DISCLAIMER: Voyager and its characters are the property of Gene Roddenberry and Paramount Pictures. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To AJ and Jenn for putting up with my last minute entry. Those two totally rock! And a huge THANK YOU to Ann for an amazingly quick and thorough beta. I am blessed to have her looking over my stories.
CHALLENGE: Written for the FemSlash Advent Calendar: Dog Days of Summer 2007.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A disembodied voice floated across Voyager's cargo bay as Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres searched for a case of hyper-spanners. Regeneration cycle complete. "Damn, I was hoping to be out of here before she woke up!" The dark-haired woman complained, intensifying her search.
The she in question was, of course, the resident Borg/human Seven of Nine. It was a well-known fact that the fiery Engineer and the icy-cool Astrometrics officer created a volatile mix whenever they were in close proximity to one another. And, although the Klingon/human hybrid should be a bit more understanding, she could never get past the know-it-all aloofness of the other woman. Time had tempered their relationship a bit, and they each harbored a secret respect for the others' abilities as they pertained to the ship; however, time was not yet enough to cause them to be courteous to one another.
"Lieutenant Torres, may I be of assistance?" The blonde queried as she strode toward the Engineer.
Rolling her eyes and sighing, B'Elanna figured, why not, if it'll get me out of here that much sooner. Aloud, she offered, "Well, now that you've finished your beauty rest, if you could just point me to the hyper-spanners, I'll get out of your hair." Not getting the immediate response she was expecting, the brunette looked up at the blonde. "Seven?" The Engineer called out, unsure of the look of confusion on the blonde's face.
"Explain the term 'beauty rest'." The look of confusion intensified. "Also, how can you 'get out of my hair' if you are not currently residing in it?"
A day did not go by where the blonde wasn't asking someone to explain a simple colloquialism. Chuckling, the brunette provided her explanation. "Well, Seven, 'beauty rest' is an old saying that's supposed to mean that you need to get a certain amount of sleep to stay beautiful." As the blonde's eyebrow implant rose toward her hairline, B'Elanna continued. "And the 'get out of your hair' just means I'll leave you alone, not that I'm literally getting out of your hair."
"I see," Seven acknowledged, and after a brief pause, she added, "Does this mean you find me beautiful?"
"Wha no I " Seeing the blonde's hopeful look turn to momentary sadness and then back to her normal icy demeanor, B'Elanna felt compelled to soften the blow. "Well, I mean you are beautiful, erm, I just "
"Thank you Lieutenant." Seven smiled as she heard words she'd never expected to hear from someone with whom she had such an adversarial relationship. "I do not wish for you to 'get out of my hair.' I would like to assist you in finding what it is you are looking for."
Momentarily mesmerized by the radiant smile and the way the blonde was looking at her with such anticipation, B'Elanna didn't think as she simply answered, "Sure, Seven, I'm looking for a case of hyper-spanners. I need to get a team replacing all the gel packs on deck eleven."
"Perhaps, I could be of assistance?" Seven asked, moving a carton aside to reveal the hyper-spanners in question. "I am running another set of long range scans that do not require my immediate presence."
"Um, well, sure I guess I could use the extra set of hands."
The blonde had always harbored a hope that she might one day be able to call this woman a friend. She did have friends; Naomi Wildman was very special to her and reminded her of the friends she left behind as a child. There were only two adults on the ship with whom she felt comfortable - Captain Janeway and the Doctor - but she felt theirs was more of a parental relationship. What she truly wanted was a peer, someone her own age with whom she could experience what it meant to be an adult human.
"Acceptable." Seven answered as she stood and walked toward the cargo bay doors.
B'Elanna didn't follow immediately. As a matter of fact, she was currently in such a state of confusion that she simply waved the blonde away. "Seven, why don't you head over to Engineering; I need to, um, take care of something."
"Do you require further assistance with this something, Lieutenant?" Seven queried.
"Um, nope." Running her hand through her hair, she blew out a breath. "Just bring the spanners to Carey and tell him I need him to start assigning people to the gel packs."
"Very well, Lieutenant." The blonde responded, picking up the box of spanners and making her way out of the cargo bay.
Once the door swished closed on the retreating blonde, B'Elanna began to pace. "What in Gre'thor am I doing? I must be out of my mind - did I just have a civil conversation with Seven of Nine? Did I just invite her to assist me in Engineering?" The brunette stopped pacing and stood staring at the Borg regeneration unit. "It was that damned look on her face when she wanted to know about beauty rest. She looked just like a little girl - innocent and naive. You could almost forget that she and her kind assimilated millions."
Pacing yet again, the brunette continued her one-sided conversation. "I guess that's not really fair is it - I mean she was... is human, and she was only six when she was assimilated. I couldn't even imagine that, I mean, I may not have had the best childhood, but at least I had the chance to have one."
