DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and all who sail in her belong to Paramount/Viacom and no infringement of copyright/trade marks is intended.
VIOLENCE WARNING: This story deals with captivity, please be advised that punishments are described that deal with technically induced physical pain.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Nine Months
By Kudara

Part 3: Getting to Know You


Chapter 6


Stardate 52235.07 (March 27, 2375 7:17 pm)

"Maybe we should stop talking about this for awhile, Seven." B'Elanna struggled to keep her voice even, and her irritation from showing in it. A quick glance toward the motionless robot in the corner reassured her that she had been successful. They were seated on the couch and had been discussing the relative merits of some technology the Borg had gotten from Species 228.

B'Elanna started the discussion after they finished eating and cleaning up, in the hope of alleviating some of the Borg's boredom, as all the blonde had to do during the day was to learn how to prepare different foods. Seven, not surprisingly, had applied her usual perfectionist standards to the task, and had rapidly become a very decent cook. But, as Seven had stated earlier, it was not the most challenging thing she had ever attempted.

Unfortunately the conversation was bringing up all the feelings of inferiority, and it's associated emotions, namely anger that B'Elanna usually felt when the Borg insinuated that there was something inadequate about Voyager's technology and about her own level of knowledge.

Seven stopped speaking immediately upon hearing the half-Klingon's words. B'Elanna who had grown more used to interpreting the expressions that ghosted over the Borg's face, could clearly tell that Seven was dismayed and confused. Nibbling on her lower lip, she examined the Borg closely. After two weeks of enforced close interaction, B'Elanna was finally questioning whether her stubbornly held assessment of the ex-drone was actually valid anymore.

"Do you really think Federation technology is so far behind Borg technology?" B'Elanna asked, trying not to sound too defensive.

Seven tilted her head to the side and raised one metallic surrounded brow as she considered the question. "In weapons, shield and warp technology, there are areas in which the Borg have acquired considerably more advanced technology. Federation technology is more advanced in some specific areas, such as Voyager's bio-neural system, otherwise the Borg would not be interested in assimilating it."

B'Elanna nodded then sighed, and was silent for a moment, finally she admitted, "I guess I feel that you are saying Voyager's technology is inferior when you bring up these things." She hesitated for a moment then rushed to finish before Seven could say anything, "And by extension, that my knowledge is inferior to yours." B'Elanna frowned as she realized that she had surprised the blonde, surely Seven realized that every modification she suggested implied that there was something inferior with what was currently there, and that the current Chief Engineer was inferior as well.

The Borg was silent, and B'Elanna grew more puzzled, then finally concerned at the silence went on and Seven looked more and more… depressed, B'Elanna finally decided. "Seven?" she asked, "What's wrong?"

Seven still hesitated then in a strangely tentative voice, "It is my function."

B'Elanna waited for more information, but none was forthcoming. "What do you mean?"

Seven drew in a breath, "I was the Tertiary Adjunct to the Borg Queen, that was my function, to analyze the acquired technology and determine whether it was superior to the Borg's current technology. If the technology was superior then I determined how to adapt the new technology to Borg technology, or adapt Borg technology to the new technology."

B'Elanna was still struggling to make sense of what Seven was telling her in relation to what she had admitted to the Borg when Seven continued speaking. "I was the Tertiary Adjunct, the Primary Adjunct and Secondary Adjunct were superior in ability, but they were from Species 567 and Species 894."

B'Elanna frowned, "What? I'm not certain what you are telling me Seven."

"Those species have superior analytical abilities compared to humans," Seven clarified.

Suddenly it dawned on B'Elanna what Seven was saying, "The Queen's Unimatrix, the drones for it aren't chosen by random, their chosen for ability."

Seven frowned slightly, "Of course, it would not be efficient for Unimatrix One to consist of drones that were not the most suited to their tasks."

B'Elanna stared at Seven for a long moment, "I thought your analytical ability was due to your cortical node…" she trailed off uncertainly.

Seven looked offended, "All adjuncts have the same implants."

'She is, or was, the third best at analyzing how to adapt alien technology in the entire Collective.' B'Elanna thought with dawning respect for the woman in front of her, 'and I've been throwing her recommendations right back in her face.' Then she realized something else, but wasn't sure how to ask if she was right. If she was then she had been trampling on the Borg's ego ever since the Tertiary Adjunct to Unimatrix One had first started making suggestions for improvements to engineering.

Approaching the subject in a round about manner, and deciding to depend upon the Borg's honesty, B'Elanna asked, "Did you realize that I felt like you were telling me that I was inferior to you every time you made a suggestion?"

Seven's eyes widened, "No, Lt. Torres I did not." She paused then continued, "I was attempting to do the same duties for Voyager as I did for the Collective." Seven's eyes fell then raised back to hers, "I apologize Lt. Torres, you are a more than adequate engineer, and display an exceptional ability to rapidly solve engineering problems."

Surprised B'Elanna murmured, "Thank you." Regarding the Borg steadily for several moments, B'Elanna finally commented, "I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention to your suggestions, Seven."

"As you correctly pointed out, I failed to take certain considerations into account when I developed my analysis, and they were frequently impractical for Voyager to implement." Seven looked even sadder and B'Elanna was dismayed to note that the Borg looked as if she would begin crying at any moment.

B'Elanna shifted uneasily; quite aware of how successful her trio of stock answers had been back on Voyager. Answer one was Seven's suggestion would take a maintenance yard to complete, answer two had been that no one but Seven would understand how to repair the resulting equipment, answer three had been that the suggested improvements would cause conflicts with existing equipment.

Between the three of them, she had managed to fend off most of the Borg's suggestions with minimal effort. Recently the Borg had appeared to have given up her efforts to even make suggestions, and B'Elanna recalled how pleased she had been that her entrenched determination to not change her engineering had been finally successful. Looking at the Borg's downcast face in front of her now though, she didn't feel quite so pleased or proud of herself.

"What are you thinking about Seven," B'Elanna heard herself asking with some surprise at the soft tone.

