DISCLAIMER: The story, and characters and anything and everything else concerning Star Trek belong to Paramount and Gene Roddenberry.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Written for Odon's challenge of many moons ago using various Klingon phrases.
DEDICATION: For my Bang'wi who made me see the light on so many things.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Puzzle Box
By Celievamp

1 Dal pagh jagh (no enemy is boring)

B'Elanna Torres had rarely known such frustration. The Borg was no fun anymore. Her Iciness seemed to have undergone some sort of seachange over the last few weeks. Instead of going toe to toe with her at every opportunity, Seven seemed to be doing everything to avoid confrontation with her. And when they did meet, she was almost… pleasant!

It was also immensely annoying.

Just when she thought she had got the woman figured out she went and did something completely unexpected. Torres did wonder if the Borg had finally discovered sex. She found herself watching the interaction between the Astrometrics Officer and the Captain. Scuttlebutt was that the two were an item. But B'Elanna knew from her own experience that Janeway was determined to keep herself apart, no matter the direction of her heart or the personal emotional cost involved in such a decision. She was certain that the two women remained close friends but nothing more. Nothing had changed in their pheromones or body language to indicate that they were involved.

Yet something had changed.

Sometimes, when she glanced across at the Borg she found the Borg glancing right back. And before she looked away again B'Elanna was sure… No, she must have been imagining it. And the last time she had got right into the Borg's personal space to tell her in no uncertain terms that Engineering was still her territory and no damned Borg improvements were necessary she was sure she had seen the faintest trace of a blush colour that pale cheek. And she smelt…

Okay, it had been some time since she had scratched that particular itch herself. But her Klingon senses readily identified the pheremones that Seven was putting out when she was near. They were unmistakeable. Apart from the forever unrequited thing she had for Katherine Janeway the only other person B'Elanna had been even mildly attracted to on Voyager was Tom Paris. And that was only because she knew that their relationship meant as little to him as it did to her. Even so they had danced around each other for a good eighteen months before she had finally allowed him into her bed.

But a diet of vanilla got very tiresome after a time, especially for her Klingon half. Within weeks of her relationship with Tom beginning she had found herself fantasising about other people whilst she was having sex with Tom. Past lovers – male and female - vidstars she fancied, her fellow crewmembers. Chakotay, Katherine, Seven.

The first time it had happened she bit Tom hard enough to draw blood. Always wary of her Klingon heritage she had scared him half to death ordering him to do things to her harder, faster to try anything to wipe away the image of those long lean limbs, the large pale blue eyes, the hair like frozen sunshine spilling across the pillow in her imagination, that monotone yet still sultry voice inviting her to mate with her in flawless Klingonese.

After that whenever she was with Tom she thought about Seven. After a couple of weeks he noticed that he did not have her full attention when they were supposed to be in the moment. When he suggested that they take a break from each other the speed with which she agreed obviously took him by surprise. But then he had made the first move so he only had himself to blame if his ego took a little denting.

She was a puzzle, all right. But B'Elanna had always enjoyed solving a good puzzle.

Dal pagh jagh. No enemy is boring. But what if the enemy was no longer an enemy? What if the enemy was now a friend, perhaps a lover, potentially a mate?

What then?

2 'etlh QorghHa'lu'chugh ragh 'etlh nIvqu' 'ej jejHa'choH (Even the best blade will rust and grow dull unless it is cared for)

It wasn't spying. She was just… taking an interest. Nothing about Seven's routine indicated that she was seeing anyone even clandestinely. She completed her regeneration cycle, she was on duty in Astrometrics, she played Velocity with the Captain twice a week and spent some time with Naomi Wildman and Icheb every day. She played kal-toh or chess with Tuvok once or twice a week, saw the doctor for her weekly check-up and spent some time on the holodeck. That was it. A schedule that by and large you could set your clock by.

Actually, that last bit was interesting. Seven had only started using her full holodeck privileges in the last couple of weeks. She had always been of the vocal opinion that the holoprograms were inefficient, a waste of time, a distraction and a misuse of resources that could be put to better application. As a result she had made very little use of her holosuite privileges except when using Janeway's Da Vinci programme or the story programmes that Naomi favoured.

So what was she doing? What the hell was she doing? It was like a puzzle box her father had given her when she was a kid. Every time she thought she had it licked it would reveal another layer that she had to work through.

B'Elanna accessed the holodeck logs and checked what programmes had been running. In the last six weeks Seven had logged more than 50 hours holodeck time. Some of it had indeed been spent in the Da Vinci programme and four hours jointly logged with Naomi Wildman playing some sort of quest game. But by far the bulk of her time was spent in a private programme called Nirvana. It was obviously something Seven had developed on her own – and was still developing judging by the incremental growth in its size in the log. There were several levels of encryption protecting it from being used by anyone else but B'Elanna had ways around that.

It wasn't spying.


What did a Borg need with a private life anyway?

Seven was officially on duty in Astrometrics for at least the next three hours. B'Elanna decrypted the password and booked out Holodeck 2 for half an hour `to run some simulations'. She set Seven's programme running and entered.

To be confronted with herself.

3 nIteb DujlIj yIchj (Navigate your vessel alone)

"If you're looking for Nika, she isn't home yet," her alterego said.

"And you are?" B'Elanna had never worn clothes like that. She had never even possessed clothes like that. Dark toned, expensive material, fitted. She could picture Katherine wearing something like this but not her. Yet on her alterego they did look good. They made her look different – mature, successful, professional. Beautiful. And her hair – sleek, shiny, expensively cut, molded to her skull. It all added to the image.

"Bel – B'Elanna Torres, Nika's business partner."

"Nika…" Seven of Nine – Annika Hansen, Nika. And she was Bel. Well, this was unexpected. And cosy. And creepy. She didn't have a clue that Seven felt anything for her beyond mild disdain. Not that it was forbidden to use `real people' in holodeck simulations but it was frowned upon. Not to mention creepy. "What kind of business are the two of you in?"

"Engineering design consultancy. Quite successful, I might add. We've been working together for five years now, since Voyager returned. We decided that we didn't want to sign up with Starfleet after the runaround they gave us when we returned and so we went freelance."

"So you're together…"

"We were married seven years ago if that's what you're fishing for. Nika and I are life partners as well as business partners. Look, we make no secret of this in any of our publicity material…"

"I'm not a reporter or anything," B'Elanna said. "I just wanted to add my belated congratulations… I'm a sort of distant cousin, I suppose," B'Elanna added drily. "She never struck me as the marrying kind. You were married whilst you were still on Voyager in the Delta Quadrant?" This was a pretty fantasy – marriage? Never going to happen. B'Elanna had always been a strong believer in the old maxim nIteb DujlIj yIchj - navigate your vessel alone. Her parent's disastrous marriage was proof enough of that.

What should she do about this? Her invasion of Seven's privacy was more than compensated by the travesty she was witnessing. How dare the ptaq imagine such a thing! How dare she! She should make a formal complaint. But then how could she without revealing her own intentions, her own deceit. And how many times have you imagined her touching you, loving you? The little voice inside took her by surprise.

Not the same.

Oh really. You just keep on believing that, her inner voice sneered. This is just a little more advanced, a little more fleshed out.

Shut up.

"You said Star Fleet gave you the run-around?"

Bel gave her what her grandmother would have called an old-fashioned look as if to ask where had she been. "We weren't exactly welcomed home as conquering hero's – remember? Even Janeway had to answer to a tribunal for some of the things she had done. All of the Maquis were held for questioning for weeks and Seven…" she closed her eyes. "At one point I thought I'd never be allowed to see her again, that they were going to keep her locked away in that… place forever!"

