DISCLAIMER: Seven, B'Elanna and all things Star Trek as everyone knows do not belong to me, and I'm just borrowing them. Additionally the first joke told by Captain Janeway is likewise borrowed, but unfortunately I don't know where it originates from. I read it on jjchopper's tumblr (http://jumblr-crumblr.tumblr.com/) and thinking it was hers set out to obtain permission to use it. (do check out her deviantart account as well, she has some very funny STV jokes on there, although they tend to be J/7) Should anyone that reads this know where the joke comes from, then please tell me so that I can give proper credit.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This and everything else I've written is also available at my own fic site http://ryufic.blogspot.se/
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To rosmari.karlssonfaltin[at]telia.com

Laugh With Me
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson


Some days in the Delta Quadrant was more trying than others. Some days even had B'Elanna Torres turn her eyes towards distant bulkheads and wonder what higher power or potential deity she had managed to piss off that day.

For most part B'Elanna Torres would have said that the day everything changed for her was one of the latter.

It started innocuously enough, for Voyager at least. A slight near-miss with a hostile nebula had happened during the nightshift, something no-one onboard took lightly anymore, but thankfully B'Elanna's much put-upon ship had escaped not much worse for wear this time. Hostile nebulas or things masquerading as such were after all Voyager's worst nemesis, regardless of what the Borg might consider themselves, and tended to exact a heavy toll on ship and crew alike. The morning senior staff meeting had reminded B'Elanna that Neelix latest and much dreaded social event was scheduled for that evening, and made her vaguely formed plans of getting rest moot.

Protests from Seven regarding irrelevant and unproductive activities ensured that Captain Janeway decreed that attendance was mandatory, and no absences would be excused. Torn between sarcastically thanking Seven and simply slamming her own head on the briefing room table, B'Elanna was just too tired to say or do either.

She did wonder however, how a woman as smart as Seven could somehow fail to realize after repeating the same pattern again and again, that the best thing she could do for these enforced social events was to keep her mouth shut?

The day after that had been rather average, as if to lull B'Elanna into a false sense of security. There was a fair amount of work to do, which was the way that B'Elanna liked it, but nothing was altogether pressing. Seven crossed her path a few times to annoy her, or possibly to make alterations to Astrometrics, but B'Elanna kept her cool. Tom also crossed her path a few times, managing to be even more annoying with his immature giggling and secretive comments suggesting that he had something planned for the party that she wasn't going to find out about. She didn't have the patience, or the interest, to deal with him so she sent him away.

And so the evening arrived, and B'Elanna was well aware that she was late. Some last minute work had cropped up, of course, but mostly she had just been procrastinating, knowing that thanks to Seven's intervention there would be no casual dropping in to make her appearance and then take off quickly tonight.

When she got there the party was already in full swing, and in fairly good spirits too. Once more ignoring Tom, B'Elanna walked up to Harry and chatted with him, moving on to mingle with Chakotay, and Nicoletti, and finally wound up talking to Neelix and Sam Wildman.

That was when it happened.

A strange sound registered over the general noise of the room, and gradually the room hushed as everyone, B'Elanna included, stopped talking and turned towards the sound. At first B'Elanna couldn't believe her eyes.

"an, an you wanna hear a joke, Schevun?" Captain Janeway boomed merrily, clearly drunk out of her mind, as she waved her mug about in one hand so wildly that the drink in it sloshed over the edges. Her other arm was slung companionably across the shoulders of an even more incredible sight, a slouching and loose-limbed Seven who was staring drunkenly into her obviously empty mug with narrow eyes, as if more of her beverage would appear if she did so.

"The Prime Directive!"

A brief moment of silence followed, and then Janeway released Seven to slap herself on the leg as she laughed uproariously. Another second of Seven squinting as she tilted her head in thought, and then something completely unprecedented happened.

Seven smiled, a big, toothy, amazing smile, and burst out laughing. It was a full, deep belly laugh that pulled the already unsteady woman first to her knees, and then finally down on the floor. Even lying down on the floor with both arms held to her stomach, Seven howled with laughter.

Pleased with herself, Captain Janeway laughed harder when Seven started to and seemed unable to stop. "Schtil got it." She declared and flopped down on the floor next to the laughing Seven. "Hey, Schevun? Wanna hear anuther?"

She lifted her mostly empty mug and crowed to the room. "The Temporal Prime Directive!"

Renewed gales of laughter erupted from the prone Seven, and Janeway joined in, letting go of her mug to slam her hand into the floor while she laughed raucously.

"I... have one... Captain." Seven gasped after a long moment of laughing, her voice strained from her alcohol-induced hilarity though her mode of speech was unaffected, and with one slender blue-clad arm being waived about unsteadily in Janeway's direction. "A pilot... at the helm... and the helm itself... during flight... in a starship!"

Yet more howling, and after a second of blinking, Janeway started up again. "Gud one!" The Captain declared, now face-first into the flooring and apparently finding nothing wrong in that arrangement.

"What in Gre'thor is going on?" B'Elanna wrestled her mind back from the land of denial long enough to hiss at those around her. "Neelix? Anyone?"

Wide, horrified eyes and an almost room-covering dance of shaking faces met her in all directions.

"..." The shaking and snorting Captain said, indistinctly, while awkwardly trying to wave her arm at Seven but not able to figure out how it had twisted against the floor, and only managing a weak little twitch instead. "Akochemoyaaa!"

Unfortunately, the last howl was quite audible, and was followed by not only gales of drunken laughter from the two shuddering women rolling around on the floor, but also from a handful of other places in the room.

Slapping a hand across her eyes while discreetly trying not to smile, B'Elanna knew she had to do something, and fast. She didn't dare glance in Chakotay's direction, and cast her eyes everywhere else for inspiration.

She found it in a pale face with wide eyes that met hers for just a moment, and then turned to, with not much success, make a mad dash towards the door.

"TOM PARIS!" B'Elanna bellowed, earning snickers from the floor and a sea of faces turning towards the helmrat in question. "STOP RIGHT THERE!" Whether on instinct or for some other reason, several hands immediately reached out and stopped the escape attempt.

Tuvok emerged from the crowd just as an angry looking Chakotay stepped up closer. "I bet you anything that juvenile moron spiked the punch." B'Elanna growled, wishing in hindsight that she had paid more attention earlier that day. "No way the Captain would have let herself get soused otherwise."

"Oh dear," Neelix exclaimed, worried. "the punch is supposed to be alcohol free. I specifically promised Seven it would be."

"Will you handle him?" B'Elanna quietly asked Chakotay, mostly for the sake of getting her old friend out of the room as soon as possible before further laughing erupted.

"Oh yes." Was the clipped answer as the big man set off, but the anger and humiliation still burning in his eyes promised a world of hurt for one Thomas Eugene Paris.

With a slight nod to B'Elanna Tuvok walked over and simply lifted Captain Janeway up from the floor. Cradling the not entirely coherent woman surprisingly gently he stopped in front of B'Elanna and Neelix briefly. "I will escort the Captain to her quarters."

"...ey, pretty Schammy!" The recumbent woman grinned widely up at Sam Wildman who just happened to be in her line of sight. B'Elanna was surprised and vaguely curious to see a rather prominent blush spread on Sam's face at the Captain's drunken compliment. The Captain made to say something else, but Tuvok was quick to turn around and march out of the room.

"Neelix, Sam, can you take the crowd?" B'Elanna continued quietly. "Do damage control if you can, get the punch away somewhere the Doc can have a look at it later." She scanned the crowds for a certain familiar face. "Harry is around here somewhere, recruit him and whoever else you need that's not too drunk to help out."

As Sam and Neelix nodded and set off to do just that, it left really only one thing to do, and only one person to do it. B'Elanna sighed and internally cursed her luck as she walked over to Seven.

She was in no way prepared for the beaming smile directed at her when Seven spotted her, or her own reaction to it.

"Lieutenant Torres!" Seven exclaimed, looking and sounding delighted. "Hello!" The awkwardness of the little hand-wave was made up for with mass enthusiasm, and the sight of Seven beaming up at her, looking adorable while waving madly, made B'Elanna blush.

"Hello Seven." She said gently and crouched down to get a good grip under Seven's arms. Seven grew cross-eyed and let out a little 'ooooh!' as their faces inadvertently came close to one another, then a little squeak as B'Elanna heaved her up on her feet and hooked Seven's arm over her shoulders.

"The room is spinning." Seven confided to B'Elanna in a whisper. "I suspect damage to the internal stabilizers."

"Uhuh." B'Elanna muttered in amusement while staggering just a little before adjusting as Seven put most on her weight on B'Elanna. Seven weighed a lot more than she looked. "We're going to go to your quarters, Seven, can you walk with me?"

"I do not have quarters." Seven said conversationally while clinging to B'Elanna's neck, her feet far too out of control to be of much use. "I have some shared space in a storage facility."

That brought B'Elanna to a sudden, blinking halt. Seven didn't seem to mind, in fact Seven didn't seem to even notice that they'd stopped.

"Change of plans, then." B'Elanna said, frowning. "We'll go to my quarters instead."

Hearing no objections, she set out to do just that. She did idly wonder why Ms Giggles of Borg had suddenly gone so quiet, but didn't really look at Seven until they reached the turbolift. When she did, B'Elanna yelped, flinched hard and almost threw Seven off of her.

The other woman's face was very close to her own, and she stared at B'Elanna unblinkingly.

"Seven!" B'Elanna scolded, trying to calm herself from the shock as well as gathering Seven up again and into the lift. "What are you doing?" She leaned them both against the turbolift wall and stated her deck number.

"I was observing you." Seven informed blithely, not realizing at all that she had rattled B'Elanna badly. "I like observing you, Lieutenant."

"Oh." B'Elanna wasn't sure how to respond to that. Should she be flattered or insulted? She settled for awkward curiosity for now. "Why?"

In her current state Seven's usual head-tilt became a head-swivel as she appeared to give it some thought. B'Elanna gripped her a little tighter, just to be on the safe side.

"You are fascinating, Lieutenant." To B'Elanna's mind-blowing shock Seven reached up to lightly trace her hand over the side of B'Elanna's face. "Intelligent... beautiful... intuitive..."

The slow and gentle caress reached the outer edges of B'Elanna's forehead ridges, and Seven's voice and expression softened, became touched by something warm. "Perfect."

B'Elanna short-circuited. She could say or do nothing, she simply stood there blushing furiously as her heart threatened to pound right out of her chest. It was all she could do to even remember to take the occasional breath.

The hand disappeared, but it was no relief as instead a pale head leaned down to rest rather intimately on B'Elanna's shoulder.

"I like that sound." Seven revealed quietly. "It is unique. Like you."

B'Elanna stared dumbly into the door, realizing only as she felt a slight shift around her that she had been simply standing there as the lift door had both opened and closed, and that their turbolift was now on its way somewhere else, presumably to pick up other passengers.

"Forget this walking stuff." She muttered in embarrassment and awkwardly managed to jostle Seven enough to hit her commbadge. "Computer, two to beam directly to the Torres quarters."