"That I have performed inadequately at almost all of the tasks I have been assigned since Captain Janeway severed me from the Collective." Seven finally replied in such a low voice that B'Elanna had to lean closer to the Borg to hear what she was saying.

"Uh?" B'Elanna uttered dumbly, taken totally by surprise at the statement. Seven was confident, self-assured, arrogant and rude… and crying.

"I am malfunctioning," Seven exclaimed, distress obvious in her tones.

B'Elanna stood up, suddenly concerned that the makeshift regeneration their captors had set up for Seven had damaged her optical implant somehow. "Let me see," she ordered the blonde, "can you run a diagnostic on your optical implant?"

Seven looked up at her, "It is not my implant, I cannot suppress my emotions." She explained haltingly.

B'Elanna stared at the Borg bemused, watching the slow trickle of tears continue to flow. Then her training kicked in, "It's stress Seven, you were present in Chokatay's class with me." She referred to the class the First Officer had taught on how to recognize the symptoms of stress reactions and fatigue. "I think this qualifies as a long term, high stress situation, don't you?"

Seven considered her words and slowly nodded. The tears, however, did not stop as B'Elanna had hoped. She sighed softly, "Seven, why do you think you have performed inadequately."

"I failed to give sufficient consideration to Voyager's situation before making my recommendations, I have failed at adapting to my humanity, I have disappointed Captain Janeway repeatedly." Seven trailed off.

B'Elanna stared at the miserable woman before her and felt a warm trickle of gentle amusement, "So you've done nothing right, everything is wrong, and everyone hates you?"

Seven nodded and looked even more miserable, not catching the amusement in B'Elanna's eyes.

"So you aren't the woman who worked with the Doctor to free us from the Hirogen when they took over the ship, you aren't the woman who saved Neelix's life, or the woman who brought all of us safely through the Mutara Nebula, almost killing herself in the process, or helped Captain Janeway escape when you two were captured by Arturis?" asked B'Elanna, still in the gentle tone she had been using since Seven had begun crying.

Seven's eyes widened in surprise and B'Elanna could see that the ex-drone was thinking quite seriously about what she had just said.

"Stress causes people to loose perspective, they will tend to focus on the negative aspects and events and discount the positive." Seven quoted Chakotay's speech from the class.

B'Elanna nodded in relief, a Borg spiraling downward into a depression was not something she felt equipped to handle. Seven's tears had all but dried and she looked like she was regaining control. 'I swear if we get back to Voyager I'm going to review her suggestions and maybe even implement a few them.' B'Elanna thought to herself as she watched the blonde woman seated before her.

A thought flashed into her mind, and before she could censor it, she found herself saying, "Hey Seven, you know those modifications to the deflector dish you wanted to make a few months ago? The ones to increase the range by 0.5%?" B'Elanna asked.

Seven frowned briefly, confused by the sudden change in topic then her face cleared, "Yes, Lt. Torres. You pointed out that no one besides me would be able to understand the theory behind the modifications in the case that it needed to be repaired."

B'Elanna fought the desire to fidget, she didn't want to admit that some of the equations the Borg had submitted had been difficult for her to understand, much less her engineering crew. "Could you explain the theory behind those changes again? Maybe I could develop a training course."

Seven looked nervously over toward the robot in the corner but it hadn't reacted. B'Elanna had thought it would not, as they were not talking about escaping, only about a hypothetical action once they were free.

B'Elanna had not given up on the hope that Voyager would figure out where they were and be able to free them, but she was less hopeful than she had been a week ago. Her training had shown that their captors, for someone was certainly behind the robots that watched them, possessed very advanced technology, more than capable, she suspected, of hiding them from Voyager's scans. It made the presence of the primitive equipment in their quarters baffling, unless it was a choice made to limit their access to technology that might aid them in escaping.

"Of course Lt. Torres," Seven's voice drew B'Elanna out of her thoughts of possible rescue. B'Elanna sat back down beside Seven and settled back to listen to the Borg. Usually this was a task that set her teeth slightly on edge, but seeing how much happier the blonde now looked, B'Elanna found that she was feeling rather pleased with herself for coming up with the idea.


Chapter 7


Stardate 52300.69 (April 20, 2375 6:04pm)

B'Elanna sniffed appreciatively as she sat down at the table, tonight's dinner was lasagna, and it certainly smelled like Seven had done her usual excellent job with it. Watching the Borg sit down, B'Elanna noted with pleasure that the blonde looked much more relaxed than she had last week. It had been several days since she had failed at any task demanded of her and incurred a corrective action against Seven, and B'Elanna was feeling rather proud of herself as a result.

Before Seven could ask B'Elanna began relating everything that she had done and seen during the day. Without either of them realizing it, it had become a habit after a few weeks. They would sit down after bathing to eat, B'Elanna would tell Seven about what she had done during the day, then after dinner they would discuss something technical.

Over the last few weeks B'Elanna had learned quite a lot about Borg engineering, the species that the Borg had assimilated the engineering from, and the theory behind the engineering. Over that same time, she had been able to convince the ex-drone that just maybe more Federation technology was as good as Borg technology than Seven had first thought.

Tonight though, B'Elanna's mind was more focused on a question that had started bothering her a few days's ago, than on what she was telling Seven.

"You seem distracted Lieutenant," Seven's voice broke into her thoughts.

B'Elanna flushed slightly in embarrassment, "I was just thinking." Seven regarded her curiously and waited. After shifting uneasily for a few moments she blurted out, "Do you remember the Caatati?"

"Yes, they attempted to appropriate Voyager's warp core when you were forced to eject it during our first attempt to form a transwarp corridor. You and Mr. Paris almost died as a result of their attack on your shuttle and the compromise of your protective suit." Seven promptly replied.

B'Elanna felt a moment of discomfort as she remembered how she had immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Borg had sabotaged the experiment, and ordered her out of the engine room. A conclusion that had been disproved rather quickly, but that fact had not prompted her to reevaluate her opinion of the drone at the time. She had remained convinced that Seven was still just waiting for a chance to betray them, she just hadn't that time.

