DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, Paramount does. I took them out to play with them, and I promise I'll give them back when I'm done, hopefully with smiles on their faces. No profit made in writing this fanfic. Don't sue me, you can't get blood from a turnip.
Contains F/F interaction so if you don't like it.. please find some general fiction to read. If you are underage, come back in a when you're not. If it is illegal where you live, leave or don't get caught. No matter what it's not my fault if you read it. Most of the story is PG-13, with a couple of minor NC-17 chapters which will bear warnings for the squeamish.
TITLE DISCLAIMER: Title is from a Melissa Etheridge song of the same name. Other songs credited at the end of story. No lyrics in this fiction belong to me, and once again, no profits will be made by their inclusion.
FINALLY: I need to give a very special thanks to my betas, who have kept me honest, and semi-sane. And both have been brutally honest enough to tell me when things don't make sense. So big, big thanks to Nicole, Rebelgirl and Wyrdmaege!

Late September Dogs
By Cirroco DeSade

Chapter 1

"Report!" Barked Captain Kathryn Janeway from her command chair. Leaning forward, knuckles white from an angry grip, the tiny redhead radiated authority while glaring at the debris of a Hirogen ship on her view screen.

"Shields down to 50%, structural integrity falling at 45%, but our weapons systems are holding," the calm voice of Lt Commander Tuvok stated as sparks flew from the console behind him.

"Captain, the other ship appears to be getting ready to ram us. Their shields are down to 25% but their weapons are fully charged!" Harry Kim exclaimed, looking a little frantic behind his console at Ops just as Voyager was rocked by another set of volleys.

"Engineering, I need those shields. Tuvok, target their weapons and engines and take them offline." The Captain ordered with steel in her voice. "Tom, evasive maneuver gamma 5."

As Lt. Paris' hands flew over the helm, bringing Voyager into a tight dive down and away from the smaller warship, Tuvok sent a volley of phaser fire and photon torpedoes striking into their enemy. Unfortunately the Hirogen vessel's shields failed seconds before the photon torpedoes struck their unprotected warp core causing an immediate breach. Voyager was caught in the wake of the explosion and thrown away like a toy. Listing heavily to one side, she was straining to stay in one piece in the deadly force that had caught her.

On the bridge, Janeway and Chakotay were thrown from their seats, slamming into the chairs far in front of them. Chakotay heard a loud pop, as his shoulder was dislocated by the base of helm chair. Janeway slammed head first into the next console's base. Lt Paris slammed into the helm, effectively breaking his nose and giving him a mild concussion. It left him a bit dazed but he was able to regain concentration long enough to turn Voyager away from the concussion wave. He began to ride it like a surfer in a tsunami.

Those unfortunate to have standing stations on the rear of the bridge didn't fare as well. Consoles were exploding due to the internal pressure, and combined with the initial blast, everyone in the rear of the bridge was thrown clear over the railing landing haphazardly among the debris scattered about the deck. Even Tuvok found himself waking a few moments later face down in a puddle of his own blood, most of his lower body draped over the captain's chair.

Down in Engineering, Lt. B'Elanna Torres was cursing a string of Klingon and human epithets after hauling herself off the deck, vainly trying to wipe the lavender blood out of her eyes as it flowed down from a large gash in her forehead. Shaking her head to clear it a little, she did a quick visual of her domain and found it alarming. Her eyes settled on a nearby pile of twisted metal that, to her horror, was lying on top of Lt. Carey. She ran over to try to extract him from the mess and almost slid in a puddle of his blood. His right arm and shoulder were nearly severed from his body.

"Carey can you hear me?" Getting no response she reached under the debris pinning her deputy and hit his comm.. badge.

"Computer, on my mark, transport all debris within a 50 cm radius from Lt Carey's body with Lt Carey to Sickbay."

She stepped back quickly trying not to jostle of the debris then shouted, "Mark!"

In a flash of light and sparkles, Carey disappeared and the metal that was higher than 50 cm above him clattered to floor. Before the noise it made had even ceased Torres was once again prowling around in her engine room, trying to prioritize her tasks and direct those around her. 'At least we've stopped rolling' she thought grumpily.

She looked at the console nearest to her as her fingers flew over her own, to see the perfectly calm features of Ensign Vorik. The only indication he gave of the recent battle was the green blood oozing from a laceration on his cheek. Otherwise the Vulcan's features were as unperturbed as on any other moment she had seen him. She tried not to feel irritated at his composure, but after having her engine room nearly fall on their heads, the Klingon in her wanted to fly into a rage, preferably at the Hirogen who had caused this.

"I have restored inertial dampeners Lieutenant," Vorik stated with typical graciousness. "Now attempting to re-establish shields."

Torres just grunted an affirmation while working on the problem of failing structural integrity. She began barking orders at the crew around her. They were now looking less dazed and headed to what was left of their stations. Before long they had re-routed enough power to shore up any weak spots, but she knew it wouldn't last if they were attacked again. At that moment her comm. badge chirped and Janeway's husky voice clipped out *"Janeway to Torres. Status report."*

B'Elanna inhaled deeply and began, "Captain, we have dampeners back online and temporary patches on the hull, and the structural integrity fields re-established, but it will take us a while on shields, and the hull can't take any more direct hits without them. We have also suffered heavy casualties. I can't say how long it will take, because over half of my staff is in sickbay. Warp is off-line, but I know I can give you full impulse." She couldn't remember if she had ever had to give the Captain a more depressing report after such a short skirmish that didn't involve a Borg cube.

Janeway glanced over her shoulder to see Seven of Nine, her Astrometrics Officer and former Borg drone standing at her station, rapidly running calculations. Even after most of the crew had been thrown around so wildly, Seven looked collected, strong, and only slightly mussed. In fact, only a few strands of hair had fallen from the severe bun in which she always wore her hair. Seven's beauty and grace in all circumstances never failed to amaze Janeway. "Lieutenant, I'm sending Seven down to assist. My top priority is the shields. I don't want to chance another encounter with a Hirogen hunting party without them."

B'Elanna had to quickly clamp down a growl of rage. "Aye, Captain," she replied succinctly.

She had no desire to have to deal with the Captain's Borg pet contradicting her every move and second-guessing her while she put her engine room back together.

'I can always send her out into the Jeffries tubes to do the grunt work if she starts to bug me I guess' she thought ruefully.

Some time later, Voyager had moved into the shadows of a nearby moon and the senior officers were meeting in the conference room to review the day's events. B'Elanna was sure she would be the last to arrive, even Seven had completed the tough assignments that she'd been given and apparently even had time to clean up before coming to the meeting.

'Kahless, does she ever look bad?' the Lieutenant wondered when she looked over at the Borg jealously before looking down at her own uniform, covered in streaks of conduit fluids and other grime. 'Damned Borg perfection.'

She then noticed that the Doctor wasn't there even though the rest of the staff was ready and conferring among themselves. The Captain looked up at her as she took her seat and nodded. Then she hit a button on the console in front of her hailing the Doctor.

"Doctor if you are ready to begin we are waiting for you," Janeway stated calmly into the air.

"I'm afraid I cannot leave my patients at this time, so I would prefer to join you through this link." He stated impatiently as his face appeared on the view screen.

"Very well Doctor. If things are that serious I think we should let you begin," She replied, raising her eyebrow at the EMH.

The Doctor cleared his throat, totally unnecessary since he was a hologram but one of his favorite mannerisms nonetheless, before beginning any discussion which called upon his expertise.

"Well, you gave me quite a heavy casualty list, but I pulled everyone through with my usual remarkable talents. Almost all of them have been released, but I'm holding Ensign Tal Celes and Lt. Joe Carey for a while. Ensign Tal suffered from temporary blindness and deafness when her console exploded directly in her face. I have her sedated until her body has had enough time to recover from its shock. She will recover her hearing by morning, but I will not know about her eyesight until then. I expect it will not be long after that that she will be able to regain her sight as well, but I want to hold her until I am sure."

At this point he took a deep breath and looked a little grim. "As for Mr. Carey, well his case is a little more troublesome. If it had not been for someone's insight to transport him with the material that had inflicted his wounds, as well as my brilliant skills as a surgeon, he would not have survived…"

B'Elanna looked up at the Doctor with a stunned looked on her face. She had known it was serious but everyone in engineering had suffered at one point in time from broken bones and many times from burns and cuts. It was always shocking when one of her people had a life threatening injury, and she always found a way to blame herself. She believed that she should be the one to take the hardest hits.

"How is he Doc?" she blurted out, interrupting his diatribe on his formidable skills, which everyone present had heard many times.

"I was just getting to that Lieutenant. His right arm was severed above the shoulder, directly through his clavicle and scapula as well as his pectoral and lateral series of musculature. I wasn't sure I'd be able to reattach it, but the insight of whoever transported him gave me the best chance. Also, if he hadn't had metal still attached when he transported in, I believe his blood loss would have been too great for his body to recover from. As it was he lost around 50% of his blood before I was able to stabilize the blood flow in surgery. What I'm worried about now is risk of infection. I'm going to keep him in sickbay in a restricted area for at least the next two weeks. At the moment, I cannot say whether or not he will be able to use his arm effectively again."

Chakotay cut in at this point, the edge of his tribal tattoo crinkled by his raised eyebrow, "I thought you said you were able the save his arm?"

He felt very bad for the man knowing that an engineer of his quality would have a problem with any lack of mobility. To potentially lose an entire arm might be emotionally debilitating. Also, Carey was second in command in engineering, and in charge of Gamma shift. He was not looking forward to trying to find a replacement, even temporarily.

"Well Commander, when his arm was severed, so were all the nerves throughout the entire area. Compared to nerves, bone and muscle I can re-attach fairly easily. Most times, the nerves will reestablish themselves, but not in any predictable fashion and not necessarily completely. He may regain full mobility, but lose feeling. Or he may regain it all."

At this point he sighed and lowered his voice, "Or he may not regain feeling or mobility. It is far too early to tell. In any case, don't expect him back on the duty roster for at least six weeks. But consider him lucky. If the metal had traveled five more centimeters down it would have severed a large portion of his lung too. That, on top of his other injuries, would have been more than even I could have done anything about."

"Thank you Doctor," Janeway stated tensely from her position at the end of the table. She would always feel responsible for injuries and death upon her ship, and this one had come too close on too many fronts. But this wasn't the time for self-recrimination. She turned to her Vulcan tactical officer, "Tuvok?"

Lt. Commander Tuvok had known Janeway longer than anyone else on Voyager and could read her emotions even if he, as a Vulcan, had no use for them. He knew that she needed positive information to lead her crew out of their recent troubles.

"Captain, it would appear that the two ships we encountered were random hunters out on a mission of conquest. Further study of our encounter showed no messages being broadcast in any way but to each other. I believe that we were an opportunistic target and their leaders were over-zealous in their belief that they could together capture us. It would appear that we are safe from any reprisal, as long range scans show no other movement in this sector, and indeed this is far beyond their normal range."

Janeway nodded, "Alright. That gives us a little breathing room."

She looked across the table at her Chief Engineer, "Lieutenant? Can you give us an idea of what shape we're in?"

B'Elanna inhaled deeply before beginning. "Well we have our basic necessities back up and running. Life support is up to 100% on all decks, and the shields are stabilized. Our engines are capable of giving you up to warp 3.5, but I wouldn't recommend it except in an emergency. Our biggest problem right now is our hull, seeing as we now have several glaring holes, gashes and dents. If we were to lose the structural integrity field over one of these areas while in warp, I can't guarantee I could keep her from flying apart."

She focused this last part on Tom Paris to make sure he knew he couldn't hot-dog it like he sometimes did at the helm.

"Also replicators are at a minimum, and we're focusing on getting the engineering replicators up first. I'm afraid though that we wont have enough raw materials to replicate all the necessary parts for the hull repairs. We really need to find a planet to mine some duranium and tritanium, or at least some very healthy doses of their component elements. Actually Captain, if we could find a planet to set down on with the necessary minerals it would make handling the external repairs a lot easier and quicker." She threw this last bit in on a whim, knowing that Janeway wouldn't want to ground Voyager unless necessary, but hoping for a reprieve anyway.

"I'll take that into consideration, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Seven, what can we expect in the next area of space?" Janeway cued the willowy blonde at the opposite end of the table.

"Captain, the next two systems are uninhabited. The first system we will travel through contains a neutron star, one class D, one class E, one class M, and a class B planet. There is a companion G-class star in orbit in this system, making it a binary system. The class G star's orbit is on the outside of the class B planets within the system, so This system is well shielded from extra-system phenomena. The next system is based on a magnetar star. However scans show that the star is currently in a decline period out of its emissions. As you know a magnetar is an unstable neutron star with an incredibly powerful magnetic field which can emit large amounts of radiation. I would not recommend that system as gamma and x-ray emissions are still quite high." Seven stated with her usual clinical Borg detachment.

Inside she was beaming for being able to anticipate the needs of her Captain one more time. Only those who knew her really well would see the pride in her eyes. Of those in the conference room, only Kathryn and Tuvok had ever bothered to know her facial expressions, or to get to know her very well at all.

Kathryn looked closely at her, and recognized the little twinkle in her eyes. That little twinkle said there was more there, that Seven was happy about something and she herself felt a little happier just from taking in the emotion her friend was putting off. So she decided to dig a little deeper.

"Can you tell us more about the class M planet in the next system?" She queried with a smirk and a rising of her eyebrow.

"Indeed Captain. I anticipated that there might be a need for Voyager to land," she replied with her own version of a smirk. It was barely visible, just the corner of her mouth rising the barest of millimeters. Her eyebrow with the Borg implants rose just slightly also, but Kathryn saw it. Seven stood and walked over to the view screen on the wall and input a series of commands. The data she had collected appeared on the screen.

A 3-dimensional representation of the space comprising the next system appeared on the screen. She had programmed a view that let the senior officers see the entire system at once with lines representing their orbits.

"As you can see the system is particularly stable considering the nearby magnetar and the nebula we have recently passed through. All orbits appear to have been stable for a long period geologically. Indeed, the class M planet in question appears to have been in the system's habitable zone for millions of years."

At this point the view screen focused on that planet. "It has a stable climate, with a large amount of water present. Actually, its water content was only 2% away from classifying this as a class N planet. However the land masses present are large and settled mostly in equatorial alignments. Geologically, only one continent seems to have any major activity." She focused on one continent as seen from space.

"As you can see, there appears to be a line of volcanic activity ranging from a singular point. But I would hypothesize from their configuration and ages that they are a direct result of 'hot spot' activity, an intriguing example considering it is under a major land mass. I am sure our Geologists would agree." She faced the group, head tilted slightly, and eyebrow raised higher as if expecting someone to argue. When nobody commented she turned back to the screen. "The size of this particular land mass would be ideal for Voyager's needs. There is a large area that is geologically stable near the equatorial zone which would provide an ideal landing zone. Near that area within 200 Km there appears to be a large amount of wildlife. I believe it might provide our bioscience department some intriguing research, and perhaps even some food for Mr. Neelix's stores. Finally the mountain range 300 Km to the north that I mentioned earlier would appear to be full of the heavier metals from the planets core."

She finished her presentation and the view screen focused back on the overall representation of the system. She turned around, standing at attention with her hands linked behind her back, and looked at the Captain, waiting to see if she had any more questions.

"What about life-forms Seven?" Chakotay asked pointedly.

"Commander, there does not appear to be any higher life-forms present. Nor does it appear that there have ever been any as there are no signs of civilization or ruins. I cannot tell you about the extent of fauna, as we are still to far away to run a more thorough scan. But it would appear that this planet has never evolved a higher life-form. None of the other planets in the system are stable enough to have begun that evolution." Seven responded evenly.

The Captain held up her hand. "I've heard enough. Lt. Paris, plot a course based on Seven's readings that will bring us in orbit of the plant in question. Maintain position above the continent that Seven just showed us. We will investigate the possibilities the planet can offer us from orbit. Chakotay, you and Tuvok prepare away teams to investigate the surface. After we've gathered enough information, I will make a decision as to whether or not we can ground my ship," she said as she looked at each person she was addressing.

She looked back at Seven of Nine and smiled, "Excellent job Seven."

Lt. Torres was happy the Captain was looking at the Borg at that point because she couldn't control the urge to roll her eyes. 'Honestly! I bust my ass to keep the ship in one piece, and Barbie Borg makes a few scans. Then, the captain seems leery of me grounding *her ship* until Miss Perfection says she's found the perfect place! Well, I guess I should just be happy that she bothered investigating a landing zone since she would normally be pushing us harder to go investigate that fascinating little star in the next system!' She thought, trying hard to avoid growling and sneering at the Borg.

"Alright, everyone has their orders. Dismissed." The Captain said as she herself got up to leave the room.

After the meeting, everyone left to handle his or her respective tasks. Seven of Nine was currently in Astrometrics handling the scans of the upcoming planet. As a former Borg drone, Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix 01 was quite comfortable in the task. While her hands flew over the console in front of her and her eyes scanned the giga-quads of data pouring in, she let her eidetic memory store the information. Meanwhile her mind wandered over the day's events and all the uncomfortable emotions she had felt. The stunning blonde was quite new to all the feelings that the crew around her processed easily on an every day basis.

Many of the crew considered her to be quite beautiful. At six foot tall, she always wore a bio-suit that hugged her entire body like a second skin, revealing every shapely curve. She was the epitome of feminine perfection, with voluptuous breasts, a tiny waist and the perfect curvaceous hips. She was strong and muscular, as well as soft and feminine, and she carried herself with the grace of a swan.

Despite how those around her felt, she saw herself as ugly and set apart from everyone around her. She recognized the fact that most of the crew were uncomfortable around her and truly believed it would always be that way because they were afraid of her Borg appearance. No matter how far she would go into her 'discovery of her humanity' as the Captain called it, she would always have reminders of the Borg on display. The implant over her left eye would never be removed; in fact her left eye was not even her own. The Doctor had created a replica of her right eye when replacing the Borg optical scanner. That and her left hand would always be visible reminders. Her left hand and arm below the elbow had been removed when she was removed from the Borg maturation chamber, replaced with a bio-cybernetic arm designed to handle everything from assimilation to bending and shaping heavy metals, to delicate, complex tasks on circuitry with the cube.

