DISCLAIMER: Paramount, Viacom, whoever else these days, just borrowing, no harm intended...yaa dee dah...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: T/7, of course, graphic scenes somewhere in the middle, Borg children still on board, no canon episode referenced except for the one with the Science Fair, the Omega Particle episode and the Tsunkatse tournament ship episode.

Queen of Hearts
By DiNovia

Part Five


B'Elanna, prowling like a caged panther in the middle of her living room, looked at the door to her quarters as if it was the gate to Gre'thor. No way was she going to open it and if whoever was on the other side of it didn't leave her alone, she would happily provide them with an all-expenses-paid trip on the Barge of the Dead.

She waited for another ring but when none came, she continued her pacing…and her self-recriminations.



Determined to ignore the door, B'Elanna whirled away from it, searching for anything—anything at all—to distract her. Her eyes found the bat'tleth on the wall, the one that had belonged to her mother's mother's mother. Suddenly feeling more Klingon than she ever had, B'Elanna lifted the blade from its display.

It felt heavy and foreign in her hands, yet somehow…right. She'd been practicing with it lately, ever since she'd come back from her own little cruise on the Barge. The holoprograms she was using for training were exceptionally complete but she could never quite get the feel for the weapon. It was always awkward…somehow unbalanced.

Until now.

Now, she felt the acid burn of her Klingon blood as it surged inside her, rising up to claim the blade that beckoned to her like a battle-mate. Now, she understood the grace of the weapon and the dance of death that was its purpose. Now, she saw the truth in the ancient legends that spoke of the bond between a warrior and her weapon.

She tipped her head back and closed her eyes, reveling in the drumbeat of her blood and the chill of the blade. She let her mind go, let it expand to fill the ragged hole inside her with memories of her bat'tleth training, of thrusts and parries and spiraling deathblows. She let it go until the bat'tleth in her mind's eye became Seven of Nine and the dance of death became one of passion finally unleashed, finally and joyfully shared.

"No!" she shouted, her eyes snapping open to end the forbidden dream. She heaved the sword across the room where it connected with the wall with a satisfying THWACK, burying itself in the tritanium alloy up to its second blade.

"B'Elanna?" The muffled voice from the other side of the door sounded both concerned and familiar. Very familiar. Too familiar.

The Klingon sighed.

"B'Elanna Torres, do you require assistance?"

"No!" she said, rubbing her forehead. It was bad enough she'd made a fool out of herself in a staff meeting but now the woman she'd made a fool of herself over had decided to—to what? To just drop by? She shook her head and scowled. "Just go away!"

"No." Seven's voice was clear and calm and quietly adamant. B'Elanna could almost see her standing at attention in the corridor, her long-fingered hands linked efficiently at the small of her back.

"Okay, fine," growled the Klingon. "Stay out there all night if you want. But I am not opening that door." She crossed her arms tightly across her chest and turned her back to the entrance, praying to every Klingon hero she knew that Seven would just get the hint and leave.

Leave me alone, she thought, almost begging. It's my hearts that are breaking, not yours. Just leave me alone.

"I am more than capable of adapting Mizati's…unorthodox technique to gain entrance to your quarters, B'Elanna. However, I do not believe you wish to repair two damaged doors." When Seven's attempt at coercion didn't produce the desired results, she changed tactics. Drastically.

She reached out with her left hand, placing her palm against the cool metal.

"qaqoy, B'Elanna," she pleaded. "Open the door."

B'Elanna spun at the sound of her mother's language, her features twisting with fury.

How dare she use my heritage against me, thought the part of her rooted in her Klingon past. Then that part of her suddenly understood the meaning of those words. qaqoy. I beg you.

Seven of Nine, proud, arrogant, and usually above even the word please had just begged.

B'Elanna opened the door.

"You don't beg," she said bluntly instead of a more traditional greeting.

Seven's pale eyes darted away shyly. "There is little I wouldn't do to be allowed to enter," she said softly, her words deliberately having two meanings. She longed for the Klingon to open up, to let her inside the bold hearts she kept locked away.

Seven understood living behind impenetrable walls. She had spent her entire existence since leaving the Collective within her own fortress. B'Elanna had helped to bring those walls down, had helped her to see beyond her uncertainty and insecurities. She wanted nothing more than to do the same for B'Elanna, to tear down the young Klingon's walls and join with her, creating a fortress of two. But B'Elanna's obvious hostility confused her.

Perhaps loving me is too painful for B'Elanna, she thought bleakly.

"Begging won't help you in the arena tomorrow," said B'Elanna harshly. Her arms were still crossed tightly over her chest and she smirked cruelly, looking more like a defensive and hurting child than a Starfleet officer.

"Tomorrow is a different battle," replied Seven, edging closer.

"What?" asked B'Elanna acidly. "You need a little battle practice and figured the resident Klingon was a good choice?" She snorted with disgust. "In case you weren't listening, I'm not in any mood to fight you."

