The relationship between the two women seemed to settle down after their dinner together and they seemed to relax into a productive working relationship. They fell into a pattern of sharing at least one meal per day together, but despite that fact they never again discussed their feelings or attempted to clarify the nature of their relationshipthe dinners, as enjoyable as they were, took the form of a working dinner. They discussed their jobs and dreamed up projects that they could work on together to improve the functioning of many of Voyager's systems. They had achieved a measure of comfort in working together, but they only seemed able to socialize alone together when the evening was structured around work. B'Elanna was uncomfortable with the fact that she had been so open about her feelings with the former drone. She was unused to discussing emotions and uncomfortable with how vulnerable she felt now that she had admitted fearing rejection by Seven. Seven for her part was not comfortable in keeping the truth about her feelings from B'Elanna and was afraid that if their conversation were to take a more personal turn she would be forced to lie to her new friend, and that was unacceptable to her. But still, they both enjoyed the time they spent together, even if sometimes it felt a bit devoid of feeling.
Their current collaboration involved a method of enriching the dilithium mixture ratio in order to increase the ability of the warp core to sustain higher warp speeds for longer periods of time. The project involved extensive modifications to both the injectors and the warp core itself. As usual both Seven and B'Elanna had very firm ideas as to how best to carry out the modifications, and after several hours of discussion they still had not come to an agreement as to how they should proceed. Seven, in her usual manner, had decided that her method was the proper one and took it upon herself to begin modifications without further consultations with the Chief engineer. She had been working steadily for over an hour when her concentration was interrupted by the arrival of an extremely agitated half-Klingon engineer.
"Seven! What the hell do you think you're doing?" Seven was startled by the sound of B'Elanna's angry voice. The flash of guilt she felt at having proceeded without B'Elanna's permission was extinguished when she bumped her head sharply on the railing surrounding the warp core and was replaced by anger.
"I am attempting to carry out the modifications to the warp core in the most efficient manner possible." B'Elanna was infuriated with the former drone for usurping her authority and going behind her back to work on the core.
"We still haven't agreed on the best method of proceeding "
"No, WE have not because you are incapable of admitting that my way is superiour. I am tired of waiting and so I have decided to simply proceed in the best interests of the ship." Seven interrupted.
"Dammit Seven, you just can't come into my engine room and start tearing apart the core without my permission. You are really starting to piss me off here."
"Yes I am happy that you are pissed off as that will give you some appreciation for how I am feeling in this moment."
B'Elanna was a little shocked to hear such language coming out of Seven's mouth, and the truth was she almost laughed out loud, but she was still too angry at what she saw as Seven's betrayal to relent.
"You're mad at me?"
"You can't be mad at me!"
"Because I was mad at you first!" B'Elanna knew she was being childish, but she was still too angry to care.
"I wasn't aware that we were taking turns," Seven couldn't stop a smirk from playing around the edges of her mouth.
Now B'Elanna couldn't stop the smile that spread over her face. She was fighting back laughter as she spoke.
"How about I only get mad at you on days of the week with vowels in their names," B'Elanna joked.
"And I will only get angry at you on Stardates that contain prime numbers." They were both laughing now, and B'Elanna had to lean on the main console to keep herself upright. There were tears running down her cheeks as she fought herself back under control.
Her smile faded as she turned back to the warp core and caught sight of the half-dismantled machinery.
"Seven, I really think that if we realign the magnetic constrictors the way I outlined in my plan we'll have a better conversion rate of anti-matter over the long run."
Seven knew that B'Elanna's plan was at least as efficient as her own. She was unwilling to risk another argument with her friend by disagreeing with her again, so she merely shrugged her shoulders as she spoke.
"Perhaps you are right. I believe we should proceed according to your plan."
"Damn right we should," B'Elanna growled. "My way is better. Besides, don't ever forget that this is MY engine room."
"You really are a child Lieutenant Torres," Seven muttered.
"Yeah, but that's why you love me." Seven froze at B'Elanna's words. A blush crept over her cheeksshe was terrified that the Chief had found out about her true feelings. It was only when she realized that B'Elanna was still teasing that she relaxed and began to undo some of her modifications. They continued to tease back and forth while they worked, both of them happy to have weathered their first fight since forging a friendship.