During the rather prolonged silence while B'Elanna was reflecting upon past events, Seven's expression had turned from openly curious to somewhat guarded. When B'Elanna came out of her reverie, it was the first thing she noticed. "You don't need to feel defensive Seven." B'Elanna tried to reassure the blonde woman. "It's just that…" she hesitated, struggling to find the right words, "What you said that day, it just doesn't seem to fit you." Honesty prompted her to finish, "At least not now it doesn't."

One silver surrounded brow rose at these words, "You are referring to when you asked me if I felt any remorse over what the Borg had done to the Caatati."

B'Elanna nodded silently. The longer she was around Seven the more she realized how… nurturing the woman could be, there really wasn't a word that fit better. Over the past few weeks Seven had, apparently, decided that in the absence of anything else to do, she would take care of the only member of her Collective left in reach. Namely one B'Elanna Torres, and in performing this self appointed task she had shown a side of herself to the engineer that B'Elanna had never would have guessed existed.

She had become an excellent chef, and once B'Elanna had gotten over her general disbelief over the idea of the Borg cooking, it had actually made sense to her that the perfection driven woman had proven to be so able. What had surprised her when she finally realized it, was that Seven had been observing and remembering her reactions to various dishes. At some point the Borg had apparently collected enough data to analyze it, and was now tailoring all the dishes she cooked with what she had observed of B'Elanna's specific likes and dislikes. In addition to the cooking, Seven had continued to be the one who cared for B'Elanna's injuries, and had always displayed the gentle touch that she had that second night.

The only possible explanation that B'Elanna could come up with to explain the discrepancy between how Seven treated her, and how cold Seven seemed toward those not of Voyager, was that Seven might not think that anyone outside her Collective was due the same consideration. In which case it was essentially cultural with Seven, as she would have learned that way of thinking and acting from the Borg. B'Elanna used to think it was because the woman wasn't capable of feeling compassion or remorse, but she had seen quite a few different emotions from Seven in the past month, enough for her to give up her previously cherished idea that the woman would always be an unfeeling drone.

"I did not understand why I should feel remorse for my actions at that time, nor was I physically capable of experiencing such an emotion then." Seven's voice brought B'Elanna back to the present.

Frowning slightly B'Elanna was about to ask what Seven meant by that when the other woman continued.

"When the Borg assimilate an individual, the cortical node takes control over most brain activity, one of its actions is to decrease the pathways in the drone's brain that are associated with emotional responses. In the case of children who are assimilated, the cortical node, and the accelerated growth process of the maturation chamber, cause the fully mature drone to not have the same ability to feel emotions as a typical adult member of their species." Seven paused, her eye's searching the half-Klingon's for a moment before she continued. "When Voyager first separated me from the Collective, I was only able to experience a few very basic emotions, primarily fear and anger."

"But, I've seen you display much more complex emotions," interrupted B'Elanna, confused.

"Correct, Lieutenant. Once my cortical node ceased limiting my reactions, over time my brain activity shifted to resemble that of a typical adult female human, and I developed the ability to experience a full range of emotions." Seven's voice and face reflected a certain level of ambivalence about the current topic of conversation.

The expression puzzled B'Elanna, and while she considered it, she asked, "So at the time I asked you, you weren't able to feel that type of emotion?"

Seven nodded, "No I was not."

Seven's expression continued to reveal that there was something bothering her, and B'Elanna was pretty certain now that it was not about her inability to feel emotion at that time. "What's bothering you about the Caatati?" she finally asked.

Her voice hesitant, Seven finally answered, "I am still uncertain as to what my answer would be to that question now that I am able to feel remorse." A long pause followed after this statement.

B'Elanna, realizing that her food was getting cold, began eating. She knew that Seven would continue, once she had figured out what she wanted to say. Over the past few weeks she had become somewhat used to the fact that any subject that even vaguely had to do with how Seven felt about something tended to be a lengthy one, containing several pauses and moments of silence. With the last bit of information that she had just gotten, however, B'Elanna thought she understood perhaps why that was. She now suspected that Seven paused during those moments because she was busy trying to figure out just what it was that she was feeling.

B'Elanna really couldn't imagine what it must be like for Seven, to go from being able to feel only fear and anger to slowly being able to feel an entire range of emotions. Considering the matter further, while Seven sat across from her slowly eating and obviously thinking, B'Elanna realized that since Seven had been assimilated at such a young age, and the average six year old didn't really experience a lot of different emotions, that much of what she had experienced emotion wise over the past year must have been completely new to the Borg.

Finally noting the continuing silence B'Elanna observed the Borg closely, noting the slight frown and generally worried look on the blonde's face. "Honestly, Seven just tell me." She finally stated. Seven paused mid-bite and returned the uneaten food and fork to her plate. To B'Elanna's surprise she even fidgeted with the fork for a moment, before releasing it.

Finally Seven seemed to make up her mind, "I did not understand why being assimilated was perceived as undesirable when I first was separated from the Collective. I was confused and bewildered by the chaotic actions of the crew, and my own emotions. The Collective represented order and control to me."

B'Elanna frowned, carefully she asked, "Yet surely you realized those you assimilated weren't exactly lining up to join the Borg?" Seven regarded her warily after this statement, and B'Elanna finally encouraged her after an extended silence, "I really want to understand Seven."

Seven frowned slightly at this, then shifted her gaze to the table for a long moment and stared fixedly at it, finally she looked up. "I was aware that those I assimilated experienced distress over the process. But it had no emotional meaning for me, I was not capable of an emotional response to their fear, anger or distress. It was merely an irrelevant fact."

B'Elanna listened intently and when Seven paused after these statements she nodded, trying to encourage the Borg to continue. For once she was also listening to what Seven was saying and trying to understand it from Seven's perspective.

"Once assimilated, they no longer experienced the emotions they had before, order was brought to the chaos of their existence, and they obeyed the will of the collective just as I did." Seven paused for a moment, "It was only after I had been severed from the Collective for several months that I began to fully understand why assimilation was viewed with such repugnance." Seven paused again, "And I began to question whether I wanted to return to the Collective." the blonde admitted.

