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She Who Hesitates is Lost
By Lisa Countryman


Chapter 37: Impact

B'Elanna dropped her hyper-spanner for the third time. "Damn it," she said as she climbed down to retrieve it. She was in her complete exposure suit, and the helmet visor kept fogging over. "Tell me again why we need to wear these damn things? The station's atmosphere is fine. Environmental controls weren't damaged."

"As I told you," Tach said. "When you've got that many small chunks of rock flying at you, you need to be ready." He tightened down a fitting and then reached over and opened a plasma vent. "Damn," he screamed when the plasma began leaking immediately. He turned it off and began tightening the fitting again.

"If one of those things hit us, we're not gonna' have to worry about having a spacesuit," she said as she went back to adjust the plasma matter-stream. "Okay, I fixed the plasma mix. Any time you're ready." She looked at him expectantly.

"A meteor may only pierce the hull," Tach pointed out. "You'll thank me if we have a rapid decompression."

"Great," B'Elanna said with a sigh. "Did I mention that Klingons don't do well in zero G?"

"As your wife is so fond of saying, you will adapt," Tach said as he opened the vent. "There," he said with a smile. "Now, let's get down to the reactor and see if we can reactivate it."

"I can't believe I'm taking orders from a farmer," B'Elanna said as she followed him out of the small corridor.

Seven of Nine stood at the auxiliary tactical station, ready to target any meteors that Tuvok or Harry might miss. She wasn't enjoying the fact that her wife was out in the middle of the storm. Hundreds of meteorites of every size filled the surrounding space. With B'Elanna and Tach already docked at the space station, Tuvok had taken over the responsibility of covering it. His fingers flew furiously over his comm panel as he tried to keep one step ahead of the projectiles.

Voyager had turned and was facing into the meteor storm, targeting the deadly chunks of rock as they headed for the planet or the station. The Stellar Guard had a squadron of fighters that were taking out as many of the larger meteors as possible. The fighters had the advantage of using Narian targeting array. Their complex systems were centrally controlled and the Narian command had already plotted the trajectories of the largest meteors, so they knew which would definitely hit the planet. Those were targeted and marked on the fighter's targeting array. The pilots would take turns flying out to intercept those massive targets and break them up. The problem then became recalculating the trajectories of the broken pieces.

"Mister Kim," Tuvok said, his voice almost sounding alarmed. "Incoming meteors at 123 mark 214. I will take the larger one," he said even as he was firing.

"Got it," Harry responded, though his eyes grew wide when he saw the size of the targets. "Why didn't the Stellar Guard take these out?"

The phasers fired and the huge chunks of rock shattered, sending smaller pieces directly for Voyager. The debris filled the viewscreen.

Janeway stood, keeping one hand on her command chair. "All available power to the main deflector. Keep firing. We can't let those pieces get past us," she barked. She knew that Tach and B'Elanna were counting on Voyager to keep the incoming meteorites at bay until they completed their repairs.

"There are so many," Harry said as he kept re-targeting.

"The Stellar Guard are handling the biggest meteors, and they are not bothering with the ones that won't hit the planet." Seven looked up from her comm panel. "Mister Kim, you just destroyed a target that would have passed us without harm."

"How am I supposed to know that?" Harry asked as he kept firing.

"Indeed," Seven said. She input a few more commands and then sent a new set of data to all of the comm panels. On the main viewscreen, a green grid criss-crossed the image. Suddenly each meteor hurling toward them had a color-coded tracking mark beside it. "Fire on the meteors marked with red," Seven ordered.

"Thank you, Seven." Janeway stared at the screen, impressed with the complex tracking system. It reminded her of a Starfleet war room with different markers for ships from different alliances, though Seven's program looked more intricate. She realized that Seven must be plotting hundreds of courses of the meteors and then manually updating the screen.

Seven nodded. "The yellow targets are ones in danger of being pushed into the planet or the station by the explosions. Be aware that they may change to red at any time." She glanced back down at her console. She had divided it into two data streams. One gave her an update on the meteors, and the other was from the scanners facing the small space station. She had a constant image of Tach's ship docked off of the port side of the battered phaser cannon array. Tach's ship was firing automatically, keeping the stray debris from hitting the structure.

"Impressive," Tuvok said as he concentrated his firing on the new red targets. A large explosion rocked the ship as debris hit the deflector grid. Tuvok grabbed the console and kept firing.

"Tom," Janeway said as she sat back down. "Keep a course locked in to get us out of here. I want you ready to move us the other side of the planet as soon as Tach and B'Elanna are out of there."

"Gladly," Tom said as he double-checked the escape route he had already plotted. "What's taking them so long?"

Seven's head snapped up. "The station was badly damaged when the ship collided with it. Since that impact, dozen of small meteors have hit it as well," Seven said defensively. She didn't like Paris questioning her wife's efficiency, although she did wish that B'Elanna would finish soon.

"Captain," Harry said, he was smiling, impressed by a massive meteor he had just destroyed. "Maybe I can knock a few of these out of our way before they get so close." He held onto his console as the fragments hit the shields and shook Voyager. "I'm firing on the three largest red targets that just came on screen." He pushed the comm panel as he spoke. "The photon torpedoes should do the trick."

"Harry, no." Janeway stood and spun. "Belay that," she glared at him and his face went pale.

"I just fired," Harry said.

"Tuvok," Janeway yelled as she trotted up to the tactical level.

"I am attempting to disarm the torpedoes." Tuvok had to shift his focus back to his targeting as a small meteor hit Voyager's shields, knocking the ship to one side.

"Hurry," Seven said as she tried to disarm it from her station.

"What?" Harry asked.

"Captain…" Tuvok nodded toward the screen. The largest meteor in the distance exploded when the torpedo hit, shattering into three huge chunks that flew off into different directions. The pieces bumped into other meteors, setting off a chain of events like a cue ball breaking a freshly racked set of billiard balls. Suddenly dozens of the yellow targets changed to red.

"Oh, god," Harry whispered.

Another torpedo exploded, it shattered the next meteor sending hundreds of shards in every direction, and the explosion ignited some of the pieces. It would have been beautiful, like fireworks on a hot July night, except these fireworks were heading straight for Voyager.

"Brace for impact," Janeway said just as the shards hit the shields. It sounded like water thrown into a white-hot frying pan as the meteors scattered across the shields. "What was that?" the captain asked just as the third torpedo hit and broke another giant meteor in half.

"The second meteor had a less dense construction," Seven answered as she continued both of her scans. "It had hundreds of caverns, all filled with hydrogen gas. The matrix of the cavern system was laced with tri-lithium and duranium." Seven's eyes widened. "We must warn the station," she said even as she accessed the communications system.

"What? Why?" Harry asked while he tried shooting the new red targets.

"Janeway to Torres, get out of there, now. You've got hundreds of tiny fragments headed your way and they're made of tri-lithium and duranium. They'll get right past Tach's targeting cannons and cut through your hull like hot butter." Kathryn moved next to Seven and watched as the massive cloud of projectiles neared the station.

*"Torres here, Captain…we're almost done. Can you buy us ten more minutes?"* B'Elanna asked over the comm.

"Get out of there, now," Janeway ordered.

*"Aye, Captain,"* B'Elanna said, but her tone suggested she was not happy about it.

"Captain," Tom Paris yelled. "We need to get out of here too."

Janeway turned and saw half of the last broken meteor. It was heading for Voyager, closing fast. "Hold your ground, Ensign," she ordered. She looked over at Tuvok and he gave her a subtle shake of his head. "Harry, you focus everything we've got on that… that thing. Tuvok, see if you can pick off some of those smaller pieces heading for the station." She took a breath as her crew jumped into action. "Tom, you keep us nose to nose with that thing until the last second. We need to break it up. It's an ELE," she added, reminding everyone that if it hit the planet it would cause another Extinction Level Event.

"No," Seven whispered.

Janeway looked down at her console as the station was peppered with impacts and the surrounding space began filling with a white vapor as the phaser cannon array lost its atmosphere.

"Come on, Tach… move it," B'Elanna yelled as she ran toward the docking bay. He was in front of her and she was pushing him every time he would pause. His bulky spacesuit made him look like an overweight targh as he quickly waddled through the station.

"What if we use the phaser cannons and target manually?" he asked as he stopped to catch his breath. B'Elanna slammed into to him. Her facemask had long since fogged over.

"Move," she ordered, taking him by the arm and tugging him. "Janeway doesn't back down easily. If she said we need to get out of here, then we do." She trotted a few more steps, pulling him with her. "How soon can we use the transporter?" she asked.

"As soon as we clear the reactor's radiation shielding…at the end of the corridor," he said.

A deafening hiss made them both stop, they looked at each other, and for a split second nothing happened. A loud explosion replaced the hissing and they both flew through the air. They were being forcefully sucked toward the corridor.

"Hull breach," Tach screamed over the noise. He grabbed his belt, pulling off a cable with a clamp and hooked it to a loop on B'Elanna's waist. He took a small pistol from his opposite hip and fired at one of the walls as they were carried past. A duranium arrowhead with an attached cable plunged into one of the bulkheads and the cable quickly went taut, yanking B'Elanna and Tach to a stop. They swayed from side to side as the air was drawn out past them. After several minutes, they both bobbed above the decking. The station was completely silent.