So, Seven was thinking about the future in other ways as well extrapolating from her reception amongst the Voyager crew to the wider Federation as a whole. And probably not too far from the mark, unfortunately. Maybe that was something else they needed to prepare for.

Not wanting to follow that train of thought any further at this time, B'Elanna looked around the room noticing the Klingon and Spanish influences in its decoration and another influence that she supposed must be Seven's preferences. The three sometimes incongruous styles somehow meshed together and the overall result was pleasing. Damn, but the woman had good taste. B'Elanna realised that she would be comfortable living somewhere like this. The Borg had done her research well.

There was a selection of photographs on one wall. B'Elanna moved to study them. They were all of herself and Seven either singly or together in various locales. Annika looked effortlessly tall, slender and elegant even in casual clothing her blonde hair usually worn down flowing around her shoulders and upper body, her generous mouth curved into a smile. She looked relaxed, happy. As did her counterpart. The Borg had some imagination.

"Ice and Fire," Bel said, joining her in her contemplation.


"Ice and Fire. That's what our friends called us when we first got together – Harry, Tal, Naomi. One of Nika's kinder nicknames on Voyager in the early days was the Ice Queen. And I was always… well, lets just say that I could get quite explosive at times – anger management issues. So Nika's Ice and I'm Fire. Though word is I've melted the ice and she's cooled the fire." She giggled.

That, in hindsight, was when B'Elanna lost it. Klingon's did not giggle. Maquis did not giggle. She did not giggle. She never giggled. The fact that it made her nose wrinkle in a way that could possibly be construed as cute by others was one reason.

"I am so going to disassemble that cyborg ptaq! End programme!"

4 reH bang larghlu' (Love is always smelled)

B'Elanna kicked off the covers angrily. Every time she closed her eyes she saw Seven's face, fantasised about the body beneath those biosuits that left nothing and everything to the imagination. Talk about hiding in plain sight! She kept noticing how Seven's scent subtly changed every time she came near and began to wonder if her scent did the same. Was it really just a matter of chemistry?

Just because…

She could row herself to Grethor. How dare that, that… creature use her image in such a way! How dare she! How dare she think she could get away with cyberstalking!

The argument was getting old. Ten days old in fact. She needed to work off some energy. For a moment she considered calling on Tom but realised that that would be low even by her standards. He didn't deserve to be used as a sex toy.

Which was exactly what her Borgness has made of her. Bel – no one called her Bel, ever. And Nika? Where had she got that from? Who, one upon a time, had called Seven of Nine Nika? Her mother perhaps.

Her restlessness momentarily forgotten B'Elanna sat down on the edge of her bed. They had that in common – stolen childhoods. She remembered her cousins, little girls playing with their dolls acting out their future lives, making plans. She had refused to play with them. Klingon's did not play with dolls. Already she was happier with a screwdriver and an out of date tricorder, taking things apart and (mostly) putting them back together again. Her parent's separation and divorce had only come as a kind of relief. They had fought hard and often and a lot of the time it was over her. She was too Human for her mother, too Klingon for her father.

In this sudden burst of clarity B'Elanna reconsidered the enigma that was Seven of Nine. What kind of chance had the child Annika Hansen ever got? She was six years old when the Borg had taken her, her childhood, her adolescence stolen like some fairytale gone bad. She had existed as part of the Collective for twenty years, her humanity, her individuality dormant. And then she had come to Voyager, been sundered from the Collective in an act that must have been just as terrifying as her initial assimilation had been.

The Captain of Voyager had made her human but the crew of Voyager by and large still treat her as if she were Borg. And had anyone ever asked Seven what she thought of it, what she wanted out of the deal?

Was that what this was? After all this time was Annika Hansen finally beginning to imagine a future for herself out in the human world? Was Nika that part of herself that had existed in Unimatrix Zero, the dreamself that had walked in the woods, had friends, a secret life? Was the dreamself now in the waking world?

If so, why the hell had she chosen such a worthless piece of targ shit as B'Elanna Torres to share her imaginary future with? Why her and not the Captain? Unless Janeway had had the same conversation with the Borg as she had had with the half-Klingon.

"B'Elanna, I'm flattered really I am and if things were different there is no one I would rather be with. But I'm the Captain and I have a duty to the ship and to the Crew. And being in a relationship with anyone would distract me from that."

B'Elanna had managed to retain her equanimity in the face of that refusal but only by drawing deep on her own personal resources. How had the Borg taken a similar refusal? Was that why she had retreated to the holodeck to pursue an illusory relationship? Perhaps she considered it preferable to being rejected once more.

They should talk, sort this out once and for all. She had been telling herself that for the last week and a half and was no closer to actually doing it.

"Computer – locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two."

"Is she regenerating?"

"She is two hours into a programmed eight hour cycle."

Well that put paid to that conversation – for another six hours at least.

She could go and visit her alterego again – find out some more about `Nika'. Anything was better than tossing and turning for the next six hours.

"Computer – are any of the holodecks free at the moment?"

"Holodeck Two is available for the next hour and twenty minutes."

"Book it out to me, please."

Time had obviously moved on in Nirvana. The house looked a little more lived in, a little less show-home. There were more photographs and one or two paintings (obviously Seven's work) on the walls. B'Elanna looked around for her alterego and got the surprise of her life when she suddenly appeared from another room.

`Bel' looked about six months pregnant. And blissfully happy.

B'Elanna could not breathe for a moment. "What the…" she gasped.

"Hello. It's been some time since you visited us," her alterego said. "Nika's away for a few days at the Planetium shipyards. Some construction problem with the new generation slipstream drive ships that only she can fix apparently. She'll be so sorry that she missed you again."

"I'm sorry I missed her," B'Elanna said. "I'm looking forward to meeting her very much. Congratulations, by the way."

Bel smoothed her shirt over her bump. "Thank you. We're both looking forward to the birth very much. Miral is a very much wanted child."

"Miral…" They were going to name their child after B'Elanna's mother. "That's a very pretty name."

"Miral Katrin, after both our mother's. Katrin was NIka's mother's middle name and also honours Admiral Janeway of course. The engineered embryo is female. She will be a mixture of Nika and myself. The Doctor produced some extrapolations for us – Miral will have some Klingon features, probably brow ridges. I just hope she has Nika's eyes, but Nika wants her to look like me." Bel shrugged. "As long as she's healthy, I suppose."

"That's what every new mother hopes for, I guess," B'Elanna said. Children. She and Tom had discussed it for all of thirty seconds once but if she felt that she was not quite ready for motherhood then Tom Paris was certainly not ready to be a father. Captain Proton changing diapers? Never gonna happen. "So, Nika is looking forward to the birth?"

"Is she ever! If she could have I think she would have liked to carry the child herself but with what the Borg did to her well, it just wasn't possible," Bel sighed, her expression darkening. "It's been ten years since we freed her and they still find ways of hurting her."

B'Elanna did not know whether to laugh or cry. "She sounds a remarkable person," she said gently. "Tell me a little about her."

"Some people – most people – find her cold and arrogant but she isn't really. It's just that well, everyone sees her as Borg first and Nika a long way second and then never really bother to get by the Borg part. They never see Nika. And she's come to expect to be treated like that so rather than get hurt again, the Borg is what they get. So they never get to meet the real woman, the Nika who tells me that she loves me every day and who worries that I'm not eating enough or the right things for our baby and that I'm not resting and who brings me the sweetest gifts." She paused, stroked her proud belly again. "Just listen to me. Hard to believe I used to be a hard-as nails Maquis, isn't it? I love her so much, you see. So much that it hurts sometimes. Just knowing her has made me a better person. And I know that its not a tenth of what she feels for me."

