DISCLAIMER: Yes, Paramount owns it all - I am just having some fun with their characters.
SERIES: This story is a sequel to Resistance
PAIRING: B'Elanna/Seven (eventually!)
FEEDBACK: Yes please, I wouldn't post otherwise.

By Rebelgirl

Part Five

B'Elanna rubbed her eyes roughly as the sound of her alarm woke her. She had spent much of the night lying awake mulling over what had happened. There was going to be no easy way to deal with the situation she was in. She needed to speak with Tom and declare her intentions to end their marriage. She had to speak with both the Captain and Chakotay on the legal aspects of voiding the marriage and re-assignment of living quarters. And she needed to speak with Seven again, so that they could both have a clearer idea on what was going to happen next. Unfortunately, each conversation she imagined taking place was difficult and awkward. There was no way to avoid hurting Tom in all this. She saw that no matter how the conversations went, it would be painful.

The Klingon also dwelt on the ramifications of a relationship with Seven. In some ways, they were both vulnerable. B'Elanna wanted Seven to enjoy romantic dates and talking about a shared future. Their bond of friendship was strong and they had already learnt much about each other. B'Elanna hoped to take things to the next level and share her innermost thoughts and fears, as well as forging a mutually loving relationship.

However, she was worried about how the rest of the ship might react. She did not want people to assume that she was on the rebound. B'Elanna also didn't want the crew to somehow blame Seven for her marriage break-up. She wanted to protect Seven from the potential bad feelings or unfounded rumours that were bound to start once people got wind of the change to their relationship. Her proud Klingon heritage made her inclined to ignore these thoughts. Her business was her own and no one else's. But the brunette took Seven's feelings seriously. The younger woman might like to display an aura of cold aloofness but B'Elanna knew better. It would hurt Seven if she became an easy scapegoat for the crew. B'Elanna didn't want to hide her feelings for the ex-drone, but it could potentially make things easier for Seven until her break-up with Tom became old news. She just wasn't sure that she would be able to contain her feelings or mute her reactions when she was around the other woman. It was the first time she had experienced happiness since she miscarried, and the feelings were precious to her.

B'Elanna's mind was in turmoil as she tried to get to grips with what was happening. As a consequence, by the time she did manage to fall asleep, it was fitful and restless.

Now awake, B'Elanna felt as if she hadn't slept at all but threw off the covers and followed her morning ritual. When she padded out into the living area she stopped and smiled. Seven was still asleep; one arm thrown above her head and the blanket tangled round her legs and abdomen. Her blonde hair was mussed but her face was totally relaxed and she was snoring softly. B'Elanna thought she looked adorable.

The engineer moved over to the replicator and ordered two coffees and a plate of croissants and butter. She put them quietly on the table before approaching the sleeping Borg. B'Elanna noticed that the younger woman's eyelashes were fluttering rapidly and wondered what the ex-drone was dreaming about.

"Morning Seven. Rise and shine." Her voice was gentle, rising in volume slightly until she got a response.

Seven groaned and tried to turn away from the disturbance, muttering incomprehensibly at the interruption to her slumber.

B'Elanna's grin widened and she tried again, this time adding a hand to shake the ex-drone's shoulder as she again attempted to wake her.

The contact worked and Seven's eyes shot open instantly. She looked round with a confused gaze, feeling disorientated.

"Hey there sleepy-head," B'Elanna greeted, smiling as she watched Seven become aware of her surroundings.

"My head is not sleepy," the blonde contradicted grumpily, frowning as she wondered why she was feeling annoyed at being woken. She groaned as she tried to move her arm. "Is waking up always this painful?" she groused, rolling her shoulder and flexing her hand as she tried to encourage the circulation back into her arm. Her arm buzzed with pins and needles.

"Not always," returned the brunette good-naturedly. "I did warn you that you might find the couch uncomfortable."

"I did not realise that you meant that the discomfort would continue after the sleeping cycle was complete."

B'Elanna grinned at Seven's choice of words. "You just slept awkwardly, that's all. It's easier when you sleep in a proper bed."

"I will have to take your word for that," Seven retorted, rubbing her shoulder absently.

B'Elanna shook her head in mild amusement. "Hopefully, you'll find out for yourself one day." She switched topics easily. "You hungry? I've replicated some breakfast for you." She turned away towards the table without waiting for an answer, her own hunger driving her.

Seven thought for a second before nodding. "I do have a slight appetite," she answered as she swung her legs round and sat upright. It took a moment for her to disentangle herself from the blanket and then she got up and joined B'Elanna at the table.

