DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters. They belong to Paramount. This story was a result of dissatisfaction with the ending of the Drone Episode. This was actually the first B/7 story I ever wrote. No intent to infringe, insult or profit is intended. I borrowed the first part from the episode merely as a means of setting the story.The Shakespeare quotes were added later as a result of a Macbeth Challenge issued on VJB…Oh. Just in case. I'm just borrowing the Shakespeare quotes too.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Karjens40



"Out, out brief candle.
Life is but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

    William Shakespeare from Macbeth, Act V Scene V


Out, out brief candle…"

"Allow the doctor to proceed," ordered Seven of Nine as she looked down at her charge. The badly injured drone named One looked up from his biobed at Seven who seemed to be experiencing what he had recently learned was an emotion called fear. He hadn't been alive for long, but after his encounter with the Borg sphere he knew what his continued existence meant to his 'collective'. He would not comply with Seven of Nine's orders.

"Lower the force field," she commanded anxiously as the medical alarms rang out through the sickbay.

"His synapses are failing," stated the Emergency Medical Hologram. One stayed silent. He knew what had to be done.

"You must comply," Seven ordered again. She was well aware of what One intended and she felt a wave of panic rush over her.

"I will not," One stated firmly.

"You must comply," she repeated desperately. "Please. You are hurting me," she pleaded, hoping he would obey that, as he had once before, if nothing else. She was unable to keep the pain from her voice as she looked helplessly at him.

"You will…adapt," One replied weakly. Seven stared at him, begging him with her eyes to let the doctor help him, but knowing it was too late as he exhaled for the last time and his head fell back lifelessly against the pillow.

Seven stared at the drone, completely unable to grasp the reality of what had just happened. Her heart felt as it had been ripped from her chest and she could barely breathe.

"I'm sorry," the doctor whispered sympathetically, but Seven didn't hear him. She couldn't even think, as she made her way blindly from the sickbay.


Part 1

Life is but a walking shadow….

Seven found herself in cargo bay 2, unaware of how she had gotten there. She blindly deactivated One's alcove, willing the pain to go away. Slowly, she made her way over to the mirror sitting on her console. She stared at her reflection for a long moment, remembering vaguely how just recently she had used the same mirror to practice smiling in order to become more like the rest of the crew.

Seven forced the tears she felt welling behind both her ocular implant and her human eye to recede as she thought about never seeing the eager, open drone again. He had become more than a burden or a job to her. He was her son, even if his "conception" had been less than normal. In his few short days of life, he had brought her more happiness and pride than she could remember ever experiencing. Now he was gone, and she was all alone. Again.

She continued looking at her stiff, blank expression and made a decision. Pain was not an emotion she wished to assimilate further.

"Emotions are irrelevant," she told her reflection. She heard the cargo bay door open and spun around expecting to find the doctor behind her again.

"I asked you not to…"she began angrily. She was ready to rebuke him for once more barging in on her without knocking. It may be a cargo bay, but it was also her living quarters and she had the right to some privacy. Especially now. But it wasn't the doctor. It couldn't be as she suddenly remembered his mobile emitter was still inside of One. The pain once again nearly brought her to her knees, but it was briefly diverted when she saw her visitor was actually Voyager's Chief Engineer, B'Elanna Torres.

Seven was not in the mood to put up with any of the Klingon hybrid's insults or demands, so she nodded once and moved toward her alcove to regenerate without speaking. She assumed the Lieutenant was simply there to pick up an item from the cargo bay and would quickly leave.

"Seven," B'Elanna said quietly.

Seven stiffened noticeably than turned around to face the smaller woman.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

B'Elanna's brows rose when she saw the familiar implacable expression on her face. That couldn't be right. Seven of Nine couldn't be that cold.

"I heard about One. I…I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am. He was…"she paused, searching for the right word. It had only been a few of days earlier that she had been complaining to Neelix about having "another Borg hitchhiker" on board and given Seven such a hard time about bringing him to Engineering. She had been impatient and rude that day, primarily because she was under a ton of pressure to predict the expansion rate of the nearby protonebula in a short amount of time. To her astonishment, the drone had shown her an 'efficient' way to do it and she completed the project under the deadline.

B'Elanna had been surprised to find she liked One and enjoyed working with him. He was friendly, and eager to please. The complete opposite of the tall woman standing in front of her now, looking as if she were made entirely of ice.

