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She Who Hesitates is Lost
By Lisa Countryman


Chapter 21: Battles

"What was that?" Naomi asked as she was tossed to the cargo bay floor.

"Phaser fire, a direct hit," Seven said as she moved over to the fallen child. She helped her up and then checked her for injuries.

"Damn it," B’Elanna said. She paced the cargo bay, then went to a storage locker and took out two compression riffles and went toward Seven. "Here, take this." She held out the riffle.

Seven raised an eyebrow, but took the weapon in her left hand, the used her right hand, the fully human hand, to hold Naomi against her. "Do you think the Dengari will breach the Borg forcefield?"

"Can’t be too sure." B’Elanna smiled, but she wasn’t convinced. The sounds of small arms fire could be heard in the distance. "Sounds like we’ve got a boarding party out there." The Klingon saw Naomi’s eyes widen. "Hey, they won’t get this far. These bio-dampening armbands mask our lifesigns, so there’s no reason for them to even come in here. Besides, they can’t get past Seven’s Borg forcefield."

"Is that true?" Naomi asked as she looked up at Seven.

"We won’t let anyone hurt you," Seven promised.

Naomi nodded, then turned toward the cargo bay doors when they heard the sounds of phaser fire getting closer.

"Seven? Can I hold your hand?" Naomi asked.

"No," Seven said. She smiled down at the strawberry blonde child and knelt beside her. "Holding my hand would be insufficient." Seven picked up Naomi, settling her onto one hip while she held the compression riffle in the other hand. "Is this acceptable?" Seven asked her with a smile as she straightened to her full height.

"Yeah," Naomi said as she clung to the tall blonde. She smiled and put her head on Seven’s shoulder.

B’Elanna watched, torn between the simple enjoyment of the scene in front of her and the fear of the approaching danger. Seeing Seven hold Naomi was a like a preview of what life held for her, and she suddenly wanted nothing more than to get every last Dengari and throw them into the nearest waste receptacle.

"Seven, I want you and Naomi to get behind those containers. I’m gonna’ cover the door." B’Elanna pushed two of the smaller containers together, forming a small barricade. "You two stay out of sight, no matter what happens. If they get to me, they may not even see you two back there."

Seven carried Naomi over to a huge container that created its own wall and put her down. "Stay back here, okay?"

Naomi nodded.

"B’Elanna Torres," Seven said as she turned around. Her voice was harsh, cold enough to freeze lava, and hard enough to cut through it once it turned to stone. "You will not put yourself in harm’s way. You promised me."

"Seven, we both agreed that we would avoid danger… when possible." B’Elanna moved to her wife. "Be’nal," she whispered. "Please, you have to be safe," the proud Klingon begged as she rested her hand on Seven’s belly.

"You do not fight fair," Seven said with tears in her eyes as she heard the phaser fire now directly outside the cargo bay.

"Go back with Naomi." B’Elanna said quietly. "I’ll stay out of sight as long as possible. Maybe they won’t even come in here."

"Be safe." Seven raised B’Elanna’s face and then kissed her. It was a soft, brief kiss, to remind both women of what they were fighting to keep safe.

B’Elanna nodded.

"Naomi Wildman," Seven said formally as she went toward the child. "Do you know how to operate a phaser?"

"Seven," B’Elanna yelled as she ran to her wife. "She’s a child."

"Klingon children her age have already competed in bat’tleth competitions," the exdrone reasoned.

"A bat’tleth isn’t a compression riffle," B’Elanna countered.

"I can use a phaser," Naomi said quietly.

"What?" B’Elanna turned.

"Not the compression riffles. Mom won’t let me touch them, but I can use a hand phaser. Tom taught me how to play Velocity," she explained. "He’s not very good." The child rolled her eyes.

"This isn’t a game," B’Elanna said as she moved toward the half-Katarian.

Seven went to the storage locker and retrieved a class one hand phaser and set it for maximum stun.

"I know," Naomi said seriously. "But I can hit the target way better than Tom…or Neelix."

"What the hell was Tom thinking? Doesn’t he know how dangerous Velocity is?" B’Elanna asked, though she didn’t really expect an answer from the child.

Seven held the phaser away from Naomi. "Have you ever accidentally shot yourself while playing Velocity?"

"No." Naomi rolled her eyes. "But Tom did," she volunteered.

Seven nodded toward the containers and led Naomi back behind them and out of view. She put the phaser on a low box, so that Naomi could reach it.

"Do not take the phaser unless there is no other choice. Do you understand?" Seven asked.

Naomi nodded.

Seven stood and nodded at the child, then listened intently to the sounds in the corridor.

"They are accessing the cargo bay access panel. I can hear them," Seven said as she turned to B’Elanna. "I will stay with Naomi. But remember, Be’nal, my heart beats in rhythm with yours, so you must survive."

"All right," B’Elanna said. She knew it was the best offer she would get. She kissed Seven’s cheek and jogged back to her hiding place closer to the cargo bay door.

Captain Janeway held back as she waited for the invisible tactical team to clear the corridor. She paused, holding her breath, then heard three short bursts of phaser fire.

"Clear," Harry Kim yelled.

"Stay behind me." Janeway stood and moved stealthily along the wall toward the sound of Harry’s voice. She reached four unconscious Dengari and looked around, not knowing where Harry was.

Malok came up beside her, then stopped abruptly when he collided with one of the invisible officers. "Sorry," the husky Dengari said to the air in front of him.

"No problem," came Harry’s muffled reply.

"Okay," Janeway said as she looked at the chronometer on the nearby comm panel. "It’s been almost five minutes since the Dengari beamed over." She tapped her comm badge twice, then paused and tapped it twice more. It chirped after she finished the last tap. "Janeway to Chakotay, report?"

*"Condition gamma blue,"* Chakotay’s said over the comm badge. The code let Janeway know that they still had hostiles on board, but that the bridge was secure and they could use the comm badges for vital communication.

She had instructed the First Officer to remain at condition gamma white until she contacted him five minutes after any invasion. She hadn’t known for certain what the Magistrate had in mind, but she had prepared a contingency plan for almost any possibility.

"Command team alpha is continuing toward green sector," Janeway said. She wasn’t about to broadcast her location without using code words for any Dengari who were monitoring the comm channels.

*"Understood."* Chakotay’s voice was calm, and suggested that he had complete trust in his captain, which he did. "Green sector is secure, captain, however there are still seventeen remaining hostile on deck 6. We have a nasty fire fight in blue sector," he added slowly. "We’re a little thin there."

The words hung in the air, Engineering had been designated green sector, the most important area on board, but it was secure. Janeway had arranged for all the crew in the vital area to wear bio-dampeners to hide the number of crew from the invading force. She also sent six of thirteen precious isolation suits to guard the critical systems. The news that blue sector, the area near cargo bay two, was under heavy attack concerned her. She had opted to leave that area unprotected by any isolation suited security officers. She had put her faith in the Borg forcefield to keep Seven and B’Elanna out of Dengari hands. Apparently, the Dengari had figured out enough to focus on that area.

"Understood," Janeway said. "Alpha command team is proceeding to blue sector."

"Captain?" Malok asked as he dipped his head to her eye level.

She raised her eyebrows, signaling him to continue. Chakotay heard the question over her comm badge and waited, listening intently.

"Can we access the shipwide communications systems?" he asked.

"Why?" she asked.

"Can I address my troops? Most of my men do not want this conflict, if I can get any of them to step down, it will be worth the effort," he explained.

"All right," she said. "Chakotay, give me a shipwide channel."

B’Elanna heard the doors to the cargo bay creak as they opened. She watched as two Dengari poked their dark heads inside and scanned the room. She waited, hoping they would choose another target when they didn’t register any lifesigns.

"Nothing," the guard with the scanner said. He sighed, relieved.

"Pay attention, you fool," the second Dengari said. "Half of these people haven’t even shown lifesigns. Look, a secondary forcefield. Why would they need another forcefield if there is nothing here?" He pointed at the glowing green shell that surrounded the back of the cargo bay.

*"Damn it,"* B’Elanna thought. She should have realized the extra protection would only serve to point out their presence.

"Come on," the second guard prompted as he shoved the other man forward. The first guard scanned the room, thinking that perhaps something might appear on his device.

"I’ve never seen an energy signature like this," he said as he scanned the Borg forcefield. "I don’t think we can penetrate it. We’ll have to cut off the energy source."

Three more Dengari came into the cargo bay; they looked over their shoulders and then back to the first guard with questioning glances.

The first guard waved them into the room. "See if you can find the power source for that forcefield," he ordered.

