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Rocking the Boat
I. Gossip Travels at Warp Speed
It was the buzz of the lower decks. An old adage among space dogs had it that gossip travels at warp speed, especially when it involved someone's sex life. And now the rumor was making its inevitable way toward the bridge crew. It seemed that two senior officers, and the most apparently unlikely two at that, had acted upon a long-smoldering attraction in a most public and unbecoming way in Engineering. And for those fortunate enough to have witnessed the steamy encounter in the Engine Room, or to have been privy to the sight of a flushed, scowling Chief of Engineering practically dragging by the hand the resident former Borg and Chief of Astrometrics through the halls toward the crew quarters, their status as fonts of titillating information was suddenly and deliciously enhanced.
This particular evening found each of the officers of the command crew going about his or her business, all the while absorbing this new wrinkle in the fabric of life aboard the Intrepid class starship Voyager, a scouting and exploration vessel some seven years out and still several thousand light years from home.
Ensign Harry Kim smiled as he puttered about his quarters, happy that his friend, his friendly rival Maquis had finally recognized and acted on the attraction that he had seen building for some time. Shaking his head at his friend's stubborn refusal to accept that she was intrigued by the statuesque and sexy blonde woman severed from the Borg Collective by their captain three years ago, he only hoped that B'Elanna hadn't gone too Klingon on Seven, forgetting for a moment that the ex-drone would be more than a match for the fiery hybrid. Pausing in his mindless task of restacking the PADDs on his desk, Harry remembered with a twinge of regret the moment that the klieg-light intensity of the ex-Borg's attention had been focused on him, and of his terrified reaction. If only he could have been more confident, he berated himself for the thousandth time. Still, if anyone could bear that Borg brilliance, he thought, it would be B'Elanna.
Helmsman Tom Paris threw back his third beer in rapid succession as he sat alone for once at a small table tucked into a corner in Sandrine's, the holographic bar he and Harry had created. Never had he needed the relief such an establishment offered as now, having heard the news that B'Elanna had moved on. "And how!" thought the dejected helmsman. How was he to compete for the love of his former girlfriend with . . . with . . . it didn't bear thinking about! Not only did Seven of Nine bat for the other team, but she embodied his and every other male crewmember's (and many of the females') ideal of stunning, gob-smacking, drop-dead, sweet-mother-of-god gorgeous womanhood. "B'Elanna sure swung for the fences this time, and hit a grand slam to boot," Tom mused, unconsciously lapsing into outdated sports metaphors to give form to his thoughts. How could he compete with perfection, he wondered as he ordered another beer.
In Sickbay, the Emergency Medical Hologram stood gazing at the painting he had done of Seven of Nine a few years ago. He sighed as he realized that all of his dreams of a more meaningful relationship with the former drone had turned to ashes. If he had been in less of a self-indulgent, melancholy mood, he might have been chagrined at his own melodrama. When had he added this sighing, broken-hearted, unrequited lover sub-routine? As it was, he decided to let these artificially enhanced feelings have their way and to give himself over to a good wallow. Letting his photonic fingers trace the outline of Seven's classic cheekbones captured on the canvas, he wondered if it wasn't time to delete a few programs and do away with a little of this over-rated human capacity for feeling. Tomorrow. He would do the reprogramming tomorrow. Tonight he would go all out. Carmen, he decided. Carmen was just the opera to give him the release he needed just now.
In the darkened quarters of Voyager's chief security officer, the peaceful, contemplative atmosphere was palpable. Small lamps burned scented oils and Vulcan chants played just audibly enough to reach the ears of the meditating Tuvok. The news of the passionate exchange in Engineering and the subsequent shift in the status of the relationship between two of the most important members of the senior staff created a sense of calm and well-being long absent the Vulcan in the years he had spent in the treacherous Delta Quadrant. He took a deep, cleansing breath and contemplated, without irony, his satisfaction at the two women's meeting of minds.
Meanwhile, in another cabin not far away, another practitioner of the meditative arts was struggling to find his equilibrium. While First Officer Chakotay was happy for his erstwhile Maquis comrade, he couldn't help but be burdened with a crushing sense of disappointment at the loss of a chance at bliss with the increasingly more attractive Seven of Nine. Even as he acknowledged his secret pleasure at learning through the ship's grapevine that Seven had at one time been exploring human dating practices with a holographic reproduction of himself, he had cherished the hope that she would one day find the holographic projection insufficient and turn to him for the fulfillment that only physical contact with another human being can provide. How anyone could become aware of Seven's holographic excursions into romance he decided he would rather not know. He only wished he could as easily dismiss his knowledge of his own sense of loss. Realizing with a start that he had been sitting crosslegged at his altar unmoving for the better part of an hour, chasing the same thoughts through his mind till his body was sore and cold, Chakotay gave up and walked stiffly to his bed.
Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager sat in her ready room holding a cup of long-cold coffee in two hands as she stared at the passing stars. In her worst nightmare, she wouldn't have foreseen B'Elanna to be the one who would get through Seven's Borg shielding and bed the lanky blonde. Berating herself for her own thick-headedness, she realized with sudden insight that she should have known, should have seen that it could only have been the sometime belligerence and oftime brilliance of the volatile Chief Engineer that would capture the ex-drone's imagination. "Opposites attract," she thought. "No! Kindred spirits!" she realized in another flash of insight. Neither fish nor fowl. Both with feet in two different camps, neither being enough one or the other to be completely comfortable in her environment. The realizations came hard and fast as Janeway stared unseeing out the viewport. "Damn," she muttered. Why did things have to change? Why couldn't she have gone on, poised midway between thinking of Seven as her surrogate daughter on the one hand and unlikely lover on the other? Why could she not have indulged her little fantasies of Seven indefinitely? Kathryn hated being dictated to by events. Now, her hand was forced, and she knew with bitter certainty that she had complacently sat back and let control of the game slip away. "Well, Mother," she thought wryly, "better get used to the idea of your daughter's having a girlfriend." It could have been worse, she consoled herself. She could have brought home the helmrat, Mr. Paris.
II. Encounter in Engineering
If the stories were true, then what happened in Engineering that day should have started a warp core meltdown or at least a minor hull breach. Late into the Alpha shift, Seven of Nine walked up to a control panel and, as was her wont, began a transference of power to Astrometrics without a by your leave, a mother may I, or a kiss my ass for the Chief. And, as the Engineering crew had grown to expect, this supercilious behavior had had an immediate effect. Her lips twisted into a tight scowl, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres stormed from her office, marched up to the ex-Borg, and spun her around to face her.
"Just what in Gre'thor do you think you're doing?" demanded the Chief, trying not to give rein to her building anger just yet. The Captain had only recently once again asked her forbearance with the ex-drone's imperious disregard for proper procedures and even common courtesy. Standing with her arms crossed over her breasts, the half-Klingon could feel her tenuous hold on her rising irritation with Seven's blatant disregard of her authority slipping.
"I am merely correcting a variance in the power transference. A minor flux in the relays has resulted in an energy drain of .032 percent," Seven of Nine replied in her evenly modulated tones. "Your interruption is impeding my work and is an inefficient waste of time and of Voyager's resources." With that the unranked Astrometrics officer dismissed the Lieutenant and began turning back to her work.
Seven's momentum toward the control panel was abruptly halted by an iron hand clamped around her left bicep.
"Look, Borg," growled Torres as she stepped closer to Seven of Nine's rigidly held body, her hand never lessening its grip on her arm. "I thought I told you to ask . . . my . . . permission before you touch . . . my . . . control panels." With each pause in her low words, Torres shook the taller woman.
Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was infamous for her vociferous explosions at unwary ensigns and insensate machinery alike. But those who knew her best knew that she was at her most dangerous when she spoke as she was doing now, through clenched teeth in a low, quivering growl, a testament to how valiantly she was trying to keep her Klingon temper in check. It just didn't seem fair to the dark-haired former Maquis that she had to put up with this annoyance, this unranked outsider, this usurper just as she finally felt that she had found a home, a family, an identity that felt right. Had she allowed herself the level of introspection she had learned to reach with other difficult circumstances in her life since joining the crew of Voyager, she might have been surprised at the way she perceived her fellow makeshift crewmember as a threat. This in turn might have spurred her to plumb the depths of the insecurities and other, less easily categorized feelings that the ex-drone engendered within her. As it was, she could only feel the fury surging within her.