"… Borg," Seven finished coldly, interrupting B'Elanna's thoughts.

"Remarkable, was what I was going to say," she snapped back. As usual, after only a microsecond of time spent with this woman, B'Elanna felt her temper slip.

Seven cocked her ocular implant at that. "Really, Lieutenant?" The disbelief she felt at B'Elanna's sincerity was blatant.

"Yes. Really. I thought you may be feeling…well, I just wanted to tell you that you should be proud of him." Seven's expression didn't change, and B'Elanna shook her head and gave a humorless laugh. "I should have known you wouldn't feel anything. My mistake." If she didn't know better, she would have thought she'd seen Seven flinch at that. But no. She couldn't have.

She watched angrily for a moment as Seven turned her back and entered her alcove, then faced front. B'Elanna heard the alcove power up and Seven closed her eyes starting the regeneration process. She started to leave when something caught her eye. She nearly fell over when she saw a solitary tear trickle down the cheek of the former Borg. Seven was crying. Of everything B'Elanna had expected to encounter when she decided to come see Seven, tears, even a single tear, was not one of them. She stared stupidly at the regenerating woman. How completely alone must a person be to not even be willing to share their grief? She felt the need to say something to comfort her but knew that Seven couldn't hear her when she was regenerating. Sighing, she turned to leave.

"Lieutenant," Seven's voice grabbed her as she turned to leave. She turned but Seven's eyes remained closed.


"At least there is one less "Borg hitchhiker" for you to worry about. I only regret for your sake, that it was One who perished instead of me." The bitterness in Seven's voice was as obvious as it was surprising.

B'Elanna was thunderstruck. For one thing she had no idea how Seven had heard about what she told Neelix. Also, the two women were famous all over the ship for their frequent and fiery disagreements. Seven had driven B'Elanna to near murder on several occasions, but she had never actually wished the other woman dead.

"Seven, what are you saying?" she said feeling shocked as well as slightly ashamed of herself. She had thrown a lot of insults at the former Borg. Some were deserved, some were not and a few were just plain cruel. She knew they would always continue to butt heads as they were both strong, intelligent women who spoke their minds. And Seven still had an annoying tendency to tamper with B'Elanna's engines without consulting her. Their opposing dispositions more often than not had B'Elanna either yelling at the other woman, or gritting her teeth to keep from saying something that would get her thrown in the brig. But the more they were forced to work together, the more she almost started looking forward to their confrontations. Her short temper and Seven's refusal to lose hers often had the pair resolving difficult problems quicker than had they been working separately. It had become almost…fun.

Seven didn't answer and B'Elanna knew she was in full regeneration mode. She looked at the tear track for a little while longer than turned and left the cargo bay, feeling depressed. Not just because of One's sacrifice, but also because of the sudden realization that the woman she frequently called emotionless could cry and that she felt she had to cry alone.


Part 2

A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more…

"Lieutenant Torres. I'm glad to see you," greeted the doctor.

"Hi Doc." B'Elanna entered the sickbay with her repair kit in tow. It was time to remove the doctor's mobile emitter from One. For once, though, the thought of cutting open a Borg drone held no appeal to her. Even the doctor, who was very proud and possessive of his emitter, which allowed him a freedom that no other EMH had, was reluctant to perform the surgery to get the device back. It had only been a day since the drone allowed himself to die, but the doctor needed the emitter back, and the crew depended on his mobility. They had no choice.

"Are you ready, Lieutenant?" the doctor asked soberly. He would be performing the actual removal, but B'Elanna was there in case the emitter needed any repairs

"As ready as I'll ever be," she replied moving over to where One lay on the biobed. She stood quietly looking down at the being that wore the trappings of one of the most feared species in the universe, but had such a gentle heart.

"What happened doc?" she asked quietly, imagining what had occurred when they had retrieved One from the remnants of the Borg Sphere.

The doctor moved to stand next to B'Elanna, understanding immediately what she was asking. "I needed to perform surgery on his cerebral cortex, but he put up a force field around himself and wouldn't let me near him. He said that as long as he was alive, the Borg would continue to seek him out and put Seven and Voyager in danger."

"And Seven?" Only a week ago, B'Elanna would have easily been able to imagine a cold Seven of Nine agreeing with One's assessment, stating that his decision was 'logical'. But now, after seeing what she had in cargo bay 2, she wasn't so sure.

