there and remained paralysed on the bio-bed. She watched carefully as she saw the EMH look up to glance at her before returning his eyes to the screen. She noted how still Seven stood, waiting for a reaction from the Doctor, her azure eyes darting between him and B'Elanna rapidly.
The Doctor rubbed his face with his hands as he thought about what he'd just read. He then walked back to B'Elanna's bed and looked at her carefully. "It seems that our Borg nanoprobes have a sense of irony," he began.
"Just tell me Doc," instructed B'Elanna, sitting up and pulling her robe tightly round her.
"During your link-up, it would appear the nanoprobes analysed your own neural readings and have somehow tampered with the synaptic pathways. The alterations
trigger a cascade failure of the junctions whenever there is a build up of certain chemicals in your body."
"Which chemicals?" B'Elanna asked, a sense of dread creeping over her.
The Doctor sighed. "I can't be certain without further testing, but adrenaline and noradrenaline seem to be favourites at the moment," the EMH replied. "There may be others," he added.
B'Elanna laughed mirthlessly. "Talk about cripple a Klingon," she remarked. "So what's the prognosis?" she pursued, her pragmatism taking control.
"Again, difficult to tell at this early stage," the Doctor hedged.
B'Elanna flicked her eyes over to where Seven stood, watching the exchange nervously. She smiled at her shyly. "I could use a hug," she suggested softly.
Seven sprang to the dark woman's side and pulled her into a fierce hold.
"Don't stay away from me now Seven," B'Elanna whispered into the distraught woman's hair. "I need your help."
Seven squeezed her tighter, signifying her understanding. "I love you," she whispered back.
Kathryn Janeway pinched the bridge of her nose with her right hand and squeezed her eyes tight as she allowed herself a few moments to process the report the Doctor had delivered. Finally, she looked up at the EMH who sat opposite her in the Briefing Room, absently rotating his data padd on the table. She wondered when the hologram had decided to include fidgeting as part of his programming.
"Let me get this right Doctor," she began, leaning forward onto her elbows. "B'Elanna's neural pathways have been booby-trapped by the nanoprobes so that when she generates excessive neuro-chemicals, the pathways break down and she suffers a seizure, correct?"
The EMH nodded in affirmation, his hands stilling.
"And the chemicals that the nanoprobes have used for a trigger are generated when she's under extreme stress or emotion?" Janeway continued.
"Correct, Captain. Anything from an emergency in Engineering to the throes of passion." The Doctor couldn't resist referring to Seven and B'Elanna's relationship, knowing how much it needled Janeway.
The captain chose to ignore the comment and considered all the aspects of the problem. "Why did the monitor and tricorder show normal readings during these episodes?" she asked, speculating if this could perhaps generate a solution.
"The synapse breakdown is hidden by the forced generation of another chemical. Because of the way we scan for medical information, everything that we expect to see is there, so the problem goes undetected. It's quite alarming to discover that an age old method of examination is intrinsically faulty," the EMH explained. "Seven has gone through all the medical instrumentation and made adjustments so that this sort of thing won't recur."
Janeway tapped her lips with her index finger, an indication of the tension she felt. "So how do we resolve this?" she asked. Her eyes snapped up when the EMH failed to respond. "Doctor?"
"The simple answer is that I don't know yet. The information I have is too patchy to provide exact figures or potential solutions." He fidgeted nervously in his seat, unwilling to continue.
"Go on," Janeway prompted, lowering her voice commandingly.
"Now that we can monitor B'Elanna's condition more effectively, I may have to induce another seizure in order to obtain the data I need to provide a solution," the dark craggy hologram finished, clearly uncomfortable with the idea.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Janeway sat back, the suggestion making her feel decidedly uncomfortable.
"Of course it's dangerous. Every time she has a seizure, the oxygen supply to her brain is reduced, potentially risking hypoxic damage, not to mention the breakdown of her neural pathways," he retorted angrily. "Captain, I am working on ways to solve this, but you need to know that as of this moment, I'm not sure that her condition is curable."
Janeway stared at the EMH for a few moments, considering her options.
"In view of the circumstances, I've decided to relieve her of duty as Chief Engineer," the Captain informed him. "Knowing B'Elanna, that will be all the stimulus she needs to trigger an emotional outburst," she continued grimly.
