DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, no money is being earned from this piece of fan fiction.
NOTES: I was on holiday in Vegas at the beginning of the month and idly flicking through all the tv channels one evening (I only have 5 channels to choose from at home so this is a novelty to me!) and I accidentally stumbled across Voyager part way through the End Game episode. Frankly, I was horrified (those of you who have watched this will know what I'm referring to! - actually, most of you will know what I'm referring to!)
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I decided to take events into my own hands and write a short story when I got back home. However, I've only just got round to writing this - and having got so far, have realised that it will probably be not quite so short as I first thought! (no change for me then)
WARNING: The first scene contains pyschologically disturbing images - but it was necessary for the plot!!!!!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
At the familiar sound of the transporter, Commander Chakotay turned and watched the pattern of blue shimmering lights form the shapely figure of Seven of Nine. She was holding a large bouquet of flowers. The tall man smiled. "What, the door not good enough for you?" he asked wryly.
Seven arched an eyebrow before answering. "I did not think you would want anyone to see me enter your quarters."
Chakotay's smile widened. "Are those for me?" he enquired, looking at the flowers.
Seven nodded and handed the blooms over.
Chakotay smelt them appreciatively. "I'll put them in water," he decided and began to walk over to the kitchen area. As he passed Seven, he suddenly found himself spun round and grabbed by the shoulders. His eyes widened slightly in surprise as Seven leant in to kiss him and then his eyes closed as he savoured the experience.
When they finally broke he looked at the blonde woman again. "What was that?"
"My research indicated that the prelude to a first kiss can be awkward. I wanted to eliminate that feeling so pre-empted the moment," Seven replied.
Chakotay beamed, and still found himself amazed that this stunning woman wanted to have a relationship with him. "What about the second?" he asked rakishly as he closed the distance between them once more.
Seven held up a hand to stop the caress. "I am sorry Commander," she stated haltingly.
"What's wrong?" Chakotay had swung from ecstasy to confusion in seconds.
Seven hesitated, her brow creased in a disconcerted frown. "My research indicated that the first kiss would be special," she explained.
"Well wasn't it?"
"No." Seven's reply was curt and to the point. "I am sorry Commander, but this wasn't what I expected."
"You're not the only one," Chakotay was stunned. As Seven turned to leave his quarters, he caught her by the elbow. "Wait a minute, Seven. Are you telling me that you're throwing in the towel based on one kiss?"
"I do not understand your colloquialism," Seven replied calmly as she extracted her arm from his grip. "But if you are asking if I am breaking up this relationship after our brief interaction, then yes, I am."
Chakotay shook his head. "But that's mad."
"No, it is how I feel. Good night Commander," Seven insisted, leaving his quarters before he had further opportunity to try and dissuade her otherwise.
Chakotay watched open-mouthed as she left, but already knew that if she had made up her mind about the situation, there was no way he'd be able to change it. It would be up to her to come to her own conclusions.
B'Elanna Torres waddled into Astrometrics without even looking up from the data padd she held in front of her. At eight months pregnant, she had been told to reduce the amount of hours she worked by both the Captain and the EMH but they had been less vocal since her split with Tom. He had finally had enough of her mood swings and not knowing how she was going to react to even the simplest hello. An argument triggered by one of her snappy retorts had gone far further than their usual set-to's, and they were both horrified by what they said to each other. Tom solemnly promised to be the father their child needed, but they both knew that they could no longer live together.
Tom had requested his old quarters back again and the crew manifest had been adjusted to reflect the dissolution of their marriage.
Since that time, B'Elanna had buried herself in work, despite her burgeoning pregnancy, in order to reduce the time she had on her own to dwell on her single status. It didn't always help. She caught herself daydreaming and berating herself for letting her child down before she was even born. She dreaded being a parent and Chief Engineer at the same time. She didn't know if she would be able to cope with all the new demands on her on top of the heavy responsibility she already had. She wasn't sure how reliable Tom would be as a father, despite his reassurances, though she had to admit that her doubts had more to do with the behaviour of her own father.
