DISCLAIMER 1: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, and this story will never, ever affect the lining my pockets or lack there of!
DISCLAIMER 2: This is a first T/7 for me, after having read every Xena, J/7 and T/7, ALT & UBER; I thought why not, it can't be that hard. WRONG! So please be kind, hey at least the cover will look good after I design that, yeah stick to your chosen field now! Also this was a dream I had about 10 years ago, of a huge sphere rolling across a planet, supporting life. Oh course, B'Elanna and Seven didn't feature in the dream, but they do now.
Rebelgirl, thank you, thank you, thank you, for fixing my then's and than's my which's and that's, my woman and women, don't know how I always seem to get that last one mixed up, probably just wishful thinking :-)

The Gateway
By Rocohyeah

Chapter 11

It had been five days since Seven was placed in the stasis chamber, and B'Elanna and the Doctor were no closer to reviving her successfully. They had been working in Holodeck 1, running simulations of the proposed operation for thirteen hours straight and B'Elanna was exhausted. The simulations had her completely stumped. The method was viable except each time they tried to re-introduce Seven's memories, her optical node shut down and her life signs followed moments later.

"Doctor I think I might call it a day, I'm exhausted and I need food now." B'Elanna was hoping to make a quick getaway, before the nausea she felt was noticed by the hologram.

"B'Elanna are you feeling alright, you don't look well at all?" The EMH asked as he reached for the closet medical tri-corder.

Great. Nothing gets by him. "Just a bit of nausea, nothing a good meal and eight hours sleep won't cure."

"Well just the same I would like to check you over; you need to keep your strength up, Seven needs your engineering skills, as do I."

B'Elanna waited as the Doctor passed the tri-corder over her, arguing with the hologram would only delay her meal. "Lieutenant Torres, there is a very good reason for your nausea. You're pregnant."

B'Elanna gripped the console harder. "You're "you're joking right? I can't be pregnant I've got an engine room to run, I've got …."

"B'Elanna I assure you, you are most definitely pregnant, and even though the foetus is only five days old, it is developing faster than a fully human child owing to its Klingon DNA."

Oh Kahless this can't be true, shit shit shit.

Tom had come by her quarters the night Seven was placed in stasis. He had acted all worried about their future and the possibility of accidents and dying out here in the Delta quadrant and she had fallen for his whole sorry story.

"Look Doc, I just want to go to my quarters." B'Elanna left her tools and was about to exit the holodeck.

"Of course, perhaps tomorrow we can schedule a more thorough medical appointment" The EMH replied, for once understanding the shock of having just been informed that you're carrying a child.

"Fine, whatever …", and with that B'Elanna headed towards her quarters. Thankfully the Gamma rotation had already started and the decks were completely empty. B'Elanna did not want to end up in the brig for decking a crewmember and was thankful none were in sight. What she really wanted to do was rip Tom's throat out and toss it out the nearest airlock, preferably with him following it?

"Fuck what am I going to now?" B'Elanna had just entered her quarters, and breaking the first thing she saw seemed like the best course of action. She proceeded to trash her quarters; in fact the crewmembers that had seen the rift destruction in Astrometrics, would be astounded with B'Elanna's attention to detail. Not a single item in the room survived the half Klingon's temper. It wasn't so much that B'Elanna was mad, she was frustrated. She had been planning on ending her relationship with Paris. His wandering eyes and hands just one of the many reasons; that and the fact that if she wanted to see him she could find him on either holodeck at all times. B'Elanna realised that lately she didn't even try to find Tom anymore, and that realisation had caused her to reassess the relationship.

I survive two years in a relationship with him without getting pregnant, and just when I decide to end it, I'm knocked up after a last 'roll in the hay'. To say B'Elanna was pissed would have been a huge understatement.

Damn, now I'll have to marry him; honour demands it. I won't allow my child to be dishonoured by being born to an unwed mother. Tom had been proposing to the Klingon for the past three months, and she had found away to postpone her answer each time.

Great now I suppose I'll be proposing to him. B'Elanna didn't even have the energy to cry. The Delta quadrant had drained her reserves. She got up and headed to bed, knowing that sleep would elude her. Apparently she was more exhausted than she realised and was asleep within minutes of her head hitting the pillow.

B'Elanna woke ten minutes before the alarm. She felt well rested after having slept nine full hours. That feeling soon left her when she recalled her conversation with the Doctor last night. Perhaps it was just a very bad dream. She got up and walked into the living room and one look at the destruction confirmed the truth. Feeling completely numb she moved about the room trying to tidy up the mess. Most of the furniture will need to be replaced she thought as she studied her bat'leth sticking out of the couch. She didn't even have the energy to howl, her stomach however had other ideas and growled loudly. She moved over to the replicator, she didn't feel like eating, but she had missed dinner and since she was now responsible for the health of the child growing inside her she started programming breakfast. The replicator blinked a couple of times before growling a protest and going offline. Probably due to the fact that it was sporting a few bat'leth scars.

Great. Now I have to go to the messhall and mingle, I'll probably run into Tom, he'll ask how I'm doing, and I'll toss him out an airlock … just for breathing. Perhaps Neelix can help me out …. B'Elanna tapped her comm. Badge. "Torres to Neelix."

"What can I do for you B'Elanna?" How can he be so chirpy every morning? Thought B'Elanna.

"Neelix my replicator's …. um …. malfunctioning and I'm expected to meet the Doctor to go over Seven's treatment, and I can't recycle my uniform, and …." Thankfully the Talaxian decided to interrupt the Chief Engineer.

"Say no more B'Elanna I'll send breakfast down to you in a jiffy, and perhaps I could also replicate a clean uniform for you."

"Thanks Neelix you're a lifesaver".

"Just helping out a valuable member of the crew, banana pancakes okay?"

"Perfect Neelix, see ya soon, Torres out." B'Elanna quickly moved about the room in an effort to disguise the destruction, the couch was highly visible from the door and there was no way to fix it up. So she moved everything she couldn't fix into the middle of her lounge room. "Computer site to site transfer; beam everything in the middle of my lounge room to Cargo Bay 2, behind the Borg regeneration alcoves."

Authorization required. At least the computer still functioned in her quarters. "Torres authorization seven zero nine." Authorization accepted. B'Elanna watched her mass destruction disappear. Transfer complete.

Just then the chime to her quarters sounded. "Come in." Not a moment to soon thought B'Elanna. The doors opened and Harry Kim walked in with a stasis covered plate and a clean uniform for his friend.

"Room service on Voyager, I never thought I'd see the day, you had better not let the Captain in on your little scheme." Harry was smiling as her approached B'Elanna to deliver her breakfast and uniform.

"Hey thanks Harry, I thought Neelix was going to make the delivery."

"He was but his pot of Leola root stew decided to blow up and he's cleaning up the mess. He said something about too many spices, hey what happened to your furniture?" Harry enquired as he noticed the missing pieces.

"Ah …. well I was …. meditating last night and Tuvok suggested less clutter could help clear the mind, so I got rid of a few pieces." B'Elanna hoped Harry hadn't seen through her lie.

"A few pieces: you could swing a bat'leth in here and not hit anything. Hey where's your bat'leth?" Harry was looking at the spot on the wall were the weapon usually hung.

"Um … it's in my bedroom, look Harry I'm kind of in a hurry so….".

"No problem." He handed over the items and headed out of her quarters. "Hey if you need any help with the simulations I'd be glad to help," Harry said as he turned around in front of the opening doors.

"Thanks Harry I may just take you up on the offer."

"Great, okay I'll see you later." And with that the young ops Ensign left B'Elanna's quarters.

B'Elanna's stomach once again growled its anger at being ignored. B'Elanna sat down on the floor, ripped off the stasis cover and devoured the food before it had time to cool down.

later that day….

The Doctor had just finished his examination of B'Elanna. "B'Elanna it appears that the foetus is developing 3 times faster than an average fully human foetus. The growth rate is to be expected with a hybrid child however you will need to consume regular meals throughout the day to ensure healthy development of your child. I would also like to schedule an appointment for every three days, owing to the rapid growth."

"Fine Doc, even though this baby wasn't planned I plan to keep it and I won't do anything that might damaged its growth." B'Elanna wanted to start on the simulations for Seven's treatment and sitting around the sickbay wasn't going to speed up her exit. She hoped that she may settle some of the Doctor's concerns.

"I would also like to work on a nutritional supplement for you; your daughter is draining your vitamins as we speak."

"It's a girl …."

"Yes Lieutenant you're having a girl, I'm sorry perhaps you didn't want to know the sex of your baby." The Doctor realised he had slipped and that some parents preferred to wait for birth before; they wanted to be surprised.

