DISCLAIMER: Characters, some of the dialog and trekkie technology belong to Paramount and the Star Trek Dynasty. I'm just using them to string together a little tale from the depths of my mind as a cheap form therapy. No profit or copyright infringement is intended or expected.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to my Beta Lenara who kept me on track and from wandering all over the Delta quadrant. This is my first attempt at writing fanfiction so any feedback and words of encouragement would be very much appreciated. Comments can be sent to mapsnika1@yahoo.com.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
CHALLENGE: Written for Epic Proportions 2009.

Living in the Past
By mapsnika


Chapter Nine

B'Elanna was surprised when she woke the next morning to find Seven asleep next to her with her arm and leg draped over Seven. Her first instinct was to quickly extract herself from the sleeping woman but there were several factors that kept her from doing so. For one thing she didn't want to wake her and mostly she was enjoying the predicament she found herself in. So instead of moving, she just laid there and enjoyed watching her as she slept and the warmth of their closeness. She noticed how her breath gently lifted the tiny strand of blonde hair that was lying across her mouth. She thought she looked so young when she slept, her features taking on a softer look instead of the severe Borg exterior that everyone was used to seeing on the young woman. B'Elanna could not resist the urge to remove the strand of hair that was distracting from the beauty of her face.

Seven began to stir. As her eyes opened she noticed that she was being stared at and was covered by the limbs of dark woman lying beside her.

"Good morning sleepyhead," B'Elanna said with a grin.

"Good morning B'Elanna. Did you sleep well?" Seven responded not making mention of the shorter woman's proximity to her.

B'Elanna attempted to casually extract herself from Seven as she talked to her. "How did you sleep?"

"I was able to sleep for approximately 4 hours 42 minutes. That has been the longest I have been able to achieve sleep." Seven seemed proud of her achievement.

"You looked peaceful as you slept," B'Elanna said with a smile. "Are you ready to get something to eat? We can go to that Bistro we passed last night."

"That will be acceptable." Seven began to get out of bed to change clothes.

"I didn't mean right now," B'Elanna said quickly not wanting to relinquish the intimacy she felt with the body that was laying next to her. With those words she lay back down next to her.

Seven was enjoying the closeness she was experiencing with her friend. She found that the lieutenant had lost the bite and fury that she usually possessed in engineering. This woman was tender and kind and treated her with more caring then she had ever thought possible. Lying here next to B'Elanna she knew she could truly grow to care about her even if she wasn't sure what that meant.

The two women stayed in bed talking about irrelevant things like what they were going to have for breakfast, what they were going to wear from their new clothes and what the other members of the crew may be doing on their shore leave. After about an half hour, they both reluctantly agreed to get up and go in search of breakfast.

This morning they did not have a problem getting a table and to the Klingon's delight they were not joined by any other members of the crew.

As they sat and ate a light breakfast they conversed about what they were going to do today. B'Elanna knew she had to make a decision about the holo-experience. She started this with a specific goal in mind and if she were to walk away from this now she would walk away without her honor. How would Seven think of her, more importantly how what would she think about herself.

"B'Elanna? B'Elanna are you listening to me?" Seven stated in a raised voice trying to get the woman's attention.

"Huh? What did you say?" the half Klingon stated being brought out of her thoughts. "Oh sorry, I guess I was lost in thought."

"What were you thinking about that had you so distracted?" Seven queried.

This is where a decision had to be made, the same decision that she had been fighting with herself since yesterday. She owned it to Seven to be honest with her. "I was thinking about the holo-experience with my father." She stared at the steaming cup of coffee in front of her not being able to look at the blue eyes that she knew were looking at her.

"Have you decided to commence with the holo-experience?"

Still staring at her coffee, she quietly responded, "I can do it if you go with me."

Confused since she had already agreed to accompany her, she asked, "Do you not recall me agreeing to accompany you? I would be honored to go with you."

"I know. I just needed to hear it again. Thank you," she whispered raising her eyes to meet her friends.

They finished their breakfast in silence. Seven knew that it was important that B'Elanna spend this time alone with her own thoughts.

Breaking the silence, the dark woman put her hand on top of her companion's and said, "When this is over, I promise to show you a good time. We can do whatever you want. Okay?" They looked at each other again. "Let's get this over with." B'Elanna rose from her seat leaving money on the table for their meal and waited for the taller woman to join her.

The pair found themselves in front of the Holocenter looking at the entrance of the building. Seven had contacted the center after they left the restaurant to inform them that B'Elanna would be coming for her session regarding her father today after being asked to it by her friend.

Knowing the woman felt comforted from her apprehension when she held her hand when she entered the building the other day, Seven held out her hand and said, "Shall we go inside and get this over with." Seven looked at B'Elanna with a dry smile which was weakly returned.

Having gone through the initial setup the day before, the setup went quickly. B'Elanna had chosen to relive the conversation she had with her father at that last camping trip and right before he left twelve days later. Seven felt it best that she just be an observer for this simulation instead of actively participating as before.

Instead of sitting in nervous energy as she did before while waiting for the holosuite to be prepared, B'Elanna paced back and forth in a combination of nervousness and barely contained anger. Seven did not know what or if she should say something. She had seen this woman many times and this was the woman that both intrigued and frustrated her. She felt she could handle the reaction if it was directed at her but not knowing this unfamiliar foe she could not offer any assistance or solace.