B'Elanna could not hear any more of this. "I'm sorry, I have to go now," she said, standing. "I can't…" This was too much, too private. For the first time she got a glimpse of the quiet desperation at the root of Seven's life. What she had created here was disturbing - not as sickly as the Doctor's attempt at a pseudo family or as self destructive as her own attempts to seek absolution by taking the safeties off line but disturbing nevertheless. She knew that Seven had used holodeck scenarios to practice her social skills before but had never realised that it had got as far as this.

It wasn't just the insight into Seven's state of mind. It was her own reaction to it. It hurt so much to see her alterego so happy and fulfilled. And in a way that B'Elanna had never truly contemplated.

Here she had a home, a family, a future. On Voyager their lives were hostages to fate on a daily basis. And for however long Seven walked amongst them there would always be those who would only see the Borg, Seven of Nine. They would never see Annika Hansen and never have an inkling that Nika even existed.

B'Elanna resolved to change that.

5 Heghlu'DI' mobbe'lu'chugh QaQqu' Hegh wanI' (Death is an experience best shared)

Again fate conspired. B'Elanna did not get the chance to confront Seven. Just before she came on duty Voyager encountered a derelict craft. Harry Kim's scans showed many raw materials that they could reuse on Voyager. Janeway acted quickly. A residual forceshield around the wreck prevented them from beaming across so three teams were sent across by shuttle to get what they could from the areas of the ship that are not either heavily contaminated or open to atmosphere. B'Elanna and Seven were assigned to salvage what they could from the engineroom being most familiar with that type of technology.

"I believe this ship belonged to Species 3391," Seven said as she lifted away a panel to expose the circuitry beneath. "They have been engaged in a war with Species 2289 for several hundred years."

"Are we in their territory?" B'Elanna asked. Even though the ship was obviously abandoned someone might take offence at their looting. The penalties for that in most societies were fairly harsh. Even the Federation took a punitive view of it.

"No. Their nearest outpost is several light years away. I believe that this vessel has been abandoned and drifting for some years. I…" B'Elanna glanced up as she heard a distinct `crack' and realised that Seven was in trouble. Reaching deep into the wiring she had activated something on the console and an energy surge had earthed through her systems. The device overloaded with an eyewatering flash and shut down. Seven staggered back from the console and fell to her knees, her head bowed, her arms wrapped around herself, visibly shaking.

"Seven!" B'Elanna ran across the room, vaulting a terminal to crouch beside the injured woman.

"Can't… can't…" Seven stuttered.

"Let me have a look at you, Seven. Are your hands burnt?" She tried to prise the woman's arms from her body but Seven seemed completely rigid. Something dripped on B'Elanna's hand and with a queasy start she realised it was blood. It was seeping from the implant over Seven's eye staining her pale skin. More blood was oozing from her other visible implants and her biosuit was darkening, outlining the other areas where Borg technology meshed with human flesh over her abdomen. As Seven slumped against her she could see the blood dripping from the fingertips of her Borg-enhanced hand, the exoskeleton bright with it.

"Kahless, you're bleeding out. We have to get you back to the shuttle and Voyager!" B'Elanna pressed her communicator. "Harry! Get back to the shuttle and prep for immediate launch. Seven's been injured. She needs medical assistance now! Tal, Vorik, I think I'm going to need your help to get her to the shuttle. We're in engineering."

"P-pain," Seven whimpered. "M-make it stop. P-please." B'Elanna realised she was taking more and more of Seven's weight as the woman began to lose consciousness.

"Hold on, Seven. Please." Don't you dare die on me, not when I've just found you. Don't you dare leave me alone. "Nika, listen to me, you have to hold on. Bel wants you to hold on."

Seven's eyes widened. "You! It was you…" she began to choke, her eyes glazing as she fought to draw in oxygen. "I knew… when Bel said… checked the log, thought trick Tom or … but not you! You were never meant…"

"To know? It's okay, Seven, really. I'm just sorry, I never meant to pry, never meant to hurt you," B'Elanna cradled her in her arms, "I've wanted to talk to you about it but there was never a good time." The injured woman shuddered, her breath hitching. B'Elanna realised her hands were coated in Seven's blood. "Seven, hold on, promise me you'll hold on."

"I…" Seven's eyes widened and then closed as she passed out. B'Elanna stroked her face.

"Don't you dare, Nika. Don't you dare die on me!"

Ensign Vorik came in at a run. "Oh my – she looks bad."

"Vorik for Kahless's sake shut up! I know you Vulcan's think they can do without emotion but does that have to include tact as well! Just help me get her to the shuttle. Once we're clear hopefully Voyager can transport her straight to Sick Bay. She doesn't have much time…"

Not wanting to argue with the volatile Klingon, Vorik complied, easily hefted the unconscious woman into his arms, his Vulcan strength more than adequate for the task and they set off back to the docking bay, Tal Celes meeting them en route.

6 tIqDaq HoSna' tu'lu (Real power is in the heart)

Voyager performed an emergency transport once they were clear of the ship, taking Seven directly to Sick Bay. As soon as the shuttle had docked back with Voyager, B'Elanna made her way there, half expecting to be told that Seven had died.

"She's stable, but critical. She lost a great deal of blood and a number of her Borg implants have shut down causing systemic failure."

B'Elanna stared at the still figure on the biobed. "Can I sit with her a while?"

"If you wish. But she won't wake for some time."

"Doesn't she need to regenerate?"

"Once I am assured that her implants have resumed normal function she can regenerate. At the moment any attempt to use her alcove could be counterproductive. I'm not sure that her system could handle the energy flow. So we're having to use more traditional methods. She's receiving full life support including nutrition and hydration and is responding well. Thankfully her remaining human systems are now well enough established to keep her alive without the cybernetic implants."

"It's a pity we don't have a mobile alcove," B'Elanna said. "Then perhaps she could have her own quarters, more privacy…" A normal life she wanted to say. Perhaps there was something that she could do for Seven, to let her know that she understood why she had felt driven to create Nika and Bel and that whole scenario. Taking out her PADD she began to sketch out the design for a more portable regeneration unit, something more adaptable than the fixed alcoves in Cargo Bay 2.

Some time later she became aware that large blue eyes were watching her warily. She put down the PADD.

"Hey, good to have you back, Seven. How do you feel?"

"My function has been impaired," Seven said slowly. "I do not remember how." B'Elanna was getting better at reading her expression. She could tell that this failure of recall bothered Seven greatly.

"Something on the ship we were salvaging wasn't quite as inert as we thought it was. It discharged through you when you accidentally touched it. Some of your implants and regulatory systems were damaged and you lost a lot of blood. We got you back here as quickly as we could. The Doctor seems to think that you are going to be okay. Your human systems kept you going when the cybernetic ones failed."

"I remember great pain," Seven said slowly. "I remember… you were there, holding me! You called me…" She gasped, her eyes widening. "My programme…"

Damn, she had been secretly hoping that Seven would not remember her indiscretion. "Seven, I can only apologise for invading your privacy as I did, not once, but twice. I was curious, I… I wanted to get to know you better, I suppose."

"It was an experiment, a foolishness. I wanted to explore… I apologise for using your image without your permission, Lieutenant… I understand if…" B'Elanna had rarely heard Seven sound so unfocused, so unsure of herself. It was kind of endearing.

"It's okay, it's okay. It did throw me, I admit, when I saw what you'd done," B'Elanna said. "And I was more than a little pissed at you at first. But when I'd calmed down and had the chance to think it through I realised that I was more confused than angry – I mean, why me? We've never exactly been friendly towards each other."

"It is true we are not friends, but you have always been honest with me. You do not hide behind words. And you are someone I would like to get to know better."

"Then let's start again from that shall we?" B'Elanna said, smiling at her colleague. "For now you need to rest. I'd better go before the Doc starts in on me. I'll come and see you again later, if that's okay."