The improvement of the warp core succeeded beyond their expectations and they managed to complete the project with a minimum of disagreement between thema downright miracle according to several junior members of the engineering staff. They continued to spend a large portion of their free time together, and B'Elanna found herself wondering why she no longer got so angry at Tom when he ran off to play with Harry in the holodeck, or canceled their plans together in order to spend time on his latest obsession. One such evening she returned to her quarters after having spent the evening with Seven, deep in discussions about improving sensor accuracy; she suddenly realized that it had been over a week since she had spent any real time with Tom. In the past it would have infuriated her to feel that she was being cast aside by the helmsman, but tonight she felt almost nothing, certainly not anger, when she thought of the amount of time they had spent apart. It was troubling to her that she felt this way and despite the fact that something was nagging at the back of her mind about the nature and quality of their relationship she determined that she should be the one to do something about how little time they had spent together recently. She resolved to seek Tom out for dinner the very next day. After all they were in a relationship and honour demanded that she do her best to make it work. She fell asleep firm in her resolve despite the niggling feeling that she was overlooking something important.
The next day Seven of Nine was working in Astrometrics when Tom Paris, Chakotay and Neelix came to see her. Voyager had found what amounted to an Interstellar junk dealer and they wished to use the ships' sensors to take a closer look at what was on offer. She helped them scan the fields of scrap in order to make a list of things they wished to obtain from the rather seedy looking trader. They were completing the scans when the helmsman let out a low whistle at a small shuttlecraft the sensors had picked up.
"I think I'm in love," he said in a tone of reverential awe.
Seven gave him a rather scathing look, which he missedhis entire attention being consumed by the small ship.
"You are in a relationship with Lieutenant Torres I should think you would KNOW what it is to be in love," she couldn't stop herself from saying.
Paris ignored her remark completely, if he heard it at all. He was still scanning the ship and attempting to convince Chakotay that Voyager 'needed' to obtain it at any cost. Seven found Chakotay to be unusually levelheaded for a human and so she was surprised at how quickly he gave in to Tom's enthusiasm for the ship. She shook her head and felt a sense of sadness on behalf of her friend as she realized that B'Elanna was in for another period of time in which she would be forced to take a back seat to yet another in Tom Paris' seemingly endless line of pet projects and hobbies. She felt a fleeting sense of happiness knowing that B'Elanna would be free to spend a great amount of uninterrupted time with her, but she forced herself to push that thought aside. She truly loved B'Elanna, and, as such, she wanted to put her friend's happiness first above all else. It was not easy, but Seven was used to that.
She stood by and watched while B'Elanna tried to take an interest in the ship that Tom had named Alice, and she provided a sympathetic ear when the Klingon hybrid again and again was hurt by Tom's disregard for her feelings. When the ship attempted to harm B'Elanna in an attempt to have Tom all to itself Seven was ready to do physical damage to the helmsman in her anger at him for putting B'Elanna in danger. It was only her knowledge that B'Elanna would not be pleased if she did that stayed her hand against the childish flight controller. When Alice and Tom left Voyager Seven was inclined to let them go, but once again her feelings for B'Elanna dictated her actions and she did everything she could to track the ship and bring the wayward pilot back into Voyager's fold.
After the incident with Alice, Tom seemed to mend his ways. He was much more attentive to B'Elanna, and attempted to spend a great deal more time with her. This left Seven very much on her own, and it bothered her. She missed her interactions with the Chief Engineer, and longed to spend more time with her, but at the same time she berated herself for her selfishness, B'Elanna appeared to be happy and Seven was determined to support her, no matter the personal cost.
B'Elanna was indeed happy that Tom was spending more time with her at first. But after an endless round of dates in Sandrine's, and games on the holodeck she began to feel that something was missing. Exactly what it was eluded her for a few days but after another evening spent listening to Tom talk about his latest holodeck program she realized that what she was missing was the companionship and intellectual stimulation that she had derived from her time spent with Seven. Hard as it was for her to believe or to admit even to herself, she missed the former drone. When Tom asked her to join him the next night for a romantic dinner in St Moritz she declined, saying that she had something she needed to take care of instead. Tom was a bit hurt that she didn't appear to be appreciating his attempts to spend more time with her and he questioned her mercilessly until she finally told him the truth. That she wanted to spend some time with Seven.