"Kahless," B'Elanna said as she activated her magnetic boots. She stood in the gravity free environment as Tach did the same.

"What do you think of these suits now?" Tach asked. He unsnapped the cable from the wall but left the one tethering him to B'Elanna.

"I'll tell you when we get back on board Voyager," she said. "Come on, we're almost out of the shielded area."

Janeway saw the vapor filling the space around the station and she knew what it meant. "Janeway to Torres, come in," she said calmly, but inside her heart was pounding. She waited, idly listening to the sound of fingers dancing over consoles as the crew continued firing. She glanced down at Tom Paris. He was moving Voyager in reverse, giving them a little more time to attack the giant meteor as it hurled toward them. It was also moving them closer to the station and the atmosphere. "Janeway to Torres," she repeated. There was still no answer.

Seven was tired of waiting patiently. She slapped her comm badge. "Seven of Nine to Torres, come in…now." Only silence answered.

"They may be somewhere a signal can't get through," Janeway said. "Was Tach wearing a comm badge?"

"I…do not know," Seven said. She felt like she was failing her wife by not having all of the relevant information.

"Janeway to Tach, come in," she said.

"Captain," Tuvok said calmly. "On screen."

Janeway and Seven turned to see the meteor glowing red in the center and then it broke with a massive explosion that knocked Tuvok, Janeway and Kim to the floor. Seven remained standing, but her console had deep dent where her Borg enhanced left hand had crushed it as she held on.

"Well?" the captain demanded as she climbed to her feet. She stared at the screen as the fiery explosion began to die down. Tiny pieces of rock began hitting the shields and then the smoke and flame was gone and they could see what was left of the projectile. The explosion had torn off three smaller pieces that were flying in the opposite direction. The remaining chunk was closing on Voyager.

"Captain?" Paris asked from the helm.

"Steady, Mister Paris," Janeway answered. "Shields to maximum," she ordered as she went to the helm. She knelt next to him and began altering the ship's course.

"Ma'am?" Paris asked, his voice cracking. "We're still in that thing's path."

"I know that, Mister Paris," Janeway said without looking up. "We just need to alter its trajectory a tiny bit."

"Captain," Seven said from her post, "This ship, even with shields at maximum, will not alter its course. The shields will buckle a nanosecond before the hull implodes."

"Steady," Janeway said to Paris as he moved in his chair. "Get ready to pivot us as the meteor gets closer. Try to match its speed," she added. "Once we are touching, we'll just give it a little nudge."

"Ma'am," Tom said slowly. "That thing you want to nudge is twenty times Voyager's size."

"Twenty six," Tuvok corrected.

"Just what I needed to hear," Paris said. The meteor filled the screen as it rushed closer. Tom managed to get the ship's shields within a few meters of the projectile and he matched its speed, hovering just off of its edge. He gave Janeway one last questioning glance, then let the shields nudge the huge rock. The entire ship rocked and the engines began to whine as Tom followed the captain's orders and tried to push the meteor. The whine from the engines increased and Tom wished B'Elanna was in Engineering; she could always get the warp core to give a little more power than Starfleet engineers had ever intended.

Seven continued hailing both Torres and Tach. Her scans showed nothing because the tri-lithium particles scattered around the station had blocked out all of the readings.

*"Vorik to the bridge… We have lost two power conduits and the engines are overheating,"* the Vulcan said over the comm.

"The meteor's trajectory is unchanged," Tuvok said.

"Vorik, get repair teams on it, Janeway out," the captain said. "All right, Tom, back us off." She turned and faced the officers at the back of the bridge. "Seven, check that thing for structural integrity. Are there any weak spots?"

Seven quickly re-scanned the meteor. "Yes, there is a fissure near the center of the last explosion. The resulting crater has a deep crack that continues into the interior."

"Tuvok, I want one torpedo, minimum yield. Put it right into that fissure," Janeway said.

"I might point out that a torpedo is exactly what caused this," Tuvok said while he targeted the crater.

"I know," Janeway said. "But this thing wasn't even going to hit the planet until we interfered. I am not going to stand by and watch an ELE hit their planet when we can at least break it up."

"Torpedo ready," Tuvok said.

"Fire." Janeway sat in her chair and waited as the torpedo went to the meteor in a lazy arc. There was small explosion and then the huge rock seemed to vibrate and then split into a several smaller pieces. "Target those," Janeway ordered. One piece was bigger than the rest and it headed directly for Voyager. "Tom," Janeway said harshly.

"Got it," Tom responded as he spun Voyager out of the way. He wasn't quite fast enough and the meteor bumped the ship.

"Shields are failing on decks four through nine," Tuvok said.

"Captain," Seven yelled as she stared down at her console. "The station."

"On screen," Janeway said. The rear view filled the screen as the largest chunk of the meteor that had hit Voyager continued on toward the station. It dwarfed the station, and continued directly toward it. "Janeway to Torres, come in." She watched in horror as the meteor hit the station and Tach's ship along with it. The station and ship were crumpled like discarded paper cups, collapsing on impact. There was a small explosion as Tach's fuel tanks ruptured when the meteor continued into the atmosphere taking the wreckage with it. It glowed bright red, then white, before becoming engulfed in flame, the whole thing taking only a few seconds.

Tuvok looked up as the ship was rocked by a small meteor hitting the shields. "I suggest a hasty retreat," he said quietly.

"No," Seven said. She scanned the surrounding space. "We must find Lana," she insisted. Her hands flew over the controls as she tried different methods of scanning. Each one showed nothing but she blamed the tri-lithium. "We will find them," she insisted.

"Tom…" Janeway put her hand on his shoulder. "Take us to the other side of the planet."

Tom could not answer, so he nodded. He keyed in the commands and the ship moved quickly toward the opposite side of the planet and the safety it offered. With the planet between Voyager and the meteor storm, they would be as safe as possible.

"I will find them," Seven said quietly as she tried modulating the scanners. "They may have used escape pods." She noticed her vision was narrowing, she could only see the tiny area of her console, and everything else was black. She felt a warm touch on her arm but didn't look up.

"Seven," Janeway said gently. "Come on, I think you and I should have a talk in my ready room."

"After I locate B'Elanna and Tach," Seven said. "I must continuing scanning."

"I will continue scanning," Tuvok offered from his post.

Seven glanced over at the Vulcan and considered his offer. "Very well, but contact me when you find her," she finally said.

"Come on," Kathryn said as she wrapped her arm around Seven's waist. The tall blonde hesitated before slowly moving toward the ready room. Janeway looked back at Harry who seemed dazed as well. "Mister Kim, contact Chakotay in Engineering and have him report to the bridge. Until then, you have the bridge."

"Aye, Ma'am." Harry stared at Seven. He had never seen her look so completely lost.

"Easy," Kathryn said when Seven stumbled. "I've got you."

"Do not tell B'Elanna I tripped," Seven said as she leaned onto Kathryn for support. "I am always teasing her about being clumsy. She would enjoy returning the favor."

Kathryn led Seven into the ready room and guided her to the couch. "Sit," Kathryn ordered.

"I should be helping to find B'Elanna." Seven sank into the soft cushions of the couch.

"Seven," Kathryn said as she sat next to her friend. "You will get through this. You have so many friends on board. You don't have to do this alone. We're here for you." She reached out and took Seven's delicate hand. "I'm here for you."

"I am never alone," Seven pointed out as she looked into Kathryn's eyes. "I have B'Elanna."

Kathryn took a deep breath and sighed. There were parts of her job that she truly hated. "Seven, you saw the station… you know B'Elanna's not coming back."

"You are wrong," Seven yelled and jumped to her feet. "You cannot give up on her. She is not… gone. She promised me that she would come back. B'Elanna would never break a promise to me."

"She didn't mean to," Kathryn said as she stood. "It was an accident." Kathryn tried to take Seven's hand, but the exdrone yanked it away.

"I am her wife… she would not lie to me," Seven yelled. Her eyes began to shine as tears formed but refused to fall.

"She didn't lie… she just made a mistake," Kathryn said quietly. "I never should have let her go."

"You could not have stopped her," Seven whispered as tears began sliding down her cheeks. "Please, leave me alone," she requested. "I do not wish to have you see me like this," she added as her hands began to shake.

"You shouldn't be alone right now." Kathryn tried to put her hand on Seven's shoulder.

"Leave," Seven yelled. Her eyes were wild and feral and she clinched her hands into tight fists until her knuckles turned white.

"All right," Kathryn said slowly, "But I'll be right outside if you need me."

"Go," Seven said huskily.

"I'll be back in ten minutes to check on you," Janeway said as she paused near the door. "You aren't going to do anything…"

"I will not harm myself," Seven said quietly. "I would never harm our child."

"Call me if you need anything." Kathryn opened the door and left Seven alone.

"I need my Be'nal," Seven whispered as the door hissed shut.


