DISCLAIMER: Star Trek not mine, no profit made, just playing. That oughta cover it, right?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Anyway, I've done something I really shouldn't, and tried my hand at some technical stuff along the way here, please ignore it as it's all from my imagination and I am _not_ a technically inclined dragon. It's just meant to be a bit of framework for the story itself, so it's not that important anyway.
Also, in case anyone wonders about it... my little wonder ship is a bit inspired by a ship called "The Sun Crusher", I believe, from an old Star Wars book. The rest is me. ^-^
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
B'Elanna Torres had harboured doubts for some time about her relationship with Voyager's juvenile helmsman Tom Paris, but with a misguided sense of honour and a faulty belief that her options were limited, she had stayed and tried to work things out.
Then a succession of events had opened her eyes to a lot of things... and she found herself seriously contemplating breaking things up with Tom.
More than just contemplating it in truth, and it felt like such a relief to her that she had finally made up her mind. Unfortunately, friends of them both seemed to somehow have sensed what Tom did not, and tried to talk to her about working the kinks out of her relationship with the helmsman. Finally fed up with the interference, B'Elanna fled to the one place, the one person, whom she was sure would if not offer support then at least not try to encourage her to stay in a honourless relationship.
Also, Seven of Nine was the reason behind much of B'Elanna's recent soulsearching, though the younger woman of course knew nothing of this. It had shocked B'Elanna more deeply than she cared to admit even to herself when Seven had come to her, frightened and certain that she would die, and asked about the existance of an afterlife.
The thought of losing Seven was... intolerable. So much so that the very thought paralyzed B'Elanna and made her no help whatsoever in what Seven had to face. B'Elanna thanked whatever higher powers that felt like listening for that sweet, stubborn young boy and his brave gamble that saved his maternal figure.
Several days later Seven of Nine was at her post in Astrometrics, her usual efficient self, and B'Elanna found herself unconsciously walking there far more often than was prudent. So when struggling with how to break the news to her supposed boyfriend, B'Elanna opted to visit the woman that had just recently been included in the select group of people B'Elanna called her friends.
She was shocked to hear that Seven was attempting to aid Tom Paris in his latest juvenile endeavour, a spaceshuttle race, in order to improve _their_ relationship. Unable to stop herself, B'Elanna had snorted out in surprise "Relationship?" and the beautiful former Borg had hastened to assure her that she had not meant a romantical one.
The statement appeased B'Elanna, but not for the reason Seven believed.
It also caused B'Elanna concern. If she would cut Tom loose, wouldn't he then go for the most beautiful woman on board? She'd rather stay with him herself than see him come anywere near her precious Seven... it was quite a quandary.
B'Elanna ended up following Tom on his childish race, thinking it would be the only way to get enough time with him to tell him she was breaking up with him. The man surprised her though and turned around and proposed. Shellshocked, it had taken her a long moment to compose herself to answer, but when she did, an image came to her mind's eye and made her smile brilliantly. Tom smiled in return, thinking it meant that she was telling him yes.
"No Tom. I don't love you, I never did... I convinced myself that I did, because I don't want to be alone, and I never thought I could really have love, not really." B'Elanna was still smiling as she spoke, even though Tom Paris looked as if someone had told him Voyager would no longer have any holo projectors. "But there is someone I think I could come to love now... and I don't want either of us to settle for less. We're through, Tom. It's over."
The stunned helmsman had steered back to Voyager in absolute silence and disappeared from her sight, but she didn't mind at all. B'Elanna Torres was a free woman again, and by Kahless, it felt good!
B'Elanna smiled, and in her mind the image of Seven of Nine smiled right back.
Days passed, and while B'Elanna was not particularly surprised that Tom Paris told everybody he met how he had broken up with her, she was a bit disappointed in the many other lies he told to dishonour and belittle her. His disdainful treatment of her bordered just on the edge of where she would feel she had to face off with him, violently, for the sake of her honour, but the good mood she was in since regaining her freedom made her reluctant to do so.
B'Elanna spent increasing amounts of her free time with Seven, managing to get joint projects off the ground and even entice the younger woman on starting some of their own, privately, with the Captain's blessing. She was thrilled to be around the other woman, to share thoughts and ideas on a great range of topics and find that they were actually very evenly matched, still B'Elanna did not know how to broach the topic she most wanted. Should she, even? Not to mention that Seven had given no sign that she was even aware that B'Elanna no longer dated the helmsman.
Until the day when a scowling Seven of Nine came marching into Engineering, demanding to speak with Lieutenant Torres privately.
"Lieutenant Torres, I have been informed that your romantic affiliations with Ensign Paris have been terminated." Seven spoke briskly, precisely, the way she had used to do around B'Elanna before the two managed to become friends. "Is this correct?"
"Yeah Seven, I broke up with Tom a while ago." B'Elanna smiled, feeling just slightly hopeful after all. "Why do you want to know?"
"You terminated the relationship?" Seven wanted clarification. "Not Ensign Paris?"
B'Elanna sighed. "No, it was me allright..." And then she proceeded to tell Seven what had transpired on the Delta Flyer during the race.
"...it wasn't the best way I could have handled it, but there it is. Of course Tom has spread rumours that it was the other way around, but I can't be made to care much about it, I'm just glad I'm free of him." She looked at her friend. "Why do you ask, Seven? Did you end up hearing the rumours too?"
"No. Ensign Paris approached me with an offer for a date, or failing that, copulation." Seven's expression did not change, but B'Elanna's darkened considerably, and it was all she could do not to snarl in anger.
"He has upon many occasions in the past stated a curiosity over my appearance underneath my biosuit and my body functions, and has expressed a desire to discover how much of my body is 'real', and I assumed this was yet another of those overtures. I reminded him that if he does not discontinue with such propositions while in a monogamous relationship, I would feel compelled to report his behaviour, at which point Ensign Paris informed me of the change in your affiliations."
Part of B'Elanna was having very satisfying little fantasies about rigging the Delta Flyer to explode, or simply staging a little 'accident' on the holodeck. But Seven wasn't finished yet.
