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"Janeway to Torres."
"Torres here, Captain."
"Report to my Ready Room, Lieutenant."
"On my way. Torres out." With a slight frown, B'Elanna sought out Carey. Finding him, half in and half out of a console, running repairs, she delivered her orders to his behind. "Joe, Engineering is yours for a while. Janeway wants to see me."
"Been a naughty girl?" came the muffled jibe.
"No more than I usually am. It's part of my charm." On the way out of Engineering, she passed a small, framed picture of Carey's wife and two sons. How many times had she told him to keep it in his private quarters? And yet it always ended up right back here. She shrugged. She guessed he needed it right where it was.
Icheb was at his wits end. Not that he was panicking. Icheb didn't do panic. He did, however, do frustration, and it came to the fore as he stared over at Seven, sitting in the corner of Astrometrics. "Seven," he tried, "you have shown me this procedure only once before. I am faltering in its execution. I believe if you show me again, I will fully comprehend."
Seven looked up at him, without expression, and looked down again, saying nothing.
"I need your help, Seven!"
"I suggest you refer to the console. I am sure you will find the ship's computer as helpful and thorough as I have always been."
"But I want you to tell me."
"I am more a machine than a person, am I not. What is the difference?" With that, she got up and left Astrometrics.
"Icheb to Captain Janeway."
"Here, Icheb. What is it?"
"You told me to inform you if Seven left Astrometrics. She just did."
"Do you know where she was going?"
"She didn't say, Captain."
"Good work, Icheb. I'm sending Lieutenant Torres to you later. Maybe she can answer any questions you might have, or help you find the answers." Then Kathryn added, "You are making us all proud with the way you are handling this. Janeway out."
Icheb wrinkled his eyes in a smile, glad that someone was noticing.
B'Elanna was absent-minded, to say the least. Walking, on the way to the Bridge, she was concentrating on maybe five different reasons why the Captain may want to see her. There had been a little `blowing up' lately, on her part. She had told no one, but it had been her mother's birth celebration last week. She had absolutely no idea whether her mother was dead or alive, let alone whether she would ever see her again. She knew it had made her a little crabby. There would be a reprimand, of some kind.
Suddenly, a silver bullet, otherwise known as Seven of Nine, blew past her. `I didn't know you could walk that fast,' she mused as she watched Seven disappear down the corridor, knowing now what a ship felt like when it `grazed shields' with another.
Kathryn was sat on the couch as B'Elanna entered; the Ready Room seemed somehow different and B'Elanna couldn't quite work out why. Looking at her face, Kathryn smiled, held up her left hand and said, "Do you like them?" referring to the new fine, silk-like wall decorations now hanging behind her office chair.
"Very much," said B'Elanna, viewing the delicate additions, "they're beautiful."
"Our last R & R - Counsellor Jargh insisted I take them as a gift."
B'Elanna smiled her acknowledgement and joined her Captain on the couch, where she had been beckoned. "What's this about, Captain?" she asked nervously.
"I need your help, Lieutenant." The Chief Engineer relaxed and waited. Her Captain seemed to be choosing her words carefully. "It's about Seven."
"Seven! What's she done now!"
"It's more about what she isn't doing."
"What do you mean?" questioned B'Elanna, quietly. It didn't sound like Seven to be work-shy. She recalled Seven's face as she had passed her in the corridor. She'd worn a haunted expression. "I just saw her. She didn't look so good."
"She's been mildly abusive to a number of crewmembers, including Chakotay and myself. She won't work, and she won't say why."
"What's this got to do with me?" asked B'Elanna, perplexed.
Kathryn looked at her for a moment, mouth open, ready to speak, but not doing so. "Oh, there's no easy way to say this, Lieutenant," she finally blurted out. "You're the only one on the ship with a rudeness and a manner close to Seven's." (now B'Elanna's mouth was open, her eyes fully too) ". and so the only one qualified to understand and possibly help her." Kathryn let out a phew-type breath, placed her right fingers to her brow and rubbed, looking down.
"Well!" To Kathryn's great surprise, B'Elanna laughed: she looked back up at her. "I can certainly see your point! I couldn't have put it better myself, Captain!"
"Well, that's a relief. I thought I was going to have to deal with an enraged Klingon, as well as a malfunctioning Borg." Kathryn moved to the replicator and ordered refreshments for them and then sat back down, and the women talked over what was known so far, although when B'Elanna left, 15 minutes later, she still didn't have a clue as to what to do about Seven. First things first, she thought, heading to Astrometrics, and Icheb.