As the brunette finally made her way to Engineering, she made a decision. "I guess maybe Seven really doesn't know how to act around people. I mean she literally grew up in that sterile, hive-like Borg environment. What could she possibly have learned from the Borg about human interaction? Maybe I should give her a chance."
As the door swished open and B'Elanna entered her domain, Seven looked up from her discussion with Lieutenant Carey and gave the brunette a quick smile. Once again, the Engineer was struck by the transformation a simple smile could bring to the blonde's face. Yep, I think it's about time to help Seven regain her humanity instead of always giving her grief. Besides, she's the only person on this ship that can give me a run for my money in Engineering skill and physical strength.
"Lieutenant, we were beginning to grow concerned as to your whereabouts. Therefore, I have assisted Lieutenant Carey in assigning your staff to begin replacement of the gel packs." The blonde stated as she stood at her normal parade rest stance.
"Oh you did, did you?" B'Elanna growled and then nearly lost it when she saw Carey pale considerably. "So I guess I can take the rest of the day off then, huh?" Hmm, that's not a bad idea. "Hey Seven, how long before you need to check on those scans in Astrometrics?"
As her ocular implant rose to new heights, the blonde supplied the answer. "Approximately 2 hours, 23 minutes and 24.3 seconds."
"Great!" Punching a few keys on the touch screen in front of her, B'Elanna smiled as she addressed the still pale Lieutenant. "Carey, you're in charge for the next 2 hours." She then addressed the blonde. "Seven, how about a sparring session in Holodeck One?"
Bingo! When B'Elanna saw the blonde's jaw-dropping shocked expression, it was nearly her undoing. This is fun I wonder what other expressions I can get her to make.
The blonde was silent as they made their way to the Holodeck, but B'Elanna snuck a few peeks and caught Seven's look of confusion. She waited for the inevitable questions, and she wasn't disappointed.
"Lieutenant Torres, I do not understand your sudden compulsion to spar in the middle of your shift. Even more disconcerting is your wish to spend that time with me."
"Well, you could always say no, Seven."
"I am not averse to the idea; I simply wish to know why you are choosing to spend this time with me." They'd arrived at the Holodeck doors, and B'Elanna had yet to answer her. "Perhaps it is your intention to cause me harm?"
"Cause you harm? I'm pretty sure the safeties will take care of that, Seven." The brunette answered, moving to the programming console.
"Lieutenant Torres, you have run programs in the past with the safeties set at minimum and, occasionally, you turned them off." Seven stated matter-of-factly. "You have never chosen to spend free-time with me and have often expressed your displeasure at my presence in Engineering."
The blonde still wore a look of confusion, but there was also an underlying look of suspicion so B'Elanna decided to attempt to explain. "Look Seven, I know we've been at each other's throats for most of your time on this ship, but I've come to realize that I'm as much to blame for that as you are. I never gave much thought as to why you were such an arrogant gyu'cha. Let's just say I've had a change of heart."
Seven was thoroughly perplexed by recent events as well as what the brunette had just said. "How can the replacement of one's cardiac organ have an effect on one's attitude?"
The Klingon's short bark of laughter did nothing to allay the blonde's building confusion. Sensing this, B'Elanna composed herself and looked the blonde squarely in the eye. "Seven, what you just asked me - about the change of heart and earlier about beauty rest and getting out of your hair - used to drive me nuts." A bit of sadness was added to the blonde's expression. "I never thought about the fact that you'd never actually heard any of those things. You grew up in such a sterile environment where your focus was on the facts, and everything else was irrelevant. It wasn't your fault, and I shouldn't hold it against you, but you may want to study up on colloquialisms, almost every race and species has them."
Seven was sure her auditory implant was malfunctioning had B'Elanna Torres actually just offered her advice? "I will take your suggestion under advisement, Lieutenant."
And so, the détente began between Seven of Nine and B'Elanna Torres. The changes in both women were apparent to everyone, but Seven was the most affected. Not only had she found a friend in the feisty Klingon Engineer, but the friendship had caused everyone on the ship to reevaluate their thoughts and feelings toward the blonde. A few had even begun to address her directly in a much more amicable tone. The comments had changed as well from hateful words to amazement at the fact that Seven could actually be quite charming. Of course, not everyone was easily convinced of the Borg's transformation, and there were still those who harbored resentment toward the blonde. But, that number was slowly dwindling as Seven's humanity asserted itself more and more.
There was no one on the ship more pleased at this turn of events than its Captain. Captain Kathryn Janeway had been the one to sever Seven from the Borg collective, and there'd been times when she'd second guessed that decision something the confident redhead didn't often do. She watched the young woman struggle and did what she could to guide Seven through the changes she faced both physical and psychological. But, lately, she felt that she'd reached an impasse, that nothing she did seemed to further the blonde's development. She knew that Seven was still alienated from most of the crew, and she'd yet to come up with a way to change that short of ordering everyone to be nice to Seven. Then, the unthinkable happened the least likely person seemed to suddenly champion Seven's cause, and Kathryn was amazed at the results.
