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She Who Hesitates is Lost
By Lisa Countryman


Chapter Seventeen: Freedom

Kathryn Janeway prowled the observation room like a caged tiger, a tiger that hadn't eaten in days and had several thorns in her paws. The few hours of sleep the night before had been filled with nightmares about B'Elanna and Seven. She had awakened somewhat rested, but it only served to add fuel to her anger because now she was rested enough to lash out.

"This is ridiculous," Janeway said angrily. "Their sentence ends today, why can't we see them?"

"Because," the Overseer explained, "Until they have been checked for injuries and cleared to leave, they are still in our custody, and the Magistrate will be here at any moment."

"I have my own Doctor," Janeway said. Her voice was calm, but her slate blue eyes were beginning to show signs of the rage bubbling to the surface. It would not have been a good day for Janeway to play poker.

"Please, it is only a while longer," the Overseer asked.

"Captain, please sit down," the Doctor said as he put his hand on Janeway's shoulder.

"I tired of waiting," Janeway told the hologram as she shrugged her shoulder out of his grasp. "I would think that you would want to be there to treat them as soon as possible," she accused.

"Believe me, I do. But getting kicked off of the space station won't help matters." The Doctor looked away, giving Janeway his best insulted sigh.

"How much longer?" the Captain demanded.

"The ship is docking. It will not be long," the Overseer said. Her face showed genuine concern.

"Captain," the Doctor began, "I've been upgrading my program, with an emphasis on post traumatic stress disorder and internment mentality."

Janeway sighed, and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Doctor, the last time you tried to add a psychiatric subroutine, you ended up on the holographic couch yourself."

"I am aware of that," he said indignantly. "I did not alter my matrix. I have been studying every available text on the subjects. I am learning how to treat them, going back to school you might say."

"I don't think your playing Freud is going to help matters," Janeway said. She knew it was unkind, but the hologram's self-inflated attitudes usually ending up hurting people.

"I assure you, Captain, my studies have given me excellent insight into the issues at hand." The Doctor went to the window and stared in at the empty medical facilities and then turned. "I had to try something, Captain. I was simply out of my professional league." It was an admission he had never made before.

"I hope it's enough," Janeway said. She thought of Seven and B'Elanna on the prison planet for two and a half long years, and her patience ended. "Overseer, what difference could a few minutes possibly make to your people? After all the…inconsistencies with what you've told me, I think a little flexibility would be a good show of faith. Please, let my Doctor and I be present for the medical check up."

The Overseer seemed torn, then lifted a small device from her neck and checked it. Apparently it was a timepiece. "The Magistrate will be here within the hour. We must hurry."

The Doctor studied the various medical devices in the facilities like a Ferengi in the Great Treasury, moving excitedly from one device to the next.

"You have an optical regenerator?" the hologram asked, as he picked up a small hand held device. "The Federation has only begun to work with these."

"It is a useful tool," said Dr. Alteron. He smiled and seemed intrigued by the hologram, patiently answering each question.

Janeway paced for several minutes before finding a quiet corner to stand where she was near the doorway. She wanted to be close when Seven…and B'Elanna came in.

The door opened, and two guards came in half leading, half carrying Seven of Nine. Her fully human eye was swollen shut with a ragged gash from her eyebrow over her forehead and disappearing into her hairline. She kept turning her head, which made it difficult to get a clear look at her injuries.

Janeway's knees felt like they had turned to water and her stomach clinched as looked at the damage Seven had endured, worse yet, she had probably been enduring similar hardships the entire time.

"Let me go," Seven said as she yanked one of the guards back around in a half circle.

"Our doctors are doing their best," Malok said gently. He was on Seven's left, his grip more supporting than restraining.

"Seven?" Janeway said tentatively. Her voice was deep and rich and full of love, even the Dengari doctors paused to look at the captain.

Seven spun, not believing her ears, to see Captain Janeway standing five feet away. "Captain? You waited?" Relief washed through her; Voyager had waited. Seven tugged her arms, and the guards released her. She went toward the captain who had opened her arms.

Janeway smiled as Seven rushed toward her, but just before their bodies met, Seven's eyes widened when she saw something off to the captain's left.

"Doctor?" Seven yelled, and sprinted past Janeway. She grabbed him by the arm and yanked him toward the door where she had just entered. If he had been flesh and blood, that flesh would have been ripped when she yanked his arm with enough force to dislocate his shoulder. Being a hologram, it merely struck him as a trifle rude.

"Seven, I'm a doctor not a pull toy," he said, though he was thrilled to see her excited greeting.

"B'Elanna has been injured," Seven said as if that explained everything. "You must assist the Dengari surgeons."

"Well right now, I think I should take a look at that nasty gash," he said as he stopped, yanking Seven to a halt with him. There were advantages to holographic strength.

"No," Seven stated. "Anyone can treat my injury. The Dengari do not have experience with Klingon physiology. You must go to her." There was a pleading in her voice that the Doctor had never heard.

"All right, Seven, but you stay here," he said. He looked over to Dr. Alteron, who nodded and pointed to the exit.

Janeway put her hand on Seven's shoulder. "Seven, let these people help you," she said. "Come on." She guided Seven toward an exam table.

"Let me take a look at that cut," Dr. Alteron said as he guided Seven onto the high exam table. "Easy, we're here to help."

"Help?" Seven asked angrily. "Your people's help is exactly what caused this, and if B'Elanna dies I will destroy your entire race," she said, her voice like caustic venom.

"Seven, take it easy," Janeway said, clearly concerned. Dr. Alteron didn't take the threat seriously, but the Starfleet captain knew that the tall blonde could probably pull off the threat.

"These people put vicious convicts into our cell while we were sleeping," Seven told Janeway in a deadly, calm tone.

Janeway's protective streak went on Red Alert. "What?" She spun and faced the Overseer but didn't take her hand off of Seven's shoulder. "Is this how you run your facility?"

"I assure you, the offenders will be punished," the Overseer insisted.

"I have already dealt with them," Seven said dangerously. "As I will deal with all of your species if B'Elanna does not survive."

"Seven," Janeway said, putting her other hand onto the former drone's opposite shoulder mimicking a lover's embrace. "The Doctor will help her," she promised, though it was an empty promise considering that she had no idea how badly Lieutenant Torres was injured.

"He must," Seven whispered. Her lip trembled, and to Kathryn's stunned amazement, tears rolled down Seven's cheeks. Seven burst into tears and Kathryn pulled her into a hug, feeling a little guilty for enjoying the warmth of her body when she was obviously so upset.

"Shh," Kathryn murmured. She was glad that Seven and B'Elanna had apparently bonded. Having a good friend would have made the ordeal more manageable, although Seven didn't seem too much worse for wear despite the cut on her head. In fact, she looked healthy, and her long blonde braid was quite attractive. Kathryn pushed that thought aside, realizing how inappropriate it was under the current conditions.

Dr. Alteron interrupted. "I need to heal that wound." He stood with a dermal regenerator in his hand.

"Come on," Kathryn said in a husky whisper. "Let's have a look at you."

"Yes, Captain," Seven said as she let Dr. Alteron scan and then heal her.

Seven studied the captain while Dr. Alteron worked. This was a woman she had once thought she loved, but now, as she looked at Janeway's soft features, she knew it hadn't been love. Well, it may have been love, but not in same way that she loved B'Elanna. Her love for the Captain had been a distant admiration that never could have led anywhere, not with the Captain's rank in the way. Janeway was reserved, she had to be because of her position, and now Seven knew how truly unappealing that would have been. She had tasted… no, savored, every minute with B'Elanna, both women grabbing onto their love with both hands and squeezing every ounce of happiness from it, and Seven couldn't imagine settling for any less.

Alteron finished and stepped back, smiling at the beautiful woman sitting in front of him. "Okay," he said. "I need to complete the exam."

Seven nodded, then turned to Janeway, suddenly realizing that she should not have been there at all. "Captain, why is Voyager still here?"

"Seven," Janeway began carefully. "Do you remember the planet we got trapped in orbit around? With the unusual temporal differential?"

"Of course," Seven said, somewhat offended. It had only been two and a half years after all, and her eidetic memory retained information much longer than that.

"Jusari Prime is like that planet," Kathryn said delicately.

"Oh," Seven said as if she had just been told the day's lunch menu. "How much time has passed for Voyager?"

"You were on the plant for five days, our time," Kathryn said. She smiled at the blonde's resilience, one of the many things she loved about her.

"B'Elanna will be pleased," Seven said, then her eyes filled with tears. "She must be all right."

