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
Icheb left for his quarters after bidding the others goodnight, and B'Elanna reassured Seven quietly that Harry would look after the boy. Security trailed after them as they left Janeway's quarters, apparently with the orders to stand guard outside of whatever area Miral and Mezoti would be spending the night. B'Elanna shrugged at the thought, and spoke quietly to Seven before she would head off towards Cargo Bay 2.
"Do you need to regenerate tonight?"
"No, I do not." Seven shifted the child on her hip slightly. "Why do you ask, B'Elanna?"
"Umm..." B'Elanna glanced over at her very interested mother, then looked away and bit her lip. "I was thinking maybe you and Mezoti could stay over at my place tonight?"
She saw the ocular implant go up, and intercepted the question. "Mom gets the couch, but I thought that maybe, if you don't mind that is, that we could..." B'Elanna felt her cheeks heat up slightly. "that you and Mezoti would share the bed with me. Like a sleepover?"
"Right, you probably don't know what that is..." B'Elanna mumbled at Seven's blank look. Rubbing her ridges slightly, she sighed. "Look, I just want to keep you guys close by tonight, allright?"
And it was.
Ignoring her mother's smirks and meaning glances B'Elanna made up the couch for Miral, then settled Seven and Mezoti in her own bed, before squeezing into it herself, spooning Seven just to fit them all on the bed. Normally neither she nor Seven would go to bed at that hour, but it had been a long, trying day for them.
Her mother was sleeping on the couch.
Security were standing guard outside of her quarters.
The strange and painful experience in the mysterious mountain.
The return of little Mezoti, and the horrifying news of the children's end so shortly after leaving the ship.
It was all too much to deal with at that moment, B'Elanna would have to brave the questions and the consequences in the morning. For right now though, all she wanted was to close her eyes, bury her face in blonde hair, and sleep for a while with the scent of her woman comforting her.
A brown eye snapped open. Her woman?
_Her_ woman? Since when did she think of Seven as being hers? That was getting way, way ahead of herself, she had no claim on Seven... they had barely begun dating. And B'Elanna had no idea what it all meant to Seven beyond attraction.
The woman in question chose that moment to sigh almost inaudibly and entwine the fingers of one hand with B'Elanna's, pulling the joint hands around the child sleeping tucked into her chest. Seven held Mezoti close, and this way B'Elanna was holding them both.
Which was just fine with her.
As she snuggled into the sweet-smelling hair it came to B'Elanna that she had gotten it wrong. It was _Seven_ who had marched out of the Collective and into B'Elanna's life, right into her heart... and laid claim to her. She was _Seven's_.
Oh B'Elanna had resisted, had fought it for so long, but now her fighting was over. Seven had won without even knowing it. Those graceful hands held B'Elanna's heart in them, and B'Elanna could only hope Seven would realize the power she held before that heart was crushed.
And that was OK. It would be OK.
To say that the next day, or days for that matter, were crazy would have been an understatement of the monumental kind. For starters it began with B'Elanna waking up with the woman she was so crazy for cuddled up in her arms, with said woman's daughter sprawled across them both, and the sound of B'Elanna's mother cursing at the replicator to give her coffee and pancakes in the other room. And things just kept on going from there.
No tests that the doctor or anyone else could come up with showed any difference in Mezoti from her previous time on Voyager, just as nothing appeared out of place with Miral. No trace of the mountain could be found either, so with the exception of the ever vigilant Tuvok, those most involved began to relax slightly.
Mezoti was reunited with her best friend Naomi, the young half-Katarian deciding things for everyone by escaping her mother's watchful eye and racing down the corridors of the ship until she located the other girl. Naomi's exuberant hug would have floored another child, but being a former Borg, little Mezoti merely hugged back a bit awkwardly, never budging, and assured her friend that she had been missed as well.
Miral Torres had approved, being a firm believer that a real hug should be strong enough to at least threaten to break a few bones, then proceeded to demonstrate this on her laughing daughter.
The crew of Voyager in general were very curious, but also a bit apprehensive, about the two new arrivals. Mezoti was a familiar face, and caused little stir besides the obvious questions of how she had appeared there, but Miral was another matter. There was much curiosity regarding her, but at the same time many kept their distance in fear of a potentially violent Klingon among them.
This caused Janeway to feel that she needed to apologize to the other woman for her crew's behaviour, but Miral was surprisingly understanding. Miral explained that she had spent so many years living among humans that she was quite used to this reaction, and that at least the crew of Voyager had valid reasons to be wary of her presence.
This in turn lead to Janeway taking some time off from overseeing the construction to spend talking with Miral, B'Elanna and Seven, with Mezoti and Naomi playing Kadis-kot nearby. Janeway mentioned that she wanted someone to take the Hybrid on a brief away mission, planting a communication beacon at the location where Voyager was next expected to contact Starfleet. With a few strategically placed booster beacons and the new improved communications systems, Janeway had hopes of being able to keep a steady connection to the Alpha Quadrant for the duration of Voyager's stay on the planet, or failing that, at least notify her superiors why Voyager would not be at the rendezvous points as scheduled.
That Miral requested a message be sent to the Alpha Quadrant to inform people of her spectacular return to the ranks of the living was not particularly surprising considering she still had many relatives that were alive. That Miral grew quite somber and explained that there was someone else, someone not of her House, that she wished to be informed and that she needed to tell B'Elanna about, was more unexpected.
"Do you wish for us to give you both some privacy?" Kathryn asked with some concern, as it was clear from Miral's expression that the upcoming conversation would be difficult. Both Seven and B'Elanna sat up straight and waited for Miral's answer.
"No, not unless Lanna prefers it." Miral sighed. "She could probably need some friendly support for this, though."
B'Elanna swallowed hard and clasped Seven's hand in her own before nodding to her mother to go on. Miral just looked at her only child for a long moment, as if silently debating something with herself.
"It's about your father, Lanna." She said at last, sounding very tired and looking as if she expected B'Elanna to explode at the mere mention of the man.
B'Elanna gasped a little and clutched Seven's hand a bit harder. "G-go ahead mom, it's OK."