"I would like that," Seven said softly. "Thank you, Bel- B'Elanna."

B'Elanna smiled, pretending not to notice her slip even though it made her glow a little inside to hear Seven say the diminutive. "Okay. See you later, Seven."

They managed to pull enough raw materials off the derelict to fill their storage hold and begin making some much needed repairs to systems that had been largely held together by B'Elanna's strength of will and ingenuity for far too long. Although she was kept extremely busy B'Elanna did not forget her promise to visit Seven as often as she could whilst she recuperated in Sick Bay. Anyone else would have been released to their quarters days ago – but Seven did not have quarters and the contents of Cargo Bay Two were of little use to her at the moment.

B'Elanna had not forgotten her idea to create some form of mobile regeneration unit so that Seven could have more freedom of movement and spent some of her precious free time in designing the schematics.

The Doctor was pleased with Seven's physical recovery though he was puzzled by her emotional state. She was not as brash as she usually was. And while she was normally reserved she seemed to have built the walls around herself even higher than normal. He released her from Sick Bay after three days to return to Cargo Bay Two and regenerate but required her to report for a checkup every day until he was certain that her implants were not going to spontaneously fail again. He allowed her to do her duty shift in Astrometrics but that was all. She was not allowed to help with the repairs. Predictably, Seven's first act was to complain to the Captain about the restrictions on her time but forewarned, Janeway backed up the Doctor.

Another five days passed. B'Elanna continued to spend much of her free time with Seven, usually in a `neutral area' such as the Mess Hall. They talked but did not get very far, Seven asked a lot of detailed questions about the repairs and what the reclaimed materials could be used for. B'Elanna tried to get her to talk about `Nirvana' but Seven just blushed and shook her head.

"I can't. Not yet. I need more time."

"Okay, but I would like to visit it again – preferably with you this time. I thought what you had done with the house was wonderful. You have very good taste, Seven."

"It just seemed right, somehow," Seven said. "Now, is the optical matrix you salvaged compatible with the defunct relay on Level Seven because …"

B'Elanna sighed, tuning out the rest of what Seven was saying. They had been sidestepping each other the last couple of days and now Seven seemed intent on taking their relationship back a step or two. She had to find a way to get through to her before Seven re-erected the wall between them completely and forever.

"Something else happened on that ship, didn't it? Something between you and B'Elanna," the Doctor asked Seven as he finished his latest scan. Her physical recovery seemed complete, he had no reason not to allow her to return to full duty. He knew that she did not do `leisure' well.

"That is a private matter between myself and B'Elanna Torres. It is not up for discussion," Seven said sharply. "I believe the scan is completed and it will tell you what I told you when I entered this room: I am again in perfect health."

So something did happen, the Doctor thought wryly. He knew that it was more than the brush with death that had disturbed her equilibrium. B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine… both women had been acting strangely around each other for months. The betting pool was running almost 50:50 with them either killing each other or screwing each other senseless in the next couple of weeks. Not wanting to antagonise either woman – for both of whom he had a great deal of respect not to say affection - he had stayed out of the betting pool this time. But that did not mean that he was not interested.

He had watched them whilst B'Elanna was `visiting'. Though the two women were no longer outright antagonistic towards each other it was as if they had not yet settled completely on how to act around each other. He had witnessed moments of extreme tenderness between them yet for long periods of time it was is if they were the barest of acquaintances, getting to know each other for the first time. It was fascinating to watch the evolving relationship. He also knew that B'Elanna was progressing well with her plans for a mobile alcove for Seven. She had asked his opinion on several issues and was almost ready to take her plans to the Captain for approval. As far as he knew Seven knew nothing of the plans and he intended to keep the Lieutenant's confidence on the matter. Besides she knew entirely too much about his programming and could be alarmingly inventive when the mood took her. Not to mention a vindictive streak a parsec wide.

"I know you've been experimenting on the holodeck with social situations. I realised from something you said a few weeks ago that you had added a romantic interest to your programme. Is it anyone I know?"

"It is not you, doctor. And that is all you need to know."

Indeed it was.

7 rut yIHmey ghom Hoch (Everyone encounters tribbles occasionally)

Fate hated her. Big Time. It was the only explanation. Either that or she was working off some serious karma. Seven was fit enough to return to work and had done so with a vengeance pulling a shift in Engineering to help with the new repair schedule as well as her normal duty shift in Astrometrics. Anything to avoid having `free time' that she might conceivably want to spend with anyone. Seven's abrupt return to her previous coolness disheartened B'Elanna more than she was comfortable with. She had not realised how much of herself she had already mentally invested in what was essentially still a non-relationship. Still, as chief of engineering it was a simple matter to assign Seven to work alongside her on some of the repairs especially those that involved the intersection between Borg and Human systems. No way could anyone question the logic behind that assignment. Not even Seven. Did not seem to stop her trying though.

"The alignment is still off by 0.2338 per cent." The voice drifted up from the bottom of the shaft. "I will begin again."

"That's well within toleration, Seven. Just fix it in place and let's get out of here before anything else goes wrong." A repair to a minor system had led somehow to a catastrophic failure in three other systems. Voyager had been designed with a certain level of redundancy: the ship could cope with two catastrophic failures simultaneously but not three. They were within minutes of losing life support in all but the emergency shelters.

"I can improve its efficiency."

"I don't know if you can breathe vacuum, Seven, but I can't. If we're not out of here in about five minutes, that's what we're going to be doing."

"We have four minutes and thirteen seconds before the atmosphere in this area becomes unbreathable. If you cease talking we will have four minutes and twenty six seconds. That is more than sufficient time to complete this task."

"Okay, have it your own way…" B'Elanna mumbled knowing perfectly well that Seven would still hear her but not really caring. She had thought she was making headway with the Borg – with the woman – but now she was not so sure.

Two minutes and 47 seconds later the array came back on line. Even though it could not have made any difference yet the air seemed immediately fresher.

"It worked," B'Elanna breathed. "Good work, Seven." The woman looked up at her from her position at the bottom of the shaft and smiled dazzlingly before the emotional shutters went up again. B'Elanna sighed and put the unit back on line again. Several redlined sensors immediately switched back to green. She touched her comm badge. "Captain, we're still in business."

It seemed that Voyager had got used to getting along on jerryrigged repairs and willpower. Each component that they replaced seemed to cause two others to fail and a whole reef of compensatory systems to need resetting. B'Elanna remembered reading about the Enterprise accidentally achieving sentience at one point and wondered if the same was happening to Voyager. If it was, the ship was currently in a prolonged sulk.

Much like Seven of Nine.

One thing that B'Elanna had discovered in the week since Seven's release from Sick Bay bothered her greatly. Seven's holodeck programme `Nirvana' no longer existed, in fact according to all the logs it had never existed. Either Seven had erased it completely or she had very effectively disguised it as something else. And B'Elanna knew she could not do anything about locating it again without compounding her already delicate relationship with Seven.

B'Elanna made an appointment to speak to the Captain privately. Janeway had a cup of green tilappa tea waiting for her, a beverage B'Elanna particularly enjoyed.

"I've just been going over your engineering report, B'Elanna. It made engrossing if slightly alarming reading. How close were we to being permanently dead in the water?"

"It was pretty close for a couple of hours," B'Elanna admitted. "Thankfully the system failures were sequential rather than total. But we cut it close once or twice." A vision of being very close to Seven in the Jeffries tube swam into her mind. "Anyway, we seem to be over the worst of it now. Most of the Engineering crew have pulled double shifts for the past week and Harry Kim , Ensign Vorik and Seven have also been invaluable. We couldn't have got half as much done if it wasn't for their help. And yours of course, Captain." One of the many things B'Elanna liked about Captain Janeway was that she wasn't above getting her own hands dirty when necessary.