Dr. Alteron stopped his scan, pausing over Seven's stomach, then he stepped away and spoke to a nurse before returning. "Excuse me," he said gently.

"Is B'Elanna out of surgery?" Seven regarded him like a bug she was deciding whether or not to step on depending on his news about B'Elanna.

"I don't know," he said, not expecting the question. "I need to ask you…if you are aware of your… condition, and how you wish to proceed."

"Condition?" Janeway asked. She didn't like the sound of Alteron's voice or the way the conversation was heading.

Alteron dipped his head and his eyes softened. "We can terminate the pregnancy if you wish," he said.

Seven was off of the bed and had her hands around his throat before he even saw her move. The raging hurricane was back at full force.

"I should snap your neck right here," she said, her voice like liquid nitrogen.

"Seven," Janeway said, grabbing her arm only to find it as rigid as duranium deck plating. "Let him go, he just wants to help you."

"Help?" Seven lifted him into the air using his throat as a convenient handle and flung him several feet away. He landed in a heap, coughing, gasping for air and rubbing his throat. "This is how they help? By putting monsters into our cells and killing our unborn children?"

"Easy. No one is going to do anything you don't want them to," Janeway said as she moved toward Seven. The tall former Borg looked like a wounded, trapped animal, and Kathryn wondered how she had endured on the unforgiving planet. It was a testament to Seven's humanity that she wouldn't blame an unborn child for the brutal manner in which it was conceived. Kathryn didn't know if she would have the strength to keep a child born of such brutality.

Seven backed up against the exam table and closed her eyes. "Lana," she whispered.

The door opened as if on cue, and the Klingon in question came into the room dressed only in a surgical gown that barely covered her knees. She took one look at Seven's distressed state and her eyes flashed dangerously.

"What the hell did you do to her?" B'Elanna demanded.

"Lana," Seven yelled as her eyes popped open. She sprinted toward the scantly clad Klingon, picking her up and holding her to her chest. "Lana, they want to take the baby," she whispered into her wife's ear.

"What?" B'Elanna squirmed and stood back on the ground. She turned and faced the medial staff, keeping Seven behind her body protectively. Her hand reached behind her, her fingers entwining with Seven's. "Who? Who tried to hurt our baby?" Her voice was wild but strangely calm, a terrifying combination.

"It's a misunderstanding, B'Elanna," Janeway said. She was confused by the Klingon's use of the phrase ‘our child,' but she passed it off as B'Elanna volunteering to help raise the baby. "No one will do anything against her will."

"Damn right, they won't," B'Elanna said. She eased back, until she felt the warmth of Seven's chest against her back…her very bare back. She looked at Malok, who had remained in the room, but kept out of the way near the door. "Where are my clothes?"

The tall guard actually smirked. "The nurse has them, what's left of them."

"Captain," the holographic Doctor whined. "We should get them back to Voyager so I can run my own tests on them. I explained to Lieutenant Torres about the temporal differential, and she just wants to go back home."

Janeway turned to him while the nurse gave B'Elanna her pants. Her shirt had been destroyed by the stabbing and the physicians cutting it off for surgery.

"Doctor, I think that's the best idea you've had all day," the Captain said.

"I really think we should go," he said quietly. He raised his eyebrows to make the point. "Now."

"What is it?" Janeway whispered, pulling him off to one side.

"Captain, regardless of Seven's willingness to keep the child and Lieutenant Torres' willingness to assist her, do we really want another Borg on board? I have no idea whether or not the…child… will be born sprouting implants and assimilation tubules. The sooner we find out, the sooner we can…take action."

Janeway's face whitened. She wondered how much more Seven would be forced to endure. "Let's go home, people," the captain said. She watched as Seven interacted with B'Elanna, the way they touched often and intimately, their hands lingering, as well as the frequent eye contact they shared. "No," she thought. "Not the two of them."

"Let's go," B'Elanna said to Seven, taking her hand and leading the way.

Malok held up a hand, stopping her. "I will have your…things…delivered to the airlock," he said.

"Thank you," Seven said. Of all the Dengari, he seemed to be the most compassionate, and had he not been a guard, she thought she would have liked him.

Kathryn lingered behind with the Overseer as the small group was led through the corridors. "Are we finished?" Janeway asked.

"Yes, and I would suggest that you leave before the Magistrate arrives," the Overseer said.

"Oh?" the captain asked as she walked. Her eyes kept being drawn back to Seven and B'Elanna's joined hands, the way they moved as one despite their vastly different strides, as if walking hand in hand was something they did every day.

"The Magistrate will not be pleased that I have afforded you so many…privileges. Nor will he be pleased that your people were allowed in the examining room," she explained, then she looked into Kathryn's face, and Janeway saw fear in the Overseer's dark eyes. "It would be best if you were outside his reach when he arrives."

"All right," the captain said. She glanced back up at her two rescued crewmembers. "B'Elanna?"

"Yes?" The Klingon paused but didn't release Seven's hand. Seven stopped beside her without missing a beat and waited patiently.

"A word?" Janeway asked.

B'Elanna nodded and finally let go of Seven's hand and Kathryn released the breath she had been holding.

"What is it, captain?" B'Elanna asked when she reached the auburn-headed woman.

"I know you and Seven have been depending on each other exclusively these past few years… I hope you will help her make the adjustment to being back with our crew," Kathryn said as she took B'Elanna by the arm and continued down the corridor. "It might be difficult for her when you go back to your life and she finds herself alone again. I'll help her as much as I can, but she may need to see you more frequently than before you two left Voyager."

"Uh huh." B'Elanna nodded trying to decide if the captain was trying to get her to spend time with Seven or arrange for her to accidentally slip out an airlock, then dismissed the idea knowing the captain was a woman of honor.

"She seems…fond of you, B'Elanna, but I don't want you feeling obligated." Kathryn could see that Seven had grown very attached to the Klingon, and didn't want B'Elanna to go back to the way things were in the past, though she guessed that the two had bonded against the common enemies they had faced on the planet. She hoped Seven wasn't confusing B'Elanna's caring for more than the Klingon was able to offer.

"Oh, really?" B'Elanna asked. Klingon jealousy was powerful thing. It didn't really matter if a Klingon's mate is straying, it's enough that someone else seems to be sniffing around, even if they aren't making a move on the mate in question. "So you think I should…make a little time in my busy schedule for her before jumping back into my life?" B'Elanna asked.

"Something like that," Kathryn said. "Although I'm sure you'll be busy catching up on all the technical things you've been away from so long," Kathryn said. She was having her own green eyed monster nagging at the back of her mind, wondering if the friendship she had enjoyed with Seven would be resumed now that Seven seemed to depend on Torres. "But I assure you, I'll be more than happy to help Seven adjust," Kathryn said sincerely. Even if she couldn't be with Seven, she didn't want to lose the friendship they had shared.

"Really?" B'Elanna stopped and looked the captain over. It was quite clear that the crush Seven used to have on the captain had been mutual, and while Seven had moved on, Janeway hadn't had the passage of two and a half years to do the same. "I think Seven and I will handle things just fine," B'Elanna said slowly, then pushed down her jealousy.

She really did care for the captain, and it wasn't her fault she had lost out, even if she didn't know it yet. Then B'Elanna realized, that yes, it was her fault, but instead of making her angry, it made her feel sincere compassion for the captain. "Um, Captain, I think there are a few things we need to talk about," the Klingon began. "But I think it would be best if we waited until we get settled on board." B'Elanna didn't want to break the news on a hostile space station.

"All right," Janeway agreed, though she had a feeling she wasn't going to like the topic.

Up ahead, Seven was not enjoying the Doctor's company. He seemed to have damaged his matrix during Seven's absence and had an overwhelming need to discuss Seven's feelings. Asking her, "and how does that make you feel?" and saying things like, "That must have been very hard for you." Seven was tired, and she wanted to feel B'Elanna in her arms to make sure that her wife was all right. Perhaps she could convince her beloved Klingon to go back to B'Elanna's quarters, their quarters, and take a nap. Seven paused and looked back at B'Elanna. She could tell that her wife was upset about something.

"B'Elanna?" Seven asked.

"What is it, Seven?" B'Elanna's eyes lit up as she looked down the corridor and the edges of her lips curled up unconsciously.

"I am tired, Be'nal," Seven said as she held out her hand. "Can we take a nap?"

"Of course, love," B'Elanna said as she rushed to catch up with Seven before she realized that the words were out of her mouth.