The attendant came into the room to inform them that their suite was ready. "Miss Torres and Miss Nine your holosuite is ready. Please follow me." The young humanoid male with yellow tuffs of golden hair that appeared to be all over his body led the two women down a brightly decorated hall. "Miss Torres we have set up your experience as you requested. Miss Nine you will be able observe the memory but not participate as you did before and the characters will not respond to your presence. It is quite unusual to combine more than one separate event into one experience. But you know what they say, the customer is always right." The young man jabbered on not really paying attention to the response of his charges. "You will have one minute between simulations. If you need more time just say freeze program and when you want it to start again, just say resume." He stopped outside holosuite and gestured them into the room with a flourish of his hand. "If you need further…"

B'Elanna was becoming angry at the man who was talking to them like they were first year cadets and struggled to contain her frustration. "P'taq, I know how…"

"We understand the parameters of the holosuite. Thank you for your assistance," Seven quickly interrupted sensing her friend's growing anger. B'Elanna shot her a quick glare then quickly soften to communicate her gratitude for help in stopping her from looking like a targ's ass. The young man turned and left without saying anything further.

B'Elanna stood staring at the door for several long moments trying to remember the relaxation techniques taught to her by Tuvok. Seven stood next to her and took her right hand and gave it a light squeeze before letting it go. She looked over at the blonde and gave her a heartfelt smile before she entered the suite.

The attendant turned and left the way he came muttering to himself, "Why do customers also want to change their memories or relive unpleasant times? Don't they understand this is entertainment?" He continued to mutter as he disappeared now the hall unbeknownst to Seven and B'Elanna.

When B'Elanna entered the suite she found herself inside a tent. She dropped to her knees looking through the flap and she saw several other tents scattered around a blazing campfire. She recognized the site immediately as the spot her father and uncle took her and her cousin camping when she lived on Kessik IV. It was late in the evening; the only light was provided by the fire and the full moon. In the tent she was surrounded by the PADDs she was reading and various other items she remembered bringing with her on the trip to keep her from getting bored. She fingered each item reliving the memories that they held for her. Her attention was drawn to the fire pit as she heard familiar male voices by the fire.

Seven stepped through the door immediately after B'Elanna and found that she was in the middle of a forest with several tents occupied by three human juvenile adolescents. There were two adult males that were not inside of tents but around the fire, they did not notice her presence. She also spotted a tent that was occupied by B'Elanna but she also seemed unaware that she was there. It was true that they had made her an unobtrusive observer.

B'Elanna leaned closer to the flap of the tent so she could hear better even though she knew what was being said between her uncle and her father.

B'Elanna saw her father, John sitting facing the fire as it danced in front of him. Her uncle had come from one of the tents to join him. Her Uncle Carl had just finished talking to Dean about that prank he had played on her earlier that day.

"Listen, I'm sorry," Carl said apologetically to his brother as he joined him at the opposite side of the fire.

"For what?" John responded somewhat surprised.

"For the way Dean treated B'Elanna. I had a talk with him."

"He was just doing what eleven year olds do," he said with a heavy sigh. "I'm sure B'Elanna over reacted."

B'Elanna whispered to herself, "Everyone always assumed I over reacted. I never got a fair shake."

Carl looked at his brother, "What makes you say that?"

"She's too damn sensitive!" he said with frustration. B'Elanna felt the sting of those words by her father.

"What do you mean? She's a great kid." The child B'Elanna didn't realize how much her uncle was on her side back then. She was just so focused on the man who was her world that turned against her.

He looks blankly at the cup in his hand before he speaks with a mixture of sadness and frustration in his voice. "You haven't been around the last couple of years. She's gotten moody, unpredictable…argumentative. She's like her mother."

"I thought you loved Miral's intensity?" Carl asked trying to lighten the mood.

"Everything becomes a fight with her. I guess the older I get the less intensity a man…" With a sad chuckle he continues, "That's funny how mom and dad always turn out to be right."

"What do you mean," Carl questions his brother.

"Mom warned me not to marry Miral."

"Mom liked Miral."

"Sure she did but she never thought I had the constitution to live with a Klingon…and now I live with two of them," he said with a resigned deep sign.

As she listened to the conversation between the two most important men in her life, she didn't know if the tears were that of the child B'Elanna or the woman she was today. What her father said was just as painful to her as an adult as it was when she was a child. And she had reacted as a young girl, she gathered her things to run away from the situation.

She ran a few meters from the campsite and starting stuffing her small bag to leave. She realized that she this is where she learned to run when things got rough.

She didn't hear when her father walked up behind her.

"What are you doing?" her father gently asked placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Don't touch me!" she yelled pulling away from his touch. "You know what's wrong!"

Looking at his daughter with sad eyes, "No, I don't"

"Maybe I'm just moody and unpredictable," she snapped at her father.

"What are you talking about?" he questioned.

"I heard what you said to Uncle Carl."

"You shouldn't listen into private conversations," gently scolded her father.

"You shouldn't have said what you did about mommy." B'Elanna could feel the heat of anger through her tears. She felt sympathy for mother and began to wonder what it was really like during this time for her.

When her father grasped her shoulders to take her to sit on the log, she wanted to turn into his embrace and bury herself in his strong arms. But her anger and hurt kept her from doing what may have helped her bridge that void that was quickly forming between them. He sat her on the log and kneeled in front of her keeping his hands on her shoulders.

"B'Elanna, listen to me. Your mother and I…are having problems but that doesn't mean…"

"You don't love her anymore," she accused her father.

"That's not true!"

"Yes it is and you don't love me either," she said wanting to hurt the man the way she felt hurt.