*"Double damn,"* B’Elanna thought. *"Couldn’t just have the two come in here… No…that would have been too easy. I have to have half the damn boarding party in here."* She watched in silence as the newcomers worked quickly, ripping open the appropriate panels and attacking the power conduits. *"Well, they seem to be decent engineers," * she thought as she calculated how long it would take them to drop the forcefield. *"Two minutes, tops,"* she decided. At that moment the forcefield flickered and disappeared. *"Better than I figured,"* she realized. She hoped they were not as good at combat as they were at engineering but figured that was too much to hope for.

Seven watched as the forcefield dropped, her heart dropping with it. The guards moved forward slowly with their weapons held in front of them with expert ease. They neared B’Elanna’s position and the Borg could take no more. She glanced down at Naomi, who was pressed against her side, trembling. She couldn’t abandon the child. She looked onto the container next to her and her eyes locked on a hyperspanner. She grabbed it and silently drew back her arm and launched it across the length of the huge cargo bay. Her Borg enhanced strength sent the projectile hurling against the far wall. It impacted with a thunderous clang as the tool took a chunk out of the wall.

The Dengari spun toward the sound, and B’Elanna didn’t miss a beat. She had been timing her move until the most guards were in range of her weapon, and took the diversion in stride. She eased up from behind her makeshift barricade and fired on the two closest guards. The impact knocked them into the others and the group sprawled across the deck. B’Elanna leapt over her barricade and charged the group, wanting to take as many of them out as possible before they got back to their feet. She roared as she opened fire on the pile of guards, unfortunately, one guard had been lingering out in the corridor. He burst into the room and charged B’Elanna. He had no weapon, but his mass impacted against her with bone jarring intensity and they both crashed to the floor landing on top of the pile of Dengari she had already stunned.

The sound of the struggle was too much for Seven. She could see that there was only one Dengari still standing, and that Dengari had his hands around B’Elanna’s throat. She pulled away from Naomi, pausing to put the hand phaser into the child’s hands and then bolted for the conflict.

B’Elanna had actually enjoyed gunning down the Dengari, hoping one of them was the guard who had let the murderous prisoners into her cell on the transport ship. She knew they were only stunned, and it was satisfying to see their bodies contort in pain as they were knocked off their feet. She was not enjoying the meaty pair of hands squeezing her neck. She kneed the man in the groin, but he didn’t even flinch, so she tried a head butt, only to find that she became a bit disoriented by the maneuver. The Dengari had thicker skulls than she had anticipated. She felt her strength and her vision fading when suddenly the guard was gone. She vaguely registered his body flying across the room and hitting the Borg alcoves. She blinked her eyes and looked up at six feet of pissed off Borg.

"Get up," Seven ordered as she extended her hand. Wisely, B’Elanna took it without a word and let herself be pulled to her feet, then swooned.

"Ouch," B’Elanna whispered as she rubbed her throat.

"You must rest," she told the Klingon. "I will restrain the Dengari."

The sound of a phaser blast made both women drop to the floor. B’Elanna, even in her groggy condition, tossed herself over Seven, shielding her wife’s belly with her own body. Seven and B’Elanna looked at the cargo bay door and saw a Dengari guard slumped against the wall as he slowly slid to the deck unconscious, his compression riffle clattering down in front of him. They spun and looked across the room in time to see Naomi Wildman, her hand still extended with the phaser pointing at the downed man.

"Told you I was a good shot," she said as she lowered the phaser. She had hit the Dengari from the length of the cargo bay, a far more difficult shot than any in a Velocity game.

Janeway waited as Malok leaned forward and spoke into her comm badge. It was awkward having a seven foot tall Dengari using her chest for a microphone.

"Dengari forces," he said calmly. "This is Malok, captain of the guard."

His voice was even richer and more resonant than Janeway had heard it in the past, and she decided it must be his command voice. She nodded to him as he shifted for a better angle at the comm badge.

"I am ordering you to stand down." Malok’s voice was laced with compassion and the whip of command, a delicate balance. "We have done enough damage. Most of you know this ‘police action’ was a fool’s folly, and that has been rectified. The Magistrate has been removed from his position. The Overseer has made an agreement with these people; this action is over." His voice rumbled with intensity. "Put your weapons down and wait for the Voyager security officers to escort you off of the ship. Listen to what your hearts know is true," he added as he finished.

Janeway nodded at the man, impressed by his ability to show gentleness without showing weakness. It was a trait she shared with him, but not a common one by any means.

"This is Captain Janeway to all Voyager crewmembers. You heard Captain Malok… I want you to continue to sweep the ship, but give any Dengari forces the opportunity to surrender. I don’t want anyone else getting unnecessarily injured. Janeway out."

"Thank you," Malok said sincerely.

"Let’s just hope they listened to you," she said as she squeezed his arm.

The majority of the Dengari were glad to give up, most finding the Magistrate’s obsessive need to capture the Voyager crewmen a perfect example of his abuse of power. Instead of being a somber occasion, many of the Dengari placed their riffles on the deck and then sat and patiently waiting to be rounded up. It was a pleasant outcome to a potentially disastrous encounter.

The captain went back to the conference room and met with the Overseer, wanting to clarify things before beaming her back to the Dengari ship.

"Overseer?" she asked as she entered the room. The overseer was sitting across from her father, who was staring out the window. The Magistrate didn’t seem to see either woman and was lost in thought.

"Captain, please come in," the tall woman said as she stood. "Thank you for helping us reach a somewhat peaceful outcome."

"My people have a saying," Janeway said. "No harm, no foul. Although, my ship did take quite a beating. I’m glad your people used their stun settings."

"It is against our way to use deadly setting when there are innocents involved," the Overseer explained. "But I am glad you perceive no…foul. I assure you, I knew nothing of the Magistrate’s plan."

"I know," Janeway said, her voice rich and disarming. "How is your father?"

"I do not know," the Overseer said honestly. "I have never seen him like this."

The door opened and Seven and B’Elanna came into the room. B’Elanna positioned herself between Seven and the Dengari. Janeway hid a smile, touched by the Klingon’s protective streak. The more she saw the two women together, the more she knew how happy they were. It was comforting, but it didn’t ease the ache of loneliness in the captain’s heart.

"Well?" B’Elanna demanded. "Is this madness over?"

"Yes," the Overseer said with a smirk.

"Good," B’Elanna said. "What about him?" She pointed to the Magistrate.

"He is no longer in charge," the young Dengari said sadly.

"Explain," Seven said as she moved closer. "You had the authority to overrule him all along, and yet you allowed us to be wrongly punished?"

"I may not have agreed with the sentence you received," the Overseer explained. "But I had to uphold the law. Once the Magistrate exceeded his own jurisdiction, I was obligated to act."

"Illogical," Seven said as she moved closer to the taller Overseer. "Will you continue to send people to Jusari Prime?"

"I will take over as Magistrate, if it my people’s will. Then, I will change the way things are done." The Overseer studied her still silent father.

"Seven, B’Elanna, have a seat," Janeway ordered. She wanted them both to be part of the healing process, thinking it would help the two hot tempered women come to a faster resolution if they witnessed the proceedings. The married couple sat behind the desk, facing the Dengari, and able to see any new arrivals.

"I hope you hold no ill will," the Overseer said gently. "But I understand if you do." She looked up when the door opened again and Tuvok came in with Dehar.

"That remains to be seen," Seven answered.

"Captain," the Overseer said as she pointed to the newcomer. "This is Dehar, Lieutenant of my guard. I hope that meeting under these circumstances will be more pleasant. He was following the Magistrate’s orders when he held you at gunpoint earlier." She felt bad for Dehar, knowing he must be feeling guilty about beaming in and threatening the captain.

"A pleasure, captain," Dehar said as he extended his hand. His wrist eased out of his thick armor plated coat sleeves revealing a thick platinum bracelet.

"Pa’tach!" B’Elanna yelled as she threw her body over the desk and tackled Dehar. She hit him with her palm, his nose crunching as it shattered. She followed up with a fist to his throat, leaving him gasping for wheezing gulps of air as blood poured out his nose. His superior size was useless as he suffocated on the floor of the conference room.

"B’Elanna!" Janeway yelled as she tried to pull the Klingon off of the shocked Dengari. "Let him go, that’s an order."

"Not until he’s dead," B’Elanna said with chilling calm as she squeezed his throat.


Chapter 22: Revelations

B’Elanna watched Dehar’s eyes bulge, then she turned and snarled when Janeway and Tuvok fought to pull her off the downed man.