What was troubling her now was the vast and complex reactions of the senior staff in the latest meeting. She had been certain that anticipating Lt. Torres needs for a planetary set-down and presenting it to the Captain in a logical way, one which the Captain could accept would have pleased the Klingon. It would be a good step to indicate her desire to have a less adversarial relationship. Indeed, she had tried to make it clear that the planet would even be acceptable for leave, so that the others in the room, like Tom Paris and Harry Kim, would know she understood their desire for time off.

But the only person in the room, other than Tuvok who was always pleased with a thorough and logical presentation, who seemed to appreciate her information was the Captain. This of course thrilled her because she loved to be the reason to make the small woman smile. However she was dismayed at the lack of appreciation on Lt. Torres part. She had even caught the Lieutenant rolling her eyes after the Captain complimented her. She couldn't begin to understand why, and found that it actually troubled her deeply.

Another thing that was troubling her lately was her fascination with some of the female crewmembers. She found herself spending an inordinate amount of time contemplating irrelevant information in the presence of certain women. During the last Velocity match between her and the Captain, she had missed an easy shot because she was distracted by the sight of auburn hair falling onto flexed shoulder muscles and Janeway's deep breathing.

Also, this morning when she was assisting Lt. Torres in engineering she was mortified when she dropped a hypospanner after looking up and finding Torres body leaning over her own, checking out the repairs she was making to a conduit. It took her 2.4 seconds to collect herself and stop inhaling the deep rich musk the Klingon was emitting. She couldn't begin to understand why her stomach had clenched and her respiration had increased by 30% at that particular moment, but she knew it was unacceptable to her productivity. Therefore she needed time to research these reactions so that she could rectify whatever was causing her behavior.

A data-stream running over her screen caught her eye and she decided that her self-investigation and musings would have to wait until after her duty shift.

On the bridge, Chakotay had handed over command of the bridge to Tuvok. He was standing outside the Captain's ready room and had just hit the chime. He heard Janeway say "enter" and the door opened for him. He strode into Captain Kathryn Janeway's private domain, finding her hunched over her console with several data pads scattered about in front of her.

She looked up from her work, "What can I do for you Chakotay?" she asked pleasantly as she reached out to grab her lucky cup filled with coffee.

"Well, I was going over scheduling after the Doctor's report and thought there were a couple of things we had better discuss… like engineering." He added the last part rather sheepishly because he knew no matter how or who addressed the issue, there would be a fallout involving the personalities.

Kathryn just raised her eyebrow and smirked at Chakotay. She knew what he wanted to discuss. In fact, she had a good idea that he wanted it to be her decision. That way when Lt. Torres came up to the bridge to give someone a piece of her mind he could direct her to the Captain. She had already come to the same conclusions, but decided to torment her first officer a bit before letting him off the hook.

"What seems to be the problem in engineering?" She asked rather innocently.

Stunned, he looked at her wondering if that hit to the head that morning had left her less than in her top form. "Well," he began carefully still not sure how much to say "with Carey out B'Elanna will be shouldering more than one person should handle. Not to mention he ran Gamma shift three days a week. I'm afraid that she will start overworking herself quickly trying to get things back up to par." He tried leaving it there to see if she could pick up the ball and run.

The Captain did an inner smirk and decided to tweak him further. "Oh! So you want me to give her an order to take it easy? That seems easy enough Chakotay." At this point she flashed one of her brilliant smiles and shrugged, leaning back in her chair.

He looked up at her like she had just grown another head, a Cardassian one at that. It wasn't until this moment that he noticed the twinkle in her eye and knew he was being teased. He grinned and rubbed his tribal tattoo with his thumb and looked up at her sheepishly. "Are you through tormenting me?"

She let out a rich laugh and nodded. "Of course! You always know how to brighten my day and relieve my stress don't you Chakotay?" She smiled once more at him then turned serious.

"I really don't see any other choice but to put Seven in Carey's place. She is the most qualified. But I want Vorik to take over Beta and to be on call for Gamma. I think we will still need her abilities during Alpha shift in Astrometrics occasionally, but I don't want to over-tax her. She's just as bad as B'Elanna about not knowing when to take a break, and left to her own devices she wouldn't stop except to regenerate. Ensign Jennifer Delaney can take her post temporarily in Astrometrics, but she'll need to keep Seven abreast. Of course if this planet turns out to be everything Seven indicated it was, I'm thinking of grounding Voyager for three weeks of extended leave as well as repairs and restocking."

Chakotay lifted his eyebrows high onto his head showing his shock. "Not that I disagree Captain, but you didn't mention this at the meeting…"

Janeway grinned. "Well, I have to keep you on your toes now don't I? Seriously, I know that it's high time we gave the crew a break, but I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up during the meeting. I don't think B'Elanna believed I'd even give her idea of grounding Voyager a thought. That right there tells me how hard everyone has been pushed lately." She leaned back in her chair and took a sip of her coffee. "So yes, if this planet is what we can use, I want you to have a rotating schedule for leave. The first week will be work related; repairs, reconnaissance, food collection and so on. Anything we need I want taken care of before leave begins. After that everyone will have to take at least 7 days of leave. No exceptions."

He smiled at that. "Yes Captain." Then his face turned serious one more time. "About assigning Seven to engineering… Do you want to tell B'Elanna or should I?"

She just rolled her eyes and tapped her comm. badge. "Janeway to Torres."

*"Torres here. Yes Captain?"*

"Please report to my ready room"

*"On my way Captain."*

"Janeway out."

Chakotay started to rise, hoping to get out before B'Elanna showed up, but Janeway interrupted him.

"And where do you think you're going Commander?" She asked gleefully. "I only invited her up here so you would be able to tell her out of range of her tools." The twinkle was back her eyes, which in her state of amusement were a deep shade of blue.

He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest as he sat down again. "Thanks a lot Captain."

She barked a short laugh out. "Anytime Commander! Anytime!"

B'Elanna stomped into her quarters letting out a string of curse words and epithets. She was trying to vent some of the frustration over her day. Her shift in engineering had royally pissed her off, with so many little things failing that she never seemed to get a break. No matter how many times she thought she might be catching up, something else would happen. One time she was sure she had finally caught up with the power fluctuation problems, and shortly thereafter an EPS relay shorted out leaving all of biosciences and the holodecks without power. Once her team had replaced the errant relay and got power restored, the engineering replicators shut themselves off.

She had to leave while she was in the middle of that crisis to report to the Captain's ready room. Once there Chakotay had actually made her day worse, explaining that Seven of Nine, Miss Borg Perfection, would now be her second in command until it could be determined if Carey would be coming back.

'Damned nuch (coward) had to hide in the Captain's presence to tell me too!' She was so angry that she wanted to rip something apart with her bare hands, but she settled for punting one of Tom's Captain Proton boots across the room.

Which brought her back to the other thing that was making her mad at the moment. How come every time she needs to talk, Tom was always off playing with Harry? When she was on her way back to their quarters, she had passed him in the corridor, with Harry, as usual.

"Hey Lana, we're about to go upgrade the Delta Flyer. Wanna come tell us where we can stick things?" He said wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"No Tom. I've had a rough day and don't want to play with any damned toy."

"Fine sweetheart. Suit yourself. Why don't you take a hot bath and we can have dinner later?"

Some sappy part of her had hoped he would call off his plans and spend time with her. But he had given up courting her shortly after he had moved into her quarters. Now it seemed like all he wanted was sex when the mood struck him, and dinner when he was done playing every night. She had thought better of him. She had at one time believed he would be the love of her life.

Now all she saw was his dirty clothes strung all over her quarters, dishes he was too lazy to take the recycler, and an empty room. Before she knew what she was doing, she had grabbed her bat'leth from its wall mount and screamed "petaQ!" at the top of her lungs. Then she felt a little better, but the TV she had spent so much time making was now sitting in two major pieces, crackling and popping on the floor.

She dislodged her bat'leth from where it was wedged into in the deck plating and replaced it up to its mount with a deep rich laugh.

"Why didn't I think of that earlier?" She asked the empty room still giggling. Although she knew she shouldn't have done it, and both Chakotay and Tuvok had been counseling her about her temper, this one little display she had released had made her feel 100% better. In fact she decided she was now up to facing the world again, maybe not Tom, but the rest of the crew no longer had to fear her wrath.

So with that, she got up and left for the mess hall to brave one of Neelix's creations. She'd just have to figure out how to deal with Tom's TV later.

Chapter 2

Seven's fingers flew over the console at an alarming pace. She was now off-duty and conducting her analysis of what she believed to be inefficient behavior. But she couldn't quite agree with the computer's responses, so she was jabbing hard at the console as if that could make it to change its analysis.

The more data she put in, the greater the probability, the computer informed her that its analysis was correct. In fact, the computer stated that there was a 99.3% chance that what she had been experiencing around several women was…arousal?

Her eyebrow lifted again and she stopped pounding on the console. She had not thought that it was possible for her to experience these desires. Her one attempt at dating had left her completely perplexed at the human interaction of romance. Not only was it disastrous, but she had not gained any insight as to why she was supposed to enjoy the interaction of one individual on a different level than all others.

Now she had another aberrant behavior to catalogue among the many she felt she already exhibited. She was not attracted to the opposite sex as the Doctor had indicated she should be. Apparently, she could only be aroused by women. It left her feeling quite unsettled.

She had faced many challenges already in her transition into her human collective. She had felt very lonely from the beginning, when Captain Janeway had severed her from the calming voices of the collective. The Doctor had indicated that romance might ease the ache of this loneliness. But now it was apparent that she would not be able to integrate romance into her existence either.

She closed her workstation with a sigh and walked over to the alcoves. She stared at them realizing that they were another reminder of how different she would always be.

"Computer, musical selection Seven of Nine, Blue Rain," she calmly stated. She had recently begun to enjoy certain 20th and 21st century musical selections after she had worked with Tom Paris on a project in the Delta Flyer. What flowed out of the system right now was historically known as 'the blues'.

She had research its designation when she first came across it, thinking it odd that humans would name their music after a color. She found that it was supposed to describe a feeling of sadness; it was a colloquialism: 'to feel blue.' For the first time she believed she understood the feeling.

"Regeneration Cycle is complete." Came the calm feminine voice of the computer. Seven opened her eyes, completely aware after her regeneration that today would begin her altered duty shifts. It was 0500, and she would begin reporting to engineering at 0600 to cover the last part of Gamma shift and the first six hours of Alpha.

She felt duty bound to make sure that Astrometrics was covered adequately by Ensign Delaney. She had determined that she would spend 20 minutes before her engineering shift every day going over any reports that Jennifer had posted the day before. Since this was the first day of the altered plan, she would spend that time writing a detailed report to the ensign about what would be expected in her absence.

It only took 11.4 minutes to write a very detailed set of instructions and encouragements. The latter of which she had decided would be vital, because she knew that although Delaney was very comfortable in social interactions, she wasn't as secure in her professional abilities. Seven had already deemed that she was very adequate in her position.

She spent another 4.6 minutes reviewing all sensor data that had come in during her regeneration adding it her own private research of the system. She knew that the ensign could handle integrating the information into the official report, but she always found keeping her own research updated to be satisfying. If asked though, she would just say it was the most efficient manner of performing.

She closed down her station and went over to the small mirror that the Doctor had given her and let down her hair. She brushed through it thoroughly then fixed it back into the bun she found was the most efficient way to wear her hair. She glanced at her reflection and was satisfied that the bun would not fall during the day. Her eyes were drawn back to her face and her remaining silvery implants. It reminded her of her differences and isolation from the crew, and of her self-discovery from the previous evening.

She then decided that she would not think anymore about her feelings as they could potentially interfere with what little she had to offer her crew: her knowledge and efficiency. She was Borg after all; she would put her feelings away and explore them only after her shifts in the privacy of her alcove. With her decision made she left Cargo Bay 2 to head to the mess hall for her morning nutritional supplement.

At 0600 hours Seven entered the engine room and went directly to the main console to determine what progress had been made in the repairs. She knew that she was supposed to be the second in command of engineering, and that inherently made the crew already on duty in her command, but she decided that it would be inefficient to make them uncomfortable by beginning to give commands right away. She had noted a long time ago that people who did not know her responded to her with fear and mistrust, and most of the Gamma shift personnel were unknown to her since she had primarily worked Alpha shift since first arriving on Voyager. So she determined the best way to confront this problem would be to let the crew approach her, instead of approaching them. She noticed that the Dilithium mixture was too rich and set out to determine how to correct the problem without overloading the already stressed warp core.

While running her calculations she ran over the analysis of the power fluctuations that had occurred the day before and was very impressed with Lt. Torres solution and analysis. She was amazed at how the Lieutenant could come to the conclusions she did with very little information. She was so involved in her calculations and her analysis of the power problems she didn't hear another person approaching her.

"Um.. uh.. Seven, I mean Ma'am.." The tiny blonde ensign began stammering standing near Seven, looking very nervous, holding a padd out a little hesitantly in her hand.

"Seven is fine Ensign. I do not have a rank, therefore there is no need to address me as 'Ma'am'. Now, how may I be of assistance Ensign?" Seven tried to reassure the flustered female in front of her.

The ensign grinned, "Well you are our boss for a while, so I wasn't sure. But thanks. And as long as we're not being formal you can call me Ann if that's ok?" She looked at Seven and smiled.

'This is different' thought Seven and couldn't stop a small smile of her own. "Very well… Ann. Is there something I can help you with?"

The ensign handed her the padd, which Seven began to go over immediately noting the ensign's work was thorough but incomplete. "Well, I kinda got stuck here. Normally I would ask Carey what he thought, but seeing as he's not gonna be around for a while, I was kinda hoping you could help me figure out where I went wrong?" The shy look on the ensigns face was so different from what Seven was used to experiencing that she decided that she would be very careful to put her at ease, simply because she appreciated being unsure in interactions herself.

"I believe you have done a commendable job with the available data. But if we approach this logically it seems apparent that we need to run further diagnostics on the subsystems here and here." She pointed at the padd as she spoke. "Do not blame yourself for being unable to reach a conclusion without that data. I know I could not." She looked up at the ensign and was rewarded with a beaming smile.

"Thanks Seven! I knew I was missing something but couldn't quite put my finger on it! I'll get on it right away."

"You are welcome… Ann. I am… happy to assist." Seven was trying to recall all of the Doctor's social interactions. She did not to scare the sweet young girl, and it seemed to be working. The ensign turned away and headed back to her console. Seven returned to her own diagnostics on the Dilithium thinking that maybe Gamma shift would not be so bad.

At 0750 B'Elanna Torres braced herself and entered engineering. She was determined not to let Seven's presence affect her, so with this thought in mind she went directly to her console. By happenstance, Seven had chosen to use Carey's console which was next to B'Elanna's, but B'Elanna just pulled up her reports and acted as if Seven wasn't even there. The statuesque blonde was lost in her own calculations and barely took notice of the Lieutenant's behavior.

As the Gamma shift ended, Ann came by and thanked Seven again for the help. She left telling Seven to have a great day and saying she would see her tomorrow with a big smile on her face.

Seven returned the smile and said, "Thank you Ann. I hope you have a pleasurable day as well."

B'Elanna was so shocked by the Ensign's well wishing that she had looked up just in time to see Seven's smile. To say she was shocked was an understatement. She would have expected to hear a targ meow like a cat before she saw what had just unfolded in front of her. She had never been invited to use Ensign's first name, but apparently Seven's two hours on the Gamma shift had got her closer to the shy Ensign than she had ever been. On top of that, she had never seen Seven smile. She had seen her smirk many times and found it insufferable. But the smile that had just graced her face had softened her features to the point where B'Elanna realized she was quite a beautiful… human.

B'Elanna blinked rapidly at that thought and looked back down at her console. She downloaded the reports into a padd and escaped into her office to think, privately.

Seven noticed the Lieutenant's departure but thought that it was just as well. She had been having a good morning and was not ready for any animosity yet. With that in mind she threw herself back into her work.

B'Elanna looked up as the door to her office chimed an hour later. She put down the padd containing Seven's brilliant analysis of the dilithium problem and called out "Enter" to whoever was on the other side of the door.

Seven strode into the room and took her usual stance in front of the desk. She was quite nervous, and whenever she felt the least bit unnerved she fell back on her Borg mannerisms. Essentially this meant her face and voice lacked all emotion and her body was held in an 'at ease' stance that Starfleet would have loved their cadets to emulate. She didn't know that most people thought she was being superior and that B'Elanna especially found it annoying.

"Lieutenant, I wish to know if you have had time to review my analysis of the dilithium mixture." Seven kept her voice even. She was particularly proud that she had managed to do so because she felt that this meeting would lead to the end of a happy day.

B'Elanna forced herself to not look at Seven's rigid stance, and instead looked down at the report in question.

"Yeah, Seven. I think you're right. Why don't you go ahead and implement your suggestions?" B'Elanna couldn't believe she had just told the Borg she was right. But she would be damned if she would not use good ideas to improve engine performance.

Seven blinked rapidly. Her head tilted. Her eyebrow lifted. She felt like her cranial implant was malfunctioning. The Lieutenant had just told her she was right. It was a first for them. Also, for some reason this filled Seven's chest with a greater pride than she had ever felt before.

So with a shaky voice she allowed "Of course Lieutenant… Thank you."

Then she turned and quickly left the room.

B'Elanna noticed the emotions that had ran across Seven's face and found herself grinning at the woman's retreat. She snickered softly. 'Who would've thought I could make her run by complimenting her? I should've tried that a long time ago!'

At 1400 hours, Seven and a crewman were working on fixing a breach in the hull on deck 14. They had completed most of the work over the last three hours and were putting the finishing touches on, and it would only take another half hour before they would be done. So it came as a complete surprise when Lt. Torres showed up.

"Hey guys!" Torres announced her presence. "I just thought I should get up here and relieve Seven. Your shift's over."

Seven could not understand why the Lieutenant had not just asked her on the communicator if she needed to be relieved. So, being the efficient person she was, she just told her.