"On a more personal note B'Elanna, have you spoken to Tom about his impending fatherhood? I am of course assuming Lieutenant Paris is the father." The EMH hoped he had guessed correctly as B'Elanna was likely to make some changes to his sub-routines if he was wrong in guessing the other biological parent.

"Yes Tom is the father, and no I haven't spoken to him yet. I'm saving that fun discussion for tonight." B'Elanna was unable to hide her defeated look.

"B'Elanna I'm sure everything will turn out for the best."

"Yeah but you don't have to marry him," B'Elanna mumbled as she straightened her jacket.


"Nothing Doc, look I'll meet you on the holodeck after I get some food." And with that B'Elanna made good on her escape.

Three hours later and she was still going over the data, trying to figure out the problem. The Doctor materalised and handed B'Elanna a data padd.

"Thanks, I think; what's on it?" B'Elanna asked as she placed the padd near the console.

"The data padd contains information on nutritional supplements as well as a proposed eating and resting schedule. I took the liberty and programmed a supplement drink into the replicator that you can have in between meals. It is important to the development of your daughter that you follow my suggestions." The Doctor was late because it was important that B'Elanna start the regime as soon as possible.

"Thanks Doc, I'll try."

"B'Elanna have you had any luck in determining the problem with Seven's proposed treatment?"

"I'm just going over the data now." She moved aside so that the Doctor could view the console as well.

B'Elanna pointed to the display. "Here seems to be where the treatments failing." She increased the magnification of the data stream.

"Holy shit!" B'Elanna exclaimed as she increased the magnification again. "What the hell are Borg algorithms doing in this program?"


"Doc, we wrote this program and I know we didn't use any Borg algorithms. The program was simple; all we had to was introduce the data through Seven's optical implant and the Borg technology would take over from there."

"Someone's tampered with the program." B'Elanna spoke softly but with venom.

"Perhaps you're jumping to conclusions; I can't image anyone trying to sabotage our work." The EMH tried to calm B'Elanna before the evitable storm hit the proverbial fan.

B'Elanna didn't even hear the Doctor; she tapped her comm. badge once.

"Torres to Kim."

"Kim here, how can I help you B'Elanna?"

"Harry can you come down to the holodeck, I need your help." B'Elanna knew it couldn't be Harry but since he was the only other person besides Seven and herself capable of writing Borg algorithms it seemed logical to start with him.

"Sure, I'll be there soon, Kim out."

"You don't think Harry could have sabotaged the program?" The Doctor wasn't sure he knew what B'Elanna was thinking.

"No but since he's the only other person on Voyager who can write Borg algorithms, I thought he would be a good starting place. B'Elanna and the Doctor spent the next few minutes studying the data. Both looked up as Harry entered the holodeck.

"Hey I didn't do it, stop looking at me like that." Harry made a joke, in an attempt to ease the frowns that graced both B'Elanna's and the Doctor's forehead. Perhaps there's a glitch in the Doctor's sub-routine thought Harry, he shouldn't be wearing a frown.

B'Elanna spoke first. "Harry have you been messing with our program?"

"What program? And no … I think"!

"The program the Doc and I wrote for Seven's treatment. There are Borg algorithms present that we didn't write. They're attached to the data stream." By now B'Elanna had her hands on her hips, however she moved aside so Harry could check the data.

He magnified the affected area. "I did do it!"

"What?!" Both B'Elanna and the Doctor voiced their disbelief.

"I mean I didn't do it, but I did write the algorithms for someone else."


The combined noise and the fact that both B'Elanna and the Doctor had spoken in sync again, caused Harry take a backwards step.

"Commander Chakotay!"

"Why the hell would Chakotay want Borg algorithms?" B'Elanna was confused.

"Well he said he wanted to study them, for what I couldn't tell you."

"And you gave them to him?"

"Yeah why wouldn't I? B'Elanna when a Commanding officer asks you for something it's usually a good idea to obey!"

"Well it appears we may have found our traitor." B'Elanna's hand moved to activate her comm. badge.

"Lieutenant, before you accuse a Commanding Officer, perhaps you should just talk to the Captain." The Doctor said trying to be the voice of reason.

"Fine, chirp …. Torres to Captain Janeway."

"Janeway here, what's up Lieutenant?"

"Captain could I see you in your ready room please?"

"Is Seven okay?"

"Yes, I just need to see you about …. about her treatment."

"Okay I'll see you soon, Janeway out."

B'Elanna left her two crewmates to study the data; she had all the evidence she needed.

the Ready Room ….

"Lieutenant I just can't believe that Chakotay would deliberately sabotage Seven's life. It is also a very serious accusation, is Harry sure the algorithms are the ones he gave to Chakotay?"

"Yes ma'am, Harry recognised the algorithms immediately as the ones he wrote for Chakotay."

"Okay, I'll start an investigation. Can you please send in Commander Chakotay and Tuvok: and B'Elanna thank you for bringing this straight to me."


"You're dismissed Lieutenant."

Oh god what am I going to do if Chakotay is responsible? Kathryn's headache that had disappeared before B'Elanna's arrival, was back and twice as strong.

Chakotay and Tuvok entered the ready room, forgoing the chime as their presence had been requested.

"Captain you wanted to see us?" Chakotay took the liberty to open the meeting.

"Chakotay I'll get straight to the point." Janeway said as she rubbed her forehead. "Did you request Borg algorithms from Harry Kim?"

"Captain?" Obviously Chakotay didn't understand the question.

"Chakotay I asked you if you requested Harry to write some Borg algorithms for you."

Chakotay's answer was to throw a punch at Tuvok, who was taken completely unawares and dropped to the floor unconscious. He then jumped over Janeway's table and kissed her full on the lips, crushing them in the process. "Kathryn I won't lose you to that … that Borg, she's not even human, hell she's not even a man. You need a man in your life Kathryn, someone who can care for you, someone who can protect you."

Janeway pushed her attacker away. "What the hell do you think you doing Chakotay?"

Thankfully Tuvok recovered quicker than Chakotay had anticipated thanks to his Vulcan physiology, and moved quickly to restrain the First Officer.

Chakotay struggled in an attempt to escape. Tuvok looked to his Captain and she agreed to his unspoken request, by nodding her head.

Tuvok moved one hand from restraining Chakotay and promptly pinched a nerve on the First Officer's neck. He then lowered the unconscious man to the floor.

"Captain perhaps you should request the Doctor's presence. It is logical to conclude due to Commander Chakotay's uncharacteristic behaviour that he has failed to maintain his mediation".

"No shit …. sorry Tuvok I'm a bit shaken, he took me by surprise," Kathryn said as she attempted to remove the feeling of Chakotay's assault by rubbing her lips.

"You and me both, Captain."

"Old friend would you mind terribly getting me a glass of water?" Janeway requested, hoping to wash her unpleasant feelings away with the liquid.

"Not at all Kathryn," Tuvok agreed acknowledging the personal nature of Kathryn's request.

"Janeway to the Doctor."

"Captain how may I help you?"

"Could you please come to my ready room? Bring a medical tri-corder and Chakotay's medication".

"On my way Captain, has the Commander had another relapse?"

"Yes, and Doctor please try to refrain from speaking to anyone else about the incident, Janeway out."

She knew the Doctor would be pissed off at her for cutting off the reply she knew he was about to deliver, but quite frankly she didn't care. Tuvok placed a glass in front of his Captain.

"Thank you Tuvok." Kathryn reached for the glass and downed the contents in one gulp.

"Well that was certainly interesting, never a dull day in the Delta quadrant. Sometimes Tuvok I pray for just one day were I can relax, where captaining this ship isn't fraught with constant danger."

Tuvok didn't acknowledge his Captain's musing; he just tilted his head slightly.

Janeway noticed the slight movement and continued on. "What? Are you surprised that I actually pray and believe in an entity higher than myself; or that I wish for a dull day?" Janeway asked with a slight smirk on her face.

"Kathryn, I am not surprised that you pray. It is logical to conclude from your traditional upbringing, that you would have been introduced to the notion of a higher entity. However I believe that should Voyager ever experience a dull day, you would retire your commission the next."

"Tuvok what would I do without you?" Your humour is sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane."

"Kathryn, Vulcans do not possess a sense of humour? However I will endeavour to assist you to maintain your sanity should the opportunity arise."

"Thanks Tuvok." Janeway got up and walked behind the Vulcan, squeezing his shoulder as she passed him on her way to the upper level of her ready room. "So what are we going to do about Chakotay? It's obvious he needs to be monitored more stringently. This is the second relapse, and quite frankly I can't afford to have an unstable First Officer."

"Captain perhaps if the Doctor was responsible for administrating Commander Chakotay's monthly dose, it will decrease the probability of another relapse."