B'Elanna tried to remedy her wandering mind by doing tasks she wouldn't normally take care of. Hence the trip to Astrometrics. Seven had requested another power hike, and the engineer had complied earlier in the day. However, two gel packs had failed and needed replacing as a result of the increase. The associated circuitry also needed adjusting to reduce the sensitivity of the gel packs so that they would not blow again. The half-Klingon took it upon herself to affect repairs as a change of scenery would distract her enough not to consider her short-comings.
It was late into the beta shift by the time B'Elanna stepped through the doors so she looked up in surprise when she heard Seven's voice.
"Lieutenant, can I be of assistance?"
"Seven! I didn't think you'd still be here," B'Elanna replied, looking round in confusion for the beta shift staff.
"My plans for the evening were..." Seven faltered, unwilling to explain what had happened with Chakotay.
B'Elanna narrowed her eyes. "What's up Seven?"
In the seconds it took the dark hybrid to form the question, Seven had already put her barriers up. "It is not relevant. You have obviously entered Astrometrics for a reason. Can I help?"
Normally, B'Elanna would have brushed Seven off, but there was something not quite right with her demeanour. Something was clearly bothering her but if she was not prepared to talk about it, then there was little B'Elanna could do about it. But she could at least be civil to the blonde woman. "Well if you run the diagnostics as I change these gel packs, this repair won't take quite so long," she offered, knowing that Seven would know exactly what she was referring to.
The ex-drone nodded acquiescence, appreciating the fact that B'Elanna did not push her. The two women worked quickly and efficiently, with just a few exchanges when they were checking calculations and confirming that the circuitry was sound.
B'Elanna couldn't keep the disappointment from her voice when she announced that they had completed the task.
Seven looked up and raised an enhanced eyebrow. "Have I not performed within your exacting standards?"
"Kahless, no. Just the opposite," B'Elanna admitted candidly.
"I do not understand," Seven replied, frowning.
B'Elanna sighed heavily. "I was kind of hoping that this might take longer than it did."
"That is not efficient," Seven protested.
"Yeah, but it would also mean me not thinking about my life," the Klingon revealed, rubbing her abdomen distractedly.
Instantly, Seven understood. She was also amazed that B'Elanna had opened up so much. The engineer hid her emotions behind angry outbursts and brusque remarks, but Seven had recently begun to see past them. She found B'Elanna fascinating and had been delighted when their relationship finally staggered past the confrontational stage to the grudgingly accepting stage. B'Elanna let Seven pretty much do her own thing on the proviso that anything that might affect other systems should be run past her first; not as a check up, but to save any unnecessary maintenance work. Seven had appreciated the freedom B'Elanna had given her and not abused the privilege, ensuring that the Chief had been given advance notice of all modifications.
Seven knew that B'Elanna had been working ridiculously long hours since her separation from Tom, and that after the first few enraged outbursts at crew staff who pointed that fact out to her, she had been left to her own devices. She decided to risk the woman's wrath. "You should use the additional time to rest. You have been expending too much energy recently."
"Not you as well, Seven," B'Elanna groaned. "I'm perfectly fine. I have regular check ups and will do nothing to harm my baby. I just need to keep busy," the raven-haired Klingon explained.
"You are ignoring your problems, Lieutenant," Seven pointed out.
"You're a fine one to talk. What the hell are you doing here at this time of night?" Immediately defensive, B'Elanna reacted the only way she knew how, by attack. She was surprised to see the tall blonde hesitate. "Well?"
Seven, realising that she had been cornered, decided that honesty was the best policy. "I had a date with Commander Chakotay, but it did not go as I had planned."
Initially, B'Elanna was amazed. She couldn't believe her old Maquis captain had managed to get anywhere near Seven, but more to the point was staggered that Seven had deigned to go out with the man. She couldn't think of two less compatible people, excepting her and Tom she admitted to herself. "What do you mean, it didn't go to plan?"
"We have shared several hours together so tonight I decided that we should initiate the first kiss. I did extensive research and then kissed the Commander in his quarters," Seven began to explain.
B'Elanna knew that the outcome would not be good as Seven had only referred to Chakotay as Commander; there was certainly nothing intimate about their relationship now. "What happened?"