"When I expressed disbelief in regards to what he said to have been your actions, he began questioning my body functions, specifically sexual ones, or my emotional capacity." Seven spoke evenly, but she was obviously struggling with this part. "He stated that with so much of my form an artificial falsehood, he would be better off entertaining himself with holodeck characters, and that no-one would ever wish to touch... no, to copulate with me as I am Borg and repulsive. I was..."
"No! Screw him, Seven!" B'Elanna snapped, leaning forward to catch Seven's face in both hands.
"But I do not wish to copulate with Ensign Paris... I find him unsavoury and deficient, and I have told him so." Seven said earnestly, looking at B'Elanna in surprise.
B'Elanna smiled a little. "You said that to him? Good."
"But what I meant was, forget him and what he said. Tom Paris is an idiot, and doesn't know what in Gre'thor he's talking about!" B'Elanna's voice gentled. "You're beautiful, incredible and special Seven, and anyone would be honoured to have you as their girl."
There was more, so much more, that B'Elanna wanted to say, but they ran out of time. Vorik came to get the Chief, and both B'Elanna and Seven had to return to their respective duties. B'Elanna didn't miss the long, speculative look sent her way by Seven, just before Seven left Engineering. B'Elanna's heart wanted to race out of her chest at the sight of it, and it took a while before she managed to calm herself down.
Unbeknownst to B'Elanna, Seven would later that day shock the EMH by telling him that she wished to research the status of same-gender pairings in Starfleet, and request he collected the pertinent data he had on dating with these new parameters.
The following weeks Seven and B'Elanna continued spending much time together, heedless of rumour and Tom Paris' spitefulness. The companionship resulted in better work during the day and quite a few innovative upgrades on Voyager's systems, but on a personal level B'Elanna's friendship would be of great support for Seven as the time came for Icheb to be assigned quarters. The boy no longer needed to regenerate, in fact he needed a place in which to sleep, and given his studies it was decided that Icheb would share quarters with Harry Kim.
Since the two mild-mannered and gentle young men had become rather friendly over Icheb's time onboard the ship, neither had any objections to the living arrangements, and Harry soon came to genuinely enjoy the company of his highly intelligent but very humble young friend. Seven had a hard time accepting that the last of her charges was leaving her though, even if it in Icheb's case was just to a room in another part of the ship. Seven did not let on to anyone but B'Elanna, who felt honoured to be the one Seven would trust with her confused emotions.
Seven began spending the odd night on B'Elanna's couch, after evenings of friendly and playful bantering or tinkering on their secret projects. B'Elanna had a pillow and a blanket tucked away especially for Seven, for whenever the other woman needed to get away from the empty, echoing silence of the cavernous Cargo Bay.
A rumour started.
It said that B'Elanna had dumped Tom for Seven, and that the two lovers now were working on finding a way so that Seven would no longer need to regenerate and could move in with B'Elanna permanently. Other rumours said they were secretly working on a way to make the slipstream work for Voyager, and would eventually speed up their journey so much that they'd all be in the Alpha Quadrant within the year.
Everyone watched and waited with bated breath.
Eventually B'Elanna and Seven approached the Captain with some of their work. They met her privately and presented her with several data padds. Curious about the odd behaviour, Janeway eyed through the brief summary they had thought to add to the padds, then did a double take. She stared at the women in front of her in astonishment.
"Are you _serious_?" She eyed the padds again. "This is... is..." Janeway shook her head, baffled. "It would require a complete overhaul of the ship, for one thing. We'd need a spacedock for another..." She faltered off, mind going a mile a minute with the possibilities.
B'Elanna spoke up. "We've worked out the details, what will be needed, materials, workforce, and an approximation of the time required... and a few likely locations from Seven's starcharts that could provide with what we need." She pointed to one of the padds.
"But yes, it'll take a lot of work and six to eight months planet-bound, with optimum conditions, although even our worst-case scenarios have the time planet-bound to under a year."
"But Captain..." B'Elanna's voice grew animated. "the upgrades we're suggesting..."
"Will cut off the remainder of our journey by about two thirds in travel time, if I'm reading this correctly." Janeway interrupted thoughtfully. "You also want enhancements to the hull integrity, the shields, the deflector dish ... a whole list of systems." Janeway shook her head. "This is simply outstanding. Essentially the ship would be faster and safer, and even with a year of planet time, it would be well worth it with all the years it would shave off our journey."
"This is all doable, isn't it?" Janeway eyed her younger friends seriously, barely keeping her own eagerness in check. "You've found a likely planet and everything, haven't you? And this really will work?"
"Yes Captain." This time it was Seven that responded. "All the data is there, and the model work and experimental pieces are stored in Cargo Bay 2 if you wish to examine it."
"I will need some time to go over this, then I will call a meeting for the senior officers about it." Janeway noticed that B'Elanna was holding another padd. "Was there anything else?"
"Well Captain, we have a few things of our own we'd like to have your approval on."
Janeway looked at the new padd.
"What?! You want to WHAT?"
It took Captain Janeway a day before she summoned a meeting with the specific purpose to present Seven and B'Elanna's suggestions to her senior officers, and discuss the subject with them. The discussion took several hours, the majority of the group enthusiastically for the project with Tom Paris and Chakotay representing the against faction. While Tom Paris' objections was more because of a personal grudge against Janeway's 'golden girls', Chakotay was playing his usual role of the devil's advocate to point out the disadvantages of the undertaking. In the end Janeway decided that Tuvok, Harry Kim, Chakotay, Neelix and herself would have a week to go over Seven and B'Elanna's research in search of flaws, then if no major disadvantages were found, a shipwide announcement would be made, and the remaining two weeks until they reached the uninhabited planet that Seven found as best suited for their needs would be used for preparations.
No obvious flaws were found, indeed Seven and B'Elanna's preparations seemed all sound. The rest of the ship was informed, and after answering many questions that arose with anxious and hopeful people, and preparations for the landing began.
The planet was ideal. It had no evolved species among it's animals, the plant life would likely contain much that would be edible for Voyager's crew, and it held all the raw material they needed for the ship. A likely landing site was already selected weeks before reaching it, and the Cargo Bays were filled with prepared materials that would upon landing be used to build a dock for the ship.
