DISCLAIMER: Seven, B'Elanna and the gang are the property of Paramount. I have taken the liberty of changing the timeline around to enhance my story. If you're a purest like my partner, I'm sorry. Blame it on my muse; she told me to do it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Sara Crusade

With nothing more to do to save her crew from the effects of the nebula Seven of Nine, Astrometrics Officer on board the Federation Starship Voyager, leaned back against a bulkhead in the cargo bay where the ship's crew lie in stasis. She allowed her body to slide down to the deck until she was seated, and she waited. Seven of Nine wrapped her arms around herself as the chill of the ship began to settle in her body. She thought about how very far she'd come from being the Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One when a drone in the Borg collective, to being an individual on a starship made up mainly of humans - all who are individual.

The nebula had negatively impacted the Voyager crew, causing them to become severely ill. Voyager's Captain, Katherine Janeway, had tasked Seven of Nine to stand watch over the ship while the crew lie in stasis for the month-long journey to the other side of the nebula. It had become Seven's responsibility to keep the ship's systems operating, to protect the ship and her crew, and to awaken the crew when they had made safe passage. What Seven hadn't counted on was the loneliness that settled in her bones like frigid winter winds. And though she would give her life for her Starfleet collective without hesitation, she didn't calculate that the odds might actually come to that on this leg of their journey home to Earth.

With the environmental controls turned off, to give much needed power to the stasis units, Seven felt herself begin to tremble. She pulled her arms more tightly around her body and drew her knees up to her chest. It would only be two hours until the stasis chambers opened, releasing the crew back into the ship. Seven doubted she could make it that long. She knew her Borg nanoprobes would do everything in their power to keep her body functioning, but with the oxygen supply dwindling as quickly as the temperature dropped, Seven calculated the odds were against her this time.

With nothing to do but wait, Seven began recalling memories of her life on board Voyager. She found herself dwelling mainly on her memories of B'Elanna Torres, the ship's Chief of Engineering. Closing her eyes, and sighing, Seven of Nine remembered..

Seven of Nine had been on board Voyager for over three years. In all that time she had spent most of her associations with B'Elanna Torres in heated arguments. Most of the crew believed that they would one day come to blows. The truth was, however, that Seven loved to argue with the Chief Engineer, and sometimes even provoked disagreements just to get a reaction. Torres had something Seven didn't believe she'd ever have; passion. When Seven was near B'Elanna she felt alive. Seven respected and admired everything about the Human-Klingon hybrid, except the way she insulted her. The Lieutenant's verbal cuts about Seven's Borgness were a constant reminder to Seven that, no matter what her feelings for B'Elanna, she would never be deemed worthy enough of friendship with the Lieutenant.

Seven remembered working in engineering with Lieutenant Torres while hiding from the ship's Doctor. Her implants were shutting down because her cortical node had destabilized. Believing she might not pull through the ordeal, Seven opened up slightly to B'Elanna.

B'Elanna began the conversation, "He's looking for you. The Doctor. I ran into him in the corridor. He's about 30 seconds away from calling a ship wide alert."

"Are you going to tell him where I am?"

"Nope. I know what it's like to be stuck in Sickbay. I've escaped the Doctor myself once or twice."

"Thank you," Seven said, genuinely grateful.

"Any time."

"Lieutenant, when you die, do you believe your spirit will go to Stovokor?"

"You shouldn't be thinking about dying."

"According to the Doctor's simulations, any attempt to adapt the salvaged node will fail." Seven repeated her question, "Stovokor, Lieutenant. Do you believe you'll go there?"

"I guess it all depends on how 'honorable' my death is," B'Elanna responded somewhat uneasily.

"But you do believe there's something after death?"

"I hope so. What about you?"

"The Borg have no concept of an afterlife. However, when a drone is deactivated its memories continue to reside in the Collective's consciousness. As long as the hive exists so will a part of that drone."

"You don't seem to take much comfort in that."