"My pleasure. It seems to me that we should all have a vested interest in keeping our lift home on the road so to speak," Janeway said dryly then indicated the PADD that B'Elanna still held. "So I'm guessing that it is something other than the engineering report that you want to talk to me about."

"Actually, Captain, I wanted to show you this." She handed over the PADD containing the design schematics and costings for the mobile regenerator. "We currently have the power reserves and materials to produce one. It would mean that, for example, Seven would no longer have to rely on recharging in Cargo Bay Two. She could, for example, recharge in her own quarters."

"Has she expressed the desire for her own quarters?" the Captain asked.

"Not to me, at least not directly, but…" B'Elanna paused. She wondered if she should ask for permission to speak freely but then realised that Janeway would expect nothing less from her anyway. "I don't think she should have to. She's a valued member of the crew, Captain. She's proven herself time and time again. I happen to know that she's been working on a holodeck programme that has her own space, imagined living quarters of her own. I've spent quite a bit of time with her since the accident and I sense that… well, she's desperate to explore her own humanity and it must be very hard to do that when the only place you can call home is a cargo bay that anyone can walk into at any time."

"I take your point, B'Elanna," Janeway said. "It so happens that crew quarters have become available very near your own thanks to Lieutanents Alvera and Meth's recent marriage. If Seven is agreeable then you can begin manufacture of the portable alcove and the quarters can be assigned to her."

B'Elanna grinned. "Thank you, Captain."

"Don't thank me yet, Lieutenant. We've yet to convince Seven that this is a good idea."

8 bItuHlaHbe'chugh bIquvlaHbe' (If you cannot be shamed, you cannot be honoured)

B'Elanna was at her workstation in Engineering when a hand fell on her shoulder. "I must talk to you." It was Seven.

"So talk," B'Elanna said, glaring at the few members of her staff who were taking too much of an interest in this conversation.

"What did you say to the Captain about me?"

"I told her how helpful you had been with the repairs considering how severe your injuries had been only a few days before."

"I'm not talking about that. Though… thank you," she said grudgingly. "I'm talking about this." She held out a PADD to B'Elanna. B'Elanna took it and read the order assigning Seven of Nine her own quarters on Deck Twelve.

"It's about time when you think about it, Seven. You should have your own quarters. You should have had them as soon as you joined the crew."

"But I would still need to regenerate in Cargo Bay Two. This is an inefficient use of space. I will reject the assignment."

"You'll do no such thing. There's another part to this – look." Pulling her in front of the terminal, B'Elanna activated her personal base showing Seven the schematics for the portable regeneration unit.

"You designed this?" Seven asked softly. "For me?"

"Yes. I started work on it when you were injured. We can start construction as soon as you're ready."

"But I already have a fully functioning alcove in Cargo Bay Two. This would be…"

"a much more sensible arrangement," B'Elanna interrupted. "Quarters of your own, Seven. I know this is what you've dreamed about."

Wide blue eyes lowered. "I don't…"

"I know. You don't want to talk about the holoprogramme. Seven, the truth is that you should have had your own quarters long before now. The Captain agrees. Any help you need with decorating, choosing furniture I'd be glad to help. So would Neelix, Harry, a bunch of other people. You have more than enough replicator rations stored up to furnish it however you want."

"I will consider it further," Seven said, backing away before turning and marching out of Engineering.

B'Elanna smiled.

A week later B'Elanna stood in the middle of Seven's `bedroom', supervising the installation of the new streamlined alcove. Together with Seven she had taken the construct down to its basics determining what was necessary for Seven's continued well-being and what was simply Borg. Since Seven was no longer part of a collective a lot of what made up the alcove was now redundant. In effect every time a Borg unit regenerated it was subjected to further brainwashing and indoctrination, any nascent individuality purged. What was left could have been easily incorporated into the headboard of a standard bed, with another unit at the side of or even under the bed and an augmented power source but Seven preferred to regenerate standing up. So the unit was incorporated into something that looked like a compromise between a shower unit and a walk in closet.

Some of the décor Seven had chosen was eerily reminiscent of what B'Elanna had glimpsed in the Nirvana scenario. But any hope of a relationship that was even a thousandth as fulfilling as that which Seven had created between herself an `Bel' seemed remoter than ever.

She was trying to persuade Seven to have a housewarming but Seven was not keen on the idea. B'Elanna realised that she was afraid that no one would come.

"Of course they would come – the senior staff, engineering, Neelix, Samantha Wildman, pretty much anyone you've ever encountered on the ship, Seven. You don't realise how many lives you have affected, how many people have feelings for you. I…" she paused as a strange expression briefly crossed Seven's face. "Yes, Feelings, Seven. Feelings of respect, friendship. Even love. You can't deny it forever."

Seven looked very much as if she would like to give that a try.

"Why won't you talk to me about it?" B'Elanna asked softly. "You began to, when you were in Sick Bay. Then you shut me out again."

"It would be futile. You do not have feelings for me. You cannot."

"Who says?" B'Elanna asked. "Why can't I have feelings for you?"

"I am Borg."

"You are Annika Hansen, who was a captive of the Borg. And I do have feelings for you."

"You do?" Seven's voice was little more than a whisper, her eyes wide with emotion. For a moment B'Elanna was rendered speechless by the naked need that she saw in those wide blue eyes.

"Yes. I love you, Seven."

She saw Seven's lips move in echo of the sentiment but no words came out. She shuddered and for an awful moment B'Elanna wondered if the emotional impact was too much for her.

"Seven – are you okay? Talk to me, please."

"I did not think… I did not believe it to be possible," Seven whispered. "You are so beautiful, so strong, so clever. You have friends, you have …"

"I could say every one of those things back to you, Seven. You are beautiful, you are so strong – when I think of all the things you have gone through in your life. And yes, I know that you have all the knowledge of the Borg at your disposal but the way your mind works goes much further than that. You are very intuitive, inventive. We couldn't have accomplished half of what we have done without you. And you have more friends than you know. And all they want is for you to be happy, Seven. So what would it take to make you happy?"

Seven stared at her and then moved closer, her eyes never leaving B'Elanna's. Just before their lips met she paused for a moment. And then featherlight their lips touched.

B'Elanna let her hands smooth up Seven's arms to the bare skin at her throat, one hand curling around the nape of her neck under the fall of blonde hair. She kept her touch light. Seven could withdraw if she wanted to. Their kiss deepened, B'Elanna let her tongue graze the edge of Seven's lip and heard a sound that was something between a stifled moan and a whimper emanate from the taller woman. Seven's augmented hand was resting on B'Elanna's waist, her thumb stroking gently up and down her ribs. Her other hand was entwined in B'Elanna's hair.

It seemed an age before they parted. B'Elanna smothered a giggle at the dazed expression on Seven's face.

"I believe the expression is `wow'," the blonde whispered.

B'Elanna was determined not to rush Seven into anything she wasn't emotionally equipped to handle. She settled in for the long haul, determined to woo the blonde. "I think that's enough excitement for one day," she smiled, running her fingers across Seven's cheek, stroking the star shaped implant near her ear. "I have some holodeck time later – would you like to come for a walk with me?"

"I would like that very much," Seven said.

"So you don't view such activities as a waste of time," B'Elanna could not resist the dig.

"I have come to realise that no time spent with B'Elanna Torres should be considered as wasted," Seven said. Blue eyes met brown in a long, loving gaze.

That might just be the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her, B'Elanna reflected.

B'Elanna activated the holodeck and stepped inside. The programme was set for a walk through a wood on a late spring day. She lifted her face to the sunshine. She was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, a sweater tied around her waist by the sleeves just in case it got cold. Seven had contacted her to say that she would be a few minutes late but she would be there as soon as she could.