Briefly the world turned into sparkles, and then they were standing in the middle of B'Elanna's living room. If Seven had even noticed the change she gave no sign.

Finally B'Elanna managed to wrestle herself into some semblance of control, and nudged Seven carefully. A weary little sigh was her only reward, because Seven did not even raise her head.

"Tired, Seven?" B'Elanna might be confused as anything and pretty darn embarrassed, but she was not without compassion. "You should probably try to get some sleep."

Seven grumbled as B'Elanna gently guided her towards the bedroom. "I do not like to sleep." Seven complained in something close to a whine. "Deck plating is hard, and uncomfortable."

B'Elanna stopped, connecting the two comments and not liking the conclusion. "Well, I assure you that you will be sleeping in my bed tonight, and my bed is quite soft. Okay?"

A bit more resolutely she steered the other woman towards the bed. "I'm sorry that you'll have to sleep in your uniform, but I'm afraid I don't know how you take that thing off."

Suggestions flashed through her mind, but they were mostly rude and involved for most part some kind of solvent and a rigorous scrubbing. Some part of her suggested the use of B'Elanna's teeth, which was the point where B'Elanna nearly tossed Seven in the direction of the bed. Forcing herself to calm instead, she gingerly supported Seven with one arm and reached over to pull the comforters down.

"It is done like this." Seven said helpfully and reached up to a spot on the side of the biosuit's neckline.

B'Elanna's head whipped around in horror just as Seven's biosuit fell to the floor in a little rush of air. For the umpteenth time that night, it seemed, B'Elanna felt herself freeze in place.

Seven gave a little all-over shrug and gingerly stepped out of her shoes. As her feet were still wobbly and uncooperative, and B'Elanna's supportive grip had gone numb, as she took a half-step to clear the shoes she ended up falling instead, face first, onto the bed.

She didn't move. B'Elanna on her part was too stunned to.

The image of naked Seven seemed to be permanently burned into her corneas, displaying against the ceiling with perfect clarity no matter how much B'Elanna blinked.

And then there was the warm weight pressed up against her side and resting on part of B'Elanna's arm.

"Kahless' left incisor!" B'Elanna swore under her breath and managed to ease herself out of bed. The sound of soft, even breathing indicating that Seven was asleep, temporarily made B'Elanna think she was safe. Then she turned around.

"Grraahh!" B'Elanna growled and covered her eyes, but it was too late, a perfect imprint of the Borgly behind had joined the one she had of the front, and she just knew that life would never be the same again. Worse, Seven was flung across the bed sideways, her head barely on a pillow and a fair part of those long legs hanging off the side.

With a long-suffering sigh, and a furious blush which she did her best to ignore, B'Elanna got her arms around the naked blonde and pulled her into a better sleeping position. Seven grunted in protest but did not awaken, and B'Elanna felt relieved when she could pull the comforter up and tuck it around her unexpected guest.

Finally she threaded her fingers through Seven's hair as gently as she could, releasing it from the bun so that it would not be uncomfortable to sleep in. This final deed done, B'Elanna staggered over to her couch and threw herself on it, exhausted.

As she stared at the ceiling, head full of questions and confusion - not to mention gorgeous smiling naked Borg dancing through her mind - sleep eluded her for the longest time, leaving the already so tired B'Elanna to suffer a very long night.

Early the following morning, after far too little sleep and with cricks in places cricks had no business being, B'Elanna awoke to a subtle shuffling sound. It took her a moment to get her bearings and to identify the sound.

"Lieutenant? You are awake?" Came an uncharacteristically quiet and hesitant voice from the direction of B'Elanna's bedroom.

"Seven?" B'Elanna asked a bit groggily, sitting up as a first step to go see what the all but whispering woman wanted. That was when Seven gingerly stepped into the room.

Eyes wide and jaw threatening to fall into her own lap, B'Elanna felt all vestiges of sleep leave her mind at warp speed.

Although slightly hunched over and bleary-eyed, with one hand to her forehead and the other steadying herself on the doorframe, Seven was still a sight to see. As naked as the night before, with her blonde hair falling in slightly bed-mussed waves down to her shoulders and softening familiar features in an unexpected way, it was a sight B'Elanna caught herself wishing she could wake up to every morning.

Embarrassment gave B'Elanna a burst of extra speed as she shot up from the couch and turned Seven around, guiding her back inside to sit on the bed while B'Elanna rummaged through her drawers. "Sit here for a bit Seven, I'll get you something to... aha!"

She yanked out a worn but large old sleep T-shirt and a pair of shorts to go with it, and awkwardly helped Seven into them. Only once she had accomplished that and Seven was at least partially covered did she dare look Seven in the eye.

"Oh wow..." B'Elanna winced in sympathy. "You're clearly not feeling well today." Miserable blue eyes met hers in silent agreement. "Hey, wait a minute... I'd have thought your nanoprobes would have kept you from having a hangover?"

"Synthenol or alcohol made for ingestion cause my nanoprobes to malfunction." Was the very quiet reply as Seven closed her eyes and put both hands unsteadily to her head. "Until the contaminant has been cleared out of my system, I will have to endure this... discomfort."

"No you won't." Alarmed at the idea that Seven's nanoprobes might be malfunctioning but trying not to show it, B'Elanna quickly grabbed her commbadge and slapped it. "Torres to the Doctor!"

"What can I do for you this morning, B'E-" Came the Doctor's voice over the ship's speakers, a bit less jovially than usual. B'Elanna cut him off.

"Doc, Seven says her nanoprobes are malfunctioning! I think she needs medical care."

"After last night, I imagine she does." The Doctor agreed. "Feel free to come on over then, Lieutenant, as I assume you will be bringing our errant partygoer?"

"I will be fine, Lieutenant. I just need to wait it out." Seven objected mildly, putting a hand on B'Elanna's arm. B'Elanna immediately covered it with her own.

"No Seven, we'll have the Doc check you out, give you something for the pain." She patted the hand reassuringly. "Then we'll come right back, get some food into you, and you'll go back into bed."

Before Seven could answer, B'Elanna put an arm supportively around her and called out to the computer. "Computer, two to beam directly to Sickbay."

The Doctor blinked a bit surprised as they materialized in Sickbay.

"Well, well... I rather thought you would walk here." He admitted with a little grin. "But no matter, the faster you're here the faster I can treat you."

"Of course Seven's not up to waltzing around the ship!" B'Elanna snarled and helped the other woman to a biobed. "You think we would be here if she was?"

"Oh, of course." The Doctor said contritely, approaching Seven. "I did not mean to make light of what happens with your nanoprobes in situations like this. I'll do whatever I can to help."

"I know, Doctor." Seven said quietly. "Good morning, Captain."

As the woman in question groaned at Seven in reply, B'Elanna noticed that she, Seven and the Doctor were in fact not the only ones in Sickbay. Captain Janeway sat on a biobed nearby, looking if possible even more miserable than Seven, and clearly terribly embarrassed. Chakotay was there as well, looking as if he had been heading for the Doctor's office when B'Elanna and Seven had transported in.

"You can wait with Commander Chakotay in my office if you'd like." The Doctor offered helpfully as he prepared his medical tricorder. "If not I'm afraid you would have to leave, it is a privacy issue as I'm sure you understand."

"That's fine." B'Elanna nodded quickly. "And I'm sorry for barging in, Captain." She turned to Seven and touched her arm. "I'll be just over there, okay?"

She didn't wait for the confused-looking blonde to reply, and joined Chakotay in the small room. The glass wall immediately smoked over, obscuring whatever was going on inside Sickbay so that neither of them would see or, at least in theory, hear what was said and done.

There wasn't quite enough room to pace with two people inside the Doctor's office, so B'Elanna leaned against the wall, crossed her arms over her chest, and began to subtly bounce in place. Chakotay strode over to stand companionably next to her.

"Did Tom get what was coming to him?" She asked with a slight baring of teeth, trying to distract herself so that she did not listen in to the voices she could still hear in the room outside.

"For a start, maybe." Chakotay smirked and flexed his hand. "The Captain will undoubtedly want to hand out the rest of his punishment herself, so we're waiting until she feels better."

B'Elanna snorted, a little amused despite herself. Captain Janeway would make Tom wish he'd never been born for this massive humiliation, and as B'Elanna was still a bit worried about malfunctioning nanoprobes and generally feeling incredibly protective in regards to a certain lovely ex-Drone, she felt it would be well deserved.

"Did they come up with what had caused it? I mean, I'm sure Tom spiked the punch, but the Captain should have noticed that long before she got anywhere near drunk." Seven of course was another matter, if she'd had a cup that would have been plenty.

"It turned out there were three types of punch at the party yesterday, all of them spiked although the bright orange one was the most heavily alcoholic." Chakotay explained. B'Elanna recalled the almost fluorescent colour with a shudder, little bits of purple and sickly green had been swimming around in it. Needless to say, she had not felt compelled to try it. "The real problem is the one Neelix made specially for the Captain."

"Oh? Which one was that?"

"A brown one based on some nut-like thing, I forgot the name but anyway Neelix could only make a small amount of it. Apparently it tasted a bit like bitter chocolate, and Neelix kept it in a pitcher behind the counter." Chakotay shrugged. "I didn't see it personally. Either way, those nuts react with coffee, which the Captain had been drinking all day, and then with a splash of alcohol it apparently had the same effect as downing a hundred percent proof."

B'Elanna gave a brief whistle, feeling sorry for her Captain but also glad that she herself had never located the brown goo. She practically lived off coffee regularly too.

"Yeah." Chakotay agreed wryly. "Just imagine if the rest of us had gotten hold of it as well."

"Scary." They both nodded at that and stood there quietly for a moment.

"So, yeah, I might be a bit late for my shift today." B'Elanna mentioned absently, more to say something than out of any particular need for the ship's Commander to know her whereabouts. "There's nothing pressing scheduled, and I'll let Vorik know beforehand, so it should be alright."

"Are you going to be taking care of Seven?" He turned to look at her with something like mild surprise in his eyes. "Wait, did she spend the night at your place? I was told a few people dropped by Cargo Bay Two and didn't see her."

B'Elanna narrowed her eyes at him. "Who exactly was 'dropping by', and why would they after the kind of evening she had?" A blank look was her answer. "Seven has absolutely no damn privacy. And I wasn't about to just toss her into storage or something when she wasn't feeling well. So yeah, of course she stayed with me."

She glared at him defensively, but Chakotay merely smiled and held his hands up placatingly. "No, don't get me wrong, I'm glad you looked out for her. She couldn't have been in better hands." He couldn't resist to add. "It just surprised me, since you don't get along and all."

"Aw, Chakotay, no..." She rubbed the heels of her hands into her eyes, as if to ward away the weariness. "I like her, actually. But you know how I am, all a mess of complicated, confusing and contradictory feelings, and the worst imaginable temper to go along with it."

"Don't forget territorial."

"And territorial, happy?" She sighed and dropped her voice to no more than a whisper, looking at the ceiling with an expression Chakotay couldn't place. "The thing is, Chakotay... last night, the things she said... Kahless, if she meant even one of them..." B'Elanna turned round, dazed eyes on her old friend. "I think I'd have to marry that woman."

