By Elizabeth Carter
Seven ordered a geo-synchronous orbit around the M-class planet whilst they made preparations for a surface landing. Landing on the planet would give them an opportunity not only to restock on consumables but to repair the outer hull and other various jobs that called for dry-dock. Without a spaceport this was the only other alternative Voyager had open.
Seventeen hours and still Kes, Paris and the EMH had nothing to show for their efforts. The residue between the synapses caused by the dargol narcotic was still aggressively asserting itself. A week before the medical team believed that it was distinctly possible that their old memories were intact, just not accessible. Now they weren't so sure. The obstructions in the temporal lobes and hippocampus sections of the brain would not yield to any treatment they generated.
Janeway and Seven were unable to restore the ships and personal logs. Although the neuroelectric field Seven had created to heal both organic and inorganic ship components had regenerated damaged areas within the Library Computer Access and Retrieval System (LCARS); computer core and the gel-packs, it wouldn't work on the lost logs.
Here in the computer core both Captain and commander worked at a furious place trying to restore the ship back to its original parameters. Fingers danced over consoles., panels lay open at nearly every station as the two manipulated and bypassed isolated hardrives so they could access the back-up memory banks.
"The logs are not present in the core." Seven announced withdrawing the tubules of her left hand she had planted directly into the computer's motherboard. "It stands to reason our adversary destroyed those records and the backup systems that contain those particular records."
"So we can't restore them, and discover who and what we are. If they no longer exist we cannot restore our sense of being. We are more vulnerable." Janeway concluded. "Captain you might have adapted to not having memories but there are many who do not have that luxury..."
"Commander, do not make the mistake of assuming that because I have adapted I am comfortable with not knowing my past. I cannot afford to dwell on my personal problems when I have hundred and fifty souls that rely on me. If they see I am strong it may give them hope. And however false, it is still hope."
"Captain, may I offer you bit of advice?" Seven nodded for the red-head to continue. "If the crew sees that you are a little affected by all of this you are as they are, on the same boat."
For a moment Seven had an urge to point out that she was indeed on the same ship as the crew. "The same boat? Clarify."
"That you are as affected as they are."
"They know that I am, and they see that I am not going to be controlled by the affliction. They must see that I intend on going on with my life not dwelling on something I cannot repair such as the destroyed personal and computer historical logs. Our ship will soon be repaired, our stores will be fully stocked. And with my cybernetic capabilities I will assist the medical division in their pursuit of the cure for the amnesia."
The younger woman nodded. "Yes, if the nanoprobes can repair and recover the EPS system back to acceptable functional parameters as well as several secondary conduits and the primary conduits when they were ruptured, then it stands to reason those same nanoprobes can be utilized to repair the hippocampus sections of the brain."
"You hope." Janeway added with a little tension in her voice.
"We all hope." Seven took a spanner in hand and got down on all fours so she could crawl under one of the consoles. It was then that her combadge chirped.
'Kes to Captain Seven.'
"Seven here. Speak"
'Captain, Paris and Tuvok completed the medical scans through the portable CODIS. There are negative results for scans and biological and anthropological tests for both the Changelings, and Species 8472. We modified the medical tricorders to isolate the biological signatures of the metamorphing species. We have nothing definitive to reverse the damage caused by the microorganismic dust and any other contaminants. All tests we ran with the curative compound we created had an adverse effect on the tissue samples. Even the point three solution we're using would send any subject into epileptic like seizures and leave them in a state similar to a stroke victim.'
'That is not an option, Kes." Seven answered.
'Of course not. We're all still working on it, Captain. We won't give up.'
"If you need my assistance give the word. Seven out." The young woman turned back to the first officer. "All that can be done here, has been done concerning the missing logs, we must divert all personal power to the repair of this vessel."
Janeway just stared at her commanding officer. "You are just going to give up?"
"It is inefficient to waste time on the irrelevant."
"Irrelevant!" Janeway moved from the station she had been repairing to face the younger woman. "You're saying finding out who we are is irrelevant."
"No. Do not try to interpret words that have been spoke plainly, 'Commander' It is irrelevant to repair something that is not there. I will put out a ship wide order that all hand written personal logs, journals and diaries be surrendered, as well as any unaffected Data PADDs that might have survived the EM virus that struck the networked computers."
"Don't beat a dead horse." Janeway relented. "I get that."
Seven frowned at the cliché, she couldn't come up with a motive why she would ever wish to abuse a deceased equine. "What would such an activity achieve?"
"Are you sure you're not a Vulcan?" Janeway mused "You've got their sense of humor."
"Vulcans do not appreciated humor," Seven pointed out.
Kathryn opened her mouth to explain but what was the point, it would be exactly like trying to expound upon a punch-line to Tuvok. Pointless. "Right then, back to work it is."
B'Elanna had heard the orders given by her lover and captain, that any and all hand written personal logs would be surrendered over to the captain so that any identifications might be gleaned. The order of course was strictly voluntary. If anyone wished to relinquish any information it was also on a voluntary basis.
To her disappointment B'Elanna found nothing of a personal nature she kept on a hand written document, all of it had been on a Data PADD that was unfortunate enough to have been corrupted.