Chapter 38: Aftermath

As the door to her ready room closed, Kathryn heard a desperate, guttural scream coming from inside and recognized it as the Klingon death howl. She leaned against the wall and rubbed her temples. She stayed there, ignoring the concerned looks from the rest of the crew as she wondered how she was going to help her young friend through her loss. She listened and she heard loud crashes, identifying a few of the sounds. One was definitely her desk being overturned, another she assumed was her Da Vinci bust hitting the wall. The crashing ended after a few minutes and she heard strange noises that reminded her of the shipyards at Utopia Planitia. It sounded like metal being bent and shaped, but she dismissed that because it simply wasn't possible, then the crashing continued.

"Captain," Chakotay said as he came over to her. "How is she?"

A loud ripping noise followed by a thud came from behind the door.

"How do you think she is?" Janeway asked. They both listened until the sounds died down.

"I spoke with Nara," he said quietly.

"Oh?" Janeway asked.

"She's in the new orchard with Ty, looking at the trees Tach planted." Chakotay nodded toward the silent ready room. "Are you sure you should have left her alone?"

"She's a very private person," Kathryn said sadly. "She needed to go through…that…alone," she added. "She's letting off some steam, and I don't think she'd do that with an audience."

"It doesn't sound like you'll have a ready room when this is over." He put his hand on Kathryn's shoulder. "Don't leave her in there too long."

Kathryn nodded. "Her ten minutes are up right now. Why don't you get back to my bridge."

"Aye Captain." He squeezed her shoulder. "Good luck."

"I'll need it." She turned and entered her ready room. "Oh my," she said as she spun and closed the door and sealed it with her personal privacy code.

She turned back around and saw Seven sitting in the middle of the wreckage of what had once been Janeway's private sanctuary. It looked like a tornado had been through the room…twice. Everything in the room was shattered or ripped to shreds, most notably was the couch. It was reduced to a fluffy ocean of padding covering the floor and a few scattered piles of metal that had been its frame. The desk was broken in half, one piece having been hurled onto the upper deck and crushed against the wall. The other half of the desk sat at its normal location, looking like half of it had beamed off of the ship and the remaining piece had simply fallen over. Kathryn moved closer to the center of the debris, trying to look at Seven's face, but all she could see was the former Borg's back as she hunched over in the mess.

"Seven?" Kathryn asked gently, but the young blonde didn't even flinch. Kathryn moved closer and knelt beside her. She was covered in dust and had pieces of the couch stuffing stuck in her hair but Kathryn's eyes focused on her hands. Seven was cradling Kathryn's lucky teacup, holding it reverently. Even in her rage she hadn't been able to destroy something so precious to the captain.

"Your cup," Seven whispered as she turned. Her eyes were swollen from crying and she was pale. "I seem to have damaged your ready room…however…I could not break your ‘lucky tea cup.' Please take it."

Kathryn took the cup and held it in one hand while she rested the other hand on Seven's shoulder. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. It occurred to her that Seven was far more fragile than the porcelain cup, and she wished it were the cup that was shattered and not her dear friend's heart.

Seven turned and looked at the teacup in Janeway's hand. "Where was my luck today?" she asked in a tiny voice that sounded more like a child than the strong woman Janeway had come to know.

The words hit Kathryn like a fist and she stood and hurled the teacup into the wall. She paced and rubbed her eyes as she felt tears hot on her cheeks. Kathryn sighed and then wiped her eyes one last time and went back to Seven and sat beside her in the debris.

"Why?" Seven asked.

"There is no reason." Janeway took Seven's hand and patted her comfortingly. She had to shift her legs to make a soft spot on top of the scattered mess.

Seven looked down at her belly and then rested her hand on it. "B'Elanna loved our daughter," she said quietly. "She would look at my belly with such love and devotion. She would talk to the baby, tell her stories…" Seven looked at Kathryn, her lower lip trembling. "Our daughter will never see that love, never see the love Lana had in her eyes."

"Then we'll tell her," Kathryn said. "Everyday."

"That is…insufficient." Seven closed her eyes tightly and drew in a shaking breath and then collapsed onto Kathryn. She began taking gulps of air as the tears fell uncontrolled. Kathryn lowered Seven into her lap and gently stroked her blonde hair.

Seven cried for hours, and Kathryn held her, murmuring comforting words that did more for Kathryn than Seven. The former drone was beyond any words and she let her pain pour from her eyes in salty streams. Finally, Seven dozed off, her face still resting on Kathryn's lap and the older woman stared down at her. Kathryn had no idea how to help. She wished that there was some way to bring B'Elanna back, but she knew that miracles were scarce, especially in the Delta Quadrant. Seven was restless, mumbling in her sleep and shifting her weight often. Kathryn eased out from under her and walked a few steps away before tapping her comm badge.

"Janeway to sickbay, I need Opaca in my ready room, now," she whispered.

"Captain," the Doctor answered. He was insulted and his tone made it evident. "It's one thing to create a holographic midwife, but now you want her to use my emitter? What's next, is she going on away missions?"

"Send Opaca to my ready room, now," Janeway said again. Her tone made it clear it wasn't up for debate.

"Fine," the Doctor responded as the channel went dead.

Opaca materialized, looking somewhat disoriented, but she took one look at the room and Seven and hurried toward her.

"Shh," Janeway whispered. "She just went to sleep. Could you scan her…make sure she's okay?"

"I'll scan her," Opaca said sadly. "But I doubt she'll be okay. Not for a very long time." She moved forward, careful not to awaken Seven, and scanned her. After a moment she moved away, taking Janeway by the arm and not speaking until they were well away from Seven. "Physically she's fine. I would like her to eat something, and if that's not possible, maybe you can get her to regenerate, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one."

"Why?" Kathryn whispered.

"I happen to know that B'Elanna always sat with her when she regenerated…ever since they were on Jusari Prime," Opaca explained. "Seven told me she loves that time together. She is unconscious, but has an innate sense of B'Elanna's presence…watching over her. She told me that it makes her feel completely cherished. I don't think she'll be too eager to regenerate alone."

"I see," Kathryn said quietly. She looked at Opaca, surprised to see her holographic eyes darkened with grief. Opaca was full of surprises, and Kathryn found her extremely easy to talk as if they had known each other for years. "Maybe you can talk to her when she feels up to it. You're very good with her."

"I care a great deal for her. She's grown so much since she was rescued from the Borg," Opaca said sadly. "I hate seeing her go through this."

*"Chakotay to Janeway,"* the commander said.

"Janeway here," Kathryn whispered. She looked over and saw Seven stir and then settle back onto the hard deck. "What is it, Commander?"

*"I just spoke with the Stellar Guard, and…well…I think you'd better look at what they told us. I routed the information to your console, but it won't go through."*

Kathryn looked at the wall where the information feed for her desk console used to be. The conduit had been ripped from the wall. She vaguely remembered seeing part of it on the upper deck under the window.

"Bring me the information on a data padd," Kathryn said quietly. "And bring it yourself, Commander. No one else is to enter my ready room."

*"Understood, Chakotay out."*

"What now?" Kathryn shook her head. She looked over at Seven; she was mumbling louder and Kathryn went to her, carefully gathering her up onto her lap. Seven gripped her legs and whimpered.

"Lana," Seven whispered in her sleep. Her voice was so full of love that Kathryn thought her own heart would break.

The door chimed and Kathryn ordered the computer to release the lock. Chakotay took one look at the destruction and stopped, stunned by the amount of damage Seven had done in the ten minutes Janeway had left her alone. He carefully walked over to Kathryn and gave her the data padd, trying not to look at Seven resting in the captain's lap.

"Check this out immediately." Janeway nodded at the padd. "But keep it under wraps. There's no reason to get anyone's hopes up."

"I'm already on it," he said as he made his way out of the debris field.

"What is it?" Opaca asked.

"Maybe a miracle." Kathryn reread the padd. It was a detailed report from the Stellar Guard.

"Then may the prophets guide you," Opaca said as she tilted her head to one side.

The data padd explained what Chakotay had discovered when he spoke with the Narians. Chakotay had explained that the station had been lost and the Narians had asked if the team had beamed onto Voyager or used standard escape protocol. Chakotay asked what they meant, and they explained. It was normal for Narians to be in dangerous meteor storms and they had developed strategies just for them. Since their system of targeting meteors was similar to the one Seven had designed, they knew which meteors would miss the planet completely. Those meteors were not shot down until the Stellar Guard had extra time. Because of that, the larger meteors that were not a threat became emergency beam out sights. In the event of a meteor strike, a crew could beam onto the meteor and wait for rescue. Voyager had not scanned any of the meteors that had continued past the destroyed station. Kathryn hoped that Tach was well versed in the method described on the padd. Voyager had been too far away for a beam out, but there had been dozens of meteors close enough for Tach's transporter to reach.

"What miracle are you talking about?" Seven asked as she sat up. She grabbed the data padd and scanned it.

"I thought you were asleep," Kathryn said with a half smile.

"I was…but I awakened when the commander left you this," Seven accused as she waved the padd at the captain. "Why was I not informed immediately? We must begin a search at once."

"Seven, this a long shot. The station was depressurized, and they didn't have time to reach the transporters." Kathryn tried to take the padd, but Seven pulled it to her chest like a life preserver.

"She is alive," Seven yelled angrily as she stood up. "I should not have given up on her so quickly. It is my humanity that makes me so…weak as to accept her death."