"My link to the Collective has been severed for nearly four years. If I die, everything that I've accomplished in that time, everything I achieved as an individual, will be lost. My memories, my experiences, will be as if they - as if I never existed."

"I think you're a little more memorable than you're giving yourself credit for. You don't need the Collective to validate your existence. You've made an impact on every member of this crew, that's your legacy."

Seven remembered how her heart restricted at the pain of not being able to tell the Chief more. about how she felt about her, about her hopes and dreams for the future. She had wanted to ask B'Elanna to hold her, and if she died, to remember her.

Seven cradled her head in her arms, as they rested on her drawn up knees. She felt her heart restricting, as it did back then in engineering, knowing that she would never be able to tell B'Elanna how she felt. She flashed upon another memory.

Seven had only been part of Voyager's crew for about two years when the ship came upon a destroyed Borg cube. The closer the Intrepid Class Starship moved toward the Borg debris field, the more Seven of Nine was possessed by personalities of individuals whom she had assimilated. One personality, a Klingon warrior, seized upon Seven's unrequited feelings for B'Elanna and expressed them openly in main engineering.

Seven sniffed the air and turned to see the half Klingon standing near a workstation. "I am the Son of K'Vach," Seven roared. "Your blood is sweet. You will make a good mate!" Pinning B'Elanna with her arms, Seven held her and bit her left cheek as a mark that B'Elanna was mated to the Son of K'Vach.

Later that day, when in control of herself again, Seven returned to engineering to assist the Chief Engineer. Standing side by side at a workstation in front of the warp core B'Elanna tried to lighten the mood with the ex-Borg.

"So, does this count as our second date?"

Seven felt somewhat embarrassed by the compact woman's comment. 'If she only knew what I feel for her,' Seven thought.

Seven had never forgotten the taste of B'Elanna's sweet blood, or the feel of her skin against her mouth. Although she wasn't held responsible for the act of her Klingon sub-personality, she knew his actions betrayed her true feelings, and her eidetic memory tortured her by making her relive the moment whenever they were near each other.

A single tear slid down Seven's cold cheek. She refused to allow her last breaths to be sobs of pain. Crying was an inefficient use of energy and it clouded the mind from reason and logic. As Seven tried to control her emotions, she felt her body shivering. Even the biosuit, with its skin-tight design, couldn't keep her warm enough. Letting the errant tear soak into her clothing, she thought back to a recent event in the mess hall, just before Voyager reached the nebula.

Sitting alone in the mess hall, Seven of Nine watched the crewmembers dining on Neelix's most recent edible concoction. She sipped at her thick, gray nutritional supplement, and allowed herself to engage in the act of pondering - pondering over what it would be like to truly feel like part of the Voyager crew. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't see the Chief of Engineering stride over to her table carrying a tray of dinner.

"Seven.," said B'Elanna trying to capture the blonde's attention. When Seven looked up, B'Elanna continued, "May I sit with you?"

"Of course, Lieutenant," Seven responded in her matter-of-fact way. 'The dining hall is for utilization by all the crew,' Seven thought to herself. She had wanted to be excited that the half-Klingon had chosen her table, but doubted there was much significance to it.

"Thanks," B'Elanna responded cheerily. "I thought I'd take a chance on Neelix's cooking for a change. I hear he's experimenting with something new he's grown in the hydroponics bay. I believe he calls it sapa. uh. spari." Neelix, hearing B'Elanna complimenting his latest recipe, came over and chimed in.

"Sparassis Crispa, Lieutenant. It's tough to say, but easy to chew!" The Talaxian smiled at the two women. They both stared at Neelix's apron, drawn in by the bright polka-dots. Before they could ask him about it, he sensed their curiosity and spoke up.

"I see you eyeing my new apron," Neelix said, puffing his chest out in pride and tugging at a whisker. "Colorful isn't it?"

"It's, uh, definitely bright Neelix," B'Elanna responded with a smirk.