Her only source of personal information came from her youngest and first born daughter. The other children, it had been logically deduced, were adopted, this was supported by Miral. Because the children were such a recent addition to the crew, both B'Elanna and Seven deduced their true quarters were the larger VIP quarters on the ship. With three rooms, one was given to the twins, one to the girls, Miral and Mizoti. Icheb lived not with his parents but the younger Vulcan male Vorik, as both were deemed to be ensigns.
Seven seemed to have few personal effects, but then again what B'Elanna had were equally few. A Bat'lath and d'k tahg, a purple plush targ, which carried Miral's and Seven's scent upon it as well as B'Elanna's own. Closing her eyes, B'Elanna drew in the deep scent of her daughter and wife from it. A scent she found extraordinarily appealing.
"The scent of you burns in my memory, Bang'Wi." Closing her eyes, B'Elanna drew upon the scent and the drifting memories that floated into her mind. Memories of trying to what - what was it? Voices in her mind echoed loudly, until they were almost crystal clear even if the images they brought with them were out of context.
"So, how's the newest addition to our family?" It was Red speaking with the EMH about Seven. B'Elanna tried to remember why it was so important. Why was Red speaking about Seven in such away"
"At the moment she's stable, but the prognosis isn't clear. Her human physiology has begun to reassert itself. Respiratory system, neurological functions, immune response... But those systems are swarming with Borg implants There's a battle being waged inside her body, between the biological and the technological, and I'm not sure which is going to win."
"Well, it's time we brought her up to date. Wake her."
The EMH nodded as he punched in the commands in the com-panel of the alcove, severing the Borg from her regeneration.
B'Elanna recalled the moment, watching as the holographic doctor did as Janeway ordered. What burned most in her heart, in her mind was the fear in Seven's young voice. But she didn't look as she did now, with locks of gold and shimmering blue eyes, but was encased in some sort of exoskeleton. She had no hair, and only one eye, the other had a protruding implant.
"What have you... The others, I can't hear the others. The voices are gone." There was intense fear in the voice, fear that B'Elanna wanted to take away.
"We had to neutralize the neuro-transceiver in your upper spinal column. Your link to the collective has been severed." Red related coldly as if she were the soulless EMH.
"You will return this drone to the Borg." The fear became a demand. An order.
"I'm afraid I can't do that" Janeway said callously.
"You will return this drone to the Borg!"
"If I were to turn this ship around and head back into Borg territory I'd be putting my crew at risk. I'm not prepared to do that. Try to understand, you have to stay on board Voyager. But I'm offering you freedom from the Collective, and I assure you we will do everything we can to help the transition."
'You have to "stay" aboard Voyager?' B'Elanna scoffed, 'Who in the hell put you in charge of her destiny? Just like the Federation enforcing their view on everyone. And when you don't turn out like fracking carbon copies they scold you, put you the brig and lecture you until you wish you had a disrupter to disintegrate your brains.' B'Elanna rolled her eyes. 'Offer her freedom in the face of a pleasant prison, just like you did with the Maquis. Self-righteous Starfleet P'Cha.'
"You will supply us with a subspace transmitter and leave us on the nearest planet. The Borg will come for us." Seven demanded.
"It's too late for that. Your human cells are starting to regenerate. You won't survive without medical care." Red seem to think her words were enough to sway the young Borg-warrior.
"We need nothing from you. We are Borg. We are - ah!" Seven screamed holding her head. Torres not Janeway was the first to react. She hoisted Seven onto the bed.
"This implant is being rejected by the tissue underneath. It's going to have to be removed." The EMH announced as he ran a scanner over the dying drone's body. Torres waited, if any of her skills could be used she would gladly submit them.
"You will suppress the human immune system!" the fear had edged back into Seven's voice. B'Elanna hated to admit that the fear Seven was experiencing leached over into her own spirit making the Klingon more concerned for the stranger than she might have been for another Maquis.
More memories, more words disjointed and out of phase from the conversations in which they belonged. And yet the words burrowed within B'Elanna's hearts.
"So this is human freedom." Seven's voice dripped with cold sarcasm as she paced the confines of the brig she had been forced into by Tuvok.
For her part, B'Elanna felt a little shame. It was the duty of every warrior to escape or die trying, and that was what the ex-Drone was attempting to do when she used a conduit in the Jeffries tube to contact the Borg. All Seven had done was what B'Elanna herself had done when a prisoner in both a Cardassian concentration camp and a Federation prison. She used all her skills to escape.
Now Seven sat in the brig, half bastardised in her Borg armor because Janeway severed her link and commanded the EMH to restore her to her former human self and all without Seven's consent.
Janeway crossed her arms, as she stood before Seven of Nine as if she were scolding a petulant child. "I've decided to keep you in the brig until I'm certain you won't try to harm us again. If necessary the Doctor can treat you here. I honestly believed you were going to help us."
"You were not deceived, Captain Janeway. It was my intention to help you." Seven said honestly. And B'Elanna believed her. Sometimes the best intentions are fraught with opportunities one cannot pass. The Klingon in B'Elanna respected Seven for the attempt to escape.