"I do not require a break as of yet Lieutenant. We have nearly completed this repair and then we will return to engineering."

"I don't mind Seven. Besides, I know you didn't take a lunch break. Your shift is over. Why don't you go to the mess hall and see what Neelix has ruined for dinner?" Torres responded.

Seven felt annoyed at being dismissed like this near the end of a project. She would rather have seen it through to completion, but she knew that if she protested it would begin a fight with the Klingon. Since she had not fought with the Lieutenant yet that day she decided to leave and to try to figure it out later. Besides, she did have a velocity match with the captain at 1600, and she could use the holodeck time before that to further her investigations.

"As you wish, Lieutenant." Seven replied stiffly, then left.

As soon as Seven had left Torres picked up the laser welder that had been handed to her and began welding the spot that Seven had been working on when she interrupted.

"Sorry you got stuck on this job with her crewman. " B'Elanna told the young man.

"Why Lieutenant?" the young man looked really dumbstruck. "She taught me a lot over the last few hours. And she has the most hilarious dry wit! I mean that impression she does of the Doctor had me rolling!" He snickered after he said that, and then actually started laughing. "Tell me, does Janeway actually sound like she could cut duranium when she gets mad? I mean that's what Seven said." He looked up at B'Elanna for conformation.

She cocked her head to the side grinning. "She really said that?"

"Yeah. Why? Is it not true?" he asked

"No! I mean yeah. It's true! I just can't believe she'd say that. I mean her and the Captain are like friends, I would've never believed she'd make fun of her!" B'Elanna exclaimed.

"Well, she told me that she considered the captain her friend. She also said that she ragged on the Captain whenever they had time together and the Captain thought it was funny. Seven thinks it's really funny how the Captain can be so small, yet so intimidating. She said she 'finds it to be an interesting aspect of human behavior.'" He tried to pull off a Seven imitation and failed, but B'Elanna laughed at his attempt anyway.

"Anyway she went ahead and told me some of the most hilarious things about how the bridge crew reacts to Janeway. I mean she can really observe people with those Borg implants of hers! She said that Ensign Kim is the most fascinating one to watch the Captain yell at. She said his heart rate shoots up, and his breathing deepens and he starts sweating. Well actually, she said his respiration increases by some percentage and his heart rate increases by… But I don't remember all that. Man, what I wouldn't give to be able to read people like that!" He grinned and went back to his work.

'She finds Harry fascinating?' was all B'Elanna could think. Then it occurred to her to feel odd about how well Seven could read people's reactions. 'Does she read mine?'

B'Elanna shook her head to try and get off that train of thought. She returned her attention to her welding. When she was done with her end she ran a tricorder over the fresh welding and was impressed with the crewman's job.

"Great job crewman," she complimented him.

He held out his hand. "Thanks! But I can't take all the credit. Seven taught me how to do it today. I've never used a laser welder before and she thought I would be able to. She convinced me to try and patiently explained it. She was really nice even when I screwed up and showed me how to fix it, until I felt like a pro!" He said that last part with a smile.

"This is your first time?" B'Elanna asked. Her eyebrows were trying to ride up over her ridges in disbelief.

He grinned "Yes ma'am."

She whistled through her teeth and grinned back at him. "Well you have talent crewman. We'll have to give you more work from now on."

He laughed and helped her pick up the tools. After they had gathered everything she returned to engineering and he went back to his team leader for his next assignment. B'Elanna put the tools away in their chest and went to her console to check up on the afternoon's progress. As she poured through her reports, she couldn't help but feel surprised and not a little confused by all the crewman had told her.

Chapter 3

Seven found herself in the showers next to Holodeck 1 taking a long cold shower ten minutes before her game with the Captain. She had taken the allotted time before she was scheduled to meet Janeway to do more research on sexuality. At first she was using a simple computer program to understand the physiological aspects of female human arousal. Then she had learned that there were "holo-instructors" and even interspecies mating constructs already programmed as options.

At the time it seemed like a perfect solution. Although she normally had no use for holo-characters, these were educational constructs of some of the leading scientist the federation had to offer. They were fully interactive and she thought she might benefit from actually talking about her problem. She had called up a program designed to instruct a single human female.

The character that had appeared was apparently a famous human sex therapist who specialized in female arousal and sexual achievements. She was a pleasant woman of medium height and build and reddish-blonde hair. Seven decided to limit the information that she gave the hologram so she wouldn't have to hear about her own abnormalities, and instead focused on the fact that she found no suitable mates onboard Voyager.

The Doctor was pleasant in explaining how normal her arousal at those around her could be considered when she was feeling so lonely. She asked Seven if she masturbated and blushing, Seven explained that she did not know how. When the doctor asked how she had reached her age without even trying Seven explained how she had been abducted by the Borg and was just experiencing her humanity for the first time in the last few years.

The Holo-Doctor was amazed, and told her that she would have to be careful. She then asked to examine Seven to see if there were any implants left that would affect her sexuality. Seven was a bit embarrassed by the idea, but decided it would be more embarrassing to face Voyager's Doctor so she allowed it.

She was very happy when the examination was over and the Holo-Doctor declared her to have all the normal human female functions and erogenous zones. Of course the last part of that declaration forced Seven to ask about erogenous zones. The Holo-Doctor briefly explained the concepts, but pointed out that they were really something that were different for each individual. She then told Seven that her first step should be to explore herself. Seven seemed reluctant, so the Doctor told her about different programs she could view and emulate if she wanted. She also said that there were an unlimited amount of programs that she could interact with to explore her desires. In fact, safe sexual exploration had been one of the original purposes of Holodecks.

When she was done the Holo-Doctor told her that she could save the entire program in a private location. She could also call back up the program if she ever had any more questions. Seven thought that was a reasonable idea and saved the session in a highly encrypted file with Borg commands.

With 30 more minutes left before she needed to meet the Captain she decided that she had enough time to watch one of the programs that had been mentioned. But she decided she would not 'explore' her own body until later. Once she had called up the program and put in parameters for a female that she would find pleasing, she watched as that female touched herself and quickly brought herself to orgasm. The holoprogram kept going from there but Seven stopped it ten minutes later as she found herself in a deep state of arousal. She decided to take the Doctor's other set of advice: Take a cold shower.

She only hoped she could regain her composure before the game.

One week later they were preparing to land on the planet that Seven had found. It had only taken four days to get into orbit, but the three days after that had been spent by the senior staff finding out as much as possible about the planet. Also in those three days the Engineering crew shored-up everything as much as possible to prepare Voyager for an atmospheric descent.

Seven spent all of those three days pulling doubles. Her first shift she spent in engineering. Then she spent a few hours in Astrometrics with Ensign Delaney. After that she retired back to the Cargo Bay with all the reports that had accumulated in both Engineering and Astrometrics, and worked on everything from her own workstation. The reason she came back there was that she found her private space comforting and she could enjoy music as well.

She had found a genre of Earth music she enjoyed as much as the blues: Late 20th century and early 21st century Women's Folk Rock. The music was passionate and flowing. It was hard, raw with acoustic or rock guitars and rhythmic bass lines and drums that weren't too loud. But what she appreciated the most was the emotion that flowed out of the women's voices. They spoke of love. They sang of loss and pain. They sang of need. They sang from their hearts.

She worked. But before she realized it, she sang with them.

On the day of the landing, Seven was at her usual workstation in engineering. She was running an analysis of all the data she had accumulated.

B'Elanna entered at 0730, when she usually came in to start her shift. She stole a quick glance at the ex-drone and felt the disgust she usually reserved for Vorik's calm demeanor.

Movement caught her eye, and she noticed the ensign who had surprised her a week back approaching Seven.

"Hey Seven!" Ann started. "I've finished up on those conduits. I wanted to see what's next boss." The cute little woman grinned at Seven.

Seven looked up from her console and grinned back at Ann.

"Run a level 2 diagnostic on this series of relays please Ann."

"Are ya' nervous about the landing Seven?" the Ensign asked

"No, I am not. I believe we are as prepared as we can be. The engineering team, including yourself, has done an acceptable job. Now all that is left is to concentrate during the landing and we will be able to fully repair Voyager once we are on the surface. In fact, I find I am looking forward to the hull repairs." Seven replied.

The Ensign laughed. "You're looking forward to the repairs!? Seven, I've gotta teach you to relax!"

Seven cocked her head to the side and grinned back.

"You are correct. It is not really the repairs themselves that I am anticipating. I find I am anticipating working under the sun in a real atmosphere."

"Oh! I didn't realize you were a sun-bather! Well I can't wait to see the sky myself! Not to mention the shore leave when we're finished! Well, I better get on those relays! See ya' Sev!" Ann waved and bounced off to the relay diagnostics panel.

Before Seven turned back to her console she noticed that Ensign Vorik had arrived for his shift. She reached below her console and pulled out a black and silver candle set. After retrieving them she stepped forward to intercept the young Vulcan, and held the candles in front of her. With her head formally lowered, she bowed slightly and saluted him in his native language.

"Mene Sakkhet ur-seveh" which was Vulcan for 'Live long and prosper'

"Mene Sakkhet ur-seveh" he repeated. "I was not aware that you knew kahr-y-tan (the ways of Vulcan). I appreciate your gesture." With that he repeated her bow, then left to store the gift in his locker. After which he went off to his own workstation.

Seven just turned back to her work as if nothing happened. Curiosity got the better of now flustered Torres.

"What was that about Seven?" she asked rather abruptly.

Seven turned her head to the right and looked at the Lieutenant. She was surprised that the Lieutenant had chosen to speak to her, mostly because she had not done so expect for necessity from the beginning of the week.

"This is a sacred day of meditation in Vulcan culture. The candles I gave him represent my wishes for him to have a long life of control and prosperity. It was merely my wish to comfort him since he will not be able to spend his day in meditation as he most likely would be doing if we were not landing this day." Seven stated calmly.

"Why didn't he tell me!?" B'Elanna asked quite emotionally.

"It would not be proper for a Vulcan to point out such a thing. That would be like asking a Klingon to beg." Seven replied with a smirk.

"How do you know so much about it? And where did you learn Vulcan?" B'Elanna shot back.

"I have endeavored to learn the ways of my crewmates. I learned that people are more comfortable when they can share their culture with those around them. I have often thought that it is unfortunate that the only holidays that seem to be celebrated on Voyager are the terran ones, and some talaxian, as many of our crewmembers have fascinating holidays and rituals. Also, I endeavored to learned the languages of those that I spend any time around. My eidetic memory and already formidable Borg language database makes language acquisition an easy task."

Seven finished her statement and returned her attention to her work, hoping that the conversation had ended. Thus far she had not revealed the extent of her knowledge, and the Lieutenant was not angry. Considering that they had made it through the week without an altercation she wanted it to stay that way.

"So… You know Klingon too?" B'Elanna snorted thinking she had probably caught Seven off guard.

"Yes." Seven replied honestly.

"Really?" B'Elanna was surprised. Not even Tom had bothered to learn any Klingon. The only one on board who had ever spoken any of her mother's language to her was the Captain, and she didn't know very much.

Seven focused on the half Klingon again and grinned.

"Yes. I also know that if we were on a Klingon vessel about to undertake what we are today, there would be a very intriguing set of phrases and actions."

B'Elanna tilted her head and grinned.

"Like what?"

Seven mentally shrugged her shoulders and proceeded to grab the Lieutenant in a bear hug. She growled loudly then exclaimed.

"Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!" Klingon for 'It is a good day to die.'

After that she head-butted the flabbergasted woman. B'Elanna saw stars and fell to the deck on her butt. She was never very in-tune with Klingon rituals and traditions and to see the lanky ex-drone acting like a Klingon warrior was disconcerting. Everyone else in engineering had turned to look at them at Seven's loud growl. A few people cringed, and the rest tensed waiting for the Lieutenant to explode.

Seven looked down at the shocked expression and wondered what to do. She held out her hand to help up the baffled woman.

"I am sorry Lieutenant. I thought you were braced for our interaction. It was not my intention to injure you." Seven was still not great with apologies, but she tried her best this time.

This seemed to bring B'Elanna out of her shock so she took the offered hand and pulled herself up and into another bear hug with Seven. She wasn't going to be out done by the annoying blonde.

"You didn't hurt me Dogwhl' (silly one)! You surprised me!" She laughed, then gave her best Klingon growl and head-butted Seven right back. "Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!"

After that she slapped Seven hard on the back and walked away laughing. The rest of the crew was baffled by their superiors behavior, but relieved that there wouldn't be any fighting. So with a good bit of head shaking and shrugging everybody went back to their tasks.

Two days after the landing B'Elanna Torres was prowling around on top of Voyager. It was a rare thing for her to be able to examine the hull from the outside. Even rarer was the opportunity to do so without risking space sickness and having to wear a bulky spacesuit. She was one very happy engineer.

It was a beautiful day and her crew was doing great work. She had just finished her own project and was taking an opportunity to look at the work of her teams. As she approached the port nacelle she heard a female singing. It was a song she didn't recognize, but it was obviously a working song. Whoever was singing had a beautiful voice. She cocked her head and grinned at the Ensign in front of her, whose back was turned to her. She decided to stay there and listen for a while.

"Clearing webs from the hovel
a blistered hand on the handle of a shovel
I've been digging too deep, I always do.

I see my face on the surface
I look a lot like narcissus
A dark abyss of an emptiness
Standing on the edge of a drowning blue.

I look behind my ears for the green
Even my sweat smells clean
Glare off the white hurts my eyes

Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail
Learn how to use my hands, not just my head
I think myself into jail
Now I know a refuge never grows
From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose
Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose."

She applauded to let the Ensign know how much she liked her singing. As she applauded the singing abruptly ended so she got up to approach the shy Ensign. The woman looked up curiously, and realizing it was the Chief, stood up at attention.

B'Elanna shook her head and grinned.

"At ease, Ensign."

"Yes ma'am" Ann replied a little timidly.

"Well you didn't have to stop singing on my account! I think you have a great voice. You ought to sing on talent night Ensign." B'Elanna stated with a smile.

"Um.. that wasn't me ma'am. That was Seven. She does have a great voice though doesn't she?" Ann smirked and pointed over towards the nacelle. She leaned in to whisper to the Lieutenant.

"But she's real shy about it, so I hate to say it, you probably just shut her up for a while."

B'Elanna then noticed the repelling gear and magno-locks holding someone over the edge. She walked closer to the edge, then activated her own magnetic boots to keep from slipping. She grabbed one of the ropes and wrapped it around her waist and backed off over the edge.

When she got down to the nacelle she dropped the rope and deactivated her boots. Voyager's nacelles were locked down in a flat position for easy work so she could walk normally on this one without her gear. She headed to the fore of the axis to see what Seven was doing.

"Lieutenant Torres. How may I be of assistance?" Seven queried her without looking up from her task.

"Oh, I don't need anything Seven. I was taking a break and looking around at what progress everyone had made. How are you doing?" B'Elanna responded.

"The nacelle axis was out of calibration. I believe it got hit by debris when our shields were so weak in the last battle. I had to make a manual adjustment and now I am re-calibrating the sensors. Once I am finished with that I will recheck all the relays before inspecting the warp engine nacelle itself." She answered.

B'Elanna watched as Seven's left hand came out of the sensor grid. She noticed that the tips of Seven's fingers seemed to be topped with little tools. Then they morphed back into the normal shape of wire mesh that had always been around her hands.

"Kahless! How'd you do that?!" B'Elanna exclaimed.

Seven looked up at her and tilted her head in question.

"How did I do what Lieutenant?"

"Your hand changed. You had tools on your fingers!" B'Elanna was making a face and pointing to Seven's hand.

Seven thought this was a wonderful opportunity to play a joke on the Lieutenant. With that in mind she looked down at her own hand, then back up at the Lieutenant.

"Lt. Torres, do you require medical assistance? Have you been exposed to too much sun?" Seven was the epitome of the poker faced individual.

B'Elanna blinked rapidly and started opening her mouth and closing it trying to force words out.

"But.. buh….I saw… I mean.. I.. uh… but…"

Seven smirked and sent a signal to her cortical implant to change her finger tips into their previous shape.

"Or was this what your were referring to?"

B'Elanna realized she had just been had. If Seven had done this to her in front of her crew, she would have been livid. But since they were alone she didn't feel angry. 'Was this that dry wit I keep hearing about?' B'Elanna wondered. This was too much for the dumbfound Klingon. She sat down hard on the nacelle and burst out laughing. Seven was very proud that she had succeeded in teasing the feisty chief and let her hand reshape back to normal. It was a pleasing interaction.

Seven closed the panel she had just finished working in. She used a moment to relax in the harness that held her. Her feet were locked tight to the hull with magnetic boots. She closed her eyes and leaned back to feel the sun on her face. She inhaled the clean air deeply. Lieutenant Torres was still giggling and her rich laugh caused Seven to smile. Seven just stored this moment as a happy time to think about on her lonely days.

B'Elanna opened her eyes between giggles and noticed the serene smile upon Seven's face. For once, Seven didn't look like the "Ice Queen" that B'Elanna like to think of her as. 'Every time she smiles I forget to hate her' B'Elanna thought as her laughter subsided completely.

Seven opened her eyes and looked over at B'Elanna. The feisty engineer had a curious look on her face. They locked eyes for a moment, and it was electric. Seven had to stifle an urge to gasp. She knew she was staring into those soft brown eyes and that she had to stop.

Seven looked down to unlock the mechanism holding her in place and began her ascent to the nacelle. Once she was upright she removed the harness from her waist, loosened it from her thighs then stepped out of it. She did not know how to proceed, but really wanted to continue conversing with the half-Klingon.

"Lieutenant, how are the repairs proceeding" she asked softly. She figured it was a safe topic, considering how much Lt. Torres loved her ship.

B'Elanna was initially disappointed to see Seven shift back to formalities. Suddenly it occurred to her that maybe Seven didn't know how to open up with her any more than she would know how to open up to Seven. In fact, looking up at the tall blonde, B'Elanna thought about all the times she had used her Klingon aggression to hide her insecurities. Could it be that Seven hid behind her cold Borg stance?