Miral nodded. "Allright. There are quite a few things about the divorce that you never knew..." She made a face. "about him. About me. About... other things."
"I was always considered the... black sheep of my family, because I was considered far to timid for a true daughter of our House." Miral made a wry, self-conscious face at the comment. "To fully understand that you would have had to meet my sisters, but nevermind that for now. Eventually I scandalized everyone by marrying a human man, B'Elanna's father, though the fact that he was human was not as bad as the fact that he was no warrior, was found lacking in strength, and worse, held my Klingon heritage in a great deal of contempt."
"All those that spoke against me and my marriage then would be proven right. I married a human man and let him drive me from my family, then abandon me." Miral's voice was low with remembered pain and shame, and she avoided to look at B'Elanna. "Worse, I let him dishonour me."
"He disappeared one night without a word, sending me the divorce documents a day later by delivery. I tracked him down as soon as I could, a few weeks later, and gave him his documents. I also divorced him in my own way, the Klingon way." Miral's lips twisted in an evil little smirk. "My ...slap... dislocated his jaw, but it was enough to satisfy my anger then."
"I did not find out until three months later that as soon as his jaw had been fixed, he married a human woman by the name of Laura Matthews, who four months after our divorce delivered him a daughter, Beatrice." She looked pained when B'Elanna gasped again, more loudly this time.
"I... thought that I could raise B'Elanna to be proud that she was Klingon somehow, make her forget the human part of her heritage that I saw as only causing her pain and inner conflict. That I could make her strong enough, Klingon enough, not to let herself be hurt by weakness as I had." A bitter smile shadowed the edges of Miral's lips. "I forgot that my little girl was human too, and ended up just making her hate me and her Klingon heritage all the more."
"For that I am..." Miral looked into B'Elanna's shocked and teary eyes at last, struggling to get the words out. "...sorry."
In the absolute stillness of the moment, a clear young voice spoke up from across the room.
"Klingons do not apologize." Mezoti stated primly, startling Naomi who had not heard the adults conversation from their location.
Three heads turned to look questioningly at Seven, who shrugged slightly. "Little ex-Borg pitchers have enhanced ears." She explained with a tiny smirk and a touch of amusement. "Mezoti, what have we discussed regarding eavesdropping protocol?"
"That I should refrain from adding my observations to a conversation that does not include me, especially if those speaking are under the misconception that I cannot hear them even though I have Borg-enhanced hearing." Mezoti responded dutifully, before adding with a scowl. "It is a stupid protocol."
The child's words made Seven's smile a tiny bit wider. "It is the polite conduct. Comply."
"Yes, Seven." The child muttered and went back to her game.
Seven nodded, then smirked at Kathryn. "Captain, have your jaw become fixed in that position? Shall I contact the doctor?"
Kathryn's jaw snapped shut with a tiny clicking sound, making Miral chuckle lightly, before adding ruefully "No, Klingons do not apologize... but I am not exactly your average Klingon."
She eyed Janeway in a way that could only be described as flirtatious. "I have come to appreciate many human things over the years."
The strangled little noise that came from B'Elanna brought Miral back to her story however. "Where was I? Oh yes, B'Elanna's childhood."
"My Lanna always had fire, and gumption. She would always stand up against what she thought was unfair treatment, no matter who was the recipient." Miral's pride in her daughter was unmistakable. "I remember when she was thirteen and we were attending a family dinner at my mother's home..." Miral chuckled at the memory.
B'Elanna groaned. "Mom, please!"
Seven leaned forward intently. "Proceed."
"Well, one of her older cousins had been teasing her about her dislike of Klingon traditions, and finally called her a weak half-breed in front of the entire family. He was old enough to know better, and was trained to be a warrior, but my little B'Elanna got angry and beat him up in front of everyone." Miral smiled at her wincing daughter. "I was so proud."
"Why did you not interfere?" Seven demanded, frowning.
Miral looked surprised. "Oh, but if I had interfered it would have been the same as saying that her cousin was right, and Lanna was to weak to stand up for herself. Instead she proved that she is a true daughter of our House, and no-one in our family would say otherwise."
"In fact, my sisters have often told me that B'Elanna is more truly a child of my mother's blood than I am." Miral sighed a little. "Especially since we heard that you had joined the Maquis... they are all proud of you, Lanna."
B'Elanna looked away, blinking hard in an attempt to suppress the tears that wanted to spill.
"The day before you ran away from home to join Starfleet Academy, I was contacted by Laura Matthews."
Miral looked distant, as if she was lost in the memories as she recalled them for B'Elanna and the others. "The first time Laura contacted me it... unsettled me, and I paid less attention than I should have to B'Elanna's actions. I was also short in temper with her without meaning to, and our last conversation for far too many years would be the big fight we had that night."
She smiled wistfully. "I thought the last words we would have spoken to one another while alive would have been in anger. It seems I might have another chance now though."
"Laura's first message to me was very hesitant, it was clear that she was frightened of the violent beast of a Klingon that John no doubt had told her about. But she contacted me anyway, as one mother to another, out of concern for my little B'Elanna's welfare."
"There is a disease in John's family, a genetical ailment that is extremely rare and almost always lethal. The only hope to save a child that has the disease is if it is found very early in life so the child can be treated in time."
"Laura informed me that she had recently been divorced from John, but that the reason she contacted me was to warn me of the disease so that we could have B'Elanna tested for it. Apparently John had neglected to tell her of this disease just as he had me, and Laura's eldest child, Beatrice, had died from it. Her younger daughter, Leonarda, did not have it, nor did the two older sons that Laura had found out John had with other women, which left just my B'Elanna to warn."
Miral raised her hands to stop the alarmed questions that were about to be voiced by Kathryn and Seven both. "I contacted the Academy and had them test B'Elanna there, she does not have it. In fact, it is not believed to pass over in the genetic makeup of someone who is not completely human." She smiled reassuringly. "B'Elanna and whatever children she might have are safe from this."