"Nothing happened," Seven exclaimed in disgust.
B'Elanna shook her head slightly. "I'm not following this. You just said you kissed."
"Yes, we kissed. But my research indicated that the first kiss would be a sensational experience that would trigger a myriad of emotional responses."
"No spark, huh?" B'Elanna summed it up neatly and Seven couldn't help but turn the corners of her mouth up in the tiniest of smiles. "You are correct, Lieutenant. There was no `spark'."
B'Elanna exhaled heavily and then rubbed her back. She could do one of two things here. She could tease Seven and walk away or she could spend some time with her and talk about the young woman's desire to explore her humanity. Knowing that if she walked away, she would only end up brooding on her own failures, the smaller woman decided on the latter approach. "Have you eaten yet?"
"No, I left the Commander's quarters before dinner commenced."
For once, B'Elanna was pleased not to hear the usual not requiring nutritional supplements answer that Seven was prone to give.
"Well I'm starved. Do you want to talk about this in the Mess Hall?"
Seven was stunned. She had not expected B'Elanna to offer any sort of assistance and had been mentally preparing herself to receive a sarcastic remark. "I am not sure there is much to talk about," she hedged finally.
"Sure there is. You just don't know it yet." B'Elanna replied with a grin. "Come on, with all those replicator rations you must have stashed, you can treat me to something edible." With that, B'Elanna hooked her arm round Seven and led her out of Astrometrics, blaming the uncharacteristic action of stepping closer to the taller woman on the fact that her pregnancy had sent her hormones haywire.
Seven picked at the food in front of her. She was reluctant to try anything new as so far, she had more failures than successes as far as finding anything both edible and tasty was concerned. B'Elanna had offered to pick something out for her and then diligently enquired what she had already eaten and liked. Seven had expected B'Elanna to select a dish that she was already comfortable with, but instead, B'Elanna had requested something she had never heard of. Seven did not want to try the dish, not because she didn't trust B'Elanna, but she did not want to disappoint her by not liking it.
"Oh suck it up, Seven. If you don't like it, I'll get you a supplement," B'Elanna offered good-naturedly as she ravenously tucked into her own meal.
Seven wondered momentarily if B'Elanna had suddenly developed some telepathic ability, but she resolutely speared a portion of the dinner onto her fork and popped it into her mouth. She hesitantly rolled the morsel round her mouth for a second before beginning to chew. Relief flooded her features as she found that she actually liked what she was eating and she quickly targeted another piece.
"See, food isn't always unpalatable," her dining companion commented sagely.
"This is accept..." Seven stopped herself from using her usual expressions. "This is delicious, Lieutenant. Thank you."
B'Elanna smiled before concentrating on her food again. "You're welcome." They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes before the brunette spoke again. "I didn't realise I was so hungry," she remarked as she surveyed her empty plate.
"Would you like more? I have several hundred rations available," Seven offered instantly.
"No, I'm good. But thanks for that. I may have to con some rations out of you another time," B'Elanna replied, amazing herself with the ease in which they were having a conversation. She looked round the Mess Hall as she waited for Seven to finish eating. The lighting had been muted slightly to indicate the lateness of the hour, and the only other occupant was busily tidying away pots and pans and preparing utensils for breakfast in the morning. "You want to talk about what happened now?" she probed softly.
"I have already told you what happened, Lieutenant," Seven pointed out reasonably.
"Well you've told me the clinical and logical version. How about the bit where you're upset or bemused or even just plain annoyed that what you wanted to happen didn't happen? Or even the bit where you doubt your research? Maybe you might want to talk about how you're thinking maybe the research was right and perhaps it has something to do with you?"
B'Elanna talked softly and without any accusatory tone and Seven was simply astounded by her insight. She concentrated on one of the things the engineer had said. "It must be my fault. My research was not flawed. Commander Chakotay has had several relationships. It is only logical that the problem lies with me."