"What happened?" Janeway was puzzled why anyone would act in such a way as Seven had done.
'Why do you ask? You are Starfleet, not Maquis. You think destroying the Caretaker to take care of the Ocampan will make up for the atrocities the Federation has made by ignoring the pleas of those under the tyranny of Cardassians.
"There was a chance to contact the Collective. I took advantage of it. Your attempt to assimilate this drone will fail. You can alter our physiology but you cannot change our nature. We will betray you. We are Borg." Seven refused to be brainwashed into becoming the good little Starfleet soldier
"I've met Borg who were freed from the collective. It wasn't easy for them to accept their individuality, but in time they did. You're no different. Granted, you were assimilated at a very young age, and your transition may be more difficult, but it will happen."
'Gods always thinking everyone wants to be just like you. That you can just waltz in and change everyone into your image. All this woman has ever known since she was a child was the Borg and poof as if you could flip a switch and she wants to be human. Just like you still expect all of us to fall in line and be Starfleet. I am Maquis! I am Klingon! She is Borg she will always be Borg.'
B'Elanna's rants went unheard by the captain and captive.
"If it does happen, we will become fully human?" Seven said in a voice that revealed just how unsure she was about everything.
"Yes, I hope so." Janeway smiled in such away the Klingon gritted her teeth not to smack it off the older woman's face. Had she been serving in the Defense Force she might have grounds to challenge Janeway.
"We will be autonomous, independent." Seven continued to use the Borg" collective "we".
"That's what individuality is all about." Janeway explained slowly.
"If at that time we choose to return to the Collective, will you permit it?" there was now hope in the voice where none was heard before.
"I don't think you'll want to do that." Red shook her head, denying Seven's needs in lieu of the picture she was painting of being the glorious one who restored a lost girl to humanity.
"You would deny us the choice as you deny us now. You have imprisoned us in the name of humanity yet you will not grant us your most cherished human right. To choose our own fate. You are hypocritical, manipulative. We do not want to be what you are! Return us to the Collective!"
'You go girl!' B'Elanna silently cheered, and then her expression fell. 'Kah'less! That is exactly what we are doing. WE snatched her from the Collective, turned her into a human without her permission, without regard to what she wanted, and forcing her to adapt as a human, and even going as far as to tell her what she wants. No not We...HER! She's doing this!
"You lost the capacity to make a rational choice the moment you were assimilated." Janeway's voice took on the edge of command. "They took that from you, and until I'm convinced you've gotten it back I'm making the choice for you. You're staying here."
'What the frack is that! SHE'S MAKING THE CHOICE?' B'Elanna's mind screamed.
"Then you are no different to the Borg." Seven spat.
'No fracking shit she is! "I'm making the choice." Do you even hear yourself?' B'Elanna wanted to shout out. She crossed her arms defiantly in front of her, her face scowling as she watched Janeway dictate to the younger woman her life and what she would become without any regard to what Seven wanted, or needed.
B'Elanna tried to focus on the here and now, but rushes of images, of echoed voices of the past took siege of her will, and she was forced to view a slide show she wasn't prepared to see. Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like. This is exactly what had happened to Seven of Nine. Janeway brought her the promise of humanity even though Seven never asked for it and didn't always like it. It was Fate that time and again, B'Elanna would find herself working along side the amazonian blonde.
And once more Torres found herself spiraling into half recalled memories.
"Tell me something." B'Elanna turned to the blonde "When you hear about people like the Caatati, do you have any feelings of remorse?" There was an edge to her voice but not as condemning as a human might have thought it sounded.
"No." Seven answered almost disinterested.
"That's it? Just no?" Torres couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"What further answer do you require?"
"Well maybe some kind of acknowledgment of the billions of lives you helped destroy. A justification for what you did. Maybe a little sense of guilt." B'Elanna now demanded, almost pissed that Seven could so easily dismiss such dishonorable conduct by her people. The Borg.
"Guilt is irrelevant." Seven said evenly.
"I've set the parameters for the tachyon bursts we'll need to create a transwarp conduit. It will be several hours before the main deflector can be modified. I think it would be best if I waited in my alcove. "
"I think you're right."
Of course the matter wouldn't rest with the Klingon. She wanted to understand this Borg warrior, one she felt was her only equal not only as a potential mate but as an engineer. How could Seven so easily dismiss people like the Caatati, and not have feelings of remorse
"I need to know," Torres said as a way of greeting when Seven stepped from her alcove. "Its pretty easy for me to jump to conclusions that you are cold and heartless. But I don't think you're as unaffected as you pretend. So why is guilt irrelevant?"
"The Borg have deemed emotions as irrelevant." Seven said simply.
"Like Vulcans. Okay I get that but even the Vulcans can feel remorse over their actions."
"It is no different than what Voyager's crew have done to me, yourself included Lieutenant. Do you have remorse for forcing a life upon me I did not choose?"
"Aw...." 'She's got me on that one. "Yes okay I do. But I want to understand how you can not feel."
"The Borg use emotional inhibitors in all drones, only the Queen is exempt as she is the All, the One who is Many."