"I have not come here to fight," said Seven quietly. "I have come to offer a surrender."

"Get out!" ordered B'Elanna suddenly. "I don't want your pity!"

"Pity?" Not even Seven's Borg past could mask her outrage and frustration. "I am not offering pity!"

"Then what? What did you come here for? To say goodbye?" B'Elanna spun away from Seven's wide blue eyes. She could not look at her, could not face the woman she loved knowing she might lose her in a few short hours. "Fine. Goodbye. There. I said it. Now get out. There's nothing left to say."

"You are wrong." Seven moved closer and then closer still, until she could feel the heat of B'Elanna's skin reaching out to caress her own. She was careful, so careful not to touch her…yet. "There is still everything to say." She waited a heartbeat then rested her Human hand on the young woman's shoulder, leaning forward to reverently whisper two words into a small, dark ear.

"jIH dok."

The words hit B'Elanna with the force of a Romulan disruptor, literally disintegrating her thoughts, her breath, the sudden pounding of her hearts…

She stood frozen, torn between her suspicions that Seven was pitying her and wondering if the former drone actually knew the true meaning and depth of the words she had just said. jIH dok was tlhIngan Hol for my blood, a sacred oath that—if answered—would mean that she and Seven were bonded, mated for life and beyond.

She turned slowly and looked into Seven's sky blue eyes, ready to bolt if she saw even the merest hint of insincerity. Instead, Seven's eyes became liquid with a warmth and tenderness so exquisite it took B'Elanna's breath away and she knew, she just knew. It was all right there, spelled out for her, gentle, searching and absolute. Her love, her destiny. Her life.

"maj dok," she heard herself answer, the words tumbling from her lips.

Seven's immediate and incandescent smile rivaled the light of a thousand suns and with trembling fingers, she reached out to cup B'Elanna's soft cheek in her hand. She had thought that the happiest moment of her life had been hearing B'Elanna admit that she loved her. Now she knew that had only been the beginning.

"be'nalwI'," whispered Seven. "My wife."

Then and only then did B'Elanna know her hearts had given the right answer. maj dok. Our blood. The answer, the seal of the Great Oath. And now the young Klingon knew it was the answer to every question she had ever asked. She would never face anything alone again.

Alone. The word mocked her as she realized that she could very well face everything alone again in a few hours, including Seven's death. Suddenly B'Elanna felt hollow, that thought slicing through her like an icy wind. She'd just been given the Universe itself and now it could be taken away. Just like that.

She pulled Seven into her arms and reached up, letting her fingertips drift down a perfect alabaster cheek.

It didn't matter. The certainty B'Elanna felt startled her with its depth and purity. None of it mattered. Not the future. Not the past. None of it.

She cupped Seven's face with both hands, her caramel skin dark against Seven's pallor.

This is what matters, she thought, her hearts aching. Now. Her. Us.

B'Elanna Torres held the Universe in her hands and she would treasure it—treasure her—for as long as she had. Gently, she drew Seven down, kissing her for the first time with reverent tenderness, her lips soft and seeking. Seven answered with a melting touch, her full lips parting as the kiss deepened.

"I love you, B'Elanna Torres," she murmured against the Klingon's lips, between kisses. Those words nearly stopped B'Elanna's hearts and she pulled Seven even closer, kissing her with abandon, reveling in the sweet taste of her. Seven's lips parted again and the kiss bloomed like a blood rose, deepening further and further still until B'Elanna finally had to pull away just to breathe.

Seven whimpered, her mouth coming again to B'Elanna's, plundering berry lips with hunger and longing. Her long arms wrapped around B'Elanna's smaller frame, pulling her closer until their bodies met, a heat the likes of which she'd never known igniting along the length of her wherever they touched. Seven surrendered to the intoxicating sensations, to the perfection of loving this woman.

B'Elanna groaned, losing herself in Seven's newfound passion. She reached up and tangled her fingers in Seven's silken hair, loosening the pins that dammed its waves and letting it fall like honeywine over her hands. Desire was an ache within her, searing and powerful. All she wanted in the Universe was to feel Seven's skin against her own.

"Make love to me," she breathed. A tiny part of her brain vibrated with alarm, startled by the pleading sound of her voice. Her hearts immediately silenced it, knowing now that there was strength in her need, in her vulnerability. Shame no longer had any power over her. There was no room for it in her life.

"God, please," she whispered, her mouth leaving Seven's to trail kisses along her throat and over the pulse point where she could feel the pounding of Seven's blood. "Make love to me, bangwI'."

Seven stiffened in B'Elanna's arms. "I do not…I…"

B'Elanna pulled away as if she'd been stung. "I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I didn't…I wouldn't…"

Seven caught her up in her arms again, a self-conscious smile tinting her lips. "B'Elanna, I did not mean…" She tried again, wondering why saying what she felt was suddenly so difficult. "I want to love you," she said shyly, not certain that she was being clear. "I do not know how."