"B’Elanna!" Janeway yelled, though she took a step back when the Klingon barred her razor sharp incisors. "Let him go. That’s an order," the captain said.

"Lieutenant, your actions are illogical." Tuvok tried to pinch B’Elanna’s neck, but her Klingon physiology kept her from passing out.

Seven moved around the table quickly and came up behind her wife and molded herself to B’Elanna’s body from behind. She ignored the dangerous aura radiating off of her spouse and slid her hands down B’Elanna’s arms until her hands covered the Klingon’s. "Let him go," Seven whispered.

The blonde’s body seemed to have a calming effect on B’Elanna, and Seven’s words did what Tuvok’s muscle and Janeway’s orders could not. B’Elanna released Dehar and let Seven lift her off of the choking man.

"Janeway to the Doctor, medical emergency in conference room two. Doctor, I need you…Now!" Janeway moved toward B’Elanna who was still wrapped in Seven’s arms.

Seven was standing behind the shorter Klingon nuzzling her ear and whispering soothing murmurs to her. "Shh," Seven whispered. "I am here. We are both all right." She rubbed her cheek against B’Elanna’s ear.

"Lieutenant," Janeway said as she stormed over to B’Elanna, ignoring the tall blonde who was literally holding the Lieutenant up. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"

"Anarchy," the Magistrate said as he stood. "This is what your leniency will get you. The criminals will destroy the peacekeepers."

Janeway ignored the man. "I’m waiting for an answer, Lieutenant."

B’Elanna said nothing as she stared at Dehar. She was shaking, and had broken out into a sweat. She was in full battlelust, having realized that Dehar was the one who had almost cost her everything, and her Klingon physiology was running roughshod over her human half.

"Please state the nature…" the Doctor began as he materialized, then stopped. He took one look at Torres, then the downed man and went to assist him. "Let me guess," the hologram asked with a sarcastic smirk. "This Dengari here slept with a holographic barmaid?"

B’Elanna growled.

"Shh," Seven whispered and shifted B’Elanna so that she was beside her, still wrapped by a protective arm. "Magistrate, you speak of anarchy? That peacekeeper of yours took a monetary inducement and allowed two prisoners to enter our cell while we slept. We could have both been killed, along with our unborn child." She hugged B’Elanna closer, feeling her wife’s shaking shift to slight trembles as her body began to relax, the Klingon hormones releasing their grip. "If this is what you offer, I for one would prefer honest anarchy. At least your people would know what to expect," Seven stated.

"Is this true?" the Magistrate asked as he moved toward Dehar.

Now that the Doctor had healed his fractured larynx, Dehar sat up. He shook his head.

"He is lying," Seven said. She looked at Janeway, who suddenly looked more understanding, and then the former drone continued. "The bracelet Dehar is wearing belonged to one of the men who attacked us. We witnessed that prisoner offering the bracelet as incentive to let him into our cell. Dehar refused, but he obviously reconsidered."

"Dehar," the Overseer said as she moved closer. "I will find out if this is true."

"She is a criminal," Dehar rasped. "My word cannot be questioned by hers."

"Test the bracelet," B’Elanna said, her voice shaking. "I can bet you’ll find that dead prisoner’s DNA."

The Doctor scanned the bracelet before Dehar could protest. "There are innumerable skin flakes and DNA remnants of another person on the bracelet. I’d say someone else wore this for several years before Mr. Dehar, and it looks like Dehar’s DNA only began appearing within the last few days. I can compare it to the prisoner in question if you have his DNA on file."

"He will be punished," the Overseer promised.

"I am a guard…a Dengari citizen… that woman has no rights," Dehar said, his voice hoarse, each word causing shooting pains. He struggled to his feet, leaning on the Doctor.

Seven stared at Dehar. "My wife is Klingon. When I joined with her I adopted that culture’s creed and its customs," the former Borg said as she eased B’Elanna out of her arms and moved closer Dehar.

The Klingon raised an eyebrow and watched the scene unfold.

"As a Klingon spouse," Seven continued, "I am well within my rights to plunge my fist into Dehar’s chest and remove his heart." Seven raised the implant over eye when she saw Janeway smirk. "It would be my sacred right to devour his cardiac organ, although a coward without honor would not be a worthy meal. I would rather feed it to my pet targh," she told the Overseer.

Seven walked over to Dehar who leaned away from the exdrone, sensing the strength the young woman had at her disposal. He paled visibly and released a tiny squeak as he realized that this was by far the more dangerous of the two women he had wronged. Seven reached out and ran her left hand down his well armored chest plate, then dug her Borg encased fingers into the fabric and armor and shredded it.

Seven’s eyes narrowed and her voice took on an almost Klingon growl. "Be thankful I do not own a targh." Seven turned and went back to B’Elanna.

No one commented as Seven put her hands on B’Elanna’s shoulders and stared into her eyes. The Klingon smiled and pressed her forehead against Seven’s.

"I have a targh," B’Elanna whispered.

"Your stuffed animal Toby does not count," Seven said, "But perhaps he should."

There was a long, awkward pause.

Tuvok watched, his expression unchanging, but he admitted to himself that if he had not been Vulcan, the revelation about an unborn child would have made his jaw drop, and he also would have allowed himself to enjoy Seven’s visual demonstration or her anger. Fortunately, he was composed enough to avoid such an unseemly display of emotion.

"Well," the Doctor finally said. "I guess we won’t be changing Voyager’s no pets allowed rule anytime soon."

Janeway cleared her throat. "Overseer, I apologize for my officer’s actions, but I hope under the circumstances, you will leave her punishment to me."

"Under the circumstances," the Overseer said quietly, "I hope you will not punish her at all."

"I will abdicate." The Magistrate sat and crossed his arms over his chest. "I am an old man, I am too far removed from my subjects, and I have no stomach to understand the people who serve me."

"Magistrate, I think it is time," the Overseer said.

"Yes, it is," he responded. "But I am no longer Magistrate. That is your title now…daughter."

Tuvok escorted the Dengari delegation off the ship, handing Dehar over to a pair of muscular guards while the Doctor returned to sickbay. The hologram was somewhat insulted that the captain had dismissed him out of hand. He had wanted to hear what the captain would tell Seven after her blatant intimidation of an alien guest after her wife had almost ripped the man’s throat out. Janeway stayed in the conference room with B’Elanna and Seven, the three sitting quietly at the table until the room emptied.

"Lieutenant Torres," Janeway said quietly after the door hissed shut behind the Doctor. "I’m only going to have this conversation once, is that clear?"

"Yes, ma’am," Torres said.

The captain nodded before continuing. "Lieutenant…B’Elanna, your behavior was unacceptable…"

"You know what he did," Seven cut in angrily.

"Seven," Janeway hissed, holding up her hand. "I’m letting you stay as a privilege. I am not in the habit of dressing down my officers in front of an audience."

"Understood." Seven’s eyes flashed, but she leaned back and crossed her arms. "Thank you, Captain," she added in whisper.

"B’Elanna, I understand why you attacked him. I may have done it in your place," Janeway said. The irony almost made the words catch in her throat. "But when you agreed to act as a member of Starfleet, you agreed to live by our creed." The captain glanced over at Seven, letting her know that even though she had chosen to live by Klingon tradition, it didn’t excuse her from Starfleet’s rules either. "If you can’t honor the oath to Starfleet, to me, then I need to know right now."

"Ma’am…" B’Elanna looked into the captain’s eyes, she cared for Janeway, looked up to her, and wanted to make her proud. "I will honor my oath to you, and to Starfleet, but I also made an oath to Seven, and I will not break that…for anyone or anything."

"And if your oath to Seven comes between your oath to me, to this ship?" the captain asked. She had to know the answer, despite her respect for the young Klingon.

B’Elanna swallowed, glanced at Seven and sighed. "Captain, Seven and I have talked about this. She and I are a family, but we are also part of Voyager’s family. We will put the ship and the crew first, as honor demands. But after hours?" B’Elanna smiled. "After hours belong to us."

"I think I can live with that," Janeway said with a wry grin. Inside her heart clenched. The after hours did indeed belong to them, and they belonged to each other. Any fool could see that, and Kathryn Janeway was no fool.

B’Elanna nodded. "I would lay my life down to save any member of this crew… and I know Seven would too," she said. "We are Starfleet officers…" B’Elanna cleared her throat and smirked. "But I am Klingon too…Just don’t put me into a small room with anyone who tries to hurt my wife."

"I’ll remember that," the captain said. "But I will have to toss you in the brig… next time."

A wide grin spread over Seven’s face. She released a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding and relief sparkled in her lapis blue eyes.

