DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager not mine, said the little dragon... but then again you knew that.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is loosely set just after the end of season 7's "Workforce" episodes, but with some obvious changes B'Elanna is neither pregnant nor in a relationship with Tom in this story. Also, the time spent on the planet is longer here, I believe.
In the Shadow of Quarra
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson
The crew of Voyager had just been rescued from planet of Quarra and the violating methods the Quarren government used to obtain off-worlders for their much-needed workforce. Everyone onboard from the Captain on down, that had been exposed to the Quarren mind-altering, were feeling understandably lost and confused as the treatments the doctor provided were a lengthy and unsettling process.
B'Elanna Torres, Voyager's illustrious Chief of Engineering, had been the first to be returned to the vessel the few crewmembers that had escaped the forced recruiting, and had gotten further along in her treatments than anyone else as of yet, including the Captain. Unfortunately, the truth that dawned on her sent the young woman into quite a depression, making B'Elanna Torres seclude herself in her quarters whenever she was not working herself to exhaustion to return her ship to best possible shape after recent events.
On Quarra, B'Elanna Torres had been one of many that worked at the factories, a prized engineer certainly, but not with the kind of crushing responsibility her position onboard Voyager carried. The work had not been nearly as challenging nor as rewarding, but that was not the cause for B'Elanna's turmoil... Something had happened on Quarra, something wonderful.
And it was tearing B'Elanna apart inside.
B'Elanna was in Engineering when Seven of Nine, who had temporarily been working on a console near the doors, made a strange groaning sound, then quietly slid to the deck, unconscious.
B'Elanna hadn't made a conscious decision to cross Engineering to reach Seven's side, just as she hadn't made a conscious decision to sprint all the way to Sickbay when the prone ex-Borg had disappeared in a blue sparkle as someone had the foresight to call for an emergency transport to Sickbay. She never even thought about it. But she still ended up in Sickbay, panting slightly from her exertion, watching the doctor and Tom attend Seven.
The Captain was also in Sickbay, apparently about to receive her latest treatment from the doctor when Seven was beamed there, and together she and B'Elanna watched with concern as the doctor placed Seven on a biobed, then began to examine her.
Seven came to quickly, sitting up within moments and attempting to stand. The doctor put a stop to that, then proceeded to ask her a multitude of questions, concern clear in his voice even as he fussed around her. Janeway added her voice to the conversation, but B'Elanna wasn't really listening to any of them... she was staring at Seven.
A slate grey uniform, strict as anything yet hugging its wearer's every dip and curve, making her look heartbreakingly slender. The darkness of the uniform throwing alabaster skin and pale blond tresses into sharp relief, making them appear as if they glowed with a light of their own.
When B'Elanna had first seen the new Efficiency Monitor, she had found herself to busy staring at the loveliness of the woman to even notice the gleaming metal band that shaped her left eyebrow, or the exo-skeleton covering one hand. No, B'Elanna had been quite occupied staring at the slender curve of the woman's neck and the graceful way she moved and struggling against a sudden strong impulse to growl loudly, to do much else. That had been at work.
The second time B'Elanna saw Efficiency Monitor Hansen, it was after working hours in a dimly lit bar. The woman still wore her uniform, whereas B'Elanna had changed out of her working clothes before going to the bar for a relaxing drink. B'Elanna had been besieged by loneliness, not knowing anyone there, when her eyes had fallen on the lone figure in the dark corner.
What had made her walk up to that stranger, offer up a lopsided smile, and asked with the tilt of her head if she could sit down? Perhaps it was just that the blonde woman looked as alone and out of place as B'Elanna herself had felt. Perhaps. Either way, she had, and the blonde had acquiesced with some surprise, before surprising B'Elanna in return by knowing B'Elanna's name.
It had been awkward at first, sitting there. Then they began talking, and over the flow of conversation, relaxing in each other's company... and by the time B'Elanna was bestowed with a wide, toothy grin and a tiny girlish giggle, she was mesmerized.
To her annoyance the enchanting moment was broken by the waiter, a blonde man who had been eyeing them both by turns for some time. Ostensibly, he came over to their table to wipe it down, smoothly trying his chat-up lines while doing so and clearly oblivious to the irritated looks both women were giving him. He then proceeded to offer them drinks and attempted to engage them in conversation, but B'Elanna was gratified to hear her new acquaintance, Annika Hansen, coolly tell the annoying fool that their table was clean enough, they would procure their own beverages, and he had better continue his assigned tasks elsewhere.