Seven took B'Elanna's hand and pulled her close, feeling the Klingon's hand wrap around her waist as naturally as breathing. "I missed you," Seven said as she placed a quick kiss on B'Elanna head.

B'Elanna paused, thinking about the captain's feelings, but then realized she wasn't about to snub the love of her life. She leaned into Seven and squeezed her, then let her hand slide down to Seven's tummy. "Me too. Let's go home."

Janeway felt like she had been kicked by a six legged Altarian bull. Seven had called B'Elanna "Be'nal," and while Janeway's Klingon was rusty, she knew that was the word for wife. She followed quietly, not wanting to intrude on such a private moment.

"Wife?" the Doctor asked. He spoke fluent Klingon and had no problem intruding. "What on earth do you mean by that, Seven?"

Seven and B'Elanna had stopped, and Janeway caught up with the small group just as the explanations came.

"We've been married for two years," B'Elanna said proudly. She felt bad for the captain, but she wasn't about to let Seven mistake that concern for a lack of enthusiasm.

"Two years, one month, sixteen days," Seven corrected and then kissed B'Elanna's temple.

B'Elanna smiled and blushed. "Yes, dear. How silly of me to be so inaccurate." She leaned into the willowy blonde, letting her hands tickle Seven's ribs. The exBorg squirmed, but seemed to be more than willing to indulge the Klingon's playful torture.

"Congratulations," Janeway said. She could see the happiness in both women's eyes along with the palpable presence of love. "I'm glad you two found something good to take away from this experience."

B'Elanna's eyes drifted to Seven's belly and her smile grew. Anyone who was used to seeing B'Elanna Torres, angry Klingon with an attitude, wouldn't have recognized the woman in front of them. B'Elanna's eyes were filled with wonder as her hand caressed Seven's belly.

"Indeed," Seven said quietly. She linked her hand over B'Elanna's holding it there. "We have many things to be thankful for."

"You intend to keep the child?" the Doctor asked. He wasn't known for his subtlety or his ability to notice anyone else's emotions.

"Why would we not?" Seven demanded. "We planned this pregnancy and are looking forward to our daughter's birth."

Janeway didn't know how much more she could handle, so she shifted into captain mode. "Let's get back to Voyager and we can discuss this there. Come on," she ordered and then marched on in front of her crew.


Chapter Eighteen: Adjustments

Janeway went directly to her quarters and used a hypospray the Doctor had given her for the headaches she had been suffering from since the Dengari situation began. After a quick look in the mirror to make sure that her command mask was in place, she made her way to the bridge. She wanted to get the ship underway before the mysterious Magistrate arrived. She had used up every ounce of patience with the Dengari Overseer and had no interest in meeting the Magistrate and wanted to get back on course to the Alpha quadrant. Kathryn hoped the familiar routine of the bridge would take her mind off of Seven.

Part of her was truly happy that Seven seemed to have found someone she could love, someone who obviously loved her in return, but a smaller part felt like she had been shown a cruel glimpse of the happiness she could have shared with the exBorg. Both thoughts only made the weight of her loneliness press down on her like it hadn't since she had found out that her fiancee Mark had moved on and married someone else back in the Alpha Quadrant.

"Mister Paris," Janeway said as she walked onto the bridge, "Take us out of here as soon as we get clearance to disengage the airlock."

"Aye, Ma'am," he said slowly. It wasn't normal for her to start spouting orders before even greeting whomever had the bridge.

"Captain," Chakotay said as she walked down to the command deck. "Everything all right?"

"Yes, Commander. B'Elanna and Seven are safely on board." Janeway paused as the tattooed officer climbed out of her chair and into his own, and then she sat without another word.

Chakotay turned back toward Ensign Kim at Ops. "Harry, any word from the station?"

"Yes, sir. They're still finishing up some last minute things before they can disengage the airlock." Harry studied his comm panel intently but was more than a little curious about B'Elanna and Seven.

"How did B'Elanna look?" Tom Paris asked as he turned.

"Fine," Janeway answered, not elaborating.

"Did she ask about me?" he asked.

"No," Janeway said, hoping Tom would get the hint that she didn't want to talk about it.

"She was probably pretty preoccupied, right?" Tom persisted.

"Yes," Janeway said. ‘Sometimes,' she thought, ‘he can be so dense.'

"Probably just wanted to climb into a warm bed, huh?" he asked, unaware of how that particular question would affect the captain.

"Yes," Janeway said. Her voice was at its most deadly register reserved for the Kazon or Hirogen.

"She didn't mention me at all?" he asked again. His face showed his disbelief, as if the captain had simply not been paying attention to B'Elanna, because certainly she would have asked about him.

"No," Janeway said. She wondered if anyone would object to her asking Tuvok to test his Vulcan nerve pinch on the helmsman. Probably not.

The doors to the turbolift opened and the Doctor came into the room. "Captain, I just finished checking Lieutenant Torres and Seven. If you have a moment, I think I should brief you on my findings."

"Fine. In my ready room." Janeway wasn't in the mood to talk about either of the women, but she had a ship to run, so she pushed herself out of her chair.

"Doc?" Tom asked. "Think Lana is up to a little visit?" His eyes suggested his question was more about a date than a visit. "I mean, after two and half years, she has to have forgiven me, right?"

Janeway sighed and looked at the helmsman. "Mister Paris," Janeway said ruefully, "I think that ship has sailed."

The Doctor snorted a half laugh. "That ship has not only sailed, but it's coming back to port with a copilot and full cargo hold."

Janeway cleared her throat and nodded toward her ready room while Tom gave them both a confused stare.

"Chakotay, you have the bridge. Take us out of here as soon as we're clear." Janeway led the way off of the bridge. She still had a lingering sense of dread about the Magistrate and wanted to be long gone before he arrived.

The Doctor followed Janeway into her ready room and studied the various items decorating her office as she sat at her desk. He wondered if he should add a bust of one of his medical heroes or perhaps a famous opera star to his own office.

"Doctor?" Janeway nodded to the chair across from her.

"Captain," he said as he sat. "I just wanted you to know that my concerns about the child were unfounded. There is no risk of it, or rather her, being Borg."

"Glad to hear it," she said. That was one less hardship for Seven and B'Elanna to endure she thought happily.

"And, despite what I first thought, I don't think either Lieutenant Torres or Seven will need counseling for post traumatic stress disorder or the effects of internment." He smiled proudly as if it was by some miracle of his own doing.

Janeway's only response was a set of raised auburn eyebrows.

"It seems they were not even with the other inmates. They were alone in a mountain region," he explained. "So, while we were all worrying ourselves sick about their well being, they were off having a romantic vacation," he added, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "We should all be so lucky."

"I'm sure upsetting you wasn't their only goal, Doctor. I'm guessing they had a tough time of it." She sighed, relived that her crewmembers hadn't been forced to deal with the horrors that had filled her own thoughts since they had went missing.

"Yes, well…" he said as he tugged at his holographic collar. He had the good sense to look contrite before continuing. "I'd like them to take off at least a few weeks to relax and get back into the swing of things, as it were."

"You're giving them time off after a two and half year vacation?" Janeway wasn't through dressing the hologram down just yet. "How generous of you." Her eyes lacked the sparkle they had when she was teasing.

"Point taken, captain." He knew when he was beaten, and had the intelligence to quit while he was ahead. "While they may have had less harsh conditions than we had speculated, they did have to struggle."

"I'll make a note in my log," she said. "Doctor, you said they weren't with the other inmates?"

"Yes." He nodded. "They were completely isolated for most of the time."

"Well, then how did Seven… how… her, well if not one of the convicts, how did she get…" Janeway struggled, not comfortable with the topic, but still having an overwhelming curiosity about the subject.

"Pregnant?" the Doctor supplied. "We have Lieutenant Torres to thank for that," he said with a smirk. "Well, Lieutenant Torres and good old Borg ingenuity."

Janeway stared at him, her mouth refusing to function.

"In six months," he said with a smile, "We're going to have a little Klingon-human-Borg tyke running around. Well, I guess that isn't entirely accurate. She'll be one quarter Klingon and three quarters Human."

"I see," Janeway said, but in truth she had no idea how B'Elanna and Seven had managed that particular feat, and the last thing she wanted to do was try to think about it. That invited images she didn't want, images of the two women in a heated embrace. No, she didn't want to think about that at all.