"Emotional inhibitors, so you have no choice but 'not' to feel! You can't express any emotion? You broke down and - what happened in the brig was one hell of a show of emotion.
"Yes. and the inhibitor went into action and started the process in deactivating me as I was defective."
"Emotions are not defective."
"Why then do the Vulcans not show them regardless of the fact they do posses them?"
"They worship logic."
"I would surmise as do the Borg."
"What about removing the inhibitor? Would you like to feel?"
"I can feel some emotions, Lieutenant. But if they expand beyond an acceptable level, this drone's body will experience a 120vpcc in order to reestablish order in the chaos "
"Wait! You are zapped with 120 volts of electrisicty?"
"How can you withstand that?"
"I cannot in my present state."
"The armor, the exoskeleton would have absorbed most of it and at most you would have been rendered unconscious."
"Yes, then replaced in an alcove to be re-assimilated into the Collective. The damaged sections of the brain will be restored to acceptable parameters."
"Sev, as much as I respect your individuality as well as a Borg - but that isn't right. You need to choose whether or not you want to display emotions. Vulcans make that choice. That's the difference between the Borg and them You should be given the choice, Seven. Besides you might like how they er, feel."
"I will consider your recommendation." Seven said. "There is much logic to what you say. I like the idea of having a choice. Whether or not I feel an emotion would be the first true choice I have made since being forced to stay."
"You don't want to stay?"
"No. But that option is not open to me. Therefore what I want is irrelevant."
"To tell you the truth Sev, I feel the same way. If I could change things - I would. I would have the Maquis in charge verse Starfleet. Janeway has proven to be a good leader but at times I feel myself rebelling against her because it goes against everything thing that is me."
Feeling. or the dire need to feel something had forced B'Elanna's Klingon side to run head long into anything that would make her feel. She took extreme risks or rather extreme from a human's point of view to feel anything when the news of the lost Maquis had been delivered.
"I was not aware that protective attire was required for this mission." Seven commented as she took in the clothing her dearest friend was wearing.
"I was on the holodeck, orbital skydiving." B'Elanna explained.
"Leaping from a spacecraft at exospheric altitudes, a curious form of recreation." There was a slight smile from the blonde's lips. One only B'Elanna would see. There was no reproach in her friend's words as there would have been from any other human. Of all souls aboard Voyager Seven was the best to understand the Klingon nature and fully accept it at face value. It was a trait for which B'Elanna was ingratiated to the blonde.
"The probe is ready for launch, however there is still a problem with the telemetry link. Lieutenant is something wrong?" Seven only called her by rank when on duty.
"Actually, I'm not feeling so well. Can you handle the launch without me?"
"You are putting me in charge." Seven could not trust the words she had heard. Despite the nature of their friendship, they still had rows about procedure in Engineering. Seven was so programmed as a Borg she did things without asking. B'Elanna had to remind herself over and over, that Seven was acting as any drone would and there was twenty years of habit to break. That fact alone helped B'Elanna's rational side prevail, when the Klingon would have seriously rampaged.
"No. Just unexpected. Shall I inform the Doctor you are ill?" There was heavy concern in her voice.
"No, don't." B'Elanna reached out and touched the arm of the woman her soul demanded she take as her own. "I need personal time, Seven I'm not a hundred percent. And I don't want the doctor. You know better than anyone what a fuss he will make out of nothing. Besides a warrior doesn't go crying to sickbay over something that will pass."
Seven cocked her head to the side. "You never take time for an illness B'Elanna. The Doctor has on every occasion needed to sedate you to make you comply with medical intervention."
"He's turning you into a hypochondriac. I just need down time. Would you just comply and take over?"
The images blurred one into the other, one memory after another. One emotion after another. Seven had complied and had undergone the surgery to remove the emotional inhibitor. Having that one understanding of why Seven was so removed, that she seemed to be an Ice Princess, changed everything in how Torres related to her.
B'Elanna chuckled to herself thinking that all female Vulcans would have to be called Ice Princess, if the Klingon wanted to be fair about it for all their show of emotions. It took Seven a year to comply with the idea of the surgery and only under B'Elanna's capable and trusted hands. Even before the surgery the Klingon understood Seven better. Understood the feeling of not being able to fit into either one side of herself or the other. Seven was both Borg and human and neither. Just as B'Elanna was Klingon and human. that too B'Elanna understood. To the outside eye their teasing might seem cruel, but it was a game between them. One Torres never took too far. Slashed and butchered memories demanded attention.
So many memories, all bottled upall tumbling out in a chaotic jumble that was sure to make the Borg flee for distance parts of the galaxy. Chaos strong enough for B'Elanna to cry out, for the migraine that seized her and paralyzed her.
"Take a look at this, will you? I'm picking up an energy signal in the lower subspace bands, and if I'm not mistaken it's got a Borg modulation." Intrigued, the petite engineer pointed to the scans she had been pouring over in the Astrometrics lab.
"You're correct. It is Borg. I believe it's a neural interlink frequency." Seven nodded.
"A what?" That wasn't something she was familiar with. Since Seven's arrival on Voyager, B'Elanna had poured over the logs from the 'Raven' left by the Hansens. She was confident she was after Seven the foremost expert on the Borg and the technology the adapted into the Collective.