"I'm not so sure, Captain. From the sketchy information I received from Seven regarding the events leading to this last episode, the term 'extreme' is quite accurate. I suspect that B'Elanna's already considered the possibility of restricted duty. It might not be enough of a trigger," the Doctor disputed.
Janeway hid her emotions well, leaving her face a mask of neutrality as her mind considered exactly what it was that Seven and B'Elanna were doing to prompt a seizure. "What would you suggest then, an artificial increase in adrenaline?"
"Exactly, Captain," the EMH confirmed, impressed with the Captain's grasp of the problem.
"Is she still in Sick Bay?" queried Janeway.
"Yes. Despite Seven's scanning modifications, I'm not willing to take the risk and allow her to leave, not yet anyway. Besides, other than getting 'stir-crazy', there's little chance of her suffering another convulsion while she remains there. I just hope Sick Bay and I can survive her prolonged stay," the Doctor finished sardonically.
"I ought to pay her a visit," Janeway resigned herself.
"It's up to you when you want to visit Captain," the EMH replied, "but at the moment, B'Elanna is exhausted with the after-effects of her seizure and the sedative I administered. When I left to come here, she was sleeping naturally. It might not hurt to wait till morning," he suggested.
Janeway considered his proposal before her mind switched focus slightly. "Where's Seven?"
The Doctor grimaced slightly. "After a lot of persuasion from both B'Elanna and myself, Seven has returned to her alcove to regenerate. I have no idea how long she'll stay there but she needs at least sixteen hours," he explained. "The one consolation out of this situation is that she has no complications post-surgery. Although it is a little early to be certain, I speculate that she will recover completely and live a normal *emotional* life."
The Captain nodded at that. It was the least that Seven deserved and she told the EMH her sentiment.
"I concur, but things are more problematic now that B'Elanna has difficulties," the bald man demurred.
"B'Elanna isn't the only friend Seven has on Voyager," Janeway protested. "There are a number of people she can turn to for assistance adjusting to her new emotions."
"Quite so, but I believe that B'Elanna is the only one she truly trusts her emotions with." The Doctor hurried on as he saw the Captain begin to object. "Seven thinks that she has already harmed B'Elanna and won't want to put her in any further danger by bombarding her with her own emotions." The EMH sat back once he finished.
"All the more reason for her to approach one of her other friends then," Janeway reasoned.
The Doctor resisted sighing but wondered if the Captain was being deliberately obtuse about the subject.
"It looks like I need to pay a number of visits," Janeway continued. She glanced at the chronometer and was startled by the lateness of the hour. "Thank you Doctor," she dismissed the hologram gently. "I'll leave B'Elanna to sleep and Seven to regenerate. I'll visit Sick Bay in the morning. If there is any change though "
"I'll keep you apprised Captain," the EMH finished as he rose.
Janeway reached for her coffee cup and drained the contents, shuddering as she realised how cold the contents had become. She spun her chair round and returned the black and silver cup to the replicator and then left the Briefing Room purposefully and strode towards the turbolift.
Captain Janeway stood and stared at the empty alcoves for a full minute. The children were at Sam Wildman's quarters for the evening, spending time with her, Neelix and Naomi. Seven was noticeable by her absence.
"Computer, locate Seven of Nine," the Captain ordered.
"Seven of Nine is in Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres' quarters," the disembodied voice replied unemotionally.
Janeway frowned and punched out another question, her heart lurching in anticipation of the answer. "Locate B'Elanna Torres."
"B'Elanna Torres is in Sick Bay," the computer replied in a monotone. Janeway allowed herself to breathe again, even as her mind whirled over her next actions and their possible consequences. Resolved, she marched quickly out of Cargo Bay Two and back down the corridor towards the turbolift.
She pressed the door chime and waited a few seconds, astonished at how nervous she felt. When there was no answer, Janeway scanned the corridor quickly, checking for any onlookers, before bending over slightly to punch in an override code. Smartly, she stepped through the doors as they hissed open. A quick glance around the Chief Engineer's quarters revealed little to the Captain. Everything in the living area was tidy. Once the door shut behind her, Janeway called out. "Seven?" Stepping more centrally into the room, she called the Astrometrics Officer's name again.