"It was at that point that I began to comprehend why you and others expected me to feel regret because I had assimilated others." Seven paused and B'Elanna was surprised to see a sullen look upon the blonde's face. "However, I did not, and still do not understand why I should feel guilty about my actions while part of the Collective."

B'Elanna's brow furrowed, "What's the difference between regret and guilt… oh responsibility," she answered her own question and her confusion cleared. Seven nodded abruptly, and B'Elanna's eyes widened briefly as she realized that Seven apparently felt a lot of resentment over this.

"From my experience of assimilation I knew that any new drone would assimilate others without experiencing distress. If they had a previous relationship with the person they would recognize them, but the relationship was only information to them, they did not experience any emotional response to the person or that person's assimilation." Seven continued speaking and there was an intensity to this conversation that let B'Elanna know that this was very important to the Borg.

"Analyzing the reactions of those I had assimilated, my own memories of being in the Collective, and my experiences after being severed from the Collective; I came to the conclusion that the physical process of assimilation changes the emotional responses and thought processes to such an extent that the drone is no longer the individual that they were before assimilation."

Seven looked to be settling in for an extensive dissertation, so B'Elanna interrupted her as she was pretty sure she knew where the Borg was going, "Seven, you weren't responsible for your actions when you were a drone, it was wrong of me to insist that you feel that you were. I think what irritated me, those first few months, was that you didn't seem to understand why what the Borg were doing was wrong, but what you just told me explains a lot about why you didn't, and probably couldn't, understand."

Seven looked slightly offended at being interrupted, then that expression was replaced by surprise. "You do not blame me for the things I did while I was a drone?" she asked in almost a wondering tone.

"No, Seven. I don't anymore." B'Elanna thought Seven still looked uncertain, "Seven if for some reason we were assimilated tomorrow I understand that I would be doing whatever task was given to me. Whether it was to assimilate someone else, repair something, or whatever, and I wouldn't think that there was anything wrong with any of it anymore. I wouldn't be able to." she finished softly.

"No you would not," Seven agreed in a low sober tone.


Chapter 8


Stardate 52325.54 (April 29, 2375 7:44pm)

"I believe this is an appropriate time for me to serve the dessert I prepared earlier today," Seven announced as she brought in a tray, upon which was a plate of what looked suspiciously like chocolate chip cookies.

Sniffing the air B'Elanna asked with an excited gleam in her eye, "Are those cookies, Chocolate chip cookies?"

Seven tilted her head to one side and raised her brow in a characteristic look, "You are familiar with this food item. From your response, you are pleased?"

"Oh yea, I love chocolate chip cookies," B'Elanna examined the cookies on the plate with delight and amusement. They were, of course, picture perfect, and Seven had even poured two glasses of milk to go with them. "And milk as well." she noted.

Seven nodded, "It was recommended as the most common beverage chosen to accompany these, or would you prefer coffee?" she asked hesitating for a moment the tray just above the coffee table.

"No, milk's great," B'Elanna said as she grabbed a glass and a cookie. Taking a large bite she closed her eyes in pleasure at the taste. It had been such a too long since she had tasted a really good cookie. B'Elanna wasn't sure how their captors came by the basic food staples they provided for Seven to cook with, she assumed they used some type of replication system. If they did then it was not like the power efficient system Voyager used, but one of the types similar to what restaurants used, where accuracy, not the amount of power, was paramount. Whatever they used the quality was excellent, and it definitely showed in the foods Seven cooked.

"Mmmm," B'Elanna opened her eyes after this eloquent statement of appreciation, and started snickering at the look Seven was giving her. "That translates into, these are really good, thank you for making them." she clarified.

Seven, still slightly wide eyed at the engineer's response to the cookies, replied, "You are welcome Lt. Torres."

B'Elanna frowned, and castigated herself for not noticing earlier that Seven still called her by her rank. "Seven call me B'Elanna, you don't need to be so formal with me."

She had just surprised the blonde, that was obvious, what wasn't so clear was why. B'Elanna stared at Seven in growing confusion, over the past weeks she had noticed that Seven's face, especially her eyes, were much more expressive than she had ever noticed before. The Borg just wasn't as obvious in her facial expressions as most people were. At the current moment, Seven's face was rather animated for the ex-drone, and from the varied expressions passing over it, B'Elanna could only guess that the blonde was experiencing several different emotions. Why her simple offer to let Seven use her first name would get such a reaction, though, she had no idea.

Finally Seven asked hesitantly, "In my observations of human behavior, I have noticed that, except in Captain Janeway's case where she uses the first names of the Senior Officers to denote when she is speaking informally to them, the use of the first name is reserved for those regarded as friends. Does this mean that we are friends?"

"Well," B'Elanna paused marshaling her thoughts, "I'd say so, I mean we have been getting along well lately. And I like you Seven." Uncertainly, and feeling a bit defensive she finished, "Do you not want to be friends?"

A slight furrow between Seven's brows and silence met her question. B'Elanna put her milk on the table and crossed her arms over her chest feeling the first stirrings of rejection and anger. Then it occurred to her that perhaps Seven might not know quite what she meant by her offer. She ran through her head Seven's relationships with those on board and came up with only Janeway, the Doc and Harry as possible candidates to have offered friendship to Seven.

'So a Captain who can never forget that she's your Captain, and doesn't hesitate to use what she knows about you against you if she feels she needs to as the Captain; a hologram that lords his relative knowledge of humanity over you, and a guy that wants to date you.' Of the three only Harry was probably a good example of what a friend should be.

"Seven do you understand what a friend is?" B'Elanna was too focused on the woman beside her to notice how gentle her voice had become.

"One attached to another by affection or esteem." Seven replied.

B'Elanna sighed, "That's the definition, but do you understand what it means?"

The furrow reappeared, "At one time I believed I understood the usage of this term, but it appears to be more complicated a relationship than I had first thought." Seven stated.

B'Elanna guessed, "The Captain."

The metal around Seven's eye flew upward, "Yes, the Captain is the primary source of my confusion regarding the nature of this type of human relationship. How did you know this?"