"B'Elanna…" He was feeling at a lost as to how to comfort his daughter.

"You're no different than anyone else, you don't like Klingons. You said it!"

Feeling frustrated her father responded, "You're twisting my words B'Elanna."

"If you can't stand living with us then why don't you just leave," she cried with angry tears. The words escaped her lips before she could stop them. She stood quickly and went back over to the items she was packing and crumpled to her knees and placed head on her pack and sobbed. Her father not knowing how to help his child anymore thought it best that she just cry it out by herself and walked back to camp.

Seven having watched the whole thing play out, wondered what she should do. Even though the two women had agreed before coming to the center that B'Elanna would go through the whole experience without inference from her friend she had a hard time seeing her in pain.

The chime sounded signaling the one minute interval between experiences. B'Elanna had not yet regained her composure to continue. Seven felt that she had to do something to help her friend. "Computer, freeze program."

For several long moments, the fallen woman child did not move. She had not noticed that the scene had frozen or noticed the tall figure standing over her. She slowly lifted her tear filled eyes and met the compassionate eyes of the blonde. Seven knelt down next to her and she fell into her arms and began to cry again. After another few minutes, her cries turned into breathless wheezes. As B'Elanna looked out unseeing she felt the gentle loving strokes to her hair.

"Are you okay, B'Elanna?" she softly asked. "Would you care to stop this experience?"

It took several moments for B'Elanna to comprehend what was happening and what was being asked of her. Her first instinct was to push away this woman and get angry at her for being a witness to her weakness. "What are you doing? Leave me alone!" the ex-Klingon yelled as she tried to pull free of the embrace.

"No, please B'Elanna. Be still. I am here." Seven tighten her embrace around the distraught woman and she rocked her gently humming the same soothing tune her Grandmother had sung to her the previous day. She felt the smaller woman relax in her arms reminding Seven of how she felt in arms when they were dancing.

They sat on the floor of the simulated forest for several long minutes neither saying a word just finding comfort in the connection with each other. B'Elanna slowly turned so she could face her friend as she slowly wiped the tears from her face.

"You must think I'm a damn fool," she said with a sarcastic grin. With a horse chuckle she added, "Some Klingon, huh?" As she touched her arm, her eyes became misty again as if she was about ready to cry. "Thank you Seven. Not many people would do what you did, but a friend would. I'm glad you're my friend and I'm glad you're here."

"I am honored to be here with you." Seven lowered her eyes from B'Elanna's gaze, "I am honored to be your friend."

B'Elanna felt a surge of love and compassion for her dear friend. She lifted her chin so their eyes would meet, "I know I can finish this journey with you here. Thank you." She lifted her chin so that they were face to face and without any thought placed a tender kiss on Seven's lush lips. Both women closed their eyes as they leaned into the kiss. The kiss held more tenderness and warmth which was felt deeply by both women that left both women longing for more.

When their lips parted, they embraced in a caring hug with each other. Seven rose off the ground and brought B'Elanna up with her. "Thank you B'Elanna." Seven was not sure if she should express what she was feeling currently. In truth, she wasn't sure what emotions she was experiencing but she knew they were intensely linked to the woman in her arms. "Are you ready to complete your journey now?" the tall blonde quietly asked.

B'Elanna wiped the remaining tears from her face with both hands then turned to smile brightly at her ex-Borg as she took a deep breath. "Computer resume program."

As the grid to the Holodeck changed, both women found themselves in a house that was typical of those on Kessick IV. Seven was in the hallway looking at the doors of two rooms. The both doors were cracked about five centimetes with voices coming from one of the rooms, a Human adult male and an adult Klingon female. It was not hard to miss the conversation as both voices were yelling.

B'Elanna found herself behind the door of her childhood bedroom. The door was cracked but she didn't need to have it open to know the angry voices of her parents. She wanted to cower behind the door as she did when she was a child on that fateful day. It was amazing how quickly she was transported back to being the child witnessing the destruction of her family. But this time she needed to see what really happened between her parents and find out why her father left her that day. She silently went to her parents' door so she could see them more clearly. She did not notice Seven standing at the other end of the hallway. She had all but forgotten the support of her dear friend from moments ago.

B'Elanna realized that this was her chance to discover the truth and she wasn't the child that allowed her father to walk out the door. She walked quietly to her parents' door and looked inside to see what she only heard those many years ago.

"Miral can't we talk about this sensibly? Why must we always fight?" John pleaded with his wife. He tried to reach out to touch her shoulder but she turned aggressively away from him.

Miral turned and grunted forcefully at the man. "I dishonored by house and my family to be with you. I did not expect you to be as weak as a Tika cat."

"I am human. What more do you want?" John declared.

"I am Klingon!" she growled with no further explanation.

John lowered his head and turned his back to the angry Klingon, and under his breath he whispered to himself, "Maybe my mother is right." He turned back to face his wife. "What more can I do? I can no more be Klingon then you be human. Where does that leave us?"

"You knew who I was when we mated. If you can't be with me…what about B'Elanna? You are her father." Miral knew that she needed to keep her feet planted where she stood because her anger was telling her to lash out at this man that she thought she loved.

He looked deep in her eyes, "I love B'Elanna, you know that."

"She is half Klingon. Would you ask her to be anything less?"

"No she is the most precious thing to me. I love her."