"She all but begged him to lower the force field and told him he was hurting her." Both the doctor and B'Elanna had a hard time fathoming that. Seven of Nine went to extensive lengths to maintain emotional composure at all times. That she would admit that someone, even a drone, was causing her pain was very significant. "He told her that she would adapt, and then…he was gone."

"Oh God," B'Elanna breathed. She had no idea what to think or feel. She wondered briefly if they should ask Seven to meet them there while the doctor removed the emitter. She asked the doctor as such.

"No. I don't think she would be able to handle it. I should be able to locate it without her help. I hope. Besides I believe she is still regenerating."

"Still?" B'Elanna asked surprised.

"I'm afraid so."

"Well, the surgery has to been done," B'Elanna said firmly, suppressing the urge to cry. "Let's get to it."

The doctor understood. "Agreed," he replied, as he lifted the laser scalpel. "I'm sorry," he said quietly to One as he made the initial incision.


The voice startled Seven, and she lifted her eyes, stopping her regeneration cycle before it was completed. Briefly confused, she looked around the cargo bay and then saw Captain Janeway looking up at her with concern. She stepped forward out of her alcove and turned to face her visitor.

Regeneration cycle is incomplete, intoned the emotionless computer voice.

"Captain. Do you require assistance?"

Kathryn looked up at her protégé and friend with concern. "Yes. I'm trying to find out why you've been regenerating for two straight days."

Seven didn't have a ready answer so she stayed silent.

"Okay then, Neelix has also informed me that you haven't had your nutritional supplements in just as long. Why?"

Seven looked blankly at her Captain. "I have not required them."

Kathryn suddenly had a brief understanding of B'Elanna's lack of patience with the taller woman. When she wanted to, Seven could be impossibly obstinate.

"I see. Do you care to explain then, why you have not been at your post in Astrometrics?" Compassion wasn't getting through, so Kathryn tried her Captain hat.

"I did not wish to go." Seven replied coolly.

Well, ask a silly question, Kathryn thought wryly. She knew that Seven was having a very difficult time with what happened to One, but she also knew the only thing that tended to shake the former Borg when she became torn by the effects of her new individuality, was to give her a direct order. She hated to do it, but it was the only way.

"That is unacceptable," Kathryn said firmly. "As a member of this crew, you are expected to…"

"I am not a member of this crew," Seven interrupted.

"Excuse me?" The captain was startled by the statement.

"I am not a member of this crew. I am not a Starfleet officer. Therefore, I am not under your command."

Well. This was new. "Yes. You are," she stated angrily.

"Incorrect. I was brought onto this ship as part of a negotiation between your crew and the collective. You kept me here and altered me against my wishes. Therefore, I am technically a captive."

Kathryn was stunned momentarily into silence. Seven hadn't spoken like this since shortly after her separation from the Borg had been completed.

"That's enough," she ordered firmly, struggling to figure out what how to handle the younger woman. "You will report to the Astrometrics lab immediately." Surely getting back to the lab would help Seven overcome her grief.

"I will not comply," she replied just as firmly.

"This is not a discussion, Seven of Nine. That was an order."

"Your orders are irrelevant," she snapped

Kathryn sighed, trying to bite back her growing temper. "Alright. You refuse a direct order, and state you are not a member of this crew. If that is the case, not only am I within my rights to throw you in the brig, I am under no obligation to use Voyager's resources to maintain your alcove." There, maybe that would….

"That is your decision."

Kathryn looked at Seven for a long moment. She understood that she was struggling to come to grips with a painful loss in the only way she knew how, but Kathryn would not let her withdraw into herself as B'Elanna had. She thought briefly about the Klingon Engineer and the severe depression she had just recovered from. Was still recovering from. It struck her that even though people stated Seven and B'Elanna were like fire and ice, they were actually more alike than people would guess. Perhaps that is the key. But for now she simply tapped the com badge on her chest.

"Janeway to Tuvok."

"Yes Captain?" inquired the calm voice of her Vulcan Security Chief and Tactical Officer.

Not taking her eyes off Seven she replied, "please report to cargo bay 2. We have a customer for the brig." She sighed as Seven didn't even blink.

"Yes ma'am." Predictably, not even the slightest hint of surprise had colored Tuvok's voice, but Kathryn knew she was going to have some explaining to do.

"I'm sorry Seven, but you've left me no choice."

No reply. Seven just stood as she always did. Tall, straight and with her hands clasped behind her back.