The first things the crew would be doing upon landing would be establishing a safe area around their landing site, building a working dock, and explore the possibilites for the planet to provide most of the food for the crew while the ship's replicators would be used as much as possible for other things. That alone would take more than a month according to the estimates, before they would even be able to begin working on the changes to the ship.
Landing on the planet, the shipload of people that had not seen their respective homes for seven years fell in love. It was a clean, pure place with cerulean skies, uncontaminated water and soil, green, warm and vibrant with plantlife and smaller animals. If they were going to break from their journey home for eight months, this was indeed the place to do it in. No more than two weeks passed before people began approaching their senior officers with requests to be allowed to set up temporary housing outside the ship. Janeway had to deny their requests for the time being for safety reasons, but it said much about the crew's feelings for their temporary home.
After the first month it was decided that it was time to start collecting some of the raw material from the mountainrange in the distance, a part of the undertaking that would require shuttlecrafts or the Delta Flyer.
It was at this time that B'Elanna and Seven revealed their secret.
"What in god's name is _that_?" Tom Paris exclaimed as the vessel appeared from inside Voyager and swerved in the air to come to a landing next to the Delta Flyer and the shuttles. People gathered around him, among them Captain Janeway, Harry Kim, Chakotay, Tal Celes and Tuvok.
As they watched, the seamless dark grey surface split, revealing a door through which B'Elanna and Seven stepped out. B'Elanna grinned at the audience and gave the Captain a thumbs up gesture as she got out.
"Well, whatever that ugly piece of junk is supposed to be..." Tom declared loudly before anyone had the chance to speak to B'Elanna or Seven. "_I_ sure am not gonna fly it!"
Seven raised her ocular implant at the helmsman, and Janeway bit her lip not to laugh, then waved to B'Elanna to please explain.
"This, ladies and gentlemen... and Paris..." B'Elanna began, lovingly patting the hull of the craft. "...is The Hybrid."
"This is my and Seven's baby, we've pooled our knowledge and skills to come up with the stuff that's in her, some of which we've later adapted to use on Voyager."
"That explains the looks." Tom quipped quickly, looking disdainfully at the new vessel. Since it apparently meant something to B'Elanna, so he felt the need to despise the thing out of hand... besides, it _was_ ugly!
"Function over form, Ensign Paris." Seven answered him coolly. "The Hybrid is far superior to any craft you have piloted."
B'Elanna grinned widely at Seven, then continued explaining the dark grey and sligtly oddly shaped ship. "While The Hybrid has shields, she doesn't really need them as the hull and basic frame of the ship consists of a material Seven and I have created that is nearly indestructible once hardened. Well not indestructible per se, really, but to give you a better picture of it's resilience, let's say that if you lay in a collision course it'll cut through another ship or an asteroid like a hot knife through butter." She patted the hull again.
"We'll be putting an coating of this material on Voyager's hull, to strengthen it."
"The Hybrid is fast, real fast, like Voyager will be after the changes we're going to make, plus The Hybrid will also have slipstream drive. It has great manoeuvrability, fairly good range on scanners and communications, a strong tractor beam, a large cargo hold for the size of the ship, and..." B'Elanna smirked. "...a little something Seven and I are calling the chameleon cloak. It's not really a cloaking device as such, but the surface of the hull can optically change to mimic any great mass nearby, and an internal cloak will completely hide the ship, functions, energy output and bio readings, from scans."
"This last function will so far only work while the ship is unmoving, but we're working on that, and at least we don't need to power down while using the chameleon cloak."
"The fact that the ship kind of looks like a big dark grey rock will make it very overlookable in space as it is." Chakotay spoke up with approval. "That's Maquis thinking, B'Elanna."
"If you like that aspect Commander, then I do believe you will approve of the interial design." Seven stated and entered the ship. The others followed to crowd around the entrance looking in, with the exeption of Janeway who entered behind Seven. "It is maximum usage of minimum space."
"It is designed for myself and Lieutenant Torres, but can favourably be piloted by a single individual. There is also the third station for non-tactical sensory input, should it be needed." The design was indeed very compact and efficient.
"The chair at the third station can be turned to face this seating area..." Seven pointed at a small kind of couch built into the wall opposite the door. "where this table can be extracted from the wall to make it a dining area. The replicator is located on this wall, as you can see."
Seven walked back next to the pilot chairs and leaned down to push something in the floor. An long, curved opening appeared in the floor along the wall, revealing two small steps, a row of small green lights, and a glimpse of what appeared to be black sheets and pillows. "This is the bed area, and it also contains my regeneration unit onboard The Hybrid."
"It's in the floor." Janeway stated with some surprise. "Are you really OK with that?"
"It is an efficient design that allows us to use all the space of the vessel, and it can also provide a hiding place in the remote eventuality that the ship would be boarded." Seven clearly approved. "Towards the back is the small emergency medical unit, complete with a vertical stasis bed, and another opening for maintenance."
"Speaking of beds, Seven, was that bed in the floor a single or a double?" Chakotay was teasing, flashing a devious look at a suddenly blushing B'Elanna, and a smug one towards a scowling Tom.
"The bed is sizeable, with more than the necessary room for myself and Lieutenant Torres." Seven answered the question honestly, taking no notice of the knowing looks and waggling eyebrows that passed between her listeners. She did however notice B'Elanna. "Lieutenant, is something amiss? Your facial capillaries have..."
"Ah! It's OK Seven, I'm allright, nevermind it, please." B'Elanna cut her off, gesturing for Seven to drop it, while her face heated some more.
Seven nodded slowly and watched B'Elanna as she ushered the others out and away from the ship. "It's low on fuel, too, so the only thing I think is missing that would make it perfect for a ship this size would be a built in transporter. I'm not giving up on that idea just yet though, so maybe we'll find a way to squeeze it in." B'Elanna grinned.
"Maybe if you took out all the unnecessary junk in there, like the stuff for Seven's regeneration. She's the only member of the ship that needs it after all, and it's not like she's even on that many away missions that you need to have it added." Tom sounded bored. "And all that efficiency at the controls is gonna make it soo boring to pilot, not to mention difficult. Put in a joystick instead, and a few simple buttons and switches, then maybe a pilot won't die from embarrassment just being in this ugly thing."
"Ensign Paris, you need not concern yourself that the controls for The Hybrid are beyond your ability to handle, as you will not pilot this vessel." B'Elanna grinned delightedly at Seven.