B'Elanna and Seven made their way down to the crew deck after finishing up in sick bay. They passed several crew members who were warm and welcoming, though somewhat surprised to see the two women together, that and the fact that both women looked significantly different than they had the last time they had been on board. Seven's rich brown leather pants and blood stained white top weren't nearly a surprising as the thick braid that came down over her left shoulder reaching her belly. B'Elanna was an even more bizarre sight. She was wearing her dark brown leather pants and a loose fitting surgical gown. Her hair had also grown out, and she wore it pulled back into a loose ponytail tied off at the shoulder with a piece of leather. Her sable brown hair reached down passed her shoulder blades.

They reached B'Elanna's quarters and were thrilled to find a package waiting next to the door. It was from Malok, and contained not only the bearskin and B'Elanna's knife but her jacket as well. Seven had left the leather garment in their cell during her haste to accompany B'Elanna to the surgical bay.

"Welcome home," B'Elanna said as she walked into her quarters.

"Thank you." Seven took the package from B'Elanna and put it onto the low table and then turned to the Klingon with a feral grin. "Show me our bed," the exdrone demanded and her eyes lidded as she leaned in for a kiss.

"I thought you needed a nap?" B'Elanna's asked after a lingering kiss.

"I need you more," Seven said. She wrapped B'Elanna in her arms and rested her forehead against her wife's ridged brow. "You scared me today. I now understand the promise you wanted me to make after our vision quest." She ran her fingers down B'Elanna's cheek and then followed the same path with whisper soft kisses.

"I'm sorry," B'Elanna whispered. She groaned and leaned into Seven's body, her mocha colored hands kneading the muscles in Seven's lower back. "Your back's like a rock. It must be killing you." B'Elanna untangled from the embrace and led Seven to their bed, pausing only long enough to bring the bearskin.

"Don't ever leave me, Be'nal," Seven whispered as B'Elanna lifted the blood stained shirt over her head. Her blonde braid got tangled, then slapped down onto her chest and B'Elanna tugged on her braid with a smile, using it to pull Seven into searing kiss.

"I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." B'Elanna eased Seven onto the bed, face down, and straddled her leather covered backside. She tenderly massaged Seven's lean, long back, giving each muscle loving, soothing attention until every bit of tightness was gone, then settled herself next to Seven.

"Make love to me," the fully relaxed and aroused blonde begged.

"Always," B'Elanna breathed into a kiss on Seven's full lips. "Always, my beloved. Now, roll over." Her brown eyes darkened to the color of night at she leaned over to steal another kiss, and they made love under the same bearskin that had warmed them every night since the first time they had opened their souls to each other. It was just as wonderful, magical, and fresh as that first time. Each meeting of lips was a benediction, a promise of forever. Each touch of velvet soft skin against well muscled limbs ignited fires so fierce that they consumed the pair until they lay spent and their breathing was reduced to labored gasps. All in all, it was a perfect homecoming.

Several decks away Kathryn Janeway was awake in her bed, but for a much different reason. After staring at the ceiling for an hour she got up and went for a walk. She wandered aimlessly through the various decks until she found herself at a familiar location. She stared at the doors to Cargo Bay two and felt like her soul was being ripped from her body. She had to stop herself from activating the door, then almost laughed at the absurdity of the action. Seven was probably with B'Elanna, in her…no, their quarters, and even if Seven was in the Borg alcove regenerating, B'Elanna was probably there with her. Even if the Klingon wasn't there, watching another woman's wife sleep was completely inappropriate.

Kathryn walked back to the turbolift and began going over her past actions. She had watched Seven regenerate, sleep, on countless occasions, and had never admitted the intimacy it implied. Watching Seven sleep had been the most intimate act Kathryn had indulged in since she had left the Alpha Quadrant. Now the beautiful blonde Borg was sleeping next to B'Elanna Torres. Kathryn pushed that image out of her mind and headed back to her quarters alone.


Chapter 19: Surprises

Word spread quickly through Voyager's grapevine that the two missing crewmembers were back, but there were only faint rumblings about how the two may or may not have gotten along.

Voyager got underway without a hitch, and much to Janeway's relief she was able to return to her ready room for some much needed alone time. So far, she and the Doctor were the only two on board who knew about B'Elanna and Seven's marriage and impending child, but the juicy piece of gossip would make the rounds soon enough. The captain didn't care to discuss it with anyone, so she was less than thrilled to hear the chime of her door disturb her quiet contemplation.

"Come in," Janeway said unenthusiastically.

Tuvok entered and walked directly to her desk without a word. She waited until he stood at attention and then raised her eyebrows in silence question. When he merely shifted his weight, she switched tactics.

"Yes?" she asked.

"I came to ask if you have come to any resolution regarding your personal matter," he said the last two words as if they were actually painful.

"Didn't give me much time, did you, old friend?" She leaned back in her chair and motioned to the chair beside him with a nod of her head.

"You have seen her. From all accounts, she is well," he said as if that explained everything.

"Yes, she's quite well," Janeway said with bitterness hardening her words.

"I would think her well being would be a cause for relief," he said. He really did not enjoy trying to decipher human emotions. Just when he thought he had a firm grasp on them, they darted off in the most illogical direction available.

Kathryn looked down at her hands that were resting on top of her desk, then looked up. Her command mask was down, something she wouldn't allow with any other member of the crew.

"Captain?" The depth of despair Tuvok saw disturb him.

"She's married, Tuvok." Her eyes went back down to her own hands, to the ring finger, devoid of any decoration, the naked digit mocking her. Even while she had been engaged to Mark, she had never worn a ring, adhering to the letter Starfleet policy, although most captains allowed their crew to wear wedding bands.

"To Lieutenant Torres, I presume?" he asked.

"Yes," Kathryn responded, though she wondered why it had occurred to him so quickly. "Did you see this coming?"

"Their bonding was one of the many possible variables," he said slowly. "I had considered that the animosity they harbored on board might have been sexual tension. I felt mentioning it prior to this would have caused you undo stress given the fact that we had no way of knowing what was going on."

"Well," Janeway said as she stood and walked to the window, studying the stars whipping by. "I think it's pretty clear the matter is closed."

"Were you a Vulcan, I would agree." Tuvok stood and went to stand next to the captain and studied the flying specks that were stars outside the warp field. "However, you are not Vulcan."

"Other than stating out the obvious, do you have a point?" Kathryn eyed the dark skinned Vulcan with a sideways glance.

"My point, is that since you are human, the knowledge that Seven is unattainable will not make you want her any less." Tuvok linked his hands behind his back and continued staring out the window. "In fact, given your nature, Captain, it may make you want her more."

"Me in general, or all us flawed humans?" Janeway turned to face him.

"You are a particularly competitive person, Captain. It has served you well. It is one of the things that makes you such a great captain." He turned and tilted his head to one side. "It is also the thing that concerns me in this situation."

"Oh?" Janeway asked. She was less than amused. "Are you worried I'll challenge B'Elanna to a duel for Seven's hand?"

"Vulcans do not worry," he said. "Additionally, I know you well enough to know that such an action would not be in your nature. I also know Seven well enough to know that she would not allow such a contest," he added in case the captain surprised him and was actually considering that option.

"And just what would be in my nature?" Her voice rumbled quietly.

"You would not interfere in another person's relationship, however I am concerned that you will become increasingly forlorn. You do not like losing," he explained.

"This isn't a game, Tuvok."

"No, but when Ransom had Seven in his custody, your actions were illogical. I believe part of that was your need to beat Ransom, and part of it was that he stole what you saw as yours," Tuvok stated bluntly. "That may intensify your sense of loss in this case."

"He did had our containment matrix," Janeway said defensively.

"I was referring to Seven of Nine." He raised an eyebrow.

"I do not consider her property." Janeway's eyes flashed and she straightened to her full height, though she still only reached his chest. "And I resent you suggesting otherwise."

"My intention is not to cause resentment, only to counsel you to refocus your…affection." He looked down at her, showing as much concern as was possible for the Vulcan.

Janeway laughed and walked away, her heart breaking. "Refocus my affection? Tuvok," she said as she went to the couch and sat. "If only it were that easy."