"Not really that hard to guess," B'Elanna replied dryly. "Janeway's a nice person most of the time, but sometimes when she gets in her 'I win' moods, she can be very…" the half-Klingon searched for the proper word, but finally gave up. "Well she's not such a good friend at that time. Take what she did to Tom as an example, I don't think she could have chosen a punishment that would affect him more than solitary confinement."

Seven's face tightened and she nodded jerkily.

Staring at the Borg it suddenly dawned on B'Elanna that what she had initially scoffed at months ago as light punishment, might have been a lot harsher on Seven than anyone had appreciated. 'Except Janeway, she would have known, and would have done it anyway.' B'Elanna thought. She had confronted Janeway about Tom's punishment, thinking that the Captain had overlooked the possible psychological effects on the pilot, only to walk out shaken and enraged when she realized that Janeway not only fully understood what she was doing to Tom, but she didn't care so long as it ensured that he obeyed her in the future.

"Well when she gets in those moods, she uses what she knows about to you against you. Like you don't like being alone or not having anything constructive to do, and like Tom doesn't like being alone either and has a definite problem with being confined." B'Elanna stated. She wasn't surprised when instead of disagreeing with her assessment, Seven nodded, confirming her suspicions about Seven's punishments. "That's not something a friend is supposed to do, Seven. They aren't supposed to use what they know against you, and they aren't supposed to do things that could emotionally and mentally harm you, at least not on purpose."

Seven looked troubled, "She cannot always be my friend because she is the Captain."

B'Elanna barked out a short laugh, "You mean she's your friend until you do something to challenge her authority as Captain."

Seven looked openly distressed at this comment. B'Elanna bit back her anger, "I'm sorry Seven, I know she's done a lot for you. If it weren't for her you probably would have been left at some planet to fend for yourself." she admitted, not feeling too proud of it. "I'm still mad at her about Tom….and I'm worried about him." she admitted.

"Lt. Paris is resilient, and Ensign Kim is his friend. Harry Kim will care for him in your absence." Seven tried to reassure her, but B'Elanna could tell that she was not quite as certain as she sounded, and was concerned as well.

Staring at the Borg, B'Elanna found her mind wandering back to those first few months, when Seven seemed to be restricted to the Cargo Bay as much as she had been in the Astrometrics Lab she helped build, or Engineering. Had anyone been there to speak up for the blonde, to even raise the question of what so much solitude would do to someone who wasn't used to being alone?

With some shame she remembered her glee over each of those times, and the last month long confinement when Seven had sent the injured alien over to the Hirogen. It was only after the Hirogen had taken over Voyager and forced them to participate in their Holodeck games that anyone had realized that the Borg had probably prevented Voyager from being destroyed that day, but B'Elanna doubted that anyone had ever admitted as much to the blonde. Even the Captain had been overheard relishing the Borg's subsequent greater willingness to obey orders just before Seven had been given the assignment of working with Kovin. Certainly she herself had enjoyed seeing Seven, not being catered to, or given greater latitude than others.

Belatedly she realized that she had never responded to Seven, "Harry will do his best, he's a good friend to have." Seven nodded and picked up her milk and a cookie and began to delicately nibble on it. B'Elanna went back to considering the events right after Seven had been released from the Cargo Bay.

She had always felt slightly guilty over the fact that she had never clarified with the Captain that she hadn't actually seen the events that lead up to Seven striking the trader and breaking his nose. At the time the Captain had asked, she hadn't really thought about the fact that she had looked over and saw Kovin standing very close to Seven, looked down at her console and listened to them, and looked up in time to see Kovin impact the deck. There had been about fifteen seconds of time, during which Seven struck the trader that she hadn't actually overseen, and later she just hadn't bothered to clear it up with the Captain, not wanting the woman to think she had willfully omitted something.

Now thinking of Seven's obvious rage at the time, and the subsequent things she had overheard, about Seven having a panic attack in Sickbay and suffering flashbacks, B'Elanna wondered if the long confinement had anything to do with Seven's less than stable mental state during that time. And what exactly the trader had done to provoke Seven.

Feeling anxious, and suspecting that she might really not like the answer, she said, "Seven," she paused and couldn't meet the woman's curious eyes as the blonde glanced at her in response. "Remember Kovin?"

Seven frowned and looked uneasy, "Yes, he was killed because of my erroneous accusations." she stated quietly.

B'Elanna frowned, having been unaware that Seven blamed herself for the man's death. "Could you show me how he hit you?" she blurted out.

The optical implant rose at this and Seven stared at her blankly for a moment, "I would not want to damage you Lt…" Seven hesitated, "B'Elanna." she finished.

"Damage me?" B'Elanna asked confused, unaware that Seven had been injured during the episode. To her surprise Seven lifted an arm across her breasts protectively, covering them.

"The manner in which he struck me hurt my breasts, B'Elanna," Seven clarified, she dropped her arm but remained slightly hunched over and looked very unhappy with the conversation.

'What the?' B'Elanna thought, "How exactly did he hit you?" she asked shocked. Hearing the anger in her tone she jerked her head to the side and then breathed a sigh of relief at seeing that the robot had not interpreted it as anger toward Seven.

When she turned back Seven waited until she had her attention, then moved her hand diagonally across her chest, and over the center of both of her breasts. "Only he impacted my body here and here," she clarified indicating a point on the outside of one breast and the inside of the other.

"No wonder you hit him," said B'Elanna. It was the first thing she though, the second and unsaid thought was, 'I helped him get away with it. I helped him get away with striking her like that.' She stared off to the side, trying to come to grips with what she had allowed to happen in her own engine room, and the fact that she had helped Kovin get away with it by not admitting to Janeway that contrary to what she had first stated, she hadn't actually witnessed the entire incident.

"I'm sorry Seven," she whispered feeling worse by the second. "I'm sorry I didn't go to Janeway as soon as I realized that I hadn't seen everything, if I had she would have thrown him off the ship for doing that."

Seven's face revealed her puzzlement, "It was not incorrect of me to strike him?"

