DISCLAIMER: Star Trek Voyager and its characters are the property of Paramount. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my first ever work of fanfiction. Inspired by the fantastic writers on P&P, VJB and ff.net. Lisa Countryman's "She Who Hesitates..." is my B/7 bible. RalSt, Ryuchan and H.W. Are a few of my heroes. All of you helped me get through a difficult time in my life and inspired me to write. Thank you. Hope people like this. PS- I've bent canon to my will. Some things have happened, some things haven't. Usually if I don't mention it, an event or episode didn't happen, and if I do mention something from a specific episode, it will be clear what I've altered if anything.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To dehickey[at]hotmail.com

Research and Development
By Gemini1179


Chapter 1- The Beast

"Shit! Shit! Shit!"

It was yet another supposed 'routine' mission to an uninhabited planet to procure some dilithium and deuterium to top off Voyager's supplies. At least the shuttle didn't crash…

"Lieutenant… there is no need for foul language…"

Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, Seven of Nine, and security officer Lieutenant Sara Myles had gone to an M-Class planet found by Seven to test and extract the needed supplies. While normally a team of engineers would be along, there were a number of standard repairs that kept Voyager's engineers busy from the most recent run-in with the local never-ending hostiles of the Delta Quadrant. With the more complicated repairs finished, Seven and B'Elanna were ordered on the away mission several light-years away from Voyager's current location by Captain Kathryn Janeway because of their ability to do what a regular team could do themselves and perhaps in small part as punishment for their most recent altercation in Engineering resulting from Seven's latest unannounced 'modifications' and the resultant maintenance headache that was put upon B'Elanna.

"Dammit you Borg bitch, shut up and help me hold your abdomen together!" B'Elanna growled as she frantically tried to patch and ease the pain of the prone ex-drone in the medical bay of the Delta Flyer. There was so much blood staining her uniform tank top and Seven's plum coloured biosuit that B'Elanna found herself more panicked than she would have thought possible and she was using anger to clamp down on it so she could save Seven's life. The half-Klingon was normally a rock under pressure with Engineering exploding all around her and she needed to find that focus now and was frustrated because she didn't know why her emotions were upsetting her concentration so vehemently. While Seven lay below her trying to clamp down on her own growing panic and remain focused despite the pain, she was somewhat confused to see something in the Lieutenant's eyes she had rarely seen before- fear and concern- for her. As B'Elanna's focus returned now being pummelled by her anger, her deep brown eyes gazed into blue eyes seeing the confusion, fear, pain, determination and attempted focus. To see such emotion slip out from the tight Borg mask that she normally wore… B'Elanna wondered when she started to see that it was just a mask and that there was a larger depth to the ex-drone that she had never given her credit for.

Listening over the comm. at the helm, Lieutenant Sara Myles had wondered at first what she did wrong to end up with the two women who were like an ethanol compound and a plasma torch. However, since being newly promoted to Alpha shift and getting the assignment she guessed none of her peers wanted, her job was to protect them, not only from each other, but from possible hostile wild life that Seven believed inhabited the planet while the two women worked. Upon initial scans, Seven detected no large predatory animals, however further scans showed corpses of large herbivores and other decayed large corpses. The logical conclusion was that there were large animals, but for whatever reason, they were not showing up on scans.

At 29 years old, the crimson-haired, green-eyed beauty born Sara Alysa Myles thought herself to be quite adept at reading people. Growing up on Earth in one of the larger of the North American cities, Sara took an interest in reading people at an early age. Not that she was in danger all the time, but rather that while going through a library database, she had found some old 20th Century vids of a show called "Lie To Me" about a consulting firm that specialized in 'deception detection'. She found then that micro-expressions, physical gestures and even voice tones and their meanings fascinated her. It was one of the things that inspired her to join Starfleet Security- that and her affinity for all things combat related. Her parents enrolled her in marital arts at a young age and Sara never looked back.

During the day-long mission, she actually found the two of them to be quite entertaining. At first she thought Seven's behaviour was just what she had been told to expect. Myles hadn't spent much time around the ex-Borg and had only rumour and second hand information on her behaviour which was that she was cold, arrogant, and emotionless and with a disregard for protocol- but watching her interactions with Lt. Torres all day, Sara Myles had begun to see something that made her grin. Seven had admonished the half-Klingon first thing in the morning for being late to the Flyer to which Torres had grumbled out a string of expletives that would have made a passing Ferengi drop his last bar of latinum. Then, during the three-hour trip to the planet, they snipped at each other over power regulation and distribution, sensor sweeps and even what was currently going on in Engineering. Sitting at the aft Tactical station, Sara was able to observe their interactions uninhibited. She noticed that Seven seemed to get the better of the verbal sparring but when they were trying to solve problems, a begrudging compromise was often reached and seemed to be better than both separate initial ideas. She also saw the sparkle in Seven's eyes and the slight upturn of Torres's mouth when she looked away from Seven, often shaking her head in frustration. This continued for most of the day and if Sara didn't know any better, she'd have thought the two of them were an old married couple.

Not that she'd ever mention it.