"Maybe, but the Doctor should be monitoring his condition during the required monthly visits."

Just then the chime to Janeway's ready room sounded. "Enter".

Voyager's EMH entered the room and moved to Chakotay's unconscious form.

"Captain Commander Chakotay's endorphin levels are extremely elevated." The Doctor said as he studied the data on the tri-corder.

"What from one kiss? The old girl's still got it hey Tuvok." Janeway said with a smirk on her face.


The Doctor ignored the remark, although a few choice responses passed through his sub-routine.

"His dopamine levels are also extremely high; in fact I'm surprised he didn't have a cardiac arrest."

"No, but I nearly did when he kissed me."

"Captain I hardly think this is a time to be making jokes," The Doctor stood as he addressed Janeway.

"Doctor, if I couldn't laugh now and then about all the wonderful surprises we've had the opportunity to receive here in the Delta quadrant… well I may as well toss myself out an airlock."

"Indeed." Tuvok although not one to laugh, let alone cry, understood his Captain's need to make light of the situation.

"Doctor, when was the last time you checked Chakotay's condition?" Janeway knew her humour was lost on the Doctor when he was in Doctor mode; but stirring Tuvok … well that was just fun.

"I cleared him for duty two weeks ago. However I anticipated your question and sent Chakotay's medical history directly to your console."

Janeway moved back behind her desk to access the information.

"Captain should I beam Commander Chakotay to sickbay for treatment, or leave him on the floor until he recovers from Lieutenant Tuvok's medically certified Vulcan nerve pinch?"

"What so now you're joking? Yes, beam both yourselves to sickbay, but I don't want him revived and I want a level 5 forcefield around the biobed, just monitor his condition for now. I don't know whether I can weather another one of his romantic advances today." Janeway was happy to get the last joke in, but knowing the Doctor….

Lost in thought she didn't even notice him roll his eyes before the blue light that signified the beam out transferred her two officers.

"Captain I should return to the bridge; the lack of senior officers may prompt Ensign Kim to start replicating pips."

"Tuvok did you just make a joke? You did didn't you!" Kathryn looked up at her oldest and dearest friend.

"Merely a possibility Kathryn; based on observation and logical contemplation."

Tuvok turned before his Captain could accuse him of almost smiling. Kathryn watched her friend leave; she wasn't fooled in the least bit. Tuvok had seen the humour in the situation; well at least he's on his Captain's side.

Her thoughts returned to the latest problem. Chakotay was still experiencing effects from the experiments that were conducted on the crew two years ago. The Alien race considered the Voyager crew as ideal guinea pigs, and the experiments they conducted on Chakotay had aged him, and even though the genetic tags had been removed, Chakotay's DNA had changed permanently.

Progenia, a rare genetic disorder, had been eradicated two centuries ago however the strain was still present in Chakotay's base pair sequencers. The genetic manipulation had activated the dormant cells, and the First Officer was still aging prematurely. The Doctor had yet to perfect a treatment that didn't have adverse side effects. "Some side effect, now I've got a randy First Officer that's flying at women faster than warp speed, perhaps his DNA got mixed up with Tom's." Kathryn's musings echoed around the empty room. Some days I feel older than dirt, perhaps we should allow Chakotay to grow old gracefully, fast but gracefully. Kathryn wasn't about to give up, but her jokes for one, would make the next few hours bearable.

Chapter 12

Everyone had finally agreed to the shelters' design. Kate, Eugene and Emmett wanted separate rooms however were not fussy about the location. Beylan suggested building dormitory-style accommodation. Building the rooms in a row meant that they wouldn't have to double up on the upright support poles. Nik's shelter would take longer as she had already decided on a location further away from the camp. Having spent the previous 9 months alone, she had taken the opportunity to explore the surrounding area and had always been fond of an area deep in the forest. It meant that her shelter would take longer but everyone wanted the young woman to be comfortable. She had after all rescued three of them from a life where living in a bomb shelter forever was a distinct possibility.

Beylan knew she had a lot of stuff in her rucksack, she even had a small handsaw, but what she wanted was a powersaw. Nik watched as Beylan rummaged through the bag. It was obvious to Nik that what Beylan was looking for couldn't be found. "Beylan can I be of assistance?"

"Yeah sure. Do you know how I can get my hands on a powersaw?"

"I do not know what a powersaw is, why do you require this equipment?" Nik noticed that Beylan used her own language to describe the object, perhaps there was no translation.

"Well we need to cut the trees down to build the cabins, and a powersaw would make the work easier."

"And you believe this object to be in your rucksack?" Nik was confused, the object sounded large and the rucksack wasn't.

"Nah, just hoping. I've got a small handsaw but with this as our only cutting tool, we'll probably finish the shelters in time for your rescuers scheduled arrival seven years from now." Beylan hoped that by explaining the object and showing Nik the handsaw she may have some equipment that could get the work done quicker.

"I have two phasers that I was going to remodulate; they would be able to cut through the trees we require," Nik said as she studied the handsaw, trying to determine how to use the equipment. Acknowledging her contemplation and confusion by tilting her head slightly to the left.

Beylan suspected as much and demonstrated the handsaw's use. "Great. That'll save our arms, since we'll need them to drag the logs anyway."

She jumped up, and dumped her survival bag next to Nik's old doorway and followed the young woman to the equipment shed. Nik had set up a separate shed that was originally going to be a part of her home. She decided that she would use the shelter to store her gardening equipment as well as other useful items that she did not require on a daily basis. She especially liked the idea of not trudging dirt back through her house after a day of gardening; even though she lived under dirt, she didn't want to live with it.

Nik opened the door to the equipment room and heard Beylan whistle behind her.

"Well this is certainly the neatest and cleanest shed I've even had the pleasure of seeing." Beylan was no slob; she knew where all her tools where, everything in her garage was relatively neat, just that nobody else could ever locate what they were looking for.

"Since much of this equipment could actually save my life, I thought it prudent to ensure that they could easily be retrieved. Is not your …. ah… garage the same?"

"Well yeah, sort of, I know where everything is, although sometimes I have to climb over something to get it." Beylan smiled and took the opportunity to stick her head in the door as Nik moved further into the shed. Amazing. Even the phasers have little hooks on which they're suspended. Beylan noticed that as Nik removed one of the phasers an outline of the object was painted onto the lining of the shed. In fact if she looked closer she would have noticed that the outline was a perfect replication of its object.

"Amazing you even have painted outlines of the equipment, have you done this with all the tools?"

"Yes, I am after all a member of the Art Guild, although I had anticipated that one day I would not be the only person to use the equipment. Identifying the correct storage location seemed a useful endeavour." Nik felt slightly embarrassed and often spoke with precise words when questioned. It allowed her to safeguard her emotions, even though others thought she was just being arrogant and emotionless.

Beylan had noticed the difference in Nik's voice, the lack of inflections indicating that the young woman was uncomfortable, and so she thoughtfully changed the subject. "You know until we finish the shelters, we could camp out for the next few weeks down by the lake, perhaps take the raft out. I could teach you to swim." Beylan liked spending time with the young woman. She knew that Nik had a room in the new common house, but maybe she didn't want to stay there anymore.

"I would like that, you did promise to teach me to swim; we could have another fire. Can we use the fire to cook our food, or will it burn?" Nik's questions left her mouth without her pausing for breath.

Beylan noticed Nik's excitement, it was hard not to, the young woman was smiling, its magical appearance lighting up her whole face.

Beautiful. Yeah and keep thinking like that Beylan and you'll frighten her off before you get the chance to really know her. "Yes I'll teach you to swim, yes we can have another fire, yes we'll probably burn the food, but that's part of the experience. Nik it'll be great. We can set up a semi permanent campsite, go fishing before the suns come up. It'll be great." Beylan couldn't help but return the smile. Her long service leave was turning into a real adventure, and although she would never be able to tell anyone, she at least had the chance to experience a unique holiday.

"Well, we had better find the others before they break their necks looking for suitable trees," Beylan said as she closed the shed door behind Nik. They set off together searching for their missing friends. It wasn't too difficult; the noise they made would have scared all the wildlife away for days.

Nik spent the time adjusting the phasers. She looked up from her work when Beylan asked her a question.

"How long will the phasers work until they need to be recharged?"

"I don't know we'll just have to find out, hopefully they'll last a while. Although the time between charging could be used to move the logs."

"Just what I was thinking. You know what they say, 'great minds think alike'." Beylan stop flirting now, I mean it, you'll scare her off you idiot!

"We have a saying in the sphere that is similar. 'With one thought and many minds, perfection is within reach'."

"Gee are all your sayings that long?" Beylan was smiling. The saying was similar, even though perfection could never be achieved; although perfection is within reach now …. stop it, stop it right now!