"You're wrong." Kathryn stood and tried to take Seven by the arm but she pulled away and gave the captain an icy glare. "Seven, it's your humanity that's making you instantly believe this right now. It's called hope…and since it's new to you…I don't want to see you hurt by it."

"How could I be hurt by knowing my wife is alive?" Seven picked up a piece of the broken teacup and cradled it in her Borg enhanced left hand. Her right hand still clutched the data padd.

"Seven, all I'm saying is that you shouldn't assume we're going to find them." Kathryn edged closer. She could see Seven's hands trembling. "I want them to be all right. God, I want it more than anything," Kathryn said. She had loved Seven deeply and wanted a life with her, but she knew the former Borg belonged with B'Elanna. "Seven, I'm just saying let's go into this hopefully, but not blindly."

"She is alive," Seven whispered. She held out the shard of broken porcelain to Kathryn. "This is me without my Be'nal. Broken, unable to do that which I was designed for… and like this, I could be mended…but the fractures would always be there. Without B'Elanna, my life is incomplete."

"I know it feels that way, but you are a strong and independent woman. You don't need anyone to be complete," Kathryn said as she bent down to look into Seven's downcast eyes.

"You are wrong," Seven said. Her voice was bleak and desperate. "B'Elanna holds my heart. I gave it to her, and while I will go on and function for our daughter's sake… I will never be whole again until I meet my Be'nal in Stovocor. I cannot get back my heart, she carries it with her wherever she goes."

Kathryn smiled sadly. "When did you become such a poet, my friend?"

"The day B'Elanna and I fell in love."

"I'm worried about you." Kathryn rested her hand on Seven's shoulder. "Please, don't let yourself believe this…only to be shattered if it isn't true."

"I know she is alive, Kathryn. I just didn't listen to what my soul was telling me." Seven turned and smiled at Kathryn. "She is alive."

Opaca came over to them and paused before reaching out and touching Seven on the elbow. "Seven?"

"Yes?" Seven looked down at the short hologram.

"How do you know she is alive?" Opaca asked.

Seven smiled and she clutched the broken porcelain to her chest. "Because my heart still beats. If Lana were … gone… it would not."

Kathryn sighed. "Well, I can't argue with that logic. Will you wait in here while I check with Chakotay?" Kathryn asked.

"I have the right to help look for my wife," Seven said. "Besides, I am the only one who believes she is alive, so I will look more diligently."

"All right," Kathryn said. "Let's go."

Janeway entered the bridge with Seven at her side. Opaca had beamed back to sickbay. The Captain took over the bridge and sat in her chair and Seven went immediately to the auxiliary science station and began trying to find the meteors that had been closest to the station when it exploded. She was surprised to see that Harry Kim had already marked four possible targets.

"Coming up the third target," Ensign Kim said.

"Third?" Janeway asked.

"We already checked two of them," Chakotay said.

"Good thinking," Janeway said quietly. "How much air do they have?" She was considering them alive until they had proof, something she realized she should have done earlier. It just seemed so impossible that they could have survived the impact.

"Narian emergency suits are designed for longer periods of exposure," Tuvok said. "They employ concentrated liquid oxygen canisters. They should have almost twelve hours left."

"That's fine if you don't mind having a bomb strapped to your back," Paris said from the helm. "Guess they didn't have a spaceshuttle Challenger in their history."

"That's enough, Ensign," Janeway said. She didn't like him making jokes about B'Elanna or the group of space travelers Earth had lost early in its history.

"This meteor has no life signs," Seven said. "We should move on to the forth target."

"Narian ship approaching, Captain," Harry said.

"On screen." Janeway stood as she looked at a Narian captain with reddish hair and big brown eyes. His browridge was thick and his eyebrows met in the middle. He looked like the Irish Setter Kathryn had left back in the Alpha Quadrant.

"Voyager," he said as he leaned forward in his chair. "I am Captain Jakdar. We have been searching the meteors for your missing crew."

"Yes?" Janeway sent out a prayer to the universe.

"Target 16," he said as rubbed his chin. "We recovered two bodies, one Narian…one Klingon as you described. We will beam them over immediately."

Kathryn sat and gripped the arms of her chair.

"Captain!" Harry Kim yelled.

Seven's eyes rolled back into her head and she hit the deck plating in a crumpled pile. Janeway felt her own heart ache at the thought of Seven going through the agony again. Tuvok and Harry reached Seven and checked her for injuries.

"Thank you, for your assistance," Janeway said grimly as she turned back to the screen. "We'll send you the coordinates to our morgue."

"Morgue?" Jakdar asked. "Why? They are in our transporter room ready to come home."

"You said bodies…" Janeway said slowly.

"Yes, two healthy bodies. And the female is rather… insistent. She has quite a temper." He smiled at Janeway wondering why she seemed upset.

"They're alive?" Tom asked happily.

"Of course," Jakdar said.

"In our language, we refer to people as…bodies…only when they are deceased," Kathryn said as she looked back at Seven. The willowy former drone was still out cold.

"My apologies," Jakdar said. His browridge blushed deep crimson. "Our deceased are called shells."

"Please beam them directly to the bridge," Janeway said. "Drop the shields."

There was a brief delay and then Tach and B'Elanna appeared on the bridge in front of the helm and looked around. They had their helmets tucked under their arms and were covered in sweat and grime, but both had weary smiles on their faces.

"Oh, sweet Kahless, am I glad to see you," B'Elanna said with a sigh.

"So am I." Tach tossed his helmet onto the floor, not caring where it rolled. "Nana B'Elanna is driving me crazy."

"Captain," Tuvok said from the tactical station where he was kneeling next to Seven. "Perhaps Lieutenant Torres could assist me?" Harry was beside him, the men blocking Seven from view.

"I just got back," B'Elanna whined. "Honestly, I just need a hot shower and a chance to see my wife. Is that too much to ask?"

Harry stood and stepped out of the way as Seven tried to sit up. Her expression was dazed and her eyelids fluttered.

"Seven!" B'Elanna dropped her helmet and sprinted to her wife. She pushed Tuvok out of the way and held the bewildered blonde in her arms. "What happened?"

"Be'nal?" Seven's eyes shot open. "You are alive." She yanked B'Elanna to her and they fell onto the floor in a heap. "The Narians said you were dead." Seven rolled over, pinning B'Elanna to the deck in a very intimate position. "They said they had your bodies." Seven gently touched B'Elanna's cheek, making sure she was real.

"Yeah," Tach said, drawing the word out. "They had our bodies…and here we are."

Tuvok cleared his throat.

Seven looked up and glared at him and then she turned back to B'Elanna and kissed her without restraint.

The Vulcan cleared his throat again, wishing he had a firehose.

"Wow," B'Elanna said when Seven let her come up for air.

"You are in serious trouble," Seven said as she stood. She pulled B'Elanna up to her and wrapped her arms around her. "You are forbidden from repairing any stations during meteor storms."

"Ladies?" Janeway crossed her arms over her chest. "Why don't you take this off of my bridge?"

"Oh, ma'am," B'Elanna said as her face turned deep red. "Yes, ma'am."

"Tach," Chakotay said. "I think you'd better let Nara know that you're all right. You were both reported dead."

"Great goddess, where is she?" Tach asked.

"In the orchard," Chakotay said. "With Ty."

"B'Elanna, Seven, why don't you go with him," Janeway said.

"Yes, ma'am." B'Elanna moved toward the door and tugged Seven with her. B'Elanna could still feel the blush burning her cheeks as she climbed into the turbolift.

They rode in silence, and Seven held B'Elanna in her arms, squeezing so tightly that the Klingon actually squeaked once. She looked up at Seven, who loosened her grip and then kissed B'Elanna's temple. The turbolift stopped and Tach hurried out, but Seven wasn't willing to let go of her wife.

"Are you all right, Lana? Were you injured?" Seven ran her hands over the fabric of the exposure suit.

"I'm fine." B'Elanna pulled Seven out of the lift. "A few bumps and bruises, maybe a little frostbite," she joked. "You have no idea how cold that meteor was."

"Where?" Seven grabbed B'Elanna's exposure suit by the metal ring that was used to anchor the helmet into place. She snapped it in half and then shredded the suit down the front and tossed the pieces onto the floor.

"Hey!" B'Elanna was suddenly feeling a chill as her sweat covered arms were exposed to the cool air. She had been wearing only her uniform pants and a tank top under the exposure suit, and while it had been cold on the meteor, the suit was extremely hot on board the ship. Now she was covered in sweat and Voyager's climate controlled air felt cold against her arms.

"Where are you injured?" Seven demanded as she grabbed B'Elanna's tank top, about to give it the same fate as the exposure suit.

"I'm fine," B'Elanna said as she held Seven's wrists. "Hey, take it easy, love."

"I thought you were dead," Seven said in a whisper. She eased out of B'Elanna's grip and moved her hands up to cup B'Elanna's face. "You are my life… and I knew that I had to continue on for our daughter. It hurt so badly. How could I have taught our child to love life when all I wanted to do was join you?"

"I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." B'Elanna put her hands over Seven's, holding them to her skin. "I will be here with you, for you… and we will raise our daughter to treasure every moment…just like we do."