Despite being supremely confident in her abilities, she most certainly did not want to draw the ire of either of these two brilliant and dangerous women. Besides, she thought, nothing short of a high powered stun setting would keep them from tearing each other apart if they came to blows. Luckily they worked fairly well until the end of their scheduled time on the planet and the daylight began to fade.

They finally found out the hard way that there actually were large carnivores on the planet. One of the predatory 'lizards' that had evolved on the planet was apparently undetectable to scans or tricorders and had gotten past her position and attacked Lt. Torres. As large as an Earth tiger, the giant grey/green scaled lizard had pounced on Lt. Torres from behind and was about to bring its considerable jaws down upon the back of her head when Seven flew out of nowhere and tackled the creature. When B'Elanna had gotten back to her feet, Seven was on her back and had the creature's two front legs held at bay, but the lizard had used its hind clawed foot to tear open her abdomen. Lt. Myles first full powered kill shot to the torso only chipped its hide/armour and momentarily stunned the creature, but it was enough for B'Elanna to run up, put her phaser directly to the right eye of the creature and blow a hole through its head.

"Myles! How long till we get within transporter range of Voyager!" yelled B'Elanna as she was quickly attempting to use the emergency med kit supplies on the Delta Flyer to bandage and stem the bleeding of Seven's injuries.

"Three minutes Lt.! Hold on, I'm not a pilot and these damn knobs and levers are pissing me off!" returned Lt. Myles as her hands flew over unfamiliar controls. Even though the course back to Voyager had been set, constant monitoring and course corrections had to be done on the fly to compensate for subspace turbulence.

"Lieutenant, you are injured…" Seven breathed out noticing blood stains on B'Elanna's upper back as she turned to retrieve more supplies while she was frantically attempting to patch Seven together with bio-gel packs, bandages and tissue regenerators.

B'Elanna was having none of it. Damn this woman! She's lying here with half her stomach's contents spilled out and she's worrying about me? What the hell? She better not be dying and pulling some 'last request' bullshit. B'Elanna took a calming breath as she applied another bio-bandage.

"Seven, please, I'm fine, focus on your own health. We'll have you back on Voyager and patched up in no time and you can be back to pissing me off in Engineering on a regular basis." B'Elanna said with a deep compassion she never knew she had looking into Seven's slightly glazed blue eyes. She's weak and dazed. Gotta keep her awake.

"Besides, I need you to help me mount the head of that beast on a plaque and make up an even more glorious story about how we defeated it." B'Elanna said with a nervous grin which caused the corners of Seven's beautiful full lips to creep up slightly. Well, I've heard rumours of her smile, but I think this is the first partial one I've ever inspired. Not gonna lie, I kinda like it… ungh, don't go there Torres, any other day, you'd be strangling the Ice Queen yourself.

Despite the pain she was in, Seven was actually enjoying this interaction with B'Elanna. Non-adversarial interactions with the volatile Engineer were few and far between, but she found that she enjoyed them almost as much as she enjoyed their fights- although she would never admit to either revelation under torture. Her internal systems were telling her how much damage was done to her abdominal implants as well as what was being done to repair it. Some kind of toxin that was introduced to her system through the creature's claws had been eradicated and her nanoprobes were working to keep her major organs properly oxygenated again. Having regenerated the previous day, her energy was high and her nanoprobes were working at peak efficiency. She realized that despite her current dizziness and weakness, if she were to get back to Voyager soon, combined with B'Elanna's current efforts, she had a 93.749% chance of survival.

Seven also noticed B'Elanna's nervous state and was curious about why she seemed to be so concerned for Seven's welfare. Seven had previously thought the Chief of Engineering would be grateful to be rid of the 'Borg Ice Princess'- at least in years past. Today was not unpleasant or emotionally painful and Seven felt that recently she and B'Elanna were beginning to come to an unspoken agreement about the nature of their… friendship? Her interactions with the Engineer constantly left Seven confused and somewhat exhilarated. She believed she was starting to understand her own feelings, as the Lieutenant seemed to be the only person aboard Voyager who could really invoke strong emotions in her but she was determined to truly understand closer contact with another individual and could only do that with experience. She found that she respected Lieutenant Torres and thought there was a lot that she could learn from her, as well as offer but would not use the Lieutenant as a social 'test subject'. Over the last year or so the two of them had seemed to reach a mutual respect, which seemed a good starting point to a friendship as far as Seven knew. B'Elanna had even kept Seven hidden in Engineering when her cortical node was failing telling the Doctor "we difficult patients need to stick together".

A sharp twinge of pain caused her thoughts to refocus on B'Elanna's current efforts. Understanding that B'Elanna was trying to keep her cognisant and having an appreciation for the Klingon culture and exaggeration in storytelling, Seven tried to put some of her meagre social skills (that she normally kept hidden from most of Voyager's crew) to use.

"I think Lieutenant that I shall keep my part of the story mostly unchanged. I will however, have to insist on there having been two more of the creatures attacking me at once in order for me to have sustained this damage." Seven deadpanned while never looking away from B'Elanna's dark brown eyes.