Seven heard her name called and groaned as she forced her eyes open. Realising where she was and the owner of the voice, she decided that it would not be prudent to walk out of B'Elanna's bedroom without clothing so she grabbed the robe that B'Elanna had discarded by the bed during their love-making and shrugged it over her shoulders. As the lithe blonde tied the black robe carefully round her waist, she caught the smell of the engineer and she paused to savour it. Closing her eyes momentarily, she pressed the material into her face, inhaling deeply.
Tugging the robe round her more tightly, as if it could offer protection in the same way B'Elanna could, Seven padded softly from the engineer's bedroom to greet Janeway.
"Captain," she acknowledged, her tone indicating her surprise at Janeway's presence.
"Sorry to disturb you Seven," Janeway began, her throat dry as she drank in the vision that stood before her. The black robe contrasted starkly with the tall woman's alabaster skin, particularly the V shaped area where the robe crossed over her breasts. It was tied in tight, highlighting the narrow waist and curvaceous hips and the shortness of the garment served to accentuate the length of Seven's legs. The younger woman's golden hair was free from its usual bindings and looked tousled and soft, and her cobalt blue eyes were puffy from sleep, yet undeniably alluring.
"Captain, is something wrong? Has something happened to B'Elanna?" Seven's voice increased in both volume and pitch as she asked the questions.
Janeway put a hand out to still the questions and responded quickly. "No, no, B'Elanna's fine. I just wanted to come and speak with you," she explained. "I think I'll come back another time and let you get back to sleep." Janeway allowed herself a bolt-hole for escape, chastising herself for even coming here.
Before she moved to leave, the older woman decided to appease her curiosity, though an inner voice told her that the answer would be painful to hear. "The Doctor told me you were regenerating. Why are you sleeping in B'Elanna's quarters?"
Seven surprised Janeway by moving to the couch and sitting down, curling her long legs up underneath her and adjusting the short dark robe to cover herself.
"I returned to the Cargo Bay and spent some time with the children before regeneration. Once they were in the care of Ensign Wildman, my emotions 'got the better of me' and I felt the need to be close to B'Elanna." Seven swallowed before continuing, trying to reign in her emotions once again. "I came here as I did not want to disturb B'Elanna in Sick Bay. I found comfort from lying in B'Elanna's bed so I decided to sleep here. It is a less efficient means of regeneration compared to the alcove but I found it preferable." Even as she spoke, Seven realised that it was the second night in a row that she had slept, wondering if it held any significance.
Janeway moved over to the couch and sat at the other end. "I've just had a meeting with the Doctor," she told the ex-drone carefully, keeping an expression of compassion on her face. "B'Elanna's 'condition' may be incurable," she continued, watching the blonde woman's visage intently for any expression of emotion. She was not disappointed.
Seven closed her eyes briefly at the statement as a pained look washed over her. "The Doctor advised me that there may be a problem, but he neglected to mention its severity," she replied, her voice barely louder than a whisper.
Janeway placed her hand on the Borg's leg in a gesture of sympathy. "Seven, the next few days are going to be extremely hard on you. You've just been given access to all your emotions and they are going to make themselves felt, believe me." Janeway squeezed Seven's leg gently as she continued. "Now that B'Elanna is in danger when she is dealing with extreme emotion, you need to search your own feelings about your relationship with her. Is your 'interaction' likely to cause more harm than good whilst she's in this state?" She looked enquiringly at the young drone.
"Kathryn, B'Elanna needs me," protested Seven.
"Are you sure she needs all that intense emotion Seven?" Janeway asked gently. "Can you deal with the idea that your presence might put her in danger?"
Seven looked unblinking at her superior officer as she considered her words.
The Captain continued softly. "I'm here if you need support or you need to talk about anything," she offered.
Seven stared back dolefully. "I feel so helpless Kathryn," she whispered, allowing her eyes to fill with tears.
Instantly, Janeway swept the woman into her arms and hugged her tightly. "Let it go Seven," she advised as she rocked her gently. "Let it go." She felt Seven's shoulders shudder slightly and then heave as the tears came and flooded through the distraught woman.
Seven felt confused and hurt. She was angry with herself for putting B'Elanna in peril but she had no one else who understood her so totally and selflessly. Her self-loathing spiralled downward. She longed to be held by B'Elanna and then berated herself for her selfishness and disregard for the well-being of the woman she loved. These emotions were raw and painful for her and tears wracked through her body. In turmoil, she hung onto the one anchor she had, Kathryn Janeway.