As B'Elanna waged war with her emotions, Seven of Nine stood processing the incoming data. On her personal journey toward humanity aboard Voyager, she had catalogued and filed away the information she had compiled on every crewmember she had encountered. Admittedly, her database was incomplete and rife with conflicting evidence; however, she was coming to the conclusion that humans often contradicted themselves in both words and deeds. And as illogical as this was to the former drone, she accepted that her learning process with the humans would remain puzzling. It was her encounters with Voyager's fiery Chief of Engineering that Seven found most perplexing and, had she been further along in her journey toward humanity to recognize the response, she might have characterized as entertaining. To what degree her interactions with Lieutenant Torres were complicated by the hybrid's Klingon nature, she did not yet know. But she knew with the knowledge gained from repeated experiments that a stimulus such as the one she had just provided the Lieutenant would result in the same response as confirmed by the current encounter with Torres. Yet she could not force herself to vary the stimuli, to adapt to the Lieutenant's expectations and demands, in effect, to learn from her mistakes. The thought occurred to her that she would need to analyze this inexplicable glitch in her normally logical behavior as she glanced down at the dark-skinned hand slowly turning white at the knuckles as it squeezed her bicep.
"Lieutenant Torres," she stated calmly. "You will cease this behavior at once. It is inefficient and illogical." Her brain registered an elevated heart rate, a fact that she filed away for later analysis.
"'Inefficient and illogical,' is it?" sneered Lieutenant Torres. "Well, so is waltzing in here and commandeering my computers for unnecessary adjustments! So is ignoring my procedures and flouting my authority!"
"Indeed?" asked Seven. "Your procedures and authority are irrelevant and would benefit from Borg modifications. And your physical contact with my person both unprofessional and insulting. Desist at once."
B'Elanna wasn't sure if it was the implication that Seven wanted to assimilate her and her Engine Room or the way that she had been ordered about in her own department that caused her grip on her temper to give way. As Seven, herself, might have observed, it was a moot point. B'Elanna let go of Seven's arm, her hands balling into fists. Before she could stop herself, she reached up and took the ex-Borg's head between her hands so she wouldn't pummel her with them. In all her dealings with the infuriating former drone, she had never been as angry at her as she was at this moment. She needed to release her rage before she did something unforgivable. Instead, she did something unforgettable. She pulled Seven's head down to hers and captured her mouth with her own. Slowly her anger drained away, to be replaced by something else. Her head began to swim in the sensory overload of full, soft lips and smooth firm skin, her hands moving to caress Seven's flawless cheeks.
Surprised by this sudden reversal of tactics, Seven of Nine didn't have time to plan her next move. The lips moving against hers and the resulting responses her body was making were causing her head to do a little swimming of its own. Her heart, already pounding, seemed to skip painfully as she felt B'Elanna's tongue make contact with hers. Her eyelids fluttered down and she turned her head to allow B'Elanna better access to her mouth. Slowly she tightened her arms around the half-Klingon's body as B'Elanna moved her hands down to grip the ex-Borg's shoulders.
Her experiments with the holographic Chakotay had in no way prepared her for this sense of floating, the sweet taste of B'Elanna's mouth, the ache in her heart, the flutter in her stomach, and the tightening between her legs. She knew that were it not for the implants in her legs, when the Lieutenant assaulted her lips, she would have collapsed in a boneless heap. With a soft moan, Seven began returning the kiss, exploring B'Elanna's lips and tongue with her own.
When B'Elanna broke the seemingly endless kiss, she brought her right hand up and cupped the alabaster cheek, waiting for Seven to open her eyes. Dark brown eyes locked with sky-blue for a long moment as both women tried to regain their equanimity.
"Come on," she said gruffly, grabbing the ex-Borg by the hand. Turning toward the door, B'Elanna became aware of the astonished faces and open-mouthed stares of her staff. "Carey! You're in charge!" she snapped to her second officer. "Aye, sir!" he answered smartly, maintaining his gaze off in the middle distance, clamping down on his desire to smile. There would be plenty of time to tell and retell the events of the past few moments later in Sandrine's.
"Don't you people have work to do?" the beleaguered Chief roared at the rest of her crew as she half-dragged the dazed Chief of Astrometrics out the door.
A split second after the doors to Engineering swished shut, the crew erupted, their collectively-held breath explosively released.
"Did you see that? Did you SEE that???"
"Now I know what she means when she says 'Resistance is futile.'"
"Wait till I tell Tal Celes! Will she be sorry she left early!"
Already, comm badges throughout the lower decks were chirping to life.