B'Elanna closed her eyes tightly as she listened to her father declare his love for her. When she was a child, she only remembered hearing those words and then minutes later hearing the door close and her father was gone. She had gone back to her dresser to get the PADD that she had been writing an apology letter to her father. As a child she thought it took her several moments before she found the right PADD. She wanted to give it to him to make up for her behavior on the camping trip. When she had gone back to her parents' room, he had already left.

Now as an adult she knew she must have missed more to their conversation and told herself she would hear and see what she missed before. She realized that what she missed did not take place in several moments but in several minutes.

She stayed by her parents' door to listen to them.

"No she is the most precious thing to me. I love her." He lowered his head and picked up the bag he had packed earlier before they began arguing. "I love you too…but maybe I am too weak to raise a Klingon child and love a Klingon woman." He made eye contact with his wife before he said, "The way they deserve to be loved."

Miral took control of her feet and proudly strode over to the weak and defeated man and backhanded him hard across his face. "N'Gos tlhogh cha!" was all she said as she turned her back to him.

John walked out the door of their bedroom and B'Elanna slipped into a doorway so not to be seen by her father. As he walked past his daughter's room he slowed momentarily but did not stop. She heard him whisper to the door as he passed, "Please forgive me B'Elanna. Grow up to be strong like your mother…not like me." The he rushed to the door of the house and exited for the last time.

B'Elanna knew enough Klingon to know what her mother told her father, our marriage is done. She then heard her mother yell various Klingon expletives and throw things throughout the room. It wasn't until this moment that she even considered the pain her mother must have gone through when her husband walked out and left her to raise a half Klingon child on a human world that barely tolerated their presence. B'Elanna was a child with a broken family but her mother was a woman without a family.

Thinking back on her time on Qo'noS, she regretted being so hard on her mother and her mother's culture, 'my culture' she said to herself. She also wished she had heard the words clearly that night and opened the door sooner to see her father. That night she had heard the mumbled words and her mother yelling. She wished it hadn't taken so many years and so many thousands of light years away from home to finally learn the truth. She had made up her mind to go to her mother and offer her comfort this as she didn't do before. But as soon as she reached for the door, the room dissolved into the black grid of the holosuite.

For the second time that day, B'Elanna crumpled to the floor as she screamed, "Nooo!" She curled into a fetal position and began to cry.

Seven who had witnessed the whole scene rushed again to her friend's side and gathered the distraught woman up in her arms. She began to rock her as she did before and whispered short phrases into her hair as she tried to soothe her once again. She remembered how doing this made Naomi Wildman feel better when her mother and Neelix attempted to comfort the little girl when she was sad.

This time B'Elanna didn't try to push Seven away but wrapped her arms tightly around the lithe body of her friend. After a few minutes, the blonde noticed that B'Elanna breathing had achieved a normal rate and the tears had ceased to fall. She quietly said, "B'Elanna we have to leave now. Are you prepared to go?"

With a deep sigh the shorter woman looked up into the face of the woman who for the second time that day had offered her comfort and not dishonor for her weakness.

"Yes, I'm ready to go. I'm tired. I just want to go back to the room and go to sleep."

As they got up off the floor and headed out the building back to their room, B'Elanna wrapped her arm around Seven's waist and leaned her head on her strong shoulder. Seven instinctively placed her arm around her shoulder. They walked that way for several minutes with neither saying a word. Neither woman thought about being seen by any of their fellow crewmates all they thought about was this moment and the closeness between the two of them.

Without lifting her head from the woman's shoulder she said, "Thank you again Seven."

When they reached their room, B'Elanna kicked off her shoes and begin to crawl into bed. Seven wasn't sure what to do so did what she thought would be helpful. "I will go obtain nourishment for you when you have completed your regeneration." She begin to head towards the door.

"Please Seven, don't go." She raised her head and looked at her friend with sad eyes. "Lie down with me. Please hold me." She said this last request not in the voice of a grown woman but in the voice of a young girl who had watched her family fall apart again.

Seven walked silently over to the bed and crawled in behind B'Elanna and wrapped her arms around her pulling her snuggly to confirm to her natural curves. She then lightly kissed the top of the brown head of hair, "Of course." Their bodies so close that they could feel the heat from each other was becoming a sensation that both women were growing accustomed to. After awhile B'Elanna had gone to sleep feeling safe and loved and Seven felt content to lie there and hold her as long as she would allow her to.


Chapter Ten

The light from the afternoon sun that glimmered off the signs and buildings shone into the window. B'Elanna began to stir still feeling tired, more emotionally tired then physically. Seven still had her wrapped in a tight embrace. She felt the warmth of her breath on her neck and the heat from her body radiating throughout her. She had a contented toothy smile exude over her face knowing that this woman cared for her.

"You are awake," Seven quietly stated after feeling the woman stir. She had vowed to hold her for as long as she was allowed. She tried at some point to sleep after realizing that her companion was not going to wake anytime soon but she could not sleep because she was so entranced by the woman lying next to her.

"Yes. Thank you for holding me." B'Elanna turned in her arms so she could look into her face. "You didn't have to continue to hold me after I fell asleep, but I'm glad you did."

"It was of no inconvenience to me. You stated that you needed my support. I was glad that I could help you. I wanted to help you."

"Thank you. I seem to be saying that a lot today but I really mean it."

Looking intently into B'Elanna's face Seven asked, "Are you still troubled by your experiences from today? Would you care to talk about it?"

B'Elanna closed her eyes tightly trying to keep more tears from falling. "I can't believe that's how it really happened. But I guess if I was able to look at through an adult's eyes I may have seen the truth. I was so angry at him back them. I guess I still am to some extent."