"Croissants and coffee. That okay?" B'Elanna asked between mouthfuls.

Seven nodded as she prepared a croissant, taking her cue from B'Elanna as the engineer smeared a small wedge of butter over a torn end. The Astrometrics officer bit into the pastry daintily and was pleasantly surprised by the slightly sweet taste and consumed the rest more quickly, grudgingly giving silent merit to the ritual of eating breakfast, particularly when in the company of B'Elanna.

The brunette interrupted her thoughts. "Seven, I've got to go. I need to finish off some reports before the staff meeting. Are you going to be alright?"

"Yes. I am better now that I no longer feel affected by sleep," Seven remarked honestly, and returned the smile that B'Elanna gave, enjoying the feeling of her heart rate accelerating as she revelled in the dark woman's beauty.

"Yeah, sometimes it's difficult to shake that off. Don't worry, you'll get used to it," B'Elanna reassured her. She rose from the table and snatched her jacket, shrugging it on quickly before zipping it up and tugging on each sleeve to adjust it slightly.

"I will leave with you," Seven commented, beginning to rise, looking round as she tried to locate her shoes.

B'Elanna caught her attention again almost immediately. "No, no. Don't leave just on my account. Take your time, finish your breakfast and grab a shower if you want. I know you're not needed in Astrometrics till after the staff briefing so there's no need to rush. I'll see you at the meeting."

With typical brisk efficiency, B'Elanna collected the data pads that had been left on the table from last night and swept round to Seven's side of the table. She pushed the blonde back down in her seat and dropped a quick kiss on her forehead before turning for the door. "Help yourself to anything you want. See you later," she called out over her shoulder.

Seven remained seated at the table for a few moments, reeling over what had just happened. B'Elanna had woken her up gently, put up with her bad mood, made breakfast and invited her to use her quarters in her absence with easy affection and obvious love. It was all she had ever wanted and more. She touched her forehead gingerly where B'Elanna had placed a kiss and recalled the sensations the caress had invoked. Seven felt her throat tighten as she succumbed to the emotions coursing through her and realised for the first time that tears were an expression of joy as well as grief. Smiling, the blonde woman wiped her eyes and calmed her breathing. Once her composure had returned, she concentrated on finishing her meal, enjoying even the small realisation that B'Elanna had gone to the trouble of replicating something for her to consume.

The ex-drone rose from the table and wandered over to the replicator to generate a fresh bio-suit. She then went to the bathroom and spent a few moments examining the items that were in there, noticing how meticulously clean the room was as she sniffed cautiously at the contents of the various bottles stacked tidily in a cabinet.

She avoided anything that clearly belonged to Tom. Seven knew that the helmsman would be hurt by what had developed, but she could not bring herself to feel sorry for him. In her opinion, he had never been good enough for B'Elanna and had treated her appallingly in the time that they had been married. She could not comprehend how he could spend more time in the holodeck or with his friends. He only had himself to blame for losing B'Elanna. It was a rationale that she felt appeased by.

Seven caught sight of her appearance reflected in the bathroom mirror and stopped. Her hair was tousled, much of it having escaped its bonds and hanging down in untidy strands. Her eyes were puffy and her face was pale. She had never looked like this when her regeneration cycle completed. There appeared to be more side effects to sleeping than she had realised. Seven had never been concerned over her appearance, other than ensuring that she looked neat and efficient. However, she now found herself worried that she had looked so dishevelled in front of B'Elanna. The blonde then recalled that B'Elanna seemed totally unfazed by her appearance, and had even commented warmly on it when she woke her up. Seven shook her head slightly. B'Elanna had seen her in a far worse state when they were on the prison planet. It was futile to fret over what the brunette had seen this morning.

Seven allowed herself the luxury of taking her time over her ablutions knowing that she did not need to hurry to Astrometrics. She dressed quickly before clearing away all the breakfast items and bundling the sheets, blanket and pillow into the recycler. The ex- drone carefully straightened the couch cushions and inspected the rest of the engineer's quarters, wanting to leave the area clean and tidy for B'Elanna's return. Satisfied that nothing was out of place, Seven left and headed towards Astrometrics, deciding to pass the time before the staff brief with a series of routine scans and ensuring that her reports were accurate and up-to-date. She smiled as she recalled that B'Elanna had known about her schedule, honoured that the brunette had taken that much interest in her.