B'Elanna blinked.


Her fear and embarrassment disappeared instantly and she yielded willingly in Seven's strong embrace.

"Oh," she said again, more to hear herself speak than anything else. She turned her dark eyes upward to meet Seven's apprehensive gaze, then leaned forward, kissing the young woman softly, sweetly. When Seven finally responded, deepening the kiss and parting B'Elanna's lips to explore the warm velvet of her mouth, B'Elanna began moving toward her bedroom, tugging Seven with her, never breaking their connection.

"You'll learn," she breathed as they parted. "I'll show you."

Seven's blood thundered through her veins and she felt dizzy and out of breath.

"I…adapt quickly," she whispered earnestly, eyes wide and innocent.

B'Elanna chuckled and drew the inexperienced woman down for a quick, searing kiss.

"It's not about speed, bangwI'," she murmured softly in Seven's ear. "It's about…enjoying the process." She kissed the small starburst implant on Seven's cheek and then moved upward, her tongue tracing the whorls of a tender, pearl-shell ear.

Seven thought her cortical implant had imploded, so strong was her reaction to those words…that touch.

"Then we are already…successful," she replied, her eyes fluttering shut. Her hands, trembling and curious, slid down B'Elanna's muscular back and further down, caressing hesitantly but with growing confidence.

"Very," agreed the engineer, guiding Seven to sit on the edge of her bed. She pulled back a little and looked down at her, trying to burn this moment into her hearts for safe keeping. She never wanted to forget this. When her hungry eyes had had their fill, she gently turned Seven away from her.

"B'Elanna?" Seven's voice was barely audible.

"Shhhh…" B'Elanna lifted Seven's golden hair away from her neck and bent down, touching her hot mouth to the tender skin high at the nape. When Seven sighed with growing pleasure, B'Elanna's dark fingers found the closure of her biosuit and deftly unclasped it, parting the skin-tight fabric as slowly as she could. Her mouth followed the trail of creamy skin that was revealed, tasting Seven's shivers as they danced along her spine.

"I love you, Seven," she whispered. Seven's head fell backwards as she absorbed the sound of those words, wanting, needing to hear them again.

"Again," she begged. "Say it again."

"I love you, Seven." B'Elanna's voice was thick with emotion, low and ragged. She hoped the sound could convey the depth of what she felt for this beautiful woman, how the words were Truth irrefutable to her.

She eased the fabric of Seven's biosuit forward, baring enticing, milky white shoulders begging to be kissed…which she did, pressing cranberry-stained lips to the pale, pale skin. Seven gasped and leaned back, pressing into B'Elanna, demanding more.

"tIqwI'," she breathed, her voice tremulous and wanting.

B'Elanna nuzzled the long, graceful throat bared to her mouth and chuckled. "You know more tlhIngan Hol than I do, bangwI'," she noted. "My mother would be so proud."

Seven turned very blue eyes to B'Elanna. "Your mother would approve of…us? Of you mated to a…Borg?"

"An ex-Borg," corrected B'Elanna, wrapping her arms around Seven's middle and hugging her close. "And my mother will…" She stopped, shaking her head a little. "Or would have loved you, Seven. She would have been proud of your arrogance and your brutal honesty. Those are very Klingon traits, you know."

"You said I was rude," Seven reminded her. "I thought you did not like those traits." Her tone wasn't sad or accusing, only curious.

"I tried very hard not to like them," B'Elanna admitted. "But no matter what I did, you still kept getting under my skin." She closed her teeth on Seven's earlobe and tugged gently. "I really thought I was going to have to launch you out an airlock one day."

Seven smiled. "I am glad you did not," she said. "I prefer being…here."

B'Elanna turned Seven towards her. "Here is where you belong," she said, leaning in for a kiss. She'd meant it to be a gentle one, a kiss of reassurance, but Seven would have none of that. She tangled the fingers of her Human hand in B'Elanna's sable hair, pulling her closer, begging entrance into her mouth with her tongue. B'Elanna yielded eagerly, opening herself to Seven's exploration.

"Kahless," she gasped, finally pulling away, trying to catch her breath. Her lungs heaved with the effort even as she pressed her face into the hollow of Seven's throat. "I want you," she whispered, tasting the racing pulse point beneath her lips.

"Yes…" Seven arched her back into the touch.

"I want you," B'Elanna repeated, aching with her desire. She covered Seven's features with melting caresses and eased the loosened fabric of her biosuit down, off her arms and down further, revealing her breasts.

Hungry, nearly blinded by the thunder of her own hot blood, B'Elanna pulled Seven into a standing position and slid the suit the rest of the way down until it was completely removed and the young woman stood tall and bare before her, trembling with a mixture of need and fear. B'Elanna took her time, rose slowly from the floor, her fingertips gliding over marble skin and silvery mesh and metal.

