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.
There was an oppressive silence in the conference room. B'Elanna had her arms folded defensively across her chest as she stared balefully at Captain Janeway. The auburn-haired captain returned a force 10 glare as she weighed up her options. The other occupants of the room remained still, unwilling to draw Janeway's attention or incur B'Elanna's wrath. Seven split her gaze between the two women, anxious to display her tacit support for the Klingon and her disbelief at what Janeway was suggesting.
It was Chakotay who broke the deadlock. "The Captain's only asking you to take a look at their systems B'Elanna. You're the best person for the job."
"Any one of my deputies can `take a look' Chakotay," the brunette ground out, not taking her eyes away from Janeway. "If you want to help those people out, send someone else."
"I need you to go," Janeway told her, her voice deadly. "You'll be able to interpret their technology more efficiently and assess whether we can assist them."
"Captain," B'Elanna warned again but was stopped by an open-palmed gesture from her superior officer.
"I know why you're objecting B'Elanna, and I understand." She pinched the bridge of her nose in a futile attempt to ease the tension she felt in her head. "Truly, I do understand. But I need you for the assignment. Neelix has already outlined how desperately low on supplies we are, and I don't need to tell you that the port could provide us with just about every sort of material we need to get Voyager back to optimum efficiency. This opportunity is just too good to pass up."
B'Elanna sighed heavily. "I know that all your arguments make sense Captain. I just don't think I'm ready to."
"Ready to do what?" Tom interrupted scornfully. "Throw yourself at the next alien." His diatribe was cut short as Seven sprang from her seat lightning-fast and yanked him from his chair by the throat.
"I request that you do not finish that sentence, Mr Paris."
To all outward appearances, Seven seemed totally in control, but B'Elanna detected the barest quaver in her voice that hinted at her inner struggle to remain calm. Much as she was unwilling to let Seven get into trouble on her account, the Klingon was burning with anger and knew that any attempt to intervene would only stoke the fires of the conflict. As it was, B'Elanna knew that had the tall blonde not leapt to her defence, she would, without a doubt, be pounding her fists into her husband's face. Desperately trying to take command of her temper, the engineer concentrated on the feel of her fingernails breaking the skin of her palms as she clenched her hands, hoping the painful distraction would be enough to defuse her ire.
"Seven, release Lieutenant Paris now," Janeway ordered, as she waved a hand to keep Tuvok out of the altercation.
Seven stared malevolently at the man she held noticing, with cool detachment, the nervous tic Paris had developed since she grabbed him. She could sense how frightened the man was at her action and was tempted to push things just a bit further, but Janeway's instruction broke through her mental processes and she relaxed her grip, letting the sandy-haired man fall back into his seat.
The Astrometrics officer turned to face the Captain. "I apologise for my transgression."
"Sit down Seven," Janeway commanded, sharing her gaze between the blonde and helmsman. "I'll deal with this later."
"Captain," Tom protested immediately. "She assaulted me. I want her charged." He rubbed his neck gingerly to remind the other occupants of the room where he had been grabbed.
"Mr Paris," Janeway spat his name before he could finish his demand. "I will deal with both Seven *and* you later."
The helmsman risked a glance round the room and was met by stony stares from the rest of the command team. B'Elanna made it quite clear that she was ignoring him, but kept her clenched fists on the table as an indicator of her displeasure. Deciding that now was not the best time to pursue his complaint, Paris leant back in his chair and glared at Seven.
The ex-drone returned the look with contempt before focusing her attention on the Captain. "I apologise for my behaviour in the conference room," she told the older woman blandly.
Janeway sighed. Seven's tone was hardly contrite, but it was not disparaging either. "I said that I'll deal with this later," she repeated. "Let's get back to business. Chakotay, Neelix, I want you to check out the claims regarding how good this port really is. I want a detailed report on supplies, traders, markets, security et cetera. I also want these R and R places inspected. I don't want any surprises for the crew, nice or nasty. Assemble a team and brief them on your requirements. When we arrive, I want the scouting trip to be swift and incident free. Once we've established the veracity of the claims, I'll make a decision on shore leave. Dismissed."