It was just poor timing that Tom Paris was walking down the corridor and saw her exit from his quarters. He frowned as he watched the blonde leave. What concerned him more was the look of happiness on Seven's face. As far as he remembered, Seven had always kept a careful check on expressing her emotions and it was a rare occasion to see her smile or laugh. When he had left his quarters last night, B'Elanna had been implacable. Admittedly, he had fuelled much of her anger, but he still felt aggrieved that his wife had kept such important secrets from him. It was clearly obvious that she had no such trouble in confiding in Seven however. The helmsman felt a familiar surge of annoyance flow through him and directed it at both women and decided to confront his wife as soon as his shift allowed.

It was only as B'Elanna stood in the turbolift that it sunk in how comfortable and relaxed the situation in her quarters had been, almost as if they had been together forever. The Klingon felt her skin blush as she remembered planting the affectionate kiss on Seven's forehead and the look of happy surprise that had lit up the younger woman's face. The whole situation had just felt *right* and it gave B'Elanna courage. She would speak with Tom as soon as she got a break from Engineering and give him an honest explanation of what was going on before talking to the Captain about arranging a divorce.

B'Elanna swept into Engineering with a spring in her step that had been missing for some time. She breezed over to where one of her team was hunched over a console. "Good morning Stirling," she greeted the young ensign cheerily, startling her from her work.

"Er, morning Chief." The ensign was pleased to see B'Elanna look eager to attack engineering problems again, but she felt a little disconcerted by her attitude.

The Klingon hybrid looked over Stirling's shoulder and examined the work she was doing. "Not bad," she conceded after a few seconds. "But work on trying to get at least another 2% efficiency," she instructed before turning away and almost bounding into her office.

Stirling stared at the shorter woman's retreating back for a few seconds before being shocked for the second time in just a few minutes.

"That's more like the Chief we all love," Nicoletti commented with a grin as she stood next to the ensign.

"Not quite," Stirling demurred, shaking her head slightly. "She's too. I don't know. nice?" she conjectured.

At that moment, the Klingon ejected herself back out of her office. "Nicoletti," she yelled without preamble. "Get yourself in here. These conduits aren't going to fix themselves."

"You see," exclaimed Stirling triumphantly, gesturing expansively with her hands. "That's the Chief we all know and love," she corrected, smiling as Nicoletti propelled herself towards her superior's office. She shook her head slightly and returned to her task, determined to glean the extra efficiency somehow before she became the next target of B'Elanna's freshly resurrected exuberance.

Despite her best intentions, B'Elanna found that it was impossible to leave Engineering for even a few moments. Her report writing that had been neglected from the night before was continually interrupted as several minor problems cropped up that required her attention. In the end, she resigned herself to grabbing a few moments with Tom after the staff briefing. A short delay would not harm anyone.

"Captain, I'm picking up an automated transmission on a wide band frequency," Harry Kim announced, looking up from his position at Ops.

Kathryn Janeway looked up from her command chair. "Let's hear it," she requested, watching the young Asian nod at her words before punching in a number of commands on his console.

On the main viewscreen, the image of a humanoid appeared, with dark skin, close-set violet eyes, and an abnormally wide mouth, pulled into what Janeway hoped was a welcoming smile. She also mentally kept her fingers crossed hoping, as always, that the universal translator could cope with whatever language the alien used.

"Greetings traveller," the alien announced in a gritty voice. Janeway nodded minutely to herself; the translator hadn't let her down.

"Let me welcome you to Mahalar," the speaker continued. "The largest and friendliest port in the galaxy."

"Modest, isn't he?" Chakotay murmured as an aside, his eyes twinkling as Janeway discretely returned the smile.

"You'll find everything you need on Mahalar, and our declared neutral status means that you can trade safely and discretely, getting what you require at a price you can afford." The image of the alien was replaced by a series of scenic views and the voice continued as a talk-over. "Mahalar is also a paradise haven, where you can relax safely. Enjoy the long sandy beaches and woodland countryside. Take your time to explore the mountains and lakes or simply reside in one of our luxurious resorts, safe in the knowledge that our neutrality is strictly adhered to." The screen returned to the alien's visage. "So, if you're passing through the sector, make sure that your next stop is Mahalar. You'll be glad you did." There was a brief pause before the message started to repeat itself.

Janeway gestured to Kim and the viewscreen returned to the image of the space directly ahead. She paused, digesting the information received with mixed feelings. It was amazing that they could stumble across a safe place to trade, even if she was sceptical about the boastful claims of its advertiser. However, she wasn't sure if she was ready to send her crew on another away mission after the previous one had ended so disastrously.

The captain decided to delay her decision for a few moments. "Where is this utopia in relation to our course?"

"Voyager only needs to change its flight path by 17 degrees," Tuvok supplied from behind her. "The journey itself would increase by only two days. I cannot speculate on the delay should the claims of respite be true."