"I was looking over old Earth patterns, trying to find something to perk up the mess hall and cheer the crew." Seeing two crewmen approaching his kitchen, he excused himself to serve dinner.

"Sorry ladies, I've got to go. It looks like Ensigns' Michael and Jackson are waiting to try some of my delicious new recipe."

Seven had felt somewhat relieved when the furry Cook and Morale Officer had come over to the table. She wanted so much to talk with B'Elanna, the way the Doctor informed her friends do. She wanted to reach out and take B'Elanna's hand as it rested motionless on the table. Seven wanted to do and say many things, but reasoning, and insecurity, won out and she sat silently by instead.

Seven looked over at B'Elanna. The darker woman looked back at her, and it looked to Seven like B'Elanna was about to say something. B'Elanna's lips parted and her face softened for just a second, and then the mask of Lieutenant Torres fell firmly back into place.

"Well, I need to get back to engineering. I have some tests to run. Have a good night, Seven." With that said, B'Elanna got up from the table, picked up her tray of partially eaten food and walked out of the dining hall. It was the last time Seven saw the compact woman alone before the nebula forced all the crew into stasis chambers in the cargo bay.

Seven lifted her head from her arms and looked up at the stasis chambers in front of her. There were only about 40 minutes left before the crew awoke. Seven wasn't sure of the exact time anymore, as her internal chronometer seemed to be damaged from the intense cold that was blanketing the ship. Looking down at her hands Seven could see the tips of her fingers on her fully human hand were blue, and white vapors escaped from her mouth when she exhaled. She noted it was also more difficult to breathe in the frigid air, and her inhalations were becoming shallow.

'I love you, B'Elanna,' Seven thought sadly. There was little time left for her, she realized, but Seven didn't want her feelings for the Human-Klingon hybrid to go unrecognized. 'I may not be able to express my feelings toward you while living Bang'wI, but I will let you know how important you have been in my life.'

"Computer, begin personal log." Seven listened as the computer chirped its compliance with her command.

"Lieutenant Torres. B'Elanna. It has been my honor to serve aboard Voyager with you. With all the crew, and with Captain Janeway. Please let her know how important her faith in me has been. With her help, I almost feel redeemed." Seven paused to collect her thoughts, feeling like she was rambling, and in the wrong direction.

"I know we have often not gotten along and have argued fiercely at times... especially with regards to operations in engineering. But I want you to know I have no ill feelings toward you. On the contrary." Seven paused again, wondering if she could continue with her confession.

"...my feelings for you run very deep.(cough) I have felt alive in your presence... your passion has drawn me to you, as I secretly hoped that one day I could experience that passion directed at me. (cough)" Seven felt her chest constricting as her oxygen supply was almost depleted. She was numb and the chill no longer seemed to bother her.

"As much as Katherine's faith in me has worked to redeem me, your passion for life has given me the will to live. Having you in my life has given me strength and hope. I only wish I could have given you something... something tangible to show you what I feel. I have known my feelings for you for many years, and wish I had been able to move beyond my cowardice to tell you." Seven paused to attempt inhaling deeply. Only able to gasp she was greeted with a burning in her lungs instead. Seven was feeling light headed and she experienced a loud rush in her ears, as if she was being forced through a wind tunnel.

Coughing, Seven continued, "I can think of nothing and no one else as I wait here to die... B'Elanna. I love you. Computer, end personal log, and deliver the message as urgent to Lieutenant Torres after she awakens. Authorization Seven of Nine Omega Tau Theta." With her last breath, she uttered her authorization and slipped into unconsciousness.

As the stasis chambers prepared to open, the ship's environmental systems came back on line. It took little time for Voyager to reach adequate temperature and oxygenation level. Captain Janeway's unit had been one of the first to open and discharge its cargo. All the Senior Staff had been programmed to awaken first. Stretching her arms and back she turned to scan the cargo bay. That's when she saw Seven of Nine lying slumped over against the bulkhead. Running to Seven, the Captain called out for her other Senior Officers to join her. As she reached down to feel for a pulse on the motionless woman, B'Elanna and Chakotay came running up beside her.