Momentarily stunned by the brilliantly dry humour, B'Elanna let out a snort and suppressed a laugh so she could keep working. She was already dealing with enough emotion at the moment as Seven's blood was causing her senses to go into overdrive. Today hadn't been the horrible nightmare she originally thought it would be. She was finding it rather exhilarating around the Borg these days. The fights weren't hateful like they were when Seven had first come aboard Voyager- at least on B'Elanna's end and she certainly didn't really want to see the woman hurt. She wasn't even sure anymore if Seven ever hated her like she originally thought and she was starting to see a sparkle of amusement in the ex-drone's eyes during some of their verbal sparring matches. Perhaps Seven was opening up a bit more as a result of dating Chakotay and despite what B'Elanna might have thought about the pairing, she certainly didn't mind being the focus of the beautiful woman's attentions… since when did I WANT her attentions? Refocusing to rid herself of these odd confusions, there was one thing she knew for sure and that was she didn't want to see this amazing woman suffer, especially for her. The Klingon in B'Elanna didn't want to lose the constant personal challenge Seven represented and the Human in her simply didn't want to owe her.

Another snort was heard over the comm. "Did I just hear my first Borg joke?" asked Lt. Myles.

"Don't worry Myles, I'm checking for cranial damage as we speak." Before she could prevent it, B'Elanna winked at Seven and continued to work as she was beginning to feel better about Seven's chances. Blood loss was slowing, and tricorder readings indicated that her heart rate was stabilizing. First she tackles a giant lizard for me, then is worried about my injuries and is now cracking jokes. I've never quite seen this side of Seven before, maybe this is what Chakotay sees… and the Captain… the Doctor… Harry…

Before B'Elanna could continue her thoughts Voyager's Captain came in over the comm. and moments later B'Elanna and Seven found themselves in Sickbay.

As the blue glow of the transporter disappeared, the Doctor moved from his preparations to do a preliminary exam of the wounded. His opening sarcastic remark about the two of them being unable to play well together died on his lips as he took in the sight before him. He hurried over to the two women on the floor of the Sickbay and opened his medical tricorder to scan Seven. Seeing that she was at the very least stabilized due to B'Elanna's efforts, the Doctor decided it was safe to move her and start surgery.

"Quickly, and carefully, get her onto the biobed and I'll need you B'Elanna to monitor her implants and help me with the repairs to her abdominal implant. Seven, I'm going to give you something for the pain but I'll need you to stay awake so you can let us know how your cortical node is interpreting the repairs." Seven weakly nodded and looked to B'Elanna who had gently picked her up and was moving her to the biobed in the surgery bay. She felt a calming feeling at the care in the Chief's eyes and actions that she never felt before and resolved to properly thank the Chief sometime in the future. It never occurred to her that B'Elanna might have felt in debt to Seven for saving her from the giant lizard; Seven simply didn't think that way- a crew-member, a member of her Collective, a brilliant Engineer was in danger and she had responded accordingly.

"Won't we need Tom?" B'Elanna quickly asked as her worry fought to the forefront once again.

"My superior medical skills combined with your adequate knowledge of Borg systems will be enough Lieutenant. Don't worry, you'll get your Klingon-anger sounding board back soon enough. Besides, Captain Proton is otherwise indisposed at the moment from what I understand…" B'Elanna levelled a glare at the photonic man but said nothing as she approached the surgical bay with Seven in her arms.

The Doctor pushed a hypo spray to Seven's neck as B'Elanna laid Seven down carefully, gave her Borg-enhanced hand a quick squeeze and whispered: "DaHjaj 'oH ghobe' QaQ jaj Daq Hegh" *Today is not a good day to die* before retreating to the sterilization room as the Doctor got to work. A moment later, B'Elanna returned in sterile OR scrubs and started helping the Doctor with the repairs to Seven's implants while he worked on the physical damage.


Chapter 2- Just Another Day...

Captain Kathryn Janeway sat in her ready room sipping her third morning coffee. It had so far been a good day, she had gotten a good night's sleep, she had a good BM* and her coffee was extra black, seemingly filling her veins with caffeinated goodness making the morning paperwork not seem so tedious.

Her thoughts drifted to her Astrometrics officer, as they usually did while Janeway passed the time in her ready room going through the motions known as Starfleet paperwork. After seven long years, she could do paper work in her sleep and today was no different. Going over and discarding PADD after PADD, Janeway was currently more focused on the recent revelation that her first officer Chakotay was dating… *dating*, Seven of Nine. She wasn't really sure if she should be more disappointed in Seven, or impressed with Chakotay for landing the Nordic beauty. Not that it mattered she thought, as Seven would surely see just how much of an emotional wooden plank the man truly was soon enough. Sure, he was good at handling duty rosters and puffing up his chest while being the constant devil's advocate, but that didn't mean he was in any way shape or form good for the ex-drone.

No, Janeway thought, she would certainly tire of the animal guides and dream catchers soon enough and Janeway would continue to guide Seven through life via their late-night philosophical discussions. She wasn't even really aware of her possessive thinking when it came to Seven, it was just always there. Kathryn Janeway had severed the ex-drone from the Collective and believed herself instrumental in the young woman's journey back to humanity. The re-integration of a former Borg human was a scientist's dream. She just wished there was some way to help her fully recover physically from the scaring that was her Borg implants. Janeway was convinced the doctor would one day find a way to finally remove the rest of her implants.