The captain saw Seven’s expression and pinned her with a deadly glare. "Don’t think you’re off the hook either." She leaned back and watched as the relief on Seven’s face faded and was replaced by embarrassed remorse.

"Yes, Captain," Seven said seriously.

Janeway leveled her gaze on the exdrone, but there was a cobalt glint beneath her slate blue eyes. "Be thankful I do not own a targh?" Janeway asked as she scrunched her face and quoted the young exdrone. The elegant captain covered her full lips with both hands and burst into laughter.

Seven raised both eyebrows almost to her hairline, her outrage apparent. Her expression and mood did not improve when B’Elanna joined the captain in a long, much needed fit of laughter.

B’Elanna and Seven found themselves confined in cargo bay two yet again, but not as a punishment. This time it was so Seven could regenerate. With all the commotion, there hadn’t been time to set up one of the Borg devices in their quarters. B’Elanna was resting against her wife’s long lanky legs as the exdrone took in her energy from the ship. The deck plating underneath her was cold, and hard, and uncomfortable, but there wasn’t anywhere else B’Elanna wanted to be. Seven only needed a few hours of regeneration to supplement her food intake, which was still considerable, even though she didn’t care for Neelix’s cooking. B’Elanna’s eyes were closed as she rested against her spouse, but they shot open when she heard the cargo bay door open.

"Hi," Naomi Wildman said as she walked across the huge room. "Is Seven almost ready to wake up?"

"Almost. What’s up, squirt?" B’Elanna smiled.

"Um, well…" Naomi stared at Seven, and her mind wandered. "Her hair is really long," she said as she stepped up onto the dais. "Does it take her a long time to braid it?"

"Sometimes," B’Elanna said seriously. "But I help her if she’s in a hurry."

Naomi’s eyes widened like saucers. She couldn’t imagine the fierce Klingon braiding anyone’s hair.

"Did you come to ask about Seven’s hair?" B’Elanna sat back down on the floor and rested against Seven’s legs. She stretched her own much shorter legs in front of her, then motioned for Naomi to sit.

"No, I just think it’s pretty…all braided like that," Naomi said with a giggle. She sat in front of B’Elanna and curled her legs up Indian style on the deck plating. "I came to see if you would come to dinner with me…tonight."

"What about your mom?" B’Elanna asked. She silently agreed with the child’s assessment of Seven’s new hairstyle. It did look pretty.

"Oh," Naomi said as she studied Seven. "Mom said I could meet you in the mess hall." She kept glancing back and forth between the sleeping exdrone and the Klingon resting comfortably against her as if she were a giant Borg pillow.

Seven let out a quiet groan and her left hand twitched once; both actions almost imperceptible. B’Elanna stood and then reached down and offered Naomi her hand. The child took it and was pulled to her feet.

"Why don’t you ask Seven what she thinks?" B’Elanna said as she turned.

*"Regeneration cycle complete,"* the computer announced.

"How did you know?" Naomi asked, her voice full of wonder.

"After two and a half years, I just do." B’Elanna smiled.

Seven opened her eyes and stepped out of the alcove. She stretched and looked down at Naomi, then back at B’Elanna.

"Naomi came to invite us to dinner," B’Elanna explained.

"Indeed?" Seven asked.

"Uh huh," Naomi said. "I asked Neelix to fix something special."

"Well then," Seven said as she took Naomi’s tiny hand, "Shall we go?"

"Acceptable," Naomi said. She paused, and reached up and took B’Elanna’s hand on the opposite side. The Klingon looked surprised, but took it in stride like any good warrior, and let Naomi pull her and Seven toward the exit. She missed the amused smirk on her wife’s face.

The mess hall was quiet and dark when they entered, and B’Elanna went into Engineer mode. "Why is the power out?"

"Surprise," yelled a chorus of voices. The lights came up and most of the crew came pouring out of the kitchen or jumped out from behind the tables.

B’Elanna glared at Naomi, but there was a hint of a smile on her lips. "You are in so much trouble, squirt."

Naomi giggled and let go of the two startled women. "It’s your wedding reception," she explained.

"I got that, Naomi," B’Elanna said as she reached over and yanked Seven next to her.

"Explain?" Seven whispered as the well-wishers stampeded toward the two.

B’Elanna leaned into Seven. "Trust me, you don’t want to know," she whispered. "If I had known this was coming…I woulda’ brought Naomi Wildcow home for supper."

Seven’s eyes showed her shock.

"Hey, tell me if you agree with me in an hour," B’Elanna said.

"B’Elanna, Seven, congratulations," Neelix said as he hurried over. "Naomi and I have been working nonstop to surprise you. Did it work?"

"Yes, Neelix. Naomi was quite the little spy." B’Elanna smiled sweetly at Naomi.

The half-Katarian child quickly found somewhere else to be.


Chapter 23: Announcements

The reception was in full swing, all of the crewmembers not on duty attended, and seemed to be having a good time. It wasn’t so much because of the marriage being celebrated, it was more the fact that the crew loved to party, and that they had just survived a dicey alien invasion. The focus on the Dengari attack gave B’Elanna a little breathing room. Most of the conversation kept drifting back to the battles the crew had fought, and very few seemed focused on her and Seven.

Chakotay managed to corner Seven near the buffet table. "Well, Seven, how is married life treating you?" he asked with a warm smile. He cared deeply for B’Elanna, he always had, and he had grown to respect and like Seven. He had been surprised by the revelation of the wedding, but took it in stride.

"Commander, I am…adapting," Seven responded formally. She was completely out of her element and all of the well wishes and emotional questions had forced her back into her Borg responses.

"Hey, it’s just a question…not an interrogation." He moved closer and rested his hand on the tall blonde’s shoulder.

Seven took a deep breath and sighed. "At the moment… I am…uncomfortable, but that has nothing to do with B’Elanna," she said. Her voice sounded strained and mechanical, except when she said B’Elanna’s name, then her lips curled and her voice softened. Chakotay noticed.

"What about her?" He smiled and turned Seven to face the room of people. In the far corner, B’Elanna was listening to Samantha Wildman explain something. The Klingon looked mildly interested. "How are things with the two of you?"

Seven paused, studying him to assess what he wanted to know.

"Are you happy?" He smiled and squeezed her shoulder.

"Yes," she replied honestly.

"What’s your favorite thing about being married?" he asked. He wanted her to focus on the happiness she shared with Voyager’s Chief Engineer, and not the huge crowd milling around her.

"Everything." Seven smiled unconsciously and her eyes sparkled. "Going to sleep beside B’Elanna, waking up next to her, knowing that we are thinking of each other no matter where we are…" her voice trailed off as she watched her wife.

Chakotay squeezed her shoulder again and leaned closer "Just think about that and forget about everything else. This party will be over soon."

B’Elanna seemed to feel Seven’s gaze and she turned. She excused herself and made her way to where Chakotay and Seven were standing.

"B’Elanna," he said as he smiled brightly. "How are you?"

"Better now," she said as she wrapped her arm around Seven’s waist. "Miss me?" she asked the exdrone.

"Always." Seven felt her body relax as B’Elanna rubbed the small of her back. "What are we expected to do? What are our responsibilities for this reception?"

"It’s a party," Chakotay said. "You just have to have fun."

"Yeah," B’Elanna chimed in. "We talk, eat some cake, maybe dance…"

"Cake?" Seven asked, her eyes brightening.

"Yes, my love…cake." B’Elanna shook her head and hoped it was a large cake. Seven’s sweet tooth had grown exponentially since the pregnancy. And since they didn’t have any honey on board… the cake would have to satisfy her.

"Speaking of cake," Chakotay said, sensing that they wanted to be alone, "Let me go check on that."

B’Elanna watched him leave, her eyes tracking him until he disappeared into the kitchen. She noticed the Captain talking with Tuvok near the kitchen, and realized that Janeway hadn’t been over to speak to them yet. She wondered if it was because of the discussion in the conference room, or if there was another more personal reason.

"So, are you having fun?" B’Elanna asked.

"Fun…is a relative term. I do not find the experience as distasteful as I had anticipated." She scanned the room, her eyes stopping on Tom Paris who was sitting at a table with Harry Kim. "However, I am…surprised that certain members of the crew chose to attend."

B’Elanna followed her gaze and sighed. "We have to work together, and the sooner Tom realizes that he and I are not going to get back together, the sooner he can move on. Besides, I think Harry talked him into coming."

Seven quirked one eyebrow up. "I shall have to remember to properly thank Ensign Kim," Seven said, but her expression suggested it would not be a pleasant expression of gratitude.