The Captain continued to hug her and stroke her back gently, uttering nonsense words to soothe and reassure the distressed woman. Softly, she stroked the long golden tresses and waited.
Eventually, the tears subsided but Janeway continued to hold her companion, projecting her own strength and love toward the young woman.
To Kathryn, it was only a natural progression to tilt the Borg's chin up slightly so that she could look at her tear-ravaged face. As soon as she set eyes on her visage, Janeway knew that she was no longer in control of her actions and she brushed her lips across the full quivering mouth of Seven of Nine.
The effect was immediate. Seven sprang back and out of the Captain's embrace, leaping off the couch to stand in the centre of the room, her eyes blazing with fury.
"How dare you?" she asked furiously, barely able to articulate. She clenched her fists till she could feel her fingernails biting into her palms and asked again. "How *dare* you play with my emotions like that?" Her rage was making her whole body shake and her words quivered with the ire that burned through her.
Janeway sat back in alarm at the reaction and then realised how foolish she had been. "I'm sorry Seven, I.."
"Get out of here now," screamed the young Borg, her face puce.
The Captain stood up and tried to placate the raging woman. "Seven, truly I am sorry," she started, taking a tentative step toward the trembling woman.
For a moment, Seven was mesmerised by the caress. She felt the gentlest touch on her lips and almost responded to the feather-light contact when her brain registered that it was the captain and not B'Elanna.
The effect was immediate. Seven leapt back and out of the Captain's embrace, springing off the couch to the centre of the room, her eyes blazing with fury.
"How dare you?" she demanded wrathfully, scarcely able to articulate. She clenched her fists untill she could feel her fingernails biting into her palms and asked again. "How *dare* you play with my emotions at this moment?" Her rage was making her whole body shake and her voice quivered with the ire that burned through her.
Janeway sat back in alarm at the reaction and realised how foolish she had been. "I'm sorry Seven, I.."
"Get out of here! NOW!" screamed the younger woman, her words laced with vitriol.
The Captain stood up and tried to placate the raging ex-drone. "Seven, truly I am sorry," she started, holding her hands up and splayed out, taking a tentative step towards the trembling woman.
Seven had managed to get a grip on her anger and now controlled herself with icy calm. "If you do not leave immediately, I will not be responsible for my actions," she told the Captain in a dangerously low voice.
Janeway reacted the only way she knew how, by going on the offensive. "Are you threatening me Seven?" she asked in a similar tone.
"No Captain, I am informing you. I do not make threats," the ex-drone's blue eyes had darkened considerably as she projected the barely contained wrath that was seeping through her every fibre.
Janeway considered her options in a fraction of a second. She could leave and try and sort out this mess once Seven had calmed down, or stay and risk an altercation that could well end up involving Security at the very least or her own death as the worst case scenario. She was in no mood to explain her actions to Tuvok or a member of his team. "I'll go Seven, but I must explain,"
Seven stepped toward the older woman. The movement was the only spur Janeway needed and she retreated hurriedly.
As they hissed together, Seven stared at the doors rigidly for a long moment before allowing her body to react. Her legs buckled and she collapsed onto the floor in the centre of the room, feeling her chest heave as she started to cry again. The hot tears burnt down her cheeks whilst she fumed at the Captain's treatment of her and her feelings. They continued to fall, as she understood that the only person she wanted to talk to about this was lying in Sick Bay, stymied from helping by her current condition.
Hugging her knees close, she rolled into a foetal position as her body continued to shudder. Her throat felt raw and she had difficulty controlling her breathing, at the mercy of her wracking sobs.
Eventually, the crying subsided and slowly, Seven managed to draw more even breaths, punctuated occasionally by sharp staccato intakes as her emotions stubbornly refused to calm completely. She felt physically exhausted and was reluctant to move from her spot in the centre of B'Elanna's quarters.
At last, the hard floor bothered her enough to encourage her to sit up. Seven pulled the thick black robe protectively around her and wiped her face on a sleeve before she struggled to her feet and retreated to B'Elanna's bedroom. Once there, the young woman wrapped herself into the sheets and curled in the middle of the bed, lying there unblinking for a short while the sensation of the Captain's lips played through her again and again. Finally her eyelids flickered shut and Seven succumbed to sleep, her last cognisant thought a hope for a dreamless slumber.