Unseen by B'Elanna Seven's head had lifted at the beginning of a certain conversation, and at that last comment she snapped around to stare wide-eyed at the darkened glass of the Doctor's office.

"Seven!" Both the Doctor and Janeway cried out in alarm, both at the sudden reaction and the slight dusting of pink that came along with it.

Inside the office B'Elanna eeped, grabbed Chakotay with one hand and slapped the other one over her mouth.

Seven sat silent for a long moment, blinking rapidly and ignoring both the worried people next to her and the blush warming her cheeks. Finally she tilted her head slightly and asked in a subdued voice. "A marriage proposal, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna turned deep red and felt as if she was about to faint. "I, I, I... er, I, um, that is... I'm sorry."

Chakotay raised an eyebrow in mild interest and tried to be reassuring. "No, that's fine, don't worry... I won't tell anyone. It's a little surprising, but hey, she's a lot better choice than Tom Paris."

Janeway, having perked up considerably with a few hyposprays, shared a concerned look with the Doctor, and then grabbed a medical tricorder of her own. The two of them flanked Seven and waved the devices up and down, but she continued to ignore them.

Chakotay started laughing a little and slapped the mortified woman next to him on the shoulder. "Oh wow, it's all pretty damn obvious in hindsight, isn't it? The way you've always reacted to her and gotten right in her face, fighting over every little thing..."

B'Elanna shook her head frantically to get him to shut up, but Chakotay continued blithely. "That's sexual frustration and Klingon flirting right there, right?"

Seven blushed a little further. "That is a... surprisingly astute observation. I had not considered that."

Janeway grabbed the Doctor's arm and hissed. "What is wrong with her?"

B'Elanna groaned and started banging her head against the office wall.

"Hey, it's not that bad." Chakotay was far too amused to be comforting. "If it is any consolation, I don't think that she knows."

"Well, I do now." Seven said wryly, and then frowned. "Cease that activity, you will cause yourself harm."

The Doctor, about to touch Seven's eyepiece with a smaller medical instrument, froze. "Uh, okay Seven... if you say so." Slowly he put the device down and showed her that he was no longer holding anything.

"Chakotay," B'Elanna said in a sickly sweet voice and with a smile that showed far too many teeth to be friendly. "one day. No matter where, no matter when, when you least expect it... I will kill you."

"Of what possible use could manslaughter be?" Seven asked with a raised Borg brow, and with a meep the Captain and the Doctor took a step back from her.

She considered for a moment, then added. "And for your information, Lieutenant, although my behaviour last night was..." A slightly disgusted expression. "deplorable and uncontrolled, my words were all true. I have no reason to prevaricate."

"Oh! I see." B'Elanna turned shy. "I, um, thank you. That's... very sweet."

Chakotay finally began to suspect that B'Elanna wasn't in fact talking to him, and cast his eyes about suspiciously. Was there something there? "Uh, B'Elanna? Is this some kind of spiritual experience, or is there something in here that I can't see?"

B'Elanna rolled her eyes at him. "Seven, can you ask the Captain if Chakotay and I can come out now? Chakotay seems to think I'm finding a new religion."

"Captain?" Seven asked obediently. "May the Commander and Lieutenant Torres leave the Doctor's office now?"

"Sure..." Janeway said slowly, eyeing Seven a bit suspiciously. "if you can promise me there will be no manslaughter."

Seven did not need to answer as a red-faced B'Elanna entered followed by Chakotay who looked like the penny had just dropped.

"So Seven could hear us in there?" He whispered to B'Elanna, who sighed.

"Indeed Commander." The woman in question answered dryly, startling him.

"Wait... you were talking to..." Janeway waved at B'Elanna and Chakotay, clearly relieved when she received a slight nod in reply. "Oh thank goodness." She muttered under her breath. Seven thought it would be impolite to point out that if she could hear the conversation inside a sound protected room then she could certainly still hear her.

"Well then, I release both my patients to their quarters." The Doctor declared, cheerfully now that the mystery of Seven hearing voices was solved. "Rest and plenty of fluids for both of you, try to eat something when you can, and Seven is on sick leave today."

"And before you think up some way to circumvent that, remember..." The Doctor said when Seven looked as if she wanted to protest. "...I can make you rest here in Sickbay instead. All day."

"That won't be necessary, Doc. Seven will be staying with me." Stepping up to lend a supporting hand to Seven's elbow if needed, B'Elanna glanced up at Seven. "Right?"

The warm little smile sent her way had B'Elanna's blush darken again and her heart do funny things. "Yes, Lieutenant."

"It's B'Elanna, please." B'Elanna muttered awkwardly and called out to the computer to transport them both back to her quarters.

They barely had the time to materialize back in B'Elanna's quarters before her commbadge beeped. It was Captain Janeway.

"B'Elanna, I just wanted to thank you for looking after Seven, and to say that I'm having Chakotay put you on partial duty today, he'll inform whoever you have to take over for you not to expect you until after dinner."

"I, ah, thank you Captain, but that's not necessary..."

"Even as much as I am... feeling the effects of yesterday, I could still tell that you're so tired you could fall over. So do an old friend a favour, Lanna..." Janeway's voice was warm and affectionate. "Get some sleep. Both of you."

"Janeway out."

In the silence left behind Janeway's voice, Seven and B'Elanna stood simply looking at one another and blinking. Finally B'Elanna's lips twitched a little, and a small laugh escaped her.

"I can't say it is a bad idea." She admitted, smiling warmly at Seven whose eyes grew just a fraction wider at the sight. "I could use some sleep, and I know you definitely do. So what would you prefer to do? Catch another hour or two of sleep before I fix us some breakfast, or eat now and then go back to sleep?"

The fair head tilted in consideration. "Although the prospect of you providing breakfast is very intriguing, I believe we both require more sleep to function adequately. Also, I enjoyed the sensation of sleeping in your bed, Lieut... B'Elanna." She nodded slightly, decision made. "We shall go to bed."

Feeling ridiculously mushy over the sound of her name coming from the blonde, B'Elanna shook her head slightly and nudged Seven towards the bedroom. "Very well then, to bed it is. I'll intrigue you with my amazing breakfast-making skills later."

Depositing Seven inside the room B'Elanna turned around to head for the couch, but was stopped by a small touch at her elbow.

"Where are you going?"

B'Elanna faltered. "Um... to the couch?" She pointed at it, feeling a little confused and trying to read Seven's expression. "To get some sleep?"

Seven regarded the bed.

"I believe your bed is a standard size designed to house two, B'Elanna. Would there be insufficient space left for you if I was also in it?" Slowly a frown appeared and the hand fell away from B'Elanna's arm. "Or is it that my presence would be..." Seven appeared to search for the right word, and when she continued it was in a quieter voice. "...too unappealing?"

Something about that voice cut painfully into B'Elanna and made her momentarily unable to speak. That brief moment was all that was needed for Seven to straighten her posture into something resembling her usual stance. "Perhaps I should go regenerate." To B'Elanna's horror Seven turned and, avoiding to look at B'Elanna, continued in the same quiet voice. "I thank you for your time and your kindness."

"Whoa, whoa, wait!" B'Elanna hurried to throw her arms around Seven and hold her as tight as she dared. "When did I say anything like that?" She exhaled and leaned her head against a convenient nearby shoulder. "To most people sharing a bed is kind of an intimate thing, even if it is just sleeping. I didn't think you'd feel that comfortable with me there, and besides, I kind of thought you might've enjoyed having the bed to yourself."

Gingerly a pair of hands moved up to circle B'Elanna's waist in a return embrace, a small and awkward one at best since B'Elanna was for all intents and purposes pinning Seven's arms at her sides, but still a clear attempt. B'Elanna's heart, which was already beating hard from the sudden scare, gleefully pounded away in her chest.

Aww geez. Chakotay was right, it was damn obvious how she felt about Seven. Since when did Chakotay get to be right about something? And how could she not have seen this coming herself?

She relaxed her arms into an embrace rather than a hold, glad that Seven did not see the blush on her face.

"Sharing a bed is intimate? Even without copulating?" Seven wondered. "Why?"

"Erm, well..." B'Elanna wondered how she managed to do this to herself. "I'm not sure, but I think it might have something to do with how exposed we feel when we sleep. In sleep you're kind of open and defenceless, so it makes sense you'd mostly try to be that way only around people you feel safe with, those that are the closest to you?" She sighed. "Honestly Seven, I don't know why it is, just that is how most people work."

"I have often heard my regeneration cycles be compared to sleep."

"Yeah, I've made the comparison a couple of times myself. It seems to fit." B'Elanna wondered if she should let go now, or if she could get away with holding Seven close for a little while longer. Ahh, Seven smelled so nice.

"I often have company while I regenerate. Some watch me as I regenerate, and some, like the Captain, have in the past come especially for that purpose."

Instinctively B'Elanna stepped back and frowned. A very angry part of her wanted to know who exactly had been in Seven's Cargo Bay and when, so that she could go pay them all a personal visit, but that was not helping right now. "The Captain tucking you in is... it is a sign of how much she cares about you, you know?"

"Tucking in? Like what SamanthaWildman, Neelix and I do to Naomi?"

Charmed, B'Elanna smiled. "Yeah, a little like that. As for those other people..." She grit her teeth a bit. "...I think we'll have to do something about that. But later, not today." She gave Seven a sheepish look. "Are you sure you're okay sharing the bed with me?"

In reply Seven simply crawled into the bed, scooted as far in towards the wall as she could, and divided up the pillows. She wore a small smile as she did so, and B'Elanna just melted anew.

She cleared her throat. "Alright. I, um, I'm just going to go... change." B'Elanna grabbed her nightwear and stepped into the bathroom. She caught sight of a pair of interested blue eyes looking at her from the bathroom mirror just as she pulled the sleep shirt down. "Seven!" She gasped and tugged the shirt down a little more.

"Yes B'Elanna?" The other woman asked sweetly, no trace of embarrassment present or any indicator that she had been caught doing anything she shouldn't have.

B'Elanna chuckled. "Just go to sleep." She got into bed next to Seven and couldn't help the smile that just wouldn't go away. There was something a little like childlike excitement over Seven as she made herself comfortable in B'Elanna's bed, which was just about the cutest thing B'Elanna had ever seen. After a moment Seven shuffled closer, until their shoulders touched slightly. Then, with a tiny sigh, the blonde finally settled in and fell asleep.

Marvelling over the happiness she felt from such a small thing, B'Elanna relaxed as well, and finally found that deep, peaceful sleep she had been in such desperate need of.

They slept longer than intended, turning the promised breakfast into brunch. B'Elanna woke up first, to find herself warm and cosy with the pleasantly heavy weight of one slumbering ex-Drone draped over her side. She allowed herself a moment of simply enjoying the sensation, especially the tiny tickle of Seven's breath right underneath her ear, wondering if there was anything she could do to make this a recurring thing.