Nik laughed. She too had often thought the sayings were a bit long winded. "Perhaps the members of the Literature Guild are … bored." Nik was about to say that perhaps they were dissatisfied with their lot in life and had therefore decided to increase their importance in direct proportion to their long winded sayings, however the conversation was easy, and she didn't need to remain aloof. Beylan was easy to talk to and Nik, although still guarded was comfortable with the company.

"You can say that again." Beylan smiled at the saying hoping that Nik would respond with one of her own.

"Words that require repeating often increase the truth of the matter." Nik had caught onto the game, and was now laughing as she spoke.

Both Nik and Beylan were now laughing, and the sounds could be heard by the wayward trio. "What's so funny?" Kate asked as the two approached.

Beylan answered her. "Oh we were just comparing worlds and words." Not wanting to share everything with the others Beylan changed the subject. "So found any trees we can cut down?"

"Yes this section of forest has numerous trees with the diameter you proposed for the structures." Emmett had previously asked Beylan how big the trees should be for cutting. She had responded by placing her thumbs and middle fingers together creating a circle through the joining. Emmett took the advice literally, and had checked many trees in the area using his own hands for the task. As a result his hands were already sore and sported numerous cuts.

"Okay we'll we had better get started. Nik's fixed the phasers so we can use them to cut the trunks, so lead the way Doctor, no time like the present." Beylan finished the rest of the sentence looking at Nik who smiled at the shared joke.

Beautiful. Beylan returned the smile and they set off after the Doctor.

four hours later….

The work had gone well. Nik's phasers were able to cut twenty trunks before they each needed to be recharged. Beylan suggested that the first log be cut to about 4 metres and used it as guide for the others. The shelters would be eight metres by eight metres with a four metre internal wall that would act as a privacy barrier to the sleeping area. The size would allow for a personal area that could be used to entertain visitors. Of course they had no visitors at the moment, but Beylan always liked to be prepared. After nineteen trunks had been cut they would use the other phaser to make the second cut at the four metre length. The guys suggested that they just line the trunks up and extend the beam to cut through the nineteen logs at once, hoping that would extend the power. It took them forever to line all the logs up, Nik didn't think the power would last but she went along with the idea. She was right. The power ran out and they had nineteen logs each sporting a five centimeter phaser cut. Nik had told Eugene that his brilliant idea meant that she would have to extend the beam's range and the power would most likely not last. So their first attempt left them with one log that they couldn't take back to the camp since it was the guide log.

"Okay since Eugene and Emmett suggested the cutting method I vote they go back and recharge the phasers." Kate was tired from lining up the logs; since they hadn't been cut them to size they were each about fifteen metres long.

"Alright we'll go recharge the phasers, anything else you'd like?" Eugene knew his and Emmett's great idea had just wasted an hour.

"Yeah food and drinks … thanks," Beylan said as the two headed off, hoping to escape before more requests were laughed out.

So four hours later they had moved sixty logs to the proposed site.

"Not bad for a few hours work," Beylan said as she sat down on one of the logs.

"Pretty good going I'd say, although I have nothing to compare our work too," Kate commented as she had never built a log house before, let alone cut a tree down.

"Okay lunch first, rest next and then back into it." Beylan thrived on hard work and at the rate they were going they would finish the largest shelter by the end of the week.

"I believe I will collect some fresh vegetables from the garden for lunch. Beylan would you like to help me?" Nik was tired and picking and holding the food seemed like a huge effort at the moment.

"Sure, led the way." And with that the two headed towards Nik's rather large vegetable garden.

The others headed inside the shelter. The the suns had drained their energy as they weren't used to working underneath the powerful light source.

The two women worked well together in the garden, often anticipating each other's movements. They worked silently side by side, contemplating the work that still needed to be completed before they could start on the cabins.

After lunch, Emmett took the time to ease the cuts and bruises of his friends. He didn't have anything to ease the burns from the suns. Beylan pulled a large bottle out of her rucksack and handed it to Emmett advising the others to rub the contents on any exposed skin. Obviously sunburn wasn't a problem in the sphere. They rested for two hours after lunch, just sitting around talking, laughing and sharing stories. Nik was quiet although she did smile now and then. For the most part she spent the time contemplating her growing friendship with Beylan. Nik had spent almost her entire life surrounded by nine thousand people, and she never made a single friend. She had had plenty of offers but was not interested in forming emotional attachments to others, the cost was high, and the effort didn't justify the outcome.

"Well I guess we should get back to it," Kate said as she stood up pushing the chair backwards.

Eugene groaned, and Emmett patted him on the back. "Eugene you've gone soft, the problem is you're too used to women doing everything for you and now you've got to pull your own weight, don't forget you're probably a father now."

"Thanks." Rumours inside the sphere bounced off walls, ears and lips with amazing speed. If only they could tap that resource. Eugene knew that his reputation was well known and well deserved. "You may be right Doc, but it was a good life, until that unfortunate incident," smiling as he remembered the married woman.

And with that said they all headed back to the forest, stretching and groaning as they walked. Luckily the section they had chosen was only 150 metres from camp.

Strangely enough Nik was the first one to break the silence. "Eugene are you married to the woman who bore your child?"

Great now I've blown it with Nik, "ah ….. no… she was already married to someone else."

Nik was intrigued, she didn't know of Eugene's reputation, although she had heard rumours about members in her Guild when she was required to work with them on a project. She also noticed that the others were silent; anticipating her next question.

"Why would you want to start a relationship with a married woman? Is that not deceitful, or did her husband give his approval?"

"Ah … well … look Nik I did the wrong thing, so can we just drop it?" Eugene had lowered his eyes during the conversation, wanting to look anywhere but at the young woman who words had hit a nerve.

"Yes, I am sorry if I've made you uncomfortable. I disliked rumours in the sphere and prefer to seek out the source and there you will find the truths that lie within." Nik said turning to Beylan hoping she would have a similar and shorter saying.

"Straight from the horse's mouth," Beylan said.

The others looked at her wondering what the Harth'a was a horse. The uncomfortable silence that followed was soon broken by Emmett's humming. He had been declared the official tree measurer and tied a ribbon around all the suitable trees. They worked steadily for the next 5 hours stopping for drinks and a snack when the phasers required powering. At the end of the day they had 140 logs including the guide log. Beylan figured they needed 345 logs, since they were roughly 15 centimetres in diameter, they would need 15 for each wall at 225 centimetres high, with 20 walls 8 metres long and 3 internal walls 4 metres long. The figure didn't include the uprights or the roof, but they were well on the way.

Dinner was devoured that night with not much conversation. Everyone headed to bed straight after the meal even though it was still light. Nik and Beylan gathered their sleeping gear and headed out to their camping spot. Beylan returned to the house while Nik gathered the wood for the fire. Nik stacked the wood as she had seen Beylan do the previous night and just waited for the other woman's return.

Beylan arrived after a few minutes with a package under her arm and two bottles of water.

"Do you want to light the fire?" She asked noticing Nik staring at the stack of wood.

"Thank you I would like that," Nik replied as she reached for the lighter. "What have you got there?"

"An airbed, I thought you may be a bit bruised and sore with all the work today and this will make you more comfortable." And with that Beylan spread out the material and pulled on a tab that Nik noticed at a corner.

Nik watched in amazement as the material increased in size, self inflating itself. She forgot all about the lighting the fire. "You do not have one for yourself?"

"No I only had one in my rucksack, but I'm used to sleeping on the ground, I just know that you're going to be really sore tomorrow." Beylan also knew that should Nik have an uncomfortable night she may not want to camp out tomorrow, and Beylan didn't want that to happen.

"Thank you again that was very thoughtful of you Beylan." Nik returned her attention to lighting the fire and watched as the wood caught alight.

Beylan laid out Nik's bedding over the airbed, as well as her own over the ground. She sat down just as Nik stood up.

"I think I'll go wash in the stream before retiring," Nik said as she handed back Beylan's lighter.

"Good idea I'll head down when you come back."

"Would you like to go together?" Nik couldn't remember inviting anyone to do anything, but she enjoyed Beylan's company and perhaps they could use the time to begin the swimming lessons.

"I'd love to but I don't have any bathers."

"I'm sure if we kept our underclothes on we'll be fine. I thought it might be a good time to start my swimming lessons."

"Sure I'm game if you are." Beylan you're flirting again, stop it!

The two women headed down to the lake. "Should we leave the fire going?" Nik didn't want to come back to a camp and forest on fire.

"Yep. It'll burn down pretty quickly since you didn't put any large logs on it, and it's in an open area, so it should be fine." Beylan knew the fire would be out before they even reached the lakeshore.