"You're kidding me right?" Tom was incredulous. "You're dumping me for the drone!"
"I'm not dumping you, and I've asked you repeatedly to not call her that. She's my friend."
"Right, and my new best friend is an isolinear spanner!"
"You're on real thin ice right now flyboy just drop it." B'Elanna growled.
"I'm sorry for insulting Seven, but you're always going on about how little time we spend together and now here you are running off to spend time with someone else."
"I know. Look Tom spending time with you has been great." A small nagging part of B'Elanna's brain told her that this was not exactly true, but she quashed the thought quickly. "It's just that Seven was there for me all the time when you were too busy for me, and I'm feeling sort of guilty for just dumping her now that you're taking an interest again. I used to hate women like that when I was growing up. They want to be your best friend until a guy comes along and then it's 'see ya later.' I don't want to be one of those women."
"Alright already," Tom's hands were in the air indicating surrender. "Have fun with Seven. Don't mind me, I'll find something to occupy my time."
"I have no doubt," B'Elanna replied, standing on her toes to kiss the pilot on his cheek.
Tom tried to turn the kiss into something more, and B'Elanna couldn't stop herself from pulling away. This had been happening with alarming frequency lately, but again B'Elanna refused to examine that aspect of her behaviour. She ignored the flash of annoyance that crossed Tom's face and made a hasty exit in search of her friend.
She found Seven hard at work in Astrometrics. The former drone looked up when she entered the room and B'Elanna felt her heart contract at the sight of the beaming smile that graced Seven's features when she caught sight of the engineer entering the room. Tom never looked at her like that.
"Lieutenant Torres What can I do for you."
"You can agree to have dinner with me tomorrow night," B'Elanna replied with a shy grin.
"Has Mr. Paris found a new project then?" Seven asked.
B'Elanna felt a stab of guilt at Seven's innocent question. She never intended to make the former Borg feel as though she were second best, and yet obviously she had.
"No, actually he wanted to have dinner tomorrow as well, but I told him I wanted to spend the evening with you instead."
Seven's smile grew wider at hearing B'Elanna's words.
"Are you certain you wouldn't rather spend your time with him?"
"Absolutely. The truth is I've missed our time together. It just hasn't been the same without you . So, what do you say is it a date?"
Seven felt her face suffuse with colour at B'Elanna's terminology, and she quickly struggled to put her customary impassive look back in place before the engineer noticed.
"Indeed it is a... date," she replied, unable to keep the happiness she felt from coming through in her voice.
Seven spent part of her shift the next day at the secondary ops station on the bridge helping Harry fine-tune the ops sensor array. As she worked, she found herself unable to resist observing Tom Paris' behaviour when B'Elanna was not on the bridge. Seven had never really bothered to watch Tom before, the truth was he had never held much interest for her and since Voyager had cleared the nebula she was always much more interested in watching B'Elanna than in listening to the pilot's endless banter. Today, however, B'Elanna was in engineering and Seven found herself scrutinizing Tom's behaviour in an effort to come to an understanding of just what it was that B'Elanna saw in the childish young man. She was a little shocked by what she saw. Paris was an inveterate flirt; he seemed unable to interact with any female without the conversation having some type of sexual innuendo attached to it. She took her lunch break at the same time as he did and was appalled to see him carrying on his flirtation all through the meal with any female that was in range of his voice. He was joined for lunch by Ensign Mallaley from ops and Seven observed that the flight controller frequently touched the attractive young woman's hands and arms throughout the meal. She could overhear his flirtatious tones and was angered to see him place his hand on the small of the young ensign's back as he guided her out of the mess hall after their meal together. True, he hadn't seemed to have gone beyond flirtation, but Seven simply couldn't understand how he could touch another woman at all when he was permitted to touch B'Elanna Torres. She was angry with Tom for being such a child, but there was another part of her that was angry with B'Elanna for getting and staying involved with someone who held her honour in such low regard. She wished she could intervene and make B'Elanna see that she was making a mistake by remaining in her relationship with Paris, but she knew that if she did so, her friendship with the volatile chief engineer would be the only one damaged. She felt a heaviness on her spirit at the thought of the honourable young Klingon trapped in such a dysfunctional relationship, but there was nothing she could do about it, so she returned to Astrometrics and finished her shift from there.
