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"Come in," said Kathryn Janeway, as she sat on the sofa next to the large view port in her ready room. She turned as Seven of Nine entered and stood before her in her customary formal position.
"You wished to see me Captain."
Kathryn smiled at Seven's tone. She wondered if the former Borg would ever learn to completely relax.
"Yes, Seven. Please, sit down." As Seven opened her mouth to state her habitual preference to stand, Kathryn held up a hand to forestall her. "Please. This is a personal matter." She bit back a laugh as the blonde couldn't repress a sigh of surrender and sat stiffly next to the Captain.
"How can I assist you?" She asked bluntly.
"It's about B'Elanna," Kathryn said, all traces of humor fading.
"The Lieutenant? Is there something wrong with her or the baby?"
Kathryn was moved by the true concern in her voice. She wished B'Elanna could see this side of Seven more often. "No. Thanks to Icheb's quick identification of the tampering of the doctor's programming, Tom was able to talk her out of changing the baby's genetic make up and both mother and child are physically fine."
"Good. I am relieved to hear it," Seven said somewhat confused. She had an idea of what had driven the Lieutenant's desperate actions and understood that B'Elanna was still fighting her Klingon half and was afraid her daughter would face the same prejudice she had dealt with as a child. But she was under the impression that B'Elanna had moved past those issues over the last two weeks. She said as much to the Captain.
"Well, I think she has for the most part, but fears as deep as B'Elanna's don't just fade in a few days or weeks." The Captain paused as if waiting for a response from her visitor.
One of the things that annoyed Seven the most about humans was their incessant need to drag out a conversation. Despite her first instinct to push the point along, she just looked at the Captain. "Of course," was all she said.
"I was hoping," Kathryn started, seeing the flicker of impatience cross Seven's face, "you would speak to her and make sure she really is okay."
Seven could not contain her surprise. "Clarify."
"I think you above anyone else on this ship understand what B'Elanna went through. Being treated differently, and trying to fit into two worlds."
"My situation is different," she said simply, but without heat.
"No it isn't. Not really."
"The Lieutenant barely tolerates me Captain. In fact she ordered me out of engineering just this morning and told me I was 'constantly in her way'."
"I know you two don't always get along "
"She does not like me," Seven said simply, hiding a twinge of regret.
"I don't really think that's true. Seven. B'Elanna is just "
"There is no need to explain, Captain. She is one of very few members of the crew who is completely honest about her feelings. I respect her for that."
"All I ask is that you think about it. Will you?"
Seven sighed again and stood. "I will comply." With that, she turned to leave the ready room with an amused Captain watching.
Seven walked through the corridor lost in thought. She appreciated why the Captain had asked her to talk to the Lieutenant. The fact was she did understand what B'Elanna had gone through as a child, the only differences being that she was experiencing the isolation and prejudice as an adult and that B'Elanna Torres herself was one of the primary offenders in treating her as an outcast. Seven didn't hold a grudge, however. Grudges were inefficient, but the comments still hurt her, though she'd never admit it. But still, she didn't relish the thought having the Lieutenant either laugh at her efforts at comfort, or get angry for her interference.
Arriving in Cargo Bay 2, she checked her computer console and then stepped into her alcove to regenerate. Her last thought being that as it was the Captain who asked, she would at least try.
The door chime startled B'Elanna out of her musings. She had once more been contemplating her decision to forgo the surgery to remove the Klingon genetic material from her daughter. She knew that Tom had been right to stop her, but there was still a little part of her that clung to her past, and her father's inability to handle being around Klingons, that had her second guessing her choice.
"Who is it?" She asked, not really interested. There was no immediate answer and she felt a familiar flare of irritation. B'Elanna Torres was not known for her patience.
"Who is it?" she called again with a touch of anger.
"It's Seven of Nine Lieutenant. I was hoping to speak to you."
B'Elanna's eyebrows disappeared into her hairline. Of all the people she thought it would be, the former Borg hadn't even made the list.
"Come on in," she said and looked up to see Seven enter and stop before where B'Elanna sat on the couch. She had her hands behind her back in her usual stance, but the uncomfortable expression on her face was obvious and somewhat amazing.
"What is it, Seven?" She picked up a PADD and pretended to be busy, but noticed Seven shifting slightly in apparent nervousness.
"Relax, Seven," she said with a smile. Despite their adversarial relationship, B'Elanna often found herself reluctantly amused by the former drone. Her smile broadened when she saw that Seven's attempt to relax meant merely moving her hands from behind her back to in front of her.