"What are you talking about? It's not like I wanna fly it, but I _am_ the best pilot on Voyager, and sooner or later I'm gonna be assigned to fly that thing on an away mission."
"Well helmrat, see if you can follow this." B'Elanna snarled. "This ship, The Hybrid, is private property. As in mine and Seven's, and you will never be allowed to pilot _our_ ship."
Tom frowned, then spun around to look questioningly at Janeway, who just smiled and shrugged.
"It's true, they designed it and built it on their free time, using their replicator rations and material from this planet to make it. Starfleet has no claim on their ship, and I can't command them on how to use it."
"Of course we'll lend the use of The Hybrid for the good of Voyager whenever it's needed" B'Elanna assured her Captain. "but no-one pilots her without our say so."
"Speaking of which..." Now B'Elanna grinned widely. "Tal, would you like to take her for a spin before Seven and I go collecting the raw material? Captain, you're welcome too, of course."
A squealing Tal Celes and a grinning Janeway joined Seven and B'Elanna for their first little joyride in the latest Delta Qadrant wonder ship. Tom Paris stood watching them go, gnashing his teeth at the whole thing, when Chakotay slapped him on the shoulder and grinned evilly. "So Tom, how does it feel to be obsolete?"
Another month passed with hard work but also much enjoyment on the paradise world that Janeway was firmly against naming, in fear that her crew would come to want to colonise the planet instead of continuing on their difficult journey.
Seven and B'Elanna remained all but inseparable, during work and free time, but B'Elanna did not try to broach her growing attraction to her friend. There seemed to be so many reasons why she should wait until later before talking to Seven about it, but if she was completely honest with herself the true reason for waiting was that she was just plain afraid what Seven's reaction would be. Better to have Seven as a friend than not at all, B'Elanna figured, and said nothing.
So came the first time that Seven and B'Elanna were going to spend the night in The Hybrid, gathering materials from a particularly distant mountain. After finishing working for the day, they watched the sunset from near the ship, and later how the sky filled in with stars. It was a lovely moment, and if both women stole more secret glances at one another than of the tiny points of light that they were trying to come up with images for, it was not mentioned in their conversation.
Eventually it was time to go to bed, and B'Elanna was very nervous. Suddenly it didn't seem like such a good idea to have made the sleeping area in the ship so... intimate. How was she supposed to be able to sleep tucked in that cosily with Seven? B'Elanna had enough difficulties keeping her instincts in check around the other woman as it was, without pushing things.
Unable to come up with a valid reason to why she wouldn't go to bed, B'Elanna eventually changed into her sleeping clothes and crawled into bed. Seven joined her quickly, arranging herself nearest the entrance and connecting to her alcove interfaces. She was regenerating within moments. B'Elanna on the other hand stayed awake for a long time, staring mesmerized at Seven in the dim light.
The following morning Seven awoke with a gasp. She remained unmoving, concentrating on identifying and cataloguing the new sensations she was experiencing. She felt pleasantly warm and surprisingly... tingly. B'Elanna's hot breath near her ear sent shivers down Seven's spine.
Somewhere during the night the smaller woman had rolled partially on top of Seven, and their bodies had entwined, ending B'Elanna up mounting one of Seven's legs rather intimately. B'Elanna's face was buried in Seven's neck, hot lips unconsciously mapping the skin on Seven's neck and shoulder, and instinctively Seven's hand came up to cup the back of B'Elanna's head in encouragement. Then B'Elanna flexed her hand and Seven discovered what had caused the sensation that had awoken her.
This time when Seven gasped it woke B'Elanna up.
B'Elanna's first reaction was to burrow deeper into the alluring warmth in her grasp, but moments later her mind cleared enough for B'Elanna to notice that the warmth in her arms came with a heartbeat.
B'Elanna's eyes flew wide open and she pushed away, putting her weight on hands and knees.
The sudden shift in position and weight caused B'Elanna's knee to push up firmly against Seven, who surprised even herself by crying out and arch sharply into the touch. Instinctively, Seven threw her free leg and other arm around B'Elanna, pulling her close. B'Elanna moaned, and both women ended up staring into each other's eyes, openmouthed and panting.
B'Elanna was shaking. Seven was so warm and soft, and... a deep breath made B'Elanna clutch the sheets hard and growl deeply. Seven was aroused, and between her half-lidded gaze and intoxicating scent, it was driving B'Elanna mad.
"Do you wish to co-"
B'Elanna brought up the hand that had previously been unconsciously fondling Seven's breast to cover her mouth instead. "Don't! Don't say that word, please." The full lips stilled against the palm of B'Elanna's hand, then slowly B'Elanna removed it.
Even in the dim light B'Elanna could see the questioning look Seven was giving her.
"I don't like that word." She muttered apologetically. "And... I want so much more than to just have sex with you, Seven." Silently praying that the other woman would understand.
"I see." Though it was clear by the tone of Seven's voice that she didn't, and she frowned slightly. "You do not find me attractive after all."
B'Elanna groaned. "Oh boy... I do find you attractive Seven. Kahless! I'm so attracted to you I can't think straight!"
Seven smiled. "And I find you very attractive as well." She tilted her head in thought, despite lying down. "We are attracted to one another, and we are currently aroused. Why should we not..." Seven trailed off searching for a word that would not be found offensive.
"Oh Seven." B'Elanna chuckled softly. "If we make love I want it to mean something more to both of us than just the physical act, do you understand? And there's no rush, we can let things happen in their own time."
"Do you mean... dating?" Seven sounded both eager and apprehensive. "My one date did not come to pass according to procedure."
"There aren't any predetermined rules for dating, Seven, no matter what the Doc might have told you. And... what you do isn't as important as who you do it with." B'Elanna wondered silently for the umpteenth time who came up with the bright idea to put a sentient hologram who had no grip on his own 'humanity' in carge of teaching Seven about the same. "Don't let one bad experience ruin it for you."
Seven considered this. "Yes. I would like to try dating again, with you."