B'Elanna opened her mouth then closed it considering the question. "Well…Janeway would probably tell you that you shouldn't have struck him, just stepped away and reported the incident. But I certainly would have knocked his ass to the floor for touching me like that."

Seven stared at her for a long moment, "I am still responsible for his death," she concluded sadly.

"Why do you think that?" B'Elanna asked trying to remember all the details and what the Borg would have had to do with any of that idiot's decisions.

"The accusations I made due to my memory error, they started the chain of events that lead to his death." Seven explained. "Captain Janeway blamed me." she finished sadly.

"Seven," B'Elanna stopped trying to figure out a diplomatic way to say that idea was stupid. "Seven," she began again, "The Doctor made a mistake trying to be a psychologist when he isn't one. You made a mistake believing that your memories of assimilation." B'Elanna paused realizing something, "Memories of a six year old child who probably didn't fully understand what was happening, you thought they were of Kovin hurting you for some reason. Maybe it was the thoron blast, maybe something else, but you thought it was true when you said it right?"

Seven mutely nodded in response.

"Kovin was the one who decided to run, Kovin was the one who decided to fire on Voyager even though we weren't attacking him, and Kovin was the idiot who kept firing when his weapon systems were overloading even when we hadn't ever fired back." B'Elanna's gaze was steadily meeting Seven's trying to convince the other woman of the sincerity of her words. "Seven, he killed himself, no one forced him to make the decisions that he did, no one's responsible for his death besides him." She paused a moment, "And if Janeway told you she blamed you for it then she was wrong for doing that."

Seven's face was a picture of confusion and indecision, haltingly she stated, "She did not tell me that she blamed me, but after Kovin's death she turned and looked at me. My analysis of her facial expression was that she held me responsible for the event."

B'Elanna knew the look Seven was talking about, and could easily see Janeway giving the blonde such a look after Kovin's ship exploded. She sighed, "I don't doubt your right. But I'm sure if you were to ask her today she would tell you that she didn't, and would probably even apologize for causing you to believe that you should."

Seven regarded her, her expression still confused, finally she said, "I will consider what you have said B'Elanna."

Nodding, B'Elanna went back to her milk and another cookie, needing something to occupy her hands while she thought about some of her past actions.

"B'Elanna," Seven's voice caught her attention after a few minutes and she looked up. "I forgive you." Looking into the blue eyes meeting hers, B'Elanna could see nothing but sincerity in them.


Chapter 9


Stardate 52326.14 (April 30, 2375 2:04am)

A slight pressure against her shoulder woke the half-Klingon from a restless sleep punctuated with memories of the times she had yelled at Seven or enjoyed seeing Seven embarrassed at some social situation. Thus, when she woke she was feeling quite a bit of guilt, and was therefore cranky at the world in general.

Looking over in the dim light she realized with surprise that what had woken her was Seven, or specifically Seven's forehead where it was pressed against her arm. It wasn't surprising that Seven was over on her side of the bed. Seven regenerated for four hours every night on her side, when the cycle ended she remained asleep and drifted over toward the heated side of the bed.

Their very first night of captivity, when it had happened B'Elanna had woken, and had been ready to tell the Borg to move back over when she realized that the blonde was shivering. Puzzled she had lifted herself up and reached over the sleeping woman only to find that the other side of the bed felt definitely cold compared to hers. It hadn't taken her long to realize that her side of the bed was heated, whereas Seven's was either not or was actively being chilled. After considering the situation for a few moments she had just moved over closer to her edge and left Seven alone.

This was the first time, though, that Seven had actually come close enough to touch her. Carefully B'Elanna moved away and rolled over on her side so that she could see Seven's face, not even noticing that her irritation over being woken was gone. The blonde slept with her mouth partially open, showing just the tips of white teeth, and her hands were folded together against her upper chest. In sleep Seven's face showed little of its usual expression. Instead it was completely relaxed, softer and much more innocent looking than when she was awake.

'She looks almost like a child sleeping like that,' B'Elanna thought, 'But she's definitely not.' Seven knew, and had seen, entirely too much to be compared to a child in anything except understanding her emotions and social knowledge. And even there she was improving by leaps and bounds.

"I've been such a P'taq to you," B'Elanna admitted to the sleeping woman in a whisper. Then she smiled wryly, after all it was not like Seven hadn't been perfectly capable of getting some of her own back in their arguments, and definitely had upon occasion.

Softly she sighed, admitting to herself that the Borg was a much more forgiving and generally kind person than she was, if their roles had been reversed she would have made sure that Seven's life was a living hell; trapped in these rooms all the time with nothing to do but cook and clean, she would have blamed the Borg for it all. Of course that was probably the very reason she was being trained to be some type of soldier and Seven was the hostage.

So she got to go outside, learn how to use different weapons and equipment, taught tactics, how to move around without being seen, more medical training than she had ever wanted, and Seven got the pain inducers. All because she would adapt and not hold it against B'Elanna, and the same would not have been true the other way around.

Gently she reached out and stroked the blond hair for a few moments, the only thing she could do was make sure that she tried her damnedest to please their captor or captors so Seven wouldn't be hurt.


Chapter 10


Stardate 52394.67 (May 25, 2375 1:21am)

Seven murmured incoherently, and shifted restlessly, in her fevered sleep. Half-asleep, B'Elanna jerked herself awake, from where she sat in the chair beside the bed, and glanced over concerned. She was almost certain that she had properly cleaned and sterilized all of Seven's wounds, before sealing them closed, but the blonde's fever indicated otherwise.

Movement in the door drew her attention, and she stood up so fast that the chair fell backward, as one of the insectoid robots entered. "You will administer these antibiotics and pain killers to your hostage every four hours. Training is suspended until further notice." A slot opened on its front, and B'Elanna forced herself to move closer to it so she could take the hyposprays it was offering. After it withdrew from the bedroom B'Elanna injected Seven with the medicines.

Sitting back down in the chair, she stared at Seven, remembering the events of the day before. The training robot had led her to the room where she usually studied first aid, basic medicine and surgery.