"You are so beautiful," she said, chestnut eyes locked with blue. "So beautiful…"

She pulled Seven into a kiss but was surprised a moment later to have that kiss broken.

"I want to see you," explained Seven, her efficient hands making short work of B'Elanna's uniform. Within moments Seven was gazing upon the Klingon's muscular, nude form, feeling her blood heat within her veins. She drew her fingertips down the length of the caramel-brown body, watching with interest and tenderness as their passage raised a trail of gooseflesh in their wake.

With a stirring of desire that filled her to brimming, Seven raised her eyes to meet B'Elanna's again.

"Show me how to love you, my wife." It was a request, but not a shy one. Seven knew what she wanted. And she would have it.

B'Elanna shivered at the power, the strength in Seven's voice…felt herself grow weak and wet. Unable to continue standing, she lowered herself to the bed, catching one of Seven's hands in her own and pulling her down with her.

She lay back, her skin tingling where it met the silken fabric beneath her. Seven followed her, stretched herself along B'Elanna's length then lifted herself, covering her body with her own.

"Oh god…" B'Elanna wrapped her muscular legs around Seven's hips. "Kiss me…"

Seven did, hard, feeling B'Elanna's groan of pleasure even in her bones. She felt B'Elanna's wetness against her belly and her own wetness that answered it, humid and hot and amazing. She felt B'Elanna's nipples tighten against her and she pulled away from the kiss to watch, entranced by the berry-dark skin and the way it pebbled. Suddenly struck by an idea, she lowered her mouth to one and kissed it, her tongue dancing in soft, slow circles around it.

B'Elanna gasped and arched her back, pressing into Seven's hot mouth.


Seven happily obliged, believing her wife's plea was in reference to the other breast or the neglect of it. She covered its nipple with her mouth, suckling it sweetly as her fingertips took over the stimulation of the abandoned one.

"Oh god…" B'Elanna's legs tightened around Seven and her hips began to rock…gently at first, then with increasing fervor. She had never felt this way before. Never.

She was lost, she realized. Drowning in ecstasy, sinking deeper and deeper with every breath. Happily… Joyfully…

Seven's mouth left B'Elanna's nipples and journeyed downward, tasting corded muscles and skin the flavor of citrus and spice. She stopped for a long moment at a strange indentation in B'Elanna's middle, realizing eventually that it was her navel, calling up the knowledge from buried memories. She kissed there for an eternity, delighting in the way her touch made B'Elanna squirm.

"bangwI'," B'Elanna gasped, her hands tangled in Seven's golden hair. With gentle pressure, she guided Seven's mouth further downward, wanting the heat of her to quench the raging need, the ache between her legs.

Seven, however, took her time, exploring the slopes and valleys of B'Elanna's body with tender thoroughness, learning the shape of her, her curves and planes, touching her with tongue and lips and skin. She carefully avoided the place she most wanted to go, most wanted to discover, knowing instinctively that anticipation made love sweeter.

B'Elanna, though, was going mad. Her breath came in aching sobs and her body trembled with inexpressible need.

"Seven," she cried, arching up, begging for the touch she craved.

Seven smiled against the dark skin of a thigh, knowing it was time. Her mouth sought the source of B'Elanna's need, long hair spilling over the Klingon's belly and thighs. She kissed the spot softly, a gentle beginning. She breathed deeply, intoxicated by the heady, spicy scent, wanting it on her lips, on her tongue. She moaned then, a rapturous, seductive sound, and lowered her mouth to the heat of her lover, kissing there deeply, languidly, and unhurriedly.

B'Elanna's eyes snapped open wide, startled by the feel of Seven's hot mouth on her, of her tongue thrusting sweetly and earnestly deep inside her.

"Sweet Kahless," she gasped, holding her breath. Seven sensed the power of this moment for B'Elanna and reached up, grasping her hand, tangling her long, lithe fingers with dark ones to ground the Klingon.

B'Elanna gripped Seven's hand like a lifeline, holding onto it with every ounce of her strength. Waves of fire and ice buffeted her skin and her body was rigid, transfixed with passion, poised on the edge of something that frightened her with its intensity.

Then all at once, she felt it begin. First a tremor, then her body arching, taut like a bow, begging for release.

"Oh god! Yes! Seven…" She tightened her fingers around Seven's, needing to feel her, needing that connection. "Seven…god…god…"

Her hips rocked once, twice…then rose sharply and B'Elanna screamed, the world flying apart in flaming, jagged pieces around her, the roar of thunder and blood blotting out all sound and thought.

"I love you," murmured Seven against B'Elanna's belly. Their hands were still linked and the young Borg rested her cheek on a dark thigh as Lana struggled to breathe again. "Thank you." She clenched her eyes shut and nuzzled the soft skin where B'Elanna's thigh met her hip.