"Did it help for you to relive those times again?"

"I'm not sure. I think it may have stirred up more questions then it answered," she said softly. "I never thought about how my mother may have felt. I always blamed her for him leaving us."

"According to what your father stated in the simulation he didn't want to leave you or your mother but felt he was doing what was best for you both. Is that not the role of a parent?" Her question was asked to not only to help B'Elanna but as a question about her own parents. She had rationalized the reason her parents had brought her with them in their exploration of the Borg. Did she have a greater right to be angry with her parents then B'Elanna towards her parents? She attempted to put this thought out of her mind; she was here to assist B'Elanna.

The words that her father said as she listened behind her bedroom door before he walked out forever came blaring back to her like a red alert klaxon, 'I am too weak to raise a Klingon child and love a Klingon woman. The way they should be loved.'

"I am a part of him. Maybe I am weak like him. I know I have my mother's temper. What does that make me?" At that last statement, tears quietly began to fall.

Seven reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek. "You are a very strong woman, someone that everyone admires. Because you are part human and part Klingon, you are even more special. You can overcome whatever weakness you think you may have." She turned her head away from her friend and whispered, "You were shown how to overcome your weakness by your parents. Unlike me." She had not meant her last comment to be said or heard but found that she had no control to stop it.

"What? What did you say?" B'Elanna looked at the young woman with curiosity.

She closed her eyes and then opened them slowly before she spoke. "It is true. I did not have parents that helped me learn to overcome the confusion of the joining of my two halves unlike you."

"That's not true Seven. You have us. You have me," she responded holding her hand trying to give comfort. "You have become more then your two halves. You were not born Borg and you have the gifts your parents gave you to be human before you were assimilated. A Borg would not have been able to show the compassion that you showed me today. You have become better then you think."

"At times I am unsure," Seven responded with a hint of sadness in her voice.

B'Elanna swallowed the large lump that grew in her throat. She realized more then ever what Seven had sacrificed to allow her to discover and tie together those missing threads from her past. She realized what she sacrificed when she was assimilated and again when she was severed from the collective. "I have been such a PetaQ! You have been there for me these past two days as I relived my memories. I had not thought once about what it was doing to you. Can you forgive me? I want to be there for you. You need to find peace with your past even more then I do. Will you let me be there for you?" She squeezed the hand that she was still holding and smiled lovingly at the blonde.

Seven did not know how to respond. Having been a part of B'Elanna's past these two days had stirred up more then she wanted to admit. She was fine thinking that her feelings of the past did not serve any logical purpose for her present life but now she wasn't sure. What would it do if she were to go back to a time when the Borg were just the funny people that her parents watched? Would experiencing the love of her parents help her learn to love the woman who lay next to her?

Sincerely wanting to know her opinion she asked, "Do you think if I participated in the holo-experience it would help me acquire my humanity?"

Thinking about the appropriate response, the half Klingon brought her hand up to her lips and placed a light kiss on her palm. "It may not help you gain your humanity but it might help you remember that you are human. I think you have already gained your humanity," she answered simply. "I will be with you if you want me there. I will understand if you want to do it alone. I will wait for you."

"I want you there with me."

"Thank you. I will be honored. Is there a time you are thinking of revisiting?"

Seven took a deep breath, turned on her back and looked at the ceiling. "I have a limited span of memories to choose from before I was assimilated by the Borg. What shall I choose?"

"What made you feel the most…" B'Elanna struggled to come up with the right word, "…human?"

"My parents had a birthday party for me when I turned six. We were all together and happy." Her contented expression changed to a combination of sad and scared and her voice became very small. "Ten weeks later the men came and took my parents and me away." She just began to stare past her friend obviously caught in that moment.

Becoming concerned, B'Elanna gently shook her friend's shoulder, "Seven? Seven are you alright?"

"I am sorry. The memory of being taken by the Borg still disturbs me."

Trying to come up with something to get her thoughts off the horrific memory, B'Elanna suggested that she relive the birthday party that brought her happy memories of her time with her parents. Seven agreed.

After talking more about her birthday party and other happy times she had with her parents aboard the USS Raven, both women decided that they should get up and go in search of food. After eating, they walked through the town square talking about Seven's holo-experience. She decided that she wanted to do it today instead of waiting until tomorrow. They had contacted the Holocenter and were able to schedule time for later that day. So for the second time that day, they found themselves in front of the Halocenter.

Unlike B'Elanna, Seven entered the center in her usual stoic self showing very little emotion. The pair made their way to the waiting room and sat in anxious silence. Seven sat watching the door with unmoving eyes with the occasional glance over toward B'Elanna who was doing the same. The half-Klingon was concerned about her young friend knowing the experience that she had gone through earlier that day. She hoped that it would be a more positive experience like she had with her grandmother.

"Seven are you okay?" B'Elanna asked gently placing her hand lightly on her arm.

Seven turned her head and looked at her friend. She was trying to organize her thoughts and emotions in preparation for her experience. She knew she was capable of handling whatever might occur, but still she was unsure of how she should approach the experience to gain the most from it. "I am fine," was her simple reply.

Not sure if she believed her entirely, she left her hand on her arm and squeezed lightly. "Are you sure you want me to be there? Or would you rather I wait for you here?"

Her eyes opened wide as she answered quickly, "No! I want you to be there to observe. I would value your interpretation of the experience."

"Seven, you understand its not something that you watch and observe but experience and relive how you felt to have your parents share their love for you. This is for you to experience not to analyze."