B'Elanna smiled in utter delight, and Seven responded with a full blown smile of her own. Gently B'Elanna disentangled herself from Seven and urged the other woman to get up. Seven seemed reluctant, as reluctant as B'Elanna herself felt, to end their intimate moment, but eventually complied and climbed out of the bed area. B'Elanna chuckled very quietly at the adorable pout that Seven seemed unaware she was wearing.
They both got out and closed the opening to the bed, then settled in to do their chores. B'Elanna was surprised it had gotten rather late in the morning, and hurried to clean up and replicate them breakfast before they would go out and finish loading the ship. It took a moment before B'Elanna noticed that Seven had stopped, and stood unmoving, just staring at B'Elanna.
"Seven? What's wrong?" B'Elanna asked, getting nervous. Perhaps Seven had changed her mind about wanting to date B'Elanna, after all, why would someone like Seven need to settle for a half-breed plasma monkey like herself?
"I..." Seven began, her eyes darting away from B'Elanna, then back again. "I was..."
"Yeah?" B'Elanna breathed, stepping closer. 'Pleasepleasepleaseplease'
"I was wondering... I have never..." Seven looked shy. "Would you... kiss me, B'Elanna?"
B'Elanna never really answered, because without any conscious decision on her part she crossed the few steps left between them, pulled Seven into her arms, and began a series of languid kisses that left them both weak in the knees and out of breath. Intending to pull back and end the kiss, B'Elanna instead found herself deepening it, pulling Seven even closer. The tiny whimper Seven emitted was the sexiest sound B'Elanna had ever heard, and her deep answering growl made the taller woman gasp... then both their knees gave out.
A bit surprised to find herself on the floor with a hot-blooded former Borg draped all over her, B'Elanna reluctantly decided it was better they skipped breakfast entirely and just got to work. She was a bit worried that they might completely forget what they were supposed to be doing if they didn't get going soon, or at least that _she_ would forget... so she pulled Seven to her feet and urget the taller woman out of the ship as fast as she could.
They made good time loading the ship, stopping just a handful of times for a brief kiss in passing. The journey back to Voyager however was another story.
"Well, _finally_!" Janeway exclaimed to herself as The Hybrid came in for a landing. She had expected B'Elanna and Seven to have returned much earlier, and had, after getting worried for them, secretly checked scans to see where they were. To her surprise The Hybrid had been hovering for no apparent reason over a section of forest for the nearest half hour at least, before finally moving again. Janeway worried what might have gone wrong, and wondered if perhaps one of her girls were injured.
She hurried towards the vessel while of course trying to appear as if she was not hurrying at all, when the door opened and B'Elanna began walking out. Janeway was just close enough to see the Borg-enhanced hand that quickly reached out and pulled B'Elanna back into the ship.
Blinking a bit when nothing more happened, Janeway was about to go inside just as Seven came out, smiling at her Captain. A moment later B'Elanna wobbled out, looking a bit flushed, jacket open and nostrils flared, staring glazedly at Seven's retreating back. She didn't even seem to notice her Captain as she stalked away after the tall blonde.
Three days later Seven and B'Elanna were once again using The Hybrid to collect materials, alongside one of the shuttles, piloted by Tal Celes. An unexpected storm came upon them out of the blue, scanners having had no indication that it was approaching, nor of it's intensity. The group led by Tal Celes managed to get back to the shuttle to wait out the storm there, but Seven and B'Elanna had been too far away when it hit to be able to make it to their ship.
A quick scan indicated that a deep cave was located not far from them, although in opposite direction from the ships, and Seven and B'Elanna decided to take shelter there. By the time they found the cave they could barely see more than a few steps in front of themselves, and were ready to brave whatever creature might dwell inside the rocky haven.
The cave appeared to be much deeper than they would have expected, and Seven and B'Elanna wandered deep into it in hopes of better shelter from the weather. No lifesigns appeared on their tricorders, but the readings from the cave walls themselves were strange, nothing like they should have been. B'Elanna's curiosity drove both women to wander even further in to take more readings.
"B'Elanna, this is not a cave... this is a structure." Seven indicated one of the walls of the supposed cave, where uneven rock gave way to smooth, even walls covered in a pattern of most likely symbolic carving. Her mind rushing with the implications that this find would have for Voyager, B'Elanna stepped further in and ran her hand lightly over the carvings on another wall.
With a great grinding rumble the walls came down behind them.
"B'Elanna!" Seven cried and hurled herself at her would-be lover, throwing them down and back from the walls, covering B'Elanna's smaller body with her own.
'Great, I get to die before even taking her out on a date.' Passed through B'Elanna's mind briefly, just as the noise stopped. The sudden and absolute silence was eerie.
Silently they got to their feet, reassuring themselves that the other was unhurt, and fumbled in the pitch darkness to find a wall to determine if they were completely closed in. Instead of reaching rock however, B'Elanna and Seven together stumbled out onto a section of absolutely smooth floor. As soon as they put a foot down on the section, they were covered in a blinding white circle of light, coming from somewhere far above them.
They both yelped and tried to cover their sensitive eyes, and Seven reached out to grab B'Elanna and pull them both away from the circle.
They wouldn't budge.
There was another rumble in the floor beneath them, and then an inhuman voice echoed through the chamber in a language neither Seven nor the universal translator could decipher. A single, thin red beam of light appeared and connected to B'Elanna's forehead.
The scream that tore it's way out of B'Elanna's throat was such a primal, animalistic sound of pain that Seven would later say that she felt how it ripped through her own form like a solid entity, stopping her heart for the briefest of moments.
Then another beam connected to Seven's forehead, and all thought, all coherence, washed away in the blinding pain.
Inside the light and the pain, both women were reliving their past. Each moment, each sensation, each emotion, was as strong and clear as it had been when it occurred, for good and bad. They might as well have been standing there a lifetime, or just the time of one single breath, when the images reached the present and the pain stopped.
A voice spoke again in the unknown language, but this time Seven and B'Elanna both could feel what the words meant. 'You are worthy' it said, and the light died.
Blinking against the sudden blindness and moving groggily towards one another, neither Seven nor B'Elanna even thought to react as the floor rumbled under their feet again, and the walls moved.
When the sound stopped, a narrow line of gentle light circled the place where B'Elanna and Seven stood, forming a path over to a doorway in the rockface. It looked like a tunnel to the outside, and both women were walking through it before they even made a conscious choice to move their feet.