"Lieutenant. I'm unsure of how to broach this subject " She paused trying to find the appropriate words.
B'Elanna sighed. "For someone who prides themselves on efficiency, you sure are taking your time about getting to the point of this little visit," she commented, unconsciously echoing Seven's earlier thoughts. She glanced up at the tall blonde. "And can you please sit down? I'm getting a crick in my neck." B'Elanna was surprised by the twitch of Seven's lips which could have been the start of an extremely rare smile.
Seven did as she was asked and sat in a chair across from B'Elanna. She briefly wondered why people were always trying to make her sit down.
"So, what brings you here?" B'Elanna really wanted to snap at the blonde, but her surprise at the visit kept her from doing so.
"The Captain I " Seven swallowed her nervousness. Lieutenant Torres had often accused her of being rude, and she really didn't want her to see this conversation as another example.
"I wished to talk to you about your baby," she finally blurted.
B'Elanna could do nothing but blink stupidly at the nervous blonde for several seconds.
"Excuse me?" She finally asked, torn between genuine surprise and anger at the Borg's presumption.
Seven rose quickly. "My apologies, Lieutenant. I should not have come here." She turned to leave, but B'Elanna had risen at the same time and grabbed her arm to stop her.
"Not so fast, Seven. Why are you asking about the baby?"
At B'Elanna's tug, Seven sat back down, with the Engineer following. "I do not wish to be rude," she began, not looking at the other woman and that, in and of itself was rare. One of the things B'Elanna respected about Seven of Nine was that no matter what she had to say, she always looked a person in the eye, even knowing it would most likely irritate them or embarrass her.
"Seven, please. What did you want to talk about?"
Seven found herself irritated with her lack of emotional control. She forced herself to look up at the other woman. "I know that you have reversed your decision to alter your daughter's genetic make up " She saw the frown that crossed the Klingon's face and kept talking before B'Elanna could unleash a barrage of curses on her.
"I just wanted to tell you that had you chosen to proceed with the procedure, I would have supported your decision. I know it's too late now, but "
B'Elanna shook her head in confusion, and then said the only thing that came into her mind. "Explain." She noticed the look of surprise that crossed the blonde's face at her use of Seven's 'favorite' command, but ignored it.
"I realize my comments are coming too late as you have already made your decision and I do believe it was the appropriate choice, but I wanted to let you know that I understood your concerns, and should you wish to discuss your thoughts further "
B'Elanna scoffed at that. "First of all, I don't know how this is any of your business, and secondly, how can you understand anything? You were a drone for most of your life. You looked the same, acted the same and sounded the same as millions of other drones. What would you know about growing up all alone?" She witnessed a flicker of something in Seven's eyes, but her anger at the drone's audacity blocked it out.
"I did not mean to make you angry Lieutenant. I apologize for disturbing you." Seven turned once more to leave, and once more she was stopped by B'Elanna's hand.
"Uh-uh," B'Elanna said firmly. "I want an answer."
Seven nodded, but refused to sit this time and decided bluntness was her best chance of getting this ill-advised visit over with. "I have always known you were a brilliant individual, Lieutenant. However, your previous comments regarding my lack of understanding make me question that assessment."
"What?" B'Elanna was both outraged at Seven's nerve at comparing her experiences to her own, and somewhat flattered that the other woman thought she was brilliant.
"I understand that you were concerned that your child would grow up alone and isolated because of who she was and what she looked like just as you did. And you are indeed correct that I did not grow up in such a fashion. I spent my childhood alone in a Borg maturation chamber. I am unaware of how much more isolated an individual can be than that."
B'Elanna grimaced at that, but Seven continued.
"You are also correct that once I reached maturity, I did spend several years as one of many, not an individual, with no concern about being judged for my appearance. However, that changed once I was severed from the collective and my thoughts became my own." She paused and turned her face from the small engineer. "And once I knew that many of my implants would be a permanent and visible reminder of who I was Who I am."
B'Elanna's eyes widened as she finally began to understand. "Seven I"
"I did not grow up as an outcast, Lieutenant because I was not given the opportunity to grow up at all. But whether you choose to believe me or not, I do know what it is to be an outsider, because I've experienced it every day for four years." She made a subtle gesture toward the implants still remaining on her face using her "Borg" hand.
B'Elanna wanted to smack her own ridged forehead. She knew deep down she really did know, that Seven understood, but she didn't want to acknowledge it because do so would mean acknowledging that she herself was as guilty of cruelty towards Seven as those children who had tormented B'Elanna as a child.