"A frequency that integrates the minds of Borg drones." Seven said matter-of-factly. "It is called a vinculum."
"Can you pinpoint the origin?"
"I will try."
This was important but B'Elanna did not understand why. It teased her mind and threatened to run if she got to close. And yet
"No offence, Seven, but you look terrible." Torres' brows drew up in a worried expression. Seven never looked this haggard and weary.
"I am not well. I experienced a brief lapse in memory and I am disoriented." Seven admitted almost shamefully.
"Maybe you should get to Sickbay." B'Elanna's hand went to the small of the blonde's back ready to escort her if needs be.
"No." Seven shook her head. She felt safer, more comfortable in the company of B'Elanna. This interlink frequency could explain my Do'Raq Merash!"
"I beg your pardon?" Torres couldn't have heard what she heard from Seven.
"I am the son of K'vok! And you, what House are you from?"
"Is this some kind of a joke?" B'Elanna stared. How she wanted Seven to posture for her, but not like this. What was Seven playing at? And what in Kah'less was the deal with 'son of K'vok'?
"You wear the uniform of a Starfleet P'Cha! What kind of a warrior are you?"
"Paris put you up to this, didn't he? Trying a new brand of humor? Well, it didn't work. You want me Seven - do it fracking right!"
"Come, warrior, let me look at you." Seven growled as any would-be suitor would, just before he started to spout poetry and ducking.
"Enough, Seven!" B'Elanna snapped. "I'm not playing this game." With all her might she shoved Seven until the blonde toppled near a console, this only made the Borg grin.
"You will make an excellent mate!' Seven rushed the smaller woman, grappling her into a Borg-strength enforced hold. Before B'Elanna could react Seven had bitten B'Elanna on the cheek "Your blood is sweet!
Her hearts swelled with fire and want. "Not like this Seven. Never like this."
"The memory of you sings in my blood." Seven proclaimed.
B'Elanna's first reaction was to call security, but she thought for a moment her friend had meant the words, but it wasn't her, it had been the vinculum. Carey had called security fearing the Borg had gone mad and was trying to assimilate the Chief.
She had, but not in the way in which the lieutenant had believed. B'Elanna was more than willing to become Seven's mate, but not the Son of K'vok. She needed to know if the desires Seven revealed that day were from the old warrior or from Seven's own heart only manifesting in its only outlet
B'Elanna had repaired the bite mark in her cheek. If Seven was going to claim her, then it would be Seven biting not an outside influence. By the time the Holographic physician had managed to help Seven gain some semblance of control B'Elanna was well into her diagnostic of the vinculum.
"The voices. I hear them." Seven's voice took an edge of nervousness B'Elanna had not heard since that first day Janeway ripped her from the Borg.
"It's your proximity to the vinculum. The link is stronger here. I'm adjusting your neurotransmitter levels. You'd better get started." the EMH sounded bland and prosaic
B'Elanna watched as Seven neared her, a little hypertensive but she couldn't help her initial reaction.. Seven has awoken the fire within her and B'Elanna struggled to control her own desire to slam the blonde against the wall and proclaim her own libidinous wants.
"Don't worry, Lieutenant. The Son of K'vok will not be joining us." Seven tried to lift the tension with her own brand of joviality.
"Glad to hear it. Does this qualify as our second date?"
Seven smirked. "I'm not objecting to the idea."
"Just think of me as your chaperone." The EMH said glibly.
"So, where's the off switch?" Torres said making her statement a little ambiguous as she referred both to the vinculum and the self-proclaimed chaperone.
"The vinculum is equipped with many safeguards. I will need to access its transneural matrix and disable it directly." Seven said. She approached the capsule ready to insert the tubules of her left hand.
"I'm reading a power surge." B'Elanna didn't like the idea of her Seven plugging herself into the device. It was bad enough the damn thing was controlling the woman she loved.
"It's a normal response to my intrusion. Don't be alarmed. Curious. I'm detecting an organism within the vinculum. It appears to be a viral agent." Seven said trying to disarm B'Elanna's worry.
The Doctor jumped into action taking readings with his medical tricorder. "Let's see it. It's a synthetic pathogen. The virus was originally a biological agent but it's mutated. It's attacking the vinculum's programs as it would living cells."
That stymied B'Elanna. "An organism that attacks technology?"
"The cube was infected three days ago, shortly after assimilating an alien shuttle craft. Species 6339. They were the last ones to come in contact with the cube." Seven answered.
"Looks like we found our Typhoid Mary."
"Good now get to work on the vaccine Doc, this falls into your purview of expertise. you spout out you know over three million medical techniques, then I suggest you start accessing those files because she can't take this for much longer." B'Elanna ordered. Her dark brown eyes giving what comfort she could to her friend.
More flashes of surging memories, of words spoken and the depths of emotion those words brought with them... Seven had nearly died then. But with the help of B'Elanna herself, Tuvok, Kes and the EMH they had restored Seven to herself.