"Well Seven, if you sit down so I don't have to break my neck to look up at you, I'll go over what I've seen this afternoon with you." She replied with a smirk.

Seven tilted her head curiously at B'Elanna then shifted down to sit, crossing her long legs 'Indian style' with her back still impossibly straight. She laid her hands on her thighs and focused her attention on the engineer.

B'Elanna decided she would find a way to get to the side of Seven that all of her people seemed to see. The first thing she would do was to see if she could have a reasonable departmental conversation with her. 'I'll just talk to her like she was Carey… Well, a beautiful and brilliant version of Carey' she thought. So, she began telling Seven about everything she had learned on her rounds. She then updated her on the reports she had received during the day.

After they had discussed the hull repairs and the internal repairs Seven asked about the mineral retrievals.

"Well, that mountain you pointed out in the middle of the range was perfect! The Geoscientists are having a field day up there. There were 14 separate kimberlite fields around the mountain and 5 durinite incursions. We'll have plenty of duranium and dilithium by the end of the week," B'Elanna grinned. "Thanks for pointing out the right place to start looking."

"I was merely trying to help Lieutenant." Seven stated while looking down at her lap. She couldn't understand why she found herself blushing every time Lt. Torres complimented her.

"Well, it was very 'efficient' Seven," B'Elanna said with a smirk.

Seven looked up at the engineer expecting to find a mocking look and saw only good-hearted mirth. So she allowed a small smile to creep up on one side of her lips and nodded her head. There wasn't anything else Seven could think of to talk about so she stood up and announced "I think I will begin the diagnostics and repair on the nacelle Lieutenant. Thank you for apprising me on the status of the repairs."

B'Elanna was confused. She didn't know what to think about Seven's abrupt ending to their conversation, but she couldn't think of anything else to say. She still wanted to be there for some reason, and it wasn't just the fact that she usually wouldn't let anyone handle the nacelle repairs. She just wasn't sure she wanted to know the reason.

"Sure Seven. Do you need a hand with that?" She inquired looking at the ex-drone removing a large panel off of the nacelle.

"It is 'all-right' Lieutenant. I assure you I am capable of undertaking all of the necessary repairs unaided. Thank you for your offer," Seven replied as she set the panel down. She looked up briefly, just in time to see the Lieutenant standing up, and was once again captivated by her beauty and stealthy strength. She averted her eyes and tried to focus on the tricorder she had retrieved to diagnose the engine.

"Well, Okay. If you need any help you can call," B'Elanna stated as she reactivated her magnetic boots and climbed up the side of Voyager.

Seven took a moment to try and slow her pulse. 'This human state of arousal is really inefficient' she thought. Once she felt a measure of control she threw herself into the repairs, blocking the incident from her mind.

Chapter 4

Four days later the repairs to Voyager were complete and the first rotation of shore leave was underway. There was always a skeleton crew in place no matter how secure their location. There were advantages to the relaxed atmosphere though. Captain Kathryn Janeway grinned as she stepped out of her ready room. It was the end of Alpha shift and she had caught up with all of the paperwork she had been behind in. She looked over at the handsome man in her command chair and told him "Lieutenant Larson, you have the comm. "

"Aye Captain. Have a good night ma'am," he replied brightly.

She hopped into the turbolift and asked for Holodeck 1. She had a Velocity game scheduled with Seven this hour. She truly enjoyed playing the game with the Nordic beauty of an Astrometrics officer. When she arrived, she quickly head into the shower room next to the holodeck and changed into her game outfit.

She entered the holodeck to find Seven waiting for her. The velocity grids were in place and Seven was holding two game phasers. Walking up to her she asked "Ready to play Seven?"

Seven turned to her and raised her eyebrow. "Indeed," she replied as she handed the Captain her phaser.

Janeway ordered the computer to begin the game and a gray ball appeared. It would turn blue or red randomly soon giving the first player their shot. When it turned red, Janeway quickly fired at the ball turning it blue and sending it careening towards Seven. Seven returned the shot aiming it lower towards Janeway's legs. Each shot increased the velocity of the ball, and each woman was equally cutthroat about winning the game.

*"Contact Janeway. Point Janeway. Game Janeway."* the feminine voice of the computer informed them after 48 minutes of grueling play.

Seven was a very frustrated woman. Not only did she lose again to the Captain, but the little redhead was a frustration all on her own. Seven turned to look at her then had to look away quickly. Picking up a towel Janeway had bent forward, with her back towards Seven. The momentary glance at her tight backside had been enough to renew Seven's racing pulse.

"Great game Seven," Janeway said as she approached the ex-drone. "You keep getting closer to beating me every time." She smiled at the flustered blonde while she continued to use the towel to wipe the sweat off her body. Seven had to fight to resist watching her rub the towel over her heat reddened chest. The ex-drones enhanced senses were picking up the sweaty, musky smell the older woman was emitting, and it was wrecking the blonde's nerves.

"Seven?" Janeway looked at the distracted drone with concern.

This seemed to snap Seven out of her lust inspired haze. "I am sorry Captain. I was… distracted. I believe the sensation I am experiencing is called… 'frustration.'"

Janeway laughed shortly then rubbed her hand up and down on Seven's tightly flexed left bicep. The brief contact on Seven's bare skin made it feel like it was on fire. "Don't worry Seven, you will beat me one day. It's only a matter of time. Why don't we head down to the messhall and get some dinner?"

Seven was relieved that the Captain had thought she was talking about the game. It had been a slip of the tongue when she had been too forthcoming a moment ago, and purely luck that there another plausible explanation for her frustration.

"I.. I have the next holodeck time reserved for a… relaxation program." Seven stammered.

"Oh," Kathryn said disappointedly. "Well, enjoy your time." She tried to smile, but she really would have preferred to spend more time with the beautiful woman.

"Thank you Captain." Seven responded.

"Seven, call me Kathryn while we are off duty together," the redhead stated.

"As you wish, Kathryn." Seven smiled.

After the Captain left Seven turned to the holodeck controls. She had planned on spending her time with a holographic band. She had programmed a set up with which she could sing but now she didn't think she could focus on the guitar she usually played while singing. So she altered her plans. The holo-Doctor had said that it was normal to interact sexually with holo-characters. While she found it distasteful, she didn't see any other way relieve her frustration. At least this way there would be no one to judge her.

Captain Janeway had returned to her quarters and taken a shower. After dressing in a clean uniform she reached onto the counter to grab her comm. badge. It wasn't until this moment that she realized that she had left it in the holodeck after her game. She didn't really want to interrupt Seven's relaxation program, but she would have to in order to get her badge back. She decided she would just go down and run in real quick to get it herself instead of calling her ahead of time to let her know she was coming. 'No sense in interrupting her twice,' she thought and left her quarters heading for the holodeck.

Seven may have been new to her feelings, but she had actually chosen a very romantic setting to further her research. Or rather, relieve her frustration. It was a replica of the honeymoon suite in one of Risa's finest hotels. The fact that she had never seen Risa, or even been to the Alpha quadrant since she was a child, had very little bearing. Many of the Voyager crew shared the opinion that Risa was one of the most romantic resorts in the universe. She did find the room pleasing. It was large with a king-size four-post bed along one wall. On each side of the bed there were open glass doors leading to a balcony that over-looked the resort town from many stories up.

This would be her first time to try to engage in a sexual coupling, even if it was holographic, so she opted for a human female. Since it was the Captain was her most recent source of frustration, she saw no harm in reproducing a small athletic redhead. The Federation may have legitimate reasons for not creating holographic constructs of real people, but she didn't see the harm in some similarities. She finished programming her specifications and the hologram appeared on the balcony looking out into the night. Apparently she had left too much up to the computer, because she really looked nothing like the Captain. She decided she didn't care because the woman was still very aesthetically pleasing. The hologram was wearing an emerald green knee-length dress with spaghetti straps. The small woman turned towards Seven smiling radiantly, capturing Seven with her smile and her captivating green eyes. Aesthetically pleasing indeed.

When Kathryn Janeway arrived at the holodeck door she realized her true quandary. What kind of relaxation program would her protégé run? If it were someone like Chakotay or Tuvok, she knew it would be tame, and involve a spiritual meditation. If it was her half-Klingon Chief Engineer it would probably be a crazy battle simulation… with the safeties lowered. But was does a former Borg drone do to relax in the holodeck? She hadn't even thought twice about it when Seven had told her. But now she was stymied, and not a little curious. She finally decided it would probably be a Spartan meditation program similar to Tuvok's taste. So she would just run in to the holodeck real quick, apologize for interrupting and get out.

She overrode the security lock-out, and walked into the holodeck expecting to find Seven sitting somewhere breathing deeply and concentrating. Well, Seven was breathing deeply and concentrating, but she wasn't sitting. Instead she was leaning into a passionate embrace with a woman. Both women were completely naked, and the shorter woman, a red-head Janeway noticed, had her legs wrapped around Seven's waist. Seven was holding the woman up with her left arm while massaging her breast with her right hand. As their kiss ended the redhead began nibbling down Seven's neck. Seven's hair was released from its restrictive bun and was bouncing gloriously about her shoulders. The woman happened to look up to find the Captain standing in front of the now closed door, her mouth gaping like a fish out of water.

"Annika…" the woman whispered into Seven's ear.

Seven was listening but intent on tasting the breasts that were tantalizing her. "Hmmm?" She responded while kissing and licking her way down the woman's chest. Before she could make it the woman grabbed her chin and pointed at the Captain.

Seven turned in horror to find a very red-faced Kathryn Janeway frozen in place. "Captain! I... I thought I secured the doors. I… How may I assist you?" Seven tried valiantly to regain her composure, but she was still holding her own redheaded naked beauty in her arms. Some misguided sense of chivalry that she didn't even know she had was keeping her from exposing the holograms naked body to the Captain. She kept pivoting in place trying to determine where to deposit the woman, before realizing she was a hologram.

At this point she simply turned away from the Captain and said "Computer save holo-character and remove. Provide me with a robe, extra-tall, white, terrycloth."

The robe appeared in Seven's hands. Quickly donning it, she finally faced the Captain. Well, she turned in her direction but she couldn't bring herself to look into her friend's eyes. She linked her hands behind her back and assumed her rigid stance.

At that point, Kathryn Janeway was not even sure of her own name. She had just gotten a very long glimpse at the most perfect female body she had ever seen. None of her late night fantasies had even come close. Relationship wise Janeway had alienated herself from her crew when they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant. But she was Human. She did have a sexual appetite; a rather large one in fact. She just didn't enjoy emotional entanglements. Her fiancé Mark had understood this, and they had come to an understanding. Their marriage would have been one based on very discrete non-monogamy and companionship to Starfleet functions. She enjoyed having a liaison whenever she could, but the Delta Quadrant had left her with little. An occasional intriguing humanoid, the holodeck and, of course, her late night fantasies. She just wouldn't cross that Captain-crew boundary, no matter what regulations said, she never did. 'Why was that again?' her baser self thought.

Seven was looking at the Captain waiting for her to respond. She tilted her head curiously and studied her friend. Seeing the Captain so unbalanced and indecisive was unusual. She strode forward until she was an arm length away and studied her more closely. 'Kathryn's eyes are dilated, her respiration and heart rate have increased. Indications of arousal?' Seven thought.

"Kathryn, you have not answered my question. Since I have accessed my eidetic memory, I know I locked the holodeck. Therefore you must have overridden my lock-outs. I must conclude that you require something. How may I be of assistance?" Seven had resumed a bit of her usual smug tone as she asked her question.

Janeway tried to snap back to reality and managed to state the real reason she had arrived here. "I left my comm. badge somewhere in the holodeck Seven. I didn't think you'd mind if I came in to grab it. I… I didn't realize that.. um.. you'd be involved in anything so private. I'm so sorry. I'll just find it quickly and get out of here if you don't mind." Janeway was practically stuttering and frantically looking around the corner of the room hoping to spot her badge.

Seven lifted her eyebrow in disbelief. 'Kathryn IS aroused.' She focused her Borg enhanced eye finding the errant comm. badge. Calmly she strode over and picked it up. She held it in the palm of her hand offering it to the redhead. Janeway immediately sighed in relief and came over to retrieve it. As she approached, Seven closed her fist around the badge and looked into the slate blue eyes before her.

"I am curious Kathryn. You are showing every outward sign of arousal, yet it was I who was so 'frustrated' earlier this evening. I would have thought finding me in a same gender coupling would have been alarming. Explain."

'Oh God! I need a red alert. Please tell me I didn't hear her tell me I'm aroused. Oh God…' Janeway was chanting in her head. Janeway decided to stall.

"Why would a same-gender coupling alarm me Seven? It's not like I've never been with a woman myself."

At this admission Seven was surprised. "You have? I had assumed that sexual relationships were only to be conducted with opposite genders because of the information the Doctor had given me."

"The Doctor was probably trying to keep things simple for you Seven," Janeway stated calmly. 'Or trying to stack the deck in his favor since he has a huge crush on you,' she thought sarcastically.

"If I could have pursued females to date, my choices would have been easier. There are several more viable matches among the female population… including you Kathryn. Which brings me back to my original question. Why are you aroused Kathryn?" Seven asked then stepped into the woman in question's personal space.

"What makes you think I'm aroused Seven?" Kathryn asked, her voice cracking.

"Kathryn, I have Borg enhanced senses. I can hear your heartbeat has accelerated and continues to accelerate every time I get closer to you." She took a step closer then inhaled deeply. "I can smell your arousal, I see your pupils are dilated and your respiration has increased by 29 percent."

Kathryn croaked out "I see." Really, she was feeling like a bunny in a lioness' sight. But this bunny wasn't sure she wanted to run.

"Kathryn, you have taught me everything else. Led me on every step back into my humanity. Teach me how to quench this desire, this frustration." Seven stated then leaned down and kissed the stunned woman.

In that moment Kathryn forgot everything that had happened before. She forgot all her own rules. She felt Seven's tongue invade her mouth engaging in a dance with her own. She briefly wondered how she could be such an accomplished kisser, then realized she didn't have the power to care. She leaned up and wrapped her arms around the tall blonde's neck pulling her head down closer, trapping her there.

Seven pulled the Captain closer so that their bodies were firmly entwined. She broke away from the kiss so that they could get some much needed air and began kissing and licking down the redhead's jaw-line and onto her neck. She planted gentle, teasing kisses down to her pulse point then snaked her tongue out licking it firmly then sucking on it gently.

"Take me please Kathryn." Seven whispered pleadingly into her ear. "Release me."

The Captain's will crumbled. Her legs gave out and she was sure she would have hit the floor if it had not been for Seven's strong arms holding her in a tight embrace. She opened her mouth to speak as Seven began lavishing the opposite side of her neck.

"Oh God… yes… but not here. Not the holodeck. My quarters. Computer, end program. Unseal doors. Two for site to site transport, Captain's bedroom, command authorization Janeway delta one four nine. Mark."

The two of them disappeared out of the holodeck in a shimmer of blue sparkles.

Chapter 5

B'Elanna Torres paced around her quarters furiously. She looked around at her wilting preparations. The lights were dimmed and mostly melted candles were lit throughout the room. The dinner she had prepared two hours ago was sitting cold on the clear glass dining table. A bottle of wine which had been chilling on ice, was now resting in a puddle in the bucket.

She looked stunning. She was wearing a sleeveless crimson dress that came down to her knees and hugged her svelte body tightly. Since this was her and Tom's first date in two weeks, she had gone all out. She had her hair pulled back, applied makeup and daringly matched her lipstick to her dress. She didn't wear makeup often, but Tom seemed to appreciate it whenever she would 'doll herself up' as he called it. She had taken off the matching high heel shoes an hour ago. She was ready to remove the dress as well, but had been putting it off. She was really trying to give Tom a chance.

After one last lap around of her couch she decided. "Computer, locate Lt. Paris."

*"Lt. Paris is in Holodeck 2"* the computer stated benignly.

B'Elanna growled. "Computer, locate Ensign Kim."

*"Ensign Kim is in Holodeck 2"* was the next response. If the computer was sentient, it might have cowered from the angry voice of the Klingon-hybrid engineer. It was not, so it could not identify the anger imbedded in the next growled out phrase issued from B'Elanna's lips.

"Computer, what program is running in Holodeck 2?"

*"Captain Proton frees Chaotica's harem."*

Just outside her door a passing crewman lost two days off his life when a tremendous howl of rage scared him nearly senseless. He recovered his breath and quickly scurried down the corridor not wanting to be anywhere near those doors if they opened. He had often wondered if Voyager's best helmsman was tremendously brave or terribly masochistic. All he knew was that no matter how beautiful the woman, he couldn't be involved with someone whose growls were scarier than the bears back home in Colorado.

"Regeneration Cycle is complete."

Seven stepped away from the Borg regeneration unit and was immediately flooded with bittersweet memories. The night before she had her very first sexual encounter. It had been exhilarating. It was more than her research could have prepared her for. Her body had come alive and she had felt more emotions than she had thought she was capable of having. Then it became hell.

After 3.4 hours of passion and sex, Kathryn had gotten up to take a shower. When she came out of the shower dressed in a long soft robe she asked Seven if she wanted a shower before she left. The naïve blonde had not realized that she was expected to leave. She took the opportunity to shower in the Captain's ensuite so that she wouldn't have to use the Holodeck's or the sickbay's shower. After dressing, she left the ensuite and found Kathryn sitting in her living room on the couch, sipping a cup of coffee.

The small woman looked up into her eyes when she entered the room. Her expression had become unreadable. "Seven, we need to talk," she said as she patted the space beside her to indicate she wanted Seven to sit next to her.

The conversation after that was too painful to remember so she began packing up a few personal belongings. She had replicated hiking gear after leaving the Captain's quarters. She never took leave when it was available, but this time she would. The ship had just become very small, almost confining to Seven. She needed to get away. She had spent a short time in Astrometrics finding a remote location on one of the mountains within transporter range that would suit her purposes. She knew that if she spent a short time hiking she would be far from where the rest of the crew would likely spend their time.