III. Close Quarters
Ignoring the stares of the startled crew as she led Seven through the halls toward her quarters, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres tried to sort through her conflicting emotions. What the hell just happened? While she knew that she and the former drone had achieved a kind of detente in recent weeks, that sure as hell didn't explain why she'd kissed her! And what the hell was she planning to do with Seven once they reached the privacy of her quarters? Talk? Reprimand her for the hundredth time for being so damned Borg? And who was going to reprimand her for practically assaulting a fellow crewmember? She knew what she'd like to do, now that she had tasted the lips of the stunning woman. What could she say to this woman whom she now knew she desired with a hunger she hadn't even realized she harbored?
For her part, Seven of Nine was finally finding her legs again after being half-dragged through the ship. Getting her heart rate under control, however, was a different matter. She brought her free hand up to her lips in wonder, reliving the kiss she'd shared with Torres and feeling again the sensations coursing through her, her body rising to meet the half-Klingon's desire.
As the doors to her quarters swished shut, B'Elanna let go of Seven's hand and turned to face her, searching for a way to begin. Seven, standing in her familiar ramrod straight position with her hands linked behind her back, waited for some signal from B'Elanna, some indication that would let her know how to proceed with this startlingly unexpected yet entirely welcome change in the nature of their relationship.
"Seven," B'Elanna began, looking up into wide, searching blue eyes. "I'm . . . That is, what I mean to say is . . . Damn it!" B'Elanna turned and began pacing in her small living area. Realizing that Lieutenant Torres was again angry but that the anger was not this time directed at her, Seven decided to help the Chief out.
"You wish to apologize for your behavior toward me. However, you wish also to inform me that my insubordinate behavior in Engineering is inappropriate, even damaging, to the work flow and to the chain of command essential for the smooth operation of a Starfleet vessel," offered Seven. She waited while the startled Chief whirled toward her, a look of surprise etched on her face.
"You also think that you should apologize for kissing me, yet you do not wish to. Have I assessed the situation accurately, Lieutenant?" Seven came as close to a smirk as B'Elanna had ever seen her come.
B'Elanna's anger flared again. "If you know all that," she demanded, stepping up the ex-Borg, "why do you continue to behave like you own the joint every time you come into Engineering? And why the hell do you think I don't want to apologize for kissing you?" She stood with her hands on her hips, scowling up into the cool, amused eyes of the ex-drone.
Seven's implant-adorned eyebrow shot up. She leaned down until her lips were brushing B'Elanna's ear and whispered, "You are forgiven. I regret my insubordination. And do not apologize for kissing me."
"Wh- why not?" whispered B'Elanna, her throat suddenly dry.
"Because I do not want you to."
Straightening back up, Seven moved even closer to B'Elanna and raised her hands to B'Elanna's face. In almost child-like absorption, Seven explored B'Elanna's face with her hands and ran her fingers through the thick, dark hair that made the half-Klingon so striking. Lightly she traced the proud ridges in B'Elanna's forehead, letting her index finger move down over her nose and stopping at her full lips. B'Elanna let her explore her lips with gentle fingers while she drank in the beauty of Seven's stunning face, her blonde hair, her wrapt attention to her task. Staring intently at B'Elanna's full lips, Seven knew that she wanted to feel those lips against her own again. Letting one hand slip behind the half-Klingon's head and the other trail down her neck to rest on her shoulder, Seven leaned down and pulled B'Elanna to meet her.
"Fast learner," B'Elanna thought as she opened her mouth to deepen the kiss, her hands moving around Seven's body to slide up her back and crush the blonde to her. For long moments both women's thoughts flew from them as they focused on the sensuous play of tongues and lips, of firm muscle felt through the clothing beneath their hands, of soft moans and throaty growls.
"Come on," B'Elanna said for the second time that day, her voice thick with desire, and she pulled the taller woman with her as she backed to the bed. B'Elanna pushed the ex-drone down, pausing to rip off her Starfleet jacket on her way to the astonishing position of being horizontal with Seven of Nine, her body lying along the length of the beautiful ex-drone.
When B'Elanna later thought about that first sexual encounter with the lovely and enigmatic ex-Borg, she could only remember sensations--the tearing of the fabric of Seven's biosuit, the satiny-smooth texture of Seven's creamy skin, the heavy fullness of her breasts in her hands, the tangy musk of Seven's sex, the sound of Seven's voice in the throes of orgasm, calling out her name. Then the slow catching of their breaths, the hands running the lengths of each other's bodies as B'Elanna gentled Seven down from the heights of her first time, the whispered exchanges of almost incoherent half-sentences as they searched for words.
It was what Seven did next that B'Elanna played over and over again in her memory.