"Janeway to the Doctor!" There was no response. Captain Janeway was unaware that while she and her crew slept through the nebula the Emergency Medical Hologram's matrix had gone off line with many of Voyager's other systems. When she got no response from the Doctor, Janeway initiated a site to site transport.

"Computer, emergency transport to sickbay. Authorization Janeway Theta Alpha Alpha!" Janeway turned to face her colleagues while kneeling down beside Seven of Nine. As if answering B'Elanna's non-verbal question, Janeway barked out, "She's dead!" Light particles scattered in the small area around Seven's body as she and the Captain were beamed away.

B'Elanna stared at Commander Chakotay, Voyager's second in command, with a look of utter disbelief. Voyager's Helmsman, Tom Paris, overheard the Captain and was aware that the Doctor had not responded to the hail. He queried the ship's computer for the status of the EMH. When the computer's female voice responded that the Doctor was off line Paris, who also had the role of Doctor's Assistant, commanded the computer to transfer him to the sick bay with a site to site transport.

B'Elanna quickly turned to Chakotay, "I'll be in engineering getting the Doctor back on line." Chakotay nodded his approval, and with that the Chief of Engineering headed out the cargo bay doors for main engineering.

"Computer, I want a diagnostic of ship's systems." B'Elanna stood at the main workstation to access the information stored in Voyager's memory about ship operations during the journey through the nebula. A warning message popped up on her screen.

"You have an urgent message awaiting delivery from Seven of Nine."

Stunned, the half-Klingon stood with her mouth agape for a moment before the seriousness of the current situation brought her back into focus. The Lieutenant ignored the message for the time being to recover the ship's Doctor.

"Sorry Seven, not right now." B'Elanna looked at the diagnostic data that had started streaming in, and saw that the nebula had negatively affected Voyager's electrical systems. It appeared Seven of Nine had shut the Doctor's program down to avoid any further damage to his matrix. Making a few adjustments to his program, she reinitialized the EMH and brought him back on line in the sick bay. B'Elanna sighed, hoping that there was something the Doctor could do to bring Seven back.

Crewmembers began to slowly trickle in to engineering, having come out of stasis, so the Chief moved to her office. Gingerly, the compact woman retrieved the emergency message from Seven. B'Elanna held her breath as she waited to hear the message Seven had recorded her...

"Lieutenant Torres. B'Elanna. It has been my honor to serve aboard Voyager with you. With all the crew, and with Captain Janeway. Please let her know how important her faith in me has been. With her help, I almost feel redeemed." B'Elanna stood behind her desk, leaning against the desktop with both her hands. She exhaled and resumed breathing again, taking in shallower breaths than normal.

"I know we have often not gotten along and have argued fiercely at times... especially with regards to operations in engineering. But I want you to know I have no ill feelings toward you. On the contrary, my feelings for you run very deep. I have felt alive in your presence... your passion has drawn me to you, as I secretly hoped that one day I could experience that passion directed at me." B'Elanna dropped down in her chair. She could hear Seven coughing as she spoke. The Lieutenant noticed how small Seven's voice seemed compared to her usual arrogant confidence. She could even hear a slight trembling in Seven's voice.

"As much as Katherine's faith in me has worked to redeem me, your passion for life has given me the will to live. Having you in my life has given me strength and hope. I only wish I could have given you something... something tangible to show you what I feel. I have known my feelings for you for many years, and wish I had been able to move beyond my cowardice to tell you." B'Elanna's breath caught at the same moment she heard Seven gasping for breath as she spoke. B'Elanna felt a burning and constriction in the upper part of her body as her chest tightened.

"I can think of nothing and no one else as I wait here to die... B'Elanna. I love you." B'Elanna felt her hearts drop like a stone thrown from the top of the Eiffel Tower. She buried her face in her hands as a single tear escaped and traveled down her cheek.