B'Elanna studied Seven as the blonde slept. Seven had dozed off after they had finished making love; the napping had only begun to happen since the pregnancy. B'Elanna watched her wife's lips twitch and her eyes shift under closed lids as she dreamed. The Klingon smiled, unable to contain her joy. She had everything she had ever dreamed possible…and more, a beautiful wife, a daughter on the way, and now they were safely back on board Voyager. When she had awakened in the Dengari surgical bay and seen Voyager's Doctor, she had thought she was hallucinating. Once he explained the temporal differential, of course dragging in his own heroic away mission on a similar planet, she had been relieved. Now that she was back on board, it finally hit her what the time difference meant. She and Seven had each other and the baby, while the ship had barely missed a beat of Kahless' drum in the grand scheme. She reached out and brushed a strand of blonde hair off of Seven's face and tucked it behind her ear. Seven mumbled, and shifted toward the Klingon, she had an innate sense of B'Elanna's presence, and would shift to be as close to her as possible. B'Elanna loved the way Seven would make little frustrated sounds when she couldn't touch B'Elanna the way she wanted to, tiny whimpers that she would continue until she rolled over and found B'Elanna, then she would let out a contented sigh and begin nuzzling into B'Elanna's neck. B'Elanna thought it was the most adorable thing she had ever seen. She hoped their daughter inherited the tiny whimpers.

B'Elanna lifted the covers and slipped out of the bed, standing for several minutes just watching Seven. Finally, she bent down and placed a tender kiss on her wife's temple, running her hand through Seven's hair that was down and flowing across the pillow. She left the former drone to rest and went into the living area. She had grown accustom to clothing being optional, and she didn't even register her lack of attire until she sat on the couch and realized that she was somewhat underdressed and smiled as she retrieved her robe. She wanted to start designing a portable regenerator to move into her quarters so that Seven wouldn't have to spend time in the cargo bay.

The Klingon found that being away from Voyager for two and a half years had left her technical skills a bit rusty. She had to actually pull the ship's schematics before working out the best way to move a smaller version of the alcove to her quarters. It was frustrating, she remembered when she could have rerouted any system in her head, every circuit and relay embedded in her memory, and she didn't like needing to rely on data padds to tell her where the nearest power conduits were.

The door chimed and she looked up from the three padds on her lap. She got up and hurried to the door not wanting whoever it was to chime again which might wake up Seven.

She opened the door and saw red, literally. Two dozen roses blocked her view, the roses lowered and Tom Paris smiled and did his best to look charming.

"Tom, what do you want?" B'Elanna asked as she leaned against the wall, blocking his entry.

"Lana, welcome home," he said and stepped forward.

"Paris? What is it?" B'Elanna reached across the doorway using her arm as a barricade before he could enter.

"Come on, Lana, you can't still be angry." He moved to the other side of B'Elanna to get past her. "I'm sorry, all right? If you're still mad after all this time, you must still care. Why don't you let me come in and give you a proper welcome home?"

"Tom, look, I'm not mad at you. Honestly, I haven't thought much about you at all." She shifted her weight and crossed her arms over her chest. "I need to talk to you, but this really isn't a good time."

"Come on, Lana, it's the perfect time." He rushed past her and into the room, stopping when he saw the padds scattered across the couch. "Back to work so soon? You need to relax," he said. "Computer, lights one half."

The illumination lowered and Tom tossed the roses onto the couch. "I know you've missed me," he insisted. "Come on." He moved closer and she had to backpedal to stay out of his reach.

"Tom, leave, now." She continued backing away. "Or I'm gonna' enjoy giving you a nice bit of news."

"Oh?" he asked as he came closer, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

"Tom, I'm married." She stood her ground and glared at him. "So I suggest you leave now before things get really ugly." Her lips curled up at the edges revealing her pointed teeth. It wasn't a smile.

"Married?" Tom asked. "Come on, Lana, you can do better than that." He looked around her quarters, pointing at the mostly empty room. "I don't see any prince charming. Lana, if you want me to beg I will, but just give me a chance."

"Paris," B'Elanna sighed and rubbed her temples, wanting him out before Seven woke up. After the fiasco with the way had Janeway found out, she didn't want the same thing to happen with Tom. True, he was a jerk, but she didn't want to see him hurt, embarrassed maybe, but not hurt. "Leave, Tom. I'm happy, and you don't hold a candle to my…"

"Your husband?" Tom asked, then laughed. "Please." He laughed and tugged at the collar of her robe. She grabbed his arm and twisted him around, trapping his arm behind him and pushing toward the door.

"Go try this crap with your hologram, Tom," B'Elanna said as she shoved him away from her.

"B'Elanna, even if you did meet someone, you know it's me you want," he challenged. "You probably picked some guy who looks just like me, didn't you?"

"No," came the sultry voice from behind him.

He turned and saw Seven leaning against the bedroom door with one of B'Elanna's tunics held to her body, covering her, well, covering some of her.

"Seven?" Tom's voice squeaked.

"You remember me. I am honored… I thought five days was beyond the capacity of your limited memory," Seven said sarcastically. The tunic had been hanging on the wall and Seven had grabbed it before coming out when she had heard voices. The uniform top hid her breasts, and down past her waist, but it revealed her long expanse of legs on the bottom and her abundant cleavage on top. Luckily her hair was cascading down on both sides of her face, helping to keep her breasts from view.

"No way," Paris said. He couldn't believe B'Elanna would dump him for the Borg ice queen, although he was enjoying the view in front of him.

"Get out," B'Elanna said as she walked passed him and into the bedroom. She came back out with a sheet and draped it around Seven from behind, leaving her arms around the tall blonde. "I'm happy, Tom. Just move on." Her cheek was resting against Seven's shoulder. She hadn't wanted to rub her happiness in his face, but he just made it so easy.

"But, but… we, we had something," he insisted.

"Had, Tom," B'Elanna said as she rubbed her wife's arms. "And what we had doesn't hold a candle to what Seven and I have." She looked at Tom, feeling sorry for the inept fool. "Tom, go home."

He continued staring, too stunned to speak.

Seven shifted so that she had her arms cradled over the top of B'Elanna's. "My wife asked you to leave our quarters, Ensign Paris," Seven said calmly. "Do not make her ask again."

"Or what?" he asked as he stepped forward, his shock overruling his natural instinct for self-preservation.

B'Elanna tensed, but Seven had her arms pinned around her waist and the sheet. The Klingon remembered the nauseating sound of the breaking necks in the holding cell and realized that she should get Tom out of the room.

"Or, I will remove you," Seven said. Her voice was calm, but had the sharp edge of rage making the air crackle. Her eyes narrowed and she raised the eyebrow under her implant. "I do not wish to do so. You are a competent pilot and it would be a shame for you to be confined to sickbay…indefinitely."

Tom was about to make a snide comment that would get him an all expenses paid emergency transport to sickbay with a complimentary painkiller, but he saw B'Elanna squeeze and then soothe Seven. Something in the way Seven's muscles rippled beneath her skin, like a cat before it pounces, made him hesitate.

"Be'nal," the Klingon whispered as she lifted onto her toes to reach Seven's ear. "He's not worth it. Please, let me handle this." She left a kiss on the soft pink shell of Seven's ear to convince the exdrone.

"Very well," Seven whispered back, tilting her face toward B'Elanna so that their cheeks touched.

B'Elanna walked passed Tom, grabbed the roses, then went back and yanked him by the arm toward the door. "I just saved your ass, Paris. You owe me," she said as she shoved him out the door and tossed the roses out after him.

"This isn't over, Borg," he said as the door slid shut cutting off his pigheaded taunt.

Those onboard who considered B'Elanna Torres to be the supreme source of gossip on Voyager had never seen Tom Paris at the top of his informative game. Twelve minutes after he left B'Elanna's quarters, every member of the crew knew about the marriage of the resident Klingon to the Borg drone. Tom had expected surprise, which he got in abundance, but the sense of outrage he wanted was not to be had. While everyone seemed surprised, most passed it off as none of their business, or worse in Tom's mind, they were happy for the pair. The only one on board who actually seemed disturbed by the news was young Naomi Wildman who had been with Neelix when he heard the news.

"Wonderful, just wonderful," the furry chef and sometimes diplomat said as he rubbed his yellow spotted hands together. "I'll get to work on a reception right away." He grabbed a padd from his kitchen counter and began accessing files.

"Is that all you're gonna' say?" asked Tom.

"Well, what else would I say?" Neelix asked, honestly confused by the question. He looked down at Naomi who was standing beside him and noticed her confused expression. "Naomi, honey? What is it?"

She tugged on the Talaxian's sleeve and brought him down to her level to whisper a question in his ear. "I thought Seven liked the captain?" she asked with the innocence of youth.

He frowned, then smiled indulgently at the child. "No, dear. I don't think so."

"Neelix?" Tom persisted. "Aren't you the least bit shocked? I mean…this is B'Elanna…and Seven."