Thinking of that day, a smile crept on to the face of Kathryn Janeway as she finished off another cup of caffeinated ambrosia.

Voyager's Captain shifted slightly in her comfortable chair at her desk before discarding another finished report. Wishing to stretch her legs a bit, Janeway made her way over to her replicator to gather another cup of coffee. Perhaps she'd have another conversation with Seven later tonight after she returned from the mining mission with B'Elanna- so long as neither of them come back dead. The two of them were grating on her nerves lately and it was high time they began to work together in a more professional manner. By forcing this alone time between the two of them, they'd either learn to work together or kill each other- she could at least say she had faith in the two of them to be civil. Although reports from Engineering had the two working without altercation until recently, they still tended to argue until they were blue in the face. Maybe B'Elanna just needs to get laid. Repressing a snicker and sitting back in her chair, Janeway took a swig of the dark liquid cradled in her palm.

Lieutenant Myles was also a positive factor in this situation. Janeway was glad Tuvok had sent her. The young lady had impressed Janeway through Tuvok's security reports. Apparently, she was quite adept and getting to the root of personnel issues before they needed to be passed on to Chakotay and was now Tuvok's right-hand woman regarding investigations- never mind the fact that she was a black belt in more martial arts than Janeway could recite. She was a dedicated officer and Janeway was glad she was now part of Alpha shift. From her few encounters with the young Lieutenant so far, Janeway had to admit that it was probably the woman's jade-coloured eyes that captured her attention most. They looked wiser than her years; focused and attentive.

The Captain picked up another PADD. It was a request from Lieutenant Paris for more holodeck time. With a roll of her eyes, Janeway placed it in the pile with the rest of Paris's requests. A new 'sexier' shuttle design, a black-and-white annual "Ball" hosted in a 1920's gangster style, request to personally tutor Ensign Jennifer Delaney as a back-up pilot... at least the man was honest in what he wanted and turned out to not be the waste of time his father had led her to initially believe would be. He even survived a relationship with B'Elanna, which had to count for something. While she had her doubts about Paris and Torres at first, they seemed to get along fine while dating and then their split six months ago seemed to go very well as well. Janeway was surely expecting fireworks from her Chief Engineer, but apparently, their friendship was stronger than most expected.

B'Elanna's evolution was something of a prideful achievement for the Captain. She had taken the angry young woman and made a fine Starfleet officer out of her. Despite her lack of tact- or patience- Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was a marvel in the Engineering room. Janeway might even have once considered a relationship with the half-Klingon, but she knew that their two alpha-female personalities wouldn't meld. She didn't mind the friendship they now had even if she found herself on occasion either barking at the young woman or rolling her eyes and shaking her head at her antics.

Besides, with Seven off the ship, Chakotay wouldn't keep making excuses to venture down to Astrometrics all day.

Even though Janeway made it a point not to get involved in the personal lives of her crew, she would if it interfered with work and Janeway found herself with a bitter taste in her mouth at the thought of Seven spending such alone time with Chakotay.

Maybe *I* need to get laid...

Sure, the proverbial roll in the photonic hay with Michael Sullivan was enjoyable from time to time, but the Captain found she wanted a bit more. The crew would surely understand, and some, like Tom Paris had even encouraged her to do so. She wondered if a part of that encouragement wasn't also an offer, which in a way was flattering- and disturbing. Absently rubbing the crease out of her brow, Janeway sat back and took a moment to stare out one of the windows in her ready room. The truth was, there was only one person Kathryn Janeway truly felt as her equal, if not growing into one. Janeway smiled absently as she finished her morning reports.

Meanwhile on the bridge, Commander Amel Kotay aka Chakotay sat in the Captain's chair going over the morning departmental status reports. Seven and B'Elanna's team seemed to have left without a hitch, although there were apparently some minor fireworks this morning due to B'Elanna arriving late for the departure. Ensign Thoms, who was working in the shuttle bay at the time, had remarked that she had not even heard of half the profanities B'Elanna had apparently uttered while boarding the Delta Flyer. Emily Thoms, a human from the Mars colony and former member of Chakotay's Maquis cell was well versed in B'Elanna's foul mouth which made the report somewhat comical so the lack of a 'hitch' could be debatable.

Currently, Voyager was travelling at full impulse while the away team was gathering supplies at a nearby M-Class planet and the rest of the engineering personnel were performing the final repairs and maintenance on the EPS relays. At mid-morning Alpha shift, the bridge was abuzz with activity from departmental reports, to updates on ship status as well as the never ending conversation between Voyager's Ops Officer and Helmsman.

"Harry, I'm telling you it's a sure thing. The Delaney sisters are huge fans the Captain Proton program and I've written a special program for the four of us. Megan will be all over you." Tom had been trying for months to get Jenifer Delaney to go out with him but fate and circumstance always seemed to conspire against them. Last week when they finally had a moment alone at Sandrines, Jenifer revealed that her twin sister Megan had developed a crush on Harry Kim but was just as shy and socially awkward as the impressionable Ops Officer. Harry, however, seemed to be carrying a re-lit torch for Voyager's resident Borg. Tom thought Harry was long past his Seven obsession.