As saddened as Seven had been by her discoveries about the nature of B'Elanna's and Tom's relationship, she couldn't help but grow excited as the time for her date with the Klingon hybrid drew near. They were only having dinner together at Sandrine's but even so Seven was looking forward to having the engineer all to herself for the evening. She decided to go to the holodeck early in order to ensure that B'Elanna's favourite vintage of blood wine was stocked at the bar; she wanted this evening to be perfect. She walked into the holographic establishment and was surprised to find the place empty and the lights dimmed much lower than usual. She was about to order the lights up when she heard a sound emanating from the back corner of the bar. Curious, she walked around the tables and turned the corner only to find to her shock that Tom Paris was unclothed and engaged in rather energetic sexual intercourse with Ricky the hologram Tom had programmed into the bar, the one whose sole purpose seemed to be hanging on his every word. Not since Janeway had summarily separated her from the collective had Seven been this furious.
Tom rolled off the holocharacter with amazing speed, grabbing up his discarded uniform and covering himself at the same time as he ordered the deletion of the holographic character.
"What the hell do you think you're doing in here," he finally demanded when he had gathered his wits about him somewhat.
"It is a public holodeck program Mr. Paris. I would think even you would have more intelligence and discretion than to cheat on your wife in a place where you are certain to be discovered."
"I have this holodeck booked for the next two hours," he ranted, "Sandrine's is running in Holodeck 1 tonight. Now get the hell out of here."
Seven was aware that Tom had a right to be angry with her now that she realized that she was trespassing in his private holodeck program, but that didn't stop her from railing at him for his disrespect of B'Elanna.
"I will go and leave you to your hobby," she spat contemptuously. She turned to leave, but couldn't bring herself to just walk away without defending B'Elanna's honour. She turned back to face him, her visage reddened and her body shaking with rage.
"You do not deserve B'Elanna Torres. You have no appreciation of her brilliance, or her beauty. You could be with her and instead you choose to dishonour your relationship with a hologram. I hope that B'Elanna finds out who you really are and chooses to leave you. You are not worthy of her attention or her affection and you certainly are not worthy of her love."
Having said her piece Seven turned again to leave.
"What makes you think she doesn't know?" Tom's arrogant question stopped her in her tracks.
"She would never condone such dishonourable behaviour in her relationship."
"Oh really, and this opinion is based on what exactly?"
"On my knowing of B'Elanna Torres."
"Well maybe you don't know her as well as you think you do. She knows I flirt with women, but I never cheat on her. I only sleep with holograms. Those are the rules of our relationship, and B'Elanna is well aware of them."
Seven's mind was reeling from this information, but she refused to give in.
"I do not believe you."
"Look Seven, I don't expect you to understand you've got to have emotions before you can understand them. B'Elanna and I did the logical thing when we realized we were probably going to die here in the Delta Quadrant. We found one another and we settled. If I were back on Earth I probably wouldn't have bothered even chasing after her too much temper too much drama, and I'm pretty certain she wouldn't have given me a second glance back home. But we aren't on Earth, we're here in the Delta quadrant and neither one of us wanted to spend the next 50 years of our lives alone. The sex is good, we get along okay most of the time, and like I said I'm faithful in my way. I settled, she settled and we're happy enough...in fact, the only time we don't get along is when B'Elanna gets it in her head to pretend like we're in a real relationship."
"Stop this! I will not allow you to continue to disparage B'Elanna's character in this manner. You should have more respect for B'Elanna than to speak of her in this way. You need to grow up and take responsibility for your actions. You are hurting B'Elanna and I will not allow it." Seven's hand was shaking as she pointed her finger at Tom.
"What the hell is with you Seven you'd think you had a crush on her or something."
"What I feel for Lieutenant Torres is far more powerful than any crush. My feelings for her are genuine and I wouldn't expect YOU to have any understanding of them because they are real, and run deeper than the surface."
Tom was stunned by Seven's unexpected revelation, and he could tell immediately by the look on the former drone's face that she had not intended to reveal so much in her anger. He couldn't believe that Seven of all people considered herself competition for B'Elanna's affections. Suddenly B'Elanna's desire to have dinner with Seven this evening took on new meaning for him. He wasn't about to let anyone interfere in his arrangement with B'Elanna. She was his and he certainly wouldn't tolerate the Ice Queen trespassing on his property. He struck out quickly in his resentment.