Seven of Nine sat miserably in the dark, with her knees up under her chin; her arms wrapped around them. She was utterly miserable. She had always liked the number 17, and so she had chosen a Jefferies tube on that Deck in which to `hide', although she was fully aware she could not, without sabotage, `hide' from the computer. She hoped, however, that her choice of location would signify her wish to be left alone.
From his seat on the Bridge, Chakotay tapped his combadge. "Chakotay to the Captain."
"What is it? You miss me already?" laughed Kathryn from the Ready Room.
"Could you stand an interruption?"
"With all this work, I would positively welcome it! Come on in."
The door opened and Chakotay made his way to Kathryn, seated at her desk. She leaned back, tilted her chin up, put head on one side and studied him. After a few moments she said, "What is it that couldn't wait, Commander?"
Slightly flustered, her First Officer began, "It's about Seven of Nine. I think. I think I may have had something to do with the state she is in."
Kathryn frowned, "Go on," she urged, in a deep tone.
"I just didn't think before I said it." Kathryn folded her arms, still frowning, and waited for the facts to be revealed.
`Icheb is such a nice kid,' thought B'Elanna as she exited Astrometrics. She found herself hoping that her own son or daughter would be as helpful, polite and kind one day. A cloud came over those thoughts when she remembered what Icheb's parents had brought him into their world to do. To infect the Borg. `Well, that was a reminder!' she smiled. "Computer, locate Seven of Nine."
Seven of Nine is in the Jefferies tube on Deck 17
"Wow!" said B'Elanna, heading to the turbolift.
"Thank you for coming to me with this, Commander. I can see it must have been difficult for you." Kathryn viewed her First Officer critically. "I must insist that you develop a lot more thought and compassion around Seven in the future. I don't know how any of us would have dealt with the transition, had her story been ours."
Chakotay could see the disappointment clearly etched on his Captain's face. "It was thoughtless of me, Captain. I will go to Seven and apologise to her now."
Kathryn put a hand up to interrupt him, "No, I've sent B'Elanna to her. I'm hoping the two fiery women can connect. I want Seven to have the experience of confiding in someone, being counselled by someone."
"Yes. B'Elanna. I am confident this will help Seven much more than simply being apologised to. She needs to work through the hurt she's been feeling, and not simply from you, Commander."
"But, couldn't you have gone to."
"I am her `mother', Chakotay. B'Elanna could be her friend." Kathryn gave her First Officer a crooked smile. "What did you ever tell your mother, huh?"
Chakotay smiled as he looked at the wise leader before him. "Not a lot, as I recall."
Kathryn spread both arms sideway in a shrug. "I rest my case. Dismissed, Commander. And, thank you."
"It's me," B'Elanna said quietly, as the Jefferies tube doors whooshed open."
You are the least likely member of this crew to send to me," Seven winced, her right hand stretched out in front of her eyes to stem the glare from B'Elanna's flashlight.
"You're welcome!" snapped B'Elanna, clambering into the Jefferies tube alongside her quarry.
"Why have they sent you?" Seven questioned, miserably.
"You don't want to know."
"I believe that asking the question signifies that I do wish to know, Lieutenant."
"The Captain considered me the BEST member of this crew to send to you!" stated B'Elanna to a surprised Seven.
With the torch aimed up at the ceiling, both women's faces were illuminated, albeit looking like something from a horror movie. B'Elanna levelled her eyes at the sad face beside her. "OK, you asked for it. It's the Captain's view that I am as rude and as arrogant as you are, and might understand you! There!" B'Elanna couldn't believe it, Seven was smiling.
"The Captain was right. We are equals in that field, B'Elanna Torres."
B'Elanna found herself blushing slightly, although she couldn't think why. Thank goodness, she thought, it wouldn't be noticed in this light.
"Lieutenant, you are blushing."
"You must be mistaken, Seven," said B'Elanna in a patient sort of voice that you might use to talk sense into a naughty child.
"The thermo signs around your face, specifically your cheeks have increased, and I distinctly."
"Are we here to discuss me, or you!" defended B'Elanna, tired of this mission already.
"Me," whispered Seven, almost endearingly.
"You wanna tell me why the hell you're sitting in a Jefferies tube on Deck 17 in the dark, and you have the Captain, up there, fretting about you?"
"You are not in the least bit interested."
"There is no need to raise your voice, Lieutenant. My hearing is sufficient to hear you at such close quarters." If Seven had looked down at B'Elanna's right fist at that moment, she would perhaps have been concerned about the Chief Engineer's fingernails embedding themselves in the closed palm.
Kathryn was always pleased to see the fluffy little Talaxian. She was very fond of his kind nature and his jovial ways. He strode across the Ready Room floor and stopped in front of her desk, looking at her. "Well, Neelix, to what do I owe this honour?"