The portal opened and Seven stepped through. B'Elanna just stared at her. Her friend was wearing a cotton sweater and jeans, her hair in a loose ponytail from which strands had already escaped to frame her face. The colour of her sweater complemented her eyes perfectly.

Seven stopped. "This is an appropriate costume for such an activity?" she asked.

"Absolutely," B'Elanna smiled. "You look adorably beautiful by the way."

Seven blushed, her eyes downcast. "You are also looking very beautiful today, B'Elanna." She looked around. "This is Earth, isn't it? By the evidence of the flora and the ambient temperature, I would say North America, East Coast."

"Very good, Seven. We're near Boston. Some of these woods are centuries old. Somehow they survived the devastation of the Third and Fourth World Wars."

"Is this one of your programmes?"

"Believe it or not it's a standard one that comes with the system. It's pretty simple – just trees and plants and rocks. We pass a stream at one point and have to cross it by stepping stones. But I find it…" she sighed happily. "it's one of the places I come to think. Because it's uncomplicated. It is what it is." Seven nodded her understanding of this sentiment.

They set off walking through the woods, side by side but not touching at first. By mutual consent they left the path and set off up the side of a bank. Seven's longer legs pulled her ahead of B'Elanna and she reached down to give her shorter companion a hand. Once they were on level ground again they kept holding hands. It felt very natural. It felt right.

They stopped at the top of the bank to admire the view for a moment. The simulated sunshine was warm on their faces and Seven allowed herself to relax for a moment and simply be.

"Do you have any memories of Earth at all?" B'Elanna asked.

Seven shook her head. "Not really. I was there briefly, I think whilst my parents were setting up their expedition. I stayed with my father's sister. She made me cookies. We lived in so many places. I think we were in transit for most of the time. I don't remember ever having a real home."

"You do now, Seven. No one can take that from you." She reached up to stroke a lock of blonde hair back from the smooth pale cheek and froze at the need and confusion in the storm blue eyes. It would not take much to make Seven bolt, she realised. She was going to have to take this slowly and carefully or she would lose the vulnerable young woman for good. "Come on. Let's go down to the stream. Have you ever skipped stones?"

They were the talk of the ship. Not that anyone knew for certain what was going on. The fact that the Borg had been given her own quarters was big news, polarising opinion between those who thought it was about bloody time and those who didn't think that someone who had been humanity's greatest enemy deserved such treatment. But those voices were few and mostly kept their thoughts to themselves. As for the real scuttlebutt on the relationship between the Maquis Engineer and the Borg there was a lot of speculation. No one seemed immune from it. But the two main protagonists appeared oblivious.

Another new development energised the shipwide gossip. They had been seen sitting together at the far end of the mess hall sharing a meal. That would have been enough to generate gossip on its own but Seven of Nine was not wearing one of her biosuits but instead was dressed in what looked very like jeans and a thin cotton sweater in a very flattering shade of blue. Rumour was they had spent time on the holodeck together. And Seven, well she was… hot. And she had smiled and laughed out loud at something B'Elanna said. At one point B'Elanna had offered something off her own plate to Seven and Seven had leant over to take the morsel into her mouth. And for a long moment after that they had just sat and stared at each other.

Janeway heard about it an hour later. "… and I swear they were holding hands," she heard Tom say as she entered the Bridge. "I mean, I knew B'Elanna swung both ways but I thought the Drone was stuck on the Captain. Who knew?"

"Who knew indeed? Mr Paris, what is our current course?" Janeway asked drily. The young man at least had the grace to blush. "Still on the heading you ordered at 0940 hours, Captain. Holding steady at Warp 4. We have encountered no other vessels."

Janeway took her seat. "Very good, Mr Paris." She logged in and picked up the latest security and personnel reports, but her mind was on what she had heard about B'Elanna and Seven. Part of them was very glad that they had finally worked through all their demons and got together. She had rejected approaches from both of them in the past but knew in her heart of hearts that in both cases, wooing her had been their second choice. But part of her could not help but wonder what it might have been like to pursue a relationship with either of those remarkable women.

9 nuHlIj DawIvpu', vaj yISuv! (You have chosen your weapon, so fight!)

They had a lunch date in the Mess. Neelix had promised to cook them something that Seven could eat. But the pancakes were growing cold and Seven had not yet appeared. B'Elanna did her best to avoid Neelix's sympathetic gaze. It wasn't the first time she had been late. Promptness seemed to be one of the Borg attributes that Seven had let drop in recent weeks.

They had been `dating' for a month. B'Elanna had kept her promise to herself to take it slow. She had not kissed Seven until their third date. On their fifth date, another holodeck programme Seven had initiated the kissing and they had lain back on the soft golden sand for an hour or more, making out like teenagers. Seven seemed to have been content to stay at that level of intimacy. Then, two nights ago when they were in B'Elanna's quarters, B'Elanna had hesitantly suggested moving things on a little.

They had moved from the couch into the bedroom. B'Elanna put Seven's hands on her body. "Undress me," she said softly. "Touch me. Know me."

She could feel the tremors in Seven's wholly human hand as it smoothed across the material of her shirt. For a long moment that was all Seven did and then as if reaching a decision she started to undo the buttons on the front of the shirt, revealing B'Elanna's pale caramel skin.

B'Elanna wriggled her slender strong shoulders, slipping the shirt from her body. When Seven did not move to do so she released the catch on her bra and let that fall from her as well.

Seven's hands explored her body slowly. She seemed to be internally cataloguing the different sensations she was getting from her human and her augmented hand. Her rapt silence intrigued B'Elanna. They had got to this stage once or twice before. B'Elanna reached up to guide Seven's hand down to the waistband of her trousers. "Touch me, know me," she repeated. Seven took in a deep shuddering breath, a blush colouring her cheeks momentarily before leaving them pale again. Then she pulled away...

Neelix appeared at her side, interrupting her train of thought. He topped up her rapidly cooling rakhtajinho without being asked and looked as if he was about to say something uplifting. Something in her measured gaze must have told the usually insouciant alien that that would be a really bad idea. He gave her an uncertain smile and then backed off.

"Computer, locate Seven of Nine," B'Elanna said at last when half an hour had passed.

"Seven of Nine is in Holodeck 2," the computer told her.

B'Elanna hung her head for a moment. She had thought that Seven was comfortable enough with their relationship now to have forsaken these practice sessions on the holodeck. "What programme is she running?"

"That information is not available."

Well damn her! B'Elanna's temper was rising fast. She left the Mess, conscious of the speculative eyes on her and went to Holodeck 2.

The door would not open, she could not access the controls. Every protocol she could think of – including some that were theoretically assigned only to Captain Janeway – was locked out. Seven obviously did not want to be interrupted. Still, she had to come out sooner or later. B'Elanna settled herself to wait.

It was later. Much later. B'Elanna was due to go on shift in about an hour and she hadn't even been to bed yet. She knew that there was only one regular exit from Holodeck Two but still she checked every half hour or so on Seven's whereabouts. She could have activated a site to site transport. According to the ship she was still in Holodeck Two.

Was it some failing in her that made her lovers ultimately prefer having sex with holodeck characters? Tom had done it often enough, claiming that it wasn't like he was really being unfaithful to her. And she accepted it because to be honest, sex with Tom Paris had never meant that much to her anyway. But Seven… if Seven ultimately rejected her it was going to hurt. B'Elanna was somewhat horrified to realise just how much of herself she had invested in this relationship.

The door slid open. Seven walked out, checked when she saw B'Elanna rise to her feet.

"B'Elanna, what…"

"We had a lunch date, Seven. Five hours ago," she reminded the former Borg.

"I am sorry, B'Elanna. I was…"

"You've reactivated it again, haven't you?"