The senior officers and Neelix frowned at the abrupt curtailment of the meeting but rose from their seats to take their leave.
"B'Elanna, stay for a moment please," the red-head instructed, gesturing for her to sit back down.
The Klingon hybrid rolled her eyes, knowing that Janeway had not abandoned her plan to send her to the planet and sat back down heavily, crossing her arms once again.
As the rest of the staff filed from the room, Janeway looked up from a data padd she had been studying. "Seven, stay on the Bridge for the time-being. I'll need to speak with you shortly." She levelled an icy glance at both the tall blonde woman and Paris. Tom squirmed uncomfortably, suspecting that he was about to be unfairly reprimanded when it had been Seven that had attacked him. Seven merely nodded curtly and then looked meaningfully at B'Elanna before following Tuvok out of the room and positioning herself at the work- station behind the command chairs.
The Captain waited for a few seconds before speaking again. "B'Elanna, I know you're uncomfortable at the thought of going on another away mission."
"Uncomfortable? That's just about the mildest euphemism you could use," B'Elanna interrupted. "I'm not ready to do this Captain. I'd spend all of my time looking over my shoulder, waiting for some unseen attack." She sighed heavily. To admit that she was scared went against every Klingon trait she possessed, but there was no point in denying her feelings. The engineer had no doubt that she would be too distracted to do her job.
Janeway waited for the brunette to finish her outburst before continuing. "B'Elanna, I know exactly why you don't want to go on this mission and I totally empathise. However, we still have a long journey ahead of us before we get back to the Alpha quadrant, and there will be missions that you will be essential for. You're right, any one of your deputies could undertake the task, but I believe that this is the perfect opportunity for you to confront your emotions and, more importantly, overcome them. Chakotay and Neelix will do a preliminary recce before you go. And I'll only send you if I believe it's safe." The older woman paused to try and eke out a response from her Chief of Engineering.
B'Elanna studied her hands, not wanting to look at Janeway. What the Captain was saying made perfect sense, but fear was an irrational animal, and it was one that the Klingon was not sure she could control. As her uncertainty continued, she shrouded herself in a cloak of belligerence. "Are you going planet-side then?"
Janeway stared levelly at the younger woman. "There's no need for me to go on this mission. Chakotay is taking command of the recce and it makes sense for him to continue leading the rest of the mission, should it be worth pursuing."
"Amazing how it's not a problem for you to delegate responsibility, but I can't." B'Elanna couldn't help but feel bitter at the situation. She felt as if she was being manoeuvred into accepting the task, and she hated the thought of manipulation.
"That's because I'm the captain of this ship and you aren't," Janeway retorted angrily. "I could order you to go." She left the statement hanging for a few moments, waiting for Torres to respond.
The dark-eyed woman stared at the Captain while she weighed up her options. Realising that she had very few, she sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. "Well, it's nice to know that you have my well- being at heart," she commented sarcastically.
"B'Elanna, you may not believe it, but I do. A routine away mission will help."
"So you'll be joining me while I look at their technology then?"
Janeway kept her face carefully neutral. "There's no need for me to go. Harry or Seven would be more suitable."
"Seven?" B'Elanna repeated incredulously. "You're not going to `order' her to go too are you?" The engineer felt her heart begin to hammer in alarm at the thought of the blonde being put in danger.
"She's been affected by what happened on the planet too," the Captain replied reasonably.
B'Elanna laughed. "Don't you think I know that?" she retorted harshly. "Captain, I have spent more time with Seven since returning to Voyager than with anyone else. And frankly I'm surprised you know how either of us feel considering you've practically ignored us."
"B'Elanna, that's not fair," the redhead remonstrated.
"Really? Okay, answer me this. Other than last night, when was the last time you spoke to me about non-engineering issues?" The Klingon paused for a few seconds as she watched Janeway blanch. "And Seven? When was the last time you spent any time with her that didn't involve getting information about alien species or technology? When was the last time you played Velocity with her? Or joined her in an art class?" B'Elanna knew that she was being unfair, but Seven had spoken to her about the loss she felt over Janeway's self-imposed isolation. The willowy blonde had enjoyed spending time with her mentor and friend. She had developed a strong bond with the Captain but since the events of the last away mission, Seven had been unable to do any of her previous activities. Fortunately, B'Elanna had not behaved in a similar fashion and the two had shared most of their off- duty time together.