"I saw - Seven, this morning, Captain. She looked as though she needed some help. I even wondered if she may be. ill. Although, with those nanoprobes, it probably wouldn't happen. I thought you ought to know, anyway."
"I am aware of it, Neelix, but I thank you for coming to see me about this. Seven is having a few problems, it's fair to say, and may be away from her station for a short while, but she is receiving all the help she needs."
"Ah. Well. If there's anything I can do, Captain."
"Just continue to be your usual, vigilant, kind self." Kathryn gave him a warm smile. "You got a minute?" she asked.
"For you, Captain, of course."
"Then how about a nice, hot cup of replicated coffee," she teased, playfully, watching the back end of Neelix scurrying across her floor, taking his horrified expression with him.
"Er, I'll pass on that, Captain. See you later," he said over his shoulder and, with that, he was gone.
"I simply asked him why he was wasting my time, asking me a question he could have asked of the computer, to which he replied, "You, the computer, what's the difference?"
"Yeah, well. Chakotay can be thoughtless at times," agreed B'Elanna, "but he shouldn't have said that to you. I can see why you're so upset."
"Then I'm not over-reacting?" enquired Seven.
"I don't think so. Why don't you come with me to see him - we can each pick a shin and kick it. he won't have a leg to stand on!" B'Elanna was surprised that Seven laughed. Even more surprised that she enjoyed the sound of Seven's laughter and wanted to hear it again. "Come on," she said, clambering out of the Jefferies tube, reaching a hand back in to help Seven.
"As appealing as it would be to kick Commander Chakotay, I feel I must return to Astrometrics. There is someone there I must apologise to."
"I don't think Icheb will give you a hard time. I'll go tell the Captain you're back on track."
Seven took hold of B'Elanna's arm as she was about to leave. "Thank you, Lieutenant. I."
"What is it, Seven?"
"I find I have enjoyed our conversation. I would like to talk again, some time. If that is agreeable." Seven looked nervous.
"We Klingon's are made of pretty stern stuff, you know. I think I can stand it." B'Elanna let out her next words from the heart, and forgot to check them out with her head first: "How about tonight?"
It was hard to tell which of the two women looked more surprised. Seven recovered first. "18.00, in the Mess Hall?"
"It's a date," said B'Elanna's heart again. Her head decided to argue back though.
"Lieutenant. You're blushing again."
"Yeah. I'd noticed that!"
"Don't worry, Lieutenant, he's not stopping," said Seven, coming up behind the Engineer at her seat in the Mess Hall. It made B'Elanna jump and, turning around, she saw Seven holding Chakotay's sleeve.
"He says we can indeed `take our best shot'", Seven stated, clearly delighted at the prospect. B'Elanna got up and joined Seven as Chakotay tapped his chest, about an inch under his combadge, "Chakotay to the Doctor. Prepare for a medical emergency in the Mess Hall" he feigned and then, to the amusement of Neelix and the Captain watching by the counter, he said, politely, "Go ahead, ladies."
When you've been kicked by Seven, you know you've been kicked. When you've been kicked by B'Elanna, you know you've been kicked. When you are kicked by both, simultaneously, you are a very brave person indeed.
A very brave person limped out of the Mess Hall, on his way to Sickbay, to the applause and laughter of all present. Kathryn crossed to the table shared by B'Elanna and Seven. "He may act like an idiot at times, but he knows how to put it right," she said, approvingly. Looking from one to the other of her officers, the astute Captain noticed at once the shy, nervous and smiling expressions on both their faces. Feeling very much in the way, she excused herself.
Heading out of the Mess Hall, with a half-smile and a very knowing expression, Kathryn thought: 'My God, my only agenda was that these two fireballs become friends.' Her smile spread, `Now look what you've started, Kathy!"
"I'll find someone to insult you again, tomorrow. I promise," mumbled B'Elanna around her pancakes with maple syrup.
Seven looked mildly unhappy, a contrast to the easy smile she had been wearing most of the evening, "And why would you want to do that, Lieutenant? I thought."
"Lieutenant is it now?" Seven looked puzzled. "Oh, c'mon Seven - you get insulted, we get lunch. You get insulted again. well - who knows what could happen." B'Elanna paused in her fun, looking at Seven carefully. "Why Seven, you're blushing!"
"Yes," replied Seven, with a shy smile. "I'd noticed that."
"You match your outfit, " B'Elanna whispered. Looking at Seven provocatively, she brought her fork up to her lips, with the last piece of pancake on it, and put it into her mouth very slowly, contemplating her future with the woman before her.
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