B'Elanna recognised the beeps and chirps she could hear as an integral part of Sick Bay. She opened one eye sleepily and then elongated her body, pulling her arms as high above her head as possible as she simultaneously pointed her toes, revelling in the sensations the stretch stimulated even as she registered mild discomfort from her aching body. Recoiling with a satisfied grunt, B'Elanna sat up and surveyed the area. A quick perusal informed her that she was alone in Sick Bay before her stomachs notified her that there was a pressing need to get food.
Scratching her head roughly, she swung her legs round and vaulted off the bed, wincing slightly as her joints protested at the sudden movement. Her whole body ached and felt heavy. 'Probably an after-effect from the seizure,' she surmised.
She padded over to the replicator and considered her options for breakfast. Settling on an old favourite, she picked up the plate of banana pancakes and steaming mug of tea and made her way over to one of the medical consoles. Making herself comfortable on one of the stools, B'Elanna idly flicked through the data displayed on the monitors as she tucked in deciding to finish her breakfast in peace before activating the EMH.
The engineer raised her eyes hopefully towards the doors as they hissed open. Hiding her disappointment well, she hailed her visitor. "Morning Captain."
The Captain turned and adjusted her trajectory to approach B'Elanna, smiling cautiously. "Good morning. I take it you slept well?" she asked, nervously wondering if Seven had contacted B'Elanna during the night. She had checked the computer for Seven's movements and breathed a sigh of relief to discover that she had remained in the Chief Engineer's quarters all night, but there was no guarantee that they hadn't used the comm system.
B'Elanna finished her mouthful before answering. "Dead to the world, but I ache today. I'm not convinced those bio-beds are the best place to get rest you know." She grinned as she stabbed another morsel of food.
"I know what you're angling at Lieutenant. It's down to the Doctor to relieve you from Sick Bay I'm not going to overrule him," Janeway returned, relaxing as she realised that B'Elanna was unaware of last night's events.
As if on cue, the EMH materialised. "You're awake," he stated, staring at B'Elanna.
"I hope so Doc, otherwise this is the most vivid dream I've had since the Enarans were on board," the Klingon replied, her voice slightly muffled by her mouth's contents. She pulled a face as the EMH waved a tricorder around her but refrained from commenting.
"B'Elanna, I had to make a difficult decision once the Doctor told me about your condition," Janeway leaned into the console as she spoke to the engineer. "I have to relieve you of your position as Chief Engineer."
"Captain," B'Elanna protested, her voice more a growl.
Janeway held up a hand to stem the protest. "You know the reasons why. I can't allow you to continually endanger your life and the stress of being in charge during an emergency in Engineering could kill you."
"Captain, even if I'm not in charge, I'm going to feel those emotions," B'Elanna retorted. "Probably even more so as I won't have the authority to act," she continued reasonably.
"If that's the case then I may have to consider relieving you from duty altogether," rejoined the Captain.
"Unfortunately, I concur Captain," interjected the Doctor to the half-Klingon's horror. "Even on the side-lines, B'Elanna is likely to experience extreme stress should a situation arise."
B'Elanna stared at the Captain sullenly, wanting to voice the hundreds of objections she had to this course of action, yet realising that both Janeway and the Doctor were right. She discovered to her own surprise that it was not quite the shock it could have been, somewhere in her sub-conscious, she must have come to a similar conclusion.
"It's a moot point anyway," the EMH continued, uncomfortable with the silence that had lengthened. "I cannot return you to duty yet, in any position. Hopefully, I can find an answer to this problem before the Captain has to assign you a new role."
"You're owed more leave than any other crew member, including me," remarked Janeway dryly. "Consider your absence as time off and get some R and R," she suggested.
B'Elanna's face gave enough indication to how she felt about *that* idea. "Yeah, I've always wanted to take a vacation in Sick Bay."
The Doctor's eyebrows shot up in horror and then realised that the engineer thought that she was still confined. "I'm going to release you from Sick Bay today. The adjustments Seven made to the medical monitoring equipment seems to be adequate. I need to run a series of diagnostics this morning and then you're free to go. Just don't get the cortical monitor wet this time," he told her. B'Elanna nodded as she rubbed the back of her neck absently, a dread feeling creeping over her at what to do with all the free time that had just been dumped on her.