Within moments the tall Vulcan appeared in the cargo bay and after a glance between the Captain and Seven, one eyebrow raised in mild curiosity, he led the former Borg to the brig.

Neither Tuvok nor Seven spoke as they made their way down the corridor to the turbo lift. Seven knew that Tuvok would like to know why he was escorting her to the brig, but wouldn't ask. He shared her disinterest in conversation and right now, she appreciated that. They had just turned the corner when the turbolift doors opened and B'Elanna stepped out. She looked at the two of them in puzzlement.

"Commander. Seven," she said unable to hide the question in her voice. She was especially surprised to see the taller woman who had kept to her alcove for the last two days.

"Lieutenant," Tuvok replied simply.

Seven simply nodded at the Engineer before entering the turbolift with Tuvok right behind her.

Weird. B'Elanna then turned to see Janeway coming out of cargo bay 2, looking angry and frustrated.

"Captain?" B'Elanna called out as Janeway prepared to walk right by her as if she wasn't there.

Kathryn shook her self as she heard her Chief Engineer call out to her.

"Oh, B'Elanna. I'm sorry. I didn't see you."

"I noticed," B'Elanna said with a smile. "I just saw Tuvok and Seven. Is there something going on?"

Kathryn sighed. "Join me for a cup of coffee?"

"Sure," B'Elanna said. The Captain looked like she had a lot on her mind and as often as she'd been there for B'Elanna, it would be nice to return the favor.

A few minutes later they arrived in the mess hall, and both got a cup of coffee. The hall was empty for the most part so they sat at a table near one of the view ports.

"So, what's going on, Captain?" B'Elanna asked.

Kathryn sighed. "I sent Seven to the brig."

"What?" That was a surprise. "Why?"

"Because, I didn't know what else to do. She has been regenerating for two days straight, hasn't eaten or taken her nutritional supplements, and refuses to report for duty."

"She's grieving," B'Elanna said in defense of Seven. Kathryn quirked a brow and gave a small smile.

"Well, I never thought I'd see the day that B'Elanna Torres would stick up for our resident Borg."

B'Elanna chuckled. "Me either. Any other day I'd be cheering your decision."


"But, I understand what she's going through. When I found out about my friends in the Maquis, I had no idea how to handle it. So I just shut out everything. Friends. Emotions. I pushed away everything, until I felt nothing. Fortunately, Chakotay knocked some sense into me."

Kathryn and B'Elanna were silent for a moment as they both recalled how close B'Elanna had come to killing herself just to be able to feel something.

"What would you do?" Kathryn asked the younger woman, as she took a sip of her coffee.

B'Elanna sat back in thought for a moment. "I don't know Captain. Seven was assimilated so young that she has never really been exposed to any emotions. Especially what she's going through now."

"The last thing she saw as a full human was her parent's assimilation," Kathryn said almost absently, taking a sip of coffee. B'Elanna's eyes widened.

"Dear God," she breathed in shock. "I had no idea." That explained a great deal. What a horrifying thing for such a young child to have to witness.

"She was assimilated right after that, and never had the opportunity to grieve."

B'Elanna was appalled. She was reminded once again of all the hateful things she'd said to Seven over the past year regarding her emotions and Borg nature and wondered why Seven hadn't punched her in the mouth. She felt an unaccustomed stinging behind her eyes as she pictured a terrified little girl in the clutches of drones that frightened even adults, watching her parents butchered and turned into automatons before her eyes.

"But exactly how is throwing her in the brig going to help?" She asked after clearing her throat of the lump that had formed.

"It won't help her," Kathryn said. "However, it will keep her from leaving Voyager."

"Leaving? What are you talking about?" B'Elanna sometimes, well often, actually, forgot to address the Captain within the appropriate Starfleet protocols, but Kathryn usually let it go because of her fondness for the Engineer.

"I got the distinct impression from her comments in the cargo bay, that she wouldn't be opposed to running away again."

"Yes. She does like to do that," B'Elanna mused with a small smile.

"I was hoping I could get you to talk to her," Kathryn announced.

B'Elanna's brows rose in surprise. "Me?"

Kathryn smiled fondly. "Yes, You. I know you don't really like her. And I'm not at all sure she's fond of you either, but she does respect you, believe it or not."

B'Elanna couldn't suppress a snort of laughter. "Please. Every idea I have is 'flawed,' according to her."