"I don't know Tom, who wants to get together with 'the sidekick'? Besides, I'm not really feeling up to the holodeck tonight."

Sparing a glance to the Captain's chair, Harry was trying not to show his frustration over his recent discovery that Chakotay was dating Seven of Nine. He had walked into Astrometrics to help with some sensor realignments when he overheard Chakotay thanking Seven for the 'picnic' in Cargo Bay Two the day before as the older man was leaving the lab. A quick inquisitive comment to Seven confirmed his suspicions. It angered Harry that she had chosen Chakotay for several reasons. The man never wanted her on the ship, he constantly questioned her motives and didn't ever really help the woman try to fit in. Harry could not once recall seeing a sincere expression on the man's face. He was all creepy smirks.

Besides, it was Harry who offered friendship and an unbiased acceptance to Seven first. Had he not been so initially intimidated by the tall blue-eyed woman, he could even have been her first sexual experience as she had offered to learn more about the physical aspects of individuality with Harry one night in the mess hall. Unfortunately, that encounter had been a disaster as the flustered Harry could hardly manage a coherent thought and ran out of the mess hall before he had a heart attack.

"Harry come on, it will be good for you to get out and have a bit of fun, you've been playing your clarinet far too loudly for the last three nights and your neighbours, including myself, have been complaining."

"Hey! The Doc has me accompanying him during his next recital." Harry stammered with false conviction.

Chakotay, who couldn't help but hear the exchange and who also suspected the real reason for Ensign Kim's childish depression decided to flex his command muscles.

"This isn't the high school bleachers Lieutenant, Ensign. Let's keep the non-operational chatter to a minimum."

"Yes sir." The two men responded simultaneously. Tom lowered his head back to his console doing his best to look like he was doing something other than looking at the straight line full impulse course he could monitor in his sleep. While his combat piloting adrenalin rush was filled recently, he still abhorred 'lulls in the action'. 'Maybe the Captain will approve of my 'tutoring' Jen on helm during slow times...'

Harry meanwhile, fought back the reddening of his face and re-checked recent long-range sensor sweeps of the near-empty space they were travelling through.

Over at Tactical, the stoic Vulcan Security Chief Tuvok was inwardly glad the non-duty related conversation had ended. His left eyebrow, which had been slowly migrating its way to his forehead over the past few minutes, began its nonchalant retreat to its original position. He was even about to speak up before the Commander had put the two men in their place. Such frivolous conversation was a waste of energy and had no place on the bridge while on duty. He once again was drawn to his conclusion that Humans were unable to maintain full focus for appropriate amounts of time due to their chaotic emotional nature and tendency towards the illogical.

While the personal matters of the crew were not something he concerned himself with, Tuvok noticed that several crew members including Mr. Kim and Captain Janeway were acting in an atypical manner after they discovered the change in the nature of the relationship between Seven of Nine and Commander Chakotay. The Captain had grown unconsciously more irritable, Mr. Kim was showing signs of depression and Commander Chakotay was displaying the typical prideful smugness of one who believed his worth to be more than it was. Apparently he could not see the inevitable as Tuvok did; Seven of Nine was not romantically interested in the Commander and would most likely be terminating their new affiliation shortly. Understanding Seven as he did, Tuvok did not believe her actions to be as illogical as he might have thought were she an average human. No, Seven of Nine was engaging in a version of very logical research before she claimed her logical mate. At least more logical than the average human. Vulcans would never have this problem. Compatibility and a proposal were all that was needed.

Knowing this, Tuvok did not trouble himself any longer with these irrelevant thoughts believing that the situation would soon resolve itself and focused back on the readings of the console in front of him: weapons and shields at 80%, no immediate threats in the vicinity and security reports from all decks were positive.

Back in the Captain's chair, the large man with the tribal tattoo adorning his left eyebrow would not be distracted by the behaviour of the Helmsman and Asian Ops Officer because tonight he would set another date with the most desired woman on the ship. 'Perhaps dinner and an evening walk through a forest on the holodeck, then back to my quarters where I can further impress her with my knowledge of the indigenous peoples of the galaxy.'

As the view-screen continued to display the current sector of space ahead of Voyager a small smile played upon Chakotay's mouth. He wondered at what the current ration pool was at concerning the virginity of Seven of Nine. Sure, Tom had been forbidden by B'Elanna all those months ago on any further betting with regards to Seven, but it didn't stop the lower deck crewmen from getting one going- one that was so far a secret to the rest of the senior officers on Alpha shift. Chakotay himself had only discovered the pool by accident one night on Gamma shift when he couldn't sleep and had decided to go for a walk through the lower decks. Two of the crewmen specializing in deuterium and dilithium ore processing were discussing the pool and Chakotay had overheard them. Rather than stopping it, Chakotay told the two men he'd keep it secret as long as he got in on the action.