"Love comes in every mix, Mister Paris. Just look at what Kes and I shared. Who would have thought such a delicate flower could have loved an old hedgehog like me?" Neelix noticed Tom avoid his glance. "Yes, Tom, I know what some of the crew calls me. I kind of like it. Hedgehogs are very handsome animals."

Naomi giggled as she realized how much Neelix did look like the pictures she had seen of hedgehogs. Her giggles changed to a squeal when the giant hedgehog in question bent down and snorted at her and then rooted around her neck.

"Well, uh," Tom said with a sigh. "I have to go," he said as he turned and fled the mess hall to continue spreading the juiciest piece of gossip on board in years.

Neelix waved to the Ensign as he left then gave Naomi his full attention. "Now then, Miss Wildman, I'm going to need an assistant to plan a wedding reception, and as one of Seven's best friends, that responsibility would usually fall onto you. Are you up for it?"

"Yes," she answered, her tiny face completely serious about the grave responsibility she was being given.

"All right then," he said as he looked over his padd. "I'm pretty sure I can find some information on Klingon and human rituals, but I'm not sure there will be anything on Borg joinings."

"The Borg don't join, Neelix." Naomi said as she gave him a tolerant smile. "They assimilate."

"Well, that wouldn't be much fun at a reception, now would it?" he asked as he rubbed his chin with mock seriousness. "We can't have the guests sprouting implants, that would ruin their tuxedos."

Naomi giggled and rolled her eyes.

"Captain to the bridge," Chakotay's voice said over the communication system. Janeway looked up from the padd on her desk and stood, making her way out of the ready room and toward the bridge. She came through the doors and looked up to the viewscreen at one of the biggest warships she had ever seen.

"Report," she demanded as she took her seat.

"Captain, that warship just came up behind us and is matching our course. We've changed our heading twice and they've adjusted to match us each time," Chakotay explained. He rubbed the tattoo over his eye as he stared at the viewscreen.

"Have you hailed them?" Janeway asked Ensign Kim who was currently standing at the Ops station.

"Yes, ma'am. Four times, no response." He checked his comm panel even as he spoke to make sure he didn't miss some vital bit of information.

"Open hailing frequencies," she ordered.

"Open," Harry said as he tapped the keypad in front of him.

"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager, please state your intentions." She didn't want to start out being rude.

"They're responding," Harry said, his surprise evident. The viewscreen image changed to show a Dengari man with graying temples sitting in an overstated command chair that had intricate carvings and large swirling armrests.

"Captain Janeway, are you in the habit of having your underlings greet dignitaries?" the man asked. His tone was a mix of disgust and concern.

"I'm not in the habit of explaining my actions to strangers," she responded dryly.

"I am the Magistrate," he said, offend she didn't recognize him.

"That explains the chair," she said quietly to Chakotay who choked down a laugh. "What can I do for you, Magistrate?" she asked cautiously.

"Return my two prisoners," he said casually, then actually bent his fingers and examined his fingernails.

"We don't have any of your prisoners." Janeway stood and put her hands on her hips. "The members of my crew that were in your custody finished their sentences."

"Yes, but they killed two men on board the transport ship." He stood as well, but leaned against the massive chair in a relaxed manner. "I have generously agreed to not consider them fugitives. Normally I would interpret their leaving as another crime, but the Overseer convinced me to show leniency."

"Those men were trying to kill them," Janeway said. "Don't you know anything about self-defense?" her voice sounded like she had swallowed gravel, deep and reverberating, mimicking a mother bear's growl, a perfect measure of her mood.

"Of course," he said. "We are a civilized species. Had the prisoners remained until my arrival, I would have given them a complete pardon on those grounds." He sat down and griped the ornate arms of his chair. "But since they left, undermining my authority, I had no choice but to find them guilty of murder. I want them transferred to my custody at once."

"I don't think so." Janeway sat in her chair and tossed one leg over the other. "Tuvok, yellow alert."

"This needn't be an adversarial discussion," he said, but his eyes said the opposite.

"Too late," Janeway said. "You might as well turn around and go home. You won't get my people."

His eyes narrowed, then he looked off screen and nodded. The Overseer walked into the screen.

"Captain, I think we can work this out… to all our satisfaction. If you would just come over to our ship with the prisoners, we can work this out."

"Overseer, since the day I met you, every word out of your mouth has been a half truth or an outright lie. You'll forgive me if I don't trust you," Janeway said.

"Yes, I will," the Overseer said and smiled. She looked at the Magistrate. "Perhaps we could meet on their ship?"

"That is highly irregular," the Magistrate said.

"Irregular or not, I would be willing to allow you and the Overseer to come on board. However, my ship will handle the transport, and your ship will have to take its weapons and transporters off line." Janeway steepled her fingers together and let the ball shoot into their court.

"Am I supposed to come over there without a security team?" He asked, clearly not willing to making the agreement without some petty concession on Janeway's part.

"I think I can let you bring one guard... unarmed," the captain said. She rather enjoyed demanding her own petty concession from the pompous magistrate.

The Overseer cleared her throat. "I'm sure my captain of the guard would be honored to accompany the Magistrate," she said.

"Very well," the Magistrate said. "In one standard hour," he decreed.

"Why don't we make it two. I have an urgent matter to attend," Janeway said. The urgent matter was taking some of the wind out of the Magistrate's sail.

"I will allow it," the Magistrate said as if he was the one in control all along.

"Fine, my security chief will contact your people, Janeway out," she said as she disengaged the channel from her comm panel. "Tuvok, I want the ship on full alert until further notice."

The entire senior staff was present in the conference room, scattered around the table. All eyes darted back and forth between the Klingon and the exBorg, except for Tom, whose eyes were locked on Seven. She was unaffected by his attempt at intimidation. She had faced down the Borg Queen, so Tom Paris' childish attempts to unsettle her were actually amusing.

The senior staff had almost concluded their brief meeting when the question of whether or not Torres and Seven would meet with the Magistrate came up.

"Oh, I'll meet with him," B'Elanna said to Janeway with a menacing smile. "In fact, maybe he and I should spend a little quality time alone."

"Somehow," Seven said, "I do not think he would enjoy the quality of the visit you have in mind." The exdrone moved her chair closer to B'Elanna and lifted an eyebrow high onto her forehead.

"Lieutenant," Janeway said, "as satisfying as that would be...for all of us, I don't think it's going to happen." The captain glanced around the table and then cleared her throat. "Now, I think we should focus on preparing, and we need to hurry so that we have options."

The Doctor leaned forward. "Well, giving B'Elanna and Seven to them isn't an option," he said, pointing out the obvious, a task usually handled by Chakotay.

"No," Janeway said within an unamused crinkle of her brow.

Tom finally spoke. "Well, from what I read in the report, both of them did not kill those men."

"You are correct, Mr. Paris," Seven said. Her hand reached under the table and squeezed B'Elanna's convincing the Klingon by hold her tongue. Seven continued. "I killed them, Mr. Paris. They hurt my wife, and I dealt with them." She leveled her lapis blue eyes on the Helmsman.

"You acted in self-defense," Tuvok said.

"Tuvok, I need you to make sure there aren't any surprises when they arrive." Janeway looked around the table. "As for the rest of you, make sure your departments are on their toes. Tuvok has some special instructions for each of you." She pushed her chair away from the table. "I think we're done here."


Chapter 20: Family

When Seven of Nine was not amused, it fell heavily on the shoulders of B'Elanna Torres. At the current moment, B'Elanna felt like there was an elephant sitting on her back, an unammused, pregnant elephant.

"Why must we wait here?" Seven demanded as she looked around Cargo Bay two.

"Because," B'Elanna said patiently, "The non-Starfleet components let us put up a Borg forcefield." She spoke softly, completely calm, and with more understanding than most would have thought she was capable of displaying. She knew Seven was more emotional since the pregnancy, so she compensated.

"I understand that," Seven said as she paced. "But why us?" Seven whined illogically. The exBorg was feeling tired, and more than a little cranky. She hadn't spent any time in the cargo bay since their return the day before, choosing to forgo regeneration until they installed the new system in their quarters. She hadn't seen any Borg technology in two and half years, and the once familiar equipment now made her uncomfortable. She shivered as she stared at the green glowing console next to her alcove.

"It's okay," B'Elanna said as she came up behind Seven and wrapped her arms around her waist. "I know you don't like it here, love, but hey, I'm a Klingon warrior. Think I like missing all the fun?"

Seven turned and loosely embraced her wife. "I am being…difficult. I do not mean to be. My emotions seem to have moved closer to the surface."