"It is now time for your final surgical test." It had announced. Then Seven had stepped in the room, and before B'Elanna even registered why she was possibly there, her training robot had lashed out. Blood seemed to go everywhere; and somehow she had managed to get across the room before Seven struck the floor, easing the woman down. She had went to knees in shock for a second; then slipping in Seven's own blood, she struggled to her feet, and grabbed the surgical instruments.

Her first action was to sedate Seven who was still barely conscious, her blue eyes seemingly asking B'Elanna why had this had been done to her. Her next was to start sealing up the worst of the damage before Seven bled out. She had struggled to keep her alive for what seemed like forever, but was only about ten minutes, before Seven was stabilized enough for B'Elanna to lift her to the bio bed and finish healing her wounds. Four hours later she permitted herself a long enough break so she could eat one of the ration bars and went back to work, this time making sure Seven's Borg systems had not been compromised, even though they had not been directly damaged.

"No you don't want to eat that one, look its broke Maria." B'Elanna focused on Seven in surprise wondering what in the world she was talking about. "Here, I'll take that one, and you can have mine." Seven continued talking her voice oddly pitched.

Frowning, B'Elanna got up and felt of Seven's forehead, internally cursing the robots, and the fact that they had not permitted her to take a medical scanning instrument with her into their quarters. Seven at least felt cooler than she had before, to B'Elanna's relief, and despite the fact that she had been talking, the Borg showed no signs that she was awake.

"Papa, was pleased with my equations, he even stopped looking at the Borg communication, and explained to me how to use integrals to find the area under a function graph." Seven spoke again.

B'Elanna paused, her hand still on Seven's forehead as she stared down at the blonde finally recognizing the tone. "It must be the painkiller." she theorized aloud. 'She's remembering when she was a child, but who is Maria?' she wondered. Then she realized something else, at six years of age Annika Hansen had been doing mathematical equations that she had done in school at twelve or so.

Throughout the rest of the day, and into the night, Seven would occasionally speak aloud, apparently dreaming about her childhood. B'Elanna didn't want to keep giving her the painkiller, but was pretty sure that whoever or whatever was controlling the robots, would take that as a refusal to follow their directions, and would punish Seven if she did not.

During those hours she learned five things about Seven. One, much of the behavior Seven exhibited, such as her perfectionism, that they had thought was Borg, was definitely not, as she had certainly shown signs of it as a child. Two, the commanding, arrogant tone that she used was not Borg, it was from her mother. That gem had come from a snippet where Seven was giggling to Maria about her father calling her his little Captain, and complaining about her learning it from her mother.

Three, balancing out the perfectionism and arrogance, were the characteristics B'Elanna had come to appreciate; Seven's kindness and consideration, which apparently had always been part of her character. Four, which she had already partially figured out, was that Seven had been mathematically gifted, and showed an unusual understand of physical theory for a six year old. And lastly, five, Maria was a stuffed bear that Seven talked to as a child.

Now at 2 pm, and the last of the medicine given four hours ago B'Elanna was hoping that Seven would at last fully wake up, though she had grown rather fond of the glimpses of a young Annika Hansen that she had overheard for the past 12 hours. Seven's eyes flickered and B'Elanna got up from her chair and leaned over her, smoothing some errant hairs out of her face.

"B'Elanna," Seven said huskily.

"Welcome back," B'Elanna smiled somewhat shakily in relief.

Seven still seemed somewhat confused, her eyes roaming around the room and a frown on her face, finally she looked back to the half-Klingon, "I am thirsty." she announced and struggled to get up.

"No you don't," ordered B'Elanna as she placed a hand on either shoulder to stop the blonde. "I'll get it for you, you shouldn't get up yet." She continued in a softer voice as Seven stared up at her wide eyed. Releasing the woman, B'Elanna turned to go out of the room, turning back she requested sternly, "You promise you won't try and get up while I'm getting your drink?" The brief grumpy pout that greeted this only caused her to grin.

"I will not B'Elanna," Seven promised, then sighed.

Shaking her head, and slightly worried that Seven still seemed to not be entirely her normal self, B'Elanna filled a glass with water, grabbed a straw she had noticed earlier in the day and returned to the bedroom. She set the glass on the small table beside the bed, and turned to Seven, "Ok let me help you into a sitting position," she inserted an arm behind the blonde's shoulders, and helped her sit up, noting with concern the wince of pain on Seven's face as she did so. "Are you ok?"

Seven nodded, "I seem to be…stiff." she explained.

B'Elanna handed her the glass and watched while she drank, when Seven sat the glass down on the table she was about to ask her how she was feeling when one of the robots appeared in the doorway. A distressed noise from Seven caused her to glance back toward her, and instinctively she released her, stood up, and stepped between the injured woman and the machine in response to the frightened look on Seven's face.

"You will provide an update on your hostage's condition and return the scanning device." It stated shortly, ignoring, or not caring, where she was standing. With a feeling of relief, she retrieved the medical scanner, and turned back to Seven. Seeing the expression on the blonde woman's face, and her tenseness, B'Elanna stepped closer and rested what she hoped would be a reassuring hand on Seven's shoulder. After a few seconds of contact, Seven's fearful gaze finally left the robot still standing in the door, and switched to her.

With one final squeeze to the shoulder underneath her hand, B'Elanna started her scan, studying the results she turned back to the machine. "She is recovering satisfactorily, with no sign of infection. She should not move around much for another twelve hours, and should regenerate sometime within the next six. After twelve hours she should limit her activities for another two days, after that she should be able to resume normal activities."

"Conservative, but not outside the parameters of this training exercise," was its pronouncement.

B'Elanna stiffened at the evaluation, but the robot did not take any other action, so she returned the scanning device, and watched from the bedroom doorway it until it left their quarters. Both Seven and she knew better than to comment on where the robot was, but B'Elanna gave her a reassuring look as she returned to the side of the bed, and from the blonde's immediate relaxation knew that she had been understood.

"I wish to take a bath," Seven asked her looking rather unhappy.