"Oh, okay." Nik was confident in Beylan's knowledge.

As they reached the shore Nik veered to the left. Beylan knew where she was headed but she didn't want Nik to know. "I thought we were going in the lake?"

"No it's too deep here, the edge drops very quickly. There's a stream that I like to bathe in; it's safe and shallow."

"Okay lead the way."

The two reached the area, and began to disrobe. Nik was nervous. No-one had ever seen her in her underclothes except for her Doctor in the sphere and then he was very quick in his examinations, aware of his patient's discomfort.

Nik tried to see if Beylan was watching her and was relieved when she saw that she had turned her back, allowing Nik her privacy.

Beylan headed into the water and immediately dived beneath the surface. Nik followed in her preferred, slower submerging method. Beylan swam underwater for a while, using the cold to clear her head. Okay so I've already seen her naked but just in her underwear, that's worse: definitely worse. More reasons to wonder. Oh Beylan why do you keep getting yourself into these situations?

Beylan and Nik broke the surface together. Although Nik just bent her knees to wet her hair. They cleared the excess water and pushed their hair back. Beylan's hair was very short and she was finished before Nik.

"Okay so what do you want to learn first?" Beylan asked as she watched the beautiful woman before her wring her hair.

"I don't know, I've never seen anyone swim so I don't know what comes first."

"Okay, do you know how to float?"


"Okay we'll start with that." Beylan moved towards Nik facing her side. "All you need to do is bend your knees and lean back, I'll hold your lower back, like this," Beylan said as she placed her hand on Nik's lower back. "Then slowly raise your legs, until you're horizontal in the water."

"You're joking right? I'll sink!" Nik tilted her head and raised an eyebrow as she looked at the test pilot for confirmation.

"No, it's easy look I'll show you first." Within seconds Beylan was floating. "See it's easy, and since I'll be supporting you, you won't sink, I promise you," Beylan said as she returned to Nik's side.

"Okay, since you promised." Nik was serious, she had never once relied on others, she was self-sufficient, Beylan's promise was the only reason she would attempt to float.

"I promise, on my honour." Beylan placed her hand over her heart to signify her vow.

Beylan placed her hand on her Nik's lower back. "Ready when you are."

Nik followed Beylan's instructions, and was floating before she even realised what had happened. Beylan thought the smile that graced Nik's face was the most beautiful thing she had ever witnessed. It reached the young woman's eyes, lighting up her whole face. The joy was pure and infectious and Beylan returned the smile.

"Okay I'm going to move around a little bit, you can move your arms and legs and get a feel for the water. Okay?"

"I am ready Beylan, I trust you."

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Beylan knew that gaining the young woman's trust was an important step and she didn't want to jeopardise it now. Beylan moved around in the water very slowly, careful to check her footing before committing the placement. She was also careful not to stare too much at the body she was holding, although if the lesson lasted too long, she figured she get caught, owing to the law of averages and luck running out. Although she had to admit that a body like Nik's deserved to be appreciated. The woman was simply stunning. Tall, perfect proportions, beautiful hair, lips that begged to be kissed, okay now that's going too far when you're trying to gain her trust. Beylan mentally reprimanded herself, and turned her attentions to Nik.

"Beylan this is the most wonderful feeling. I … I feel like I'm floating; well yeah I'm floating but I feel like I'm floating in space."

Beylan noticed that Nik hadn't even opened her eyes. "Yeah it is a pretty amazing the first time. Do you think you would like to give it a try own your own?" Although Beylan liked her hand just where it was she wanted Nik to feel completely free in the water.

Nik opened her eyes and looked at the woman her was holding her up. "Sure but stay close, I know it's not deep but …. well…".

"Of course. I'll be right here." And with that Beylan moved her hand away, and Nik floated for the first time by herself.

"In the sphere water is a pretty scarce resource. Each family has a limited amount." Nik tried to explain her wonder at being surrounded by water. "One of the first things I did when I arrived here was to find this stream and just walk into it."

Beylan watched Nik. She knew from previous conversations and observation that the young woman was restless around others, and she would never willingly offer personal information. Beylan realised she had just received a precious gift, and offered her own in return.

"When I was younger, my Dad used to take me to the ocean all the time. We would so swimming and body surfing and he would carry me on his shoulders in the water and let me dive off."

"How old were you when you learnt to swim?"

"I don't know, maybe 6 or 7. But when he taught me to swim … I think it's one of my favourite memories. Did you do anything special with your Dad?"

"Well when I was five my Father took me to see the outer rim of the sphere. It was amazing; here we were living in the huge ball and I had no idea. Oh I had heard my parents talk about the sphere, but a five year old doesn't really understand till they see it and even then it's pretty hard to comprehend. Anyway he took me to the outer rim at one of the joining points.

"Joining points?"

"Yeah joining points, the outer sphere is connected to the inner sphere by joining struts. The design enables the outer sphere to roll forward why the inner sphere stays motionless. It's a pretty ingenious design actually." Nik had been amazed at the engineering skills later, but as a five year old she simply nodded when her Father explained the concept.

"I was wondering how you didn't get motion sickness from constantly rolling over." Beylan hoped that by making a joke, Nik would continue talking.

"No, no motion sickness," Nik also smiled, and then her eyes changed and the smile disappeared. "Anyway that's probably the only complete memory I have of my Father, since he died soon after," she said as she stopped floating and stood up.

"Oh… hey I'm sorry if I made you… I'm sorry."

"Thank you, although it was a long time ago, and well, I haven't really spoken about my parent's death … so really it's okay." Nik didn't want to make her friend feel uncomfortable.

"You've lost both your parents!" Great Beylan just keep on asking her dumb questions, and you'll be camping by yourself tonight.

"Yes. We should head back. It's getting dark and we'll catch a chill," Nik said as she walked out of the stream to retrieve her clothes.

Beylan stood stock still, watching the sway of the young woman's hips. Move it damn it, and stop perving, otherwise she'll send you back through the Gateway without a second thought.

Beylan started up the bank, as soon as her legs obeyed her brain. "Although if we collect some more firewood on the way back, we'll have enough heat to warm us up nicely."

And so the two women dressed, after shaking of the excess water, and headed back to their camp, gathering wood along the way. Each were aware of the other, but happy with the comfortable silence.

Nik couldn't believe she had just opened up and talked about her Father. She hadn't spoken to anyone about her parents' accidental deaths, and to open up to a complete stranger. Perhaps that's the reason, I don't know her well enough. I feel safe, she's safe. I know she won't betray my trust; and there's a very good chance I'll never see her again once she goes through the Gateway. Strangely Nik felt pain at that thought, and realised that the reason she had opened up to Beylan was she considered her a friend, my first friend.

Nik almost fell, only to have Beylan reach out and grab her arm before she completely lost her balance.

"You okay?" Beylan asked concerned by her friend's lack of attention.

"Yes, just not watching where I'm going. Thank you." Nik had just realised that Beylan was also in her personal space and she didn't mind. She didn't feel cornered, she felt comfortable, in fact she didn't feel alone anymore. And if I was completely honest, I would admit to seeking her company.

They arrived back at the camp, and Beylan moved quickly to restart the fire hoping to keep the chill at bay. Nik sat down on her bed and reached for the water bottles that Beylan had brought back with her when she retrieved the mattress, and handed one to her friend. She watched as Beylan got the fire going and patted to the mattress so the test pilot could sit down and warm herself. Beylan took a long sip of her drink and sat next to Nik.

"Nik I'm sorry if my questions brought back some bad memories, I didn't realise that you had lost both your parents."

"No actually the memories were good and it probably did me a little good to talk about them. I haven't spoken to anyone about their deaths, and well, I sort of feel comfortable talking to you, that's if you don't mind hearing about them."

"Nik I know I've only known you for a few days, but I consider you a friend, and if you want to talk about your parents than I want to listen."

Nik didn't answer. She just nodded her head and reached out to the fire to warm her hands. They stayed that way for over an hour, just listening to the sounds around them, each content to enjoy the silence.

"Well I think I might turn in, it's been a long day and we've still got heaps to do tomorrow." Beylan got up and walked over to her sleeping bag.

She got in, fussed around for a moment then turned to face the fire and closed her eyes. "Sleep well Nik."

"Goodnight Beylan." Nik stayed up for another hour slowly feeding logs into the fire. Thinking about the changes in her life, and the friend she had made, and I only had to travel 70,000 light years to make a friend. She smiled at that thought and turned to watch her friend sleep. She left the two biggest logs till last and placed them on the fire as she yawned. Getting into bed and stretching out on the comfortable air mattress, she whispered goodnight to her parents, and was asleep within seconds.