Once they entered the tunnel itself, the opening behind them disappeared. The lights beckoned them onward, and supported slightly by one another, Seven and B'Elanna followed. After what felt like forever, they could see a rounded opening leading out into the open air. The lights veered off just before reaching this opening though, and slowly B'Elanna and Seven both realized that on each side of the opening there was... _something_, standing there unmoving.
As soon as Seven and B'Elanna both stepped into the wider opening before the exit, the tunnel behind them closed, and the lines of gentle light that shone on the floor around them increased in strength until the oval room was completely lit.
B'Elanna gasped, unable to move or speak. Standing before her, unmoving and with closed eyes, was her mother, Miral.
Seven on the other hand took one look at the small, still, figure in front of her and cried out painfully. "MEZOTI!"
"Well, they seem perfectly fine, both of them. They're just sleeping." The doctor declared, although he sounded as bewildered as everyone else present was feeling. Besides him, B'Elanna, Seven, Captain Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok and Icheb were all crowded around the two reclining forms on the beds in Sickbay.
Seven had darted forward in the cave to pull Mezoti into her arms, and somehow that had removed whatever it was that was holding both unconscious forms upright. B'Elanna had caught her mother, and as the cave started to rumble and shake around them, she and Seven had carried their unexpected burdens out into the open air.
There had been a thick fog surrounding them, making it impossible to see where they were heading, but after just a few steps the fog mysteriously dispersed and they found themselves standing right beside The Hybrid. The storm was gone, and Tal Celes and her group came rushing out of their shuttle to meet the two shocked women. After contacting Voyager to report and receive orders, Tal ended up piloting The Hybrid back to base herself as neither of the little ship's owners could be made to let go of the still unmoving forms. Both teams were made to come back to the ship while a security team was assigned to investigate the area.
They found nothing. No traces of the storm, no unusual readings... and no indication of the mountainpeak that Seven and B'Elanna thought they had entered.
So now they were gathered in Sickbay while the EMH examined the new arrivals to hopefully find out just what they were. According to her daughter, Miral Torres was presumed to be dead, and were she not, the woman should still be in the Alpha Quadrant. Mezoti had last been heard from shortly after parting with Voyager, opting to live with her brothers Azan and Rebi and their people. It had been a few months by now since they had travelled outside of communication range, to Seven's distress.
So far the doctor's examinations had indicated that the sleeping people were either the genuine article or extremely good copies, and there was nothing wrong with them. In fact, he could not decide why they were sleeping so deeply and was just about to suggest using a stimulant when Miral twitched, groaned, then opened her eyes.
The Klingon woman muttered darkly something about drinking as she sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Where am I?" Miral demanded when she opened her eyes again, warily eyeing the people around her... until her eyes fell upon B'Elanna. Her eyes went wide and she gasped. "B'Elanna!"
She reached out to tentatively touch the side of B'Elanna's face. "...daughter?"
Within a heartbeat the older woman had thrown herself from the bed and wrapped her still shocked daughter in a strong hug. "Lanna." The elder Torres whispered emotionally, and finally the paralysis seemed to break in B'Elanna. Tears spilling down her cheeks, B'Elanna wrapped her own arms around Miral and hugged her back. "Mom."
While most of the people present in Sickbay had their concentration on Miral and B'Elanna, only Seven and Icheb saw how Mezoti's eyes snapped open and the girl immediately sat up stiffly. She glanced around and tilted her head. "Sickbay onboard Voyager." Then she saw the wide-eyed and trembling Seven standing at her side, and unconsciously the girl's lips drew up in a delighted smile. "Seven!"
Hearing the little girl's voice broke Seven's composure. Not saying a word Seven leaned over the bed and pulled Mezoti to her firmly, tucking the child's head under her chin and holding her there as silent tears slid down pale cheeks. After a moment one of Seven's arms let go of Mezoti to reach out to pull Icheb into the embrace as well, holding both children close.
The tearful reunions continued for a while, before B'Elanna drew back a little to look her mother in the face. "I thought you were dead." She said, her voice thick with emotions.
"I was." Was Miral's simple yet chilling answer.
Before anyone had the chance to comment or question that statement, Mezoti's clear, controlled voice responded. "I believe I was deactivated as well."
The attention in the room immediately refocused on the small girl, and Seven released her just enough to be able to lean down and look into the child's eyes. "Elaborate."
Mezoti nodded slightly, once.
"Four point two days after our last transmission to Voyager, the Wysanti colony was attacked by the Borg. The Wysanti had not the means to resist, but still attempted to do so. It was futile. When unable to devise another course of action, Azan, Rebi and myself decided we would not be assimilated again. We were the only ones present in the vessel when we set it to self-destruct."
A strangled, tortured sound escaped Seven's throat as she crushed the girl to her. Wide, wild blue eyes traced to Janeway's briefly, and Janeway felt the horrified pain and grief in them like a blow to her stomach. Seven turned away, tilting her head into the little girl in her arms, and her body began to shake violently.
Icheb sank down to his knees. "Rebi... Azan..." The stricken youth whispered as tears streamed down his face.
"There was very little... pain." Mezoti spoke up from inside Seven's tight embrace. Her voice, that until now had been calm and precise, suddenly sounded very small and lost.
Gasping, B'Elanna let go of her mother and took a handful of hesitant steps towards Seven. Once she got close enough a trembling arm reached out and drew B'Elanna in with a blind desperation. B'Elanna responded by pulling both Seven and the weeping boy to her, offering them what support she could in their grief.
"Oh dear god..." Janeway whispered weakly.
Miral Torres studied her daughter surrounded by grieving ex-Borg, then turned her pale gaze at Janeway. "Captain Janeway, I presume?"
"Yes." Janeway blinked. "How did you know?"
Miral looked back at her daughter. "When I met B'Elanna in... the afterlife, she was confronted by representations of the people that meant most to her, you among them." B'Elanna heard this and raised her head slightly to share a look and a nod with her mother. "Captain Janeway, could this reunion be permitted to be held someplace other than..." Miral looked around. "...your medical facility?"