"Yeah, but I still love you," B'Elanna said as she kissed Seven's nose. "The captain just wants to keep us away from the Magistrate. I have to at least partly agree with her. I don't want you anywhere near him."

"Yes, but you would like to be there for the meeting…perhaps bring your bat'tleth?" Seven asked with a smile.

"Well, maybe…" B'Elanna stared down at the floor.

The doors to the cargo bay opened and Neelix leaned around the wall and peered in. "Hello?" he asked. "Lieutenant? Seven?"

"Yes, Neelix?" B'Elanna asked without letting go of Seven. She was still not on active duty, and she wasn't about to miss one second in her wife's arms.

"Uh, if you'll drop that Borg forcefield, I have a visitor for you. The captain thinks this is the safest place." The furry Talaxian was still partially hidden from view.

"Indeed?" Seven asked even as she used one hand to disengaged the glowing green forcefield and kept the other loosely wrapped around B'Elanna's hip. She wondered who else on Voyager had to be hidden from the Magistrate.

"Yes," Neelix said with a serious scowl. "Think you could take responsibility for her?"

"Her?" Seven asked. Her eyes sparkled as she figured out who the visitor probably was.

Neelix stepped into view, and then tugged Naomi Wildman beside him.

"Hi, Seven." The tiny child looked nervous, she hadn't seen Seven since her return and she wasn't sure how to act around B'Elanna now that they were married.

"Naomi," Seven yelled and ran toward her.

Naomi's eyes widened, she had never seen Seven so emotional and she wasn't sure how to react. Seven reached her and scooped her up.

"Naomi, I have missed you." Seven kissed the half-Katarian on the cheek several times and then swung her in her arms. Seven had gotten used to being openly affectionate with Ty, and that carried over to Naomi, allowing Seven to show the love she had always felt for the strawberry blonde child.

"Seven?" Naomi squeaked, taken aback by the gregarious hug.

Seven knelt and let Naomi's feet touch the ground. "I thought about you often," Seven said with her hands still holding onto the child.

"You did?" Naomi was shocked to see tears at the edges of Seven's deep blue eyes.

"I did," Seven said seriously. She noticed Naomi's confusion so she took a more familiar approach and stood up to her full height, linked her hands behind her back and looked down on her with a serious expression. "Naomi Wildman, your absence from my daily existence was extremely detrimental to my… emotional well being."

"I missed you too, Seven." Naomi's eyes brightened and a smile edged up the corners of her mouth as she tried to remain serious, composed, and yes, somewhat Borg in her demeanor.

"Well, I'll be going now," Neelix said, feeling somewhat awkward. He hadn't seen that much emotion from Seven since One's death, and while he liked the way her obvious excitement to see Naomi made her features even more beautiful, he wasn't used to seeing it. "I have a few things to finish up before…our visitors arrive. Naomi is wearing her arm band, as ordered." He backed out of the cargo, waving to Naomi.

"Bye, Neelix," she said as she returned the wave.

"Thanks," B'Elanna said as she watched him leave. She walked over behind Seven, raising an eyebrow at Naomi and smirking as she remembered a small calf on Jusari Prime. "Hey," B'Elanna said quietly to Seven, "Better get that forcefield back up."

"Of course," Seven said as she turned. She ran her hand over B'Elanna's arm as she passed, making the Klingon's smirk blossom into a smile. "I will collect our arm bands as well," Seven said as she walked away, her eyes lingering on B'Elanna's as she twisted her body to maintain eye contact as long as possible.

"Hey, squirt, how are you doing?" B'Elanna asked the nervous child.

"Fine, Lieutenant," Naomi replied. "I won't be any trouble," she added as she looked around the vast cargo area that was now surrounded by the green glow of the Borg enhanced forcefield.

"I know that," B'Elanna said as she stepped closer. "Besides, you're family now." The Klingon reached down and squeezed Naomi's shoulder and then bent to whisper in her ear. "Seven really missed you. You know what she did? She named a cute little cow after you, and we went out almost everyday to make sure it was okay."

Naomi said nothing as B'Elanna pulled back, surprised by the revelation about the cow and the Klingon's use of the word family.

"You know what she talked about every day while we sat and watched that little cow?" B'Elanna asked with a half smile.

Naomi slowly shook her head side to side.

B'Elanna bent down onto one knee so that she could look into Naomi's eyes. "You. What you might be doing, were you okay, how big were you getting…"

"Really?" A look of wonder covered Naomi's face, replacing at least some of the nervousness.

"Yep," B'Elanna assured her. "And we talked about how you were Seven's family…how much she missed you…and how, now that she and I are married, that makes you and I family." B'Elanna saw Naomi's face crinkle as she processed that bit of information. "You think you can handle having a Klingon in your family?"

"Half Klingon," Naomi said with a smile. "Now we have a half Katarian, a half Borg and a half Klingon."

"Well, that's quite a mix," B'Elanna said.

Seven joined the two, kneeling down beside B'Elanna without a word. She carefully attached the bio-dampening band around B'Elanna's arm, then smiled, and leaned over to leave a quick kiss on her temple.

"All set," Seven said as she tucked B'Elanna's long hair behind her ear.

"So, you really are married?" Naomi had just about assimilated the idea of Seven and B'Elanna being married, but the tender affection she had now witnessed made it quite real.

"Over two years," Seven said with a wistful smile.

"That okay with you, squirt?" B'Elanna asked.

"Acceptable," Naomi said with a tiny smirk.

Tuvok and three other security officers led the Dengari delegates to the conference room. Once inside, Tuvok took a seat beside Janeway while his security team stood around the table, one behind each Dengari delegate. Janeway was surprised when the Overseer sat next to Malok, her captain of guard, something else that had been a surprise. The fact that such a high ranking guard was opposed to his own government spoke volumes.

"Your show of force offends me, Captain," the Magistrate said as he sat directly across from Janeway.

"I'm surprised that a man of you stature would be so… sensitive," Janeway said. She was through being nice.

"Where are the prisoners?" he asked as he looked around the table.

"I think Tuvok and I can clear this matter up," the captain responded. She wasn't about to let Torres or Seven anywhere near the Magistrate until she was certain the new charges were dropped.

"They must pay for their insolence," the Magistrate said as he pounded the desk.

"Insolence?" Janeway asked. "I thought the charge was murder."

"The charges are none of your concern. All that remains to be seen is whether or not you allow your crewmembers to flee justice." The ridges on his cheeks reddened, and his hands shook.

"Magistrate, you mustn't tax yourself," the Overseer said. Her face showed sincere concern for the man she had only shown fear toward before.

"Justice is a taxing business," he said. "You must learn that before you can become Magistrate."

"What I've seen here so far is not justice," Janeway said. "I've seen only a petty display of power. Your actions are not worthy of the term justice."

The Magistrate stared at Janeway, his face turning deep crimson. The Overseer reached over and studied him with concern. Janeway watched the interaction carefully, noting when the Overseer stood and retrieved a pitcher of water that had been placed on the table for the meeting. She poured him a glass and put it in his hands, wrapping his fingers around the glass.

"Magistrate, what difference will two prisoners make?" the Overseer asked as she helped him set the glass down.

"Anarchy," he responded. "Anarchy begins with a single act of leniency. You must learn that, Overseer." He studied her, and shook his head.

"Magistrate," Janeway began. "You agreed that my people were acting in self-defense. How is releasing them an act of leniency?"

His face darkened. "They defied my authority by leaving before I had ruled on the case."

"Father, I released them," the Overseer said as she squeezed his arm.

"Do not address me so informally, Overseer," he yelled and jerked his arm away. "You will one day hold my position, and these informalities will be your undoing."

Janeway kept her face absolutely impassive, but it took all of her self-control. She had known the Dengari were born to their positions, and apparently the Overseer's next promotion would make her Magistrate. It hadn't occurred to Kathryn that the Magistrate was related to the Overseer.

The Overseer looked down at the table, she sighed and shook her head, then looked over at the Magistrate, her father; sorrow filled her eyes. "Magistrate, I will hold your office, and when I do… I will not continue the tyranny of your rule." Her face revealed what her words did not; she was a daughter who knew that her father had fostered injustice in his quest for absolute control. She studied her father and her own face went pale, almost white. It was obvious she had never stood up to him before.

"You cannot step down," he reminded her.

"I do not intend to," she responded. "But I will not continue to condemn prisoners to Jusari Prime."

Janeway watched silently. She knew the real issues were unfolding in front of her.

The Magistrate shook his head. "These two prisoners mean so much to you?" he asked.