She lowered her eyes and quietly stated, "I am unsure how I should experience this time. I know what occurred but I do not know how to experience the emotions."

"Oh Seven, you have more capability then you realize. You showed so much compassion for me today. Please let yourself feel the love your parents had for you. You deserve that and so much more." B'Elanna moved her hand from her arm to Seven's soft alabaster cheek and cupped it gently and looked deeply into her eyes.

At that moment the attendant came into the room surprising both women. "We are ready for you now. Follow me if you will."

Seven stood immediately and followed the young woman down the hall. B'Elanna had to hurry to catch up with them and made it to the door just as Seven walked into the suite.

The main living space of the USS Raven was decorated with bright colored streamers, a table cloth with different varieties of animals and a rainbow colored cake with six large candles circling one small candle placed on one end of the table. On the other end of the table there was a selection of young Annika's favorite foods.

Seven walked in the room and blinked quickly several times as she took in the scene. Her memory went back to that time and she forgot that she was ever taken by the Borg for a short time. She walked over to the table and stuck her finger in the cake to taste the icing as she did when she was a young child.

"Annika! Not until we eat sweetheart," her mother gently scolded her anxious daughter.

Seven turned and faced her mother as she put her hand behind her back in an attempt to hide it from her mother. "I just wanted to taste the cake," was her reply.

"You know we have to wait for your father to finish his research and then we can celebrate your birthday." She went over to her daughter and lovingly cupped her cheek and whispered in her ear, "Besides your papa has a special surprise for you."

Seven realized that she couldn't remember clearly what her father had given her for her birthday. "What is it mama?" Not being able to remember clearly distressed her.

"If I told you it wouldn't be a surprise." She winked at her and gave her a bright smile.

There were a million questions that Seven wanted to ask her mother but wasn't sure if she should or what question to ask first. She found herself standing in place and just staring at her mother. She had forgotten how beautiful she was and wondered if she had inherited her looks from her. As much as she tried to call upon her rational mind to analyze what was occurring another part of her mind was taking control. The part that was curious like a child and had the same questions as a child.

"Honey what are you looking at? Is something wrong?" Erin questioned her daughter becoming concerned.

She was brought out of her thoughts as she tried to cover her embarrassment. "I…nothing…you. I think you look pretty mama. Do I look like you?" The question came out in the voice of a six year old child.

She looked at her child with love in her eyes. "Why thank you honey, that's very sweet of you. Of course…"

"Of course you do. I have the two prettiest girls in the quadrant." The voice came booming from the doorway of her father's work room interrupting his wife.

"Papa! Where is my surprise?" Seven enthusiastically asked her father. He walked over to his daughter and enveloped her in a tight bear hug and placed multiple kisses all over her face. Her mother joined her family and the threesome began to tease each other and laugh boisterously.

B'Elanna observed the scene with tear rimmed eyes and her joy for her once Borg companion increasing with every laugh and kiss that was exchanged with her parents. She was delighted to see the carefree and relaxed nature of the young woman. She was grateful that she was able to let down her guard and truly experience this time with her parents. She hoped she would be able to take this experience with her after it was over use it to gain more confidence in her relationships especially with her.

After the play had subsided, Magnus patted his stomach and pretended to be starving. "I thought that this was a birthday celebration! Where are all those delicious foods my girls have been making?"

"On the table next to my cake."

"Well I guess we better eat so a certain someone can eat her cake," Erin stated as she winked at her husband.

The trio sat down together at the table and ate, talked and laughed. Seven reveled in the feeling of being with her parents again. She would have never thought that she could feel this way… again or that it was important to her. Seven found herself going back to that day in her thoughts and heart when she was a little girl whose only care was what surprise her papa had for her.

"Where is my present Papa? You said I would get it after we ate."

"Indeed I did." He began to look around the room as if he had lost something, "Now where did I put that present?"

"Papa!" his daughter exclaimed.

He winked at his wife and she tried to hide her laughter from her daughter.

"Oh here it is," he said laughing brightly at his daughter as he pulled a colorful, long oblong box from under the table. Seven didn't remember seeing the box there before.

She came around the table and hugged her father tightly as she took her gift. She opened the box and the Seven began to tear up when she saw the porcelain doll dressed in a yellow dress with blue flowers. All her memories of the doll came flooding back to her. She remembered that she had named her Sally and she was her constant companion until she was taken by the Borg. "Thank you Papa," her reply more melancholy then she had intended.

Her mother lit the candles on the cake as Seven sat in the chair between her mother and father hugging her doll. She found herself looking between her parents with a look that had both fondness and sadness. As her parents sang happy birthday to her eyes that were still filled with tears threatened to spill down her cheeks. It took her several long moments to compose herself until she felt in control enough to blow out the candles. She lowered her head and began to study her Borg implants on her hand as tears filled her eyes again. She was becoming frustrated at her lack of control over her emotions.

Her mother noticed the look on her daughter's face and went and took her hands in her own and brought them to her lips and gave them a gentle kiss and then repeated the same on her cheek.

"Honey what's the matter? Pretty girls shouldn't cry on their birthday, especially their 6th birthday," she softly cooed as she lovingly stroked her blonde hair. After her daughter appeared to calm down she told her, "Why don't you blow out your candles and make a wish sweetheart?"