Chapter 13

B'Elanna had spent the next two hours purging the program of the Borg algorithms. Hoping the work would take her mind off of her current situation. It was a lost cause. She found herself daydreaming about her daughter growing inside, which of course led to her thinking about her soon-to-be husband. Is it too much to want just a few things to go right with my life? she thought as she finished restoring the program. After realigning the matrix that held Seven's memories she started the download in the holodeck. The results were immediate. Seven's cortical node re-animated and the hologram of Seven showed increased nanoprobe activity. Chakotay's little infiltration had just cost her six days work thought B'Elanna, and what the hell is going on with Chakotay? B'Elanna had asked the computer for Chakotay's location an hour after returning from the bridge; Chakotay was in the sickbay, behind a forcefield, the computer after further questions advised the Chief Engineer that the first officer had not moved since being beamed to Deck 5.

It wasn't that B'Elanna was a gossip; she just liked to know what was going on in the ship. The life of a Maquis had taught her not to trust everyone, and information could be used for protection. Chakotay had been acting strangely of late, that was common gossip. Often the First Officer looked so doped up that saying boo to the man would probably give him a heart attack. At other times he was so passionate that people just agreed with him whenever he suggested something, just to escape his inevitable explanation of why he was so passionate. B'Elanna hoped that whatever was ailing her former Maquis Captain was treatable and soon, before more damage could be done.

With the program performing as it was designed and the results more than acceptable B'Elanna decided to call it a day. She wanted to contact the Doctor and Captain first to advise them of the results and suggest a possible time for tomorrow to conduct the operation.

She had just finished explaining everything to the Captain from the terminal in the holodeck. Noting that Janeway looked withdrawn, B'Elanna decided to ask what happened to Chakotay.

"B'Elanna, Chakotay's medical condition is confidential however he did admit to placing the Borg algorithms in the program before he was … restrained."

Oh Kahless what has he done now? "Thank you Captain for confirming his involvement, I'll feel safer tomorrow when we perform the operation. Now I have a personal request."

B'Elanna noticed Janeway's eyebrows arch, the movement resulting in her Captain's eyes to widen. "Go ahead B'Elanna." Kathryn was intrigued.

"I would like to take the rest of the day off. I have a few personal matters that need attending." B'Elanna knew the vague explanation would cause a further rise in Janeway's eyebrows.

"Of course B'Elanna …. anything I can help you with?" What the hell is going on, and is Paris safe? thought Kathryn as she waited for B'Elanna's answer.

"No, not now but perhaps I'll see you later tonight around 2100 hrs if that's okay?" May as well get the vows over and done with, thought B'Elanna.

"I would like that, I'll look forward to your visit, and B'Elanna, enjoy the rest of your day off." Kathryn smiled and closed the connection.

"Easy for you to say, you don't have to propose to the resident boy child of Voyager, oh and you won't be giving birth in three months either." B'Elanna logged off for the day and headed back to her quarters.

B'Elanna noted her sparse quarters upon entering. She just hoped no-one had decided to look behind the borg alcoves today. Okay it's now 1300 hrs and Tom finishes his shift at 1600 hrs. No time to send a requisition to maintenance for more furniture, I don't have the rations anyway, and plus I want to save them for the baby's arrival, time for plan B. Plan B was a romantic candlelight picnic dinner on the floor eating with fingers. Yeah Tom likes eating with his fingers, I'm surprised he even mastered using a knife and fork. B'Elanna quickly reprimanded herself. Tom was her soon-to-be husband and even though she would never have chosen him, their daughter did, and she would honour him as a wife.

She quickly sent a dinner invitation to Tom and waited for his reply. He was coming at 1700 hrs, which gave her plenty of time to replicate some of his favourite dishes.

1700 hrs B'Elanna's quarters

B'Elanna had just excited the bathroom when her door chime sounded. She had wanted tonight to be special, and had replicated a flowing black spaghetti strap dress, that ended at her knees. She walked barefoot across the room and greeted her dinner guest and fiancée.

"Hi Tom, I'm glad you could make it." B'Elanna gestured for Tom to enter, but he stood still mouth open staring at the vision before him.

"B'Elanna you look absolutely beautiful, I'm sorry I haven't changed I didn't realise tonight was a special occasion, I hope I haven't forgotten our anniversary." Tom said as he leaned forward to place a kiss on B'Elanna's cheek and hand her the flowers he had replicated. She was thankful that he at least had the good sense to arrive with flowers.

"Thank you Tom, and no you haven't missed our anniversary…. I …. I just wanted tonight to be special."

"Well since you're here it's already special, hey where's the furniture?" Tom asked as he moved into the quarters and noted the empty room.

"It didn't go with the picnic, so I moved it out for tonight." B'Elanna hoped her explanation was enough.

"Cool, so I guess were sitting on the floor." And with that Tom sat down on one of the large cushions that B'Elanna had placed around the stasis-covered dishes.

The meal was going well; the conversation flowing easy across the food. B'Elanna's willingness to nip certain comments in the bud, allowed for a nice exchange. Tom noted how much B'Elanna was eating, he knew she had a big appetite but this was just too much tonight.

"B'Elanna, can I ask you something?" Tom asked hoping that his question didn't result in the premature ending of his life.

"Are … are you pregnant?" There I've said it, now I'll just wait for the bat'leth to appear.

"Yes!" B'Elanna said and then regretted immediately the anger she had exposed when answering.

Tom thought, so that's what really happened to the furniture.

Deciding to put him at ease she repeated her reply this time more softly. "Yes Tom I'm pregnant, you're going to be a father." She smiled at the expression that now graced his face.

Tom's eyes lit up, a smile splitting his young face. "That's fantastic, so we're going to be parents." Tom reached across the food and took B'Elanna's hand. "Thank you for giving me a family."

B'Elanna was amazed, he seemed sincere, well he was sincere, perhaps she had underestimated him; no you've had six years to work him out, perhaps he's just growing up.

"Tom I know you've asked me heaps of time to marry you and I've put off giving you a straight answer, so you can either ask me again, or I can ask you." She hoped he would ask her; it was easier to say yes, than propose.

Tom moved the pillow and knelt in front of B'Elanna, he reached for her other hand and asked her. "B'Elanna Torres would you please do me the honour and agree to be my wife?"


Tom hugged his fiancée across the food. "So now what do we do? When is the baby due, and do you know what it'll be, and should we…?".

"Tom I thought a simple ceremony in the Captain's quarters tonight, with Tuvok and Neelix as witnesses. The baby's due in three months and yes I know the sex. We're going to have a ….".

"No don't tell me I want to be surprised. How come the baby's due in three months time, you're not even showing?" Tom had a good look at B'Elanna's figure when he arrived and she was as slim as ever.

"My Klingon DNA is speeding up the process and although I've only been pregnant for six days the … baby's actually growing three times faster."

"Oh okay, now does the Captain know about our wedding?"

"No, I thought we'd tell her together tonight. I made an appointment to see her at 1900, I thought we could just ask Neelix and Tuvok to come at 1930 hrs, that way Janeway will have recovered from the shock."

"Good idea, so Mrs. Paris-to-be, I would be honoured to escort you to Deck 3, as it's just going onto 1900 hrs." Tom got up and helped B'Elanna to her feet.

"Thank you B'Elanna dinner was wonderful, I'm sure I'll never forget this anniversary." Tom said as they entered the corridor outside of B'Elanna's quarters.

Captains quarters ….

Kathryn sat down on the couch that, thankfully, was directly behind her. If it had been positioned elsewhere she would now be nursing a very sore backside, from landing on the hard floor.

"You want me to marry you tonight, what's the rush?" Kathryn once again rubbed at a headache that just decided to make its presence known.

B'Elanna interrupted Tom before he mentioned the pregnancy, "It's just that we've been going out for awhile and decided to make it official."

Kathryn looked to B'Elanna for confirmation and noticed her nudging Tom. B'Elanna was aware that Kathryn was looking at her, apparently waiting for Tom's confirmation. Thankfully he nodded.

"And you want to get married right now?"

"Yes." Both answered simultaneously.

Just then the chime sounded. "I'll send them away," Kathryn said as she crossed the room to do just that.

"No, it's probably Tuvok and Neelix. We took the liberty of asking them to come by as we needed witnesses," B'Elanna said before Kathryn reached the door.

"Enter", Janeway called, and Tuvok and Neelix both entered the Captain's quarters.

"So I gather you two have decided to get married," Neelix said as he crossed the floor to congratulate the couple. Tuvok simply looked at his Captain and the silent dialogue was enough to confirm his logical assessment at being summoned by Lieutenants Paris and Torres.

Another day, full of surprises in the Delta quadrant, thought Kathryn as she headed to the replicator intent on having a nice strong drink, or three.