"B'Elanna. She was a part of the Borg collective for twenty years. She doesn't have the ability or desire to be purposefully insulting or spiteful. Unfortunately she also never learned how to be tactful either. She is trying to help and that's the only way she knows how."

B'Elanna knew that, but she still didn't like having her ideas and her work criticized. "One didn't find the need to do that," she protested, but without much heat.

"One was also never part of the collective. Seven taught him his behaviors."

B'Elanna had no response to that. It was almost funny to think that the friendly futuristic Borg had taught his manners by one of the most uptight and rigid people B'Elanna had ever met. Her mind suddenly flashed back to the lone tear that she had witnessed on Seven's face when she was regenerating. She hated the thought that there were depths to the other woman that she hadn't seen. Hadn't wanted to see.

"Fine. I'll talk to her," she said before Kathryn could say anything else.

"You will?" Kathryn couldn't contain her pleasure at the Klingon's agreement.

"For whatever good it will do," she muttered. "I tried before but…." I only regret that it was One who had to die and not me. The words echoed painfully in B'Elanna's memory.


Part 3

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing…

"Well, this is a switch." The amused voice caused Seven to look up from where she sat huddled on the floor of the brig, her knees pulled up tightly to her chest.

"Lieutenant," she said in a voice so normal, B'Elanna had a hard time remembering this was a deeply troubled woman.

Seven looked up at her nemesis. What did she want now?

"Normally, I'm the one sitting in there," the Lieutenant said with a smile. Seven had difficulty imagining what the Klingon-hybrid was doing visiting the woman she most hated in the brig.

"Did you come to gloat, Lieutenant?" She felt a rare twinge of satisfaction as she saw B'Elanna grit her teeth.

"No-o," B'Elanna drawled, fighting to keep her temper. "I wanted to talk to you."

Several responses went through Seven's mind, but she settled on the one most likely to end the uncomfortable conversation. "I don't wish to talk, Lieutenant."

B'Elanna crossed her arms over her chest. "Tough. Ensign," she turned to face Ensign Kim Martin. "Lower the force field," she ordered missing the flinch on Seven's face at her choice of words.

The Ensign, looking between the angry Klingon and the Borg prisoner debated on whether she should do as the Lieutenant ordered. She had heard the stories regarding the two women's 'heated discussions', but decided that angering the short tempered Lieutenant would not be beneficial to her health, so she released the force field allowing her to enter.

"You don't need to raise them again, Kim. Seven isn't going anywhere. But if you could leave us alone for a while…"

Ensign Martin looked even more unsure at that, and B'Elanna smiled at her. "I won't hurt her. I promise."

She relaxed when she saw the Chief Engineer smile and agreed, but as soon as she was outside of the brig she tapped her com badge to notify the Captain.

"It's alright, Ensign. Lieutenant Torres just wants to talk to her. Give them thirty minutes and go back in. Unless you hear something breaking that is. I appreciate your notifying me. Your concern and diligence are appreciated."

"Thank you Captain."

Seven watched as B'Elanna entered the now unprotected cell. The dark haired woman sat on the cot next to where Seven sat on the floor. Seven didn't understand why the Lieutenant was here, or why she wouldn't go away.

"Well?" B'Elanna asked as she leaned forward with her forearms resting on her knees. She turned her head to look at Seven who kept her face forward, with no expression on it whatsoever.

Seven knew B'Elanna was talking to her, but she had absolutely no desire to listen. She found herself longing to hear the soothing buzz of the collective mind where no individual thoughts were allowed to dwell.

"Seven," B'Elanna all but yelled to get the blonde's attention. Finally, Seven realized that allowing B'Elanna to talk to her may paradoxically be the only way to get her to be quiet.

"What do you want, Lieutenant?"

"I want to help you," she replied calmly.

If Seven had been anything other than a former Borg drone, she would have snorted in derision.

"I do know what you're going through Seven. You know what I was like after losing my friends. I had no desire to feel anything. The problem was that I pretended I felt nothing for so long, that eventually I really couldn't. I nearly killed myself in order to reverse that. It was unhealthy for me, and it is for you as well."

"Irrelevant," Seven replied. B'Elanna was concerned by the total lack of caring in Seven's voice. Seven was never a demonstrative person, but this went beyond her typical Borg composure. Was this how Janeway and Chakotay had felt when trying to talk to her back then?

"It is relevant, Seven. You have become an important part of this crew. We are all worried about you."