"You've gotta be kidding. B'Elanna would never be with another woman and she certainly wouldn't stoop to letting a Borg drone touch her, so you can just put any thoughts of you and B'Elanna right out of your head. She's with me, and that's exactly where she's going to stay. So why don't you go back to the Cargo Bay where you belong and plug yourself in for the night, because you've got no chance with B'Elanna, not while I'm in the picture."
Seven recognized the ring of truth in Tom's words and to her shame she felt tears of anger and sorrow pricking at her human eye. She wanted to lash out at the arrogant helmsman, to defend herself and B'Elanna, but she was unable to formulate coherent thoughts. She refused to let herself cry in front of Tom and although her heart was breaking and she couldn't see clearly for the tears in her eye, she turned and stumbled out of the holodeck not allowing her tears to fall until she was in the corridor. As she wandered blindly down the hallway she bumped into another crewmember. She continued to walk away, only stopping when she heard B'Elanna's voice.
"Seven, what the heck is going on what's wrong."
Seven knew she couldn't deal with talking to B'Elanna right now. She couldn't even look the beautiful engineer in the eye.
"I apologize Lieutenant. I'm sorry I have to go." She moved away as quickly as she could, leaving a very confused Klingon behind her.
Just as B'Elanna was about to go after Seven the doors to the holodeck opened and Tom Paris stepped through.
"Tom, what the hell is going on? I just saw Seven come out of there in tears. What happened?"
"Don't get mad at me, I just did you a huge favour. You won't believe what the drone just told me in there." He paused, less certain that he liked that B'Elanna would receive his news favourably.
"Well what did she tell you? I'm waiting."
"She, uh, she told me she has a crush on you. But don't worry Lanna, I set her straight. I told her you were with me, that you weren't interested in women. I don't think she'll be bothering you anymore." Tom finished with a slight bow, and then waited for B'Elanna's heartfelt thanks for his defense of her honour.
"Tom you asshole. How dare you "
"Come on B'Elanna, what did you want me to do, stand around while the Borg assimilates you?"
"Shut up Tom." B'Elanna turned to go after Seven.
"Wait a second Lanna. Where do you think you're going?" Tom made the mistake of grabbing her arm and it was sheer luck that she didn't break his in return.
"I'm going to make sure that Seven is alright."
"Come on Lanna, I have the holodeck for another couple of hours. Forget Seven and let's go skiing in France, or hang out on the beach in Tahiti." B'Elanna jerked her arm free of Tom's hold and turned on her heel.
"Fuck you Paris," she snarled over her shoulder.
Paris smiled to himself. She'd be back and he did still have Sandrine's, and Ricky, to himself for the next few hours.
B'Elanna was uncertain of what she was going to say to Seven. She was fairly sure that Tom was making up the whole story about Seven's crush, but the Astrometrics officer had been clearly upset when they passed in the hall. The computer had informed her that Seven was in Cargo Bay 2 and B'Elanna hurried as fast as she could, anxious to make sure that Seven was all right. When she entered the Cargo Bay she saw Seven sitting on the dais in front of the alcoves. She didn't look up when the doors opened, but sat still, staring at the deck plating the picture of dejection.
"Hey Seven," she said quietly.
"Hey," Seven didn't look up as she spoke.
B'Elanna sat down beside her on the dais, sitting in silence for a few minutes, waiting to see if Seven would talk to her. When it became evident that the former drone had no intention of breaking the silence B'Elanna spoke again.
"I ran into Tom outside of Holodeck 2."
A lone tear tracked down Seven's pale cheek. She was certain that the helmsman would have told B'Elanna of her feelings. She was equally certain that this would spell the end of any connection between them.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Do you?" Seven's voice barely rose above a whisper.
"I think we should. Tom told me that you that you think you have a crush on me. I think that's something that we should discuss."
Seven couldn't believe that B'Elanna was so calm in the face of Paris's revelations. She had expected anger, even violence, not this calm acceptance. She tried to buy herself some time to formulate her thoughts.
"What is it that you want to know?"
"Do you have a crush on me Seven?"