Chapter 14

It had been three weeks since they started working on the shelters. They only had to finish Nik's roof and they were half way through already.

The five had gelled together as a unit, each contributing to the group and the work. Everyone recognised the different skills they possessed and then utilised their talent.

The Doctor, although not adverse to hard work, enjoyed cooking and gardening and took over that role from Nik. He also enjoyed more detailed work and was seconded to make the doors, as well as collect as many rocks as possible. B'Elanna knew that although log cabins looked cozy without a fireplace they would end up being exactly the opposite when the colder weather set in.

The rest continued on the structures, although Nik who also enjoyed more precise work, used the lasers to cut the roofing planks, while the others started the assembly process.

Emmett, who it seemed got the lighter workload, was in fact working just as hard as the builders. He was constantly cooking for the motley crew, who had appetites that belied their size. Beylan could and would probably eat everything on the table if given the nod. The garden was shrinking, and Emmett was planting everyday to keep up with the growing demands of the humans.

The others had bulked up considerably from the hard labor, and each in their own way admired their new shape. All five were also considerably darker in skin colour, although Beylan who was naturally dark skinned, now had a skin colour that was richer and deeper, not necessarily darker.

Nik thought Beylan looked wonderful, and would often spend time comparing skin colours in private contemplation. Her friendship with the older woman was strong. They had spent every night camping at their spot. It was a ritual they had developed early and had not changed. The constant swimming lessons had turned Nik into an expert within two weeks, and the first night she swam in the lake was pure joy for the young woman. Although I nearly did drown when I saw Beylan jumping on the bank. Beylan, who was proud of her friend's progress, had jumped up and down on the bank, the dirt had shifted and she ended up sliding into the water fully clothed. Nik quickly swam over to her and pulled her up the bank before her clothes dragged her under the water.

"And the student saves the teacher, great … and thanks Nik," Beylan said as she stood up smiling after the impromptu rescue.

"You are most welcome my teacher, although perhaps you should go in, since you're now covered in mud." Nik tried to hide the smile that threatened to break out at any moment.

Beylan's expression turned to glee as she slowly stalked Nik; the chase was on. Beylan although not long in the leg was faster at shorter speeds and promptly caught the young woman. She picked her up with ease and walked with great difficulty to the edge of the lake. Although the weight was easy the bundle was not. Nik was squirming and trying to escape her restrainer. She knew where this was heading and where Beylan was heading; to the lake.

"Beylan, I'm sorry really I thought you were going to drown, I was just trying to save you." Nik's attempt at hiding her smile only served to fuel Beylan's embarrassment.

"Well you know Nik I almost believe, in fact I would, if you didn't have that smart smirk plastered all over your face! Get ready to go swimming." And with that, Beylan tossed the still woman out over the lake.

Nik, who had a fairly good idea as to Beylan's strength, knew the trip would send her high into the air. She used the time to rotate her body and entered the water in the perfect dive position.

Beylan just stared at the surface after watching her victim perform one the most perfect dives she had ever seen. My God, she's perfect, just perfect.

Nik surfaced, poked her tongue out at her would be tormentor and promptly disappeared beneath the surface a second time.

Beylan took off her shoes, stepped back from the edge, took a couple of steps forward and dived into the water fully clothed, figuring it was easier to wash them while they were still wet and on her body.

That had happened a week ago and the two women were closer than ever. Beylan's sexuality had yet to enter the mix, but Nik was the least judgmental person Beylan knew and so she wasn't concerned should the topic arise.

The two had just finished their evening meal and had headed out to their camp as usual; barefoot and carrying their boots. The others were giving the women space, and preferred to get as much sleep as possible before the next working day.

"So Nik, you'll be able to sleep in your new home tomorrow, if all goes well." Beylan hated the thought of their nightly ritual ending, but she was happy that Nik would gain some of her lost independence.

"I know, although I think I'll wait until we've finished all the fireplaces, and we have not yet had the opportunity to go fishing, so I thought I may just stay outside awhile longer."

Yes, Beylan was ecstatic; she was not looking forward to her remaining time on the planet without the young woman's company at night. "You know you're right. We haven't been fishing, what say we plan to go out … say in two nights, well early morning actually is the best time, just before sunrise."

"It's a date then, two nights time we hit the lake and fish. Are you certain the fish is edible? I have never eaten anything that was once alive." Nik had her concerns, the thought of something dying to feed her seemed a bit barbaric.

"Yes it's edible and very very tasty. Wait till I cook it up, it'll melt in your mouth, and you'll say Oh Beylan you're the greatest cook of all time, please teach me your skills." Beylan was pretending to be serious during her speech; she failed miserably.

"Yeah right, and then you'll be the new designated cook and well eat fish every night and I'll probably turn into one and I'll still be the best swimmer."

"Oh you're asking for it, keep talking like that and you'll be testing your swimming skills with your clothes on." Beylan's threat fell on deaf ears.

"Oh I'm so scared, please someone save me from the big bad …. Beeeeeeeeeeylaaaaaaan." Nik took off as Beylan chased her down to the camp site.

Oh God, she looks so good when she runs. I definitely have the best spot for this sport. Beylan didn't try to catch the young woman, but showed enough energy to keep the chase going for a while, so she could continue to appreciate the swaying hips in front of her.

Nik plonked herself down on the ground, winded, not caring if she was caught, she had enough running. Beylan simply kept going; hurdling the body in front of her, tossing her boots in the air, leaping fully extended and fully clothed, she dived into the lake.

Two days later Beylan woke Nik at 3am in the morning.

"Nik wake up sleepy head, we've got fish to fry." Beylan told her as she gently shook her friend's shoulder.

Nik had just spent the day going over what equipment she would need when she and Beylan went through the Gateway in three days time. She was tired and irritable, the thought of losing her friend to her home planet weighing heavily on her mind.

"I'm too tired. Can't we do it tomorrow?" she said as she rolled over and snuggled further into the sleeping bag.

"Well we could but I've got a bucket of water here that's begging to be tipped over a certain person's head if they're not up before I count to ten".

"One, two, three …."

"Alright I'm up but if there's a bucket beside my bed I'm throwing it over you." Nik rolled back to check for the bucket. "Thought so, nothing, wake me up tomorrow."

"Come on it'll be fun, I'll even let you sleep in the boat." Beylan hated to beg, but the thought of spending her remaining time on the planet with her friend spurred her on.

"Okay, as long as you promise to be quiet as well." Nik sat up, and rubbed her eyes.

She's absolutely adorable. "I promise to be quiet, since you have to be so you don't frighten the fish away." Beylan reached down and grabbed the hands that had reached out to her. She pulled the young woman up, who promptly fell into her arms when the air was displaced in the mattress.

"Orff, and I guess you want me to carry you down to the lake."

"Well that'd be nice, since I wouldn't have to fully wake up and I could go back to sleep," Nik said although the arms around her waist had woken her up.

"Come on. Let's get going. I want to actually be on the water before the suns come up," Beylan said as she relinquished her hold and headed down to the lake.

Nik picked up the safety jacket that she had left by her sleeping bag and followed Beylan down to the lake. She got into the raft and sat down waiting for Beylan to cast them off using the oar.

The raft was big enough to hold four people comfortably, Nik used the extra room and stretched out, resting her head on the side of the inflated raft. Beylan just watched her. "Are you really going back to sleep?"

"Just for a little while, the rocking's soothing. You don't mind do you?" Nik asked as she readjusted her head.

"No, go ahead the real fishing won't start till just before sunsrise." Beylan started the small motor and headed out to the middle of the lake, figuring that it would probably take half an hour and then she might catch some shuteye herself.

Beylan shut off the motor when she reached what she thought was the middle of the lake. She placed all the fishing gear next to Nik's feet and rested her back against the inflatable side of the raft, and dozed off.

"Beylan wake up, it's almost time to start fishing." Nik had woken up to the gentle rocking of the raft, she felt totally relaxed. Finding her water legs she moved to wake up her fishing teacher. The sudden shift in weight resulted in her falling on the older woman.

"Nik what the hell's going on?" Beylan's arms circled the woman trying to break her fall. The resulting tumble placed both women in a compromising position. Beylan's thigh was pressed firmly against the apex of Nik's legs, their breasts crushed together, winding the young woman.

Beylan opened her eyes to look at the beautiful woman perched above her. Quickly averting them she tried to make a joke but failed miserably.

Nik was laughing at the situation. She tried to get up but the boat was still rocking and she was worried that her attempt may land her in the icy cold water. Pushing her hair away from Beylan's face she caught her friend's gaze for a moment, and what she saw shocked her. Nik maybe naïve when it came to matters of the heart but she had seen desire before. She had often caught her work colleagues admiring her body, and although their attention meant nothing she now was able to recognise unbridled lust when she saw it. That one unguarded look from Beylan spoke volumes. Nik could hear the blood roar in her ears, her body's reaction catching her completely off guard.