She changed into a pair of jeans, put a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt and donned hiking boots. Strapping her guitar case to the back of her backpack, she reached in and double checked all of the equipment. She made sure she had packed everything necessary the computer had recommended for mountain climbing, camping and general outdoor safety. She also made sure she had enough rations and nutritional supplements for her entire 7 days and plenty of water.

Once everything was settled properly in the pack, she strode out of the cargo bay and headed for the transporter room. Giving the transporter operator the coordinates, she stepped up onto the dais, ready to get away.

The Ensign looked up as she disintegrated into a shiny pattern. He had never worked with the ex-Borg, but he had heard the rumors the she was a cold-hearted emotionless machine. What he saw in those last few seconds made him decide they were wrong. Machines don't cry.

That morning Tom Paris woke in an empty bed. After he went through his morning ablutions he went out in search of his Klingon lover hoping to convince her of a little morning romp. He found her out in the living room which was now suspiciously spotless. In fact he noticed that none of his stuff was in sight. Another odd thing was a couple of boxes next to the door.

"Lanna?" he asked as he approached the couch.

She turned when she heard his voice and he knew he must have done something really wrong. She was calm; Too calm.

"Tom, we need to talk. I want you to move out," she said plainly.

"Are you breaking up with me?" He squeaked out. "What did I do?"

"No Tom. I'm not breaking up with you. Yet. I'm giving you another shot. I want our old relationship back. Back when you remembered dates. When you spent time with me. I think when you moved in you started taking for granted that I'd always be here. Now you'll have to remember to come get me if you want to spend time with me." She looked at him a bit sorrowfully. "I love you Tom. We've always been good friends. But lately, you haven't been a good partner. And I need that. So for now, go back to your old quarters and see if you can grow up enough for us to make this work."

"But Lanna…" He whined.

"No buts Tom. It's this or it's the end. Either way I need some space." She stood up and kissed him gently on the cheek and walked to the door. "Our leave is at the same time. But I expect you to make dates with me if you want to be with me." After saying that she walked out the door and headed for engineering.

As Seven reached up and hoisted herself over this latest ridge she looked around. She had been hiking and climbing for the last two hours after the transporters dropped her at her coordinates. This area looked like what she wanted. The clearing was wide enough to set up her habitat, have plenty of room to wander about and have a campfire. She looked out over the horizon off the edge of the mountain. The view was beautiful, according her a vision of the sky surrounding the mountain range as it receded away.

She retrieved her tricorder and ran scans around the area to make sure there weren't any animals nested nearby. After a satisfactory scan she set her backpack down off to the back of the clearing. She cleared a space nearby then retrieved and set up the Starfleet single habitat she brought. She took the guitar case off of her backpack and set in down next to the tent.

Removing the stasis container of food and some of her climbing rope she looked around. Deciding on a tree to the rear of her habitat, she tied her food pack up on a limb that ran parallel to the ground over her tent. She took the Starfleet self-inflate mattress and positioned it within the tent activating it when she was ready. Finally, she removed her phaser and stored the backpack inside the tent.

It was early afternoon now. The sun was at its apex now, but the temperature was quite comfortable. Still, she wanted to remove the long sleeve shirt and feel the mountain breeze on her bare arms. She wasn't concerned with hiding her implants now that she was alone. The breeze felt so nice on her arms that she wanted to feel it blowing through her hair. Reaching up, she released the tight bun and shook her head back and forth until all her hair was loose around her shoulders and running down her back.

Not many people knew how long her hair was. Only the Doctor, and now Kathryn, had seen it down lately. It had grown a considerable amount now reaching below her shoulder-blades and running down over her breasts in the front. She still thought the bun was the most efficient way to wear it on Voyager, but she didn't need to worry about efficiency right now, and she decided she didn't want it up. The wind was a most wonderful experience running through her hair, making her scalp tingle.

Unbidden a memory of Kathryn's fingers running through her hair in the heat of passion crossed her mind. She stood there, eyes closed, inhaling deeply as the wind caressed her skin. Unfortunately her eidetic memory was so precise that she could recall sensations as if they were presently happening. For a second the smell of the wind was replaced in her mind by Kathryn's smell. It was too much, too soon. Her reserve broken, feeling so lonely, so alone, she let it all go. Falling to her knees, she broke down and cried.

It was the third day of B'Elanna's leave and Tom had not contacted her since the first day. Yesterday she had waited until almost noon in her quarters before setting off on her own for the lake where many of the crew was spending their time. Last night when she came back to Voyager, a little tipsy from all the ale that was available by the lakefront, she sat and pondered many things. She wondered why she had tried to wait for Tom that morning. She didn't need him to have fun and obviously he didn't need her either. She thought about all the missed dates, all the cancellations.

She wondered when she had lost her self-respect, her honor. No respectable Klingon warrior would allow themselves to be treated this way by their mate. Maybe it was her human side that let her believe she deserved the way he treated her. At least she had figured that out. Some weak part of her thought she deserved it; that nobody else would want a half-breed like her and she should just swallow her pride and take it.

That realization shook her to the core. It propelled her determination that she would not allow his childish treatment any longer. By waiting around for him to call she was still letting him control her and she didn't like it. She had been fine before she met him and knew how to have fun without him. On top of that, his love didn't make her feel whole, or cherished. Klingon culture described true love as soul filling to the point of physical synchronization; literally two pairs of hearts beating out the same rhythm. She didn't think she'd ever find that, but she was beginning to wonder why she should settle for less.

So today she had arisen energized and ready to tackle an old hobby that Tom never indulged in because he found it too difficult. She was going to go rock climbing out there on one of those beautiful mountains. She dressed for the occasion with a grin on her face and dug around in her drawers for an old pair of 'lucky' gloves she loved. She spent some of her spare replicator rations on a new harness, carabineers and rope. She set up her backpack, put on her climbing shoes, and headed off to the Transporter room.

When she strode in she saw a young ensign behind the controls and smiled at him. "You have any coordinates near one of those mountains stored? I want to go tackle one of those hills today." She gave him a big grin, showing him her pointed teeth mischievously.

It was still rather early so not many people had been in yet. As a consequence when she burst in the room full of energy and loudly questioning him he had been a bit startled. But her grin was certainly infectious. "Yes ma'am. I think I have a good spot right here. Want to inspect it?" he asked.

She hopped up onto the dais and answered, "Nope! Surprise me."

Chapter 6

B'Elanna was nearly two hours into her climb feeling like life could not get any better than it was at that moment. The hike up the first part of the mountain was uneventful, but being surrounded by the undergrowth and trees she felt more alive than she had in months. The flora had started to thin out a bit as she progressed up the mountain, that was to be expected, but that meant that the trail became more challenging. At that point she had gotten to the fun part: the part where she had to scale over escarpments in order to keep going up.

Wearing a big grin on her face, she was free climbing an escarpment now. She knew that to free climb alone, even if the rock face wasn't vertical, the risks were ridiculously high. Maybe it was her Klingon side that liked to stick out its tongue at death and injury. She didn't know and at the moment she didn't care about it. She just knew that the sun felt great on her body, the air was clean, and her muscles were singing to be used so gloriously.

As she hoisted herself up the rock face she heard something out of place. She should have noticed it earlier but she had been so involved in her footing and her happiness that she wasn't surprised that she hadn't. She heard music. Maybe some of the crewmembers were up here already and had brought their own entertainment.

There was the sound of an acoustical guitar and a woman's voice. She found another handhold and lifted herself higher. She couldn't make out all the words yet but she was beginning to hear them more clearly as she got higher. The guitar accompaniment had been real soft, but suddenly sped up and got louder. At the same time the woman's voice burst through clearly. "Come on let it rain," the woman's voice pleaded "let it rain down on me. Let the rain fill my eyes, let the rain set me free. Let it rain down on me." The voice held that last note with heartbreaking sorrow. B'Elanna wondered as she pulled her self closer to the top of the ridge who would listen to such depressing music on shore leave.

The guitar had slowed down again to a simple rhythm and the voice began again after a few minutes, softer but still full of emotion. "Just inside the distance, I hear, the late September dogs. And so I beg for sleep, the child, who walked before she crawled." B'Elanna was almost to the top. The voice got stronger again, but not nearly that gut wrenching volume as before. "Damn my soul, that remembers, and clutches to this pain. The spear in your side, is me."

B'Elanna was startled when the guitar and voice went back the frenzied volume. This singer was pouring their pain completely into their song. "Come on let it rain, let it rain down on me! Let the rain touch my hands, let the rain set me free! Oh let it rain… Let the rain fill my eyes… I don't want to see! No! Let it rain down on me. Let it rain down on me." The voice held on to the last note as the guitar finished out the song.

B'Elanna pulled herself over the top to see Seven of Nine sitting the looking out over a cliff, next to a campfire, playing a guitar and humming the last few notes to the song. The Klingon froze in place, not wanting to interrupt, not knowing how she felt about seeing this. This was the woman she had regularly called an emotionless drone, a cold hearted Borg, the 'Ice Princess'. How could she have been so wrong?

B'Elanna's arms were beginning to shake from holding her in one place, so she had to raise herself over the edge. As she did a rock skittered off the edge and its sound drew the ex-drone out of her reverie. Seven's head whipped around to the sound, pinning the Klingon with a wounded gaze before she could pull back her impassive mask and turn back to face the horizon. But what B'Elanna had seen in the moment before the mask was enough. Seven's Borg mask could not hide the pain in her eyes or the flushed, tear-streaked face.

"B'Elanna Torres. Am I to assume your shore leave was so boring that you had to seek out the 'Ice Princess', to torment her?" Seven said with no inflection whatsoever, still facing away from the engineer.

B'Elanna had finished climbing over the ridge and was standing behind Seven. She stood there stunned at Seven's words. Why would Seven think she only wanted to hurt her? 'Maybe because you never gave her a chance and all you've ever done was insult her?' an inner voice growled at her. She hung her head down looking at the dirt and rocks at her feet, feeling she was worth less than the very dirt she was standing upon.

"No, Seven, I was just climbing. I didn't even know you were here," she finally answered. "And you're not an 'Ice Princess'."

"I find it interesting you would say that considering it was you who gave me that designation," Seven replied.

B'Elanna was feeling smaller by the moment. How did Seven know she had been the one to start that nickname? More importantly, when did she become such a petaQ to judge someone so quickly and spout cruelties before looking inside the person? She had known what it felt like to be ostracized for her differences all her life. Now she realized she was no better than those who had hurt her.

"Well, I was an honorless petaQ when I did that. I hope you can forgive me one day." B'Elanna finally stated firmly staring at her back.

Seven knew that it was a tremendous gesture for a Klingon to admit a wrong. She was weary though and didn't want to go through any emotional displays with the woman.

"You are forgiven. But I would like to be alone. Will you continue your climbing now?" the sorrowful blonde asked.

B'Elanna was so confused. She knew that Seven never lied, so when she said she was forgiven, it was absolute. How easily Seven had let the whole thing go. B'Elanna knew that if someone had hurt her so badly she wouldn't be so forgiving. She wanted to reach out and help the willowy blonde through whatever was hurting her. But she had been asked to leave. B'Elanna could also understand wanting to be alone with her pain.

"Yeah. I'll just get going then," she said. She settled her pack on her shoulders a bit. Turning to leave, she stopped. "But Seven… I want you to know your forgiveness now meant a lot to me. If there's ever anything you need, please ask. It would be my honor to help you."

After that she walked through the tidy camp to the next ridge and began climbing away from the woman who had just shaken her to her core. The first two escarpment were easy and before she knew it the former Borg was out of site. She sat down atop a convenient rock when she was far enough away, ate a ration and thought about all that had just occurred.

Seven got up from her perch on the edge on the rock-face after B'Elanna had left. She carried her guitar to its case then went to collect a nutritional supplement. She sat down next to the campfire and drank her supplement. Collecting a carving she had been working on in her free hand, she stared into the lines of grain. After a short while she saw where she would begin carving again. Finishing her supplement, she started carving bringing her vision out of the wood.

B'Elanna was half a kilometer higher than Seven free-climbing a sheer face. She was sure it was only about 8 meters high. Her confidence was back and she figured she could make it halfway up the mountain before having to start repelling back down. The sun was only just reaching it's high point for the day, so she knew she had at least two more hours before she had to head down.

She reached up for the next handhold on her right, shifting her weight to the left. At that exact moment her left foothold collapsed. The rock she had chosen must have been unstable because the whole area around her foot sheered off. Since she was free-climbing, her harness was attached to nothing, she had no ropes, no carabineers. The abrupt shift was much more than she could compensate for with two weak focus points. Time seemed to slow down as she began a free-fall.

She shot her right hand forward desperately trying to find anything to hold, but all she managed to do was get her pinky nail ripped back. Her momentum was carrying her to her left and she saw the last ridge she had stood upon approaching quickly. She tried to turn so that she would fall on her back, but it was too late.

As she hit the ridge she heard the sickening crunch of her arm being broken. Pain flared through her arm and she distantly realized that she was screaming. Gently, she rolled her weight off the now limp and useless appendage. When she finally lay on her back looking up at the sky she tried to pick up her arm and found it unresponsive. Her shoulder must have gotten dislocated too.

Sweat was trickling down her face, pouring down her chest. She was heaving in breaths trying her best to get air and calm down. She was trembling with the surges of adrenaline. She finally felt up to lifting her head to look at her arm. The first thing she saw were bloody bones sticking out of her forearm. Then she noticed her elbow was already swollen to twice its normal size, it might be broken too. She had no way of finding out since she didn't even have a tricorder on her.

"Kahless on a crutch!" she fumed.

Reaching into her pocket she pulled out her comm. badge and activated it. "Torres to Voyager."

*"Voyager here. What can we do for you B'Elanna?"* came the all too cheery voice of Chakotay.

"I need beam out. To sickbay please." She responded.

She waited for the dematierlization, but it never came.

*"B'Elanna, we can't get a lock on you. There's interference from the minerals around you. Can you come a little closer?"* He asked.

"No," she growled back. "I was rock climbing. I fell and broke my arm. I can't climb back down with one arm!"

*"Okay B'Elanna. Calm down. We'll get you out of there. Let me check if there's anyone near you and if not we'll beam a team in as close as possible to come get you."*

'Kahless' she thought. 'He's going to ask Seven.' She closed her eyes with the frustration of the situation.

*"B'Elanna, you're in luck. Seven's not too far from you and she knows where the closest beam out point is. She's coming up to get you now."*

"Wonderful. Great. Thanks." She responded dripping with sarcasm. He couldn't know that what she was feeling was guilt for having to disturb the blonde again.

*"B'Elanna, be nice. She is helping you after all. Voyager out."* He cut off communications leaving her with her own thoughts and pain.

*"Voyager to Seven"* the comm. badge announced inside Seven's tent.

Seven had just finished her last carving and was once again sitting on the edge of the mountain. She turned her head when she heard her badge chirp. She got up and strode towards her tent when she heard Chakotay's voice. As she entered her tent and reached down for her badge it came to life again.

*"Voyager to Seven, please respond."*

"Seven here Commander. I apologize for the delay. How may I assist you?" she said into the little badge. She exited her tent with the badge in hand so that she could stand up fully. She was still in her casual clothes and had been enjoying the sun on her body. If she was needed back at Voyager she would need to return to her biosuit, so she was soaking up as much sun and wind as she could while waiting for him to respond. Her shorts were short, not even reaching mid-thigh, and she was wearing a Starfleet issue tank top. After getting sun for the last four days she was sure that she had the first tan-lines of her entire life.

*"B'Elanna has injured herself a half kilometer from you. We can't get a transport lock on her on that mountain. She needs to be brought within transporter range. Would you be willing to go help her?"* Chakotay was a little timid of the response even though he knew that Seven would always do whatever she could to help any of her crewmates.

"I am aware that transporters cannot lock here. It is interference from the magnetite in the mountain. I will retrieve her, but I am not sure we can make it to the nearest transporter range by nightfall. What are her injuries?" she asked him.

*"She said she had a broken arm,"* he replied.

"In that case I know we will not be able to make it to range by nightfall. But I have an emergency medical kit here at my camp. If she is agreeable, and her injuries allow, we can stay at my camp through the night and then I will bring her the rest of the way in the morning," she told him. "I can sedate her through the night if necessary."

*"Thanks Seven. It seems like you are well prepared and have everything covered. Call us if you need a team to come get you. We can send a crew with emergency lighting if needed."*

"I will 'call' if we need you, Commander," She replied. "Nevertheless I think we will not need it. I will leave now to retrieve the Lieutenant."

*"OK. Thanks again Seven. Voyager out."

Seven placed the comm. badge over her left breast on the tank top. Leaning into her tent she withdrew her back pack. Reaching into the pack she withdrew everything she thought would be necessary for the climb. She stepped into her harness and adjusted it tightly around her waist and thighs. Her harness belt had two straps that came over her shoulders like suspenders where she could store carabineers and other things.

She pulled a hypospray and two vials out of the med kit and stored them in the pouches on the front right side. She strapped her tricorder to a spot in the small of her back on the left and her phaser in the corresponding spot on the right. Finally she retrieved all of her rope, storing some on her belt and the rest over her shoulder. Her supplies all gathered, she set off in the direction that B'Elanna had left hours earlier.

Chapter 7

B'Elanna lay on her back trying not to think about the throbbing pain in her arm. At first when Chakotay had told her Seven was the one coming to her rescue, she had felt ashamed. Not only was she uncertain about wanting to be touched by the beautiful ex-drone, but she still felt bad for the misery she had brought to the surface. She was embarrassed, too. Of all the people to see her so vulnerable, why did it have to be Seven?

However, that was at least an hour and two lapses of consciousness ago. Now, she was just wishing Seven would hurry up. She was currently thinking about their earlier encounter. Everything about the meeting had been eye opening. While finding Seven on the mountain had been a surprise, the professional camp site had been a bigger surprise. She wondered how long Seven had been there.

Then there was the music. Sure she had heard Seven sing outside of Voyager, but that was just a happy work song. In fact, if she was honest with herself, she had been surprised then. In truth, she thought the blonde had one of the most beautiful voices she had ever heard.