"It was too late for little Beatrice though. Laura and I kept in contact quite a lot during the time that followed, as Laura struggled with the loss of her eldest child, the worry for her youngest, and the knowledge of John's infidelity. We became friends, as unlikely as it sounds."
"I've spent a lot of time with Laura and Leo over the years, so much so that young Leo began referring to me as her 'aunt' Miral." Miral smiled. "She was an easy child to grow fond of, as she reminds me so much of my Lanna."
Miral inhaled deeply. "The people that I would like most to inform that I am no longer dead are Laura Matthews and Leo Torres. They... were there when I died." Miral's voice grew soft. "Leo, though young and human, when I died she... howled for me."
B'Elanna flinched as if she had been hit. Seven noticed this and pulled B'Elanna's free hand over until she was holding them both in her own.
The group was silent for a moment, but when it was apparent that Miral had finished speaking Kathryn felt compelled to take over.
"I'll make sure they get a message, as well as your sisters." Kathryn was besieged by questions she wanted to ask, there was so much they didn't know. How had Miral died? When had she died? The other woman hadn't mentioned either, and perhaps it was to sensitive a subject to ask about. "Would you like to put together a personal message?"
And then there was that.
Miral looked at her and nodded. "Yes, I would, thank you."
"No, I mean... _personal_." Kathryn intoned awkwardly, biting her lip slightly. "You know, _personal_?" She stared at her hands, unable to look up in case she would happen to see another strange look on Seven or B'Elanna's faces.
"Perso- ...oh." Miral bared her incisors in a delighted grin. "Kathryn, are you asking me if Laura and I were lovers?"
Kathryn turned crimson.
"Oh my, I nearly forgot, have to get going... duty calls and all that, see you girls later..." She fired off rapidly and got to her feet, preparing to make a run for it. Miral was faster.
"We were not." The hand on Kathryn's arm was not restricting, yet it kept her from moving all the same. "I prefer women with quite a bit more... steel in their spine," Miral smirked cheekily at Kathryn. "and my very timid _friend_ prefers men."
And Captain Kathryn Janeway, who had faced everything the Delta Quadrant could throw at her, including the Borg Queen... mumbled something inaudible and fled from a flirtatious Klingon woman.
Miral chuckled goodnaturedly, then B'Elanna smacked her in the back of her head.
"What do you think you are _doing_..." B'Elanna hissed just as Mezoti and Naomi came up to them.
"That did not go well." Mezoti observed. "Perhaps you should clarify your intentions towards the Captain? I can assist you in replicating crockery, if you wish."
Miral ignored her daughter, smiled and bent down to scoop Mezoti up and hold the child on her hip. "You think I need to clarify my intentions, huh? Perhaps not a bad idea little one, but I think we should wait with the crockery." Miral was very charmed, and very amused, by the serious little girl.
"In my experience, with human women it works a lot better with flowers... or chocolate. It makes a better impression and it is not so messy."
"The Captain likes coffee-flavoured ice cream." Naomi volunteered. "And she likes chocolate, as long as it doesn't have fruits or berries in it."
"Does she now..." Miral scooped up Naomi on her other hip, and chatting with the little girls about chocolate and ice cream, left the room and her gaping daughter behind.
A few weeks passed, and everyone got more used to the presence of Miral and Mezoti, and as it became more obvious that Miral and Mezoti were not going anywhere, Seven and B'Elanna could both begin to relax some and focus more on their work on Voyager. Mezoti and Naomi learned how to play in the dirt and climb trees, thanks to Neelix and Miral, the latter whom was often seen tumbling around in games with the children when she wasn't playfully stalking a flustered Starfleet Captain.
Eventually Seven began to relax enough regarding Mezoti that she didn't need to have the child within her sight or earshot at all times of the day. That was when B'Elanna decided it was time for them to have their much delayed first date. Of course, by that time B'Elanna had already agonized over their first date to the point that she was nearly frantic. What would she come up with to make it perfect for Seven? What if Seven did not like it? What if B'Elanna made a complete fool out of herself?
Miral threatened to throw her hyperventilating daughter in the nearest lake if she didn't calm down and take the former Borg out for a date pretty soon, which resulted in some rather hasty arrangements to have Mezoti spend the night with the Wildmans. B'Elanna was a bit worried what her mother might get up to if she was left alone all evening, but Miral promised to be on her best behaviour and not pester anyone.
B'Elanna ended up taking Seven to a distant lake where they had a romantic dinner, danced, and watched the sun set, together. They spent the night on a blanket under the stars, kissing or just holding one another, and to B'Elanna's great relief Seven seemed genuinely delighted. She also seemed to greatly enjoy beginning the day by kissing B'Elanna absolutely senseless, something which B'Elanna decided Seven had a particular knack for doing.
They made it back just in time for their duty shifts to begin, both joining their respective crews with a smile on their lips.
The day after this, the first thing Seven saw as she opened her eyes to step out of her alcove was B'Elanna standing in front of her, holding a small box with a pale blue bow.
The box contained a tiny grey flowerpot filled with black dirt and with a single, small, bright green stalk with a tiny leaf in the centre. Blushing slightly, B'Elanna explained that she had wanted to give Seven roses, but at the same time didn't want to give Seven something that was dying and soon would be gone, so instead B'Elanna had gotten the little plant. Shyly B'Elanna told Seven that there was something special growing there, and that she knew that with a little care and nurturing it would grow into a strong and beautiful flower.
Smiling, Seven informed B'Elanna that she was not entirely unfamiliar with metaphors, then carefully put the tiny pot down, picked B'Elanna up and proceeded to kiss her until the smaller woman nearly fainted. Then B'Elanna spent the next twenty minutes hanging over Seven's console, fighting to regain her breath, watching Seven and Mezoti rearrange an area of the alcoves so that the little plant had it's own niche and hot lamp to encourage it's growth.
The delight in both blue-eyed blondes over the plant seemed to B'Elanna to be utterly out of proportion for such a small and simple thing, and it moved her nearly to tears watching them decide on how to best care for the plant. Seven would be spending some time that evening devising a proper nutritional compound to sprinkle into the little watering can that she especially designed to gently water the plant with, seeming a bit concerned that the flower would be damaged if the trickle of water would be too rough.