Seven wanted to shout that this did not occur during this birthday. She tried to force herself to continue with the memory as she recalled it happening. She didn't cry when she blew out her candles. She laughed and played games with her parents. She didn't worry about the Borg coming to take her parents away, to take her away from the love and warmth of her family. And then she flashed back to the conversation she had with B'Elanna back on Voyager about how her life would have been if she had been raised by her parents and for the first time since had been separated from the collective, Seven felt true grief, sadness and anger toward her parents.

Seeing the sadness in his daughter, Magnus placed his arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a tight hug as he kissed the head of his daughter. He looked with a great deal of concern at his wife who stood beside him trying to find an answer for the moodiness of their daughter. [Her mother reached and took hold of her hand as she turned in her father's embrace to gain a better view of both her parents.]

"Sweetheart, what's wrong? Are you hurt?" he questioned.

Seven looked first at her mother and then at her father. She took her human hand from her mother grasp and then reached out to touch her mother's cheek with the shaking topside of her hand. She had forgotten how soft and warm her skin was. Her father brought both his arms around his daughter and then brought his wife into the embrace to increase the connection with their daughter.

With a small, quiet voice she asked her parent, "Mama, Papa, will you love me no matter what I am to become?"

Her parents looked at each other and then to their daughter and answered in unison, "Of course we will."

"Honey, what would make you ask a question like that? You are the most important person in our lives," her father stated as he tighten his hold on her.

With his last statement, Seven felt her anger towards her parents intensify and her mind swirl with so many unanswerable question. 'Why would they bring me here if they cared about my welfare? Could they not see how dangerous the Borg were? To bring a child out here where they could protect themselves…or me.' Hot salty tears fell with abandon down her cheeks as she wiped them away with sharp angry strokes of her hands.

B'Elanna was becoming concerned for her friend as she saw the sudden change in her demeanor. This was supposed to be a happy experience for her but by the look on her face she knew she was experiencing something other than joy. In fact, she had only seen these emotions on Seven's face once before when she lost One. She debated whether she should halt the simulation to allow her time to compose herself but before she could decide she saw Seven stand and command the simulation to end.

B'Elanna rushed toward the blonde who for some odd reason looked much smaller. Before she could reach her she exited the holosuite. Running after her proved to be more of a challenge then B'Elanna realized. As she entered the hallway, there was no sight of Seven. Becoming worried she frantically began looking in the waiting rooms thinking that she needed some solitude to sort out her thoughts. She came across the attendant who had assisted them.

"Hey! Can you help me? I'm looking for my companion, have you seen her?"

"Was she a tall blonde female?"

"Yes! Have you seen her? Which way did she go?" B'Elanna was becoming anxious. This behavior was so out of character for the usually emotionally controlled woman. She began to berate herself for talking Seven into doing this whole thing.

The woman looked at the brunette with a curious expression. "I believe she left the building. I saw her walk pass me heading toward the main entrance." Before B'Elanna could run after her, the attendant placed her hand on her arm halting her departure. "May I ask you a question?" she didn't wait for her reply before she continued. "You chose a memory that did not have a positive outcome and you chose not to alter its conclusion and even though your friend chose what should have been a happy memory, she allowed her past to alter her enjoyment of the experience. I fail to see the logic in your decisions. The majority of patrons utilize the Holocenter for entertainment and enjoyment, you two appear to have wanted to live in your past discomfort."

B'Elanna became angry at the woman and could no longer hold her temper. "What do you know about us? How dare you snoop into our personal lives!" With that she pushed past the woman and ran out the building to look for Seven.

As she exited the building, she blinked rapidly trying to become adjusted to the late afternoon sun. She thought that Seven would head back to their room so that is where she went.

She rushed through open the door and yelled for Seven. There was no sign of her in the main room so she looked through the rest of the rooms to no avail. Walking back into the main room she walked over to the window and wondered where Seven could have gone. "She wouldn't have gone back to Voyager without telling me, would she? No she has too much integrity to do something like that. But I've never seen her that emotionally distraught. Kah'less where could she be?' She sat heavily on the couch trying to center her thoughts and think about things logically.

B'Elanna had practically ran back to the room sure that Seven would be there that she didn't take the time to look into various places she could be along the way. She thought about the places that they had been over that past few days and wondered if she would revisit any of those places. She realized sitting on the couch was not helping her find her friend so she jumped up and headed for the door. As she placed her hand on the door knob, the door slowly opened and in walked Seven.

B'Elanna hurriedly went to hug her but was stopped short by her severe expression that communicated that she did not want to be touched. "Seven where have you been? I couldn't find. Are you alright?" B'Elanna rapidly asked her.

Seven walked fully into the room exhibiting her usual cool Borg composure. She stood in front of B'Elanna with her hands clasps behind her back in her customary pose. She was looking in the direction of the smaller woman but looking right past her. "I am sorry that I have concerned you by my actions. I am undamaged."

"Seven what's the matter? You look…you look strange. What's going on?" B'Elanna was worried about her friend.

"My appearance has not been altered," Seven responded in a flat tone.

B'Elanna's mind was reeling trying to figure out what happen to Seven during her holo-experience. This wasn't the same woman from a few hours ago. Did she overload on emotions? Did something take place that she wasn't aware of? She reached out and slowly took Seven's hand from behind her back and quietly led her to the couch to sit down. She was half surprised that she followed her so willingly but grateful hoping that she had not reverted back to the Seven of old. The blonde sat stiffly on the couch not looking as B'Elanna sat next to her still holding her hand.