"Hey," said the engineer, still gulping air. "Hey, c'mere." She pulled Seven up and into her arms, holding her tightly. Seven could feel the pounding of Lana's dual hearts and she impulsively kissed the spot where they beat the strongest.

The young Klingon tilted Seven's chin up so she could look into her eyes.

"Älskling?" she asked gently, using a Swedish term of endearment she just happened to know. "You okay? Why are you thanking me?"

Seven closed her eyes. "For allowing me to love you."

"Allowing you?" Lana sat up a little, frowning slightly. "Seven, I love you. I've wanted this, dreamed of this… I didn't think you… You just pulled away. I didn't know what to do."

"Then loving me is not…stupid?" Seven's eyes were a pale, anxious blue.

"Stupid?!" B'Elanna was flabbergasted. "Where in the Hell did you ever get that idea?"

"From you. You asked B'Etal to help you forget me…before you did something stupid."

B'Elanna shook her head, trying to piece this puzzle together. Then she remembered. The rocking chair. Rescuing B'Etal from Neelix. Confidences shared with an infant.

"You were there? In the cargo bay?"

Seven nodded. "Mr. Neelix informed me you had taken B'Etal…home. I came to assist."

B'Elanna sighed then turned with Seven in her arms, lowering her to the pillows and covering her body with her own.

"Listen to me, Seven of Nine," she said, cupping the blonde's face in her hands. "I love you. When I said those things, I was afraid. Afraid that you would think my love was…irrelevant. Afraid that you couldn't feel about me the way I felt about you. That's what I meant about doing something stupid. Not this." She pressed her lips to the corner of Seven's mouth for a moment. "Never this." She kissed Seven's eyelids and forehead with melting tenderness. "You are my life. Do you understand?"

Seven's cobalt eyes, liquid with tears, looked up and she nodded. "I understand," she whispered. She touched her fingertips to B'Elanna's cheek and wondered how she had ever existed before this moment.

"Good," said B'Elanna, kissing Seven again, lingering for a moment to enjoy the taste of herself on those petal-pink lips. "You can thank me later. After I do this."

B'Elanna captured Seven's lips with her own, parting them, kissing her hard and deep.

Seven gasped as her desire surged within her, a flashflood of need so powerful she feared she would be swept away. Her arms tightened around Lana, pulled her closer. Her fingers ran lightly over sweet, brown skin, hands finding then cupping the young Klingon's bottom.

"Oh no you don't," whispered Lana as she grasped Seven's hands and imprisoned them over her head. "It's my turn to love you, my wife."

She grinned a rakish, hungry grin and growled deep in her chest. Seven moaned softly and she felt her nipples become hard, aching to be touched. Lana was only too happy to oblige.

With maddening slowness, she lowered her mouth to one cherry-pink nipple and captured it gingerly with her teeth. She tugged gently, delighting in the hiss of pleasure that escaped Seven's full lips.

"Mine," she said, capturing the other nipple, her hot tongue circling it, caressing it with abandon.

"Yes," whispered Seven. "I am yours."

"Oh god, Seven. Tell me again." Lana's soft lips roamed every millimeter of Seven's breasts, reveling in their firmness and the way they responded to her touch.

"I am yours, B'Elanna Torres." Seven took a long, shuddering breath as she felt B'Elanna's mouth begin to trail hot kisses down to her abdomen. "Only yours. Forever."

Lana's hearts skipped a beat. Whatever else happened, however the next few hours played out, she knew she would carry those words with her wherever she went for the rest of her life. Right now, however, all that mattered to B'Elanna was Seven and showing her how much she wanted her, how much she'd been wanting her.

Slowly she descended Seven's body, her lips searching out hollows and planes, sweet, pale skin and mesh implants alike. She was pleasantly surprised to find that the mesh was body temperature and fluid instead of cold and rigid. And Seven's scent! The delicate intermixture of purity and cleanliness with the subtle tang of metal was driving the young Klingon's senses mad.

She tried very hard not to rush their lovemaking, deliberately avoiding Seven's hips and thighs and the slight musk of her center. She instead spent long moments kissing along the bottom of the abdominal implant only to journey north again to nip teasingly at Seven's breasts or to kiss her deeply, endlessly…

Seven moaned softly, some part of herself surprised by the sound even as she made it. But she knew that she couldn't stop the sounds she was making, any more than she could stop her own heart from beating.

She opened heavily-lidded eyes to watch as B'Elanna again made her way down her belly, her breath catching at the sight.

Whatever she asks of me, I will give, she thought. She arched up to meet B'Elanna's tongue, now dancing closer to the place where she ached so. She knew what she had done to B'Elanna, how natural and instinctual that had been. She'd been so intent on pleasing her wife that she simply hadn't acknowledged her fear or uncertainty. Now though, with nothing to do but feel, Seven quickly felt herself becoming overwhelmed, even disoriented.