"I know," Janeway admitted quietly. "I realised that last night. It was why I came to your quarters. I was trying to rectify that mistake."
B'Elanna swallowed. She hadn't expected the Captain to acknowledge her behaviour so readily. The engineer reined in her temper, reasoning that Janeway had also suffered during their incarceration, but had reacted to the events differently, as she was entitled to.
"She misses you Captain," the brunette commented softly. "Schedule some time for her."
Janeway smiled in admiration. B'Elanna had put aside her own problems in order to try and address some of Seven's. "I will," she concurred. "And yes, I know it appears hypocritical that I'm sending you planet-side and I'm staying aboard Voyager. But I didn't want to load the away mission with too much pressure." She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to ease away some of the tension she felt, though she had to secretly acknowledge that much of it had dissipated during her conversation with the brunette engineer. "I know it will be hard for you to work on this mission. Imagine if all of us were there. All three of us would be jumpy and irrational. The mission would take forever and I believe that our individual fears would feed off each other. The mission would probably be a disaster and do nothing to continue our healing process."
She looked steadily at B'Elanna. "Your mission should be relatively straight-forward. You'll be in the main engineering plant and, if I know you at all, consumed by whatever engineering problem is facing you so that, in all honesty, you'll forget where you are. You'll find and repair the problems and on your return to Voyager, realise that you can face alien worlds and deal with strange peoples without irrationally fearing them. On the next away mission, I hope to find circumstances so that I can do the same. It may even be here, if Chakotay reports that the resorts are all they are claimed to be."
B'Elanna nodded slowly, her frustration ebbing. "I'll go Captain," she agreed at last. "But I want a transporter lock on me the whole time."
"Understandable, and I'll make sure there is," Janeway consented immediately.
She sighed as her mind returned to the previous night's events. "B'Elanna, I'm sorry about what I said yesterday."
The Klingon looked silently at the older woman for a few moments. "I know," she replied. "I just wish that Tom could have learnt what happened from me."
"Have you spoken to him since?"
"No. I spent most of the night talking with Seven," B'Elanna revealed, her face softening as she remembered.
Janeway raised her eyebrows, noticing the engineer's reaction. "Do you think he'll understand why you didn't tell him?"
"Probably not," B'Elanna conceded. "But it doesn't matter much anymore." She sighed resolutely. "Captain, I am formally requesting a divorce from Tom."
"B'Elanna are you sure? On what grounds?" The Captain was astonished.
"I don't love him," the brunette replied simply.
The older woman studied her. "Don't you think that you might want to try a reconciliation?"
"For what purpose? To prolong a marriage that I no longer feel part of? To remain honourable to Tom?" B'Elanna sat forward and continued to speak animatedly. "Captain, I am not in love with Tom anymore. In fact, I don't think I ever was. If I remain married to him, I am being dishonourable to him, to me *and* to Seven." She stopped suddenly, realising that she had revealed more than she intended.
Janeway's eyes widened slightly. "So you feel the same way she does?"
It was the Klingon's turn to look surprised. "Yes Captain. I'm in love with Seven."
"Does Tom know this little gem of information?"
"Not yet." B'Elanna rubbed her forehead ridges absently. "I wasn't aware that *anyone* knew," she added pointedly.
"Seven told me of her feelings while we were separated from you," the Captain revealed.
B'Elanna shook her head slightly. "There certainly was a lot of soul- searching done there," she commented wryly. Sobering, she stared at her superior officer. "Captain, I know Tom needs to be told about this, but I refuse to cite Seven as the reason for the dissolution of the marriage. If I tell him now, that will be exactly what he thinks."
"And if you wait to tell him, and he finds out anyway, he'll think the same thing," Janeway responded.
"I know. I just can't see any easy way out of this."