He left them quickly after that, and B'Elanna and her new friend had continued getting to know one another and, somewhat unintentionally, getting quite soused in the process. Some part of B'Elanna eventually realized what was happening, and decided to make sure the woman that by then was leaning on her shoulder as she was illustrating the workings of a micro-nebula with her hands, got home safely.
They had no sooner begun to rise before the annoying waiter came up to them again, overly solicitous and helpful, suggesting he take them home... either of them, it seemed the man was not particularly picky which one. B'Elanna idly swatted away his helpful hands a few times as she guided Annika towards the doors, but when one hand landed to squeeze her butt, she just reacted. One smooth punch and the blonde man was laid out flat on the floor, with the other patrons coming alive around them.
Security had not been far away, and came swiftly to detain the growling B'Elanna while the waiter had gathered his wits enough to whine and point an accusing finger. Annika Hansen smoothly intercepted the security officers however, and being a respected superior officer, ended things by giving her own, succinct account of what had happened. Security had still been talking to the whining waiter when B'Elanna had followed Annika out of there and into the night.
Afterwards B'Elanna would never be able to recall the details of the walk from the bar over to the apartment complex where Annika Hansen had her home. She would never remember walking down the streets or standing outside of apartment number four-theta-seven... she wouldn't ever remember who started it. All she knew was that the moment the apartment doors shut behind them, she and Annika were all over one another. Hot, hungry, needy... and all too passionate for either of them to remember that the woman in their arms was virtually a stranger.
To all intents and purposes, B'Elanna never went back home to her own apartment after that.
Certainly, B'Elanna went back to her apartment to pick up clothing or other articles, but only briefly and always in Ani's company. A night of passion became days of fun and exploration. Days of exploration became a week of honest, growing emotion, and then... impulsively, B'Elanna moved in officially.
Another two weeks went by, and B'Elanna presented her lover with an engagement ring.
B'Elanna couldn't remember ever having been happier. Work was hard but fair, and she came home to her beloved, making plans for their future together, marriage, a bigger place, even children. It was utter bliss.
Then an arm had reached out to grab her as she hurried home to her love after running late at work... and the harsh reality of Voyager had been trust upon her, burning away that precious, beautiful dream.
And B'Elanna was still mourning her loss.
The woman sitting on the biobed, unsteadily to B'Elanna's eyes but probably as impassive as ever to anyone else, was not her beloved fiancée... the woman whose smile made up the world, and whose warm, tinkling laughter filled it with life.
No. That was not her Ani... that was Seven of Nine.
Apparently the doctor had found something disturbing, because he became quite agitated. Janeway's mouth opened in shock, and B'Elanna could see those pale blue eyes widen in reaction as well. No time to reminisce about what was lost.
"What was that, doc?" B'Elanna asked across the frozen silence of the Sickbay.
"I _said_..." The doctor repeated tersely. "that there is another life sign present in Seven, and that combined with these other readings..."
B'Elanna saw the metal-adorned hand come to rest across the flat stomach. "...you're saying she's..." She winced internally at the disbelieving tone of her own voice.
"Wow, congratulations Seven." Tom enthused, stepping closer to the biobed. "Kids are great! Who's the father, someone onboard? Or was it..."
What stopped his rambling was not the angry glare from the Captain, nor the disapproving look the doctor gave him... but the fact that when the slightly bowed head of Seven of Nine rose to face them all, the sorrow in her eyes cut like a laser right through the soul.
A single tear escaped her human eye and trailed with agonizing slowness across a pale cheek.
"I do not know who or how, Ensign. I have no recollection of any event that could result in this condition." Another tear joined the first, but Seven's voice was calm, if sounding just slightly... brittle.
With uncharacteristic hesitancy, the doctor picked his tricorder back up to continue his exam of Seven. The room was silent.
"Hmm." He uttered after a moment, staring at his tricorder. "That's odd." He ran the tricorder again, double-checking the results. "How can that be?"
Seven's hand stopped the tricorder on the third pass. "You will inform me of your findings, doctor." Seven's voice was bordering on harsh, and was seconded quietly by Janeway and B'Elanna's nodding.
"Well Seven..." The somewhat perplexed hologram said. "it would appear that the fetus growing inside you has partially Klingon DNA."
Slowly, one by one, the doctor, Janeway and Tom all turned to stare at B'Elanna.
B'Elanna didn't notice. "Oh Ani! I'm so sorry!" She blurted, taking an involuntary step in Seven's direction.
Seven closed her eyes for a brief moment. "Why are you sorry, Bel?"