"Harry’s just trying to smooth things out," B’Elanna assured her.

"Do you miss him?" Seven asked. She hadn’t voiced her deepest fears yet, that B’Elanna would see Tom and realize she still had feelings for him.

"I care about him. I don’t want to see him hurt, but it’s friendship, nothing more." B’Elanna took Seven’s hand and squeezed it. "It’s you I love."

"But Ensign Paris is… more sociable, the crew likes him. I am… Borg. I do not…fit in," Seven said quietly.

"If the crew is so fond of him, they can date him," B’Elanna said as she lifted Seven’s hand to her lips. "I’ve got the one I want right here."

"Thank you." Seven smiled.

"For what?"

"Making me feel more at ease here… loving me… tolerating my mood swings." Seven glanced down as she said the last part. The truth was, Seven was terrified to be in the large crowd. She had grown used to being alone with B’Elanna on the planet, and being thrown back into the Voyager social setting was overwhelming enough but being tossed into a reception with almost every member of the crew present was testing the limits of her abilities. Add to that, that Tom was there, studying every move the exdrone made as if waiting for a chance to woo B’Elanna back to him, and it made for a very stressful event.

"It’s part of being married." B’Elanna slid next to Seven and draped her arm around the blonde’s waist. "Now, since I have to ‘enjoy’ myself, I think you should give it a try."

"I enjoy where your hand is," Seven offered.

"Uh huh." B’Elanna looked around the room. With exception of Tom, everyone else seemed genuinely happy for her and Seven. "Love, these people are our family. I know we haven’t seen them in a long time, but they are here because they want to celebrate our union. Try to remember that."

"Does this mean you will forgive Naomi for ‘surprising us?" Seven gave B’Elanna a sideways glance.

"Yes…I wasn’t really mad. It’s just that…it’s hard for me to… let my hair down in front of the crew, too." The Klingon studied the carpeting, then whispered, "I’m still adjusting to being back on board, too."

"I will… try," Seven promised.

"Thanks," B’Elanna said.

"Lana?" Seven tightened her grip around B’Elanna’s waist.

"Hmm?" She looked up at Seven.

"Chakotay mentioned dancing. I would enjoy that very much."

"Oh?" B’Elanna asked. "You’d enjoy running your hands over my body in public? Is that what you’re saying?" She was smiling, and shifted her body so that she was pressing face to face against Seven, their bodies drawn together in a familiar embrace. The contact did wonders for both of them. They each drew strength from the other and felt their bodies relaxing.

"I enjoy running my hands over your body regardless of my location." Seven demonstrated by letting her hands rest on B’Elanna’s hips. She loved the feeling of the small Klingon’s body, soft curves and steel muscles, perfectly blended creating a package that was perfection personified. She rubbed B’Elanna’s back, pressing their chests together even more.

"I think we should ask Neelix to play some music," B’Elanna said as she let the sweetness of the contact wash through her. "People are starting to stare."

"Do you care?" Seven asked as she leaned down and nipped the Klingon’s lips. Perhaps this ‘getting comfortable’ around the crew was not as bad as she had first thought. If kissing B’Elanna was allowable, she would put up with a crowd ten times bigger.

"Nope, I couldn’t care less," B’Elanna answered as she welcomed a kiss that made her legs turn to liquid. Part of her was still a bit nervous, but the touch of Seven’s lips drowned out any remaining tension. She let her weight slump against her wife as the kiss deepened. She knew Seven would hold her up, and she lost herself in Seven’s arms. Soon the kiss was more intense than would normally be considered appropriate in public, but it was their wedding reception after all.

A loud crash startled them and they broke the kiss and turned toward the sound. Tom Paris was standing at a table with his drink and dinner plate shattered at his feet. Harry had Tom by the arm, trying to hold him in place. Tom glared at Seven, then turned and left the mess hall without bothering to pick up his spilled meal.

He stalked out of the room, his mind clouded by the anger and resentment that was tearing away at him. B’Elanna was his. Why couldn’t anyone see that? Sure, they had a little crimp in their relationship, but that didn’t give Seven the right to pounce on B’Elanna. It had been a misunderstanding. Sleeping with a hologram wasn’t cheating…it was like masturbating, and he shouldn’t have to make excuses for that, he rationalized. Now B’Elanna was throwing that damn Borg in his face, probably just to get back at him for the holographic barmaid.

When Tom had agreed to come to the reception with Harry, he had expected it to be a fiasco. He didn’t believe B’Elanna could put up with Seven for any length of time. Sure, Seven was hot, but that only went so far. She was also the most annoying woman on board, and a cold blooded automaton… a Borg. He half expected the two to get into a fight before the reception even got under way. But from the look of the kiss they had just shared, passion wasn’t a problem, and it became very clear that if wanted to get B’Elanna back, he was going to have to work very hard to get Seven out of the picture.

Seven pulled away from B’Elanna and moved toward the exit, but the compact Klingon had her by the upper arm.

"Going somewhere?" B’Elanna asked.

"Yes. I am going to have a discussion with Ensign Paris." Seven had stopped, not wanting to yank out of her wife’s grip.

"No," B’Elanna said as she shook her head. "Leave him alone. This isn’t the time or the place."

"It is past time," Seven said. "He has been making derogatory comments about our union since we returned. I intend to stop him."

"No," B’Elanna repeated. "He’s my responsibility. Leave him to me." She could feel Seven’s muscles ripple under her fingers as the tension in her body bubbled to the surface. B’Elanna briefly wondered if perhaps she should have converted to human rituals instead of introducing Seven to the hotheaded Klingon ways.

"We will discuss this later," Seven said. It was not a question but a statement of fact.

"Okay, but right now, will you dance with me?" B’Elanna tried to distract her wife.

"All right." Seven’s muscles softened as she took a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh.

Neelix had come out of the kitchen in time to see the minor disagreement. He hurried over in time to hear the end of the conversation.

"Did I hear you mention dancing?" he asked. "Well, now Seven… a little bird told me that you are quite a singer. Maybe we could talk you into singing something to your lovely wife for the first dance?"

"First dance?" Seven asked him, then turned to her wife. "I believe that little bird should have kept its Klingon beak shut."

"Wasn’t me," B’Elanna said quickly. "The only person I told…" Her eyes narrowed and she spun around searching the crowd. "Harry!"

The handsome operations officer smiled knowing that he was probably safe in the room full of people. "Come on, B’Elanna…you tell me Seven has the voice of an angel…that she used to sing to you under the full moons of Jusari Prime, and then expect me not to tell anyone?"

B’Elanna felt her face warm as her cheeks blushed bright red.

"That was private, Harry," B’Elanna hissed.

The crowd pressed in to add their suggestions, all of them eager to hear the exBorg sing.

Kathryn stepped forward. "You can’t keep a talent like that all to yourself," the captain joked.

"What is this first dance?" Seven didn’t seem bothered by the prospect of singing. In fact, she seemed quite focused on the dance.

"It’s a tradition for the married couple to share the first dance," B’Elanna said as she held out her hand to Seven. "It’s a way of beginning the dancing for the evening."

"You said we share the first dance? Are we prohibited from dancing together after the ‘first dance’?" Seven took B’Elanna’s hand and playfully yanked the Klingon to her, wrapping her in her arms. This relaxing in public did have its advantages.

"No." B’Elanna smiled up at Seven. "It’s a matter of who can steal us away from each other for the rest of the night."

Seven slowly scanned the room, giving them her best Borg glare. "That would be…unwise." Most of the guests seemed nervous, then Seven smirked, and the room erupted in laughter, but for once it was not mocking. It was welcoming, they were laughing with her for a change, and it felt good, very good.

"Come on," Harry yelled over the laughs. "I want to hear this angel."

"Here, here," Janeway said. She was being the ‘good captain,’ but inside she didn’t know how much more she could take. It was hard enough watching them together without seeing Seven serenade B’Elanna.

Neelix held out a data padd. "Why don’t you pick out something nice, and I’ll have the comm system provide the music."

"I am unaccustomed to musical accompaniment," Seven said. She scanned the choices on the padd and then paused and smiled. "I am… familiar with this one." She gave B’Elanna a lingering gaze.

B’Elanna’s eyes widened as she considered a few songs she didn’t want to share with the crew.

Seven smiled and tilted her head to one side. "You will like it," she assured her wife.