They sat this way for several minutes; Seven staring out the window not looking at anything in particular and B'Elanna staring at Seven as she held her hand. It was in those minutes that B'Elanna gave any notice to what hand she was holding, her Borg enhanced hand. She smiled to herself that this was the first time she had noticed which hand she touched or had touched her. Which was odder to her is that she realized it didn't matter which hand as long as they were touching.

Her eyes moved from the hand she held up to the face of the woman it belonged to. She took a deep breath before she felt confident to speak. "Seven, are you okay? I was so worried when I couldn't find you. Please talk to me." She squeezed her pale hand in her dark hand as she waited for her to reply.

Seven continued to look out the window not moving a muscle. B'Elanna was becoming more concerned about the woman.

Seven dropped her head and began to speak in a quiet voice. "B'Elanna I do not know if I can manage the burden of my humanity, of my emotions."

"What do you mean Seven?"

She finally turned to look at B'Elanna. "I thought that revisiting my birthday would be straightforward. I was unprepared to handle the intensity of the feelings that it brought up for me." She stared intently into the dark eyes of her companion. "Was it that way for you?"

B'Elanna felt her hearts breaking for her. "Oh Seven, please talk to me. Tell me what happen."

As much as she tried to maintain her composure, she felt her resolve failing as her eyes filled with tears. "I thought you said it would be a pleasant experience to revisit my birthday. Why did you not tell me I would experience other memories and thoughts as well?"

"Seven, I di…" B'Elanna was interrupted by Seven.

"Why did they do it? Why did they not care about themselves…or me?" the emotional woman asked in an elevated voice.

B'Elanna put her arm around her and drew her close. "Who are you talking…oh your parents. I don't believe your parents did anything to harm you on purpose. From what I observed, they loved you very much."

"It was irresponsible for them to bring a child into such a dangerous situation!" Seven yelled as she sat up straight.

"I don't think your parents knew how dangerous the Borg were until it was too late. Your parents were scientist." B'Elanna was trying to think of anything that would help comfort her. She again berated herself for talking her into doing something that she was obviously not ready for. The fact that her actions may have hurt Seven pained B'Elanna greatly. "If I would have thought that you taking part in the holo-experience would hurt you, I never would have pushed you to do it. I'm so sorry."

Seven realized that her friend's reaction to her pain is what she wanted from her parents but it was too late for that now. She wanted to feel again the love of her parents because she desperately wanted to feel love for the dark woman sitting next to her. "Can you help me understand? Can you help me understand the emotions I experienced?" she asked in a hushed voice as she looked intently into those dark brown eyes.

Tired of feeling selfish about her own feelings, B'Elanna gave her friend a smile as she took her hands and said, "Of course, tell me what you felt."

"I remember that day, the excitement of the party and the surprise my father had for me. I remembered the taste of the food. My mother allowed me to help make my favorite foods. We played games and they sang Happy Birthday to me. They gave me the doll to be my friend. I named her Sally. I lost her when the angry men came."

B'Elanna saw and heard Seven begin to revert back to that six year old little girl as she explained about her birthday and her doll Sally. The only thing that she thought to do in this situation was to pull the young woman in her arms and hold her as she continued her story.

"Do you think it was true that they would still love me even after I became Borg?"

"Yes I believe it is true. They would still love you no matter what."

"How do you know?

B'Elanna swallowed hard before speaking. "I know…because I would love you. I love you. It was not your fault that you were Borg. I know that now and your parents know that no matter where they are." She realized that she had verbalized her love for Seven out loud and wasn't sure how she wanted her to interpret it.

"You love me? Why? How could anyone love me after what I have done? You used to hate me," she said as she tilted her head off B'Elanna's shoulder to look at her.

The dark woman chuckled quietly thinking to herself, 'I thought I held the market on self pity?'

"Seven how could I not love you. You stood by me as I went through the worst time of my life and you have not judged me. I owe you at least that now."

"You use to blame me for the atrocities I committed as Borg."

"I know. I was stupid and ignorant. You are not that person Seven. You have a loving heart and you care for those around you. You have become a true friend to me. I have seen it. I have felt it," she softly said as she stroked her blonde hair. B'Elanna cursed to herself for describing her as just a friend when she wanted so much more. Her fear of rejection stopped her from going further.

Seven thought about what she said. She had so many conflicting thoughts going through her mind that she didn't take the time to focus on B'Elanna stating that she loved her like a friend. It was the conflict about her parents that weighed more heavily on her mind. "I miss my parents. I am angry at my parents…and…I love my parents. Is all that possible at the same time B'Elanna?"

"Yes it is all possible. Feeling those things about your parents is actually very normal, very human. So I guess you know what that means, you're human." B'Elanna felt Seven begin to relax into her embrace and smiled at the woman's increasing level of comfort with her.

The two women spent the rest of the evening discussing Seven's feelings about her parents, what caused her to end the simulation so abruptly and how to start dealing with all her new emotions. B'Elanna was grateful that Seven didn't want to discuss the whole 'I love you' thing at least not right now. They talked late into the evening only stopping to get food from the replicator after their conversation was interrupted by a Klingon stomach growling and ending when said Klingon fell asleep on the couch snuggled next to Seven using her shoulder for a pillow.

Seven felt more content after her conversation. She was able to make peace with the choices her parents made as well as resolving some of her own feelings of loss for not being able to grow up knowing her parents. She realized that memories and remembering them is not irrelevant but at times necessary. She felt that she and B'Elanna will have more time to discuss their feelings toward each other whatever they may be. She hoped that the love that she spoke about was more than friendship and hoped that she would know how to return the feeling. That was a discussion for tomorrow.

Part 11

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