Both women completely missed the surprised looks the others in the room passed between them.
"I think I know how this happened..." B'Elanna frowned, thinking back. "When I would wait with you as the doctors helped you recharge your cybern... when they helped you regenerate, I suppose, I would sit and talk to a few of the assistants that worked there."
Unconsciously B'Elanna's fingers went to play with the engagement ring that was no longer present on her hand. "They knew about us, and Ravoc you remember Ravoc, right? asked if we had set a date for our wedding yet. One thing led to another, and I think I told him about us planning to have kids someday, when the doctors passed by."
B'Elanna looked at Seven with an earnest expression on her face. "They must've... and I didn't realize they'd... I didn't mean to... Oh I'm so sorry Ani! It's all my fault!"
"Wedding? Children?" The doctor demanded. "Why wasn't I informed?"
"Am I under an obligation to report to you of any intimate personal relationship I may develop, doctor?" There was a touch of warning in Seven's voice, letting the doctor know she was losing patience with him
"No, no, of course not." The hologram was immediately contrite. "I just thought it could have had an impact on your treatment and as such I would have liked to be informed."
"Doctor, can you tell me how long I have?" Seven asked after a moment, head once again bowed, obscuring the expression in her eyes from view.
"Time?" The doctor parroted. "Further examinations can determine your due date, naturally..."
"No." Seven spoke clearly. "I am referring to how long before I lose her."
Even the doctor was visibly taken aback by that, causing Seven to elaborate.
"My... abdominal implants only allow for so much growth before there simply is no more room. Before that happens and my life is threatened, my nanoprobes will treat the fetus as a foreign body and expel it from my system. It... is physically impossible for me to carry a child to term."
The revelation was met with a range of shocked and horrified noises, and B'Elanna suddenly grabbed onto the doctor's medical consol for support.
Seven paid no heed, looking down at where her hand still rested on her flat stomach. After a long moment she looked up, a small, hurting almost-smile touching her lips faintly before disappearing, washed away by the tears silently sliding down one side of her face.
"I always lose my children. Why should this one be different?"
"One, my first born... dead and gone before my eyes, all for the good of Voyager."
"My adopted children, taken from me one by one."
"Baby Katherine..." Seven didn't see Janeway give a start, nor how the other's briefly looked at their Captain. "I had decided on that name, and was en route to pick her up after my duty shift to commemorate the occasion with her siblings when Mezoti found me."
Seven was looking into the distance as if seeing the girl rather than the walls of the Sickbay. "My daughter was... weeping, and speaking incoherently of her infant sibling being taken from our Unimatrix and assimilated by others. She urged me to hurry to Sickbay, and I did."
"I was too late. Baby Katherine had already been delivered and her new caretakers had left for parts unknown. The doctor told me in passing as he was loading the infant's blanket into the recycler that the arrangements hade been made several days ago to deliver my youngest to these strangers that day." Seven stared at the metal on her hand. "I had not been informed, nor had my children."
"I was foolish." Again the strange, painful almost-smile flitted across Seven's lips. "My first course of action should have been to have my children adopted by another member aboard Voyager, someone not Borg. Then they would not have been mine, but still on board this ship."
Seven sighed. "But my children were Borg as well, and nothing Borg is wanted upon this ship. There would not have been anyone that wanted to care for my children."
"When my second son was to be taken from me, I objected as strenuously as I could. It made no difference. Icheb was delivered to his blood kin, and would have been lost had I not succumbed to the desire to see my eldest living child once more."
"When we were informed that the twins were to be taken away, we all knew that protesting would be futile indeed. My daughter, knowing that sooner or later she would be sent away as well and dreading the thought of loosing all of her family, opted to go with her brothers."
This time there was a real if faint smile playing on Seven's lips for a moment. "She did not wish to leave me, and told me so in no uncertain terms. However, it was the only recourse for her to remain with some of her family, and I let her go." The smile died.
"Ironic. It has not been the Borg that have taken my children from me... that has been Voyager's doing."
"When One died for Voyager, he received no funeral. No-one spoke to commemorate his sacrifice, nor attended the destruction of his body. Instead I watched as the doctor removed his mobile emitter from my son's skull, then administered the destruction of his body components." Seven flexed her metal-covered hand. "Mr Neelix was quite upset afterwards that he had not been told so that he could have attended, as he was... fond of my son. He spoke to me at some length about loss, helping me to understand my emotions at that time, and also presented me with a holographic image of One. He was most kind."