The pale blue ribbon was carefully folded and put in a storage compartment in Seven's alcove, where she stored the few personal effects she had.
The following morning B'Elanna Torres was awoken with a soft kiss. When she opened her eyes, however, she found that she was still alone in her bedroom. Then she noticed something lying on her chest.
It was a rose, a single, shining, perfect, blooming rose... made from a dark kind of metal and decorated with a small red bow.
B'Elanna was suddenly wide awake and threw herself out of bed and into the other room, clutching the metal rose in her hand. Wild-eyed and dishevelled she looked around the small room, but saw only Miral, still in her sleeping clothes, almost falling off the couch as she tried to keep from bursting out in gales of laughter. With tears streaming from her eyes the nearly horizontal woman informed her bewildered offspring that Seven had just left, then she continued by informing her daughter that she thought Seven was just too smooth for the still bumbling B'Elanna.
The howls of laughter as B'Elanna took her revenge by charging Miral and attempted to choke her with a pillow or two echoed in the corridor outside B'Elanna's quarters and surprised any that passed by.
B'Elanna did not come across Seven during her duty shift that morning, nor find her for lunch, which caused the half-Klingon to be rather moping as she lead her part of the hull refurbishing that day. Then as there were about two hours left of her shift B'Elanna looked down from her platform where she were working, to see the Captain and Seven join Miral, Mezoti and the doctor on the ground nearby. As she gestured to her crew to lower her platform so she would be able to jump down, she saw Tal Celes and the Delaney sisters also join the group.
Then as B'Elanna started to move downwards Seven stepped forward and the entire construction site grew silent. Seven looked into B'Elanna's eyes, opened her mouth, and... began to sing.
It was a Spanish lovesong, and in the absolute stillness of their smiling audience, Seven's smooth, perfect voice carried clearly as she serenaded B'Elanna. B'Elanna was to caught up in her emotions to even notice that whoever it was that was lowering her platform was doing it incredibly slowly. The platform didn't reach it's lowest point until just after Seven's final verse ended and the final lyrics were fading from the air.
Accompanied by ringing applauds, B'Elanna jumped down the last distance and hurled herself into Seven's arms. Then Janeway ordered the others to continue working, and Miral got the doctor and Mezoti to join her in a hearty Klingon song, to keep some of the attention away from Seven and B'Elanna where they stood.
As B'Elanna wiped the tears from her eyes Seven whispered that she should follow her. "But I haven't ended my shift..."
Janeway stepped forward slightly, smiling widely. "You are both off duty until tomorrow, Lieutenant."
Then Seven took the surprised B'Elanna by the hand and led her away.
Miral stopped singing for a moment and watched alongside Kathryn how B'Elanna was dragged away. Then she leaned in and gave Kathryn a suggestive look, making the other woman blush. "So, Kate, I have to get the little one tucked in with the Wildmans right now, but after that perhaps... you would like to join me for some ice cream?"
Seven led B'Elanna quite a distance away, to a semi-private little hill where they were hidden from immediate view by a few small trees and bushes. She pulled B'Elanna down on the grass and kissed her deeply for a good long while.
"Oh Seven..." B'Elanna sighed breathlessly when they parted, tracing the planes of Seven's face with a fingertip. "You are so incredible."
Seven smiled and looked deeply into B'Elanna's eyes. "We are off duty until the morning, and will have your quarters to ourselves tonight."
For a moment B'Elanna was about to ask where her mother was going, but then her mind caught up with what Seven was really saying. She gasped a little. "Seven?!"
Seven smiled shyly. "Did you like the rose?"
B'Elanna felt the tears come back to sting her eyes. "Yes, Seven, I love it. It's... perfect, just like you." She breathed lovingly, kissing Seven some more. "Thank you."
"While it is not a living thing like the plant you gave me, this flower will not die nor will it fade." Seven said softly, touching her forehead to B'Elanna's.
"How did you make it?" B'Elanna murmured, mesmerized by the blue of Seven's eyes.
Seven drew back a bit and avoided looking into B'Elanna's eyes. "I... am unsure if you would approve."
"What?" B'Elanna was surprised. "What could I possibly disapprove of, Seven? It's a very beautiful and romantic gift, and I love it."
"The flower is made from... a piece of Borg metal removed from me by the doctor after I was severed from the Collective, and I shaped the basic form with my Borg enhanced arm, then finished the details with my tubules."
"It's from your old Borg armor?"
"No." Seven's voice grew very quiet. "It was removed from me, not merely taken off." B'Elanna's breath caught as she realized what that meant. "It was part of an implant."
"I thought it symbolically appropriate, that I wanted you to have a part of me." Seven hesitated. "I am sorry, I have revulsed you."
"No! Never!" B'Elanna fought back a sob, then reached out to gently tilt Seven's face up until she could meet her eyes. "That it was a part of you only makes it so much more precious, Seven, that much more perfect. I will cherish it always, I swear."
She kissed Seven gently, then they lay simply looking into each other's eyes for some time.
"Seven... ?" B'Elanna blushed a little. "Did you say that we would have my quarters to ourselves tonight?"
Seven didn't answer, but with an amazingly sunny little grin tugged B'Elanna to her feet and pulled her by the hand back towards the ship.
"Seven, slow down!" B'Elanna chuckled at her eager soon-to-be lover as she was yanked along.
"Time waits for no man, nor female engineer!" Seven declared still grinning, and didn't slow down. "Unless temporal manipulation occurs or the timeship Relativity is involved. Or Captain Janeway."
And B'Elanna laughed.
Miral teased B'Elanna for days about the sappy, lovesick little smile that seemed permanently fixed on the younger woman face, especially whenever Seven was mentioned. B'Elanna blushed occasionally at the ribbings but didn't seem to mind them, and then eventually she sat down with her mother and confessed that she was head over heels in love with the former Borg.