"Janeway to Torres."
"Torres here, Captain."
"Lieutenant Torres, report to my Ready Room."
"On my way, Captain."
Captain Janeway wasn't at all sure that she should broach the subject of the fledgling peace that was developing between her Astrometrics officer and Chief of Engineering. The redhead really wasn't one to believe in jinxes or superstition, and so, she allowed her curiosity to get the better of her and called the Engineer to her. Her thoughts were interrupted by the door chime.
B'Elanna moved into the room and stood in front of Janeway's desk. She was a bit apprehensive about this call as she'd no idea what the Captain might want from her. "You wanted to see me Captain?"
"Yes B'Elanna, I just wanted to commend you on your recent actions regarding Seven. I'm amazed at the transformation, in both of you actually. I've no idea what caused you two to stop going for each other's throats, but I can't begin to tell you how pleased I am with the results." Kathryn moved toward the replicator and requested her usual beverage. "Coffee, black." Turning toward B'Elanna, she inclined her head toward the machine.
"Oh, no thanks Captain." The brunette declined the offer of a beverage, for some reason she was much too nervous and, even though she was a bit thirsty, she feared spilling it on herself.
"So tell me, B'Elanna, how is it you managed to do what I've been trying to do since the day I freed Seven from the Collective?" The redhead inquired, moving to sit on the sofa and gesturing for B'Elanna to join her.
The brunette moved to the opposite end, glad for the opportunity to sit and also for the few seconds it gave her to collect her thoughts. For some strange reason, she felt like a prospective suitor proving her worth.
"I don't really know Captain. I guess I just got tired of all the bickering and, well, I started to see Seven differently. I mean, one day we had this conversation, and she asked me about something I said. No big surprise there right, but she had this look on her face like a kid who didn't understand what the grown ups were saying. I think I realized at that moment that she was really like a child in a lot of ways, that she didn't grow up around other humans or any other race or species other than the Borg."
The Captain smiled at the brunette's explanation. It seemed that B'Elanna had decided to take Seven under her wing, and Kathryn couldn't be happier. She was honestly concerned for the Engineer who'd so recently ended her relationship with Tom Paris. She fully expected her to bury herself in her work, but this new development with Seven gave B'Elanna another outlet for her energies.
"Well, I'm very happy to hear that you're starting to look beyond Seven's Borg exterior and getting a glimpse of the confused young woman underneath."
"Yeah, I feel like such a targh for the way I've treated her in the past. I'm just glad to get the opportunity to make it up to her." B'Elanna was secretly pleased that the Captain was happy with her. Kathryn was the one person on Voyager from whom B'Elanna sought approval. "If there's nothing else I'd like to get back to Engineering. Seven and Vorik are testing some console upgrades, and I'd like to check in on them."
"That's all I needed you for but do keep up the good work, B'Elanna. I think you'll see that Seven is definitely worth the extra effort." Sipping her coffee, the Captain smiled at the brunette and sent her on her way. "Dismissed."
As B'Elanna made her way to Engineering, she thought about just how far she and Seven had progressed in such a short period of time. It made her realize what a fool she'd been in keeping this bright and intriguing woman at arms length.
Things were progressing well in Engineering and Seven was in the process of testing the last of the upgrades when she noticed a surge in Ensign Dexter's console. Forcibly pushing the Ensign away, she placed her Borg enhanced hand over it to absorb the sudden burst of energy it emitted. The surge ran up her arm and caused her system to momentarily shut down. She was essentially paralyzed and, therefore, unable to explain her actions. She could only hope that she hadn't severely injured the young Ensign.
Ensign Dexter got up and, not realizing the reason for the shove, started yelling. "Did you see that? That Borg nearly killed me, did you see how hard she shoved me? Look at her, she isn't even acknowledging what she just did!"
B'Elanna was entering Engineering when she saw Seven shove the Ensign aside. She ran up to the blonde and was about to lay into her when she noticed her glazed expression and the slight tremor in her left arm, the arm currently pressed against the console.
Through gritted teeth, Seven explained. "The console was overloading and would have exploded " Taking a deep breath she continued, "I have diverted the excess energy to my implant the danger has passed, but I am unable to remove my hand from the console." As the blonde finished, she turned toward the brunette with pleading, pain-filled eyes.
B'Elanna quickly tapped her combadge. "Torres to Sickbay. Doctor, I need you in Engineering right away."
"No, Chief, I'm fine." Ensign Dexter assured.
"I wasn't referring to you, although, if you don't get out of my sight right now, you may well need to see the Doctor!"