Extracting herself without waking Seven took a while, but finally B'Elanna escaped with a pillow tucked in her place. After realizing how late it was she started on that breakfast she had promised her slumbering guest, deciding that a day like this called for banana pancakes with all the trimmings B'Elanna could think up.

When Seven woke up it was to a soft pillow in place of a very warm and very pleasingly scented half-klingon engineer, which was clearly too inferior a substitute and a situation that was unacceptable. She sat up pondering how to rectify this when the scent of B'Elanna's cooking reached her, followed by B'Elanna herself.

"You're awake?" B'Elanna smiled happily. "In that case, stay right there and I'll be back." She disappeared from the door but continued to speak. "In fact Seven, scoot up a little."

Seven did as bid, and soon B'Elanna returned with a pair of trays.

"Breakfast in bed!" She declared cheerfully while carefully balancing one tray and arranging the other in front of Seven, pulling out the little legs to make a tiny table. "Well, very late breakfast in bed, I guess."

B'Elanna situated herself and her tray in front of Seven, so that she could enjoy the amazement and delight the other woman unconsciously displayed over every little thing, without being too obvious about it. She kept up a light conversation while they ate, and also made sure to ask and was relieved to hear that Seven was 'functioning within acceptable parameters".

"If you think you're up to it, why don't you go take a shower?" B'Elanna suggested after they had finished eating. "You could replicate yourself something to wear, or borrow something of mine if you want. I'll clean this up while you do."

While B'Elanna busied herself in the kitchenette, Seven took the opportunity to look through her closet. If given a choice, Seven definitely wanted something that carried B'Elanna's scent, especially if she was not going to be on duty anyway. Most of B'Elanna's clothing was inadequate in size in all manner of ways, but she did own a few articles of clothing that were loose-fitting enough that Seven might wear them.

Then something caught Seven's eye. "B'Elanna? Why do you own a biosuit?"

"What? What biosuit..." A bit confused B'Elanna walked back to see Seven holding up a certain wine-coloured outfit. "...oh! Um, that's not a biosuit, Seven." She scratched her cheek a bit, feeling embarrassed. "That's an old pyjamas I haven't worn in a... oh, a pretty long while."

"A... pyjamas?" Seven eyed the outfit that aside from the material looked rather identical to one of her own uniforms. She frowned slightly. "This is sleepwear?"

"Yes. That one is, not that I've used it since... before you came onboard, I think." Actually B'Elanna wondered why she hadn't just tossed it into the recycler by now and gotten rid of it. She wasn't sure what Seven was thinking, but she did seem strangely disturbed by the discovery of the pyjamas. Perhaps it would be best to explain herself, so that there wouldn't be any misunderstandings. "I basically got caught walking around the decks in it one night, and took a lot of teasing for it. So I put it away."

"I wear a uniform like this every day." Troubled blue eyes met B'Elanna's. "Everywhere and at any hour."

"I..." Belatedly B'Elanna realized that she had stumbled headfirst into what could well be a very touchy subject. "I know. Some people" B'Elanna included, actually. "have wondered why you haven't designed yourself something a little more reminiscent of a uniform, but I guess we all figured that you have medical reasons to keep wearing those outfits."

"That is only true for the fabric, not the cut. The Doctor is the one that designs my clothing." And that B'Elanna suspected was the reason behind everything, as she could say a few unflattering but likely very true words about the Doctor's behaviour towards Seven.

"Pretty much everyone is used to it by now, so if you feel comfortable wearing your suits there's no reason you shouldn't." She patted Seven's arm encouragingly. "Or if you wanted to try something new you could try your hand at designing something yourself. Between Voyager's database and the advice of someone like Captain Janeway or Sam Wildman, you could probably come up with something."

"And..." B'Elanna got something faraway in her expression, causing Seven's attention to shift to her instead of the questions raised by an old piece of sleepwear. "You're not the first woman to walk around this ship in something like that anyway." A little wistful smile found its way to B'Elanna's lips. "Kes took to wearing outfits similar to yours for a while before she left the ship. Not quite as... snug, mind you," She winked at Seven. "but still very similar."

"Kes." There was something searching in the look Seven gave B'Elanna, but B'Elanna was looking at memories at that moment and missed it. "The Doctor speaks warmly of her. He used to speak of her often when I was still new aboard Voyager, and have me train social interactions with the lessons she had devised."

"She was a dear friend." B'Elanna said simply. "She was loved by many onboard, like the Doctor, Neelix or Tom. Even Tuvok cared a great deal for her, in his own, Vulcan-logical way." She shrugged a little. "She is missed."

"I... did not get the chance to know her." Seven awkwardly hung the pyjamas away, glancing at B'Elanna from the corner of her eye.

"Yeah, and that was a real shame. She would have been a great friend for you." B'Elanna smiled, picturing it. "No offence to the Doc, but she would have been more of a help to you in coming to terms with how to be an individual than he ever could be. And she wouldn't have allowed for a certain stubborn, thick-headed half-Klingon to carry on like a cranky targh with a toothache, either."

Seven tilted her head in question, and B'Elanna chuckled a little. "I can practically hear her now. 'B'Elanna Torres, you stop being so stubborn and admit that you like her! You might even find out that the two of you have a lot in common.' Something like that."

"You like me?" Seven asked astonished, her earlier misgivings evaporating.

"Heh, yes, I thought that was rather obvious by now?" B'Elanna grinned a bit sheepishly. "For the record, I don't share my bed with anyone I don't like." She winked at Seven again. "I'm not that kind of a woman."

Grinning to cover her sudden embarrassment as she realized she was flirting with Seven, and not even being subtle about it, B'Elanna reached into her closet and pulled out a few articles of clothing that might fit. "How about these? These pants are long on me so the might just be long enough for you, and this blouse is a bit bigger than the others. Do you want them, or should we replicate something?"

Seven eagerly accepted the clothing, still determined to have something of B'Elanna's to wear, and made for the bathroom. She stopped just inside the doorway, her back to B'Elanna but her head turned just slightly so the edge of a smile was visible.


"Yes, Seven?"

"I like you too."

With that Seven closed the door behind her, and within moments the sonic shower started up, its humming obscuring all other sounds.

B'Elanna at first stared, stunned, at the closed door, and then grinned madly. "Yes!" She breathed to herself and tried to stifle the giggle that wanted to erupt, as she set out to finally clean her quarters up to something a bit more presentable.

As B'Elanna left her quarters not long thereafter, showered and ready for her partial duty shift, she had a feeling her life had just irrevocably changed due to the woman whom had curiously enough walked her to the door before, hopefully, spending the rest of the day relaxing on B'Elanna's couch. She didn't quite anticipate some of the ways in which it would change, though.

Happily making sure her beloved ship had not fallen apart without her supervision B'Elanna got some hands-on work to do, but as it was a slow day and Vorik had been even more effective than usual in her absence, she soon found little else to do than the dreaded paperwork that was, unfortunately, also a part of her duties as Chief Engineer. It was easier to keep her thoughts focused while to her elbows in the inner workings of her ship than it was reading and typing up padds, and inescapably her thoughts returned to Seven.

She was starting to wonder if it was one of Seven's goals in life to drive her out of her mind. Previously Seven had done this by pushing all of B'Elanna's buttons until she'd explode, something which the blonde couldn't quite be held responsible for B'Elanna had to ruefully acknowledge now. Badly suppressed attraction and desire coupled with denied Klingon instincts? Yeah, that will mess a girl up. But the latest handful of hours alone had proved that Seven had, whether on purpose or not, found a new way to drive B'Elanna insane.

As if the previous night and early that morning had not been enough to fuel B'Elanna's more heated fantasies for a long time to come, Seven had treated her to another. As she stepped out of the bathroom Seven had called for B'Elanna, and B'Elanna had put aside what she was doing to go see what she wanted.

The sight that greeted her as she entered the bedroom was of a Borg bottom wriggling in the air, clad only in miniscule underwear – B'Elanna had replicated it but not considered the cut or the size difference between herself and Seven in her hurry – as Seven had crawled halfway under B'Elanna's bed in search of the biosuit she had discarded the night before.

When Seven had come out from under the bed it turned out that she was wearing the blouse B'Elanna had handed her, although not buttoned it fully, and what Seven was really after was the shoes attached to her biosuit. B'Elanna had somewhat unsteadily suggested that Seven take the opportunity to experience being barefoot, and that if she wanted to leave B'Elanna's quarters she could replicate herself a pair of standard Starfleet uniform shoes her size.

Unfortunately B'Elanna's heart-pounding reaction to another visual of irresistible Borg-influenced perfection, this time wriggling no less, had not gone unnoticed, and Seven had called her on it. B'Elanna, feeling more than just a touch lightheaded at the time, had tried for a whimsical answer and told Seven "No day is complete without a little half-naked Seven, is what I always say."

Seven had, of course, taken her seriously. Exactly how seriously B'Elanna had yet to find out.

As B'Elanna was alternating between doing actual work and generally behaving like a lovestruck teenager Chakotay came over to pay her a visit.

"Hey." B'Elanna tried to sound casual and look as if he had interrupted her working and not dreaming about a certain tall, blue-eyed blonde. "The Captain is back on the Bridge, I take it?"

"Oh yeah." Chakotay snorted with a touch of amusement. "There's precious little in this or any quadrant that our Captain cannot take on... with a few cans of black coffee, that is."

"Let's just hope we don't encounter any alien races that wish to be difficult today." They shared a grin at that. "But how are you and Seven doing, B'Elanna?"

The question shouldn't have made B'Elanna blush, but it did. And worse, she could see the surprise that quickly turned into smug amusement on her old friend's face at the sight of it. "We, uh, she's fine, she's feeling a lot better now."

Chakotay crossed his arms over his chest and smirked at her.

"Arrgh, damn it, stop doing that!" He laughed as she groaned and laid her forehead against the desk.

"You've got it bad, my friend."

"Oh you're not kidding." B'Elanna growled and sat back up to rub her hands across her face. "I can't believe I managed to deny it to myself for so long, I mean, surely I'm not that stupid?"

Chakotay didn't offer a comment on that and she gave him a brief glare before closing her eyes again, rubbing wearily at the edge of her ridges. "Yeah." She sighed.

"Um, B'Elanna?"

"Today, the more time I spend with her the more I want to just... grab hold of her and never ever let go."

"Uh, yeah, about that, B'Elanna..."

"Its like I went from keeping as much distance between us as possible, to wanting to keep her with me always. It's a little... bewildering. Even for me."

"Does that count as a second marriage proposal?" Seven wanted to know, curiosity in her voice.

B'Elanna's eyes snapped open.

There was Chakotay, with a frozen and slightly pained expression, not so discreetly pointing to his left. Her eyes obediently followed the direction.

In the open door stood Seven, dressed in B'Elanna's burgundy blouse and black slacks, her blonde hair combed but still down from its usual bun. She held a stack of padds in one hand, and a small stasis tray in the other. A quick glance downwards confirmed that she was in fact still barefoot.

"Seven?" B'Elanna croaked weakly. "What are you doing here?"

