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"What's this, Lieutenant?"
"Well, if you opened it, you'd know, wouldn't you?"
"I don't understand."
The Lieutenant snorted air rapidly through her nose, at the same time turning away from Seven of Nine and waving her hands to help make a point, "You don't HAVE to understand - understand?"
"Just open the damn thing, huh? Before it's next Christmas."
"But you have never..."
"Look, Borg... it's Christmas. I give you a gift. You say thank you. You open it. You smile. Everybody's happy. What's not to understand?"
"Why me? I don't understand why you are giving ME a gift, Lieutenant, after all..."
"And why shouldn't I give you a gift?"
"Forgive me, but my research indicates that gifts on any occasion are only given to those we are fond of."
Seven of Nine frowned, adorably. "And you are fond of... me?"
"Well, I wouldn't have put it that way. Look, open the damned thing, will you? You can save the psycho analytical bit for later."
"You are annoyed with me."
B'Elanna stared pointedly at the small box Seven was holding and raised her eyebrows at it.
"All right. In the interests of seasonal peace and goodwill, I will open it."
"But not if you..."
Seven turned the box over in her hands, looking for the easiest way in. She maintained a slight frown throughout, trying to work out why someone who was always shouting at her in such a disagreeable manner would suddenly give her a gift. She paused in her search for the best way to open the box and looked back at B'Elanna, surprised by the expression of childish pleasure on the Engineer's face. "I haven't anything for you, Lieutenant."
"As you wish." After a brief ripping of the external covering, Seven handed the paper to B'Elanna and stood looking into the newly opened box. It was filled to the brim with little white packing pieces. Seven then presented B'Elanna with a quizzical expression and a raised brow, but B'Elanna's face gave nothing away. Carefully, Seven began parting the pieces.
Patience rewarded, Seven pulled out a small round box with a see- through cover and writing on the front. "Earplugs?"
"Yeah. Keep looking."
Seven sifted through the packaging further and found a key. She held it up, giving a slight smile. "Holodeck programme?"
B'Elanna shifted nervously. "Yeah. Happy Christmas, Seven," she said awkwardly and turned on her heels, leaving Seven alone in Astrometrics, looking from the key to the earplugs and back again, her face filled with question marks.
This would clearly have to be investigated.
<Programme running> intoned the computer. <Enter when ready>
Seven stared at the sight. It was as if the door to Engineering had just opened in front of her. She looked back into the corridor, checking that she was in fact at the Holodeck and her mind wasn't playing tricks, and then she stepped through the arch.
An irate half-Klingon headed towards her with hostile intent. "I thought I told you to stay the hell away from my Engine Room, Borg!" yelled the holographic B'Elanna.
"I am here by invitation," reasoned the visitor.
"Oh... and you think I'D invite you? Are you mad? I can't stand you - you must know that."
"You are shouting, Lieutenant."
"Yes, I'm shouting. It's what I do. I shout. So?"
"Do you wish me to leave?"
"No. I don't. I invited you here, as you so rightly say, to tell you WHY I'm always shouting at you - if you're the slightest bit interested."
"I have often wondered myself how I bring out such hostility in you; it was never my intention."
"I shout at you because you piss me off."
Seven held the Lieutenant's gaze well, hiding the hurt she was feeling while waiting for the Engineer to continue.
"And WHY do you piss me off, Borg?"
"I have no idea."
"BECAUSE YOU'RE LIKE ME, that's why. God, it's so annoying."
"You stand there defying me. You stand there being obstinate. You stand there totally refusing to listen to me. You're rude. You're arrogant. You always know best. You never listen. You want it all your own way. You're always right. GOD, it's SO ANNOYING!"
"You're shouting again."
"I gave you the earplugs...!!!"
Seven looked suspiciously at B'Elanna. "Do you mind if I refrain from wearing them? I'd like to hear your answer when I ask why my being like you annoys you so much."
"BECAUSE I'VE MET MY MATCH!"
"Because I've met my match, OK?"
"Thank you, Lieutenant. And this challenges you why?"
"You have no idea, do you?"
"No. You may enlighten me."
"Damn it; you excite me, Borg. I get a spark around you, and that annoys the hell out of me. Understand?"
Seven's face remained emotionless as she stared into the holographic B'Elanna's eyes, realising that the Engineer was declaring intimate feelings for her. "If you have feelings for me, why have you not approached me with them? Why fight me?"
The quietness and logic of the question reduced the hologram to silence and the fight drained from her as she searched the blue eyes for some small sign that her feelings might be returned. "I couldn't have taken your rejection so... best not to tell you how I felt." But hope was not about to leave the Lieutenant yet. "You want me to have feelings for you?"
"It would be... tidy."
"For some time I have felt this `spark' you speak of, but I didn't know how to categorise it, until now."
"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You care about me, too?"
"It seems I do, B'Elanna Torres. Such a revelation surprises me, but I find I am not unhappy with it." Seven reached out and put the earplugs into the hologram's hands. "I won't be needing these."
The holographic B'Elanna looked down at the plugs and back up at Seven.
"I can see no reasonable point in pursuing this conversation when it is the real B'Elanna I need to speak with now. Computer, end programme."
The cubed room of the empty Holodeck appeared. Everything had vanished, except for one thing. B'Elanna. The Engineer came closer to Seven and stood in front of her with her head bowed. "I couldn't have said those things to you if you'd thought it was me. I didn't have the courage."
Seven felt momentarily awkward, unsure how to proceed until her instincts took over and she touched her fingers lightly to the smaller woman's cheek. "You have more courage than anyone I know," she whispered.
B'Elanna drew in a sharp breath and closed her eyes tightly and when she opened them again they were filled with tears. As one of the tears journeyed down her left cheek, Seven brushed it gently aside before placing a kiss there instead.
"I know what was in the box now," said Seven lovingly. "It was you."
"You like your gift?"
"Very much. Thank you. And my gift to you is this..." Tilting B'Elanna's face to her, Seven shyly and softly kissed the welcoming lips.
"Happy Christmas, B'Elanna."
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