But not everything had gone back the way it had been. The vinculum had been responsible for bridging the gap between friend and lover. The incident in Engineering had forced B'Elanna to recognize what her hearts knew all along. She and Seven were a good match, that she loved Seven more than mere friendship. Her hearts had already claimed Seven as her mate, if only her mind would accept it.
B'Elanna held Seven's hand all during the mind-meld, her heart broke a little more at every painful scream Seven uttered, every plea for the pain, the confusion to end. It had and with its end a new relationship had started
Long-fingered, hands, gently stroked back her disarrayed auburn hair from her ethereal face with love. That silken voice whispered understanding reassurances in a steadying rhythm of comfort. "It's all right, B'Elanna. Your wa'hom is simply in a hurry to be with you. We'll be able to help her along her way here. All that matters is that you both are safe." Then, with a truly penitent, downcast glance, she offered, "If there is blame to place, it is mine to accept. I urged us to go on this away-mission."
Another contraction swept over B'Elanna even as her friend held her in her embrace. She pulled her close, lifted her arms around her neck, trying to draw her past her distress. "Don't be afraid, B'Elanna." Seven's eyes caressed hers, sought to will her strength, "you are not alone."
The relief, even in the midst of her pain, was undeniable, as B'Elanna drew her trembling hand over the majestic, concerned features of the woman holding her with so much sweetness.
"I would have done anything to be here for you," came the quiet reply that was unshakable in its commitment.
For a long, trembling instant, B'Elanna was totally overwhelmed by the strengthening power of the natural forces within her weary and spent body. The chocolate eyes darkened with undeniable pain and anxiety, but then, somehow, she managed to give herself over to the soothing sound of her friend's voice, the comfort of her touch, and the trembling left her. Seven gently eased her back down to the floor of the Delta Flyer, kissed the hand that rested in hers and set it softly back onto her belly.
"B'Elanna your contractions are now two, three minutes apart."
"They've gotten longer, too." B'Elanna tried to joke, though couldn't help the anxiety seeping into her words. "They've been intense all along."
"Then we'll simply have to bring this wa'hom into the world right here," came the matter-of-fact conclusion.
B'Elanna marveled inwardly at a presence that could take into consideration Seven took in her friend's modesty at such a chaotic moment, when she herself felt no such need for modesty. The part of herself that still was overwhelmed by the unreality of it all caused the Klingon to find some evidence that all this was indeed happening where it was happening, how it was happening, Along with the fact that she herself had been thrust by Fate into the midst of it, yet, if the Klingon required some proof of the beyond reality of it all, she was offered nothing less than a purely beautiful cherished soul's friend, bent over her in tender, solicitous care.
Seven slid the folds of B'Elanna's heavy Maquis leather jacket from off the back of the seat at the Delta Flyer's science station, then swept it over B'Elanna's weary form. The smaller woman let the familiar scent of it soothe her, the warmth envelop her softly. With quiet patience, her friend slipped her leather boots off her feet, and then gently eased her out of her britches. Her bare, caramel legs were cold, and trembling, a sure sign of advanced labor.
"You know what you're doing then," came the automatic reply, born of B'Elanna's own abundant frustration with the whole situation. Feeling she was completely useless as a soon to-be-mother.
Seven looked up from where she held B'Elanna's wrist, taking her pulse, and read at once the apprehension in the other woman's face. She nodded in reassurance. "Kes instructed me in the process of Klingon child labor and delivery."
"I never doubted you, Ani."
Releasing B'Elanna's wrist, the mythic blonde figure began to roll up the sleeves of her blouse, she had long since abandoned the bio-suits on B'Elanna's reassurances she need only the fibers in the suit not its style.
Seven settled her Borg hand onto the caramel of B'Elanna's cheek. She received the caress with tender gratitude, turning her face into it. "I know you are beyond exhaustion, Bella, but I need you to find some strength to push when the time comes." The words were gently urging and understanding.
"Yeah - no problem." The steady response took new strength.
"We'll need something warm to wrap the baby in." The Klingon realized Seven was ticking off aloud her mental preparation for one of life's more chaotic, uncontrollable events with a cool professionalism. It eased her own colliding emotions, clearing her thinking. Taking note then that the heavy leather jacket was already in use, Seven reached for her jacket that had been a gift from B'Elanna on the anniversary of the removal of the emotional inhibitor, and folded it up into a nesting garment.
"We will use this."
"I will attempt to make your pushing as effective as possible." Seven knew her beloved friend would not be able to stand too much of it in her present state. Carefully lifting the young mother partially off the floor of the Delta Flyer, Seven resettled her onto one of the bunks. "When you push, try to raise yourself up. You can grip my hands for leverage, it will keep you focused and progressing. It won't be long now, I'm sure. You are fully dilated."
Coming from the EMH B'Elanna would have found the moment by moment account annoying, from Seven she knew the younger woman was trying to be cool and collected. The Borg monotone was Seven's shield against the uncertainty of an event she could not control.
All B'Elanna could manage to say was, "Right.". There was nothing but trust in B'Elanna's chocolate eyes, shining now from more than just sheer exhaustion and pain. The connection between her and her friend, unspoken and profound, was totally apparent in the moment.