Seven's expression closed off. "I don't know what…"

"Don't lie to me, Seven. Nirvana – or whatever you're calling it now. You've reactivated it. It's been a while. Has the baby been born yet – what were you going to call it, you and Bel – ah, that was it Miral Katrin."

"B'Elanna, I…"

"Are you afraid of failing me, of disappointing me in some way?" B'Elanna asked. "Don't be. Failure is… is human, Seven. We all fail. We all mess up from time to time. We…"

"I am not afraid of failure," Seven said.

"Then what is it? Because the only thing I'm left with is well… Seven – do you want to be with me or not?" B'Elanna tried to get her voice and her temper back under control. Losing it now would set them back weeks if not months in their relationship and maybe even destroy it all together. She did not want that to happen.

"Yes, I want to be with you, B'Elanna."

"Then be with me. The real me. I might not be Bel, but…"

Seven had turned away, her shoulders shaking. B'Elanna realised that she was crying. She hadn't a clue what to do next. She hadn't even realised that Seven could cry. "Hey, it's okay. We're both new at this." She led the taller woman towards her quarters. This was not a conversation to be held in the corridor. Once they were in Seven's quarters and the door was firmly shut, B'Elanna led her to the couch and pushed her into sitting down – something Seven still had to get used to. B'Elanna took her into her arms, almost cradling her. Seven was as unyielding as ever obviously having no idea how to react to being held like this. Had anyone ever held her like this? Surely her parents must have at one time or another… didn't all parents hug their children? Then suddenly it was as if she melted into her arms and B'Elanna found herself being hugged so fiercely that oxygen intake was definitely going to be an issue within the next minute or so. Seven's lips were on hers, the kiss bruising in its intensity. B'Elanna felt her blood fire and gave as good as she got. She began to pull at the hidden closures on Seven's biosuit wanting nothing between them.

This was it. It was going to happen.

Borg enhanced strength tore her uniform tunic from collar to hem exposing her T-shirt, her nipples clearly visible through the thin fabric. Seven's mouth fastened on one of the nipples, laving it through the material as B'Elanna freed Seven's upper body from the confines of the biosuit. Kahless but she was something else! Others might find her disturbing with pale sculpted flesh and Borg implants flowing in and out of each other across her torso but to B'Elanna's eyes she was exquisite.

They tore into each other as if they had been fasting for months. Which in a way they had been. Thrust was met with thrust, bite with bite. The Klingon way of sex was short-lived and brutal. The Klingon way of love was strenuous, magnificent, lyrical and lasted as long as any Klingon opera.

This was sex. And for the first time in a very long time B'Elanna had a partner who could match her strength, her ferocity, her need.

They came almost simultaneously and rolled away from each other. Aftershocks rippled through Seven's systems, more pain than pleasure judging by her expression. B'Elanna closed her eyes tried to get her breathing under control. The itch was well and truly scratched and that was good.

Then she realised. This was Seven's first time. And she had just about raped her. Okay it had been consensual and Seven had initiated it but no way did she know what she was getting into, what Klingon sex was really like. This was no simulation. There were no safety protocols here.

"Seven, you okay?" she asked, brushing back the soft blonde hair from where it had fallen over her face. She winced as she saw the bites and bruises that marred the fair skin of her jawline and upper chest. There would be more bruises in other places. B'Elanna knew that she had not held back.

Seven nodded silently, not trusting herself to speak. That had been one of the most powerful, terrifying things she had ever experienced.

"If I hurt you, I'm truly sorry. I should have warned you. The Klingon way…"

"It's okay, B'Elanna, I understand." Her voice was soft, inflectionless, sounding more Borg than it had when she had been Borg. "I should regenerate."

"And I need to go to Engineering. My duty rota starts in ten minutes. Seven, I'll stop by after my shift, okay. And we'll talk. I really think we need to talk."

The blonde nodded seeming to shift tighter into her almost foetal position. "I'll just replicate myself a new uniform and I'll be gone," B'Elanna said. There was more she could say probably more she should say but she wasn't in the right frame of mind and instinctively knew that whatever she did say would be wrong. She could have contacted Janeway and requested some personal time but for some reason shied away from doing that. She needed to get her emotions in order before seeing Seven again.

Quickly she changed, bundling her ruined uniform in the disposal slot and then went to her quarters to clean up before starting her shift.

Seven knew that she had failed. She had not been enough for B'Elanna had not done enough to be a sufficient lover. She had some memories from the few Klingons that the Borg had managed to assimilate but most of them were warriors. She knew the mechanics protocols and practices of Klingon sex but the sheer wave of unthinking emotion had been too much for her.

She also knew the difference between sex and love. Did B'Elanna think her only fit for sex?

Slowly she rose to her feet and inspected herself in the mirror. The bites bruises and scratches were already beginning to fade as her nanoprobes did their work.

She tried her best to discipline her mind, her emotions. She was Borg. More even than the Vulcans, emotions had no place in her life. She watched the tears that trickled down her pale cheeks. The pain was getting worse her thoughts clouding, darkening. All she could think was that she had failed somehow. She had proven herself unworthy of B'Elanna Torres. Her preparations, the simulations had all been for nothing. All that time…

Seven shuddered, her arms wrapped around herself as she slid to the floor.

10 jach Suvwl' 'e' yIQoy! (Hear the warrior cry out!)

"Lieutenant Torres."

"Captain?" B'Elanna touched her communicator. "How can I help you?"

"I wanted to know if you'd seen Seven of Nine recently. She was due to meet me in Astrometrics to go over some course projections. Icheb has not seen her all day."

"I last saw her in her quarters just before I came on shift," B'Elanna said. "Captain, would you like me to check on her. It's not like Seven to miss a meeting," Especially if it's with you, Captain, B'Elanna thought to herself. "She was a little… unsettled when I last saw her." And that was an understatement. B'Elanna knew that she had all but run out on the woman. As Tom might have put it: Wham bam thank you ma'am.

Self-disgust curdled her stomach. She had quite literally and figuratively fucked up.

There was a moment's silence. B'Elanna could only hazard a guess at the thoughts going through the other woman's mind. "Perhaps it would be for the best if you checked on her, Lieutenant. Let me know when Seven wants to reschedule. Or if there's anything she – you – either of you need."

"I will, Captain. And thank you."

B'Elanna tried to stop herself from running all the way to Seven's quarters. Her code still worked so Seven hadn't got round to locking her out yet. "Seven? Are you here?" She paused at the entry to the bedroom as she saw the young woman curled almost foetally on the carpet.

"Kahless! Seven!" she knelt down beside her, checking for a pulse. Slow, strong and steady. Her skin was cold. Reaching up B'Elanna dragged the cover from the bed and wrapped it round the woman. Then she spooned up against her on the floor, burying her face in the blonde hair, her hand rubbing up and down Seven's bare arm.

"Come back to me, Bang'wi, please. I didn't mean to hurt you. I didn't mean for our first time to be like that, I really didn't." She kept up the gentle physical contact, her body wrapped around the taller woman, talking gently to her telling her that she was loved. `I've wanted to make love to you for so long that when it came to it, I lost control. Damn Klingon genes!' she raged quietly to herself. Jach Suvwl' 'e' yIQoy indeed! Much good pulling the Warrior had done her this time…

"Why am I on the floor?" Seven asked, her voice little more than a whisper.

"I think you overloaded – what we did, how I left things with you. I'm so sorry, Seven. Do you think you can sit up, maybe get onto the bed?"

With a lot of help Seven managed to get shakily to her feet, the blanket still wrapped around her and flopped onto the bed. B'Elanna climbed up beside her, lying facing her this time, her hands still stroking Seven's bare arms.

"Are you okay? Should I call the doctor?"