"Oh Kahless, Seven. what have I done," B'Elanna whispered.

The doors to sick bay opened, and Captain Janeway and the Doctor turned their heads to see the compact Chief of Engineering walk in. They had been discussing the circumstances leading to Seven of Nine's death, as she lay motionless and pale on a bio bed. B'Elanna stepped a few paces into the room and then stood there, staring at the body of the blonde Astrometrics Officer. B'Elanna said nothing as she replayed Seven's message in her head. She had hoped that the Doctor had managed to pull off a miracle, as he so often did, and bring the ex-Borg back to life.

Captain Janeway started to approach the Lieutenant, but stopped herself when she saw the look of anguish upon her face. Janeway wasn't sure why B'Elanna would be so emotional about the loss of a crewmate she seemed to dislike, but she was wise enough to know there was more to the situation with the Lieutenant than was obvious. Standing half way between the bio bed and the half-Klingon, Janeway addressed the distressed woman.


"I just thought something might have changed," B'Elanna interrupted, steeling herself to talk.

"The Doctor tried everything he could to save Seven. So did Tom. We were too late." Janeway almost whispered her response, gauging her tone on B'Elanna's facial expressions. Janeway tried to approach the Lieutenant again, to diminish the gap between them, but as she took a step closer B'Elanna turned quickly and exited the sick bay.

B'Elanna ran through the corridor to grab a turbolift and get to her quarters uninterrupted. As she bolted out of the turbolift she ran headlong into Tom Paris, the Helmsman and B'Elanna's on-again, off-again beau.

"Hey B'Elanna," Tom started. He reached out to put his hands on her shoulders.

"Not now Tom," B'Elanna countered, backing away from his touch.

"I thought we could get some food in the mess hall together. you know, since we've been in stasis so long. I thought maybe we could..."

"I...I can't. Maybe later." The dark-haired woman continued to move away from the Helmsman and toward her quarters. She tried not to let her feelings of anger and sadness show on her face, but her voice was not its usual forceful tone.

Tom seceded and backed off, "Sure B'Elanna. Call me if you need to talk." He stood in the corridor and watched the Chief Engineer retreat to her quarters. He lowered his head slightly and wondered if B'Elanna had been affected by the death of Seven of Nine.

Once inside her quarters, B'Elanna commanded the computer to dim the lights. She walked over to her desk and pulled her incense burner off the shelf, and placing it on the table in front of her sofa, lit some resin. B'Elanna slid down onto the deck, resting her back against the sofa, and she closed her eyes tightly. Deeply inhaling the smoke from the burning resin, the half-Klingon tried to remember the face of the woman whose dying breath was a pronouncement of love.

As she focused in her mind on the soft features of Seven's face; her blue eyes, ivory skin, and full lips, she saw the non-emotive Borg mask slip into place that Seven of Nine frequently wore when they were near each other. In her mind, B'Elanna heard her own voice screaming at Seven. She felt a heat rise to her face as she remembered all the angry and hateful things she said and felt about Seven of Nine. B'Elanna covered her ears with her hands, as if she could stop hearing her upsetting memories that way.

B'Elanna forced herself to focus on a meditation that she learned from Tuvok. It was meant to calm her anger and quiet her mind. As she took deep breaths, and repeated the mantra to herself, she found her mind drifting toward other memories.

B'Elanna remembered standing in main engineering next to Seven and a new drone named One. She felt apprehension and anxiety around One, who had been created by a fusing of Seven of Nine's Borg physiology with the Doctor's advanced mobile emitter. The last thing she believed Voyager needed was another Borg, but she couldn't help but be impressed with his skills in engineering that day, as they collaborated to predict the expansion rate of a proto-nebula.