B'Elanna was amazed at just how insecure the former Borg was. She always carried an air of superiority about her along with a bearing of supreme confidence. But the younger woman's answer did not surprise her. It was typical of Seven to analyse problems clinically and easy for her to take the blame as she had still not escaped her past. B'Elanna was well aware that she was guilty of frequently reminding Seven of that past, probably more than most of the rest of the crew. But she had come to terms with Seven's presence eventually and begun to appreciate the difficulties the ex-drone was dealing with.
It had been when Seven was dying due to her malfunctioning cortical node that B'Elanna truly changed her opinion of the Astrometrics officer. Seven had gone to Engineering and asked B'Elanna to hide her, and the Klingon had done just that. Initially, B'Elanna was surprised that Seven trusted her that much, but during the lengthy conversation they shared, she realised that Seven considered her to be one of the few people on board who treated her as an equal, even when she herself sometimes did not. They had each bared parts of their souls that day, and the result had been a less argumentative workplace. B'Elanna had even found herself spending time with Seven off duty when Tom was busy with his holodeck programs, but that had all changed when she became pregnant.
"It may have something to do with you," B'Elanna stated candidly. "But I think it might have more to do with who you were kissing."
"There is nothing wrong with Commander Chakotay," Seven protested.
"That's a totally different discussion," B'Elanna replied dryly before continuing. "What I meant was, there was no `spark' because you weren't kissing the right person."
Seven was intrigued. The concept that she had made a mistake in selection had not occurred to her. "Commander Chakotay met all the parameters I specified when looking for a companion," she protested.
"What?" B'Elanna deliberately kept the frown on her face in an attempt not to laugh. She knew that Seven was feeling sensitive at the moment. It would not be fair to mock her approach. "Seven, I don't know who you've been talking to, or where you've been doing your research, but you can't just enter in a set of requirements and expect to come out with the perfect relationship."
"The Doctor went through the process with me some time ago. I resurrected the programming algorithm he utilised and adjusted it," Seven informed her.
"That would be the one and only date with Lieutenant Chapman?" B'Elanna couldn't help but point out.
"I am well aware of the failure of that attempt. That is why I altered some of the aspects of the program."
"Did it not occur to you that perhaps it was just the wrong way to do this?" B'Elanna's eyebrows rose slightly when she saw the usually composed blonde flush slightly. "What?"
"I find it difficult to socialise with this crew at the best of times, Lieutenant. The only way I could prepare myself to do something like this was to research it fully and then impart my reasons to the intended recipient."
"Well I have to differ with you on the first count, Seven. We're socialising right now, and other than the fact that you keep referring to me as Lieutenant, despite the fact we're both off-duty, you're doing fine."
"That is your designation," Seven pointed out.
"No, it's my rank. My name is B'Elanna, and you're welcome to use it, if you want to."
Seven stared at the chief engineer. The woman had managed to surprise her again this evening. She had fully intended not to talk about what had happened earlier in the evening, but had accompanied B'Elanna to the Mess Hall so that she could eat. Seven did not want her to neglect her health, particularly now she was so well advanced in her pregnancy. The Klingon hybrid had then ordered something edible for her to eat, and teased her into tasting it. Now, without even trying, she had managed to coax her into conversation. Seven was startled when B'Elanna pointed out that she was indeed socialising. She hadn't even recognized that she was doing it. Now, B'Elanna had told her to use her name and not her rank when they were off duty. Given the volatile start to their relationship, Seven realised that they had come a long way. She hid her shock with another question. "What about the second part of my statement?"
B'Elanna returned Seven's gaze. "Well, that's a bit more problematic. I'm also probably not the person to ask."
"You are the only person I am able to socialise with in a relaxed manner, with the possible exception of Naomi Wildman. While she is a child of considerable talent, I do not think that she can provide assistance in this matter. I have no one else to ask," Seven stated matter-of-factly.
"I know that. But I don't exactly have a brilliant track record with relationships either. I've split from my husband, despite carrying his child, and before Voyager," B'Elanna hesitated a fraction. "You don't want to know what happened before Voyager. Let's just say I'm not the poster-girl for long term commitment."
"I thought Klingons mated for life," Seven replied, a small frown creasing her forehead.
"Are you telling me I should still be with Tom?" B'Elanna retorted, suddenly angry.