Her answer was a vehement shake of the head. "I am recovering. I am glad to see you B'Elanna. I thought… I thought I had failed you in some way when you left as you did."

"I promised myself I wouldn't rush you into anything," B'Elanna said. "I know… I guessed you'd never had sex before – but then in the heat of the moment I forgot all the promises I had made to myself and it was obvious that you weren't ready for it and I just charged on regardless. I'm so sorry, Seven. I could have really hurt you."

"You didn't. Not really. And I wanted to make love to you very much. It was just… overwhelming. And… by the end I didn't really enjoy it. Is that wrong? Did I do it wrong?"

"You didn't do anything wrong, love. I'm not surprised that you didn't enjoy it. I just wish I could turn time back, undo what I did to you. Honey, that was just sex. Just biologies interacting. I want to make love to you properly. But I want to take time. For now we can just be close, okay. Learn each other all over again. I know how much you want me. I can smell it, see it. I don't need any Borg enhancement to know that. I've had sex with you. Now I want to make love to you." Seven was silent in the circle of her arms. "If you're okay with that."

An almost imperceptible nod. Not the most deafening acclamation. "Seven, help me out here. Tell me what's on your mind. Tell me what you want to happen."


"So I can make you feel comfortable with this. So I can please you. When you and Bel made love, what was that like?"

Seven closed her eyes, a blush colouring her cheeks. "That wasn't real. It was idle wish fulfilment."

"It was real to you, at the time. You were exploring a side of yourself that had only existed in dreams before that. Bringing it into the real world."

"She liked it when I touched her here," Seven's augmented hand brushed softly across B'Elanna's lower ribs. "And kissed her here." The blonde nuzzled at the side of B'Elanna's throat.

B'Elanna hummed deep in her throat. "Well, I like that as well," she said huskily. "So that's a good starting place. Now, what did you like Bel to do to you? What gave you pleasure, Seven?"

"My implants are quite sensitive," Seven admitted. "especially across my abdomen. I like to be touched there. And my breasts. I liked to have my breasts kissed."

"Like this?" B'Elanna asked huskily before taking one rosy peak into her mouth, laving across the nipple with her tongue. With one hand she reached down to gently draw her fingers across the mesh of flesh and metal that covered Seven's abdominal region, gradually moving lower and lower until she felt Seven tense up a little again. She moved her hand back up resumed her stroking across the implants, switching her attention to the other breast. Seven's hands were moving up and down her back, then feeling for the enclosure on her uniform.

Not wanting to ruin two in one day, B'Elanna paused in her activities long enough to strip down to her tshirt and pants. "Now where was I?" she muttered, climbing back onto the bed eliciting a surprising but welcome giggle from her partner. She resumed her kissing and mouthing of Seven's breasts, one hand now stroking the side of Seven's neck as the other began its stealthy approach to her core. She could feel the young woman actually begin to relax. "That's it," she whispered. "Feels good, doesn't it?"

"Yes," Seven whispered, turning her head to look deeply into B'Elanna's eyes. "Very good." Seven's hands were still roaming across her back, travelling lower now. B'Elanna felt a shiver of excitement run through her as Seven's hands slid under the waistband of her pants, easing them down, smoothing over her buttocks and the tops of her thighs. Her own fingers were just touching the small patch of hair over Seven's core. This time Seven did not draw away but instead allowed her thighs to open a little, granting B'Elanna access. B'Elanna stared down into Seven's deep blue eyes as she drew her fingers lightly over Seven's labia teasing them apart, relieved to find that moisture was beginning to gather. Seven was obviously getting over her fear. Seven's gentle massage of her lower back and buttocks continued.

She made first contact with the nub of Seven's clit, feeling the woman react. "Is that okay?" she asked softly. "If you want me to stop, just say. This is all about treating you properly, Seven, treating you how you deserve to be treated. You're in control."

"No, I liked it," Seven said shakily. "Before… I didn't have time to process what was happening, so quickly overwhelmed. But slow is…" she gasped as B'Elanna gently squeezed the small bundle of nerves before resuming the swirling motion of her fingers, seeking the hot channel at Seven's centre.

B'Elanna felt the woman's hips begin to jerk upwards as she sought however subconsciously to deepen the contact. Seven's hands tightened on her hips, her lips parting, the tip of her tongue just showing. B'Elanna lowered her head and let her tongue caress Seven's. Seven responded eagerly, as B'Elanna tweaked her clit again. For a moment B'Elanna thought she was going to be crushed as Seven tightened almost python like around her. Seven's head snapped back and B'Elanna forced herself to breathe shallowly as she watched the play of emotions across Seven's face. Gradually Seven's hold on her eased as she came back to herself.

"My Bang'wi," she whispered. "I have been such a fool, wasting time in fear and attitude when…" She reached up to caress B'Elanna's cheek, then ran her fingers gently along B'Elanna's brow ridges. "You have come to mean so much to me. When I thought that you did not love me, that I had disappointed you, I…"

"I treated you very badly, earlier," B'Elanna said softly. "I let my… baser instincts get the better of me. I really thought I had hurt you that you would hate me for what I had done. Can you forgive me for running away like that?"

"Of course," Seven said, a smile of such breathtaking beauty appearing. "I love you, B'Elanna. And there's nothing to forgive."

11 QongDaqDaq Qotbe' tlhInganpu' (Klingons do not lie in bed)

Many hours had passed. Part of her knew that they were both very late for their duty shifts and that some one should probably have come looking for them hours ago. She guessed Janeway's hand in their current freedom and silently blessed her friend for her foresight and compassion.

Seven stirred in her arms, opened sleep-shadowed blue eyes. "Good," she said, snuggling back down again.

"What is good?" B'Elanna asked.

"You are not a dream."

"No, I'm very very real." She carded her fingers through her lover's thick blonde hair, smothering a giggle as she felt Seven's hand slide slowly down her abdomen and her lips close around her left nipple. So she was ready for another encore, was she? Tugging softly at Seven's hair she raised the woman's face until she was looking at her again. Gently she traced the shape of the implant over Seven's brow, feeling the woman shiver in response.

"I would like very much to make love to you again," she said softly, "but I don't want you to overdo it, okay. You're not used to this. For the moment what I would very much like to do is just hold you in my arms until I fall asleep and wake up with you here beside me. Is that okay with you?"

"That is very okay with me. However, I feel that I should warn you that my superior recuperative powers are adjusting to this new activity," she said, stretching over her, rubbing her slender body against B'Elanna's. B'Elanna closed her eyes and shivered in something approaching ecstacy. "Although…" The delightful friction ceased. "If, however, you are in need of recuperation time, B'Elanna..."

"No!" B'Elanna's eyes slammed open. "Don't stop! Don't you dare stop."

12 Qapla!

B'Elanna stood with Seven outside the holodeck.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"I must," Seven said softly. "I know that. It is the only way to prove myself to you."

"Seven, you don't have to prove anything to me." Reaching up B'Elanna touched Seven's cheek with the palm of her hand. "If anything, I have to prove myself to you. I know that you love me. That…" she indicated the holodeck door, "proved it to me long ago. Showed me the truth about you, something I had been denying myself for far too long. Things like how much you already meant to me. And how much I love you. I love you so much. In fact I love you too much to let you destroy it. A part of you is in there, after all. And I would like to visit every once in a while."

Seven's mouth sought hers hungrily. My god, B'Elanna thought dizzily, what have I created? She's insatiable. And she wants me.

She had never felt so happy. No relationship had ever felt so right. She had never been so committed to another person. And she was okay with it.

And she knew that she had so many layers of the puzzle that was Seven of Nine / Annika Hansen / her Nika to solve that it might take her the rest of her life to do so. And she was okay with that as well.

The End

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