The Lieutenant remembered watching how Seven reacted to One, and thought that she looked rather proud, like a mother would, when One was able to explain to the Chief Engineer about the required algorhythm for measuring the proto-nebula. B'Elanna recalled observing many such looks of pride, and even love, coming from the stoic ex-Borg when in the presence of Mizoti and the other Borg children, and Naomi Wildman. B'Elanna chastised herself for not having paid attention to the subtle signs that Seven of Nine was not an emotionless drone.

Then B'Elanna remembered the way Seven withdrew from the crew, even from their arguments, after the Borg children return to their homes and One allowed himself to die. Her chest constricted as she thought about the pain Seven must have suffered through alone.

Suddenly she was with Seven of Nine in engineering, talking about Seven's fear of death. Seven's cortical node had destabilized causing a malfunction of her implants. She remembered that the Doctor was looking for Seven, but the Astrometrics Officer had chosen engineering as her hideout. Recalling the memory, B'Elanna sighed deeply realizing that Seven hadn't chosen engineering because she could hide there; she'd chosen it so she could be with B'Elanna. Believing that she might die, Seven had sought solace from the one person she most wanted to be comforted by. B'Elanna remembered the vulnerability exposed ever-so-slightly on Seven's face, and the hint of uncertainty in her voice. As usual, B'Elanna had forced herself to brush it off, pretending the emotions weren't there.

B'Elanna watched Seven's face, in her memory, and felt a stirring in the pit of her stomach. She realized she'd often felt that stirring around Seven, but masked it with her anger and indifference.

Crouching together in a Jeffries Tube, B'Elanna and Seven of Nine worked together to overcome a problem in one of the relays. B'Elanna had recoiled at one of Seven's usual abrasive statements. That damn Borg always seemed to think she was superior to everyone else. The Lieutenant addressed Seven, telling her the story of how she had to learn to follow Starfleet regulations when she came on board. She told Seven that she needed to learn to do the same.

B'Elanna remembered feeling a connection to Seven, for only a moment, as she discussed how she had been an outsider coming in, much as Seven had been. The connection ended when B'Elanna's anger rose up at the thought that Seven of Nine believed herself to be superior. Looking back, B'Elanna realized Seven hadn't felt superior as much as scared. Like B'Elanna, going from the Marquis with whom she felt safe to the intimidation of Starfleet, Seven of Nine had left the safety of the Borg Collective to become an individual aboard a ship of people afraid of her.

B'Elanna cursed at herself for the petty way in which she'd treated Seven. Her anger was a front for her jealousy at Janeway spending so much time with Seven, when she had been the one taken under the Captain's wing before. 'How could I have been so blind,' B'Elanna asked herself.

B'Elanna's memories flashed back to main engineering, standing near the warp core when Seven of Nine came toward her screaming as if a Klingon warrior.

"I am the son of K'Vach," Seven roared. "Your blood is sweet. You will make a good mate!" The Chief of Engineering remembered being pinned in Seven's arms, as Seven held her and bit her left cheek to mark that she and B'Elanna were mated.

B'Elanna felt a rush of adrenaline flow from her hearts to her groin as she recalled the incident. It had happened then as well, but the feeling had made the half-Klingon embarrassed, and she'd hidden it with anger. The compact woman reached up and touched her cheek softly, where Seven had bitten her years ago. Her body began to wrack in sobs as she understood that the son of K'Vach had acted on Seven's true feelings for B'Elanna.

She couldn't stand to sit down anymore, and B'Elanna jumped up from her position on the deck of her quarters and faced her viewport. Wrapping her arms tightly around her throbbing chest, B'Elanna squeezed her eyes shut even tighter than before.

"I'm sorry Seven. I'm so sorry Seven..." She repeated this mantra in a whisper, and as she did, B'Elanna began to think of how things could have been.

B'Elanna opened her eyes and stared out into space. Tears rushed down her cheeks unimpeded, and her fists clenched as she continued to hold herself. From somewhere deep within her, B'Elanna felt a moan escape her lips. It started low becoming louder until it expressed all of her excruciating pain, anger, and sadness. She collapsed to the deck as she lamented her loss and what might have been.

The End

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