Any retort the Ensign was about to deliver quickly died on his lips as he heard the low-pitched growl emanating from the Chief. Dexter wasn't a stupid man, and so, he quickly moved away just as the Doctor transported into the room.
"Seven, what happened here?" the holographic Doctor asked as he ran a tricorder over the blonde.
The blonde took a deep, shuddering breath and attempted to answer. "I saw the... console..."
B'Elanna noticed her discomfort and quickly interjected. "The console was overloading, and Seven pushed Ensign Dexter out of the way before it exploded in his face." She glared over at the now completely mollified Ensign. "She didn't have time to bleed it off to another circuit, so she used her implant to absorb the excess energy."
"Well, it appears that her nanoprobes are beginning to absorb and disperse the energy. Her implant wasn't severely damaged, but she'll most likely feel slightly unbalanced for a few hours." Running the tricorder over the blonde one last time, he turned toward the brunette. "She'll need to rest for an hour or so before she should regenerate. Lieutenant, I trust you'll see Seven to the Cargo Bay?"
She answered quickly and decisively. "Of course." As soon as the words left her mouth, she noticed the blonde wavering. Stepping quickly to her side, she placed her arm around her waist. "Easy Seven, can you move your hand yet?" The hand in question slipped from the console, and Seven's knees buckled. Fortunately, B'Elanna already had a good grip on her, and she addressed her crew as she led the blonde away from the console. "I want a full report on this energy surge, and I want it fixed today! Vorik, you're in charge. I expect to see that report on my desk by end of shift."
"Of course Lieutenant." The Vulcan responded, already beginning to run the required tests.
B'Elanna felt the blonde still leaning heavily against her and knew, even with her Klingon strength, she'd have difficulty making the trip to her office. "Computer, site-to-site transport. Two to my quarters."
"Acknowledged," was the reply as the pair sparkled out of Engineering.
As soon as they appeared in B'Elanna's quarters, she led the blonde to her sofa and helped her to lie down. "Rest here for a bit, Seven. Is there anything I can get you?"
Seven's eyes were still a bit glassy as she tried to focus on the Engineer and what she was asking. "I do not require " She attempted to sit up when she felt strong hands pressing her back down into the cushions.
"Hey, lie still. The Doc said you need to rest for a couple of hours before you can regenerate and bleed off the rest of that surge." Once the blonde settled back down, B'Elanna started to realize what'd just happened. Just as she was about to give Seven a good talking to, she noticed that the blonde was fast asleep, and she found herself not able to tear her eyes away from the vision on her sofa. Seven was just so heartbreakingly beautiful, and B'Elanna knew it was one of the many reasons people never gave her a chance. Everyone thought she was just so full of herself, and why shouldn't she be? After all, she was incredibly intelligent, amazingly strong, and very easy on the eyes.
B'Elanna also realized that there were quite a few people who felt the very same things about her. But, somehow she was accepted much more readily than Seven. That fact alone should've made her take a harder look at what was going on regarding Seven, and B'Elanna started to wonder if, perhaps, she was secretly pleased that someone else was viewed as the outcast. If that were the case, then she was honor-bound to make it up to the blonde.
B'Elanna reached out to brush a few stray hairs from Seven's face. "We really aren't all that different are we?" Her hand stayed softly stroking the smooth skin of the sleeping beauty. "I guess we just compensated for it differently." B'Elanna knew that much of her past had shaped her present. She finally realized that she'd only dated Tom because she'd wanted a human male to accept and love her. She'd never gotten over her father's rejection. Her mother there never seemed to be anything that would please that woman, and to this day, she was still attempting to excel at everything just to make her proud. And all the taunting from the other children while she was growing up had given her a low self-image and kept her from fully embracing her Klingon heritage.
The parallels were astonishing; although, a bit less obvious on Seven's part, but they were becoming increasingly clear to B'Elanna. Seven was seeking acceptance as well as maternal and paternal love. She probably believed that if she were perfect at everything, she would get that acceptance. It seemed that all Seven needed was a friend, and it was becoming clear to B'Elanna that she could use one, too. Seven was the only person on this ship that could cause her to feel strong emotions on a regular basis, granted they were anger and frustration, but they were emotions and the brunette felt that, given time, she and Seven could experience many other more pleasant emotions.
Seven was willing to risk her life to save the lives of the very people who snubbed her and talked about her behind her back. Seven's behavior was honorable; something B'Elanna should've recognized much sooner. Better late than never, B'Elanna vowed to defend Seven's honor. Seven was misunderstood to just about everyone on this ship, she was an automaton emotionless, uncaring, aloof, and unapproachable. To those who didn't bother to see beyond the mask the blonde wore, she was cynical, a person who hated all mankind. Funny, that all this time, it was the rest who'd expected only the worse from her and never gave her the benefit of the doubt. All that was about to change
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