It seemed like a good time to make an anonymous bet on tonight, yes, tonight would be the night he'd shower Seven with compassion and comfort when she returned from her undoubtedly frustrating day with B'Elanna gathering resources. While he didn't see a future with the Borg woman and admittedly still didn't trust her, Chakotay was still a red-blooded human male. If the Captain wouldn't start accepting some of Chakotay's invitations for evening conversation and dinner, the burly man had no problem indulging the ex-drone in her 'quest for humanity'. 'Perhaps she'll even be a good lay while providing the added benefit of making the Captain jealous.' Yes, things were looking up for the former Maquis Captain.

Three hours into Beta shift, Chakotay was in Holodeck One putting the final touches to his evening's entertainment and Tom had finally convinced Harry to accept his invitation so the two of them along with the Delaney sisters were in Holodeck Two running "Captain Proton Versus the Sisters of DOOM!"

Captain Janeway, well known to be in her ready room for several hours into Beta shift each day, had just about all that she could take of reading ship status updates and setting new replicator ration levels for the crew until Voyager's energy reserves were back to optimum levels. Grabbing a few PADD's to take back to her quarters, she dropped the rest of her plate of "Leola Root Surprise" into the replicator and was about to step on to the bridge when she was hailed over the comm.

"Tuvok to Captain Janeway, please report to the bridge."

She tapped her communicator after letting out a tiny sigh.

"On my way"

"Report" the diminutive Captain barked replacing Tuvok at the con. His evening commanding Beta shift now had Tuvok moving quickly back to Tactical replacing the Beta shift Ensign. "Captain, we have received a distress call from the Delta Flyer; medical emergency, we are en route and will be within transporter range in three minutes."

Janeway had been looking over the current reports on her command chair arm console. "Good work. Now, let's get our girls back to Voyager and hope I don't have to confine one or both of them to the brig for the rest of the trip home." Her attempt at humour was not lost on the Beta shift crew who knew who was on the Flyer, though they didn't see the flash of worry and anger cross their Captain's face.

Captain Janeway was able to fully raise her command mask in the next moment as the flyer came within transporter range. She quickly hailed the Flyer to find Lieutenant Myles at the helm and had B'Elanna and Seven transported quickly to sickbay.


Chapter 3- Distractions

It had been three long hours of surgery and Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was tired and in considerable pain. She wasn't showing it of course as a good Klingon didn't admit to being in pain. Having recaptured some of her Klingon heritage over the last few years and from her experience on the Barge of the Dead, B'Elanna was honestly new to most of it but determined to give it her best. That included not making a fuss about the pain spreading through her back and her difficulty breathing while Seven of Nine lay recovering on a surgical bed.

However, due to the pain assaulting her senses, she was unable to process the complex emotions she was starting to feel now that the adrenalin of the evening's events was wearing off. For now, seeing the look on the Captain's face at her favourite `girl' lying prone on a biobed, B'Elanna knew it was time to step back. The very least she knew was that she owed the young woman and owed her big. Maybe later she would look at some of the engineering proposals of Seven's she had dismissed so many times before out of spite or anger. She was also getting some ideas of her own and had to review some of Voyager's mission logs. If only the pain in her back would stop…

During the first hour of the surgery, Captain Janeway had stormed into Sickbay demanding a report and got nothing but hard glares from her CMO and Chief of Engineering. Lieutenant Myles came to Sickbay shortly after the Delta Flyer was safely docked and Lt. Carey took charge of offloading the collected resources. The science team arrived following her verbal report to Tuvok so she headed directly to Sickbay. The corpse of the lizard-creature they had beamed to the flyer was prepped and sent to Bio-Sciences for dissection. It turned out that once the creature was dead, it showed up on sensors, which was curious in itself.

Neither the Captain nor Lieutenant Myles had left Sick Bay during the surgery and Neelix had brought a small plate of food for Lieutenant Myles while trying to get an update for Naomi Wildman.

There was also the issue of the main computer alerting the Doctor about 'unknown contaminants' during transport that couldn't be cleared in transport. Because they beamed to Sickbay directly, it was a medical quarantine issue and not a security issue. After locking down the alert, a brief glance at the computer logs told the Captain more about what was wrong with Seven. She transferred the data to Bio-Sciences while the Doctor continued to work with B'Elanna. The indications of contaminants on B'Elanna seemed to have to do with the amount of Seven's blood she had been covered in. At least, that's how the Captain's distracted thinking interpreted the data...

Now that the surgery was done and Seven was asleep and recovering, Captain Janeway felt like her heart would start beating at its proper pace. She had been fighting back uncomfortable feelings of fear that had crept into her heart the moment she heard there was a medical emergency on the Flyer. Getting the story from Lieutenant Myles, Janeway was thanking whatever gods were listening that the Doctor was as talented as he was. She wouldn't tell him that though lest his digital ego inflate and cause a short in his holomatrix program buffers.

She also hadn't informed Commander Chakotay of Seven's situation which she found didn't bother her at all. Operationally, because there was no reason to as Tuvok was currently acting First Officer, *no one* had informed Chakotay of the return of the Flyer and his being back in his quarters fussing over his late night musical selection kept him effectively in the dark.