Seven pulled B'Elanna to her chest and clung to her. "I do treasure our life," Seven said. "And you." Seven felt tears on her cheeks and was surprised. She eased back and wiped them away. "I thought I had cried as much as physically possible." She stared at her wet fingers.

"I'm so sorry, Be'nal," B'Elanna said as she took Seven's hand and kissed the tears from her fingertips. "From now on, you'll only have tears of joy."

"I wish that could be true." Seven leaned against the wall. She was exhausted, and her back hurt. "But we live dangerous lives."

"I hate to think of you crying all alone," B'Elanna said as she leaned against Seven's chest. She loved the way their bodies molded together.

"Kathryn was with me," Seven said. She smiled, enjoying the familiar weight of B'Elanna in her arms.

"I'm so glad," B'Elanna replied. "She really is a good friend." B'Elanna snuggled into Seven, not caring that anyone could walk by at any moment.

The turbolift opened and the friend in question came out.

"B'Elanna, I just wanted to check on you and Tach. I think you two should go to sickbay," Kathryn said. She smiled at the look of contentment on Seven's face. She knew without a doubt that the former Borg belonged in B'Elanna's arms and she'd do everything in her power to help them with any bumps that might be in the road ahead.

"Captain, I'm fine," B'Elanna said into Seven's chest. Her lanky wife wouldn't let her pull away enough to turn her head.

"She will go to sickbay," Seven stated.

"Good." Kathryn looked down at the tatters of the exposure suit. "That looks familiar," she said with smile.

"Kathryn, I will repair your ready room." Seven shifted B'Elanna to one side but still had her trapped in her grip. "I was not… I am… I… I was upset."

"I know." Kathryn smiled warmly. "Just remind me to never get you upset at me. If you did that to my ready room…and you weren't even mad at me, I shudder to think what would happen if I ever got you angry."

"I would never harm you," Seven said sincerely.

"I know that," Kathryn assured her.

"What are we talking about?" B'Elanna asked.

"I was…upset when I thought you were…gone," Seven explained. "I damaged the ready room…severely."

"It's nothing that can't be replaced." Kathryn rested her hand on Seven's arm. "Although you will be doing the repairs yourself… and since your wife did upset you, she can help."

"Of course, Kathryn." B'Elanna smiled warmly. "How bad can it be?"

"How bad, indeed?" Kathryn raised both eyebrows and an evil grin covered her elegant features.

"The damage is considerable," Seven said. "I was despondent, but I felt much better after I slept with Kathryn."

"B'Elanna…" Kathryn stuttered as her eyes widened and she shook her head in a most inelegant manor.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes and smiled. "How long were you able to sleep, Be'nal?" She leaned over and kissed Seven's cheek. She knew Seven must have been speaking in precise terms because her wife was incapable of breaking their vows.

"I am uncertain…." Seven said. "I lost track of time. Kathryn, how long was I asleep?"

"Uh… less than an hour." Kathryn felt her cheeks warm and knew she was blushing.

"Kathryn," B'Elanna said with sincere affection. "I know you would never take advantage of anyone, and I know Seven wouldn't make love to anyone else."

"Make love?" Seven asked. "Oh, the euphemism for sex. Of course I did not ‘sleep with' Kathryn. I slept while she comforted me."

"Thank you, Kathryn, for being with Seven." B'Elanna sighed. "I'm glad she didn't have to go through this alone. You're a good friend… to us both."

Kathryn almost said that she was just doing her job, but realized how untrue that would have been. "You two are my friends," she finally managed to say. "And we Janeways don't take that lightly."

"Neither do we Torres'," Seven said with a smile. She saw the surprised looks from B'Elanna and Kathryn and tilted her head to the side. "Well, I am your wife. Am I not a Torres? Or would you rather be B'Elanna of Nine? I know we will keep our own names for professional uses… our maiden names… but I would like the ship's records to reflect our union."

"I would be honored if you took my name, my wife." B'Elanna felt a lump in her throat.

"Seven Torres? That's nice, but…" Janeway said with a wry grin. "I kind of like B'Elanna of Nine."


Chapter 39: Together again

Kathryn Janeway waited as the turbolift took her back to the bridge. The Doctor and Opaca had examined Tach and B'Elanna thoroughly, finding them both healthy. When Kathryn, Seven and B'Elanna had arrived at the orchard, Nara had been hugging Tach, crying as she checked him for injuries. She took one look at B'Elanna and rushed to her and gave her a kiss on the lips. B'Elanna had allowed it, but her eyes drifted over to Seven who was shaking her head and smiling indulgently. Nara had been so excited that she proceeded to kiss Seven as well. Tach had then commented that he was missing out, and to everyone's surprise, Seven had kissed him on the cheek and hugged him. Ty slept through it all, curled up under an apple tree.

The turbolift doors opened and Kathryn paused in the doorway. On screen was Nador Omega, the side that they had taken refuge behind during the meteor storm. She could see the continent below on the surface, but just barely. The atmosphere was clogged with smoke and debris, and seemed to be thickening as she watched. More startling was that the space over the planet was packed with ships of every size. It looked like a Ferengi used shuttle lot.

"Commander," Janeway said as she entered the bridge. "What do we have here?"

"Captain, welcome back." He turned and smiled warmly and moved to his own chair. "How are Tach and B'Elanna?"

"Very well," she responded as she sat in her chair. "What's all this?" She motioned to the screen.

"The Narians are abandoning the planet," Chakotay said and his smile faded. "They got word from Sha'Lar. The government wants them to migrate to Nador Three. It's about three months away."

"They're giving up?" she asked incredulously.

"Apparently they don't have a choice. They have some self-governing capacity, but they are still a colony of Sha'Lar." Chakotay rubbed the tattoo over his eye and his frown deepened.

"I can't imagine that making the settlers very happy." Kathryn watched the ships carefully maneuvering around each other.

Tuvok shifted his weight. "The Stellar Guard informed us that three more phaser cannons were destroyed by meteor strikes," the tall Vulcan explained. "It is only a matter of time before the planet returns to its state before colonization."

"Have you told Tach and Nara?" Kathryn asked.

"No," Chakotay said as he studied the carpet in front of his chair. "I thought I'd leave that to you. Betoc, Tach's friend from the Stellar Guard, asked to come on board as soon as he gets the evacuees settled. They're setting up a synchronous orbit to keep the ships away from the meteors."

"Make him feel welcome," Kathryn said quietly. "I wish we could have helped more."

"We were only delaying the inevitable," Tuvok pointed out. "Their phaser cannons would have failed no matter what we did. Even if Lieutenant Torres and Tach had been successful in repairing the damaged station, the planetary net still would have failed."

"Let's not mention that to Tach or Lieutenant Torres," Janeway said pointedly.

"Hurry up," Tach said as he paced the living room of the VIP quarters. "Betoc will be here any minute." He went over to the couch. "Come out of there, my little terror." He gently took Ty by the leg and lifted him out from behind the couch, dangling him in the air. Ty laughed and swung his weight from side to side.

"Fa, more," Ty squealed when Tach put him down.

"Oh no, you stay out of there while I go check on your Mother." Tach walked back to the small bedroom and paused when he saw Nara. She was sitting on the bed hugging her arms to her chest and was crying. "Hey," Tach whispered as he knelt beside her. "What's wrong?"

She inhaled deeply and shook her head, then grabbed him and hugged him. "I almost lost you, you stupid old goat."

"But you didn't," he said as she held her.

"I thought I did. Don't you ever do anything like that again…or I'll kill you myself." Nara leaned back and cupped his chin in her hand. "You are my sacred bondmate…how was I supposed to tell our son about that bond without you around?"

"Shh…" He wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Our son will grow up seeing what love is."

"Promise me?" she asked.

"Always." He leaned forward and rubbed his thick forehead against hers.

"Fa," Ty said proudly. "Ty fix padd."

Tach turned, and Nara wrapped him from behind with her arms resting over his broad shoulders. Ty held out what was left of a data padd. He had somehow removed the back panel and gutted it.

"Your son seems to have a knack for that." Nara kissed the back of Tach's neck. "He dismantled the clock this morning while you were off playing on that meteor."

"Playing?" Tach shook his head. He held out his hand to his son. "Let's have a look at your project, Ty." The toddler ran to his father and handed over his treasure. Tach inspected it carefully grunting and humming as he made note of each dangling piece of wire hanging out of the device. "You've done a wonderful job," he assured the child. "But from now on…let me handle fixing the data padds, okay?"

Ty nodded and hugged his father.

"Was it awful?" Nara asked.

"No worse than any other meteor I've beamed onto." Tach squeezed his son, reveling in the warmth of his tiny body. "It was damn cold, and I thought B'Elanna was going wring my neck."

"Were you scared, husband?" she whispered as she nuzzled his neck.

"Terrified. We barely got to the beam out area in time. We had already lost our atmosphere, and the computer from the ship picked up the incoming meteor so it beamed us out." He let Ty go and the boy sprinted off in search of something else to fix. Tach turned to face Nara. "We beamed onto a good size meteor, so it had its own gravity, but it was weak. We had to tie off…and let me tell you, being tied to B'Elanna for nine hours isn't exactly a pleasant experience."

"She was worried about Seven, wasn't she?" Nara asked as she tucked his graying hair behind his ears.