The first expelling contraction coursed through B'Elanna's body. Seven felt her stiffen in her arms, a ragged gasp releasing from her throat. The Borg caught both her hands, so small and slender into her own.
"B'Elanna, you must allow your body to do its work. Take courage, my friend, find your strength."
Suddenly, the weary frail body held fast to Seven's hands in trembling exertion. "Kah'less!!" She heard her exclaim at the onslaught of new sensations.
The sheer force of her overwhelming physical besiegement was more than Seven had been prepared to witness. She closed her eyes and instinctively whispered her first and only plea to the heavens for help, not exactly certain whether it was for B'Elanna's benefit or her own. Seven had been initiated into the unstoppable wonder of nature's most miraculous process.
B'Elanna slumped heavily against her as the contraction lessened its hold on her. That she'd even survived the onslaught to her now seemingly frail body was beyond comprehension. Yet, there was an expectant though weary hope shining through her eyes.
B'Elanna felt no fear, only utter confidence, and all because of the Seven's presence.
Leaning close to B'Elanna's exhausted form, Seven spoke softly to her. "That was good, my Bella. Rest a minute now. You are 'doing fine'." A shaking, long-fingered hand took hold of her own on her wet cheek with the grateful abandon of a drowning woman being offered a passing branch just within reach that she could hold fast to. B'Elanna drew strength from the contact.
Quickly she examined the baby's progress from the contraction, but as she was doing so, B'Elanna was hit, full force, by another erratic spasm that tore into her body. "It's all right, B'Elanna. Let it come. Take my arm." The seemingly fragile young woman heaved her until the limp form rose up to a near-sitting position by drawing herself forcefully onto her friend's right arm. Seven urged her gently, insistently, with her reassuring words: "Exhale deeply. Work with the force."
Letting the sound of her voice guide her, Seven centered her observation now on the new life working its way to join them. An almost incredulous acknowledgment announced her child's state. "The baby's crowning! You are doing well. Hold on as long as you can."
A sudden and unexpected sound - pain, fear, exhaustion, broken by wonder filled relief - pulled free from B'Elanna's throat. She echoed her friend's words softly, in gratitude, "The baby's crowning." A look of blessed anticipation swept over her ravaged features.
The sound of B'Elanna's joy still filled her heart.
"Her name is Miral." B'Elanna called her child's name as Seven places the tiny girl into her mother's arms. "There is one human traditionfrom my father ancestors... a Godmother. I want you to be her Godmother, Seven. If I ever fall in battle, she becomes your daughter. I trust no one else but you."
"It is an honor, Bella." Seven smiled, one if her very rare full toothed smile that as of yet only B'Elanna had ever seen.
Seven leaned close allowing the child to draw in the scent of her. For Klingons, the first sense to awaken immediately afterbirth was their sense of smell. They recognized their mother's first by smell. Miral took in both B'Elanna's and Seven's scent, it was imprinted on the young mind. To her infant mind, Seven was as much her mother as B'Elanna.
"I will protect you, Miral. I give you and your SoS my oath."
B'Elanna staggered to the floor falling, holding her head, overwhelmed by the bombarding images. "I remember! I remember everything. "Vorik mind-melding with me during his fracking pon-far that made me go jump Paris. He was so drunk then - Miral was conceived. Seven so hurt because of it and still she stayed with me."
B'Elanna wanted no part of marriage to helm-boy. She only ever wanted Seven. It was Seven's memory that sang in her blood and it was Seven she wanted. Paris was a primal urge to mate, nothing more. It was because of the forced pon-far B'Elanna had experienced that Seven accepted the events. Vorik however learned a very quick and hard lesson, never try to frack with another's mate. And yet Miral soothed all wounds
The oath of protection Seven had sworn on the day of Miral's birth was returned when her cortical node had failed.
"He's looking for you. The Doctor, I ran into him in the corridor. He's about thirty seconds away from calling a ship-wide alert." Torres remembered the words she had spoken upon seeing Seven working on a console on the upper floor of Engineering.
"Are you going to tell him where I am?" Seven waited for the answer, wondering if she should plot her course of escape.
"No. I know what it's like to be stuck in Sickbay. I've escaped the Doctor myself once or twice." B'Elanna walked by and took a data PADD from the console Seven was working at and started scanning the reports.
"Thank you." Seven looked up and gave B'Elanna one of her rare true smiles.
"Any time, Sev." Before she passed Seven B'Elanna lay a gentling hand upon the taller woman's back. It never surprised her that whenever Seven was truly upset about something she hid out in Engineering. The hum of the Warp-core could be soothing. Its gentle ambient azure glow soothing, B'Elanna understood completely. Of course a part of her wouldn't mind if Seven came here because of her, just to share company.
"Lieutenant."" Seven stopped. "Bella, when you die, do you believe your spirit will go to Sto-Vo-Kor?"
"You shouldn't be thinking about dying." B'Elanna quickly said, not wanting to think of the void in her life if Seven died.
"According to the Doctor's simulations any attempt to adapt the salvaged node will fail. Sto-Vo-Kor, B'Elanna. Do you believe you'll go there?"