"Of course." Janeway's voice was still choked. "Unless there is a medical reason not to move from the Sickbay, doctor? No? Then I would suggest we take this to my quarters instead." Seeing Tuvok about to protest, she quickly intercepted. "You will come as well, Tuvok, and you can bring some security outside the room if you wish."
"But I do believe this is a private matter, and there is no threat to fear at the moment."
It took B'Elanna a while to steer her little group of unravelled former Borg out of Sickbay and to Janeway's quarters, but eventually they got there. Seven sat down in the corner of Janeway's couch with Mezoti still in her lap, and Icheb sat on the floor at her feet. B'Elanna sat herself close enough to Seven that they casually touched along their sides, with Miral at the other end of the couch and Janeway and Tuvok in the two armchairs.
Miral and Janeway both observed the interaction between Seven and B'Elanna in silence.
Janeway looked at them and saw how closely the children sat to Seven, how the three of them frequently sought to touch one another somewhat awkwardly, as if to reassure themselves that the others where there. How the children sought their saftety in Seven, and how they formed a unit, a family, of their own. A family that had been torn apart.
That had been torn apart by her, Kathryn Janeway, and her good intentions. Janeway wanted to cry.
Miral watched how her daughter, apparently without realizing it herself, put an arm around the tall blonde and made her lean in towards herself. The blonde's rigid posture sagged at the touch, and she leaned only too willingly into the shorter woman, clearly drawing strength and comfort from B'Elanna's touch. Occasionally B'Elanna's free hand would pat the girl's tiny knee or the boy's dark head reassuringly, even though B'Elanna's eyes didn't leave Miral. It was quite obvious that there was something going on there, and Miral was very eager to find out what.
When they had sat in silence for long enough according to Miral, she looked at Janeway expectantly. Janeway looked as if she was at a loss for where to begin or what to say, so Miral took pity on her.
"Why don't I start?" Miral suggested, flashing a loopsided smile at Janeway. "I was dead. I was in StoVoKor, although my memories of it is fading fast... I can't quite recall what I was doing, only that I turned around and this light came towards me. When it reached me I could hear... no, _feel_ B'Elanna calling me, and I moved towards her. Something pulled me then, and the next thing I know I woke up in your Sickbay."
"I don't know what I am doing here or why, but I feel very much like... me. If there is anything wrong with me, or any duplicity, I do not know about it." The proud Klingon said quite honestly, raising her chin slightly as she spoke.
B'Elanna nodded. "Captain, it's my mother. I can't explain how I know it, but I just do... it's _mom_."
"Right now your gut feeling is as good as anything else we've got, B'Elanna." Janeway sighed. "I have a feeling we'll be in for a long haul. Does anyone want some tea?"
Miral lit up. "I would love some, or, if perhaps I could have some coffee? It's been a while." She smirked at her daughter. "I've got to take advantage of having a body again, no?"
"A woman after my own heart." Janeway joked lightly as she walked over to the replicator. "Coffee for myself, Miral and... you B'Elanna? Allright. Tea for Tuvok and Seven, but what about you children?" Three voices chimed in a chorus of 'I do not require a liquid supplement at this time', apparently without even noticing it themselves, and with a slight smile Janeway decided not to replicate that tea for Seven after all.
"Captain." Mezoti spoke quietly, obviously deep in thought. "I clearly recall the moment of my deactivation, but there is nothing after that event. I was thinking of Seven and counting down to the explosion, then I remember nothing until this bright light came. Seven was calling me from within it, and I responded. Then I woke up in Sickbay."
"You may access my memory if you wish." The child added seriously.
"I believe that I might have a solution as to how to verify their identity, Captain." Tuvok cocked his eyebrow slightly at Janeway.
"A Vulcan mindmeld?" Miral asked and sipped from her coffecup. "Mmmmm, coffee!"
Janeway tried to hide her smile behind her own cup, while B'Elanna rolled her eyes affectionately.
"No, although that would be an option." Tuvok looked at Mezoti. "It was my thought that if someone or something were to use Seven of Nine and Lieutenant Torres' memories to create facsimiles of Miral Torres and Mezoti, then those facsimilies would have only the knowledge that was contained in the minds of Seven of Nine and Lieutenant Torres. If that is so, then the identity of Mezoti could be verified by Mezoti telling us something that neither Seven of Nine nor Lieutenant Torres knows about her, but that another crewmember knows."
"You want her to tell us a secret." Janeway interpreted. "Something only, say, Naomi knows, or someone else onboard."
"It wouldn't have to be a secret, it could be an event or a conversation that Seven doesn't know about, too." B'Elanna added, smiling encouragingly at the little girl.
Mezoti thought about it. "That will be difficult, as I am certain Seven knows most that transpires onboard this vessel, but I shall try."
"I like green, growing things, things that live, and I like making things. I dislike leeola root and always having to obey orders. I also dislike Thomas Eugene Paris, as he often speaks inappropriate things to or about my... about Seven."
B'Elanna growled slightly at the girl's words, causing her mother to give her an amused look.
"I think Naomi's hair is pretty but Seven is the prettiest of all, and I think Seven and Lieutenant Torres will get married in a Klingon ceremony, unlike Naomi who thinks they will chose a human wedding."
B'Elanna nearly swallowed her tongue and blushed bright red all the way to the tips of her ears. Janeway choked on her coffee and Miral sent a big, toothy grin at her embarrassed daughter, waggling her eyebrows teasingly.
"The replicator in Captain Janeway's quarters fail to produce a properly cooked pot roast because it is misaligned, and every time the Captain tries to repair it herself, the misalignment is altered but not diminished." Janeway blinked in surprise. "Ensign Tabor has wagered a month's worth of replicator rations to Crewman Chell that Lieutenant Torres and Seven will instigate a mating ritual in Engineering rather than engage in physical combat." Mezoti pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I believe that Ensign Tabor is not familiar with Klingon courtship rituals and that they can take the appearance of hostile altercations."
Miral burst out into a hearty guffaw while B'Elanna's blush darkened several hues.
"B'Elanna and I would not obstruct the work in Engineering in that manner!" Seven was quite indignant, sitting a little more straight in the couch.
"Indeed." Tuvok was not impressed with all this emotional behaviour when there were important questions to address. "I will seek to confirm this information with Ensign Tabor, Crewman Chell and Naomi Wildman."