In a quiet voice Seven continued. "My daughter once told me she wished we had all remained Borg, because whatever else happened, parts of us would be together forever in the embrace of the Hive." Another twitch of her hand. "It is true that the Borg Queen would have allowed me my children were I to serve her as she desires. My children would not have been... discarded."
"And yet I continue existing this way, serving Voyager. Is that not... ironic?"
Seven took a deep, shuddering breath and wiped at her eyes. "But I speak too much. Doctor, send the results of your examination to my workstation when you are done, I will calculate the life expectancy of my unborn daughter myself." With that Seven made as if to get up.
"No no no!" Tom exclaimed, taking a few steps towards Seven, as if to try and stop her from leaving. "The doc will find a way to save your baby! Right, doc? You'll save Seven's baby, won't you?"
There was a strange kind of earnest appeal in the voice of Voyager's otherwise so juvenile helmsman, and he turned to the doctor much in the way of a child would an adult, expecting him to be able to fix whatever was broken.
The doctor blinked, then seemed to collect himself and begin to speak, but B'Elanna cut him off.
"Oh Ani baby... I'm so sorry!" B'Elanna sobbed, hurling herself the last distance across the Sickbay and engulfing the surprised Seven in a tight embrace. "My poor, poor Ani..."
"...Bel?" Seven asked quietly as B'Elanna wept on her shoulder. Slowly, hesitantly, Seven's arms came up to clasp B'Elanna's shaking body closer, and she closed her eyes. "Bel."
After a long moment of sobbing into Seven's neck, B'Elanna drew back just barely enough to be able to look into Seven's eyes. "We're not going to lose this baby, we're not! I swear we won't, Ani." B'Elanna swore fervently, trying to convey her sincerity with her eyes. "If you can't carry her to term, then the doc will just have to find a way to put her in me."
When the Borg-enhanced fingers came up to gently wipe the tears from B'Elanna's cheeks, B'Elanna couldn't help but to lean into the touch. Looking into those blue eyes that had so captivated her, and in truth still did, she also couldn't help remembering...
Ani's laughing blue eyes as they cuddled on the couch. The heart wrenching sweetness of that first sleepy smile in the morning, when Ani first opened her eyes and looked at her. The feel of long, strong arms and a slender body wrapping B'Elanna from behind, face buried in B'Elanna's hair, just because.
Then the memories became of Seven.
Seven, standing tall, proud and so desirable it just ignited every ounce of Klingon instinct to conquer and possess that B'Elanna had. Seven, challenging B'Elanna in a contest of minds, secretly thrilling the young engineer by being one of the rare few people, ever, that could follow the workings of B'Elanna's mind. Seven doing something outrageously defiant, earning B'Elanna's almost wolfish approval... Seven's unexpected dry wit, making B'Elanna bite down on her tongue not to erupt into laughter... the unexpected rush of desire at being pursued by Seven in a Klingon fashion, that had frightened her so much she called security to chase the woman down rather than following her instincts to do the chasing herself.
B'Elanna smiled. Then slowly, ever so slowly, so that Seven would have the chance to stop her if it was not what she wanted, B'Elanna closed that tiny distance to kiss full, red lips.
It took a heartbeat, maybe two... and then they were kissing lovingly, passionately, like they used to... and the pain and confusion that had plagued B'Elanna since she was brought back to Voyager just fell away. This was so right, so good... and she'd be damned before she let anything take this away from her without a fight.
After a few moments B'Elanna drew back slightly, giving Seven an adoring look. "Seven... Baby...?"
Seven blinked a little, her hands moving slightly against B'Elanna's back. "If I would be allowed to build a Borg maturation chamber, our baby would be able to survive in that. It would be modified of course, so that our child would not be assimilated while growing, but... she would still have my nanoprobes." Seven looked apologetic. "She would be enhanced, the nanoprobes would strengthen her bones and muscular tissue, improve organs and favour the more beneficial genetic traits she carries."
"I meant my other, my big baby, honey..." B'Elanna grinned. "But that doesn't sound too bad. Our daughter won't come out with implants that will put her or the crew at risk, right?"
Seven shook her head. "No, I would modify the maturation chamber not to perform those tasks... our child would not be marred by implants and bound to an alcove."
B'Elanna quickly gave her a little kiss. "You're not bound to the alcoves, we've proven that. And your implants don't mar you, Seven, though I'm glad it's something our girl won't have to inherit anyway."
"So." B'Elanna traced the gleaming metal adornments on Seven's face. "We build a maturation chamber, and if anyone protests I'll just have to kick butt."