"B'Elanna?" she whispered.

B'Elanna heard the slight waver of her lover's voice and immediately went to her, cradling her face in her hands.

"be'nal? Are you okay?" Worry filled her eyes and made her hands gentle and comforting.

"Yes," answered the young Borg, but she couldn't hide her trembling.

"Seven, we don't have to—I mean, we can stop if—"

"No," said Seven, deciding immediately, reaching for B'Elanna. "Make love to me," she whispered, eyes azure with desire. "I need you."

She arched up and met B'Elanna's mouth with her own, their lips meeting softly, chastely. Another soft kiss, then another…and tortuously, by miniscule increments, the kiss deepened until Seven parted her lips and received B'Elanna's breathless exploration.

When they parted, Seven whimpered and tried to recapture Lana's mouth, hungry for more. But B'Elanna pulled away, intending to kiss her way downward…

"No," breathed Seven, catching B'Elanna's shoulder with trembling fingers. "Please…stay with me." Her eyes glittered in the dim light of B'Elanna's bedroom, set to sparkling with arousal and love and a little fear. "Stay," she repeated, her voice soft and deep.

"Oh god," moaned B'Elanna, kissing Seven hard. "Yessss…"

One dark hand slowly roamed downward, stopping to tantalize a nipple that hardened instantly, then moving on until it reached Seven's thighs. B'Elanna let her fingers dance along the pale, smooth skin.

"Open your legs for me, be'nal," she begged against Seven's kiss-swollen lips.

Seven had no choice but to comply with B'Elanna's passionate request. Her body willingly answered for her and she parted her long legs.

B'Elanna's fingers were gentle in their exploration, seeking Seven's warmth and need.

"Oh Seven," she breathed, fingers gliding, caressing softly.

Nothing Seven had ever read or imagined prepared her for these feelings. The heat that raced along her skin was like a plasma fire raging out of control. Her heart pounded inside her and she couldn't breathe at all. Every cell, every molecule within her centered on the urgent ache that made her hips rock against B'Elanna's hand.

"Breathe, Älskling," whispered B'Elanna as she deepened her touch. She knew the sacredness of Seven's gift to her, how precious this moment was, and it filled her hearts with the searing ache of love. That this strong, beautiful woman would give herself so completely…B'Elanna almost couldn't believe it. "Just breathe…"

Seven whimpered, the sound melting in the air. B'Elanna leaned in and captured her wife's lips, intent on sharing every sound that she made.

The kiss sealed their passion's path and Lana's fingers became more ardent, more commanding.

"B'Elanna…" whispered Seven. Her Human hand was entangled in B'Elanna's wavy locks while her Borg enhanced hand clenched and unclenched unconsciously above her head. In fact, all of her actions seemed to be unconscious now, directed by her heart's need. She was pure emotion and she reveled in it.

In the Collective, she had been pure logic, devoid of feeling. Now she was the mirror of that reality, pure emotion, beyond all logic. All that existed for her now was her love for B'Elanna and the sweet dance of the Klingon's fingers.

"Lana…" Seven said her lover's name over and over, her voice trembling with the spiral of desire rising inside her.

I…I never knew, thought the young Klingon, eyes wide, breathless with amazement as she gazed upon Seven's enraptured features. I never knew it could be like this…

No lover before had ever found a way into her hearts and soul the way Seven had. How could she have known the key to those doors would be her own name sighed from Seven's lips?

She pulled away from Seven slightly, entranced by the sight of her arching her back and biting her full bottom lip in a futile attempt to hush the sweet seductive sounds she was making.

"No…" cried Seven, opening her eyes when she felt the cool air on her skin. She wanted B'Elanna against her, skin on skin. This retreat was unacceptable.

B'Elanna covered Seven again, the fingers of her free hand sifting through the silk of the Borg's perfect golden-honey hair. The bluest eyes she had ever seen captured her gaze and she fell into them deeply, watching as they widened, discovering the power that arced between them like electricity.

Seven cried out again and the rocking of her hips became stronger, the spiral of heat and need tightening inside her.

"Love me…" she whispered, opening fully to B'Elanna's touch, trusting her completely, knowing she was safe here in her wife's arms. Safe to let her heart go, safe to feel and love and be.

B'Elanna was startled by the unconditional trust she saw painted in sea-blue. It almost hurt to know that Seven loved her so fully, so purely.

"be'nalwI'," she said reverently, knowing now that this had all been inevitable. From the very beginning when the arrogant Borg had first crossed the threshold of B'Elanna's engine room, making her crazy with her incomparable skill and an honesty she could only envy. Even then they had been like magnets…pulling toward each other with a certainty strengthened by the laws of physics.

I fought you so hard, thought B'Elanna, leaning in to kiss Seven's eyes.