B’Elanna released a breath, and relief washed over her face. Most of the crew suddenly wanted to know which song had B’Elanna so spooked. For her part, Seven realized that in public, she had an advantage with B’Elanna she didn’t have in private. When B’Elanna joked with her or teased her in private, Seven was often at a disadvantage because B’Elanna had much more experience. But here, in public, B’Elanna seemed much more likely to blush. She made a point to be careful not to embarrass her proud wife too much, but knew how to press an advantage to its fullest. She also wanted to stop hiding her feelings for B’Elanna, and this dance would be the perfect way to ‘open up.’

Seven handed Neelix the padd and the Talaxian ushered the couple to the small area that had been set aside for the dance floor. He went to the comm station and called up the musical file while B’Elanna and Seven stood together and prepared to dance. The sound of soft guitar chords filled the crowded room and Seven looked into B’Elanna’s eyes.

"I may be singing this in a room for full of people, Be’nal, but…as always…I sing these words to you." Seven leaned down and kissed B’Elanna’s cheek and then began to sing.

"Lying here with you, listening to the rain. Smiling just to see the smile upon your face," Seven sang as she moved her wife around the dance floor.

"These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive; These are the moments, I’ll remember all my life; I found all I’ve waited for…And I could not ask for more," the former drone continued. She smiled at B’Elanna whose eyes were shining as she fought back tears. She had heard Seven sing this song to her many times on the planet, but somehow hearing it in front of her friends made it all the more real.

Across the room, Kathryn backed into the kitchen, touched by the display, but feeling the need to flee. Everything she could have had with Seven was being laid out in front of her and it was torture. She fought the urge to run, as she had seen Tom Paris do, because she was captain, and it wouldn’t be right to leave.

Seven moved one hand up to cup B’Elanna’s cheek and she caressed her tender skin with her thumb.

"Looking in your eyes, seeing all I need. Everything you are is everything to me," Seven sang, her voice beginning to crack, but it didn’t detract from the beauty of the words, it added to them. Her voice was clear and in perfect pitch, but the emotion making her voice deepen was beginning to make many of the guests begin to cry. They hadn’t known the exBorg was capable of emotion, let alone the absolute devotion they were witnessing.

"These are the moments, I know heaven must exist." Seven let go of B’Elanna face and let her hand drift back down to the Klingon’s waist. "These are the moments I know all I need is this. I have all I’ve waited for, and I could not ask for more."

B’Elanna’s hand drifted off of Seven’s hip and slid around and rubbed the exdrone’s belly.

Seven smiled. "I could not ask for more than this time together. I could not ask for more than this time with you," she sang, and then placed her hand over B’Elanna’s on her belly, holding her wife’s palm over their child. "Every prayer has been answered. Every dream I have’s come true. And right here in this moment is right where I’m meant to be… Here with you here with me."

It was too much for Kathryn… B’Elanna’s hand cradling Seven’s belly, cradling the child they created, a child Kathryn would never have. She had to get out, away from everyone and everything. She moved through the crowd as Seven and B’Elanna danced during an instrumental section of the song. She ended up standing a few feet away from the dancing couple when Seven began singing again. The crowd was frozen, mesmerized by the incongruity of a Borg drone using her words to make love to a Klingon warrior in a crowded room. Kathryn was in hell, of that she was certain.

"These are the moments I thank God that I’m alive." Seven was now ignoring everyone else in the room as she watched the love in B’Elanna’s eyes mirror her own. "These are the moments I’ll remember all my life; I’ve got all I’ve waited for…And I could not ask for more."

As Seven repeated the chorus, Kathryn pushed through the crowd. She didn’t noticed the confused glances from her crew, or the fact that B’Elanna chose that moment to shift her gaze to the movement in the otherwise still room. The Klingon saw the captain’s expression as she hurried out the door, and for a moment B’Elanna’s heart ached for her friend and mentor, but Seven’s words pulled B’Elanna’s eyes and heart back.

"I could not ask for more than the love you give me ‘Coz it’s all I’ve waited for," Seven sang in a whisper. " And I could not ask for more." Seven leaned down and kissed B’Elanna as she finished the song. "I could not ask for more."

The crowd watched as the two women continued dancing as the music finally ended. Somewhere in the back of the room, someone began to clap and it spread through the crowd. B’Elanna blushed and rested her forehead against Seven’s chest to hide her face, enjoying the warm softness, considering it one of the perks of married life.

Neelix was speechless and had tears staining his furry, spotted cheeks. He grumbled and rushed over to the couple and threw his arms around them both and blubbered like a lost child. Seven didn’t know what to do with the distraught Talaxian. B’Elanna, however, didn’t have that problem.

"Neelix… geeze." She shoved him away, then laughed as she wiped her eyes and addressed the crowd. "The first one who laughs is going out an airlock."

The crowd responded with the expected laughs and filtered onto the dance floor. This was the B’Elanna Torres they knew. B’Elanna tugged Seven to the back of the room where they could both compose themselves.

"You really got me, ya’ know that?" B’Elanna asked as she pinned Seven to the wall near the long window, the passing stars transformed into thousands of white streaks.

"I hope I keep you," Seven said. She wiped her eyes. "I have sung that song to you many times. I do not understand why we both reacted so strongly on this occasion. Could it have been the addition of music?"

"No," B’Elanna assured her. "It’s because all of our friends are here, and telling me those words in front of them… just… just makes it more…"

"Real?" Seven asked.

"Yeah." B’Elanna said.

"Not all of our friends," Seven pointed out.

"I miss them too." B’Elanna sighed and leaned against Seven. "I wonder how big Ty is getting?"

"B’Elanna, with the time differential, we left Jusari Prime a few hours after he did."

"That’s true." B’Elanna smiled. "So… even with the delays the Dengari caused, we should catch up with them soon."

"If they are going to Nador Omega as planned, they will be on our projected flight path," Seven said happily.

"I can’t wait. Did I mention? I really love you." B’Elanna looked behind Seven, noticing that many of the guests were staring. ‘Eat your hearts out,’ B’Elanna thought. ‘She’s all mine.’ Then she thought about the captain and the look of devastation on her face when she ran from the room and her smile disappeared.

"What is it?" Seven noticed the shift in B’Elanna’s mood and didn’t like the sorrow covering her wife’s beautiful features.

B’Elanna leaned into Seven, squeezing her in a tight embrace. "Tom’s not the only one who’s hurting over this."

"By this, you mean us? Am I correct?" Seven asked as she rubbed B’Elanna’s back. She was thankful that the crowd seemed to be leaving them alone for the moment.

"Uh huh." B’Elanna leaned back and looked up at Seven.

"Who else is in love with you?" Seven’s concern was genuine, but there was a hint of jealousy in her tone.

B’Elanna allowed a tiny smile. "Not me, love."

"Elaborate." Seven’s face showed her confusion. She leaned around B’Elanna and scanned the crowd but didn’t see anyone who looked like they were in love with her.

Naomi chose that moment to interrupt. B’Elanna wasn’t sure she if was upset or relieved, but she smiled at the child and moved to stand next to Seven.

"Gosh, Seven, I didn’t know Borg could sing." Naomi reached out and tugged on B’Elanna’s jacket. "Can Klingons sing, too?" She had first noticed the leather coat when the three had been locked in Cargo Bay two, but hadn’t felt comfortable enough with the Klingon to ask about it then, let alone touch it.

"No, squirt," B’Elanna said. "Not this Klingon at least."

"How do you know it is not my human half that allows me to sing?" Seven tilted her head and raised an eyebrow at Naomi.

"Well, because… It was perfect," Naomi rationalized. "Human’s aren’t perfect, Borg are."

"Thank you, Naomi Wildman," Seven said in her most Borg tone.

"Pretty good logic, kid," B’Elanna complimented.

Naomi scrunched her face, finding the statement somewhat distasteful.

"What?" B’Elanna asked

"I am very adult, B’Elanna. Everyone says so." Naomi seemed almost offended to be called a kid.

"Hey," B’Elanna knelt in front of the half Katarian. "Do you get lonely being the only kid?"

"Mom says the crew will start having kids in a few years so Voyager can become a generational ship." Naomi looked down at the floor. "I just have to wait."

"That’s not what I asked." B’Elanna lifted Naomi’s chin. "Do you get lonely?"


B’Elanna looked up at Seven. The exdrone smiled and knelt next to B’Elanna so that she could also be on Naomi’s level. "Naomi?" Seven asked.

"Hmm?" Naomi bit her lip.

"You will not have to wait much longer." Seven smiled.

"Huh?" Naomi looked at Seven like she had just sprouted new implants out of her forehead.

B’Elanna laughed and then sighed. "Naomi, you aren’t gonna be the only kid for very much longer. Seven and I are gonna’ have a baby."

"Really?" Naomi’s eyes and mouth shot open.