"Seven, I'm sorry."
"Your apologies are irrelevant, Lieutenant. I should not have come here. . I apologize." This time when Seven turned to leave, B'Elanna didn't stop her.
Kathryn put down the book she was reading when she heard her door chime.
"Come in," she called, fully expecting to see Seven of Nine come for another of their nightly talks regarding humanity. To her surprise it was her Chief Engineer.
"B'Elanna. This is a surprise."
"I'm sorry for the late visit, Captain but I needed to ask a favor."
Kathryn was surprised by that. B'Elanna Torres rarely asked a favor from anyone. "What favor?" She gestured for the petite brunette to sit down.
"This is a bit awkward," B'Elanna started, sitting on a chair across from Kathryn. "I remember very clearly you telling me not to access people's private logs without your authorization, but I was hoping you could make an exception."
Kathryn raised her eyebrows. "Really? Whose logs and for what?
B'Elanna looked sheepishly at her Captain. "The same person as before," she mumbled.
"Seven? Why do you want access to her logs?" Kathryn asked surprised. She remembered when B'Elanna had carelessly admitted going through Seven's personal logs after Seven had seemed to rejoin the collective. She hadn't even cared that she had invaded someone's privacy. The Engineer had never thought of Seven of Nine as anything other than Borg from the moment the blonde had joined the crew. Now she wanted to go through her logs again?
B'Elanna shrugged. "She paid me a visit earlier, at your request I understand," she started. Kathryn smiled with a small amount of embarrassment and nodded.
"I suppose it was too much to hope for that she'd keep that part quiet."
B'Elanna laughed. "You know Seven. She is obsessively and sometimes brutally forthright."
Kathryn smiled in agreement.
"So why do you need to see her logs?"
"Well, I may not even need her logs. Just the files that belonged to her parents."
"I repeat, why?"
"Well, when she came to see me, I wasn't particularly polite, and it was painfully brought to my attention that I may have been too quick to judge her. I thought that it was time I get a better idea about her past."
Well, it's about time, Kathryn thought wryly. "Have you asked Seven if you could see them?"
"I have a feeling that she wouldn't exactly welcome the idea. I really haven't given her much cause to think my reasons for asking would be sincere."
"I won't disagree with you there," Kathryn replied. "However, I really don't feel right about granting you access to those files without her knowledge."
B'Elanna sighed and nodded. "I really didn't think you would, but I had to ask." She stood to leave.
"Hold on a moment, B'Elanna." Kathryn stood as well. "I can't go behind her back and grant you access, but I can ask her if she will share them with you."
B'Elanna thought it over and then nodded. "I suppose I'll have to accept that."
"Very good. I'll get back with you with Seven's decision."
B'Elanna placed the final PADD detailing the Hanson's lives aboard the Raven back into the box that had stored them for so many years, virtually forgotten. She had managed to work her way through the numerous logs without emotion, but now that she was finished, she let the tears come. Tears for the small child who was forced to travel alone with just her distracted parents for companionship.
What would you know about growing up all alone? The words she had so coldly uttered to Seven, came back to her with a vengeance. She had never felt so ashamed of herself. Of all the logs she had read, there was very little mention of young Annika. That said more than actual words that the Hansons had no time for the child they had brought with them.
B'Elanna wiped her eyes as visions of a child playing alone in her room, of a child going to talk and play with her parents but being told 'not now' and sent back to her room, of a child having no one to talk to but herself filled her mind and caused both of her hearts to tighten in sympathy. How could she have been so cruel? She had already known some of Seven's past before she had been assimilated and should have known to show some restraint in her comments to the other woman, but her damned temper more often than not over ruled her tongue. But now having the evidence of the selfishness of the Hansons in front of her, she could kick her own ass across every deck of Voyager.
Even though Seven's surprise visit had been prompted by the Captain, B'Elanna suddenly realized exactly what it had taken for Seven of Nine to approach her with words of acceptance and comfort, knowing full well that B'Elanna would more than likely jump down her throat. Seven's nervous blue eyes and uncharacteristic behavior had not gone unnoticed, despite B'Elanna's anger. Her respect for the former drone, which, regardless of everything else had always existed in some form, grew even more.
Wiping her eyes and than her nose, B'Elanna rose from the sofa and gathered the bin containing the logs, determined to make things right with the former drone. Honor required it, but her conscious demanded it even more.
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