Mezoti turned to Seven. "Can I see Naomi later, Seven?"
"I believe that Commander Tuvok would like to verify your information with Naomi Wildman before you meet her." Seven stroked some hair from the girl's face. "But when Commander Tuvok and Naomi Wildman's mother both agree, I will take you to see her."
"That settles it for the little one..." Miral smiled at Mezoti. "...but what about me?"
"I know you're you, mom."
"Thank you Lanna." Suddenly Miral looked mischievous. "Of course, I could tell you a few things that none of you know, if you want? I don't think you would be able to verify it though." The way Miral smirked made Janeway suspect that the information Miral had in mind was not meant for mixed company, at least not with minors in the room.
"More coffee?" Janeway hurried to interrupt.
"Why yes please." Miral leaned towards Janeway as she filled her cup, smiling charmingly.
"You know..." Janeway smiled herself as she sat down and leaned towards the other woman. "I've been wanting to meet the mother of our Chief Engineer for quite a few years now."
"Oh?" Miral smirked at B'Elanna. "What did she do, and how many bones were broken?"
"You know her quite well I hear..." Janeway grinned. "But no, during these years that B'Elanna has served under my command she has been a constant source of pride for me and this ship. Without her we would have been lost a long time ago." She smiled gently at the young woman that gazed at her with such affection and gratitude. "I think you would have been proud of her too."
"I always have been." Miral stated gently. "Whatever else might have been, Lanna always made me proud to be her mother."
A startled little sob emerged from B'Elanna at the unexpected words. She wiped at her eyes quickly, feeling a bit self-conscious, but mostly just filled with awe. She had never known her mother's approval had meant so much to her.
Seven surprised them all by leaning in and planting a tender kiss on B'Elanna's cheek.
As Janeway watched the proud young woman that had been one of her very best friends and almost a daughter to her for several years be moved to silent, grateful tears, it truly drove home the importance of a child knowing it's parent's love and approval. Then Janeway's gaze wandered to the young woman holding B'Elanna's hand and looking at her with surprising tenderness.
There was no 'almost' in the way Seven was a daughter to Janeway. And what was more, she knew it was a mutual bond between them although Seven would never presume that much. Yes, she, Kathryn Janeway, who had put her career before a personal life long ago understanding that children would never be a part of her life, had travelled 70,000 light years from home... to find the daughter of her heart. And it was about time she started showing it.
"Voyager, and I, were blessed to have one so unique and irreplaceable individual such as B'Elanna. People like her don't come along very often." Janeway caught Seven's eyes. "But somehow we were blessed a second time with you, Seven. And I will thank whatever lucky star that brought you to me."
It might not have been much, not have been the declaration of maternal love that Janeway wanted to make, but looking at a set of very wide, very sparkling pale blue eyes, she knew it was enough for now. Anything more than this would have to be sometime when they were alone, as Janeway suspected that not only might her young charge shed a few tears, she herself would probably end up bawling.
She smiled to herself as she pictured for a moment what her own mother would say when introduced to her very adult, very statuesque, adopted grandchild.
Then she sighed. "Tuvok, how can you give the impression of squirming and fidgeting when you're not even moving?"
"I would do no such thing." Tuvok's eyebrow rose. "I would however wish to check Mezoti's story as soon as possible, if there is no more to add?"
"No, you go ahead Tuvok, you don't have to sit in on our emotional chitchats any longer." Janeway smiled. "I'm sure I'm quite safe with both B'Elanna and Seven present. Oh, and Icheb too, of course."
Tuvok nodded. "Yes, I believe that Seven of Nine and Lieutenant Torres would allow no harm to come to you Captain. Security will remain just outside should you need them." With that Tuvok got up and left the room.
"Well..." Miral drawled, crossing her legs. "the little one wouldn't pose much threat, but you know..." She bared her incisors roguishly at Janeway. "I could still be dangerous. I _am_ Klingon, after all."
"On the contrary. I was Borg, and I have retained much of my Borg enhancements. I could pose a threat." Mezoti informed the grinning Klingon quite seriously.
Janeway smiled indulgently at them both. "Yes, you are both quite fierce... Mezoti is about to fall asleep I think, and you Miral are curled up in my couch like a cat. I feel quite threatened."
"Besides, I don't think Tuvok can protect me from your kind of danger, Miral." Janeway burred slightly, giving the other woman a quirked look that made Miral's delighted smile that much wider.
"Why thank you...Captain?" Miral purred and leaned a bit more towards Janeway.
"Call me Kathryn, please." And Kathryn smiled, quite charmed by the other woman's cocky smirk.
Then she noticed with a start that B'Elanna was gaping at them in shock and that Seven's ocular implant had climbed quite high, and promptly blushed. "But would you look at the time... the children will need to get some sleep, I'm sure." Kathryn shook her head slightly at herself, chagrined. "Perhaps we should call it a day."
"Yes indeed, now where will we house our guests..." She continued as she got to her feet, making the others in the room do the same. "Little Mezoti will of course stay with you Seven, right?" Seven nodded as she settled the child on her hip. "What of..."
"Mom will sleep on my couch." B'Elanna interjected, suddenly worried what her mother might suggest otherwise. Miral merely smirked at her daughter, then paused just inside the door to touch Kathryn's hand.
"It's been a pleasure meeting you, Kathryn." Before the slightly blushing Kathryn had the opportunity to respond, Miral had been pushed outside by a scowling B'Elanna who just grunted in parting to her superior officer.
"Good evening to you, Captain." Icheb said politely, bowing slightly, before leaving. That left Seven and Mezoti. Seven stopped just inside the door, appearing to hesitate.
"Seven..." Kathryn spoke gently and touched the young woman's cheek. "...will you be allright?"
Seven's eyes darted around a little before meeting Kathryn's gaze. "Mezoti needs to rest." She stated simply, but her eyes showed the pain that made Kathryn wish she could just keep Seven with her, hug her and let her cry on her shoulder. But Seven had a little girl of her own that she needed to be strong for.
A look of understanding passed between them, then Kathryn just nodded and stepped back, allowing Seven to join the others outside. The doors closed behind her, leaving Kathryn Janeway with a lot to think about.
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