"I will not be long." Seven assured to Chakotay and B'Elanna both, clearly believing she had interrupted. "You forgot these in your quarters earlier. And you need sustenance." She placed the small tray in front of B'Elanna and the padds to her right.

She smiled at the stunned woman. "I shall see you later, B'Elanna." She nodded briefly at Chakotay. "Commander." And then Seven left, as suddenly as she had appeared.

The two remaining in the room looked at each other in silence for a long moment. Finally B'Elanna looked down at the padds. Indeed, she had forgotten those at home earlier, and if she hadn't been busy daydreaming about Seven she would have noticed before now.

"What did she get you?" Chakotay wanted to know, a little less teasing in his voice now.

B'Elanna lifted the lid to find a bowl of her favourite soup, a glass of milk, two simple cheese and cucumber on rye sandwiches, and a steaming cup of coffee. Exactly what she would have replicated for herself.

Something squeezed her heart and made her eyes sting just a little.

Noticing her reaction Chakotay smiled, patted her on the shoulder, and quietly left B'Elanna to her thoughts.

As so often happens on Voyager, a few unforeseen things wreaked havoc with the ship, and while the damage was fairly negligible it did make for a more busy shift than what B'Elanna's workday had been so far. In fact the various little tasks piled up one after another until B'Elanna looked around and realized that it was just after midnight. The duty shifts had long since changed without her noticing.

Cursing lightly under her breath, B'Elanna went to adjust her work hours for the following day and making sure someone capable would be in charge in her absence. This was why she disliked messing with her work hours. Sure, B'Elanna could do double shifts like nobody's business if it was needed, and frequently did, but for those times when it wasn't strictly necessary, starting work at any other hour than the one her body expected her to was just asking for trouble.

A bleep from a nearby screen on one of the workstations flanking the walls of Engineering caught her attention, and as she turned to look Seven appeared, in B'Elanna's quarters no less.

"Seven?" B'Elanna was a little surprised and a lot pleased that Seven would contact her. "Hey. I'm sorry I haven't called to say that I was going to be late, I got caught up in work and lost track of time."

Seven nodded. "I suspected as much, and did not expect you to call me. Have you finished work now?"

"Yeah, I'm signing off now, I should be back home in a little bit." There was a pang of wistful longing at the idea that her quarters might have been home for the both of them, and it made B'Elanna feel a little embarrassed. How did she get this bad so quickly? "Will, um, will you be there?"

"I..." Seven looked a bit unsure. "...was uncertain of how long you wished for me to stay. I had intended to go regenerate after speaking with you now."

How about you stay indefinitely? B'Elanna thought and smiled winsomely. She couldn't exactly say that though. "Do you need to regenerate tonight?"

"No..." Seven's reply was slow as she stared at B'Elanna in fascination. "I could postpone my regeneration until... tomorrow evening?"

"Good! I mean, that would be good... if you want to stay tonight?" B'Elanna's smile was contagious and the two of them simply smiled at one another for a long moment. Vaguely aware of where she was and that she didn't want to get caught grinning like a lovesick fool by anyone that worked under her, B'Elanna forced herself back into focus. "I'll be home in just a little bit then."

"Very well." As B'Elanna reached to turn the viewscreen off, she was halted by Seven. "B'Elanna?"

"Yes?" B'Elanna noticed a different kind of smile on Seven's lips, and was curious.

Then her mouth dropped open and her eyes felt like they were about to fall out.

"SEVEN!" She gasped and threw herself at the viewscreen, awkwardly trying to cover it with her body. "Woman, have you gone insane? What are you doing?"

The voice coming over the speakers sounded a bit smug to B'Elanna's ears.

"You did say that no day is complete without 'a little half-naked Seven'. I merely wished to ensure that your day did not begin... incomplete."

Blushing furiously and having difficulty breathing B'Elanna cast her eyes about wildly. Had anyone seen? Was anyone close enough to have caught sight of Seven... B'Elanna's mind did a little detour. "Kahless!" And what if someone had heard? She groaned.

"There was no-one else in visual range. I made certain of that."

"Buh." B'Elanna said.

"I shall see you soon, B'Elanna."

With that and a small clicking sound B'Elanna knew the viewscreen had been turned of from Seven's end. Still B'Elanna couldn't move.

It took the arrival of a few nightshift engineers, who walked up to their Chief and stared with wide eyes at the fiercely red woman flattening herself against a work console.

"A-are you alright, Chief?" One of the braver men asked hesitantly.

Mortified, B'Elanna roared at them and marched out. She was halfway to the turbolift when her stride faltered, her thoughts returning to Seven's unexpected little display.

Oh ye gods, what a woman, B'Elanna groaned and hid her face with her arm. And that woman was waiting in B'Elanna's quarters for her to come home.

A giggle escaped.

She straightened and resumed walking with new purpose in her stride and a wide grin on her face. No time to dawdle there.

Seven was waiting for her.

Coming home to find Seven, still barefoot and wearing B'Elanna's clothes, waiting for her was definitely a cause for quiet joy for B'Elanna. She regretted that she had not managed to leave work at a more reasonable hour, because there was so much B'Elanna would have liked to say or do together with Seven, but the late hour stopped her.

Seven's duty shift was set to start in only a handful of hours, unlike B'Elanna's own since she had corrected it slightly to give herself a few more hours of sleep after working so late, and she could not really ask Seven to delay that after having already spent a day off duty. Seven was as much a workaholic as B'Elanna herself after all.

Sharing a few warm smiles as they asked one another about how their day had gone, Seven and B'Elanna made ready for bed. The memory of Seven's little display earlier were in all fairness never far from B'Elanna's thoughts, and as she crawled into bed with the once again rather scantily clad woman it was a struggle to try to calm certain responses.

Naturally, at such close range there was no way Seven would not become aware of B'Elanna's physical reaction, and, as if to further her embarrassment, Seven did not shy away from pointing that out.

"You are aroused." The voice was calm, but when B'Elanna turned her head slightly to face Seven there was curiosity and a great deal of interest in the blue eyes watching her. B'Elanna groaned and cursed herself internally when the simple statement exacerbated not only the embarrassment but the arousal as well.

"Yeah, uh, sorry about that Seven." She muttered quietly and rubbed at her face. "I don't mean to be disturbing you when you should be sleeping, but I'm still a bit... wound up from earlier." She gave the other woman an apologetic smile, knowing that Seven's night vision was easily as good as hers, if not better. "Try to ignore it if you can, it'll pass in a while."

A silver brow inched higher in inquiry. "Earlier?"

B'Elanna did her best to ignore the fact that even though Seven had laid herself on the side to better be able to look at her she was still close enough to keep her rather generous chest firmly pushed up against B'Elanna's arm. "From a certain little show I was given earlier by a beautiful blonde, as you might recall."

"Beautiful?" There was something in Seven's quiet voice that made B'Elanna frown and turn on her side, facing Seven fully and, if accidentally, removing her arm from its warm cocoon.

"Yes, beautiful. As in the nearly naked beautiful Seven that decided to complete my day by short-circuiting my brain? Please tell me that it was actually you and not the Doctor playing around with the holo-emitters." Her embarrassment made her tack on the weak joke, aware that Seven knew that B'Elanna would not mistake a holographic version, no matter how well made, for the real thing.

A brief flash of white teeth was her reward for the attempt, but it was fleeting at best. "I am not... beautiful." The words were uncharacteristically slow, as if Seven was unsure of how to express herself. "I am Borg."

B'Elanna nearly sat up at the despondent tone the last words had taken. "Seven? I mean, yes baby, of course you are Borg, but why would that mean that you can't be beautiful? Because believe me, you are. You are easily the most beautiful woman I have ever seen."

Even in the dark Seven's bashful look and tiny smile was quite clear, and she inched closer to B'Elanna before she spoke again. "In humanoid species the rate of attractiveness in facial features is linked to the rate of symmetry of the same. I am Borg, and even if this fact could be overlooked, I could not achieve such symmetry." She made a small, almost apologetic, face. "My remaining implants cannot be removed with present-day technology, any symmetry would have to be achieved with more implants, not less... which in itself would be detriment to any concept of... beauty."

"Oh Seven..." B'Elanna whispered, more than just a bit stunned. How could this beautiful woman be so completely convinced there was nothing attractive about her? "Is this something the Doctor has told you? Remind me to do something particularly nasty to his programming later." She eased a hand up to touch Seven's face. "Look, I don't really know about any studies about facial symmetry, and I wouldn't pretend to speak for humanoids in general, but there are two things that I do know."

"One is that although beauty is subjective and everyone has their own ideas about it, a majority of the people of this ship would still say that you are one of the most attractive people they know." She didn't add that they would mean it physically and not her personality, as most still found Seven quite intimidating, but she had a feeling Seven knew that already. "The other thing is that I think you're beautiful, Seven. Beautiful, gorgeous, breathtaking, stunning, whatever word you want to call it, and I can't think of anyone that fits the description better than you, just the way you are. Implants and all."

"I don't blame you if you don't believe me." She gently caressed Seven's cheek. "I've been an absolute targ to you in the past, because of problems I've had with myself but took out on you. But even then I knew that much, admitted that much about you."

Seven leaned her face into the caress and stealthily wriggled a little closer. B'Elanna noticed but did not mention it, wanting to see what Seven had in mind. They were close enough to be embracing by now.

"I do not wish to suggest that I doubt you, but how could you find me in any way aesthetically pleasing? I know that my body garners... comments, but unclothed that like my face is covered with visible implants." B'Elanna bristled a little at the idea and wanted to demand to know just who and what kind of comments had been made regarding Seven's body. She was actually a little bit proud that she managed to restrain herself and not interrupt.

"The Captain and the Doctor wish for me to become fully human in all aspects, and while I can never achieve that physically, it is their intention that I do so in external appearance at least. As current technology cannot replace my remaining Borg implants, only holographic imagery can make my appearance 'human', and that is not a viable solution."

"Although I admit that I find you absolutely gorgeous with your implants and don't see why you should change if there's no medical need, it isn't about what I, the Doc or even the Captain thinks you should look like." B'Elanna slid her hand down until it rested lightly above Seven's hip. "What do you want, Seven? Which would you be comfortable with? Those are the things that matter."

"On the contrary, my wishes on the subject have never mattered." Seven sighed and did not elaborate, but B'Elanna had a good idea what she was talking about anyway, and it twisted her insides painfully. "If it had been my choice, I would have been... conflicted. I do recognize that it would be easier to blend in and for that reason I would have liked to be more human in appearance, but it is also true that it is only recently that I have become able to view this, this body, this appearance, as myself. I would not wish to continue to change, to prolong the struggle I have experienced where I feel that my body, the way it functions and the way it appears, is as foreign and as difficult to grasp as the social lessons I attend."

"Lately though I have become more aware of the importance of beauty." She added in a softer tone, smiling faintly. "I admit I no longer find it irrelevant, and do wish I could be more aesthetically pleasing."

B'Elanna was about to reply but a gentle hand caressing her forehead ridges stopped her. "You are... exquisite." Seven whispered. "It is contradictory and I do not fully understand it, but even though I know you to be flawed, you are still perfection to me." She traced a path down B'Elanna's temple to her cheekbone. "How can this be?"