"Not just these two, all of them," the Overseer said.

Janeway watched as the Magistrate considered his daughter's words. Then she saw the Overseer glance over at Malok, and saw some of the tall woman's earlier color return. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place.

"Well, Overseer," the Magistrate began, "I will allow these two to leave, free of any charges, but… you must give me your word that you will not close Jusari Prime. Without it, our space would be overrun by law breakers."

Malok sighed, and rolled his eyes.

"Captain Malok," the Magistrate said dangerously. "Your insubordination is cause for your own imprisonment."

"Magistrate," the Overseer said softly, then changed her mind, "Father… the time for Jusari Prime is past. Let our people move on."

"No," the Magistrate yelled as he slammed his fists onto the table. "I am protecting your birthright. Without my adherence to our…" his voice trailed off and he clutched his chest.

"Father?" the Overseer was at his side immediately, gently holding his arm as she knelt beside him.

"Janeway to sick bay, medical emergency in conference room two," the captain ordered.

"No," the Magistrate rasped. "Beam me back to my own ship."

Malok had moved closer to the stricken Magistrate, and was now standing directly behind the Overseer. The tall captain of the guard was concerned, and his hand rested on the Overseer's shoulder.

Janeway turned to Tuvok, who nodded. "Janeway to the bridge, beam the Magistrate directly to the Dengari ship."

Janeway felt the ship lurch to one side as she heard phasers impact against Voyager's hull. Five well armed Dengari materialized in the conference room and trained their weapons on Janeway and Tuvok. Dehar, the guard who had been more than a little interested in Seven, led the group.

"Well done." The Magistrate stood, uninjured. "Take the Overseer and Malok into custody as well."

"What is the meaning of this?" Janeway demanded. The lights dimmed and the red panels that lined the room began blinking as the sound of a Red Alert could be heard echoing through the room.

"The meaning? Captain, you were the one obstructing justice," he said as he smiled, convinced of his moral and military superiority.

"Father," the Overseer said as two guards moved toward her. "You can't do this. Can't you see it's wrong." She flinched when Dehar grabbed her roughly.

"Let go of her," Malok yelled as he broke free from the guards holding his arm. "She is the Overseer. You will not touch her in that manner."

"Malok, no," the Overseer whispered as Dehar turned his weapon of the former captain of the guard.

"As I suspected," the Magistrate said with a sneer. "You speak so informally to your underlings. You are not worthy of your title."

"This is all very interesting," Janeway said as she stood at the end of the table, flanked by a Dengari guard on each side. "But if you don't mind… I'd like you to leave my ship."

The Magistrate laughed, and shook his head. "You have gall, Captain. I will give you that. Give me the prisoners and I will be on my way." The Magistrate began examining his fingernails, like he always did when he was feeling particularly pleased with himself.

Tuvok raised an eyebrow as he locked eyes with Janeway. "Captain?" he asked, looking less than amused with the Dengari who had compression riffles trained on him.

Janeway nodded, then crossed her arms. Her eyes glinted and she almost smiled. "Waterloo," she said, her voice deep and determined. The Magistrate stared at her, confused by the word.

The Dengari guards closest to Janeway were suddenly flung back against the wall and phaser fire erupted from out of no where cutting down the remaining guards.

The Magistrate watched in stunned silence as his ‘superior' force was reduced to a heap of unconscious bodies by some unseen force. Janeway walked over to him and stood chest to chest with the much taller man.

"You may be a big fish in your little pond, but this isn't a pond. You're swimming with sharks now," she explained with a smile. She turned and spoke toward the empty area in front of her. "Well done."

Harry Kim suddenly appeared in front of Janeway, or at least his head did. "Thank you, Captain. These isolation suits really did the trick."

"What is this?" the Magistrate demanded.

Janeway ignored him. "Janeway to Chakotay, report."

"I'm a little busy right now," he said as the sound of phaser fire echoed behind him. "Condition Gamma White." The comm channel closed.

"All right people," Janeway said to the area behind Harry, whose head seemed to be floating. "We have a hostile force on board, so we will maintain radio silence. Let's move out. Sweep deck by deck until we're sure every last Dengari has been found." She looked at Harry's floating head. "Ensign, I need a hand phaser." She held out her hand, then pulled it back with the phaser was now visible.

"Captain," Tuvok said as he stepped beside her. "You do not have any camouflage. It would be prudent for you to stay out of harm's way."

"My ship has been boarded. I'm not about to hide like a child," she said as she checked the power cell on her phaser.

"Captain?" the Overseer stepped forward, only to be shoved back by some unseen force.

"It's all right," Janeway told the air beside the Overseer. "What is it?"

"Our…his troops are wearing protective armor that absorbs phaser fire. You have to adjust the settings to compensate," the Overseer explained.

"Treason!" the Magistrate yelled. "You will spend the rest of your…"

"Shut up," Malok said. "Captain, adjust the phasers to a point two seven nine variance."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "Helpful advice, but somewhat… belated. We have already adjusted our weapons."

"The scan when we came on board?" Malok asked as he looked down at his own armor plating.

"Correct," the Vulcan said.

"All right, let's get these pests off my ship," Janeway said as she felt the comforting weight of the phaser in her hand. "We need to get to main engineering and secure operations. Chakotay and I already transferred bridge command to Engineering."

Tuvok was not amused. Part of the reason he had agreed to allow the dangerous plan was because he was to personally guard the captain. He had not anticipated her charging into the fray without regard for her own safety. The Vulcan would have been embarrassed, if he had been capable of the emotion. Of course Janeway would fling herself into the fight. She wouldn't send her crew into anything she wouldn't face herself, add to that the fact that the auburn haired captain would see it as an adventure, and it was inevitable that she lead the charge. He should have seen it coming.

"Harry," Janeway said, her voice clear and crisp and crackling with intent. "You and the rest of your team take the lead. Those armbands mask your bio-signs as well as the suits concealing you. Lay down a suppressing fire as soon as you see hostile troops, wide beam set for maximum stun. Then let Tuvok and I clean up while you move on ahead."

"How did you know?" the Magistrate asked as he slumped into a chair by the table. "I didn't tell her or Malok. I suspected they sympathized with your crewmen."

Janeway gave him an almost sympathetic smile. "You don't like anarchy… I don't like to lose." She watched as the arrogant man seemed to shrink into his chair and his eyes drifted down to the tabletop.

"Captain, let me join you," Malok offered. "I may be able to get some of the troops to stand down. The Magistrate and his policies are…less than popular."

Tuvok caught Janeway's eye and dipped his head a fraction of an inch, but after spending years together, it was all the communication the two needed.

"All right, Malok," the captain said. "But you'll have to be unarmed."

"Of course," Malok responded.

"And me," said the Overseer.

"No," Malok said as he spun. "You will stay out of the fighting. It's too dangerous."

"I will not," she said defiantly. "My father created this mess…I will help clean it up."

"You must," Malok said desperately. His eyes brightened and you could almost hear the wheels in his head turning. "You must see to the Magistrate, and you must survive so that you can take his place."

"All right," the Overseer agreed. She looked over at he father, surprised to see him no longer even looking at anyone. She had never seen him surrender so totally to any situation. "I will stay, but you must be careful, Malok."

"I promise," he said sincerely. He turned toward Janeway. "What now?

"Well," Janeway said as she nodded toward the unconscious men on the floor. "We finish tying them up, and then we go clean up my ship." She watched the way Malok interacted with the Overseer, the way his eyes softened when he spoke to her and how she reacted the same way to him. ‘Ain't love grand,' she thought as she went to help Harry secure the prisoners. The dark haired ensign's disembodied head was still visible as he worked.

"Ma'am," he said without looking up. "Just about done here… There," he said triumphantly as he finished securing the unconscious guard. He looked over at Janeway. "These isolation suits really did the trick, ma'am. Great idea."

"Let's hold the congratulations until after the ship is secure," she said quietly. She reached out and tested the knots on the guard's hands.

"I never thought we'd be using technology from covert sociology for military application," Harry said conversationally.

"Well, that's where it came from originally, but they abandoned them because the lifesigns couldn't be masked," Janeway said as she moved on to the next guard to check his restraints. "Now, with the bio-dampeners from the Hanson's research, we have a nice little advantage."

"Too bad we only had time to make a few," Harry said.

"Let's just hope we made enough," Janeway said as she stood. "Harry, as much as I enjoy seeing your head bobbing around, put that hood back on and let's move out."

His head disappeared. "Yes, ma'am," he said in a muffled voice.

Part 21

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