The captain considered his words carefully. By the neutrality of the Vulcan's speech, Janeway knew that he was giving tacit approval of investigating the port further. She was certainly tempted by the offer, but Janeway was not going to fall into another away mission catastrophe.

She looked at her First Officer. "Your thoughts Chakotay?"

"We should at least find out what they have to trade. I'm sure Neelix would want to get his hands on some fresh supplies and B'Elanna still has a long list of material she needs for Voyager's maintenance."

Janeway winced at the mention of her Chief Engineer's name. She needed to speak with her in order to repair the damage she had caused last night. She stared at the back of Tom Paris' head. The helmsman had reported for duty silent and pallid. He had clearly slept poorly, if at all, last night and had refused to look at her. She had more than one person to speak with. Janeway just hoped that the damage she had done was not irrevocable.

She returned her thoughts to the automated transmission. "Mr Paris, change heading for the planet. Mr Kim, open a channel and hail the port. Let's see if the real thing is different to the advertisment."

There was a slight delay as Kim worked the panel in front of him rapidly. Janeway waited patiently, keeping a discrete eye on the ensign as he worked, and knew that he had completed the task when he raised his eyes from the console.

"Channel open Captain."

"On screen," she directed, standing automatically as she spoke.

"I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the United Federation starship Voyager," she announced.

The alien on the view screen nodded. "Greetings, Captain Kathryn Janeway. My name is Par-Haln. I represent the Port Authority."

"We're tempted by what Mahalar has to offer, but I have very specific requirements. I would like some more information on what trade is available at your port."

Par-Haln smiled before answering. "We offer an area to trade in safety Captain. I cannot guarantee that you will find exactly what you require, but you may well find resources that surpass your needs. However, if you send us detailed descriptions, I may be able to make some arrangements to gather your goods in advance."

Janeway shook her head, declining the offer. "That's very kind of you, but if we have to browse, then I would rather we do that ourselves."

"I appreciate that it might be a frustrating trip if you cannot obtain exactly what you want. That is why we offer restful locations for your crew to rest and recuperate. In our experience, respite is always welcomed by travellers."

"I'll certainly consider your offer," the Captain conceded. "Are there any special laws or requirements that we need to be made aware of?"

"I will transmit all our codes of practice, and the laws of the planet as well as the port. You will find that we are a peaceful race, and we value our neutrality. As long as you respect that, there is little to prevent you from enjoying your stay here on Mahalar."

"Thank you. We will contact you again shortly to make arrangements."

Janeway was ready to finish the conversation but stopped when Par- Haln spoke again. "Captain, I notice by the sophistication of your Bridge that you are an advanced race. We have a problem with our power output generators. Would it be possible for one of your engineers to take a look at the problem? We'd gladly negotiate suitable recompense for you and your crew while they rest here."

Janeway cocked her head slightly as she formulated her standard answer. "You understand that we can only work with the technology that you already possess Par-Haln. We cannot introduce any of our equipment or use techniques that are beyond your technological level?"

"Captain, we have all the equipment in place that we need. We just do not possess the knowledge to make the necessary repairs," the representative assured.

The auburn-haired woman studied the alien for a few seconds as she contemplated her answer. "Very well. I'll send an engineer to investigate, but please understand that we can make no promises."

"Oh, totally, totally," Par-Haln hurriedly complied, appearing to take a deep breath of relief. "I look forward to welcoming you to Mahalar."

Janeway simply nodded before turning to Kim and signalling for him to break the link. Once again, the viewscreen displayed the area of space they were travelling through.

"Looks like it's going to be quite a shopping expedition," Chakotay commented mildly.

"I'm not sure I like the idea that they don't know exactly what is traded at the port," Janeway demurred, her mind imagining the worst kind of contraband being exchanged openly and without control.

"And yet you offered Par-Haln our assistance," Tuvok pointed out, his voice controlled.

"Something you're obviously not happy with," Janeway surmised looking over at her old friend.

"I have no emotional feelings about your decision making," Tuvok contradicted mildly. "However I too have concerns over the way the port appears to operate."

Janeway nodded. "When that communiqué comes in, I'll need you to go through it with a fine toothcomb. I don't want to fall foul of some obscure law or local custom."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow in a typically Vulcan gesture before nodding his assent.

"I think we can discuss the rest of the logistics at the senior staff meeting," the Captain announced, realising that it was almost time to hold the brief. Even as she spoke, the turbolift doors opened and the relief bridge staff stepped out. She cocked her head and grinned. "No time like the present."

Part 6

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