"At least wait till after you've spoken with him about last night. If you can clear the air about that, perhaps you'll open a pathway to discuss the future," Janeway advised.
B'Elanna shook her head. "No. I've run away from this problem for too long as it is. I knew when I was a prisoner on that planet that I wasn't in love with Tom. Circumstances allowed me to hide away. I can't do that anymore. It wouldn't be fair on Tom and it certainly wouldn't be fair on Seven."
"Have you considered the consequences of this? How the crew will react to your leaving Tom for Seven?" Janeway probed.
"I've barely thought about anything else," the Klingon responded candidly. "I don't want Seven hurt by what Tom and I will have to go through. But I don't know what the answer is. If we keep our relationship secret till the furore dies down, people will just speculate on how long we've been together. If we go public now, the crew will jump to the same conclusion that you did. I am not leaving Tom for Seven. I am divorcing Tom. But I'd be divorcing him regardless of my feelings for Seven."
The engineer took a steadying breath. "I'm sorry Captain. This conversation has veered considerably from you ordering me to undertake the away mission."
"I'm glad that it did. And thank you for still trusting me enough to give me all the details." Janeway smiled affectionately at the younger woman. She had always held B'Elanna in high regard, even if their relationship had been more strained in the last year or so. Kathryn had to admit that Seven's arrival on Voyager had been part of the reason. The young blonde had required the same mentoring B'Elanna had in order to nurture her in to the fine woman that she had become. That they had both become. "I'll record your request B'Elanna. But I will have to speak with Tom as well. He may contest it."
The brunette nodded. "Thank you. And I will talk to him too. He needs to understand that this is final."
"You appear to have set your mind," Janeway commented.
"Just being honest with myself. It's not going to be easy. I know that. But I've hidden myself away from the truth for too long, simply ducking the issue. I've made a lot of mistakes and I have to rectify them."
"And in the meantime, you'll take a look at this technology on Mahalar?"
Torres rolled her eyes again. "Yes, I'll take a look. But only when the scouting party have returned. And I'll take Harry with me. I really wouldn't be able to work if she was with me."
"Too distracted?" Janeway teased, wondering how she had suddenly got so familiar with the younger woman. With a pang of guilt, she remembered that they had shared a close relationship for a long time, but it had disintegrated after they had been incarcerated.
"Too worried," corrected the brunette soberly. "I'll be all right with Harry. However, I will spend the next two days pouring over whatever information they can send us about their systems so that I don't have to spend too much time there."
"Good plan. I'll let you get to it." Janeway dismissed her informally. Just as the engineer was about to exit, the Captain called her attention again. "B'Elanna."
"I know this is probably too late, but if you want to talk things through. It would. it would probably help me too," she offered hesitantly.
"It's never too late Captain," B'Elanna commented. "And thank you. Perhaps when things have settled down after the mission to Mahalar?" she suggested.
The auburn-haired woman nodded. "Sounds good. Now, I have a bit of reprimanding to do," as she rose and shooed the brunette out of the Briefing room. As she stepped onto the Bridge, she looked round and was gratified to see that Seven had remained in position at her bridge console. Now that she was aware of the change in status of the relationship between Seven and B'Elanna, it was easy to read the looks they exchanged as B'Elanna made her way to the turbolift and Engineering. The Captain doubted that anyone else would be able to interpret their body language so accurately, but there would always be a risk. She just hoped that B'Elanna spoke with Tom quickly and openly. She was certain that there would be some repercussions with the dissolving of their marriage, but the reactions could at least be moderated if it was handled correctly.
Janeway switched her train of thought. "Mr Paris," she called firmly.
The sandy-haired helmsman swung round in his seat. His face was slightly pink, and he had clearly been ruminating over the events during the briefing. "My Ready room, now." Janeway made her instruction, and her displeasure quite plain to the entire bridge staff. She would do the same with Seven when it was her turn. The Captain understood only too well how emotions often interfered with rational thought. But emotional reactions, resulting in unfounded accusations, and potential violence in her briefing room would not be tolerated. It was time to set an example.
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