As Seven's breathing became more even and she absorbed the implications of physical expressions of desire and love between two people, she turned onto her side and faced the half-Klingon woman who had just taken her with such passion and abandon. Deliberately and with the concentration she applied to everything she did, Seven slowly ran her hand over B'Elanna's shoulder, along her bicep, down her forearm, pausing often to delight in the feel of the smooth skin, the firm muscles. Reaching her hand, she picked it up in hers and ran her thumb along the back up to the fingertips. As if in disbelief at the beauty at her disposal before her, she ran her hand and eyes back the way they had come to return to the smooth, strong shoulder and began again, this time moving slowly down to her breasts. B'Elanna silently watched Seven's exploration of her body, closing her eyes and catching her breath when Seven reached the places that she especially liked to be touched. After she had drunk B'Elanna's body in with her hands and eyes, Seven began another journey with her mouth that left the Klingon-human hybrid panting for release. When it came, B'Elanna knew that her relationship with the former Borg had been irrevocably altered. Indeed, what had passed between them left them both groping for level ground from which to begin to understand each other and their changed status.
"So, what do we do now?" asked B'Elanna as they lay facing each other, their hands leisurely retracing the paths they had previously explored with more urgency.
"My research is incomplete," Seven responded. "I shall require more experimentation and will need to expand the parameters of my exploration before I will be able to submit a report."
After a few moments of stunned silence, B'Elanna realized that Seven of Nine was having her on. "Borg humor," she said with a smirk. "This is going to take some getting used to."
"Indeed, B'Elanna. We must both adapt to our changed circumstances."
"And just what are our 'changed circumstances'?" B'Elanna asked. "Just where are we? And don't tell me we're in my quarters!"
"Spoil sport," replied Seven with pursed lips. But then her face became serious. "I can only answer for myself in this matter. I wish to explore this aspect of our relationship further."
"What--you want to 'expand your humanity' by cutting your sexual incisors on me? I don't think so!" B'Elanna was beginning to feel her Klingon getting up. "I'm not a science project, Seven, nor an amusement park!"
"You misunderstand, B'Elanna," Seven said as she gripped the half-Klingon's shoulder to slow her incipient anger. "When I said that I wished to explore this aspect of our relationship, I meant that I wish to learn to love. I believe that I can learn about love from you."
B'Elanna was no more satisfied with this answer than she was with the first one.
"So, what am I? Your teacher? And once you learn what you want to learn, do you 'graduate' on to someone else? Where does that leave me?"
Seven sighed. "I did not realize how difficult it would be to communicate about this subject." She looked deeply into B'Elanna's troubled brown eyes and tried again.
"If I am to learn about love, I would wish to do so only with you. You are the only person aboard Voyager who has created in me these emotions."
"I do not know what to call them. I can only tell you that I find pleasure in your company. I am excited by your passion. I admire your intelligence. I am intrigued by your intuitive leaps while problem-solving in Engineering. I am also drawn by your beauty. And now you have shown me love, made love to me, and I to you. Does this not make us 'lovers'? I wish to learn how much more we can be to each other. I wish to find ways to deepen our love for each other."
"Oh," said a slightly chastened B'Elanna. "Why didn't you say so?"
It was Seven's turn to be taken aback.
"Klingon humor," she said, her voice dropping to its deepest, sexiest register.
"Yep," replied B'Elanna smugly. "Just one more thing about me to love."
"Indeed," agreed Seven as she began to broaden her research parameters.
IV. All Quiet in the Delta Quadrant
Captain Janeway finally shook herself from her reverie and looked around her ready room. When had the lights dimmed to mimic the Terran night? As a young ensign, Janeway had always loved serving aboard ship during the Gamma shift. She had always found the lowered lighting, the hushed tones that the crew used to address each other, the slower pace of things soothing. It was as if the ship herself were walking on tiptoe to avoid waking her sleeping crew. "I'd better get some shuteye if I'm to be any good tomorrow," she thought as she roused herself from behind her console.
The evening bridge crew turned in surprise to hear the doors to the ready room swish open.
"Good evening, Captain," said Lieutenant Nicoletti, Gamma shift Ops supervisor. "We thought you'd retired for the night." She handed the Captain the PADD on which she'd been logging the ship's progress.
"Good evening, Susan," said the Captain warmly, glancing down at the PADD. "All quiet in the Delta Quadrant for once?"
"Smooth sailing, ma'am," smiled the young officer.
"Steady as she goes, then," said Janeway, turning to leave the bridge. "Steady as she goes."
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