B'Elanna was not particularly surprised; she knew Seven had to be feeling rather grungy by now. "Ok," she agreed, "but you're going to let me help you and we're going to take it very easy."

"Yes, B'Elanna," Seven agreed easily, looking brighter and more cheerful just at the idea.

B'Elanna noticed that Seven seemed quiet as she helped her bathe, but it wasn't until she helped her back into the bed and began combing her long hair that she noticed that she was becoming distressed. "Seven, what's wrong? Do you hurt somewhere?"

"I am functioning adequately, B'Elanna," she answered in a strained voice. B'Elanna waited silently, suspecting that the blonde had more she wanted to say, and was shortly rewarded. "I seem to have had particularly vivid dreams while I was sleeping."

"Ah," things began to make sense, "I think it was probably the painkillers that I was supplied. Shortly after I gave them to you, you began talking."

Seven looked startled at this information, "I was remembering events from when I was aboard my parent's ship, the Raven."

B'Elanna nodded, "You talked a lot to your stuffed bear, Maria." she said with a gentle smile.

"Yes," Seven looked far away, "While my Papa and Mama were working."

Seven looked so vulnerable and lost at that moment, that B'Elanna felt a rush of protectiveness come over her. Over the course of the day she felt like she had gotten to know who Seven was for yet a third time.

Her first idea of who Seven was, the one she held onto so tightly aboard Voyager, had been so wildly inaccurate that she was now ashamed of how hard headedly determined she had been to hold onto it. Since they had been captives together, she had come to realize that Seven was actually someone she liked, and had become friends with. Today though, she had gotten to know the brilliant, arrogant, perfectionistic, kind, compassionate child Annika Hansen, a child that was very much like the adult Seven of Nine.

Noting that Seven's signs of distress were increasing she started stroking her hair, trying to be soothing. "What's wrong Seven?" she inquired worriedly.

She was concerned to see tear's well in Seven's eyes, "My father…" Seven took in a shuddering breath, "My father would hold me in his lap and touch my hair like you are," the breath was definitely more a sob now. "He called me his Muffin, and told me he loved me."

Without thinking much about what she was doing, B'Elanna wrapped her arms around Seven and gently hugged her. "I guess you haven't remembered much about your parents until now?" she inquired quietly.

A head shaking against her chest and a whispered, "No," was all the answer she received.

"What are you feeling Seven, what are you thinking about?" B'Elanna asked, not wanting to tell Seven what she thought the woman was feeling, just incase she was wrong.

Seven was silent except for deep shuddering breaths, finally, "What you are doing now, the way you are holding me, the way it makes me feel, is like what I felt when my father held me. This emotion causes me to wish that he were here, but if he is still alive then he is likely a drone." Seven paused for a moment, "When I think of that, then I feel anger toward him and my mother for seeking out the Borg, and our subsequent assimilation. My emotions are conflicting, but the strongest is a feeling like what I felt when One died, the Doctor informed me that this emotion is known as grief."

The last statement surprised B'Elanna for a moment, until she thought about it. Janeway had given Seven the responsibility of training and essentially raising One, it shouldn't be surprising that she would have grieved over his death.

Uneasily she remembered the abbreviated funeral held for the young Borg, it had been attended by only by Seven, Janeway, the Doctor, Neelix and herself, even though One had died saving all of them. She recalled Seven standing motionless, and to her eyes completely unemotional, staring fixedly at the bulkhead as the service was read. Then she hadn't known what to think, except that Seven was acting very oddly. Now she suspected Seven, at that time, had no idea how to deal with the emotions One's death brought up, and that had been her way of trying to control them.

"You were essentially the person who raised him, its not surprising that you experienced grief when he died." B'Elanna murmured.

"He was my son," the reply was muffled against her chest.

B'Elanna looked down at the blonde head against her chest in puzzlement, "Your son? Because of your nanoprobes?" she asked floundering.

"One was not a clone of Ensign Mulchaey, he was a combination of mine and his genetic material, combined by my nanoprobes." explained Seven.

B'Elanna closed her eyes, and hugged Seven even tighter against her. "Oh, Seven," she said simply with sympathy. B'Elanna didn't know what to think; once again she was feeling what was becoming an all too familiar emotion around Seven, guilt, with a liberal amount of shame. At least she could be proud of the fact that not only had she attended, but during the funeral she had felt a spark of anger over only four people showing up for it. She had gone because she had become rather fond of One, his naivety and engaging eagerness, and out of honor for his self-sacrifice.

"I am experiencing grief over their loss, I am also experiencing anger, it is confusing." Seven switched back to B'Elanna's original question with a plaintive note to her voice.

"Yes, it is," B'Elanna agreed, thinking soberly about her own emotions about her parents.

Seven remained silent, rested face buried against B'Elanna's chest just below the hollow of her throat. The blonde held onto B'Elanna's shirt front, and every so often the half-Klingon could feel them tighten and then loosen. She couldn't tell if Seven was crying or not, she could only hear deep ragged breathing, as the woman struggled with the emotions she was feeling, and the only thing she could figure to do to help, was to keep holding her.

The silence had gone on for so long that Seven's voice startled her, "She is gone." the tone held only sadness.

"Who?" B'Elanna wondered if Seven was talking about her mother.

"Annika Hansen, she is gone. I cannot be her." resignation was added to the already sad tone.

"Seven," B'Elanna paused to order her thoughts, feeling keenly that this was something important that Seven needed to know. "I met to Annika Hansen today, she can be arrogant like her mother, likes things to be perfect, whether it's a cookie or the equation she working on, but she's also very giving and compassionate." She looked down and was silent until Seven finally glanced up and met her gaze. "And she's still here."

Seven pulled back and B'Elanna could tell she was getting ready to argue with her, "We were wrong, Seven." Seven's mouth snapped shut and she looked puzzled, "We been telling you that you act like a Borg, but we were wrong. Yes, being a Borg exaggerated your tendency toward perfectionism and probably your habit of being arrogant. But they didn't make you that way; you came to them that way. Annika Hansen isn't gone, you've been becoming more her…more yourself every day, we just didn't see it."

Part 4

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