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The darkness was all consuming. Even the sophistication of the Borg optical unit proved of little use against the blanket of midnight. The rhythmic sounds of breathing were intensified and made grating by the absence of other sensations. It was unpleasant. Almost frightening.
Seven held her breath and attempted to discern the contours of the room. It should have been easy. To her optical implant no place had ever been truly dark. But still she saw nothing.
Her breath was expelled in a tumbling riot, her heartbeat tripping over itself in a mad dash to leave her body. She had to leave. Escape the cloying heat and unwanted company. Break the bonds that were keeping her in the bed of a stranger.
Pausing, Seven managed to calm her breathing and turn her attention to the other sound. The other body. His breath was even and deep. The sound of one satisfied and deep in slumber. It was a sound she'd never made, and was now sure she never could. Banishing him from her thoughts, Seven slipped from the bed and made her way towards where she knew the door to be.
Light. Blinding, but oh so welcome, light. The muted colours of the corridor appeared almost hypnotic in their vibrancy, before they too faded into their normal pattern of drabness. But the pleasure inherent in the sight was enough to force a rare smile from Seven's lips. She was finally back on familiar ground. The nondescript corridors of Voyager a welcome respite from the intimacies of his cabin.
She began to walk. Her gait was unsure and her destination unknown, but with a homing instinct she would deny, Seven found herself heading for the core of the ship. Main Engineering.
The corridors had been empty but once she crossed the threshold into the heart of the ship, she was surrounded by curious eyes. They looked and whispered to one another, but none approached her. None risked talking with the Ice Queen. Seven dismissed them as insignificant.
The lighting in the area was subdued, a concession to the faux night they maintained aboard ship, but still adequate for the work that was being performed. She had always considered it pointless. Out among the stars there was no day or night, simply a time to work and a time to regenerate. Humans and their little comfort blankets, so pathetic in the grand scheme of the universe.
Somehow she had known she'd be there. Despite the late hour, and despite the festivities of earlier. She had just known. "Lieutenant."
B'Elanna's look turned from confused to alarmed. Her own private hell of moments before vanquished by the mere thought of the other woman's pain. Something was terribly wrong. With a quick look to her subordinates, B'Elanna led the younger woman towards her office, and the comfort of privacy.
Even as she spoke the words, B'Elanna felt their insufficiency. But she feared that to say more was to expose her heart in a way she was forever denied. So she held her tongue and waited. Waited for the dazed blue eyes to connect with her own, and the shimmer of tears to override her sense of propriety.
In a moment she held the young woman in her arms; comforting the anguish she couldn't name but vowed to banish.
Seven felt her control slip. The carefully maintained mask of borg indifference crumbled about her as she surrendered to B'Elanna's warm embrace. The heat of another body, of B'Elanna's body, seeping into her very being and releasing the pain and terror that held her captive. She finally felt safe.
As her tears dried, Seven took a moment to revel in the feel of B'Elanna's body and the warmth and completeness it provided. It was an emotion she had expected to feel earlier, in his embrace, but it had never materialised. All she had felt with him was loneliness and fear. Not fear of him, never that, but the fear of a life lived in shadow; a life of pretence and missed opportunities.
"I made a mistake." Inadequate and insufficient. "I do not love him." True, but she doubted B'Elanna would offer sympathy or an easy escape. She was his friend, not hers. His confident, not hers.
Seven tried to back away, sure she'd made a terrible mistake in seeking out the engineer. One more mistake in a day of mistakes.
But B'Elanna held her close. "Then why did you marry him?" It was a variation on a question she had been desperate to ask for weeks, 'why are you marrying him?' But then, as of that morning, she had thought the question void. The deed had been done and their lives were forever separate.
"He asked me." It was a stupid answer, but in some small way it was true. Seven had been alone and he had offered her a chance at belonging. She had felt unlovable and he had professed his love. All so simple, and so wrong.
Just as Tom had asked her, B'Elanna thought. "We really are the same," she told her, "both fools."
Seven would have protested, almost felt compelled to protest, but in her heart she knew B'Elanna was right. She was a fool. Worse than that, she was a damn fool. She knew she did not love him, could not love him, but she still said yes. Walked down the impromptu aisle and gave him her hand in a ceremony she believed pointless. Laid in his bed and given him her body in an act she had thought trivial. What greater fool could there be.
"What do I do?"
B'Elanna couldn't even remember the number of times she had asked herself the same question. Nights spent lying beside Tom and praying to gods she didn't believe in, that an end to her nightmare would magically appear. It hadn't worked for her and she knew it wouldn't work for Seven. "You either stay and hide your misery or you tell him and leave." There was no other way.
Seven was quiet. She knew the option she must take, but was also well aware of the consequences. She had been tolerated by the crew up to that point, but once she abandoned her marriage she would be reclassified as a heartless bitch and shunned even worse than before. It was a situation that hurt her deeply, even though she had never admitted as much. But would it hurt more than spending the rest of her life with a man she could not love? "You chose to stay?"
"Yes." She could have denied that she was unhappy with Tom, but B'Elanna refused to lie. "I made the wrong choice."
"Then change your decision."
"It's not that easy." B'Elanna had come so close on a number of occasions, the last being the night before Seven's marriage, but something had always held her back. "I have a daughter now. Her welfare comes first."
Perhaps that was something to be grateful for, Seven thought, not being able to bare his children. Which in itself was such a twisted form of gratitude that Seven knew she could not stay with him. "I'll tell him."
"Good." Seven's decision made her feel like a coward. But at least one of them had a chance at happiness now. "In time you'll find someone who makes you happy. I promise."
"I already have, Lieutenant." Seven looked into her eyes. "But unfortunately she won't allow herself to be happy." She didn't think or plan, she simply pressed her lips against B'Elanna's for an endless moment, before turning and heading back to the quarters she temporarily shared with her husband.
B'Elanna just stood and watched the silk clad woman disappear from view. Her heart at once filled with joy and immeasurable grief.
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