"Doctor, I'd like a private word with B'Elanna," Janeway told the EMH. He looked slightly affronted that he was not to be included in all communiqués but he retreated back to his office, grabbing some diagnostic tools on the way so he could continue his work.
Janeway sighed before looking at B'Elanna. Her action raised suspicion in the raven-haired hybrid. The Captain rarely hesitated before broaching subjects. "What's the problem Captain?" she prompted.
"I need you to consider your 'relationship' with Seven," Janeway began.
"That is none of your damned business," reacted B'Elanna instantly, bristling at the intrusion into her private life.
"It is when your life could be in danger," retorted the Captain coldly. "Now listen while I explain my interference," she continued before the smaller woman could interrupt again. "You both have feelings for each other, that much is obvious. I'm asking you to consider how those emotions could affect you *and* Seven."
Janeway sighed once more before carrying on. "It's well documented now what happens to you when your body has to deal with extreme emotional stress. Seven is new to her feelings. She has only just experienced the true intensity of them. Imagine what she'll go through if she feels responsible for harming you when you're together."
B'Elanna closed her eyes at the thought. She had only considered the situation from her own perspective. She was quite willing to continue to build their relationship, despite the personal risk, but it was quite another matter to hurt Seven by putting her in an untenable position. She opened her eyes again and watched as the Captain moved away from her, hands on hips, obviously contemplating something.
Janeway turned and brought one hand up to hold her chin, looking steadily at the engineer for a long moment, her face troubled.
"This is *difficult* to put into the right words," she began.
B'Elanna's breathing quickened and she felt her stomachs lurch. "Go on," she encouraged.
"I went to see Seven last night, to see how she was coping," Janeway started and then paused once more, her eyes darting around the room to focus on something other than the half-Klingon. "B'Elanna there is no easy way to say this," she hedged once more, stepping forward slightly and gesturing with the hand that had previously held her chin.
"Captain, if there's no easy way just tell it as it is," B'Elanna demanded, feeling an icy tingling rise up her back.
Janeway took a deep breath and halted in front of B'Elanna once more. "Seven kissed me last night," she told her gently.
"She did what?!" exploded the dark engineer.
The Captain backed away, holding up a hand placatingly. "We were talking about emotions and about how the procedure had affected her. She wanted to explore her feelings more thoroughly. I sat next to her on the couch and gave her a hug when she told me she felt so miserable about hurting you when the next thing I knew she "
"Enough," interrupted B'Elanna, her voice low and almost too controlled. She looked at her hands, fascinated by the taut white skin over her knuckles. She noted that the fork she had been holding had been bent completely in half she hadn't even realised that she had clenched her fists. Suddenly, a thought struck her. "Captain, there aren't any couches in Cargo Bay Two."
Janeway blinked at the statement, the only indication of emotion to flit across her face. "I found Seven in your quarters," she answered honestly.
B'Elanna dropped the misshapen fork and held her head in her hands; confused by the information she had just been given. Something wasn't right about the whole situation and she wasn't about to make her usual mistake of jumping to assumptions and possibly ruin the most important relationship she had ever had without getting all the facts. She raised her head and looked at the Captain steadily. "I need to talk to Seven about this. I have to find out why she did what she did."
Janeway was taken aback. It was not the reaction she was hoping for. If B'Elanna went calmly in to see Seven, things might get a whole lot more complicated. "Are you sure approaching Seven now would be a good idea, given the current circumstances?"
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes in confusion.
"You could trigger another seizure if tempers flare," the Captain explained bluntly.
"Then lets hope we sort things out amicably then," returned the half-Klingon as she moved to leave Sick Bay.
"Not so fast, Lieutenant," the Doctor called from his office. "I haven't finished yet," he qualified as B'Elanna ground her teeth in frustration and headed towards him. "Besides," he continued, "I'm sure you'd rather leave Sick Bay in your uniform as opposed to an examination robe."
"Let the Doctor complete his tests and then do what you have to do," Janeway told the frustrated woman. "I'll leave you in peace, but please consider what I've said." Janeway put a hand on Torres' shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze before turning and exiting Sick Bay. If she was quick, she would have enough time to smooth things over with Seven and perhaps even turn the screw a bit further.
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