"What I wanted to ask before, though, was..." B'Elanna strangely looked slightly shy. "Do you still have the ring I gave you, Seven?" She consciously used the name Seven rather than the nickname that came to her automatically, wanting Seven to know that she wasn't addressing just the woman she had met on Quarra, but all of Seven of Nine.
Seven did not answer, but indicated the inside of her left sleeve with a small movement. B'Elanna grinned widely.
"Oh Seven... my Ani..." She breathed, locating the small pocket with her fingers, and retrieving the dark grey band that was made to match the implants on Seven's hand. "Do... do you... what I mean is would you..." B'Elanna had some difficulty speaking her mind as she held the ring up to Seven's finger.
"Whadda ya say, want to give it a try?" She finally settled for, covering her nervousness with a somewhat silly and winsome smile.
"Yes." Seven's reply was quiet, but she held out her finger, clear in her intention.
Grinning wildly B'Elanna slipped the ring onto the waiting finger, then drew the hand up to kiss it tenderly. After staring into Seven's eyes a long moment, still grinning, she remembered to reach inside her uniform jacket to a recently added little pocket there and withdraw her own engagement ring, mutely handing it to Seven.
Seven placed the ring on B'Elanna's finger, then kissed the hand with such utter reverence that it brought more tears to B'Elanna's eyes. They were about to kiss again when the sound of the doctor clearing his throat brought them apart.
"So sorry to interrupt..." He said awkwardly, fidgeting slightly. "but perhaps you would like somewhere more... private for that? I understand that it is a special occasion, so I am quite content to wait until tomorrow for further exams and for the details of your suggestion to use a maturation chamber for the fetus."
"Thank you doctor."
"Hey... where did the Captain go? And Tom?" B'Elanna suddenly noticed that the three of them were alone in Sickbay.
"Ahh, the Captain... felt indisposed." The doctor began delicately, then looked at Seven. "No. She was so shocked and horrified hearing what she feels she has done to Seven, that she needed to throw up. Tom helped her into my office, where she can have some privacy with her... upset feelings. She was quite devastated."
Seven began to speak, but B'Elanna put a finger on her lips, silencing her. "Good, we'll leave you to tend to the Captain, then. We'll stop by tomorrow for the other checkups, and see if we have something more concrete by then on the maturation chamber."
Gently B'Elanna pulled Seven to her feet. "Are you feeling well enough to get out of here for tonight?" At Seven's nod, she continued. "Good. Good evening then, doctor." And she pulled her fiancée with her out the doors.
B'Elanna lay on their bed, delighting in playing with her daughter while they waited for Seven to finish dressing. Today was the day that representatives for the Wysanti would come aboard to discuss releasing Mezoti back into Seven's care. Of all the children she had lost, only Mezoti might be retrievable, as the twins had adjusted well to their new surroundings and did not want to return. B'Elanna knew how anxious her wife was to see her eldest daughter again, and how much Ani feared that Mezoti would change her mind, opting to remain with the Wysanti as well.
Mezoti was sure to return, she just knew it. Icheb agreed, and seemed every bit as much the happy older brother as he had when little Erin had been taken out of the maturation chamber. It was a delight to see how the boy doted on his baby sister, and B'Elanna was relieved that he had taken her marrying his mother, their living together, then the arrival of little Erin, so very well. He was a good child, and B'Elanna thought surely Mezoti would be able to adapt as well.
B'Elanna had been quite amused to see that their bouncing baby girl had unruly curls of soot black, her somewhat bronzed complexion and even gentle forehead ridges, but blue eyes a shade or two paler than Seven's own. There was no doubt she'd break hearts one day... in fact she charmed everyone already, being a friendly, inquisitive infant with a delightful gurgling laughter, and chances were their friends and extended family would all conspire to spoil her rotten.
Deciding she wanted to hear that laugh, B'Elanna tossed her daughter a little on the bed, then bent down and pretended to eat her tummy and naked little feet, making Erin virtually squeal with laughter.
"Bel?" Seven said, coming into the bedroom to sit beside B'Elanna and their daughter.
"Yes darling?" B'Elanna asked between mock bites and sniffs of eagerly offered feet. She looked at her wife, smiling reassuringly. "Don't worry Ani, it'll be alright."
Seven nodded silently, then picked Erin up. "I see she managed to take off her footwear again."
"Yup." B'Elanna agreed cheerfully. "The socks just came right off, I swear it's a talent." She put her arms around her wife as they moved out the door. "Now let's go get our other daughter."
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