"Yes." He closed his eyes and rested his head on Nara's chest. "We waited, we couldn't call for help because the impact with the station sent out an electromagnetic pulse… it knocked out our comm systems." He wrapped his arms around her. "It took us an hour just to get communications between our suits, and let me tell you, I think I learned every curse in Klingon and Human."

"English," Nara corrected. "Neelix informed me that the Starfleet standard language is English… but, yes…it is from Earth."

"Whatever it's called, it is a…colorful language. Since we hadn't been rescued right away, we knew that Voyager probably thought we were dead." Tach pulled back. "She was worried about Seven, and I swear, if the Stellar Guard hadn't found us, I think B'Elanna would have jumped off of that meteor and flown back to Voyager."

"She probably would have made it, too," Nara said with a half grin.

"Come on, Betoc is waiting," Tach said as he climbed to his feet. "We have to find out what the Minister wants us to do."

"I don't know why the Minister of Sha'Lar should have any say in our decisions." Nara stood and tugged at her skirt hem. "We've been doing just fine without them for almost 80 years."

"I know, but they've been trying to get control of our colony for at least 75 of those years." Tach wrapped his arm around her and held her to his side as they walked out to the living area. "The Minister will probably get reelected because of our triumphant return to the civilized sector."

"Ha, civilized… the people of Sha'Lar don't know what that even means." Nara bumped him with her hip. "Nador Three isn't much better."

"You've never even been there…or Sha'Lar for that matter," Tach said "But we will not be moving to Sha'Lar, that you can be sure of."

"Are you kidding? They wouldn't even let me on the planet." Nara looked around for Ty but didn't see him. "Now…where's your son?"

They heard a crash, and turned to Ty standing on a chair he had scooted over to the replicator. He had Tach's toolbox at his feet and was prying the front panel from the wall.

"Tyranlanar!" Nara yelled as she ran toward him.

"Ty fix," he said with a satisfied smile. He pointed to a pile of various foods splattered on the floor.

Seven and B'Elanna stood at one end of the conference room table waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. They had been taking a walk in the new orchard and left when it became too crowded. For the moment they had the huge room to themselves.

"Seven," B'Elanna said, chastising her wife. She looked at the door as she trapped Seven's wandering hands just as she was about to reach her nipples. "What are you doing? This place is gonna' be crawling with people in a half hour."

"Thirty-nine minutes," Seven corrected as she lifted B'Elanna and sat her on the table and then began kissing her neck. She still needed assurance that she had B'Elanna back, and for Seven that meant tasting her skin.

"Someone could walk in any second," B'Elanna said even as her body responded. "Oh god," she whispered when Seven nibbled on her throat. "We can't do this." Her legs came up and wrapped around Seven's waist. Both women were consummate professionals, but Seven seemed to need proof that she wasn't dreaming, that B'Elanna was in her arms.

"Thirty-seven minutes," Seven said as she pressed against her wife. Her hands moved across the Klingon's chest, stopping when she reached her breasts. "Kiss me," Seven ordered.

B'Elanna looked over Seven's shoulder at the door and then pulled her closer. Their lips met in a heated press as Seven's caresses focused on the pebbled nubs forming under B'Elanna's uniform tunic. She circled her wife's hardening nipples, smiling into the kiss when B'Elanna began to whimper.

"Stop," B'Elanna begged as she eased back to get a breath. "We can't do this in here and you're making me crazy," she said but then leaned back and grabbed Seven and pulled her back to her mouth. Her legs squeezed Seven, grinding their bodies together. "Oh… we don't have time to do this," she whimpered. She reached into Seven's blouse and moaned when she felt the warm weight of her wife's breast.

Seven tossed her head back and bit her lip to keep from crying out and then put her hands over B'Elanna's. "I almost lost you…I just need to feel your touch, Be'nal."

"Well… now I need a whole lot more than that," B'Elanna said with a growl. She used her legs to yank Seven closer.

Their lips met, it was fast and hard, and the passion ignited as their tongues dueled. Seven lifted B'Elanna up and then climbed onto the table, laying the Klingon across the hard, simulated wooden surface. She straddled the shorter woman and leaned down, but her belly got in the way. She rested her weight on one arm and began exploring with the other. B'Elanna's legs tangled with her lanky wife's as they each battled to vanquish their earlier fears. B'Elanna felt the warmth of Seven's hardening nipple under her fingers just as they heard the whoosh of the doors.

Tuvok cleared his throat as he stood in the doorway. "I do not believe that was the intended use for that particular piece of furniture," the Vulcan stated.

"Oh geeze," B'Elanna said as she tried to move her wife off of her. Seven slowly disengaged from B'Elanna and climbed off of her and then helped her down from the table.

"Commander Tuvok, you are early," Seven stated as she buttoned her blouse.

"Indeed." Tuvok raised one eyebrow. "Perhaps you lost track of time. The meeting begins in twenty-one point two minutes. It is standard procedure to do a security check before allowing the captain to meet with foreign dignitaries."

B'Elanna blushed furiously as she turned her back and tried to pull her tunic down. It was tangled with her bra, which had been pushed up above her breasts. "Can't you wait outside?" she asked. She realized she couldn't get the tunic back into place because her hands were shaking.

"Commander?" Seven nodded at him. He turned around while she went to her wife. "Hold still," Seven said as she untangled the fabric. Her fingers glanced across the hardened nipples and B'Elanna gave her a glare that Janeway would have been proud of. Seven merely smirked in response. "There, you are presentable," Seven said.

"Wait." B'Elanna tucked Seven's blouse into her slacks. Seven's belly was too big for her to comfortably wear her biosuit, and when she was officially off duty she chose the more comfortable slacks. "There," B'Elanna said once the willowy blonde was mostly dressed. She heard the door hiss again and shook her head. "I can't believe I let you do that," she whispered.

"Tuvok," Janeway said as she went to the table. "Our guest should be beaming over. I thought we should accompany him personally." She looked at B'Elanna and tilted her head to the side. She noticed the deep red color on her chief engineer's face. "Ladies, how are you?"

"Fine, ma'am," B'Elanna said a bit too quickly.

"We are…well," Seven added.

"Well?" Janeway asked with a knowing glance. "It looks like you two have a bit of extra…energy. Perhaps you could work on my ready room when we finish here?"

"Sure," B'Elanna said. She went to the table and pulled out a chair for Seven. "Why don't you sit. Save your energy for later."

Seven slid into the chair, pausing to smile at her wife. "I have plenty of energy," she whispered.

Seven and B'Elanna sat at the table waiting for Janeway and Tuvok to return. Seven had tried to convince B'Elanna that a few kisses were in order, but the Klingon wasn't about to get caught necking in the conference room…twice. Unknown to B'Elanna or her amorous wife, Tuvok had used the walk to the Transporter Room to give the captain a detailed report of the new use Torres and Seven had discovered for the table.

"No," B'Elanna said without looking at her wife. "Don't even think it."

"What?" Seven asked innocently.

"You were about to kiss my neck," B'Elanna said as she spun her chair and looked up at Seven.

"I was merely checking to see that your hair was in place," Seven said. She was standing close to B'Elanna, and had in fact been ready to kiss her neck before her wife had turned the chair around. "Besides, I missed you, Be'nal," Seven said as she gave B'Elanna her most pitiful pout.

"You can just keep missing me until we are in our quarters," B'Elanna said. She leaned back and used her foot to playfully move her wife away.

"And if I do not wish to wait?" Seven grabbed her wife's foot.

The doors opened saving B'Elanna from a fate far better than death, probably more like heaven, and the captain led a small group into the room. B'Elanna stood and quickly sidestepped to avoid Seven's grasp.

"Betoc," Janeway said as she went to the head of the table. "This is Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, my Chief Engineer, and Seven of Nine, my Astrometrics officer."

"A pleasure to meet you," he said as he moved to sit next to Janeway.

Tach was next to Tuvok. "B'Elanna is the one who helped me on the station," the Narian said. "She is my Fas'na, and Seven is her wife."

Betoc paused, then smiled. He went to B'Elanna and offered his hands. "Welcome, Fas'na. Tach is a supreme pain in the backside, but I hope you will not hold that against me."

Nara moved up beside Tach and wrapped her arm around his waist. "Betoc is our Fas'fa. He is the brother we invited to our family the same way we did you," Nara said to B'Elanna.

"Is this a family reunion?" Seven asked as she sat.

"No," Betoc said with a laugh. "And you are correct, we should get down to the matters at hand."

"What can we do for you?" Janeway asked. "I understand that your people have decided to leave Nador Omega."

"We did not make that decision," Betoc said as he sat. He looked around the table as Nara and Tach sat next to Tuvok. "The Minister of Sha'lar decided for us. We are a colony, and while we were considering asking for independence before this tragedy, we are in no position to bargain now."

"Can you stay? Try to rebuild with terra-forming?" Janeway asked.

"That would be difficult," Tach answered. "Most of our industrialized areas were destroyed. We don't have any means to repair the damaged phaser cannons, and certainly no way to build new ones."

"We've been ordered to immigrate to Nador Three. It's close, and they have a good sized population willing to accept us," Betoc said. He clenched his fists and his face darkened. "That is one of the problems."