Seven nodded.

"So…" Naomi began calculating all the possible data. "So…if it’s your baby…and Seven’s…it’s gonna’ be a girl, right?"

"Uh…yes," B’Elanna said, drawing out the words.

Naomi rolled her eyes. "B’Elanna, I’m not a little kid. My Mom is in the Biosciences. If you two both gave genetic material, the baby has to be a girl. Neither one of you has a Y chromosome. Duh."

"Duh," Seven said as she crossed her arms and smiled at B’Elanna.

"Baby?" Harry Kim squeaked from behind Naomi. "You’re gonna’ have a baby?" he said loudly. B’Elanna and Seven stood as several of the guests turned and came closer.

Chakotay cleared his throat. "That wasn’t in your report on the away mission," he said calmly.

If you asked anyone on board, they would say that Tuvok was immune to curiosity and gossip. The Vulcan was not, he simply knew how to bide his time until the perfect moment arose to ask questions. It was time to get the answers to the questions he had been posing since he had learned of the child’s existence.

"Congratulations," the Vulcan said. "Who is carrying this child?" He wasn’t known for his tact.

"I am." Seven smiled when B’Elanna’s hand drifted over and covered her belly. Any mention of the child seemed to force B’Elanna’s hand onto Seven’s belly, and the exdrone loved it.

"A baby?" Neelix asked, wonder filling his voice. He went directly to Seven, a smile covering his furry face. "A new life… oh, how wonderful." He reached for Seven’s belly, then stopped. "May I?" he asked.

Seven seemed confused then realized that he wanted to touch her stomach the way B’Elanna always did. She nodded slowly. "Proceed."

B’Elanna moved her hand and smiled at him. He looked like a child on Christmas morning.

Neelix quickly got on his knees so that his face was at the same level as Seven’s belly. He placed his hands on each side of her navel and his grin got even wider until it threatened to split his face.

"Well, hello there, little one," he said to Seven’s belly. He looked up at Seven, then B’Elanna. Around them the crowd was growing. "You have two wonderful mommies waiting to meet you," he continued, his hands warm and gentle on Seven’s stomach. "I’m kind of excited myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve held a baby. Not since little Naomi was a baby. Now, you just take your time in there, don’t let old Neelix rush you, but anytime you need a story… or to be tucked in, you just call Neelix." He stopped, suddenly aware that the entire room of people was staring. He looked up at Seven who had a soft smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Guess you think I’m pretty silly," he said as he stood and backed up, but the smile didn’t leave his face.

"On the contrary," Seven said. "I was just thinking how much you remind me of B’Elanna."

"Seven," the Klingon said, trying to hush the exdrone.

"I cannot tell you how many nights I have awakened to the sounds of B’Elanna talking to the baby," Seven continued despite the blush creeping up B’Elanna’s face. "I worry that she will suffocate. I find her under the blankets deep in conversation with our child. She insists it is a perfectly normal behavior." Seven smiled at B’Elanna, enjoying her mate’s squirming.

"Of course it is," Neelix assured her.

"It is normal behavior for Mister Neelix," Tuvok said. "It has yet to be seen if it is normal behavior for the rest of the population."

The crowd laughed and B’Elanna wanted to crawl into a hole, under a rock, or at least out an airlock, but she was equally drawn to the idea of hiding under a warm blanket with the cause of her torment. She decided that was the most appealing prospect, and yanked Seven to her.

"Honey," she whispered sweetly, making sure it was loud enough for anyone close by to hear. "When we get home tonight… you can just forget about me telling the ‘baby’ a bedtime story and rubbing your back."

Then Seven surprised B’Elanna, and used her secret weapon. Seven frowned, let her eyes take on a doe like quality and made her lower lip tremble, a move B’Elanna had dubbed the Borg pout maneuver, and, like always, it worked.

"Oh, all right…you can have your back rub," B’Elanna relented instantly.

Seven clicked the pout maneuver up a notch, tilting her head to the side.

"And the bedtime story," B’Elanna added.

"Whipped," Harry said as he shook his head.

"Curious," Tuvok said with a raised eyebrow. "I did not think adults indulged in bedtime stories."

This time is was Seven who blushed. Those around her thought it was because she had been caught in childlike behavior, but they were mistaken. She was thinking about the frightening tales B’Elanna would tell her, and the unique way the Klingon would…calm her. Wonderful ways, starting with bone melting kisses and ending with Seven sprawled across the bed in a hyperventilating puddle.

Seven turned to address the Vulcan. "I must learn these tales so that I can share them with our child."

"Of course," Tuvok said…obviously unconvinced.

The rest of the evening was a happy blur, the highlight of which was the cutting of the cake. After convincing Seven that the huge cake wasn’t one big Borg maternity snack, B’Elanna had enjoyed feeding a small slice to her wife. The crowd had been somewhat disappointed that the two women chose to forgo the traditional cake fight, but they seemed honestly pleased with the new sides they had seen of both women. When the last of the guests filtered out, they all saw Seven as much more human, and B’Elanna as much less…volatile. No one commented about Tom storming out or the captain’s hasty exit. Although, most assumed Janeway’s departure was related to ship’s business.


Chapter 24: Storm clouds

Kathryn Janeway left the reception, went to her ready room and tried to bury herself in her work. Three hours later she had completed all of the personnel reports that weren’t due for two more weeks and she still couldn’t shake the image of B’Elanna’s hand resting on Seven’s belly. It was obvious that Seven was completely in love with B’Elanna and utterly devoted to her. Kathryn wasn’t the sort to waste her time thinking about what could have been, but she also wasn’t the sort to turn her feelings off like a light switch. Seven had two and a half years to fall in love with B’Elanna, but Kathryn didn’t have the luxury of time. She had sent Seven off on a simple away mission, only to have her return a week later with everything changed.

"This is ridiculous," Kathryn said to the empty room. She took a drink of her coffee that had cooled hours earlier. It tasted as bitter as she felt. "Okay, you should just be happy for them," she told herself. She knew she couldn’t offer half of what B’Elanna had given Seven. Kathryn was married to her ship, she couldn’t take a crewmember as a lover, and even if she did, she could never give that lover her whole heart. And the bottom line was, Seven had been through so much already, she shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than everything.

Kathryn leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes. She was tired, too tired to sleep. She thought about the way B’Elanna had looked at Seven, her eyes full of adoration, not a single ounce of doubt, full of complete trust, and offering her heart and soul, her whole heart and soul, not the meager leftovers after the USS Voyager had taken her pound of flesh.

She stood and paced, and remembered growing up on the agricultural park; she remembered her mother. Gretchen Janeway was a good Starfleet wife, she stayed home, raised the children, never complained, and she waited. She waited for the day when her husband would put her first, when Starfleet would get enough of him. That day never came. Kathryn waited too; she waited for the day that she would see the sorrow and the loneliness leave her mother’s eyes. That day never came either. Her mother never came first, and Kathryn realized that she would never wish that existence on Seven.

"Don’t ever put her second, B’Elanna," Kathryn whispered to the empty room.

*"Larson to Captain Janeway."* the bridge officer’s voice echoed over Kathryn’s comm badge.

"Janeway, here."

*"Ma’am…I wouldn’t normally contact you for this, but since you are in your ready room…"*

"Go ahead, Larson." Janeway smiled, wondering if she had ever been that eager to please. Of course she had.

*"Ma’am, I ran some extra scans of our flight path… and long range scanners are showing some dark matter. I thought you might want to take a look. Maybe we can harvest some anti matter."*

"Thank you, Larson. That’s a good idea. How far out is it?" Janeway stood and headed to the door.

*"Twelve hours, ma’am."*

"Good work," she said. It was always a good idea to recognize extra effort, even if she couldn’t offer her crew the same promotions they could get in the Alpha Quadrant. "Dark matter can have a nasty gravity well that extends thousands of light years... Have the helm plot us a course that keeps us out of range."

*"Yes, ma’am."*

Janeway walked onto the bridge, nodding at Larson as she went to her command chair. She might as well log some time with the gamma shift. They didn’t get to work with her often.

"Let’s see that dark matter," she said as she scanned the data at her comm station. She frowned. "Helm, alter course to 242 mark 132. We’re already in the outer current of the gravity well. Let’s stay clear if we can avoid it."

Seven was not quite awake, she twisted and tried to roll over onto her side but something blocked her. She opened her eyes and could tell it was still the night shift, the lighting was lowered, but there was enough light for her to see that B’Elanna was not beside her, then she heard mumbling. She smiled and lifted the covers.