The song she was singing today, however, was totally different. It was heartbreaking and sung much lower. After hearing the two songs she figured the blonde must have an awesome range. B'Elanna realized today's song was also different because of the guitar. Where had Seven learned to play guitar? Certainly not on the Cube. And why would she? Obviously, partly to accompany herself. And that thought brought B'Elanna back to Seven's heartache. What had hurt her so badly?

Two weeks ago, B'Elanna would not have believed Seven had a life outside of equations and efficiency. Now, she realized how much of an ass she had been for thinking like that. She vowed to improve her thinking. She would get to know the person inside of Seven, if given a chance.

She turned her head again to give a different side of her face a chance to sweat and fry like the other had been doing. She had long since closed her eyes because the sun was too bright, but, when she faced this way, she would open them now and then to look out at the mountain range.

She supposed it was the same view that Seven had been drinking in all this time. She wondered how long she had been up on the mountain. 'You certainly can't tell by looking her camp' B'Elanna thought. It was clean, like it had just been set up. She knew though that Seven had started her leave a few days before her. Seven was nothing if not neat.

That was one of the other surprises this morning. Seeing the tall woman's hair cascading down freely. Kahless it was long and glorious. Why does she wear it in a bun? B'Elanna was sure it was a crime to keep that hair up in such a rigid style. On top of that she was wearing casual civilian clothes. B'Elanna had been so dumbfounded by the whole situation that she had not taken a real good look. However she knew that the blonde only wore a tank top. She had never seen Seven in anything but one of those damned form fitting biosuits, and the difference was amazing. Seven had looked remarkably comfortable; so much more Human.

B'Elanna was fading again. She could feel it creeping up on her this time. The last time she had fought it by biting her lip. Hard. She still had passed out, so she decided to just let it happen this time.

Seven was on a ridge just below B'Elanna. She had called out for the Lieutenant moments before and had gotten no response. Concerned, she scaled the last escarpment very quickly without any equipment. She was a 'natural' she supposed, but having a Borg-enhanced left hand came in handy sometimes. She could always drive her fingers into any surface if there wasn't a handhold.

The ridge was very narrow so she had to stand straddling the Klingon as she reached back for her tricorder. It showed a slightly elevated heart rate, which she could already hear, but it would appear the woman was just passed out. She ran the tricorder over the obviously injured arm and frowned at the readings. Broken arm indeed. The Lieutenant's shoulder was dislocated, her elbow was fractured in at least three places, her ulna was broken, and the radius was broken and protruding through the skin. It looked like clotting had set in and she wasn't losing more blood. Unfortunately, the loss was already making her weak, and she would lose more when Seven set the break .

Seven had brought two medicines and was now glad for her foresight. She had planned on giving the Klingon just the analgesic for the trip back. Now, it appeared the sedative would be in order as well. She administered half of the analgesic and began planning how to fix the major injuries before climbing back down to camp. All without the caramel-skinned beauty's assistance.

Five meters away to her right was another ridge with a small tree growing out of it. That would be a good start.

The blonde was almost through with her preparations when B'Elanna started coming around. She had built a small, modified litter that she could strap the Lieutenant to and then carry on her back. It would mean that B'Elanna would have to be completely immobilized, with her knees bent so that her legs weren't hanging too far down. It would not be comfortable, but the Klingon wouldn't be awake for it anyway.

B'Elanna grunted and her eyes opened. Her first vision was of Seven's beautiful face looking down upon her, the sun behind her head creating a halo, azure eyes staring into her own. 'Kahless, an angel' was her first thought. In her pained, dehydrated, and semi-conscious state, it was an easy mistake. Only when she noticed the implant did she start to conceive that it was Seven standing above her.

"Seven. Glad you could make it to my little party," she croaked out. Her throat and mouth were really dry.

"Party indeed," Seven responded. She reached around her belt and pulled out a small canteen. Kneeling astraddle the woman, she lifted B'Elanna's head gently and brought the water to her mouth. B'Elanna lustily drank every bit she was offered, but the blonde seemed to be doling it out in small amounts.

"Thanks," the Klingon said as Seven lowered her head softly back onto the rock. "What's the plan?"

"I will reset your shoulder in a moment if you think you can take that. I will also need a few strips of your shorts as bandages when I set your arm temporarily. Then, I will immobilize your arm, tie you to this litter, and carry you down to the camp," Seven responded plainly.

B'Elanna blinked at Seven's response. "Litter? Carry me? I… Seven, I just don't see how you can do that."

"I assure you Lieutenant, I am capable of bearing your weight. My Borg armor plating massed more than you," Seven replied with her eyebrow lifted high onto her forehead. "Now may I have your permission to rip you shorts? I would choose my own, but as you can see, yours are much longer and the material more suitable for bandages."

B'Elanna was just too tired to argue with the blonde over her ridiculous plan. And the bandages were a necessity so she responded, "Sure. Rip away, oh tall one."

Seven smirked at the strange interaction and proceeded to precisely cut away strips from the bottom of each short leg using a modification of her left hand. Once she was done she laid them to the side. It was time to start.

"I believe we should start with your arm. I have some more analgesic and a sedative. Would you prefer I sedate you now or later?" Seven asked.

"You're not going to need the sedative. I can take the pain. Just give me the analgesic,"

B'Elanna growled and glared at the woman straddling her.

"Very well, Lieutenant." Seven leaned down and pushed the hypospray against the fallen woman's neck, releasing the last of the analgesic. She looked squarely into B'Elanna's eyes and said, "I apologize Lieutenant. This will hurt."

"Just do it," B'Elanna growled.

Quickly, she reached out, tenderly grasping the broken arm. With both her hands, she grabbed the wrist and just above the elbow. She pulled firmly until the bone slid back into the skin and she could feel it click into place. At first B'Elanna was screaming. Then, curiously, she fell silent. Seven looked at her face when she had a second, B'Elanna had passed out. Putting her right hand in place over the wound to hold it secure, she retrieved the other hypospray and administered the sedative.

When B'Elanna awoke, she was in a tent and it was night. Temporarily, she couldn't remember how she got there, or even where 'there' was. She inhaled deeply and felt pain radiate through her arm, starting at the elbow. That jarred her memory of the fall, but she still couldn't figure out how she got in the tent.

She lifted her head to look around. She was under a Starfleet emergency blanket. Using her right hand, she lifted the blanket off to see if she could get a look her arm. Underneath the blanket, she was dressed and the arm was covered. She could feel that it was in a sling and the sling was somehow wrapped tightly against her chest. However, she couldn't see it under the oversized white chamois shirt she was wearing. Even the empty shirt sleeve was tucked in absurdly neatly.

She sat up on the mattress. She looked around realizing that she must be in Seven's camp. Which would mean she was in Seven's tent and bed. But where's Seven? She could smell the light scent of vanilla somewhere and wondered if the blonde was cooking. So she trained her gaze in the direction of the fire, and finally saw the back of the willowy woman sitting next to it.

She took a moment to just study Seven undisturbed. She wasn't sitting in that painfully erect position she normally took. Instead, she was cross-legged and was rather slouched. Her platinum hair was down again and blowing freely in the breeze. 'She really should wear it down' B'Elanna thought. 'It's beautiful.' The woman didn't appear to be doing anything other than staring off into the night.

B'Elanna threw off the blanket to find her legs covered in a comically long pair of sweat pants. 'At least I had my own underwear and socks' she thought with a grin. She could now see her shorts neatly folded in the other corner next to her shoes and backpack. 'Camping is NOT supposed to be so clean' she mused. She rolled off the mattress and exited the tent. Seven didn't stir at the noise, merely saying "Good evening, Lieutenant."

"Kahless Seven! We're on shore leave, you rescue my butt off a mountain, fix me up, dress me in your clothes, and you're still calling me 'Lieutenant'." She laughed at the woman's formality. "Please call me 'B'Elanna'."

Seven turned her head and examined the Klingon to see if she was being mocked. Surprisingly, the woman seemed sincerely jovial and was walking up to sit beside her. "As you wish B'Elanna."

"So… Thanks for fixing me up and getting me down. I owe you one Seven."

"You are welcome, B'Elanna. No doubt you have noticed I could not 'fix' your elbow. I am afraid the Doctor needs to heal that wound. However your shoulder and forearm should be fine." Seven said all this quietly before looking at B'Elanna. "I apologize for having to undress you while you were unconscious. I was afraid that the temperatures were getting too low especially for your physiology. I do hope my clothes are satisfactory."

"Uh, yeah. They're actually kinda comfy, if not way too big. And I'm glad you gave them to me. It is a bit cold out here." The subject matter was vaguely embarrassing for both of them. B'Elanna wasn't used to being taken care of by anyone and Seven had felt an all too familiar sense of arousal while dressing the lithe warrior.

"So," B'Elanna decided to change the subject. "I didn't know you liked climbing and camping. Have you been up here for your whole leave?"

"Yes," Seven replied. "I felt a need to get away from Voyager and some of its inhabitants. I thought that a place like this could give me the solitude I needed to work out some 'issues.'"

"Damn. I'm sorry, Seven. And here I come and interrupt you twice in one day. But I can always get someone else to come up and get me tomorrow if you just want to stay." B'Elanna didn't know what to say or do. Even her accident had been a slap in the blonde's face it seemed.

"It is 'all right.' I was planning on leaving the day after tomorrow anyway. One less day will not ruin my time. I believe I have been away long enough anyway." Seven was uncomfortable even vaguely talking about why she was up here. It reminded her of the fact that she had been used so thoroughly by the Captain. "I believe you should partake of a nutritional supplement now that you are awake, B'Elanna."

The Klingon made a face before she could stop herself. Then, she peeked at Seven. She had seen the liquid lunch the Doctor had programmed for the former drone and it didn't look very appetizing at all.

"Do not worry, B'Elanna. They are not as bad as you might think. In fact with your sweet tooth I think you will like my version." Seven was telling her this as she retrieved a pouch with a pre-measured supplement. She sat back down and handed the drink to B'Elanna. The Klingon eyed the pouch, then Seven, suspiciously. She shrugged and took a small sip. As the thick drink hit her tongue, her eyes widened to the size of saucers.

"It tastes like a chocolate milkshake!" B'Elanna exclaimed staring at Seven in disbelief. "You mean all this time I thought you were suffering through one of the Doctor's bad brews, and you were drinking this?"

"No. It was 98 days after the Doctor designed that supplement that I discovered milkshakes. Their consistencies were similar enough that after some careful research I was able to alter his original supplement to taste better. He has yet to discover my reprogramming though, so I would appreciate you not letting him know. Or telling Mr. Paris as that would accomplish the same thing." Seven grinned knowingly at the Klingon. "I do not wish to hurt his feelings."

B'Elanna laughed out loud. "Good point, Seven. And nice trick." She smiled at Seven and went back to the supplement. She realized that now was as good a time as any to start with her promise. "So, did you manage to work out your issues then?"

Seven looked up at B'Elanna with a pained look in her eyes, then looked back into the night. "No. I do not think I will be able to. I will just have to adapt." She finally responded.

"I've never seen you this sad Seven," She started slowly. "Actually, I don't think I've ever seen you before today. I think I was too busy resenting your outward perfection to notice the feeling person inside you, and, I'm sorry for that." She paused and looked at Seven. "I made a promise to myself today to get to know you better and to stop being such a targ to you. I hope you'll let me. Get to know you that is." 'There' she thought, ' I put myself out there, please don't stomp me down.'

Seven was surprised to say the least. She didn't think she would ever be able to understand this woman completely. Just when she was getting used to less fighting, the hybrid threw her off-balance again and seemed to be offering… friendship? Right now she wasn't sure if her heart could take another 'friend'. Not after the way her 'friend', the Captain, had treated her. However, she really did admire the feisty woman next to her. She was one of the few people on the ship as intelligent as herself. She also came close to being as strong. She decided that she would 'roll her dice' as Mr. Paris would say.

"I think I would like that, B'Elanna," Seven finally answered. "It would be nice to know you better as well. I have enjoyed our less adversarial relationship lately."

B'Elanna just grinned. "Yeah. It's nice to be putting the engine room in order instead going to the Doc to get us put back together." Sobering somewhat she asked, "So do you want to tell me what's bothering you? Why climb a mountain and wail heartbreaking songs? It sometimes helps to talk you know."

Seven raised her eyebrow at the Klingon. "It occurs to me that you are not usually the first one to talk about your emotions B'Elanna." The engineer had the good grace to look abashed. "However, in this case, I suppose an outside perspective would be helpful. I have never been in a situation like this before and the new emotions are… unsettling."

"What kind of situation, Seven?" B'Elanna asked.

"I recently had my first sexual experience. The emotions that came with the experience are much more difficult than I anticipated." Seven wasn't sure how much she could say without breaking down into tears again. B'Elanna on the other hand was astounded, not expecting such a revelation.

"Well, I guess I've got to ask why the emotions are so difficult. You don't look like you fell in love with the guy," B'Elanna said.

"I probably could have fallen in love with her. I felt a connection before that experience. However, it turns out she was just using me. Afterwards, she told me I was a 'one night stand' and that I could never be anything more to her." A brief flash of that conversation ran through Seven's head. She quickly relived those painful moments of the Captain explaining the fact that they could never be together again. That Seven was just a fling and the only thing the Captain really loved was her ship, her command. A single tear escaped her eye and slid down her alabaster cheek.

B'Elanna was temporarily stupefied by the revelation that Seven's 'first' had been a woman. Then she felt an overpowering sense of anger at whomever could have abused an innocent like Seven. "What kind of ghuy'cha' petaQ would take your virginity on a fling, Seven? Who did this?" She demanded.

"I should not say, B'Elanna. It does not matter now. All I want to know is what to do with all this pain, and how to deal with seeing her again, because I will." Seven said all this sadly looking into the fire.

B'Elanna felt crushed by the sorrow in the blonde's voice. Looking at her valiantly struggling to hold it all in, the engineer just wanted to reach out and hold the fragile woman. Giving in to the impulse, she scooted over as close as she could and reached her good arm around Seven's shoulder. Then, B'Elanna pulled her into a sideways hold and guided Seven's head down onto her shoulder. As if given permission, Seven finally released the tears and sobbed.

"Seven, I don't know what this slime of a woman told you, but you deserved better than this. She shouldn't have done this to you. I don't know what to tell you other than it's going to hurt for a while. But it won't always be like this. There are better experiences than that. And if you ever feel bad after seeing her, well, maybe you can come and talk to me, or we can go do something to take your mind off it. Okay?" B'Elanna was busy running her hand through the soft blonde hair when the blonde nodded. She stopped and squeezed Seven's head tight to her shoulder.

Chapter 8

The next morning, B'Elanna found herself growing irritated with her short-term disability. She wasn't sure she liked being taken care of and was quite certain she hated sitting by while Seven packed everything. The tall blonde had even forgone sleep so that B'Elanna could have the bed and tent. They had argued briefly over that until Seven explained that she really didn't need the sleep if she could regenerate in the next two days. She also explained that when she did sleep, she tended to thrash violently with nightmares and would no doubt hurt B'Elanna. Then, when the engineer awoke, she was discomforted that Seven had already prepared another analgesic, even though privately she knew she needed it. The final insult was that she couldn't even change her shirt without the blonde's help.

Seven tied a rope to her backpack and lowered it off the edge of the ridge that led down to the trail. Afterwards, she came over to B'Elanna, and attached a carabineer and rope to the smaller woman's harness. "Are you ready to begin, B'Elanna?"

B'Elanna was slightly confused so she asked, "How are we going to do this, Seven?"

"You will simply walk down the rock-face holding onto the rope as I lower you down," the tall blonde stated as if it were obvious.

"You sure you can do that?" B'Elanna still had reservations about anyone being strong enough to carry her weight, even though, obviously, the woman had already brought her down this far alone. Seven merely raised her eyebrow pointedly at B'Elanna. "Okay. I just had to ask. I guess I better get going then."

B'Elanna and Seven walked to the edge of the small ridge, and B'Elanna took a breath before facing the blonde. The rope was taut between them. The smaller woman leaned back holding onto it, and started walking down. When she reached the bottom, the rope went slack, and she looked up in time to see Seven scaling down the ridge effortlessly. Her strength and suppleness were made more apparent by the simple clothes she wore. B'Elanna looked away when she realized she was staring at Seven's shapely legs and rear.

They traveled down the mountain like that until they were at the transport point. By then Seven was carrying both backpacks and they had been hiking through the woods for a while. When they got to a clearing, Seven told B'Elanna that they could transport out but seemed hesitant to leave.

"B'Elanna, I must ask a favor." The blonde was almost timid again. B'Elanna knew she would grant Seven any favor she asked. "Would you please keep what I told you last night in confidence? I do not wish for anyone to know how easily I was used." She stared down at the ground and her voice softly cracking.

B'Elanna reached up and grasped Seven's chin in her hand, forcing the blonde's eyes to her own. "I'll never tell anybody Seven, on my Honor. But, you've got to realize that you didn't do anything wrong. That petaQ is the one who should be ashamed, not you." She reached around Seven and carefully hugged. Seven smiled weakly and nodded.

"Thank you, B'Elanna."

After transporting back to the ship, Seven escorted B'Elanna to the sickbay. She needed to know B'Elanna would be alright. She was also still carrying her new friend's pack.

When they walked into sickbay, the Doctor was a bit surprised to see them talking amicably but decided to keep his council for once. He also noticed the Klingon's arm in a sling, so he grabbed his scanner and made a sour face as he walked over to them. B'Elanna had hopped up onto the first biobed.

"Well, what has Super-Klingon done now?" he asked as he scanned B'Elanna's arm. She figured it must not be so bad because it was well known that he was especially sarcastic when injuries were easily fixed.

"She had an accident," Seven answered harshly fixing him with a lethal glare. Both the Doctor and B'Elanna were surprised by her sudden protectiveness. B'Elanna just looked up at Seven and grinned, causing Seven to grin back.

The Doctor coughed and said slowly, "I see. Well this elbow has four nasty fractures. I'm surprised there wasn't damage to the rest of the arm. What happened?"