Miral exercised a great deal of sensitivity by not bursting out in sidesplitting laughter at the supposed revelation, although her steady, silent smirk still got the message across. Embarrassed, B'Elanna decided to get revenge by tricking Miral into being forced to eat an extra large helping of Neelix' spiciest leeola dish. Of course Miral, being Klingon, ate her portion without complaint, then trapped B'Elanna into eating a plate of her own of the dish.
It taught B'Elanna to be more cunning when getting back at her mother.
Tal Celes was sent out in The Hybrid together with an ensign from Engineering, to deploy the beacons that Janeway had wanted in place before the next scheduled communication from home. The young Bajoran was becoming quite a skilled pilot, in fact Seven had informed the Captain that Tal had far more aptitude for the helm than for her work in Astrometrics and that on the few tests that Seven had managed to make Tal take, the ensign had scored even with Tom Paris himself. As a result, both Janeway and Seven were doing their best to gently encourage the insecure young woman towards the pilot seat, and going out of their way to give her more practice at handling vessels in flight. It was Janeway's hope to have another ace pilot on her hands, as soon as young Tal had gotten some more experience under her belt.
Tom Paris had complained, stating that he should have been allowed to pilot the away mission since he had been planet-bound for far too long for a pilot of his calibre, even if it meant that he would have to pilot B'Elanna's 'floating rock'. Janeway, getting fed up with his whining and his attitude, smiled and promised Tom more air time, then had the helmsman assigned to every gruelling material transport with the shuttles that she could manage, and made certain he would be on the beck and call for Sam Wildman's group for whatever agricultural expedition they might need transport for. She made an internal bet with herself that Tom Paris would be back to complain to her again within a week, this time about demeaning work, and she would actually enjoy putting him in his place a bit, in that case.
A bit of ingenuity with the beacons would ensure that approximately two weeks after their message reached Starfleet, Voyager would have a stable connection to Starfleet for about an hour every day. Once Voyager was on its way again, with it's new and improved communications system, that would change to six hours of stable connection once a week, unless something unexpected happened on either end. One of these hours would have to be used for exchanging information and recorded messages back and forth, and one hour would be slotted strictly for Janeway's communication with Starfleet, the rest would be divided up in half-hour slots given to the crew according to a schedule, unless, again, something unexpected occurred. Given that they were in the Delta Quadrant where the unexpected _was_ the expected, Janeway figured they would be lucky if the schedule held to about fifty percent, but still it would be a huge improvement for everyone.
The return of The Hybrid coincided with another event of importance for crew of Voyager, the day when the last of the external work on Voyager was finished. To celebrate this milestone, Janeway declared that everyone were given a day off. Sighing deeply at once again getting to solve the particulars of one of his superior officer's impulse decisions, Chakotay worked out a schedule so that the crew took their day off in different groups, ensuring that essential posts were still manned at all times. The day was warm and sunny, and with the day off from duties, most people drifted to the large lake not far from the landing site that had become a popular place to swim or sunbathe for the crew.
Although Miral had been there several times with the children, it would be the first time for the workaholics Janeway, Seven and B'Elanna to laze away the afternoon swimming and relaxing.
Janeway, wearing a sedate and modest dark blue bathing suit that could not possibly be seen as inapropriate even for a ship's Captain to wear, had gotten there early and staked out a spot for her little family. The twin streaks of rainbow color and bright purple that descended on the lake signalled the arrival of Naomi and Mezoti, followed at a more normal pace by a laughing Miral. Janeway then needed Chakotay to pound heartily on her back, as the sight of Miral in what appeared to be a very small black leather bikini caused her to choke on her iced coffee. Miral smirked from where she had boldly thrown herself in the water to play with the children.
B'Elanna joined them then, a moment later, as she had taken a moment extra to look over a few things. It was quite amusing to see that she had unconsciously chosen a cloth replica of her mother's bikini, and Miral immediately ran out of the water to try and throw her daughter in. The two muscular women wrestled playfully in the water's edge until B'Elanna managed to get some leverage and hurl Miral over her head into the water. While B'Elanna prepared to gloat, Mezoti and Naomi ambushed her, and together with Miral, dragged the protesting engineer into the water with them.
Icheb had arrived with Harry and the doctor, but there was no sign of Seven anywhere. Just as B'Elanna and Janeway both were about to go look for the missing ex-Borg, Seven arrived with the girls from Astrometrics. What first alerted the others of their arrival was the roar of appreciative calls and whistles that sprung from the other crewmembers at the lake.
The Delaney sisters broke the record for wearing the smallest bikinis there, and also the most fluorescent in colour, Tal Celes was blushing furiously in her own more normal blue bikini, and Seven... when Seven threw off the towel she had worn wrapped around herself, B'Elanna quite quietly lost her footing and slipped completely under water. She resurfaced moments later, coughing and wheezing, staring at her blonde lover. Seven was wearing an extremely revealing silver bathing suit and had her hair down, causing B'Elanna to feel decidedly faint.
Later that day when asked about the choice of unusually revealing bathing attire, Tal Celes would lift her chin slightly and explain that it was a matter of Astrometrics solidarity, to which the Delaneys would cry their agreement from across the grass. Apparently they had known that while Seven wanted to wear the silver piece for B'Elanna, the former Borg was very self-conscious about baring so much of her body, and they had chosen that as a way to back her up. Seven's department might be small and the women there more than a little intimidated by her vast knowledge and intelligence at times, but they were a completely loyal group.
It took Janeway and B'Elanna a while to convince Seven to enter the water, as Seven seemed almost fearful of deeper waters. It was not a matter of irrational fear, however, but rather the knowledge that she, and to a lesser degree Mezoti and Icheb, would have great difficulty floating due to her many Borg implants. Once she had been convinced to come into the water in the shallower parts where Mezoti and Naomi played, the group tried to coax Janeway to join them as well. While Janeway was still answering Seven why she should remain on land when Seven did not, Miral rushed ashore, grabbed the shocked Captain, and then dashed out on a rock that provided a natural diving ledge into the deeper section of the water. With the squealing Janeway held tightly in her arms, Miral belted out a roaring cry then plunged them both underwater. She came back to the surface, laughing, moments later, while Janeway surfaced pouting.