"Well there you go." B'Elanna wasn't certain whether she was relieved or not. There was a small part of her that had wanted Seven to be attracted to her.
"What I feel for you is much more than a crush. I am in love with you B'Elanna Torres." In the face of her uncertainty Seven had decided to opt for the unvarnished truth.
"You love come on Seven, you can't mean "
"I assure you that is exactly what I mean. When I told you of my experiences in the nebula I did not tell you the entire truth. I left out the part where I watched you in your stasis tube every day; I left out the part where I spoke to you for hours, told you of my dreams and my fears. I left out the part where my image of you watched over me as I regenerated. I left out the part where I fell in love with you, where it was you who kept me sane and allowed me to function. I left out the part where knowing that it would save your life I found the strength to shut down life support so that Voyager would clear the nebula and you would go on living."
"But Seven that wasn't really me. That was just an hallucination."
"I am aware that you were not actually with me during the time in the nebula, but my feelings for you became clear during that time. I knew you would never love me back and I never intended to tell you how I felt, but I fell in love with you during that month, and everything that I have learned about you since, everything I feel when I am with you, everything that I know about you and everything that I am tells me that I do love, and will continue to love you for the rest of your life and beyond."
"Seven, you can't know that no one can. Have you ever even been in love before?"
"No, but I believe I know what I am feeling. I am not a child B'Elanna; I know what love is."
"Okay Seven, I believe you but this is all new to you. You can't know how you're going to feel in month's time, or a year's time. Things change."
"You are correct."
B'Elanna was taken aback by Seven's easy capitulation to her argument.
"It is possible that I may predecease you, therefore it is not logical to say that I will love you for the rest of your life. All I can promise with certainty is that I will love you for the rest of my life, and I am certain that if there is an afterlife I will carry that love with me into it."
It was B'Elanna's turn to feel the burning of tears behind her eyes. In all of her life no one had ever spoken to her like this, no one had ever made her feel this way. She looked at the tear-stained face of the beautiful blonde and felt a stirring in her heart, feelings she long ago gave up on and dismissed as unimportant were growing once more in her heart. Seven leaned closer and B'Elanna felt pulled toward her.
"Please just this," Seven breathed softly.
B'Elanna didn't answer, but leaned still closer and allowed her lips to brush softly over Seven's. They leaned back slightly, regarding one another through half closed eyes. Seven leaned forward once more and their lips met again, just for a moment, but it was a moment burned into eternity for both of them.
"Seven I can't Tom," B'Elanna stammered.
Seven felt as though her heart would never beat again. She couldn't believe that B'Elanna would choose Tom over her, not after everything she that she had told her.
"Tom Paris does not love you as I do."
"I know Seven, believe me I know, but it's not as simple as that. Tom and I have a relationship, and I have to honour that commitment."
"But he does not honour his commitment to you B'Elanna."
"I know. I can't explain it Seven, but Tom and I, we fit somehow, and I can't just leave him because somebody better comes along."
"Do you love him?"
The silence stretched between them and Seven thought perhaps B'Elanna wasn't going to answer her question.
"I I don't know. Please Seven, don't make this harder than it is. I'm with Tom and I can't change that, but I don't want to lose your friendship. You're too important to me."
"Friendship." The word tasted like ashes on Seven's tongue. It was both so much more and so much less than she had hoped for. She had feared that when B'Elanna became aware of her feelings for her that she would be angry and no longer wish to associate with her, but she had also secretly hoped that when B'Elanna learned the extent of her feelings she would leave the childish helmsman and be with her.
"I'm sorry Seven, I know it isn't what you wanted, but it's all I can offer."
"Then it will be enough," Seven said, hoping B'Elanna wouldn't hear the catch in her voice as she doomed herself to a life of unrequited love, and unfulfilled dreams.
"So, friend," B'Elanna said with a wan smile, "do you still want to have dinner with me on the holodeck?"
In that moment Seven learned how to lie and dissemble. What she really wanted was to yell at B'Elanna and to find out if Tom Paris had been telling the truth about their relationship. What she really wanted to do was to hide herself away and never have to look at the woman she loved but could never had again. She really wanted to cry and scream at the unfairness of life and fate that she could finally learn to love only to have that love not be returned. Instead she forced a smile onto her face that didn't come close to reaching her eyes.
"Of course friend."
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