There was a little sob.

Seven gasped and felt a surge of panic as she saw the gleam of a tear in the dark. Before she had the chance to react B'Elanna wrapped both arms around her and yanked her that final small space forward until their bodies met.

She buried her face in Seven's neck and sniffled a little, struggling with herself. While a little hesitant at first, Seven soon got the hang of it and brought her own arms up to encircle B'Elanna, carefully embracing the emotional woman until she would once more be able to speak.

B'Elanna struggled with her tears for a while before finally calming down, but neither woman was willing to let the other go even after the strangled little sobs had ceased.

"We're a fine pair, aren't we?" B'Elanna mumbled with a teary little chuckle against Seven's neck. "Both so broken, but still we're able to see beauty where the other only sees ugliness." She drew back and, quite deliberately, leaned up to place a tender kiss on Seven's optical implant. Even in the dark Seven's stunned expression was clear to see.

"Better watch out." She smiled and stroked Seven's cheek. "I'm starting to feel compelled to squeeze out a third marriage proposal, you know." It was only too true, she thought to herself, Seven was not only inspiring massive lovesickness in her but also awaking every instinct she had to claim her mate. And if she found that bewildering, what would the blonde think? Best not scare her away before she'd even gotten around to asking her out on a first date.

"Indeed?" Seven smiled, pleased and a little playful. "Perhaps this proposal could be delivered in my presence, as opposed to that of Commander Chakotay?"

"Ah well, a girl can't have too much practice when it comes to something that important." B'Elanna grinned, trying to disguise what she was really saying with a joke. "When I do say it in front of you it will be that one and only time, so I'd better find those perfect words now don't I?"

One way or another. B'Elanna was really starting to realize that Seven was the one, and if she did one day work up the courage to propose to the woman – ironically there was no question regarding if she wanted to ask Seven to marry her – it was going to be that one and only time. If Seven said yes, B'Elanna intended it to be forever. If Seven said no... B'Elanna shied away from that thought.

Her reward was a beaming smile and that Seven pulled her close again. "As long as your words make your intention clear, that would be perfect enough for me." With that the ship's resident perfectionist squeezed B'Elanna tightly, while it was the other woman's turn to feel a bit stunned.

It was true that Seven wouldn't carry any expectations of romance, in fact she would likely not understand many of the age old symbolic things tradition taught humans were romantic. Honest sentiment would go further with Seven any day.

It was at once liberating and terribly intimidating. While it was a relief to know that Seven wouldn't expect a fairytale courtship, or in fact have much in the way of expectations at all, it also made B'Elanna all the more determined to make things perfect for her... if Seven turned out to be interested enough in B'Elanna to want to date her, that is.

"We should probably get to sleep. Your duty shift starts early, after all."

No sooner had B'Elanna spoken than, with a small nod, Seven pushed her over and draped herself over B'Elanna. A surprised little chuckle escaped B'Elanna. "Comfy Seven?"

"Yes." Was the short but happy reply from where Seven had ensconced her face in B'Elanna's neck.

Well, B'Elanna reflected contentedly, so was she. She reached down to catch the blankets and tuck them better around her own living coverlet, and then she wrapped her arms firmly around Seven. For all that they'd had a bit of an emotional upheaval mere minutes before, sleep did not take long to claim them both.

Even though it was Seven who had an earlier start to her duty shift that day, it was B'Elanna that was the first to wake. Although she intended to get up and once again provide breakfast, this time Seven was not as easy to dislodge.

"No." The sleeping woman grunted to B'Elanna moving, and grabbed her tighter. B'Elanna, feeling that all was rather well with the world this way, chuckled softly to herself and waited, knowing it wouldn't be long now before Seven woke up.

Another little grunt, this time not containing words to B'Elanna's amusement, and it was clear that Seven was awake. She did not budge however.

"You know your duty shift starts in just a little while." B'Elanna said, pretending to care about such things when in truth she was more than happy to stay in bed with Seven all day. "I would have gotten up to make you breakfast, but... someone didn't want me to move."

"You are warm, and the sound of your heart and your breathing is... soothing." Seven explained somewhat sleepily against B'Elanna's neck. "Your presence is essential. And your scent... it is..." She leaned in even closer and breathed deeply.

B'Elanna gasped, and suddenly any traces of sleep that might still have clung to her were wiped away, as a low purring growl began deep in her chest.

Blushing badly she tried to stop herself, knowing there was no way Seven had not heard it or how her heart had started pounding. Scenting one's mate was a big thing for Klingons, and strayed pretty far into foreplay territory. Even knowing that Seven probably had not realized the effect her rather sweet action would have, B'Elanna couldn't quite stop the way she reacted to it.

There was a shift, and then a pair of blue eyes came into view. B'Elanna tried but could not resist that deep-set urge, and turned slightly to inhale Seven's scent from the side of her neck. A shudder went through the other woman, and when their eyes met again, neither was unaffected.

For a moment it seemed to B'Elanna that Seven was going to kiss her.

Then, and at that close range there was no way B'Elanna could fail to see it, insecurity crept into those blue eyes, and confusion. They hovered close like that for a moment, Seven conflicted and B'Elanna calming as she understood what was going on.

"Hush." She said gently and hugged Seven. "We've got all the time we want for that, later."

"Besides," She added as she disentangled them and carefully tried to urge Seven out of bed while getting up herself. "before we go there, I should at least take you out once first."

"So what do you say, beautiful?" B'Elanna grinned as she leaned forward to cup the face of the bewildered woman sitting on the edge of the bed. "Will you go out with me?"

Seven blinked, and would undoubtedly have tilted her head if B'Elanna's hands hadn't been on her face. "Go out?" A trace of apprehension crossed her features. "Are we scheduled for hull maintenance or for an away-mission?"

"Awahawhat?" In surprise B'Elanna let go of Seven and straightened. "Oh!" She grinned. "No Seven, I'm asking you out on a date. Will you go on a date with me?"

It seemed to take an unusually long moment for Seven to process the meaning of the question, but once that was done a big, sunny smile was B'Elanna's reward. "Yes!"

Happily B'Elanna hugged Seven before giving her slight tug. "Thanks Seven. I was thinking tomorrow, one hour after the end of our duty shifts, if that's alright with you? I know that you will have to regenerate tonight and all."

"That is acceptable." Seven smiled as she stood, and allowed B'Elanna to gently push her towards the bathroom. "Is there anything in particular that I should bring or wear?"

"Would you like to dress up?" B'Elanna thought for a bit. "If I can get the holodeck for our date, then yes, but if I can't you can wear whatever you feel comfortable with, does that sound okay? And I'll let you know which it is as soon as I know for sure."

It would be extremely short notice to get a slot on the holodeck for that particular time, but with a little luck there might be someone who was willing to trade if B'Elanna could offer a good enough deal. Considering she rarely used the holodeck for anything other than training exercises these days – and the rare spa treatment – she could probably tempt someone with a double or triple time slot in exchange, she had the privileges to spare.

Seven nodded, still with the smile on her lips, and finally moved on into the bathroom. B'Elanna hurried through making breakfast for them, all the while buzzing with ideas, and all too soon it was time for Seven to go. In a reversal of the previous morning B'Elanna followed Seven to the door and, on impulse, reached up and kissed her cheek.

"Want to meet at the messhall for lunch later?" B'Elanna asked leaning in the doorway, watching Seven somewhat awkwardly prolong leaving while she clearly knew she couldn't delay for much longer or she would be late for duty.

"That would be acc... I would like that, B'Elanna." B'Elanna was graced with another smile as Seven took a few steps backwards, and then turned to set off in her usual brisk pace.

She watched Seven head towards the turbolift when something suddenly occurred to her. If she had thought more clearly she wouldn't have impulsively thrown out the question that way, and instead waited until the two of them could sit down to talk about it.

"Seven?" B'Elanna did not shout, she knew she didn't have to for Seven to hear her at that distance. "When I asked you out before, you seemed to be worried that I wanted you to go on a spacewalk with me." It was a simple deduction since Seven never seemed to have any concerns regarding away-missions. "Why is that?"

The turbolift doors opened and Seven got in, the distance enough that B'Elanna couldn't see what expression she wore, but her voice carried well enough for B'Elanna's hearing.

"I am uncomfortable with such activities. It is hard for me to suppress the memories of dying from explosive decompression while in space outside a vessel. It is an... unpleasant death to recall, much less to experience six at once." Seven stopped the turbolift doors from closing briefly. "I will see you at lunch, B'Elanna."

And with that the doors closed and Seven was gone, leaving B'Elanna to stare, pale and horrified, down an empty corridor in her wake.

Lunch was a little bit late for the both of them, but B'Elanna was mostly grateful for that as it meant that she could secure an out of the way table for herself and Seven with less risk of having a friend or two drop by to join them. If she was going to have to be without the blonde after duty, B'Elanna felt she had some right to be protective of what time they would have together.

From the moment Seven stepped into the room B'Elanna had no power over the smile on her face, but to her delight Seven seemed to suffer from a similar problem. A wryly amused part of B'Elanna figured it would be all over the ship by the next day, even though there weren't that many still in the messhall, because Seven was not known for these big, beautiful smiles, and someone was bound to notice. She found that she had absolutely no problem with that, though. Let the rumour mill run with it if they wanted to, B'Elanna hoped that it soon would be common knowledge that the two of them were more than friends. She just had to get there first.

Unusual for both women they took the full allotted lunch hour, chatting lightly over the meal and lingering in each other's presence once done eating. Eventually B'Elanna broached the subject which had been in the back of her mind all morning.

"Seven? I don't want to bring up any bad memories, or pry into things you might not want to talk about, but..." B'Elanna kept her voice lowered even though there was no-one close enough to listen in. "what did you mean by what you said this morning?"

"While I may not always give satisfactory answers, you can ask me anything, B'Elanna." Seven replied calmly, at first appearing unperturbed by the subject. "As you might recall, when I was transported to Voyager initially there were six other Borg Drones with me. As the only survivor as well as their superior their deaths remain in me, unfiltered and intact as I was not in contact with the Collective long enough or deeply enough since to purge them." A slight frown appeared. "While I will perform any duty given me regardless, it does make me... reluctant to venture outside Voyager's hull even though I would be properly attired. The memories are harder to keep from surfacing in that setting."

"Damn. Are you saying you can remember what it feels like to..." B'Elanna tapered off, remembering the moment when Chakotay had ordered them to decompress the deck where Seven and the other Drones were.

"To die in decompression? Yes." Seven looked away from B'Elanna, focusing on the Borg mesh on her hand. "I have found that humans in particular have a very light definition of the term 'eidetic' memory. True eidetic memory is to retain all as it once occurred, not merely sight and sound but all sensory input and the feelings accompanying them, such as pain, fear or grief, undiminished, forever. I have true eidetic memory as I am Borg, but unlike the average Drone I do not have the filter of the Collective compartmentalizing or removing irrelevant memories."