"I am a piece of equipment useful only when you need my Borg expertise," Seven corrected coolly.

B'Elanna wanted to protest, but found she couldn't. She knew she herself had felt like that about Seven on numerous occasions.

"Seven, you've suffered a deep loss. I know you miss One, we all do. But you've slipped into severe depression. You need to see the doctor. He can help you."

"Depression is inefficient, Lieutenant. What I need, is to go home."

B'Elanna knew immediately that Seven was talking about the collective. "Why, Seven? Why would you want to give up your individuality?"

"Because it is a lot better than this," she gestured angrily at their surroundings. "In the collective, there is no individual. A drone is never alone, and a drone never has to experience pain or loss."

B'Elanna sighed and lowered her head for a moment. Part of her reluctantly understood the lure of the collective. In theory, it was an 'easy' existence in some ways.

Seven still refused to look at B'Elanna who finally moved to kneel in front of the spiritually wounded Borg, forcing her to look at her. "You also wouldn't experience happiness, joy, love, or any of the good emotions either."

Seven lifted an eyebrow at that and B'Elanna wanted to kick herself. She knew that Seven had yet to experience those even on Voyager.

"You have to give it time, Seven. You'll have all that but you can't give up."

"This conversation is irrelevant," Seven. B'Elanna heard the barely repressed anguish that deepened her voice and she wasn't leaving until the other woman released it. She didn't know when this visit had changed from a favor for her Captain to a personal mission, but it had suddenly became very important for her to get Seven to let go.

"No. It's not. And you know it Seven." Heaving a sigh, B'Elanna decided to try a different tact. She decided to treat her as she normally did.

"You're a lot of things, Seven, but I have never considered you a coward." B'Elanna felt a small twinge of triumph at the flare of anger that crossed the blonde's features at that.

"Do you think," B'Elanna paused knowing that this would not be a kind thing to say but it had to be said, "that One would be happy knowing that he died for nothing? That you were so self-absorbed, you nullified his sacrifice because of your own cowardice?"

Something finally snapped in Seven and a rage like she'd never felt took her over. Despite the Klingon in her way, she jumped smoothly to her feet.

"Leave. Now." she growled. The barely restrained fury was obvious.

"No." B'Elanna got to her feet and looked up at the enraged Borg. Despite her own Klingon strength and fierceness, she felt a rare prickle of fear. Seven's enhancements gave her strength that surpassed even her own, and she had known that it had only been Seven's lack of fight that kept her in the cell to begin with. She opened her mouth to say something else, but quickly found a metallic fist in it.

Seven watched from outside of herself as her implanted fist flew out and struck the Lieutenant in her offending mouth. She felt a small touch of guilt, but the rage had not yet receded.

B'Elanna leaned over, wiping a trickle of blood from her mouth as her Klingon instincts rose to the surface and she growled loudly, preparing to attack. She shouted a curse at the other woman and moved to return the favor, when Seven all of a sudden seemed to undergo an immediate personality change and her gaze focused on B'Elanna's bloody lip.

Images and sounds suddenly began running through Seven's head. Her capture by the Borg, her parent's assimilation, the oppressive silence when she was first separated.

"No, no, no, no," she whispered, putting her hands over her ears and shaking her head in what appeared to be fright.

B'Elanna watched Seven's transformation in fascinated horror. She had wanted Seven to let go, but hadn't expected this.

Seven kept shaking her head, but the sounds and images kept coming. The thousands of faces she had helped assimilate, the faces and words of the Voyager crew and their Chief Engineer as they looked at her and found her wanting. Finally, she let herself think of One.

An anguished moan snapped B'Elanna out of her own stupor. She watched appalled as Seven crumpled to her knees and nearly twenty years of pent up pain, anger and grief came pouring out of her in silent choked sobs that Seven was obviously struggling to contain.

B'Elanna was a hair's breath from panicking. She didn't know what to do. The restrained sobs were going to hurt Seven and she'd hyperventilate. She looked around kicking herself for telling the Ensign to leave the room. Suddenly an image of young Naomi Wildman flashed in her mind and what she would do it if it were Naomi who wept so piteously. She awkwardly lowered herself to the ground beside Seven and did what others had done for her when she was in pain, but had never done for Seven. She took the woman in her arms and let her cry for every day of pain she had ever suffered. She felt a wave of surprise and tenderness as Seven finally lowered her head on to the smaller woman's shoulder and wept.

The End

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