Fingers exquisitely enclosed, caressing deeply, B'Elanna felt Seven's tremors begin and she knew that fighting this…this perfection had been wrong. Seven began to keen and B'Elanna's body reacted strongly to the sound, arching against Seven's writhing body with desperate passion.

"Yours," she breathed against Seven's mouth, surrendering at last to the sheer power of her love. "I belong to you."

The totality of B'Elanna's surrender made Seven's breath catch and she looked up into dark eyes so open, so warm that the gaze made her ache. Then—all at once—the Universe upended itself and ignited, filling Seven with lightning and fire.

"Lana!" she cried out, her body rigid.

"Yes!" B'Elanna felt the tremors grow stronger and then felt them begin inside herself.


"Kahless…Seven…" B'Elanna breathed against Seven's throat.

The lightning storm hit them both at once and they cried out as one, Seven's breathless keening and B'Elanna's shout of release blending together, a strange and beautiful sonata.

Later…much later, their bodies entwined, Seven and B'Elanna kissed deeply, their hearts still beating wildly in their chests. When they parted, Seven opened eyes made pale with regret.

"I must go now, be'nal," she whispered. B'Elanna's hearts lurched with fear and Seven felt it against her skin.

"Don't," said the young Klingon, hiding her eyes against Seven's throat.

Seven tightened her arms around the smaller woman and pulled her close, kissing her forehead.

"I do not wish to but—"

B'Elanna stopped Seven's explanation with a kiss. "Shhh…Don't explain. I know." She rested her forehead against her lover's and sighed. "I just…" She swallowed hard, unable to speak past the lump growing in her throat. "I just love you, okay?"

"And I love you," said Seven, her fingertips gently tracing B'Elanna's cranial ridges. "That will never change. I am not leaving you, B'Elanna. I cannot. You hold my heart."

B'Elanna took a moment longer to collect herself, letting Seven's words penetrate the fear, disintegrating it. Then she opened eyes tinted with steel.

"Okay," she said, kissing Seven one last time. "Let's go get your daughter."

Seven shook her head slightly. "Our daughter," she corrected. "B'Etal is our daughter now."

B'Elanna Torres stilled as the impact of the last few hours finally caught up to her in one brilliant flash of understanding.

I'm married, she thought, blinking. Though the oath was a private ritual it was no less binding than a traditional ceremony. I'm married…and a mother of three. The last two of her childhood Rules fell without a sound and she smiled, suddenly free.

"Our daughter," B'Elanna repeated, testing the feel of the words. She found them sweet and completely, utterly right. "Let's go get our daughter."

Kathryn Janeway entered the empty sickbay with a sigh and headed directly for her EMH's office, the probable source of the bright light spilling out into the dim examination room. She could see the top of the hologram's head as he bent over his console, studying some report or another rather intently.

"You rang?" she asked in a tired version of her usual sarcasm, smirking half-heartedly as she raised a mug of fresh coffee to her lips.

The Doctor looked up and promptly frowned at the dark circles under his captain's eyes. Exhaustion radiated from her every pore and he was half-surprised that she was even standing, let alone had managed the trek all the way down to sickbay.

"Captain, I would have been more than happy to come to your ready room. There was no reason for you to—"

Janeway raised a weary hand to stop his lecture. "I know you mean well, Doctor, but to be honest I'm happy to be out of there. I've just been staring out the window, worrying. I needed a change of scenery."

"What you need," countered the Doctor sharply, "is at least 10 hours of sleep and a good meal. No offense, but you look about as energetic as a Vulcan in a coma."

"Thanks," said Janeway sourly. "Let's save the colorful epithets, shall we? You said you had something to tell me."

The EMH nodded. "I'm afraid my news isn't good…"

"Why does that not surprise me?"

The Doctor ignored the question and keyed in a request at his console. "Despite the impending deathfest, the Raadamani have been eager to trade with us. Apparently our undesirable status doesn't preclude them from seeking a profit wherever they can."

"A species after the Ferengis' own hearts," said Janeway taking another sip of hot coffee.

"Don't count your Ferengi before they've profited," cautioned the Doctor. "I don't think even our diminutive profiteers would want to forge an alliance with these merchants. However, since they were so eager to divest us of some krelloid power converters we had on board, I took it upon myself to request one or two items I thought would…increase Seven's chances of defeating her opponent."

When Janeway smiled knowingly, the EMH scowled.

"Don't get any ideas, Captain," he spat. "I am still as against this charade as I was in the conference room. However, Seven's lessons in Humanity are progressing quite nicely at the moment. It would be a shame to see that go to waste."

"Yes, it would," said Janeway, recognizing a lie when she heard one. She simply saw no reason to call him on it. "Go on."

"For a nominal price, Ensign Wildman's first contact team was able to obtain a detailed history of the Raadamani, particularly regarding this genetic war they've been fighting. I thought the information would be more helpful than that children's book."