Moving to the biobed in the surgical bay as the Doctor began to clean up, neither Captain Janeway nor Lieutenant Myles noticed B'Elanna backing slowly away from the biobed toward her clothes in the sterilization room.

Neither saw her collapse.

"Doctor, how is she?" Janeway allowed herself to tuck a strand of blonde hair behind the ear of Seven's peaceful visage. The urge for physical contact and comfort had briefly defeated her ingrained ability to remain 'The Captain'. Lieutenant Myles stood back looking somewhat uncomfortable at the show of affection from her Captain, but was still concerned for the woman on the bed and wanted to hear that she would be alright.

After three hours, Sara Myles could only conclude that the Captain had more than 'friendly' feelings for Voyager's resident Borg. Fighting to keep from wringing her hands together, eyes continually darting to Seven's face, micro-creases in her mouth indicating worry- it seemed that the Captain had it bad, whether she knew it or not. Attempting to remain stoic herself, Lieutenant Myles found her attention divided equally between Seven and the Captain. Now that she was on Alpha shift, Myles had seen more of the tiny woman who radiated constant authority and power despite the reality of Voyager's situation in the Delta Quadrant. If she were to admit it to herself, she would say that she found her Captain to be an impressive woman indeed and this tiniest bit of allowed weakness only made her more human.

"She will make a full recovery, her systems are already compensating and after she wakes up she will have to have to spend twelve hours in her alcove regenerating. I will then need to see her for another check-up and she will be able to return to duty the day after that." Knowing that Seven would be fine in the next couple of days, Janeway finally allowed herself to relax. The tiny movement of her shoulders was the only indication, which was only noticed by the crimson haired security Lieutenant.

It would only be a day before Janeway could spend some time with the young woman she was guiding back to humanity. "Were you able to remove any more of her implants?" It was an odd statement Janeway had to admit to herself. She just blurted it out.

Shocked at such a statement, the Doctor had to bite back a scathing retort about her not being a science project subject to the Captain's whim. This was a woman, an emerging woman who had defended the Doctor's own right to sentience. His own feelings for Seven may have gone deeper than simply professional or friendship but he found her to be beautiful just how she was and would have no interest in changing her to fit more to his *wants*. "Captain, her abdominal implant suffered the most damage and without it, she will die. The facts are that she will have implants for the rest of her life."

The Captain heard the sharpness in the Doctor's reply, but decided to let it pass. Her protégé was back and would be up and prattling on about the inefficiency and paradoxical nature of humanity in a day or two. It was good enough for now.

Janeway decided that it was time for a bit of a distraction as she knew there would be little sleep for her tonight. She was still curious about this creature that had attacked them and felt it was once again time to put her science background to work. She decided to take Lieutenant Myles with her as the redhead was a combat veteran and witness to the creature's behaviour while it was alive.

Before the Doctor could once again pat him self on the back with praise, Janeway turned and put a hand on his arm. "As long as she is safe. Inform me when she wakes up. Lieutenant Myles, where is the creature now?"

"Deck 8, Section 15, Bio-Science Lab 2 ma'am."

With a nod of her head towards the door, Captain Janeway gave Lieutenant Myles one of her best 'show me some initiative' looks.

"While you may have heard that 'ma'am' is good in a crunch, I'd prefer 'Captain', Lieutenant."

"Aye Captain" Lieutenant Myles snapped to attention and turned leading the Captain out of sickbay inwardly thrilled that the Captain was interacting with her as opposed to simply dismissing her and calling one of the senior staff to escort and help her. In her excitement, she didn't notice the nagging feeling of alarm at the back of her mind as they left Sickbay.

Back in sickbay, the Doctor was finishing up his post-operation clean-up when he thought he heard a murmur come from Seven.

"Seven?" Grabbing a medical tricorder and running it the length of the ex-drone's body, the Doctor concluded that she was recovering well when Seven mumbled.

"…B'El… anna."

The Doctor paused. Looking back to Seven, he saw that she was once again fully unconscious. He didn't immediately remember Lieutenant Torres leaving Sickbay. Not that she ever wanted to stay, or chat or even help if she wasn't conscripted… Grumbling something about unappreciative help after instantly reviewing his program's sensor logs for the past several minutes, the Doctor walked around Seven's biobed toward the sterilization room when he saw the unmoving form of Voyager's Chief of Engineering lying on the floor.


Chapter 4- Again....?

B'Elanna Torres felt disoriented. Her vision was blurry and she could hardly move. She knew she was standing and she felt a strong wind blowing through her hair.

She felt watched.

Slowly it seemed, her motor functions returned and the fog cleared from her brain; she began to make out her surroundings. She was surrounded by mountains and appeared to be standing in the middle of a grassy summit. Long green blades of grass reached her knees and reflected the light from above in intricate patterns as a wind blew intermittently over the summit causing a dance of colour and movement. Her peripheral vision was still unfocused and ethereal, almost like a dream…

"Shit. Am I dead?" B'Elanna looked herself over to see that she was dressed in her usual Engineering Starfleet uniform without apparent injury and took a tentative step. At least this isn't the Barge of the Dead…'not that this situation made any more sense to her. This was not Gre'thor or Sto'Vo'Kor. She felt fine but was still confused. Looking into the sky she immediately recognized the green-blue haze of Qo'nos' sky.