"I don't understand," Kathryn said.

"Betoc? What have you heard?" Tach asked.

"Our colony, though small, has produced some of the greatest minds our people have ever seen," Betoc explained to Janeway. "And as you know," he said to Tach, "They have been trying to get our children to go to Sha'lar for schooling, at least to the university."

"Yes, and they'd have our children brainwashed before they ever reached Sha'lar," Nara said bitterly. "A three year trip through space to teach them how to be good citizens, and then off to the University for indoctrination."

"Is that what they want now?" Kathryn leaned forward.

"No," Betoc said. He looked down at the table, unwilling to meet Tach's eyes.

"They want the children now?" Seven demanded. She slammed her fist onto the table. "No, they cannot have Ty. I will not allow it."

"Easy." B'Elanna covered Seven's clenched fist. "Tach and Nara will handle this."

"We won't send our child off to be raised by strangers," Nara said firmly.

"They don't want that," Betoc said as he finally raised his head. "Tach can keep his son."

"Thank the goddess." Tach let out a sigh of relief.

"Tach, it's worse." Betoc looked over at Nara. "The Minister is invoking the ancient rule. He says that the best of our people's… family lines have been concentrated on Nador Omega, that the best scientists were sent here originally and that it's time we…corrected that mistake."

"No," Nara said. "He can't be serious. There hasn't been genetic reassignment in a hundred years."

"They wouldn't ask that of us," Tach said as he gripped Nara's hand. "It's barbaric."

"They can and they are," Betoc said. "When we reach Nador Three, we will be reassigned. Of course, husbands will be compensated," he added sarcastically.

"And just what is the going rate for a wife?" Nara demanded.

"Twelve sectors of prime farming land and his choice from the Deputy Minister's stable of concubines."

"I'll die first," Nara said as her eyes narrowed.

"We are sacred bound," Tach said. His browridge darkened and his deep brown eyes showed only hate. "We cannot be unjoined."

"You know they do not recognize sacred bonds," Betoc said. "Our colony is one of the only ones who've returned to the ways of the ancient goddess. Those on Sha'Lar care more for their own desires than those of the goddess."

"What is he talking about?" B'Elanna asked Tach.

"Genetic reassignment was a common practice on Sha'Lar for hundreds of years," Tach said quietly. His voice was shaking. "A Minister would notice that one province had a better class of athletes, or engineers, or like now, scientists. He would order all of the women of the area… reassigned outside of the province to spread out the genetic base by giving some to each municipality to ensure diversity."

"What about the families?" Kathryn asked, her eyes wide with shock.

"Never worry," Nara said bitterly. "The husbands kept the male children, and were well paid for their wives. They usually got a new wife in the deal as well, from another province."

"Captain, you cannot allow this," Seven said as she looked to Kathryn.

"We can't change their social system, Seven. No matter how appalling we think it is," Janeway said sadly. She looked to Tach. "But, we can help you in any way possible. Your shuttle was destroyed, so I am offering you asylum here, on Voyager."

"Captain," Tuvok said as he raised an eyebrow. "You could be involving Voyager in a social revolt, a clear violation of the Prime Directive. The Minister may send armed troops to enforce this genetic reassignment."

"They're already on the way," Betoc said. "As soon as the Minister heard about our problems a month ago, he sent troops from Nador Three. This was probably his plan all along. The troops will be here in two months."

"Well, we won't be here when they arrive," Tach said. "Betoc, our shuttle was destroyed trying to save the planet. I think the least you can do is find me a replacement and give me a head start."

"Gladly, Fas'fa," Betoc said. "The Supreme Commander of the Guard was killed by one of the first meteor strikes. I'm the acting commander, so I can get you a small ship without anyone noticing. We've lost so many as it is, I should be able to add one more to the list of lost ships."

"Will they come after you?" Janeway asked.

"I doubt it," Betoc said. "Tach and Nara were reported lost with the rest of the Caldori Province. I never updated the records…I was afraid something like this might happen."

"Thank you," Tach said. He looked over at Nara. "I will never let them separate us."

"If you have been reported dead, you cannot go to any Narian colony," Seven pointed out.

"I'd rather go back to Jusari Prime and live out my days in our cabin than be sold off to a new husband." Nara looked over at Seven. "At least it would be my choice."

"There is another option," Kathryn said as she looked at Nara. "You could stay on Voyager."

"I remind you that Voyager's resources are limited," Tuvok said. The others looked at him, expecting him to list the reasons why they couldn't stay, but he had other plans. "Tach's ability as a farmer has already freed up impressive amounts of energy as well increasing the production of oxygen. Nara's ability to make Mister Neelix's food…more palatable has also helped reduce the amount of replicator rations being utilized. Their staying on board would be the logical choice."

Nara looked at Tach and nodded.

"Captain, we would be honored to stay on board, at least for the time being," Tach said. "We'll take a shuttle from Betoc, and if we start to outstay our welcome, we'll find a nice planet where we can settle down."

"No," Seven said. "You will not leave to settle down. You have already proven your value to the ship and you have…family here. It would be illogical for you to leave. Besides, unlike some of the current passengers, you are improving the quality of life on board immensely."

"I agree, you have made things better," Kathryn said with a smile. She turned to Seven. "Although I think Mister Neelix is much more than a passenger and he has been invaluable."

"Of course he is," Seven said indignantly.

"I think my wife is referring to the Equinox crew," B'Elanna said with a smirk. "They haven't pitched in much."

"Indeed," Tuvok said. "Aside from performing the duties we have required of them, they have taken no initiative." Tuvok straighten his back and tilted his head at Janeway. "Tach and Nara's willingness to assist the ship while they were indeed only passengers… suggests that they would be an enormous asset to the crew."

"I'm already sold on the idea, Tuvok," Kathryn said warmly. "Don't worry Tu-vee, Ty and his parents will be a welcome addition."

"Vulcans do not worry," Tuvok responded.

"I should be going," Betoc said sadly. "I have much to do."

"You're welcome to spend some time with Tach and Nara if you like," Kathryn said.

"Thank you," Betoc said. "I will only stay a short while. There are others under my command that I have to arrange ‘destroyed' vessels for. Many in the Stellar Guard have sacred bondings as well. They are scattering in all directions in hopes of escaping the genetic reassignment."

"All right," Janeway said as she stood. "I'll leave you to make the arrangements. I have to go convince my first officer that we have room for a few more crew on our manifest."

"If he argues, I will be happy to convince him," Seven offered.

"I don't think so," Kathryn said. "As a matter of fact, I don't think I want you doing any more convincing at all. Which reminds me, I want you and B'Elanna to begin fixing my ready room."

"Yes, Captain," Seven said grimly.

"And when you're finished there," Janeway said as she paused at the door. "We need to have a discussion about the proper use of this conference room." Kathryn's eyes drifted to the table and then over to B'Elanna. "Is that understood?"

"Yes, ma'am," B'Elanna said. She watched Kathryn leave and then leaned over to her wife. "You are in so much trouble," she whispered.

"We," Seven said as she turned to her wife. "We are in so much trouble. I was I not alone on the table," she whispered.


Chapter 40: Growing families

Convincing Chakotay that having Tach and Nara join the crew was much easier than Kathryn had anticipated. She had thought that he would play Devil's advocate and have a dozen reasons why they shouldn't add three more travelers to Voyager's manifest. One look at Chakotay's expanding waistline and Kathryn knew he was probably more impressed with Nara's ability in the kitchen than with Tach's skill as an engineer or farmer. She couldn't blame him; she had been enjoying meals more with each passing day. Neelix had happily let Nara take over his kitchen and been quite content to be the "chef's assistant" while Nara whipped up delicious creations. Janeway wondered if he would be as gracious now that Nara was going to be staying. She hoped so. Nara's herbed beef was one of her favorites, and she couldn't wait to taste what Nara would come up with for the new fruit that was almost ready for harvesting. She hoped there was an apple pie somewhere in her future.

Betoc had brought a beaten up shuttle to Tach, which thrilled Tom Paris. He had taken one look at the sleek lines of the ship and then begged Tach to let him help restore it. Betoc visited with his friends and finally left to help with the evacuations. Voyager couldn't do much to help so they continued on toward the Alpha Quadrant and got back into the ship's regular routine. The first thing Janeway had to deal with was disciplining two crewmembers for "inappropriate displays of affection."

"This isn't the first time you've been warned about this particular type of behavior, B'Elanna," Janeway said as she stood outside her ready room. "So, why don't you two start in here, and then completely strip and clean cargo bay two. It's gotten a bit run down since Seven stopped using it to regenerate every day."

B'Elanna and Seven nodded as the door opened. Janeway raised both eyebrows and motioned them in, then went back to the bridge. Seven went in first and she looked at the damage. All of the grief she had felt came rolling over her like a wave, pushing her under the surface and threatening to drown her. She felt her legs give out and B'Elanna grabbed her arm.

"Seven?" she asked as she moved around in front of the former drone.

Seven took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She let out a long sigh and then opened her eyes to see B'Elanna staring at her with concern covering her features. She smiled weakly at her Klingon wife.

"Seven? What just happened?" B'Elanna asked.