"If it wasn't for 'that children's book', Doctor, B'Etal would already be in Raadamani custody and we would have one very heartbroken Borg on our hands."

"Hmmm…point taken, Captain. Which brings me to what I wanted to tell you."

Janeway looked at the EMH expectantly and he furrowed his brows, turning his attention to the data streaming across his terminal.

"I assume you have a Plan B lurking about in the event that our Plan A returns to the ship in a body-bag?"

"A few things have crossed my mind, yes," replied Janeway carefully. The Doctor's harsh phrasing had been beyond even his worst mood and knowing her holographic officer's affection for Seven of Nine, she didn't have to guess the cause. She just hoped to Hell that his matrix was stable.

"Well, if any of them rely on the ability to reason with the Raadamani, you can discard them right now."

"What do you mean?"

"The Lead Pair wasn't very clear with Tuvok about why children are so prized in the Raadamani culture. And for good reason, apparently. Any rational being would automatically assume that children are prized in this culture because they are loved and cared for and valued simply for their existence, correct? Take that children's book, for instance. Obviously someone cared enough about his or her child to create that entertaining collection of legends, right?"

"Why do I have the feeling you are going to tell me otherwise, Doctor?"

"Actually, all of that would be exactly right…if we were to suddenly travel back in time approximately 100 years ago."

Janeway closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Either she was more exhausted than she'd originally given herself credit for or she simply wasn't following the Doctor's elusive train of thought.

"Can we dispense with the sensationalism and just get to the point, Doctor?" she asked tiredly. "Otherwise I'll be asleep before the story's over…and I'd hate to miss the ending."

"Very funny," sniped the EMH. "Fine. Let me spell it out for you. About 100 years ago, the Raadamani experienced what could have very well been a catastrophic socio-economic collapse brought about by their saturation of available markets. Demand for goods fell dramatically, supply nearly tripled overnight, and prices sank like so many rocks that have just been chucked into a large body of water. However, some enterprising pod or another came up with a plan to change all that. Not a particularly original one, to be sure, but certainly effective."

"Doctor…" Janeway urged the verbose hologram to hurry.

"I'm getting there, Captain," he snapped, offended by the interruption. Honestly, some people just didn't appreciate his talents. "Now where was I? Oh, yes. Their plan. Well, they rewrote the podial profit computation that had been in effect for over 3000 of our years. Instead of gaining profit based on a number of complex factors, including contracts with neighboring pods, productivity, product, and customer loyalty, now the Raadamani gained profit based on only one factor."

"Which was?"

"A nasty little equation that measured something known as the Genetic Average of each pod. Once determined, the GA was compared to the GA of those the Raadamani saw as perfect beings, the Primes. The higher the percentage of the match, the higher the profit of that pod. And apparently euthanasia is not an uncommon response to a fractional birth."

Janeway paled.

"Fractional birth?"

The Doctor's mouth flattened into a grim line. "Though fetal percentage errors are rare, when they occur the Raadamani…dispose of them quickly. Even if they are discovered after a live birth."

The usually imposing captain suddenly seemed smaller as she sagged against the Doctor's desk.

"Dear god," she whispered.

"On the contrary, Captain," said the EMH bitterly. "The Raadamani engineer their children to increase their profit and kill their mistakes as they go. No god has anything to do with that."

"Then this war...?"

"…started about thirty years ago and has been going strong ever since. They've become fanatics, Captain. Raadamani profit margins are tied into their genetic makeup. Right now, they simply target each other's children, hoping to lower their competition's podial average that way. But soon someone somewhere is going to get the bright idea to kidnap high-average children and forcibly breed them, killing two Owons with one stone, as it were."

"Raising their own profit margins while lowering their competition's."


"Damn them," cursed Janeway, crossing her arms over her chest and turning away from the Doctor.

"The irony of it all," continued the hologram, "is that if we had come across B'Etal's home pod instead of this one, we'd be facing the same ordeal. B'Etal's home pod would most likely have seen her as fractional due to the Borg contamination. They might have chosen to exercise their podial right to dispose of her."

Janeway whirled on the Doctor, her face blank with surprise.


"I said—"

Janeway waved his reiteration away. "They're killing her just because they can," she said with icy certainty. "Once Pod Boi-Ovani realized she couldn't help their profit margin they decided to take out the deaths of their lost children on her. They could have left B'Etal alone, knowing even her home pod would have killed her. But no, these Raadamani want to justify their losses. Killing a child of another pod, of any other pod, is a plus mark in their little ledger books and they want to even things out for themselves."

She fixed the Doctor with a look of such utter disgust and loathing that if he could have shuddered, he would have. And he knew without a doubt that no matter what happened to Seven of Nine in the battle to come, Janeway had absolutely no intention of ever relinquishing custody of B'Etal…to any Raadamani, anywhere.

Part Six

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