"Let me guess, another lesson in being a good Klingon?" she spoke to no one in particular with a growing hint of frustration. B'Elanna Torres was not a patient woman at the best of times and she was getting tired of these 'visions'.

Maybe I shouldn't have killed my spirit animal.

She couldn't help but chuckle at that. Chakotay told her that as far as he knew, she was the only person to ever actually kill her spirit animal. Shaking her head in amusement, she decided that she might as well start going somewhere- anywhere before she actually died of boredom. As she began to walk towards the mountains to the south, movement somewhere to her left caught her attention and she turned to finally settle her gaze on a large sabre bear lumbering slowly toward her. Immediately going into a crouch in order to not be seen by the large carnivore, B'Elanna started considering her options of escaping the beast. The sabre bear was a fearsome predator only hunted by the greatest of Klingon warriors. 600 kilos of fur, spikes and claws made these beasts something to respect and fear. Some Klingons even believed these creatures were descendents of an offshoot of the Klingons own ancestors.

As the large creature drew near at a very deliberate pace, shoulder spikes lifting and lowering with each step, B'Elanna began to wonder if escape was even an option. Perhaps this had something to do with the lizard-creature that had attacked her earlier that evening?

"What are you?" came a deep echoing voice out of the sabre bear as its black eyes connected with B'Elanna's own brown eyes and held them as if in a tractor beam. B'Elanna didn't see its mouth move and summoning her courage she decided to get whatever this was over with, so she stood up and faced the creature.

"I am a Klingon, my name is-"

"You are no Klingon" came the emotionless yet deep-rumbling reply cutting off any courage B'Elanna had mustered at the moment. Luckily for B'Elanna, courage and anger seemed interchangeable from moment to moment with her so she allowed her anger to build and take her once more.

"I AM a Klingon! What more does Kahless want from me! I've already gone through this shit on the Barge of the Dead!" B'Elanna bellowed balling her fists at her sides as her blood began to boil. Another gust of wind blew B'Elanna's hair across her face but she made no move to clear the dark strands from her vision as she attempted to stare down the massive beast.

The sabre bear took another step towards her as if completely unimpressed at her outburst. "You are a simpering pup. Always confused. Always angry, unfocused and wasting your potential."

"What does that mean? I'm the Chief Engineer of a starship, I've got friends. I've reclaimed my Klingon heritage-" B'Elanna was cut off again as the large beast lashed at her with one of its clawed paws knocking her down.

"You are no Klingon." Once again the anger began to boil in B'Elanna as she scrambled to get up once more. "But you are also no Human, so what are you?" the beast posed again as B'Elanna stood tall a few feet from the creature and dusted herself off. She was not feeling any pain from the strike and took that as a good sign; at least she thought it was a good sign. She tried to reign in her anger and sort out the creature's puzzle. It seemed simple enough.

"I am a Human-Klingon hybrid, my mother was Klingon, my father Human… but I suspect you already knew that."

"Then why do you not act as you are? The first part of your life was spent pretending to be Human, the next part was spent trying 'not' to be Klingon, and now you want to be completely Klingon?" The large beast kept its eyes locked on her as she began to pace back in forth.

B'Elanna was coming to the conclusion that this was another philosophical problem and so she did what she always did when faced with a problem- she paced back and forth in a huff alternating between crossing and uncrossing her arms.

"Then you don't want me to be Klingon? But not Human? I don't understand, what should I be?" B'Elanna turned to face the spiked creature once more. She didn't like riddles. Klingons don't 'do' riddles. Unless they appear to you in dreams apparently.

"Be what you are." Was the simple reply.

"ARRGHH! What I AM is a half-breed, not accepted by either race! Am I to be an outcast for my whole life then? Alone? Less than each of my two halves?" Anger and despair stormed within the young woman as she fought back thoughts of her abandonment as a child by her human father and all of the hurtful things that were said to her by both Humans and Klingons alike while she was growing up.

The sabre bear suddenly pounced with lightning speed, knocking B'Elanna down once more, but this time, it held her down with one paw as it loomed over her. B'Elanna grabbed the leg holding her down with both hands but try as she might, she was unable to free herself from its crushing pressure on her chest. Bearing its sharp teeth with black eyes boring into her soul, it 'spoke' once more. "It is this belief that keeps you from achieving your potential. You are not less than your halves, instead you are stronger than both. Klingon fire focused by Human determination. Human fear tempered by Klingon courage. You fear you are not strong enough, you fear you are not good enough for others and you feel powerless. Find that which binds your two halves together and you will discover, HoS 'oH Daq tIq!" *Real power is in the heart*

With that, the sabre bear released B'Elanna and began to walk away as she sat up taking in a large breath while attempting to digest the words spoken directly into her soul. Was she still missing something in her life? A purpose being unfulfilled? Was there something more within herself that she could really start to believe in? Before she could get up, she once more felt her vision begin to fade and dizziness overtake her. Before her world once again went dark, she heard the distant voice of the beast. "taH nuq SoH 'oH..." *Be what you are*

Part 5

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