B'Elanna explained her fall and subsequent loss of consciousness. Then, Seven told the rest of the story explaining how she healed the other wounds and downloading the data from her tricorder. He was quite impressed with the blonde's treatment and told her so as he healed the elbow. He extracted a promise from B'Elanna that she would return the next day for a scan and that she would take it easy until then. Finally he sent them on their way.

When they left sickbay, the two women walked to the turbolift together. Each woman was sad to see the other go, but both needed to return to their private space and rest. Finally, as the turbolift reached Seven's deck B'Elanna stopped the lift to speak privately with the woman.

"Seven, I'm glad we talked and I think we could be good friends. I'm just sorry I was so stubborn. Anyway, what I wanted to say was 'thank you'. Thank you for taking care of me and healing me. I'll never forget it." She smiled at the ex-drone. "And I was serious about talking to me whenever something's bothering you."

"Thank you, B'Elanna. I, too, am happy that we are becoming friends. I promise to talk to you only if you will do the same." She looked at B'Elanna with a raised implant.

B'Elanna snickered and punched Seven gently on the arm. "Yeah, ok. If I have any talking to do I'll make sure you hear it. But I won't get too mushy. I am part Klingon you know!"

Seven grinned, and B'Elanna released the lift. As Seven stepped out, B'Elanna called after her. "Hey, you want to do something tonight? Maybe go to Sandrine's and shoot some pool?"

"I have never played pool," Seven stated. "I think I would like that. I will be done with my regeneration at 2000 hours. Is that acceptable B'Elanna?"

"Make it 2100. This Klingon needs some beauty sleep." B'Elanna grinned.

"I do not think you can become more beautiful B'Elanna. Nevertheless, I will meet you at 2100 hours. Shall I come by your quarters?" B'Elanna was taken aback by Seven's comment so she just dumbly nodded and stepped back letting the lift doors close.

At 2100 hours B'Elanna's door chirped, announcing her visitor. She hurriedly finishing dressing and called out, "Come on in Seven."

The blonde, dressed in her old plum biosuit, entered B'Elanna's quarters. She looked around, noting the ceremonial Klingon weapons mounted on the wall. The tidy room had a remarkable efficiency that Seven would not have expected in the engineer.

B'Elanna came out of her bedroom dressed in a casual green tunic and loose fitting black pants. Seven thought she looked beautiful, but, knew better than to tell her new friend that. "I am ready for my pool lessons, jonwI' (engineer)," she smiled.

"Uh . . . Yeah, Seven. I don't know if I'm ever going to get used to you spouting off Klingonese." She laughed, shaking her head. "Let's go crash the bar, then, shall we?"

When they arrived at Sandrine's B'Elanna dragged Seven straight to the bar. The lithe engineer slapped her hand down hard getting the attention of the holographic bartender. She grinned at Seven stating conspiratorially that they needed 'pool fuel.' Seven was rather dubious when she was handed a large stein of ale, but made no complaint. It was so refreshing to have the gorgeous woman beside her. She was willing to go through any ritual B'Elanna saw fit in order to keep the engineer happy for the evening.

They left the bar, making their way to the tables. There were many crewmembers present and the place was hopping with excitement. Twice, B'Elanna was stopped by friendly crewmembers and they stayed talking for short times.

When they rounded the corner for the table area B'Elanna suddenly dropped her stein. Seven gaze followed B'Elanna's glare to the pool table. She was surprised to see Tom Paris giving a female ensign his own version of 'pool lessons' which evidently included quite a bit of fondling and some kissing on the neck. A ferocious growl erupted out of B'Elanna, but before she could charge Tom, Seven quickly snaked her left arm around the woman's tiny waist.

"Let go Seven!" B'Elanna bellowed. "I'm going to tear him in half and toss him out of an airlock! Come here you son of a targ!"

This finally caught Tom's attention. He looked up to see the unbelievable sight of Seven of Nine holding back his furious Klingon girlfriend and wondered if he could run out of the holodeck before B'Elanna got away from Seven. However, no matter how violently B'Elanna was squirming the blonde's grasp was holding. The blonde also seemed to be whispering into the engineer's ear. B'Elanna quit her struggle and glared into Tom's eyes, but Seven's grasp didn't falter an inch.

"You have 30 seconds to explain this Tom. I'll decide if you live after that, "B'Elanna growled ferociously.

The helmsman was feeling foolishly brave because of Seven's iron grip. "You were the one who wanted to go back to dating B'Elanna. I'm just doing what you wanted."

He moved closer to the pair with his best puppy dog eyes. That was a big mistake because Seven was feeling a little vindictive at the contemptible man for hurting her new friend. Cruelly, she loosened her grip on B'Elanna just enough so that when B'Elanna's predictable lunge at the helmsman occurred she got one solid connection. Smirking at the dumb man, she then reeled the engineer back in. All this time B'Elanna was hurling epithets at him like daggers.

"You hit me," he whined loudly, his voice distorted through his now broken nose.

"I believe it would not have occurred had you not been foolish enough to walk into range Mr. Paris," Seven said pointedly raising her eyebrow.

B'Elanna was calming down but her eyes were still at a lethal level. "Paris, if you ever come near me again I'm going to rip your arm off and beat you to death with it. We're through." She turned her head towards her captor. "I'd really like to leave now Seven."

"Of course B'Elanna," Seven said letting her go after assessing the possibilities of B'Elanna carrying out her threat right away. She waved her arm towards the exit. "Shall we?"

B'Elanna simply nodded and stomped away from the scene.

When they left the holodeck, B'Elanna was still angry but no longer had anywhere to focus her ire. Seven looked the Lieutenant over, deciding right away that she need to help her friend channel her aggression.

"B'Elanna, would you let me show you one of my favorite holoprograms?"

The brunette's eyebrows rose high on her forehead. Seven had a favorite holoprogram? She remembered her vow. Even though she wasn't really sure she was in the mood, it was probably better than going back to her quarters alone right now.

"I guess Seven, but I don't know what kind of company I'm going to be right now."

They went down the corridor to the other holodeck. Seven checked its availability and found it in use. Before B'Elanna could object Seven hit her comm. badge and interrupted the current user. The Borg traded five holodeck slots for his time, then did the same for the next holodeck time. The ensign leaving the holodeck felt he had gotten the better part of the deal and headed off to Sandrine's. B'Elanna was curious at this point.

They entered the empty holodeck together and Seven called out the commands for her holoprogram. "Computer run program Seven Omega gray." The holodeck was transformed to a desolate looking battlefield on the outskirts of a village.

"Hey! This is one of my battle simulations," B'Elanna exclaimed. "I've never beaten this one."

"You can not beat this one alone B'Elanna. I have studied the simulation fully after engaging in the battles twice. I determined that it was programmed to be utilized by at least two people engaging the enemy forces simultaneously. However I did not bring you here for battle. There is another part of the program I don't know if you have considered utilizing. That is where I'd like to take you." Seven smirked at B'Elanna. "It involves a slight change of clothing. With your permission?"

B'Elanna just grinned at Seven and nodded. 'Leave it to her to figure out why I could never beat this stupid battle.'

"Computer, alter my clothing to reference Seven Omega Gray. Furnish Lieutenant Torres with similar armor."

A noise similar to the transporters was heard and the two of them were suddenly standing in full Klingon battle armor. B'Elanna gasped as she looked down at herself. She noticed she now had a d'k tahg (traditional Klingon knife) on one hip and a kut'luch (an assassin's dagger) strapped to the inside of her left arm. Her boots had brought her an inch higher than normal, while Seven's boots actually didn't alter her height because her high heeled shoes underneath had not been removed, only altered in appearance. B'Elanna looked at Seven next and noticed the blonde was releasing her hair from its bun and shaking it wildly. The engineer swallowed hard as she raked her eyes over the blonde's body. Seven in full Klingon regalia was a sight that could have brought Kahless himself to his knees. The blonde noticed B'Elanna's gaze and raised her eyebrow.

"If you're ready to proceed," Seven said waving her arm in the direction she wanted to head.

B'Elanna snapped out of her reverie. She was amazed that the blonde's plan had so quickly tempered her anger at Tom. She grinned rakishly, nodded and followed Seven's lead. As Seven lead her down a trail that she had never taken in the game, B'Elanna reviewed the incident in Sandrine's. It occurred to her that a week ago she would have assaulted Seven for trying to hold her back from Tom. However, this evening she had let the strong woman hold her back and hadn't even thought of hurting her. Nobody had ever been allowed to restrain her like that, so why did she let Seven do it?

They came out on the other side of the town and Seven headed towards a tach. B'Elanna had never even noticed it. She burst out into laughter as Seven made it to the bar's doors.

"You brought me to a Klingon bar? This is one of your favorite holoprograms?" B'Elanna slapped Seven hard on the back.

"I thought you might be more comfortable letting out your natural Klingon instincts in a place where your aggression will not land you in the brig B'Elanna. I also knew you would probably like to consume some wornagh (dark Klingon ale) even if it is synthahol."

Seven inclined her head then opened the door.

As B'Elanna followed her in she found her surprises weren't over. Seven was well recognized by the holoprogram's characters as evidenced by riotous shouts. One giant of a Klingon warrior lumbered over and held his arm out for Seven, which she grasped in a warrior's handshake below the elbow.

"be'basvaj! My hearts can beat again now that you return! I see you've brought a friend! Is she as wicked as you be'basvaj?" He was animated around Seven, but she seemed to be tolerating his presence. He studied B'Elanna as if gauging his chances there.

B'Elanna was still trying to translate. Her Klingonese was rusty, but she thought he was calling Seven 'Metal Warrior Woman.' When she noticed he was leering at her hungrily she growled deeply in warning. He laughed a deep, full-bellied laugh.

"You do not frighten me, little one!" He roared out between laughs.

Suddenly, Seven grasped the hologram around the neck and lifted him high into the air. "But I do Horan! And you will not insult my friend or I will take it as a personal dishonor. Do you understand?"

His eyes were bulging out slightly and he was choking, gasping for breath. Both of his hands were on her wrist trying to escape her iron grip. To see the giant Klingon dangling in mid-air was amazing to B'Elanna. She knew that one of the appeals of the Klingon games was the realism of mass and feel that each hologram had. It was very easy to get injured in these games if the safeties weren't fully engaged. She usually set the program down to medium safety so that any punches she took were felt, but if she got shot or stabbed it would sail through her.

"I understand be'basvaj," he managed to croak out. "I meant no insult."

Seven looked deep into his eyes and simply replied "Acceptable." After that she tossed him across the room into a support post as if he were a rag doll. The patrons erupted in laughter and some raised their glasses in silent salute to the buxom beauty.

"Now, B'Elanna. Shall we get some wornagh?" The blonde was sporting a raffish grin.

After about 15 minutes of drinking alone, Seven's in-game acquaintances began to migrate to their table. She introduced B'Elanna as the finest Klingon warrior she had ever known, causing B'Elanna to blush. Her boasting started detailing how she knew that the warrior woman was just what the town needed to overthrow the corrupt house that was the town's grief, also the objective of the game. She began listing out a plan and buying drinks for the surrounding warriors, but credited the plan to B'Elanna. B'Elanna just sat there amused at the blonde's propaganda in her favor. The Klingon's ego had never been played up so well. Whenever she and Tom had played games together, he always insisted on being the hero, usually relegating her to either sidekick or, despicably, damsel in distress. Soon the warriors were clamoring around B'Elanna asking questions about how she would handle this or that situation. She grinned and answered each question firmly.

Seven knew her plan was succeeding. B'Elanna was wrapped up in planning a battle with the other warriors and wasn't even drinking that much. She had no doubt that if left to her own devices, B'Elanna would have caused herself harm this evening. Now, the beauty was a picture of confidence.

Soon the whole group was split up into two, with B'Elanna leading the covert group, and Seven leading a frontal assault on the house. B'Elanna found the whole scenario glorious. She had never before played this game from an assassin's perspective. Before, she would run in with her bat'leth and surge as far as possible in full battle lust.

Now, her group was running behind the scenes, killing whoever they encountered, and waiting for the frontal assault to distract the House's warriors.

In the end, B'Elanna's kut'luch slit the throat of the head of the house cleanly, effectively winning the game. The rest of the house was defeated quickly and easily by the rest of the two groups. B'Elanna cut a swatch of hair from the leader's head then removed the necklace which signified his leadership from around his neck. A roar of congratulations reverberated through the house and soon B'Elanna was hauled onto shoulders and carried outside amid cheers and salutes.

They had carried her all the way through town that way and back into the tach. Seven had followed along, smiling at her friends elation. They spent the last 45 minutes Seven's reserved holodeck time celebrating in the tach, with every town member and warrior giving B'Elanna praise and a drink.

They left the holodeck together in great spirits. B'Elanna, who had consumed innumerable drinks, wandered tipsily back towards her quarters with the cool blonde in tow. The Klingon animatedly regaled the former Borg on how much fun it was to finally beat the game. Seven's smiles were unselfconscious. The blonde couldn't remember ever having this much fun.

When they arrived at B'Elanna's door, the engineer strode in expecting Seven to follow. Nevertheless, the blonde was feeling a bit insecure and stayed outside the door until B'Elanna turned around pulled her in physically. Seven smiled bashfully as the Klingon pushed her down on the couch and ordered two sodas from the replicator.

They talked for hours deep into the night. First, the conversation was about the Klingon games into the holodeck repertoire. B'Elanna was surprised to learn that Seven had just as much interest in the battle simulations as she did. Seven explained that she too had to find useful ways to release her physical aggression, and since nobody on board could safely spar with her enhanced physiology she had looked through B'Elanna's files to see what the engineer did. The Klingon laughed deeply at the confession, but some part of her realized this reaction was new; a week ago she would have wanted to throttle the beauty.

Later in the evening they talked about their mutual frustration of having an above average intelligence that set them apart from the crew. It had never occurred to B'Elanna to think that Seven might be resentful of her intelligence's side effects. They both had grown accustomed to have ideas and insights quashed because of others lack of understanding. From there, their conversation turned to ideas they had never shared with others. Each had designs they never shared for fear that they wouldn't be accepted. However once they were brought into the light, between the two of them the ideas began to grow.

It turned into a brainstorming session on one of Seven's ideas to improve the warp drive. Her idea had been so similar to one of B'Elanna's that they recognized instantly where they had each gotten stuck and how each plan complimented the other's so brilliantly as to form a perfect plan. Seven's analytical approach and B'Elanna's intuition and insight combined and they brainstormed with each other, pouring everything down onto padds until the problem that had been straining each separately was solved somewhere around 0200 hours.

"Kahless, Seven. We can achieve warp 9.985 if we implement this! Beyond that we would be able to hold warp 9 for an extra hour beyond what we can now," the engineer exclaimed exuberantly.

Seven happily absorbed the joy radiating from the Klingon. The vivacious woman before her was the epitome of passion. The cool blonde was overjoyed that she was present and part of the engineer's current cheer. The ex-drone's face was actually a bit sore by now from smiling as much as she had tonight.

Soon, B'Elanna yawned deeply. Seven knew she needed to leave her friend to rest so she stood slowly and looked down to the lithe woman. "I think you should rest, B'Elanna. I want you to know I have enjoyed this evening immensely. However, I will excuse myself now."

Surprised to find the blonde retreating to the doorway, B'Elanna leapt from the couch to escort her to the door. The Klingon couldn't believe it, but she was disappointed to see Seven leaving. Grasping the blonde's elbow before she could trigger the door sensors, she looked into the azure eyes and said, "Seven, before you go, I wanted to thank you for keeping me out of the brig tonight. And for being such a good friend afterwards." She pulled the startled blonde into a solid hug and held her for a moment. Awkwardly releasing the woman, she stepped back. Seven smiled, nodded, then turned and left.

When B'Elanna woke the next day, she was truly at peace. She stretched luxuriously then bounced out of bed. As she was taking her shower she considered the fact that she wasn't even sad to see Tom gone. Somewhere in the night everything had solidified for her. She didn't need the helmrat or his condescending love. He was a better friend than lover, but he wasn't even the best friend she could have. Also, her heart deserved a best friend and an equal.

After her shower, she dressed for the lake. She wasn't going to waste her leave inside this ship when the glorious sun was still calling her. She had to drop by the sickbay on her way out though. The Doctor had been quite clear about rechecking her elbow before she did anything physical. Grabbing her comm.. badge on the way out the door, she headed down to the sickbay.

Seven exited her alcove feeling a bit melancholy that morning. Her eidetic memory was still torturing her at times with cruel flashes of memory. It was especially bad in the mornings. She brought her focus back to the good times she had with B'Elanna the previous night and the thought of the engineer's beautiful smile cheered her somewhat. With that in mind she decided to work on a project she had conceived in the beauty's presence last night.

As she wandered over to the replicators, she called out to the computer to provide her with a mixture of early 20th century blues and jazz. At the replicator, she spent some of her many rations on a large chunk of duranium and a fair piece of tritanium. She gathered some tools she would need and took her materials over to right below her dais, sitting down to begin her work.

After leaving sickbay, B'Elanna had a bounce in her step. The Doctor had cleared her for all activity, so she had some serious playing planned. When she stepped into the turbolift, she was about to call out for the transporter room but a thought of the beautiful blonde former Borg changed her mind. With a beaming smile, she ordered the turbolift to Cargo Bay 2.

Entering the cargo bay, she found the computer blaring out some funky old blues song. The whole situation was slightly amusing. The blonde was sitting on her dais carving something and had not even noticed B'Elanna's entry. The funniest part was Seven of Nine singing along.

"My mama done tol' me son, A woman'll sweet talk, And give ya the big eye, But when the sweet talkin's done A woman's a two-face, A worrisome thing who'll leave ya t'sing The blues in the night."

The Klingon could no longer resist laughing after a few lines of a Borg twanging out Ebonics. Seven looked up at B'Elanna and smiled at the sight of the warrior's mirth.

"B'Elanna, how may I assist you?" the blonde asked with a grin. She put away her carving in a nearby box so that the other woman wouldn't see.

The engineer approached Seven still giggling. "Well, I wanted to see what you were doing today. You have plans?" She sat down next to the former drone and smiled.

"No, B'Elanna. I had simply planned on working on a few projects in the cargo bay," Seven responded.