It began with Janeway splashing water on Miral in retaliation, then B'Elanna, after resisting the urge to strangle her mother, joined in with more gusto. Mezoti and Naomi then joined as well, splashing every which way. Finally Seven entered the fray, creating small tidal waves as her enhanced arm pushed through the water with irresistible force.
Many crewmembers felt they could have needed counseling after watching their fearless leader, the tempestuous Chief of Engineering, and most of the resident Borg playing around and laughing like children. Others shook their heads in amusement, thinking that this was the kind of thing that could only happen in the Delta Quadrant.
The day arrived that the first transmissions from the Alpha Quadrant would reach Voyager on it's temporary stay on the planet. Tuvok had insisted that the short time left during the first transmission be used as a part in verifying Miral's identity, and as such a formal request had been sent with Voyager's initial message to Starfleet to locate Laura Matthews and Leo Torres.
Janeway was very pleased to be able to present Miral with a precious fifteen minute window to speak with her friends, and didn't really consider the security issues involved. It was already a proven fact to her anyway, but of course that was not something she chose to inform Tuvok of.
The transmissions would be routed through Astrometrics for now, although later on they would rebuild a small storage space right outside Astrometrics where people would be able to receive their transmissions without disturbing work in the department.
As the turn came to Miral's chance to speak to Laura and Leo, it had been arranged that Seven would be present, not only to supervise the controls so nothing unforeseen would happen but also to record what was said as proof of Miral's identity. B'Elanna would also be present, not so much as a witness as because Miral requested it and it was a family matter.
B'Elanna nervously kept in the background as Miral got her clearance to begin the transmission. How would she handle this? Up on that screen would soon appear the woman her father had left her and her mother to marry, not to mention their child together. Her father's other daughter, no, his _fully human_ daughter. B'Elanna's half-sister.
And, as if to add insult to injury, it felt as if the girl had not only replaced B'Elanna with her father, but with her mother as well. It was easy to see that Miral felt strongly for Leo, and from what little Miral had told B'Elanna, the young girl had a great interest in Klingons, always asking Miral to teach her more about them. Unlike B'Elanna who had resisted her mother's teachings and openly despised all things Klingon.
The human daughter her father had wanted, and yet the Klingon child her mother had wished for. It was ironic, it was insulting, it was painful, and it was very confusing... in the end, the girl had performed the final duty that B'Elanna felt should have been hers, howling for Miral.
B'Elanna felt very childish for having these thoughts, but could not find the peace within herself to settle her thoughts. And what would Leonarda think of her, the half-Klingon older sister that she had never met? What would B'Elanna see in the girl's eyes when Leonarda saw her? What would she expect?
Glancing at the woman she loved, B'Elanna took comfort in the familiar sight of Seven, immaculate as ever, full at work at her consol.
The screen sprang to life, diverting B'Elanna's attention away from her lover's tall form. It revealed a small, frail-looking blonde woman with grey in her hair and blue-grey eyes, and beside her... B'Elanna gasped silently.
The hair was longer, the face younger and a bit more rounded, slightly less heartshaped, but... the image flashed into B'Elanna's mind as clear as had it been yesterday and not years previously, when she had been split in two. The human and the Klingon versions of B'Elanna Torres had faced off, at first as bitter adversaries as they always had been inside her mind, but eventually reluctant allies until, right at the end, a respect if not an understanding had grown.
It was like looking at that human version of herself, only much younger.
B'Elanna was occupied tracing the obvious similarities between herself and what quite clearly was her teenaged young half-sister, and had not paid attention to what Miral and the people on the screen were saying. Both women on the screen were crying in joy and touching their own display, as if to reach through and touch Miral to make sure she was real, then the young girl leaned forward and shocked B'Elanna by rumbling out a long sentence in Klingon.
Her own grasp of Klingon was little more than rudimentary, so B'Elanna did not quite follow what had been said, but she thought it might have been meant to convey something along the lines of Leo's heart being full to see Miral's face again. Miral answered softly in the same vein, calling the girl 'little lioness', then to B'Elanna's sudden horror turned and motioned B'Elanna to step up beside her.
B'Elanna steeled herself for the reactions.
The women on the screen gasped, then the younger exclaimed "B'Elanna!" Her teary smile grew in intensity. B'Elanna looked at the girl more closely, and at this range she could tell the gentleness that was apparent in her dark brown eyes as well as the joy. Joy that was not only for Miral, but for B'Elanna herself.
B'Elanna started to smile.
Borg do not get frantic with worry. However, unofficial young mothers of small children that are suddenly nowhere to be found, are. And Seven's superior mind seemed to have stuck in a loop of calculating the worst possible scenarios that would mean that she had lost another child.
Days had passed since the transmissions from the Alpha Quadrant started coming through, and all work on Voyager's upgrades were now inside the ship rather than outside. What the engineers were focusing on at the moment were the changes to the engines and propulsion systems, and it was in fact the most dangerous time of all for the crew as those particular systems would have to be shut down and partially dismantled during the rebuild. If they were attacked at this point, the ship would not be able to move to make an escape.
All this meant that all hands were working tight and long shifts, everyone doing their best to shorten the time they would be so vulnerable. It also meant that the frantic Seven could not with good conscience rally a search party for her missing child, at least not yet.
Seven had been certain Mezoti was with Neelix in the messhall as agreed, waiting for her brother to pick her up. Neelix had thought that Icheb had fetched the girl directly from the Wildmans, while Sam Wildman had thought that Mezoti had gone to the messhall on her own. It was Icheb that contacted Seven to inform her that his sister was not in her predetermined location at that time.
Then it became obvious that Mezoti was nowhere to be found.
Because the external scanners where currently offline, outside of determining that Mezoti was not in the ship, Seven could not use the computer to locate her daughter. Seven did something she had gotten better at lately and followed her instincts... to go to B'Elanna with her troubles.
Practically throwing her work into Vorik's hands, B'Elanna had not hesitated to join Seven in searching for the little girl, and that was when Seven and B'Elanna both realized that they could not find Miral either.
The discovery chilled them to the bone with it's implications.