"I guess it all depends on how honorable my death is. You were there for me when I went on the Barge of the Dead., but even earning my family honor back, if I don't die honorably I could end up in Grethor."
"But you do believe there's something after death?" Seven insisted.
"I was on the Barge of the Dead last month, so yes I do. What about you?"
Seven's voice became very soft, distant "The Borg have no concept of an afterlife. However, when a drone is deactivated, its memories continue to reside in the Collective's consciousness. As long as the hive exists, so will the part of that drone."
"You don't seem to take much comfort in that." B'Elanna sat down on the steps that wrapped around the Warp-core
"My link to the Collective has been severed for nearly four years. If I die, everything that I've accomplished in that time, everything I achieved as an individual, will be lost. My memories, my experiences. It will be as if they, as if I never existed." Her voice became very distant.
"I think you're a little more memorable than you're giving yourself credit for. You don't need the Collective to validate your existence. You've made an impact on every member of this crew. That's your legacy." B'Elanna stood up, her dark chocolate eyes settling into the gaze of blue.
"There you are." The EMH accused Seven, looking up at her from the ground floor. "I should have known she'd be the one to harbor a fugitive." This time the Doctor was accusing B'Elanna.
"We difficult patients need to stick together." By this time B'Elanna had moved to Seven's side once more, placing a possessive arm around the other's waist.
"I want you to return to Sickbay immediately." The Doctor demanded
"Have you devised a new treatment?" Seven responded not budging from her spot.
Regret filled the photonic male. "Not yet."
"Then it's best that I don't distract you from finding one." Seven said coolly.
"Seven, if you continue to exert yourself your condition will only deteriorate more rapidly. Is that what you want?"
"What I want is to be useful."
B'Elanna recognized that Seven was at the end of her tether. She knew Seven's emotions almost better than the former Drone herself. The protective urge surged forth in the Klingon. Her hearts had already claimed this one as her mate, and the male was becoming an obstacle that needed to be removed. "I really could use her help. I promise not to let her overdo it." B'Elanna moved to the railing, pinning the Doctor with her own gaze of dominance.
"You can stay, provided you wear this cortical monitor." The EMH threw a cylindrical object up. B'Elanna caught it easily and handed it over to her woman.
"Thank you." Seven said softly.
B'Elanna reached up cupping the taller woman's cheek, her thumb stroking over the star-shaped implant near the base of her jaw. "Any time, babe. Let me take care of you Sev. I won't think you weak. I am Klingon but that doesn't mean I think you're weak. You're the strongest person I know, and I love you."
Not long after they had become lovers. Pledging their love and hearts to each other. Miral already saw Seven as her second mother and the Borglings adored B'Elanna and saw her as their second maternal figure. They were a family, though they had yet to take the Great Oath.
"You should come to the match with us this afternoon." Torres spoke to Seven, wanting her girlfriend to be with her for the afternoon. Not only would the match be thrilling to watch, there was much to explore on the planet. B'Elanna loved being Seven's guide into the world.
"From what I've heard, Tsunkatse is crude and pointless."
"Well I guess we won't be saving you a seat." B'Elanna tried not to sound disappointed in the refusal she wasn't at all surprised that it came.
Ro Lauren snorted her amazement at the Klingon unable to arouse interest in the games from her girlfriend. "What about you, Tuvok? You appreciate the martial arts."
"I have other plans. There's a micro-nebula approximately one point six light years from here on the verge of collapse." For Tuvok he sounded absolutely giddy.
"We'd like to take a shuttle to study it." Make that two giddy people, well as giddy as to dedicated devotees to logic could become.
"An away mission during shore leave?" Neelix huffed, and baffled why in the galaxy anyone would choose work over the chance to relax and enjoy a new planet and its people.
"Commander Tuvok and I don't require recreational activities." Seven said.
"The Borg wouldn't know fun if they assimilated an amusement park. You need to have fun."
"B'Elanna this is 'fun'." Seven smirked "This is how I choose to spend my shore-leave. It is fascinating."
"Yeah I can see that, you're all glowing over it." B'Elanna smiled as she leaned close, her words far below a whisper knowing full well the Borg could hear what she was saying. "Almost like post-orgasm."
"Also a fun activity." Seven shot back with prideful spark in her eyes. "Making love to you is hardly recreational it is a science."
From anyone else it would have seemed clinical and detached, however coming from Seven it was the sweetest words spoken. Seven devoted her life to science. "Have fun with your micro-nebula Ani. and be ready for a hard workout when we get home. Battle always boils the blood."
B'Elanna pulled herself up from the floor.
"We thought we were more thanoh Kah'less! I took The Oath with her! I'm married to Seven of Nine!" "Oh Seven what happened, what we did we just assumed..." B'Elanna continued to circle the quarters. "Face it Torres - this is something you wanted all along. Now you have it. Seven is my Mate." A small smile graced the Klingon's lips. Granted moving from friend to lover to wife were large steps, but they were heading in that direction as it was. What difference did it make how it came about?
Torres hit the combadge on her chest. "Torres to Seven."
"Meet me in our quarters, there is something, I need to discuss."
"Is all well?"
"Just get here, Ani."
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