"Nope. I won't let you do that be'basvaj," she lightly punched Seven's shoulder as she called her by the Holodeck nickname. "Grab your bathing suit and some light clothes. We're going swimming!"

"Indeed? I can not swim B'Elanna," the blonde looked a bit worried.

"Don't worry, Seven. I'm sure once I teach you, you'll adapt," B'Elanna's mischievous grin was infectious. The blonde returned a grin, stood and walked over to an area where her personal belongings were stored. After Seven was changed, the two women left together for the lake.

Chapter 9

A week later, Voyager was still on the planet. Almost all of the crew had finished their leave, except for the last rotation, which had three days left. B'Elanna had gotten permission from the Captain to initiate the upgrades that Seven and she had come up with, and the pair had spent all of their working time together on the project. Often, after 10 hour shifts, Seven would have to remind the engineer to stop to eat. Usually when this happened the engineer would invite Seven to the Messhall and they would eat together, discussing the improvements and a myriad of other things. Afterwards they would usually retire to B'Elanna's quarters or Sandrine's where B'Elanna was teaching Seven the fine art of Pool. Tonight they had plans at B'Elanna's and left the messhall with the engineer rambling over a tale of her Maquis days.

Tom Paris, top helmrat of the USS Voyager, jerked away from his buddy, Ops Officer, Harry Kim. Tom was plastered. He hadn't meant to get caught necking with that ensign. Hell, it was B'Elanna's fault anyway. She all but broke up with him before going off on leave. Even when she got back, she was completely unavailable. It wasn't his fault, damnit. Why was it always his fault? Tom pulled up short when he heard a low voice, one he would recognize anywhere, followed by low precise tones. He sprinted around the corner and rammed right into B'Elanna, growling, "Bitch!" He clumsily picked himself off the floor and completely disregarded his ex's angry expression. He was plastered, he was alone, even his best buddy was stammering apologies to the bitch. While trying to make time with that rigid drone!

"Watch it, Tom," B'Elanna muttered. Looking him over, she realized he was drunk and decided he wasn't worth the trouble. She nodded to Harry and caught Seven's eye, saying, "C'mon. Let's take this someplace less crowded."

"Where do you think you're going?" Tom sputtered. He was not going to be dismissed. He was the one who would do the dismissing. "Half-breed trash like you can't just walk away from me! You toss me away like I'm nothing and get all pissy when I spend my time elsewhere. What the hell did you think was going to happen, little girl? That I'd come pissing all over myself to keep you?"

"petaQ!" B'Elanna pulled back to slug the helmrat, but her fist was caught in the vice like grip of Seven's enhanced hand. Seven shoved Tom out of the way and pulled B'Elanna to her, wrapping the angry woman in her arms. As B'Elanna struggled in vain to attack Paris, Seven spoke to Harry.

"I believe you should remove Mr. Paris." Harry nodded and hurried to pull his friend up. "B'Elanna! DaHlvlaHbe'! ghaH ghaj targh tlq je qagh yab! SoH mej!" Seven growled out in perfect Klingon, 'He can't hurt you! He has the heart of a targ and serpent worms for brains! Leave him!'. B'Elanna froze and listened to her friend. She howled in laughter and turned to face Seven.

"You're right of course be'basvaj! I'll see you later helmrat. Bye, Harry." B'Elanna turned on her heel and resumed her course for the turbolift with Seven in tow.

"What the hell did that drone say?" Tom whined to Harry.

"Stow it, Tom. You're being an ass." Harry pushed him down the hall in the other direction.

"Hell no! I'm gonna get that half-breed bitch! If she thinks she can treat me that way she's mistaken," He exclaimed.

Harry just stared at his friend in disbelief. "I don't think I know you, Tom." The Ops officer shook his head disgustedly and walked away leaving his friend alone in the corridor.

Seven heard the rest of Tom's ravings as she and B'Elanna approached the lift. Once B'Elanna got in the lift she stepped back and told her friend, "I have something I must attend to, but I will meet you in your quarters in a short while."

"Uh, sure, Seven," the engineer answered. "See you in a few then."

The lift door closed and the ex-drone turned back to where she knew Tom Paris had been last based on his still audible grumbling. She approached him from behind. When she was right on top of him, she pulled him up by his shirt collar and dangled him high in the air.

"You are a lucky fool Mr. Paris. You are lucky that I was here tonight and could keep B'Elanna from attacking you. She is certainly capable of doing you great bodily harm. I do not stop her to protect you, fool. She is my friend and I do not wish to see her or the ship damaged by her having to spend time in the brig for maiming our best helmsman. You are a fool for many reasons, the foremost being that you had the best mate on this ship and you threw her away for childish pursuits. You would be an even greater fool if you continue to believe I will allow you to disparage my friend. I have no compunction whatsoever in dealing with you myself if you continue in your folly. The threat of the brig is futile with me, as you well know, and the Captain can not make me follow any order I do not wish to follow." She grabbed a nearby piece of duranium plating from the ceiling, bending it down with her Borg enhanced hand, shaping it into a hook. She made sure he watched every movement as she crushed the solid metal, then turned him so that she could hang him off of it by the back of his shirt. "I have fought with the Captain, and faced down the Borg Queen. Do not test me. You will fail."

Seven turned and left him hanging there shouting epithets and flailing a few feet off the ground. As she walked away she could not help the satisfied smirk that took over her face.

Seven arrived at B'Elanna's quarters a little while later. The engineer let her in and eyed her suspiciously. The former drone was hiding something behind her back and had a playful smirk on her face.

"What do you have there Seven?" The Klingon asked.

"I had planned on giving this to you at a later date, but thought that tonight you might appreciate it. It is to thank you for your kindness out on the mountain, for caring for me while I was so distraught," Seven stated and held out a long blood red box.

"You didn't have to give me anything Seven. That's what friends do for each other," B'Elanna said, but the childish glee on her face gave away the fact that she wanted the gift anyway. When she opened the box, she gasped. A spectacular kut'luch, with a black blade and intricately carved scimitar handle stared up at her. Grasping the handle, it fit like it was made specifically for her hand. Running a finger lightly down the blade, she jumped and yelped after cutting herself unexpectedly. After sucking on her finger, she asked, "Kahless, Seven. Where did you get this?"

The blonde was ecstatic that her gift was so well received. Watching her friend's face light up, then display a wealth of emotion was all the reward she would ever need for her effort. "I made it for you jonwI'. The blade is duranium and the hilt tritanium. I thought you might enjoy adding it to your collection after I saw your skill with it in the battle simulation."

B'Elanna's breath froze in her chest. Never before had someone given her such a thoughtful gift, just for the giving. Realizing that the blonde had no expectations of return, sincerely wanting only to show her appreciation, the engineer was overcome with emotions. So many emotions she could not process them all. She reached out and gave the cool woman in front of her a deep embrace. "It's the best gift I've ever received Seven. Thank you."

"I am glad you like it B'Elanna. I will have the sheath finished within a few days. Then you will have a weapon as easily concealed as you did for the holodeck. Thankfully, we are not arguing in the engine room anymore, or I might really be worried for my safety." She said, deadpanning the last bit.

At the expected laugh, Seven pulled back some from the embrace and stared into the molasses brown eyes. She knew she was developing very deep feelings for her friend, but also knew that she valued the friendship more than any chances of an escalation. In times like this though, when the feisty woman held her so close, and her deep rich musk was so strong to the Borg enhanced senses, Seven felt like her cortical array was in overload. The blonde stepped back from the embrace, disguising her discomfort with a deep breath, walking over to the replicator. She ordered their favorite drinks and sat down on the couch. B'Elanna, still ogling her new toy, sat down next to her diving into questions about how the knife was made.

One week later, Voyager was once again on its way to the Alpha Quadrant. The crew's spirits were extremely high; seven days of shore leave and 20 days without attacks had left everyone unusually buoyant. The scout ship had encountered smooth sailing since leaving the planet, so it was not surprising that the first senior staff meeting was just now being held.

Lt. Torres noticed that the last person to enter was Seven of Nine. The blonde looked unaccountably stiff this morning. When B'Elanna looked at her friend, Seven's eyes were only slightly warmer than frozen over. It disturbed the engineer that this was the first time she had seen the former drone so formal in weeks. She spent the first half of the meeting ignoring the boring reports around her, instead trying to fathom what was bugging the blonde.

Her attention was diverted for a short while as she made her reports. She couldn't help bragging over her and Seven's improvements to the warp core, which was met with mostly happy faces. The only ones who didn't react joyously to the news were the sulking helmsman, the Vulcan who nevertheless raised his eyebrow in approval, and the still seemingly emotionless Seven.

After the meeting, the Captain stopped Seven and B'Elanna before they left. Janeway approached the two women, putting her arm around the blonde's lower back and her other hand on the engineer's shoulder. The redhead went into a short speech about how proud she was of them for working out their differences and for their accomplishments in engineering. At first, the Klingon was ecstatic for the praise, but something about Seven's reaction was unnerving her. The Borg had her jaw clenched so tightly that the muscles in her cheekbones stood out in relief. Her stance was extremely rigid and she wouldn't look the Captain in the eye. When Janeway finished, the former drone thanked her politely then vacated the room very quickly, leaving a stunned Torres behind with the older woman. B'Elanna turned to the Captain to say her polite goodbyes, so she could catch up with her friend, but as she did she could have sworn she caught Janeway leering at the Nordic beauty's retreat.

Leaving the conference room, B'Elanna took the turbolift down to Engineering. Not seeing her friend, she asked the computer for her location. The computer stated the former drone was currently located in Jeffries tube14 subsection 8. Crawling into the tube with a spanner in hand, she was determined to get to the bottom of Seven's cool behavior. She found Seven working on a relay conduit in the cramped space.

"Seven, as far as I know, we've repaired everything. So what are you doing?" B'Elanna asked in a gentle tone.

"This relay is out of alignment by 0.0035 percent. It is inefficient. I am aligning it," The blonde replied in cool crisp tones.

B'Elanna reached out and softly grasped the tall woman's shoulder. She could sense that Seven was on the edge of something extremely emotional and after the meeting she had begun to make some guesses. None of her suppositions were pleasant. Somehow though, after the interactions of the last couple of hours, the Klingon knew that they were likely.

"Seven, what's bothering you? Are you upset with the Captain?" the engineer asked softly.

At the mention of the Captain, the blonde became very stiff and inhaled sharply. "It is irrelevant. I must make these adjustments." That was a confirmation of sorts to B'Elanna's theory.

"You're hurting, Seven. I want to help," she said as she soothed the rigid back with her hand.

"My pain is irrelevant," the Borg replied weakly.

B'Elanna grabbed Seven's shoulders, forcefully spinning the woman around to face her.

"Not to me," the Klingon pleaded. "I don't like to see you hurting this way. I want to see you happy."

Seven was stunned by the vehemence in her friend's voice. It seemed that it was upsetting B'Elanna greatly to see the former drone saddened. It left her slightly confused as to why the engineer was so invested in her emotions. She was looking into her friend's doe brown eyes and felt trapped by their beauty. The energy and emotion in those eyes was enrapturing and she desired the leave to get lost in them forever.

B'Elanna watched the play of emotions over the blonde's face. The Borg mask was falling slowly, but her eyes were already much more expressive than they had been during the meeting. The ice chips had fallen away and left the azure behind, the warmth that the Klingon saw when she knew that Seven was truly feeling again. A single tear escaped Seven's human eye, but before it could travel very far down her cheek, the slightly older woman reached out, cupping the porcelain cheek in her palm, stopping the tear with her thumb. The blonde closed her eyes, leaning into the contact, her mouth parting slightly with a small gasp. 'Kahless, she's beautiful,' the engineer thought. Something deep inside of the warrior called out for this friend, howled for this moment. Her Klingon side was having no trouble telling her to claim the beauty. Her human side was hard pressed to resist having known no other who would honor her human heart as much as the Borg had in the past few weeks.

Time slowed to crawl for the two women. B'Elanna was drawing the blonde closer, leaning up to her lips, as unerringly as a moth to a flame. She knew no other feelings than the desire to kiss the willowy woman with all the tender compassion she felt for her. The former drone was caught in a well of desire to be held in the embrace of this warrior woman. Her Borg enhanced senses were overloading. The full smell of the Klingon, the slight callous of the hand that gentled her face, the sound of the warrior's hearts beating louder, quicker in her chest all served to cause a cascade reaction in the Borg, culminating in a shiver of desire. As the lithe woman's lips were almost upon her own, Seven could taste the air that was escaping the Klingon's mouth and it caused her to moan. Their lips collided slowly, tenderly, but shortly after she could feel the caramel beauty's tongue seeking entrance, which she granted. The kiss began to build and B'Elanna started to run her hand down Seven's face, and slowly to the back of her neck to pull her in tighter.

Then all hell broke loose as the red alert Klaxon shattered the moment and they were tossed aside in the tubes wildly. Seven regained her composure more quickly and was able to catch B'Elanna as she was thrown from another rocking of the ship. The engineer opened her eyes to find her head only inches from a support beam. Suddenly the tube was spinning. It took the woman a moment to realize that Seven had literally picked her up and spun her to face the Jeffries tube exit. Gaining her balance, she sprinted as quickly as possible through the tubes heading back for her engine room, the blonde on her heels.

As the engineer jumped out the tube access, she surveyed her room, finding it in complete disarray, staff running about diligently. Immediately she began barking orders and summarizing what tasks need to be handled first. Looking over her shoulder, she caught sight of the blonde lifting an ensign off the floor. The Borg steadied the young man, then raced over to a console calling up commands.

B'Elanna was working at her console to increase shield integrity when the ship careened aft. Collecting herself off the floor, she jumped back up and looked over the data flowing over the console. It wasn't good. Whoever was attacking them was strong, and their shields were down to sixty percent. She could see that Tuvok was calling up a heavy torpedo assignment, so she had hope that they would make it through quickly. Their weapons systems hadn't been damaged thus far, giving them good odds.

There was a high pitched whining noise behind her and she turned in time to see six tall furry humanoids materialize. One of the ugly creatures saw her and took aim. She ducked his wild shot, but was dismayed when she heard the explosion behind her. Turning just in time to see the main power and control relay for the antimatter reactant injectors finish exploding, B'Elanna knew she only had minutes to reroute control and power before a cascade reaction began. The ships safety's were still online thankfully, so the Intrepid class ship dropped completely out of warp, causing most of the invading party to fall. Being prepared for that eventuality, the engineer held onto her console tightly with one hand, entering command furiously with the other.

Re-routing control over the ARIs was the highest priority in the Klingon's mind. An uncontrolled release of antimatter without the magnetic constrictors could overload the warp drive chamber. An uncontrolled release might wipe out both ships. She had the power re-routed and was working on the computer control when she heard another disruptor blast at her back. Expecting to be hit with the blast, she was surprised to hear a low female grunt instead.

Seven of Nine was behind her fighting off the invaders, and had taken the blast meant for B'Elanna. The blonde growled and leaped from her spot to the would be attacker, ripping his disruptor away and using it to knock him out cold. She tossed the weapon aside and dispatched two more of the invaders with her bare hands. The sickening sound of necks snapping gave the engineer a good idea who would win the battle, so she hurried back to her task.

As she finished, she heaved a sigh of relief. After informing the Captain that they once again had warp, she ran through the remaining systems, assuring herself that the other important systems were not in immediate danger. Turning back to find the drone and assist her she found all of their invaders but one unconscious or dead on the floor. The remaining attacker was being held high above the floor by Seven's grip around his throat. B'Elanna wasn't sure but she had a good idea that the garbled noises and drool leaving his mouth weren't normal. She rushed over to the Borg and put her hand on the blonde's arm.

"You can let him go now, Seven. Put him down." B'Elanna was using her best soothing voice but the blonde barely budged.

"Species 9763. A despicable race not worthy of assimilation. They prey upon the weak, plundering each sector they roam through, capturing whoever they can. After stealing their technology, they torture and eat their victims." The blonde practically spat out her summation of the race. Her face was a tortured mask of disgust.

As B'Elanna tried to find something to say to calm the woman, she noticed blood pouring down from a wound in Seven's stomach. The biosuit was scorched leaving a gaping hole which revealed a twisted mass of implants and burned skin. The most alarming thing for the Klingon was that she could actually see what looked like pulsing internal organs pushing up against the metal of the implants. The blood pouring from the wound had already stained a large portion of the blue biosuit and the stain was traveling down her hip and thigh.

Security poured in finally and accessed the situation, training their weapons on the surviving invaders. Seven tossed the furry creature to one of the security officers. She turned to head to a console. B'Elanna was so surprised she didn't immediately understand what the former drone was doing. As the Borg's hands began flying over the console trying to correct damage to systems, the Klingon was jarred back to reality. She grabbed her friend by the shoulder and said to her firmly, "Seven, you're injured. You've got to go to Sickbay."

"My injuries are irrelevant. You need my help, B'Elanna. I can report to the sickbay after we have fixed the damage," Seven stated calmly.

"Listen you thick-headed Borg. I thought I already told you that you matter to me and I don't like seeing you hurt. I won't be able to work knowing you're sitting here bleeding and in pain," she growled out, then softened her tone. "Please bangwI', take care of yourself for me," the engineer pleaded.

"bangwI'?" Seven asked softly in disbelief. B'Elanna had just called her 'my love.' Her heart caught in her throat and she felt dizzy. The most beautiful woman on the ship had just declared a love for her that she had never dreamt possible. She reached out and cupped B'Elanna's face in her palm. "HltojQo'." (Don't deceive me.)

"jI'Ip bangwI' Hija'. qawIv. " (I vow, my love. It's true. I choose you.) B'Elanna answered, kissing the palm of the beauty's hand.

Seven smiled radiantly. "jIQuch bangwI'." (I am happy, my love.) she leaned down and tenderly kissed the smaller woman. Her head was spinning, she had never known such joy. She felt dizzy with all her emotions, then realized, it wasn't all emotion. "B'Elanna…" she croaked out as she passed out and fell into the warriors arms.

B'Elanna was scared. She had never seen anything overwhelm the Borg physically. She activated her comm. badge and ordered an emergency beam out to sickbay.

Part 10

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