"I... may seem cold and unfeeling to the crew of Voyager, but in truth I do experience emotions now, even if I do not always know how to... express them." Blue eyes came back up to meet B'Elanna's with something pained in them. "The pain and fear experienced can be overwhelming. And despite what the general opinion might be, even a Borg Drone experience pain and a sensation much like fear in the moment of death."

"Oh Seven!" B'Elanna gasped, horrified as her mind suggested an endless row of other horrors that Seven would also have to keep in all their gruesome and agonizing clarity, somewhere in the back of her head. Without considering her surroundings B'Elanna hurried around their small table to hug the sitting Seven to her chest.

The sitting woman did not resist the embrace, even though it was fierce enough that a normal human would have found it uncomfortable or even slightly painful. B'Elanna was a little too upset to properly adjust her strength at the moment, busy trying to fight back the sting of tears on Seven's behalf, but thankfully former Borg Drones are built of sterner stuff.

A voice cleared right next to them.

"Is this, ah, a bad time?" A wide-eyed and clearly embarrassed Captain Janeway asked awkwardly, a tray of food in her hands and from so close a range that B'Elanna probably brushed her by when she rounded the table to reach Seven.

Blushing furiously B'Elanna released Seven and stepped back, almost snapping to attention in her utter mortification. Seven on the other hand seemed unruffled, merely inclining her head towards Janeway and offering a small smile. "Of course not, Captain. Did you wish to join us?"

Reassured and a little charmed by both women's reactions, Janeway offered up her own lopsided smirk. "For a place at the table, yes, but I think I'll have to take you up on the offer of a hug at a later date."

Still dark red B'Elanna scrambled over to her seat and slunk down in it, surreptitiously glancing around to see who else had caught her uncharacteristic behaviour. Janeway smiled warmly at the both of them and pulled a chair over to seat herself at the end of the table.

"I'm glad I caught you both here." Janeway made conversation while eating, a tendency from her youth that had returned and been made into an artform upon being stranded in the Delta Quadrant. There was rarely time for Voyager's Captain to simply sit down and enjoy a meal in leisurely silence. "Seven, first I wanted to hear how you're doing?"

"I am operating within norma... I am 'fine', Captain." Seven nodded and then added slowly, almost as an afterthought. "How are you feeling?"

Delighted at Seven's attempt at a more casual expression as well as the polite concern Janeway smiled brightly at her protégé before turning a bit more serious. "Oh, I'm fine, only my pride is a bit worse for wear." Sensing that Seven was about to ask her about her pride, Janeway moved along. "Seven, quite a few things have come to my attention lately regarding your situation, aboard the ship and in general."

She managed to avoid looking at B'Elanna as she said this, but B'Elanna's guilty flinch was admission enough. Seven raised an eyebrow at B'Elanna before returning her attention to Janeway.

"I see." Seven said, although in that way that clearly said that she didn't. It was one of those strange little habits she had picked up from Tuvok.

"Frankly, Seven..." Janeway reached over to lay her hand over Seven's. "I am so, so sorry that I didn't realize how your situation and your needs had changed. I should have realized long ago that of course you need your privacy, somewhere to go and close a door behind you when you don't want company or to be interrupted, somewhere to relax in off hours or to invite a friend over for dinner. Living quarters." She patted the mesh-covered hand. "A basic right and a basic need for any individual, no matter how much we might not admit it to ourselves sometimes. I hear that you have even managed to sleep these days? Then it is past time you got somewhere to put a bed."

"I have indeed been very successful in my attempts at... sleeping... lately, however I feel that this accomplishment is linked to B'Elanna's presence, and that without her my attempts at regenerating this way will be unsuccessful."

Janeway's eyes grew wide and her head snapped around to stare incredulously at B'Elanna, whose blush had just managed to fade some in time to make it all the more obvious when renewed heat took over her features. "I... see?" Janeway said somewhat weakly.

"B'Elanna's scent and the sound of her heart are very soothing." Seven added helpfully, as if she was giving Janeway advice on how to better achieve a good night's sleep herself.

"I, uh, don't suppose there was actually something to Chakotay's claim that he has heard you propose to Seven twice now, B'Elanna?" Janeway joined B'Elanna in blushing, although not nearly as darkly.

"Yes." Seven answered happily in B'Elanna's stead. "Although she has yet to propose to me directly."

"Ahh... I see." Janeway sounded somewhat strangled, but the corners of her lips were twitching as if she was trying not to laugh. "All the more reason to get you some private living quarters then. The issue of your uniform, or lack thereof, I'd rather leave until you yourself feel like changing that. If you do, I would like you to come to me and we will sort it out." She hesitated slightly. "I was thinking of taking a more personal role in your... development, if you don't mind Seven? You have clearly grown to the point where the Doctor is not really as able to answer your questions as he would like, and perhaps another woman's perspective could be of use."

B'Elanna cleared her throat. "In other words, no more social lessons with the Doc, but you can still go to him and ask for help if you want. The Captain and I will be here to help if there's anything you're wondering about, as I'm sure Tuvok, Neelix, Sam Wildman and even Chakotay will be if you wanted to ask them for advice on anything, or to help you understand something you've researched."

"I see." This time Seven sounded as if she actually did, and the tiny smile was somewhat more pronounced. "In that case, Captain, might I ask for your aid in replicating clothing?"

"Why yes of course, Seven. Is it regarding that new uniform to wear on duty?" Janeway was actually quite happy to get to be Seven's mentor in a bit larger capacity than she had so far, she had only feared that she would end up not having enough time for Seven's needs. B'Elanna had assured her that she would not be the only one Seven had to turn to though.

Seven hesitated, tilting her head slightly in thought. "Yes, I will require help with that as well. This time however I wanted to ask for your advice on suitable clothing to wear for a date."

As there was no reply because Janeway was busy goggling at Seven and B'Elanna was busy staring at her in adoration, Seven felt the need to clarify. "B'Elanna has asked me on a date tomorrow. I wish to dress accordingly but have neither the knowledge nor the experience to decide on attire suited for the occasion."

"Oh." Janeway's voice turned soft and more than a little maternal. "Of course, it will be my pleasure Seven. Let's take some extra time off from lunch tomorrow and go through your options then." She looked at B'Elanna with amusement. "You seem to have been doing things backwards this time, B'Elanna. Surely you should have dated before the marriage proposal and... other things?"

"That's not what it sounds like." B'Elanna ground out, a bit desperate. "Honest, I haven't..."

Janeway stopped her with a raised hand. "You don't need to explain that. In fact, please don't." There was a slight grimace before the warm smile returned and Janeway stood up. "You are both precious to me, and if there is anyone in this or any other quadrant that I would think could actually deserve either of you, it would be the other."

She placed a loving kiss on the head of a suddenly teary-eyed B'Elanna, then walked around the small table to do the same, although perhaps lingering a moment longer, to a wide-eyed Seven. She smiled at the two of them affectionately, and then walked away without saying anything further. Her ready-room beckoned and a large pot of strong, hot, replicated black coffee.

Regarding the holodeck, B'Elanna found herself to be in luck. Chakotay had a slot booked an hour after the duty shift's end, and while it was a bit shorter than she might have liked – merely an hour and a half – it would do. Chakotay was not hard to persuade to postpone his program, especially since B'Elanna offered him a double slot in return. Once he found out what the time was for, however, he laughed and donated his time 'for the cause'.

After a brief bout of mind-numbing panic, B'Elanna had settled on keeping things fairly simple for their first date. If Seven was interested there would be time to do fancier things, or more elaborate and entertainment-based things, but as it was B'Elanna would rather keep it simple and do it right, than come up with something complicated that wasn't thought or worked through properly. She had far too much experience with those kinds of holodeck dates herself, from her time with Tom Paris.

Instead of writing a new program of her own, B'Elanna picked pieces from two or three she already knew of and made them work together. With the exception of a waiter that would appear to take their orders and bring their food, no holographic characters would be present. It would just be a fancy dinner in a beautiful, and B'Elanna hoped romantic, setting with some soft music in the background. In the unlikely event that Seven felt like trying to dance, the option would be available to them, but if not B'Elanna had planned a stroll down a particularly lovely lakeside promenade under a stunning sunset. For her as well as for Seven it would lack any of the appeal a real sunset would have, but at least it would be pretty.

The idea was that the date was going to be mostly about the two of them talking, and of Seven getting to experience a few small new things, like the feel of sand under bare feet or to dip her toes into the water. As long as it wasn't shoved down Seven's throat with the implication that she absolutely had to act or react a certain way, B'Elanna felt certain Seven would enjoy a few little things. She had already seen the joy Seven displayed in something so simple as breakfast in bed.

The night itself was surprisingly hard for B'Elanna. She missed Seven, even though they had shared a bed for a measly two nights, the absence of her scent, her warmth and the pleasant weight of her draped over B'Elanna made B'Elanna's heart ache. There were a lot of thoughts keeping her awake as well, regret for their past and the hope and anxiety for what the future might hold. Quite a few thoughts went to B'Elanna's mother and the things Miral had tried to teach her when she was a child. With her arms wrapped around the pillow which still smelled faintly of Seven B'Elanna wondered what her mother would have thought of the tall blonde... and what to do with that insistent little voice inside that said that Seven was the one, the one B'Elanna had been looking for all her life.

In the end she got very few hours of sleep, but it was enough to keep her going in Engineering. As the day moved on and the time for their date came closer, any trace there might have been of fatigue were erased by the anxiety, as inevitably B'Elanna's nerves took over. She couldn't remember ever being this nervous because of a date before, but then again this wasn't just any date... this was Seven.

She left work a little early in order to get ready, although she had made sure to prepare her clothes the night before. The short burgundy dress she had picked looked classy enough for their date, yet wouldn't keep her from walking in the sand if Seven wanted to try that. For the occasion she had also replicated a pair of shoes with as high heels as she dared to wear, knowing Seven would undoubtedly wear a pair and not wanting to add more difference in their height. It wouldn't do to be face to chest with Seven for a date that relied on them being able to talk, because B'Elanna might just permanently loose her ability to speak in that situation.

They met outside the holodeck rather than meet up somewhere else, mainly because B'Elanna felt she should be the one picking Seven up since she had been the one to ask her out, but Seven didn't exactly have a 'home' to get picked up from. Captain Janeway escorted Seven to the holodeck, looking more than just a bit choked up and carrying a holo-imager.

To be fair B'Elanna never really heard Captain Janeway's request for them to pose for a picture before she left, she was far too captivated by the sight of Seven, looking all shy and utterly beautiful in her dove-grey dress. There was a moment of doubt, when B'Elanna wondered why such a special and gorgeous woman would want to go out with her of all people, but then Seven looked at her and smiled.

Heart aching at the sight, B'Elanna gently brushed a tiny kiss to the knuckles of one of Seven's hands, and then led her into the holoprogram.

Unfortunately for B'Elanna time seemed to fly by at warp speed. Although nervous at first, Seven had relaxed after receiving a menu of choices for her meal which included not only things B'Elanna thought she might like, but also dishes B'Elanna had seen Seven eat in the past and a few nutritional supplements. When B'Elanna explained that she hadn't asked Seven out to make her eat anything in particular, and that she'd rather Seven had something she enjoyed than something that might fit someone else's idea of a romantic evening, it apparently reassured some of her worries.