"No. I was simply pursuing something I read during my research," Seven tried to reassure the older woman.
B'Elanna forced herself to calm down, knowing that Seven was simply making an enquiry. "In general, Klingons do mate for life. They're too proud to admit making a mistake and divorce would be a public declaration of that. But I'm half-Klingon, and more to the point, it would not have been fair on Tom to insist on staying married, especially when I couldn't stand to be around him."
"So your emotions have changed from love to hate," Seven theorised. "This is why I find it so difficult to rationalise relationships," she remarked.
"I don't hate Tom," B'Elanna corrected. "I will always love him too."
Seven raised an eyebrow. "Explain."
B'Elanna laughed slightly; glad to feel the tension seep away from her shoulders. She had not wanted to talk to Seven about this, but for some reason did not feel a fool for speaking with her. "I love Tom but I'm not in love with him. I don't think I ever was. He's a lovely guy when you get to know him. He's loyal and funny and he defended me against a lot of people when I first came on board here. He also wouldn't take no for an answer, and eventually I succumbed to all the flattery."
"Why did you marry him?" Seven asked, genuinely curious. She had yet to see Tom in any other light than an over-confident pilot and reluctant assistant to the EMH, though in fairness, he had offered to be a friend for her when she first came aboard Voyager.
"I thought I was losing him. He spent more time with his personal projects than he did with me, so I became his co-pilot for that stupid race and we got caught up in the moment. I was trying to come up with a way to dissolve the marriage when I fell pregnant, and then my Klingon hormones took over and pretty much aborted the marriage by themselves." B'Elanna grimaced slightly, once again recalling the last argument she and Tom had.
"I do not understand," Seven interrupted the engineer's train of thought. "You state that you love Tom but you are not `in love' with him. What is the difference?"
B'Elanna was pleased for the distraction and she grinned evilly. "No spark." She was gratified to see Seven's eyes widen slightly.
"I see. Perhaps I should introduce you to the program I am using. You may be more successful than me." The corners of Seven's mouth twitched very slightly.
"Seven, did you just tease me?" B'Elanna asked incredulously.
"I was merely making a suggestion," the tall blonde replied enigmatically.
"Well, to be honest, it can't be much worse than my way," the raven- haired woman grumbled amiably.
"You have not actually explained your method," Seven pointed out.
"Oh, you know. Talking to people and spending time with them. Finding out how comfortable you feel round them and then spending more time with them. You know; socialising. That thing you're really bad at. That thing that we've just spent the last hour and a half doing," B'Elanna explained.
Seven stared at her plate for a moment before looking back at the engineer. "B'Elanna, would you give me assistance?" she asked hesitantly.
"Assistance? What do you mean?" B'Elanna probed, even as she smiled; it was good to hear the blonde woman actually use her name.
"As you are now fully aware, I find it difficult to be relaxed around other people. But I do not have that problem with you. Would you help me interact with the crew in a social setting?"
"What, act as a go between or tell you what to say, something like that?" B'Elanna asked, trying to clarify the request.
"No, that would not be a true reflection of my personality. Perhaps if other crewmembers saw how we interact together, they might not think I am awkward or unapproachable, and if I know that you are present, I will know that I will have at least one person to have a frank discussion with and not feel so isolated." Seven felt incredibly exposed by revealing her short-comings, but was certain that B'Elanna would not use the knowledge against her.
B'Elanna sat back slightly. "So you want us to go out together so that other members of the crew can get to know you," she surmised, blushing slightly at her choice of words. She looked anxiously at Seven to see if she'd picked up on what she had said, and for some inexplicable reason, the engineer felt a small thrill at the thought of going out with Seven.
"Not exactly. But close enough. Would that be acceptable B'Elanna?" Seven probed. Now that B'Elanna had mentioned going out together, Seven was warming to the idea. She wanted to spend more time with the engineer. She liked this relaxed sensation she was feeling and she was enjoying B'Elanna's company. She wanted those feelings to continue.
"That would be great," B'Elanna grinned. She was delighted to see a genuine smile light Seven's features in response to her answer.
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