They tried to hail the Captain over the comm system, but the Captain had used a privacy screen as she was supposed to get some well deserved and long overdue rest. Unable to contact her that way, B'Elanna and Seven marched over to Janeway's quarters and rang the chime. And then again as Janeway did not answer.
B'Elanna was about to do a quick short-circuit of the locking mechanism so that they could enter when Seven reached out and punched in the Captain's own personal code for the doors, instantly opening them.
As the door slid aside, a startled and severely dishevelled Kathryn Janeway in a silk robe faced them from mere inches away, her hand still raised to release the lock on the door.
"Captain, Mezoti and Miral are missing!" Seven cried, then launched into a rapid-fire explanation of the circumstances. Kathryn blinked.
B'Elanna looked more closely at her Captain, there was something different about her, something...
"...do not wish to disturb the work but this is serious and Commander Tuvok needs to be informed and..." Seven had gone right through Borg efficiency into frightened babbling parent mode.
"Umm." Said Kathryn, looking at them oddly then darting her eyes to the side.
B'Elanna realized what was different.
"Firstly..." Miral said seriously as she stepped out from the darkness on one side of the door, to stand slightly behind Kathryn. "I'm not missing. Secondly, what's this about the little one?" Miral was covered by a sheet but was otherwise naked, her impressive chestnut mane even wilder than usual, and there was no mistaking why she was there.
"MOM!" B'Elanna blurted, her outrage and disapproval quite obvious.
Miral raised an eyebrow in a silent, challenging look and pulled Kathryn up against herself, planting a lingering kiss on her neck. Kathryn reacted by leaning back into Miral and closing her eyes slightly, then seemed to remember that they were not alone and straightened up, blushing, and looked away.
"Oh, Miral is here." Seven sighed somewhat relieved. "But Mezoti..."
"Our little one is missing? Come, tell us everything while Kate and I get dressed." Miral urged.
It took them little time to finish dressing, and then the four of them headed out with Kathryn about to call Tuvok, but they were intercepted by a call to Seven's combadge. It was Sam Wildman who had received word from one of her biologists that they had heard Mezoti in one of the caves that they used as storage rooms for the farming equipment.
They thanked Sam and set off to the area in question, the other's forced to keep a rather quick pace to keep up with Seven's long-legged stride and with B'Elanna occasionally glancing at Miral who pointedly ignored her.
Locating the right cave the group moved in, hearing Mezoti speak to someone.
"...you need nutrition. Comply." The girl sounded distressed despite the stilted mode of speech.
"Mezoti?" Seven called out as she passed the crates near the entrance. The little girl gave a start where she sat crouched in front of a small crate in the empty space at the back of the cave. Former Borg or no, there was no mistaking the look of guiltiness that flickered on Mezoti's features as she slowly turned to face her family.
"Seven." The child responded stiffly, clearly attempting to block whatever was inside the crate from view.
"What are you doing here, little one?" B'Elanna asked gently. "Everyone's been worried about you 'cause we didn't know where you were."
"I apologize, it was not my intention to cause discomfort." Mezoti said honestly, standing ramrod straight and with her arms crossed behind her. It was a stance so characteristic of Seven that it made B'Elanna's heart clench. "I had intended a small detour from my previously scheduled route, and thought to be present in the messhall at the prearranged time."
The girl hesitated. "But I found I could not leave Toby like this." Mezoti stepped aside to let the adults approach the crate if they wished.
"Toby?" B'Elanna asked surprised as they walked up next to the girl.
Inside the crate was a small nest of leaves and grass, and in this nest lay a small pale purple lizard next to a handfull of tiny pieces of vegetable. The lizard was about the size of Mezoti's forearm, with darker spots along it's back, a long tail that was twitching slightly, and tiny hands. It's dark violet eyes looked surprisingly intelligent, but were glazed over as if by fever, and the little creature was panting so hard that the entire body shook from it. It's eyes moved their direction briefly, before returning to Mezoti and then closing. There was no doubt it was very ill.
"Miral has told me that your stuffed Targh Toby was your favourite thing when you were a juvenile." Mezoti explained. "I... like the name."
B'Elanna looked at her mother in surprise, but it was Seven that spoke. "Toby the Targh is currently located in a cloth-lined box underneath B'Elanna's bed." B'Elanna looked slightly embarrassed.
"I think I recognize this kind of critter..." Miral said thoughtfully. "Wasn't it a destroyed nest of these that we found a few days ago, Mezoti? When Naomi got upset?"
Seeing Kathryn's questioning look she elaborated. "The girls and I were out exploring when we stumbled over the nest. Some predator had killed the adult and eaten most of the young, and the sight upset little Naomi so much that we cut our playtime short that day."
"I returned to the site afterwards, to bury the creatures." Mezoti told them. "Toby's egg had been hidden under the mother, and as I picked him up to examine it, he hatched."
"He does not eat, and he has become very weak. I am concerned that should I leave, next time I can return he will have perished." Mezoti spoke very quietly. "I could not leave him to die... alone."
Much like the woman that after hearing Mezoti's words reached out to lay a mesh-encased hand on the child's slim shoulders, the way Mezoti spoke the word 'alone' gave the impression that she could think of no horror greater than this.
"Mezoti." Seven's voice was surprisingly gentle. "You know that Starfleet regulation prohibits pets on ships such as Voyager."
"I know this." Mezoti sounded very much like a lost little girl right then. "But he is too small and weak to survive on his own... his mother and brothers are all dead... leaving him all alone."
The girl turned her head to look up at her maternal figure, her face impassive as always, but a single tear broke away from shining wide blue eyes and slid across a cheek. "He has no-one."
Seven knelt down to carefully wipe the tear away. She opened her mouth to speak, undoubtedly to further explain the regulations to the crying girl, when Kathryn laid a hand on her shoulder and gave her a look that said 'Do you really think I'm a monster?'.