The moment was broken when Beylan moved out from under Nik. Their breasts brushed past each others as they tried to untangle their legs. Nik thought that perhaps a dip in the water might help cool the fever that had invaded her body and mind.

"Well that was certainly one of the most interesting wake up calls I've ever had. Perhaps next time you could just throw a bucket of ice water over me." Beylan's voice sounded foreign to her own ears.

"Um… sorry". Was all Nik could manage as she attempted to regain control of her long limbs.

"Well now that we're up and out here in the middle of the lake, what say you we do a little fishing?"

"Good idea," Nik mumbled into the bottom of the raft.

"Nik are you okay you didn't hurt yourself when you fell?" Beylan was concerned as the young woman was still lying face down in the raft.

"No, my um …. my leg went to sleep and that's why I fell, I'm just waiting for the feeling to return." The young woman desperately tried to cover her embarrassment and her reaction to the look she saw in her friend's chocolate eyes. Great last week they were brown eyes, now they're chocolate.

"Well why didn't you say so, which leg is it, I'll rub it to get the circulation going." Beylan knelt down carefully in the raft, as she waited for Nik to identify the cramped leg.

"Ah no that's okay it's fine now." Nik quickly turned over and sat up to indicate her restored mobility.

"Okay well let's get started, I'm starving and I want fresh fish for breakfast."

Beylan handed Nik her rod and cast out her own line. She noticed the young woman watched the action and imitated the cast almost perfectly. The two sat in the small raft, not wanting to talk, and for the first time since they meet they suffered through an uncomfortable silence.

Beylan was worried that Nik may have seen the desire that she had felt when her arms wrapped around Nik's waist. Her thigh had been pressed against Nik's sex and the warmth had immediately jumped from one body to the other flowed like lava. Oh God I hope she didn't see anything, I don't know what's worse having her reject me as a lover or reject me as a friend. I need her friendship, I know I've grown to love her, but it's her friendship that I desire first, her laughter, her smile, her trust.

Nik was still coming to terms with the look; the unadulterated desire and love that Beylan had projected. The eyes of an unguarded soul reveal the truths buried deep in its heart, wasn't that another long saying in the sphere? Well it's certainly true, for that one glimpse is playing havoc with my mind, not to mention my temperature. Nik wasn't sure how she felt about Beylan's feelings, seeing as her own emotions and thoughts were crashing into each other with unnerving precision. A tug on Nik's line brought her out of her private musings. "Beylan I think something just pulled my line," Nik said, excitement lacing her words.

"Okay when you feel another tug, snap your rod up and try to hook the fish," Beylan instructed as she reeled in her line as fast as she could.

Just then Nik felt another rug and did as Beylan suggested; she snapped the rod up, the resulting action throwing her back and off balance and straight into the icy water on the other side of the raft. The motion almost caused Beylan to join her.

The safety jacket worked and Nik bobbed to the surface spluttering water. She lifted her hand up that was still clutching the rod and handed it to Beylan. "Pull the fish in, and then would you please pull me in." Nik didn't want to lose her first fish and figured since she was already soaked she could wait till Beylan had secured her breakfast.

Beylan was laughing at her wet friend. "Nik we'll make a fisherwoman out of you yet." As she reached for the rod she saw the gleam in Nik's eyes, and stopped all movement.


"What? Oh I wasn't going to pull you in, I was just going to hand you the rod. Hey I'm glad the safety jacket works." Nik hoped to change the subject.

"Well what's that sneaky look in your eyes I can see, and how come you changed the subject?"

Well she really does know me, "Um… no truthfully, here take the rod, your breakfast is hanging on the end."

You bet breakfast is hanging on the end, and lunch, and dinner, and the rest of my life. "Okay hand it up, but no tricks, you need me dry so I can give you my jacket to wear so you don't freeze to death. Okay?"

"I promise, no tricks."

Nik handed up the rod and waited for Beylan to reel the fish in. Once Beylan unhooked the catch she showed Nik her first fish.

"Pretty good size too, just right for breakfast for two." Beylan leaned over and dragged her wet friend into the raft. Nik smiled at her friend and then the fish, and removed her safety jacket.

"Okay you should get those wet clothes off, and I'll give you my dry jacket to wear." Beylan turned her back not wanting to give away any more secrets today. She took of the jacket and held it out behind her.

Nik who was by now shivering ripped off the clothes on her upper body and grabbed the jacket and put it on as fast as she could, zipping it up to the top.

Beylan started the engine and headed to the other side of the lake.

"Where are we going, home's the other way?"

"Yeah I know but we've only got one fish and you need warm dry clothes which I have in my bag, so I thought we'd have breakfast on the other side."

"Okay. Hey what do you mean you've got extra clothes, and why didn't you tell me before?"

"Well since you're such a klutz when it comes to boats, I thought you should wait till you hit dry land before attempting to change."

"Beylan keep talking like that and you'll be sorry I swear, I'll make you pay somehow."

"Oh, I'm so scared." Beylan was laughing as she attempted to put a scared look onto her face. Nik just turned the other way trying to hide her smile. Beylan saw the smile from the side, and knew for certain one of two things; she was either in deep trouble, or she was safe; she dearly hoped it was the first.

The trip to the other side of the lake was shorter since the natural movement of the lake had already moved them half way. Beylan captained the raft parallel to the shore until she spotted a natural landing spot and simply directed the raft straight up the bank.

Both women jumped out of the raft and pulled it further up the bank. Beylan picked up the bag she had packed with spare clothes and tossed it to Nik. "You should change into some dry clothes while I set up breakfast."

Nik caught the bag and smiled. "Thanks."

Beylan searched for dry sticks to cook the fish, she didn't need a lot and had soon set up the impromptu cooking area by digging a hole in the sand and lighting the fire in the middle. Beylan, always one to be prepared, retrieved the seasonings and herbs she had packed the previous night, and the fish Nik had caught, and headed down to the lake to gut the fish. Nik joined her and watched as Beylan cleaned the fish. "Are you sure we can eat that?" Nik was certain she had never eaten anything that was once alive.

"Warm now", Beylan said as she smiled at Nik rubbing her arms through the thick dry jacket. "Nik trust me please, you'll love it, and anyway you have to eat it you caught it," Beylan said as she placed seasoning and herbs inside the cavity of the fish. She wrapped it in foil and headed back to the fire.

The two headed back to the fire and Beylan simply sat down and waited for the flames to die down and leave the hot coals behind. Nik followed suit by stretched her hands towards the warmth.

"Lucky I packed extra clothes, otherwise I'd be putting you on the fire to thaw out," Beylan said to the young woman who was still feeling the effects of her accidental swim.

"Well we're even I caught the fish and you packed the clothes," Nik replied as she caught her friend's gaze. "So aren't you going to cook the fish?"

"Yeah, I'll wait for the flames to go down then I'll cook it slowly using the heated coal and sand. That way we'll be able to do a little exploring since it's our first time to this side of the lake," Beylan explained knowing that the slow cook would ensure the fish was moist.

The flames died down and Beylan spread the coals out and placed the fish on top. She then moved the hot sand and completely covered their breakfast.

"I reckon we've got about half an hour before it's done, so let's go exploring." And with that the two headed off.

They returned 30 minutes later and sat down to a perfectly cooked breakfast.

"Okay you get first taste since you hooked the fish," Beylan stated as she handed a small piece to the young woman.

"Thanks I think," Nik replied skeptically as she reached for the piece. "Here goes," and with that she popped it into her mouth.

Beylan watched as Nik closed her eyes and vocalised her approval.

"Mmmmmmm, it's absolutely delicious."

Beylan smiled and tried a piece herself. "Not bad at all".

The two ate their breakfast in silence, interrupted sporadically by Nik's vocal appreciation.

Beylan and Nik spent the remainder of the time cementing their friendship, before they headed through the Gateway for spare parts. During the time all five completed the fireplaces, which Beylan predicted could be used safely in one week.

It had been one month exactly since Beylan had used the Gateway to escape detection. All five gathered around the Gateway. Nik had just finished re-aligning Beylan's matrix to the exact temporal flux of the Gateway turning the equipment on herself she repeated the process. The two sported the empty rucksacks, both phasers and the list of equipment they would need to find in Beylan's garage or somewhere else. Beylan didn't like the somewhere part and hoped her garage held more than she remembered.

Kate, Emmett and Eugene wished the women good luck and Evr'gan's speed. The three remained around the Gateway long after the two had disappeared, knowing their fate was tied up with the two women.

To Be Continued

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