In the end Seven tried one of the dishes B'Elanna had added and liked it. She declined dancing this time, but suggested that they could perhaps dance at another date, making B'Elanna giddy with happiness that she was apparently already okayed for another date. The stroll was also a success, and Seven's delight in walking barefoot in the sand was so great and almost childlike that B'Elanna knew that she would have to take Seven to a beach program sometime soon.

They were still playing in the sand when the timer sounded, warning them that their timeslot was up and that the program would shut down very soon. B'Elanna was startled and a little bit disappointed that time had moved so fast, but at least Seven seemed both happy and content with the evening as it was.

The crewmen already waiting outside for their turn at the holodeck were undoubtedly shocked to find Seven and B'Elanna walking out of the room, hand in hand and with wide smiles on their faces. The rumours would probably be all over the ship by morning.

Their shoes in one hand and Seven's warm hand in the other B'Elanna pulled them to the turbolift, giving Seven a questioning glance when she told the lift which deck to go to. Seven said nothing but seemed content to follow B'Elanna to her quarters, in fact instead of retrieving her shoes when B'Elanna offered them Seven claimed B'Elanna's arm, wrapping both of her own around it.

By rights B'Elanna thought it should have been awkward once she and Seven had reached her quarters. Instead they stumbled in all smiles and slightly giggly, the atmosphere between them relaxed and at ease.

B'Elanna looked away as she put the shoes down, and when she turned back Seven had closed the small distance between them. When she found herself wrapped up in long arms she was only to happy to return that embrace, and smiled up at the one that had laid a more solid claim to her heart than B'Elanna had ever thought possible. It was with joy rather than embarrassment that she acknowledged to herself that for someone who had resisted her feelings for Seven so persistently and for so long, she had ended up surrendering not only alarmingly fast but oh so very willingly.

Warm blue eyes sparkled at her and B'Elanna was quite willing to stay like that, simply holding Seven close, for the rest of the night.

"I did research." Seven admitted quietly, her eyes caressing B'Elanna's face. "Extensively, on all manner of dating and mating protocols. I..." Long lashes fluttered in a touch of shyness at the admission. "examined the instructions and descriptions of the act itself repeatedly."

"And yet I find that knowing the theory..." She trailed off somewhat helplessly, but B'Elanna understood.

"It is not the same thing as putting things into practice, is it?" She asked gently, touching Seven's face. The blonde closed her eyes in silent acknowledgement and leaned into the touch. "Don't worry about it, Seven. I won't ever ask you to do anything you don't feel ready for."

"I assure you, my readiness or willingness is not the issue." Seven smiled wryly. "My lack of experience in how to initiate and perform is."

B'Elanna couldn't help but grin at that. "I think that maybe we should ignore the research and instructions for now, and go with what you feel, what you want." B'Elanna's voice turned huskier and slightly breathless as she looked deep into Seven's eyes, her fingers painting tiny patterns on the back of Seven's neck. "What do you want, Seven?"

The reply was very soft, barely more than a breath. "I want to kiss you."

With a hitch in her breath B'Elanna leaned in to meet Seven's lips with her own, gently urging Seven towards her with the hands that found themselves already wrapped around the taller woman's neck. It was soft and sweet and emotional, and made B'Elanna whimper softly from how perfect it all was.

A moment later her eyes threatened to roll into the back of her head as Seven, whether by conscious application of extensive research or by unbelievable natural talent, proceeded to kiss B'Elanna out of her mind. Every hungry, needy, possessive and passionate instinct in B'Elanna awoke to howl at the heavens, and yet it was not enough. Klingon strength and passion was not enough, as Seven kissed B'Elanna until her knees buckled and gave in.

Seven swooped her up, and without faltering or easing up on their kissing in the slightest, carried B'Elanna to bed.

When her back hit the bed B'Elanna's mind cleared just enough that she, in between desperate gulps for breath, realized that they were moving fast, perhaps too fast for Seven. With gigantic effort she got herself to where she was able to speak, albeit somewhat weakly.

"Seven, don't you think we, we need to, to slow down?" She tried desperately to remember the reason why. She did have a reason, didn't she? "I don't want you to do something you might, um... regret."

The last word came out a whisper, her protests already forgotten as Seven, with eyes gone dark with desire, reached back and swiftly removed her dress. Once again B'Elanna found herself whimpering slightly, this time at the sight of Seven in delicate blue underwear.

"I will have no regrets, nor do I have doubts." The timbre of Seven's voice had reached a depth B'Elanna had never heard from her before, and it made her shiver. "Do you?"

Whatever answer B'Elanna might have mustered was instantly forgotten as Seven got onto the bed on hands and knees and crawled up B'Elanna's body, the intense and dark blue eyes boring unwaveringly into B'Elanna's own. With a groan need and instinct won out, and B'Elanna reached out to pull Seven that last bit closer until their lips could meet.

The kiss was brief and then Seven pulled back again, although only as far as needed to look into B'Elanna's eyes.

"I love you."

B'Elanna's immediate and heartfelt reply was swallowed up by the return of Seven's lips. The burgundy dress soon joined the one already on the floor, and before too long B'Elanna found herself howling to the heavens in more ways than one.

Several days later the new relationship was the hottest gossip of the rumour mill onboard, but even though she heard the whispers and the mumbled speculations, nothing was going to spoil B'Elanna's deliriously happy mood. The only cloud on her Seven-blue skies were the time that Seven still needed to regenerate and therefore forcing her to actually leave B'Elanna's quarters.

But B'Elanna was not one to give up that easily, especially if it meant more mornings waking up to Seven's languorous and toe-curling kisses, or even more languid lovemaking. She hadn't figured out how to make a small, portable regeneration unit yet, although she felt confident that between them, she and Seven would eventually make that happen as well. Instead, during bouts of insomnia caused by a general lack of Seven and a few free hours here and there, B'Elanna had worked out a rough plan to take apart one of the spare alcoves and reassemble the pieces into the base of a bed. She'd need Seven's help to make it work, and her consent of course, but she had a good feeling about it.

Then she just had to convince Seven, in the most logical way possible, that they could store the bed in B'Elanna's quarters until Seven got her own. Yeah, store, that could work.

What she needed first of all though was the permission from either Captain Janeway or Chakotay, before she intended to even begin to pitch the idea to Seven. She figured it was mostly a formality and didn't foresee any objections to her plans, somewhat sketchy though they might still be, so when the computer informed her that Captain Janeway was unavailable, B'Elanna set off towards the bridge to talk to Chakotay instead.

She caught him as he headed for the turbolift, and once B'Elanna told him she needed to talk to him privately she was ushered into the briefing room. It amused B'Elanna just a tiny bit that even with the Captain not on the bridge, Chakotay would not dare to use her ready room without permission. Not while Captain Janeway was onboard the ship and still in full use of her faculties, anyway.

The permission was quickly and surprisingly eagerly granted once B'Elanna had explained her request, but as her old friend took the opportunity to chat a bit about life in general and the recent changes in B'Elanna's life in particular, they ended up lingering for a while. After playfully teasing B'Elanna about her good mood and the rumours flying around, Chakotay finally asked a less facetious question about how things were going with Seven.

B'Elanna smacked his arm and leaned against the wall next to the door, quite unable to keep the happy grin from overtaking her features. "She's the one, Chakotay." She sighed a little and turned earnest eyes on her friend, whom felt himself genuinely moved by the emotions easily read in them. "I know I've sort of said this before, but... by Kahless, if the day comes that she'll have me, I'll marry that woman."

Beside them the doors opened with their usual swoosh, and as B'Elanna and Chakotay both blinked in surprise Seven of Nine, with a smouldering look and something dangerously close to a smirk, marched in and grabbed B'Elanna by the front of her jacket. She pulled B'Elanna up onto her toes and then proceeded to give her a very heated and thorough kiss, the kind that turned B'Elanna's knees to water and had the stunned Chakotay staring with eyes the size of saucers.

Janeway cleared her throat awkwardly, drawing attention to the fact that she had also entered the room and was now scratching her cheek and casting her eyes about in embarrassment.

"I apologize for my break of decorum, Captain, Commander," Seven said smoothly as she stepped away from a swooning B'Elanna, not the slightest hint of embarrassment in her voice. "but as this is the third time B'Elanna has indirectly proposed, I felt a certain... amount of encouragement was required."

Chakotay murmured his agreement and Janeway coughed to hide her sudden snort of laughter, both of them nodding dutifully in case Seven would actually look at them. She did not.

"However, B'Elanna, I believe we agreed that the next time you felt compelled to propose, you would do so in my presence rather than Commander Chakotay's?" The playful little smirk on Seven's lips had B'Elanna grin goofily. Seven's voice dropped a little, entering the realm of flirtatious. "Also, I do believe I have already told you there is no further need for you to 'practice' proposing. Nor is there any question in what my reply will be."

Looking at the two so obviously smitten women before her, knowing that clearing her throat again would not help and that she really did not feel up to watching them make out, Janeway addressed Chakotay with a voice that was just jarringly loud. "Right! Chakotay!" The big man jumped a little at the loudness. "What did you have for me? You know, that... thing... the thing which you wanted to... discuss with me?" A beat. "Now?"

"Right!" Chakotay blinked and caught on. "That thing! Which I wanted to talk to you about." He cast about wildly for some inspiration. "OH! B'Elanna's proposal, no, I mean, B'Elanna's request regarding a Borg alcove. We need to talk about that."

"Chakotay!" B'Elanna groaned. "That was supposed to be a surprise!" Growling she kicked him the shins.

"Alcove? Surprise?" Seven asked, looking curiously at B'Elanna.

"Well!" Janeway declared a bit more happily than she should. "Why don't you girls go talk about that some more, while Chakotay and I discuss ship's business?" She had her hands on Seven's back and gently ushered her and B'Elanna out the door. "It is all very dry commanding officer stuff, no need for you two to hear that. Remember to talk to me later!"

With that she pushed them out of the room and closed the door behind them, leaving Chakotay to groan and grab his injured leg and Janeway herself to sag against a wall while fighting a fit of giggles.

Outside, on the way towards the turbolift and completely oblivious to their surroundings, B'Elanna stammered through an explanation for her plans regarding the alcove bed. As the turbolift doors closed behind them Seven was heard requesting a copy of B'Elanna's preliminary ideas so that she might see if she could add to them. Between the two of them a working draft was completed by that night.

It would take a few more days, and then the new Borg bed was constructed, replacing the old bed in B'Elanna's quarters. That would mark the day that Seven moved in with B'Elanna, although it would take several months until that was made in any way official. The next time there was festivities onboard that were decreed mandatory, the happy couple would be seen dancing the night away, lost in each other's eyes.

In time B'Elanna would even get herself together and stammer through a fourth heartfelt proposal, this one final time in front of Seven instead of Chakotay. And Seven's answer was, as she had promised, never in any doubt.

The End

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