"Mezoti, how about we do like this..." Kathryn began. "We take your Toby to Sickbay so that the EMH can heal him and evaluate if it would be safe to let Toby stay with you while Voyager is on this planet. When we go, you'll have to let him loose here, because this is his home, where others of his kind are, and we don't have the right to take him away from that." She looked intently at the girl. "Does that sound acceptable, sweetie?"
"It would be acceptable. Thank you, Captain." Then the child tilted her head as if thinking of something.
"Will I be left here as well?"
Complete silence ruled the cave as the young ex-Borg held the shocked Captain with her earnest gaze. "W-what?"
Seeing the blank and incomprehending looks around her, even in her beloved Seven, the child spoke slowly and clearly, as if they were the children and not she. "When Voyager leaves this place, will I be left behind like Toby? The Wysanti have no reason to take me now, and it is highly unlikely that Voyager should come in contact with the Norcadians."
"Why would you think that, little one?" Miral was trying to wrap her mind around this information. The girl sounded so sure, could it really be the way Voyager had treated it's children in the past? No, surely not.
"I am an unclaimed dependant temporarily in Voyager's care, primarily in the care of Seven of Nine." Kathryn exchanged a look with Seven, that was the exact words that had been used in the personal files of all the ex-Borg children and they both knew it. "I am too young to be allowed to be put to use in the ship's routines as Icheb has been, and I have no blood relation to anyone onboard as Naomi Wildman has. Therefore I would be sent away with the first Norcadian representative that Voyager encountered, if the risk of encountering Norcadians were not infinitely small."
"So I would like to know if I can expect to be left here, or if I will be handed over to one of the space-faring races of this region when Voyager encounters them." The girl tilted her head further.
"If I could be permitted to use Borg technology to build a maturation chamber to speed up my aging process until I met the biological age requirement, I assure you I would serve well and be useful." She looked at Seven. "I would be efficient."
A beat. "Miral, why are they crying?"
"I think they are sad that you don't know how loved and wanted you are, little one." Miral's own voice was thick and muffled with emotions, even if she wasn't sobbing like the other three women.
"I think it upsets them that you have been made to think that you would need to work to be allowed to stay with your family." Miral kneeled in front of the girl. "And if you need to be able to officially claim a relative, puqnI'be', then I will adopt you into my own House."
"You consider me your granddaughter?"
"Yes little one, I really do." The gentle smile she held for the child became a pointed look as she caught her daughter's eye. "And if that fool daughter of mine were not so... slow about things, you would know it was true."
Mezoti smiled. "Then, SoSnI'... or do you prefer to be designated 'grandmother' instead?"
Miral grinned back at the girl. "Either is fine with me, little one."
Mezoti nodded seriously. "Then I believe I shall use the designation of SoSnI', to signify that I am now Klingon. SoSnI', is it your belief that Seven and B'Elanna will marry?"
B'Elanna went from muted sniffles, to astonishment, to brightly blushing embarrassment.
"I think, puqnI'be', that life is too short to trample down the grass looking in through the window, when the door is open to you." Miral answered cryptically.
Mezoti considered this. "I do not believe I understand your reference, but I shall research it once I have returned to Cargo Bay 2."
Then she turned to B'Elanna. "Do you intend to propose to my Seven?"
B'Elanna suffered a minor warp core breach which for a moment seemed to mobilize her vocal cords without input from her brain, making her emit strange little noises and stammer. "I-I, uh...it's, err, complicated, and... ah... I... uhm... would... arrgh!" She looked desperately at Kathryn.
Mezoti frowned slightly as she puzzled B'Elanna's answer together. "Am I to deduce from this that you do indeed intend to marry Seven?"
B'Elanna was saved from another embarrassing display by Seven herself.
"Mezoti, B'Elanna finds your questions too discomforting and do not wish to answer. Cease persisting with this line of questioning." Despite the rebuke Seven's voice was gentle, and she moved to brush the hair from Mezoti's face.
"But Seven, she said she would."
"In my experience the words 'I would' are usually followed by 'if' or 'but', indicating stipulations that... I may likely not be able to meet." Seven sounded sad and she gave Mezoti a wistful little smile as she began straightening, intending to collect the ailing lizard.
"Because you are Borg?" Mezoti's very quiet voice froze Seven mid-move. She sighed and closed her eyes for the briefest of moments.
"Yes, because I am Borg. An individual as exceptional as B'Elanna would not wish to be bound in this manner to someone so... tainted... as I. It would be asking too much." She seemed unaware of the growing expressions of horror and heartbreak on the three adults around her. "Also it would usually require an emotional commitment that I do not believe myself able to inspire in another."
B'Elanna was in absolute agony.
Seven straightened and looked determined. "This bears no correlation to you or Icheb. Your time with the Borg was brief and unlike me your remaining implants are minor. You are not... flawed, like myself."
"I wish I was more like you, Seven." Mezoti said with surprising heat as tears began to flow down her cheeks. "I want to be just like you."
Seven stared in wide-eyed and openmouthed wonder at the little girl, never once had such a thing ever occurred to her.
"I want to be like you and I want to stay with you always." Mezoti's lower lip began to tremble. "I want to stay with you. Do not send me away again. Please let me stay with you, please Seven! Please please please please-"
Mezoti's frantic pleas were cut off as Seven crushed the girl to her, kissing the pale head and rocking her gently as she sobbed into Seven's shoulder.
"I swear to you..." Seven's voice was husky with emotion and tears and not much louder than a whisper. "...if it is within my power to prevent it, I will never allow you to be taken away again."
When she had collected herself somewhat, Seven stood, lifting Mezoti in her arms. A glance at Miral and Kathryn ensured that one of them would remember to bring the little animal for Mezoti, then Seven strode out of the cave in her usual purposeful manner.
Miral growled something indiscernible in Klingon, then slugged B'Elanna in the shoulder. "You need to tell those two what they truly mean to you, and you need to do it right away! No more hiding!"
"Before someone or something takes them from you." Miral scooped up the purple little thing and cradled it carefully, then joined Kathryn in following Seven back towards the ship.
No-one seemed to notice that B'Elanna did not join the right away, but instead stood in the cave, alone, hugging herself hard and clasping a hand to her mouth as tears streamed down her face.
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