"Being here…reminded me." Seven rested her hand on B'Elanna's shoulder. "I believe it just ‘caught up' with me."

"Well, I'm here," B'Elanna said. "Now, shall we get started?"

Seven nodded.

"Okay," B'Elanna said as she turned. She looked at what had been the ready room and the Klingon's knees went weak. "Kahless!" she exclaimed. "Was there a decompression in here?" Her eyes were drawn to the conduit that had been ripped from the wall and the bulkhead that was bent and twisted. She had only seen that kind of damage from explosive decompressions or from photon torpedo impacts.

"No," Seven said quietly. She looked at the shredded remains of the couch and felt shame filling her.

B'Elanna turned back to Seven. "Be'nal," she whispered and took her taller lover into her arms. "I would do anything to take this pain away from you."

"You already have," Seven answered. "You came home to me." She squeezed B'Elanna, inhaling her scent and burying her face in her satiny hair.

"And I always will," B'Elanna said into Seven's chest.

"In the future, I will not allow you to go alone," Seven said as she stepped back. "Now, we should begin. I believe our task will not take long."

B'Elanna laughed and turned to the destroyed room. "Love, I don't even know where to start."

"I believe we will need to collect and recycle the …damaged materials…and then replicate replacements," Seven said logically.

"Seven, my beloved," B'Elanna shook her head. "It would take a full engineering team at least a day to put a dent in this."

"I believe there are enough dents in it now," Seven said. She looked at her wife innocently, then smirked, letting her know that she was teasing her. "As for the repairs, I do not think it will take long at all." Seven walked to the comm panel near the door. It was one of the few remaining things that were undamaged.

"Oh?" B'Elanna said. She folded her arms and leaned against the wall. "Do Borg have some magical abilities that I don't know about?"

Seven paused and then leered at B'Elanna. "You have experienced almost all of my…magical abilities…or have you forgotten the ‘wow' phenomenon?"

"As wonderful as your skills are…I don't think that will help us right now." B'Elanna rolled her eyes.

"Indeed?" Seven asked as she scanned the room with her Borg enhanced eyepiece. She turned to the console and held her hand out to it. Her tubules appeared and then plunged into the control panel. The debris began beaming out and after a few moments, the room was empty.

"Impressive," B'Elanna said with a smile. "But even if you can beam in the replacements… we don't have that many replicator rations between us."

"We have the additional rations from the time we were on Jusari Prime. The captain decided to give us rations based on our time…not Voyager's," Seven said. "I was not going to mention it until after the baby. I wanted to surprise you." She looked across the room as she used the direct interface with the console to send the commands and the new items began appearing.

"You rat," B'Elanna said as she moved closer to her wife and wrapped her arm around her waist. "Oh, and I don't think this was the punishment Janeway had in mind."

"As you are so fond of saying…what she doesn't know, won't hurt her." Seven smiled. "I am beaming in a replacement bulkhead section… we will have to install that manually."

"I think I can live with that," B'Elanna said happily. "Got any tricks up your sleeve to clean the cargo bay?"

"Of course." Seven's smile widened. "And then we can return to our quarters and I can… finish what Tuvok interrupted."

"I love the way you think." B'Elanna kissed Seven's cheek. "Just don't tell the captain."

Kathryn returned to the bridge after a late lunch and went to check on her ready room. She expected to find B'Elanna and Seven hard at work. She entered, and was stunned to see the room finished, but not just finished, it was perfect, right down to Kathryn's lucky teacup. She walked over and picked up the fragile item, only then seeing tiny repaired cracks. There was a data padd next to it, so she picked it up. It was from Seven, and it explained that she had been forced to replicate the teacup because Kathryn's had been too badly damaged. She added a few repaired cracks to remind Kathryn of the time they had shared. Seven thanked Kathryn for ‘holding her together' when her entire universe had fallen apart. It was an unexpected gift, and Kathryn decided that the new cup was certainly much luckier than its predecessor had been.

B'Elanna and Seven hurried through the corridor toward their quarters. They had finished cleaning the cargo bay in less than twenty minutes. B'Elanna had been shocked when Seven showed her how she had kept the vast room so pristine. Seven had taken a few minutes to put things into their proper places, stepped into the corridor with B'Elanna, and then activated a program, "Seven of Nine cleaning protocol one." The cargo transporter activated and beamed every non-equipment particle into a refuse container. The entire process took only a few minutes. B'Elanna found the entire process fascinating, and it gave her insight into her wife's thought process. She then concentrated on getting back to their quarters.

"Stop it," B'Elanna said when Seven's hand brushed across her leg a bit too close to her thigh.

"I assure you, my contact was inadvertent," Seven said with a wicked smirk.

"Right," B'Elanna said, not believing her for a moment. "We're almost home…just be patient. I don't want the captain giving us any more projects."

"I will comply," Seven said unhappily.

"B'Elanna," Nara yelled from the far end of the corridor.

"Damn," the Klingon whispered. "We were so close," she said as she looked at their door less than ten paces away. "Nara, what can we do for you?"

Seven stopped and crossed her arms over her chest and let out a frustrated sigh.

"I take it I'm interrupting?" Nara asked as she studied Seven. After living with the hot-blooded couple on the planet for a year, she could tell when Seven had plans for B'Elanna, though it didn't stop her from interfering. In fact, she rather enjoyed tormenting the lanky blonde.

Seven started to answer, but B'Elanna reached out and squeezed her hand. "Of course not. What can we do for you?"

"Actually, Tach and I would like to do something for you," Nara explained.

"Why?" Seven asked. She looked over at her friend and tilted her head. "We are pleased that you will be joining the crew. We should be giving you a welcoming gift."

"Nonsense." Nara shook her head. "I know that you two are married, but Tach and I would like to sponsor you in a bonding ceremony. You're family now, so it's only right."

"Bonding?" B'Elanna asked suspiciously. "Does it involve a sweathouse?"

"Great goddess, no." Nara shook her head and laughed. "The ways of the goddess are very clear. Only couples who are sacred bound can invite another couple into the great rite. The ceremony will recognize the unique bond you already share and ask the great goddess to bless it."

"You would do this for us?" Seven asked.

"Of course, you long-legged fool," Nara answered.

B'Elanna looked up at Seven and they both smiled. "Well," B'Elanna said, "as long as it doesn't involve any sweating rituals… we'd love to."

"Thank you," Nara said as she hugged B'Elanna. The Klingon resisted at first but then returned the embrace with enthusiasm. Nara was family after all. Nara then moved to Seven. "You won't regret it. The goddess will guide and bless you and the baby." She hugged Seven and then eased back and smiled. "Now, off to bed with you."

"It is nowhere near out bedtime," Seven pointed out.

"Like that's ever stopped you two," Nara said as she walked away.

"Come on, Be'nal. You've waited long enough." B'Elanna said opened their door. She took Seven's hand and tugged her into their quarters. "Now…what did you have in mind when you were mauling me in the conference room?"

"I shall show you," Seven said with a growl. She picked B'Elanna up and carried her to their small table in the dining area and sat her on the transparent surface. She buried her hands in B'Elanna's hair and gently kissed her eyes, then her cheeks and finally moved to her lips. The kiss deepened and Seven eased her wife onto her back. A quick flick of her Borg enhanced wrist and the front of B'Elanna's tunic was shredded.

"I love it when you get impatient," B'Elanna said with a growl. She felt the cool air on her skin and her nipples grew rigid as Seven tore her bra off and began kissing her chest. "Oh yes, Seven, that," she whispered. Seven's lips wrapped around the rosy bud and drew it into her mouth. Seven smiled when her wife began growling loudly.

"Do you like that?" Seven asked as she moved her mouth to the other side.

"Oh…yes," B'Elanna yelled when Seven clamped down on her nipple.

"So do I," Seven volunteered. She moaned as she lovingly caressed her wife's nipple with her hand while her mouth feasted on the other. She carefully raked her teeth over the sensitive jewel, growling when B'Elanna whimpered. She quickly brought her tongue out to soothe the tender flesh. "My beautiful Be'nal," she whispered. "I thought I would never make love to you again." She moved back up and kissed B'Elanna deeply, reverently, and let all of her love pour through the meeting of their lips.

"I'm here," B'Elanna promised when Seven pulled back to take a gulp of air.

"I know," Seven said. She smiled and began nipping at B'Elanna's graceful neck. Her lips and teeth covered every inch, careful not to leave any bit of skin unloved.

"More," B'Elanna said with pleading sigh. "I need you."

"Then you shall have me," Seven whispered into her lover's ear, using the moment to gently nibble on her earlobe.

Seven's hand moved down to her wife's waist and tugged off her trousers and panties in one yank. She moaned as her fingers tested the wetness. "You feel so good, my Be'nal," Seven whispered as her mouth left a trail of kisses down to B'Elanna's stomach.

B'Elanna sucked in a deep breath and her body shook. Seven paused to look behind her for the chair. She pulled it to her and sat, then lifted B'Elanna's legs over her shoulders and began drawing her Klingon toward her.

"I missed my lunch," Seven said as she nipped at B'Elanna's caramel toned thigh.

"Lucky me," B'Elanna said with a laugh.

"No," Seven said as she nipped the opposite thigh. "Lucky me."

Part 41

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