B’Elanna was curled around Seven’s body, her cheek pressed to Seven’s waist while her hand cradled the soft curve of Seven’s belly. B’Elanna was asleep, but she was nuzzling Seven’s side and mumbling.

"Lana," Seven whispered. "Come back up here, darling." She reached down and guided B’Elanna back up to her pillow.

B’Elanna sighed and then whimpered a very unKlingon sound and smacked her lips before she crawled onto Seven’s chest and hummed contentedly. Her hand drifted up and settled over Seven’s heart, B’Elanna’s second favorite location. Any time the Klingon’s hand wasn’t on Seven’s belly, it was resting over her heart.

Seven ran her fingers through B’Elanna’s hair. She liked the longer style, loved to gather it up and tie it off in a ponytail with a piece of leather lacing and then swish it when the mood struck her.

She smiled in the darkness, then shifted her weight when she felt a twinge in her side. She reached down and rubbed the offending muscle, then felt B’Elanna’s hand meet hers on her stomach. The twinge became a dull pain, and she shifted trying to stop the cramp.

B’Elanna’s leg moved over Seven’s thigh; even in her sleep the Klingon like to cover Seven with as much of her flesh as possible. Her knee slid higher until it gently nudged Seven’s bladder.

"Ouch," Seven squirmed and pushed B’Elanna leg away and took in a deep gasp.

"Mmm. Seven?" B’Elanna’s eyes opened, though she was far from awake. "Ya’ okay?" she asked with a yawn as her eyes closed.

"Cramps," Seven responded and kissed B’Elanna’s head. "Go back to sleep."

"Roll over," B’Elanna said as she shifted her weight off of Seven. "Come on, I’ll have your back relaxed in no time," she said without opening her eyes. B’Elanna was used to rubbing Seven’s back in the middle of the night. Seven’s long body seemed prone to cramps that settled in her lower back.

"Not my back," Seven said even as she rolled onto her side, after all, B’Elanna’s back rubs were the Omega molecule of touch…pure perfection. "Ouch," Seven said once she was on her side.


"My stomach, and sides." Seven rubbed her belly, the skin felt tight, and she was sure she was getting as big as a class two shuttle craft.

"What?" B’Elanna sat up, fully awake. "Computer, lights." The room brightened, and both women squinted against the bright light. "Why didn’t you wake me? Should we call the Doctor?"

"No, it is just a cramp," Seven insisted.

"How do you know?" B’Elanna asked. She ran her fingers over Seven’s stomach and sides. "Where does it hurt?"

Seven rolled her eyes, an affectation she had only recently picked up. "It is a cramp. It is almost gone." She slid B’Elanna’s hand to the spot where the cramp had been.

"You sure?"

"Yes, now go back to sleep." Seven settled back down onto her pillow.

"Wake me up if it happens again, okay?" B’Elanna settled down and spooned Seven from behind, reaching down and pulling the bearskin blanket up around them.

"Yes, dear," Seven said. "Computer, lights out."

Tom Paris sat alone at a small table in the mess hall nursing his cup of coffee. He was also nursing a severe hangover. He had left the reception the night before and went to Fairhaven, drowning his sorrows in drink and Becca’s holographic arms. Both cures left him feeling empty.

"Tom, mind if I join you?" Harry asked his friend. He wouldn’t normally ask, but Tom had chosen a small table well away from the rest of the crew who were having breakfast.

"Hey, Harry." He nodded at an empty chair.

Harry settled his meal, carefully arranging his utensils and coffee cup, and then began seasoning his eggs with enough pepper to make them turn battleship grey.

"Jesus, Harry, how can you eat those?"

"What? They’re good." Harry shrugged and continued his meal. "You left in a hurry last night," Harry said quietly.

Tom let out a disgusted snort and rolled his eyes. "Why should I stick around to see that Borg rub my face in it?"

"Tom, they love each other. Maybe if you had stayed last night you would have seen that." Harry set his fork down, making sure it was centered on his napkin. He was nothing if not organized.

"Oh, please," Tom said. He emptied his coffee cup in one gulp. "Lana’s gonna’ come to her senses soon, and when she comes crawling back to me… I’m gonna’ make her beg."

Harry bit his lip, then took a sip of his coffee. He stared at his meal, suddenly wishing he had sat somewhere else. "Seven’s pregnant," Harry said as he put down his cup.

"What?" Tom demanded. "She freaks out ‘cause I slept with a hologram, but she stays with Seven after she screwed some guy?"

Conversation in the mess hall stopped as Tom’s yelling echoed through the room.

"It’s B’Elanna’s baby," Harry said quietly.

"Come on, Harry. She may be the all mighty Borg, but she’s not that mighty." Tom was fuming. He had asked B’Elanna about kids and she had said that they weren’t even ready to get married, let alone talk about kids. She also said that Tom wasn’t ready to be a father, and he needed to grow up before they could talk about it.

"It’s true, Tom." Harry looked over at his friend. He knew Tom was having a rough time, but suspected it was more about ego than a broken heart. "Don’t push this, Tom. You have no idea what you’re getting into." His dark eyes narrowed as compassion covered his dark features.

"No," Tom said as he stood. "That Borg bitch doesn’t know what she’s getting into."

"Tom," Harry stood and grabbed the helmsman’s arm. "Damn it, Tom. It’s over. Let B’Elanna be happy."

Harry saw the punch coming, but was too shocked to block it or even flinch. He dropped to one knee and grabbed his jaw. "That could have went better," he whispered.

"Stay out of this, Harry. It’s none of your business," Tom said as he stalked out of the mess hall.

Kathryn Janeway sat at the head of the conference room table and studied her officers. Tuvok waited patiently for the captain to explain, the Doctor was reading over a medical data padd that most likely contained his latest opera, and Harry wasn’t looking at anyone. That was the good news.

B’Elanna and Seven, who were both still officially off duty, looked like two teenagers at their senior prom. They tried to look professional, but the frequent stolen glances and smiles were more obvious than if they had just broken down and held hands or offered to carry each others’ notebooks to study hall. It didn’t help that neither woman was in uniform, having been called to the meeting during breakfast in their quarters. B’Elanna was wearing black slacks and a blue-gray tank top, covered by her ever present leather jacket. Seven was radiant in a pair of cream slacks and matching silk top and she wore her thick braid hanging over her left shoulder down to her belly.

The remaining two officers were staring at the couple. Neelix had a goofy grin as he studied Seven. Tom Paris’ expression was unreadable as he watched B’Elanna, although Janeway suspected it was at the hostile end of the spectrum.

"All right," Janeway began. "We are entering an area pocked with dark matter. We need to plot a course through the sector that avoids the gravity wells but doesn’t add two months to our journey. As it is, going through this sector will take four months because we won’t be able to go to warp. If we go around the dark matter zone, it will take us six months at maximum warp." She turned to B’Elanna. "I’m sorry to cut into your leave, but I could really use your input, B’Elanna. The gravity wells are going to play havoc with the warp engines, so I’d like you to enhance the forcefields around the critical systems. We may just take them off line if we have to since the gravity wells make it impossible to form a static warp field."

"Of course," the Klingon answered. She was figuring out which schematics she would have to study for the task at hand. She didn’t like being rusty and had been pouring over all the ship’s technical manuals.

"Seven," the captain said as she turned toward her, "We need the most accurate charts possible, and you are the best." Kathryn smiled ruefully.

Seven nodded. "I would find the challenge a pleasant diversion. Too much free time can be… unsettling."

"Tom," the captain said as she gave him her attention, "You’ll need to be on top of whatever Seven gives you."

Tom rolled his eyes. "I didn’t think giving was in the Borg vocabulary."

"Ensign?" Janeway demanded. "Is there a problem I should be aware of?" Kathryn kicked herself for her poorly chosen words.

"No problem, ma’am…just a little joke to lighten the mood," Tom said.

"I suggest you leave moral to Neelix." Janeway’s voice left no doubt that she was furious. She didn’t like Tom acting like a spoiled child, especially when he dragged his temper tantrums into her staff meetings.

"Understood," Paris said.

"Doctor, does the increased gravity pose any risk to the crew?" Janeway asked the hologram.

"None, captain. Fortunately, the human body, being made up of mostly good old fashioned water, is less fragile than B’Elanna’s engines." The Doctor was smug, as if he were personally responsible for the human form and its advantages over the ship’s engines. "With the exception of some space sickness, enduring a few of the gravity wells will not be a problem."

"Space sickness?" Tuvok asked. "Would it not be prudent to avoid all of the gravity wells?"

"Now, now, Commander," the Doctor said. He added a tisk tisking sound before continuing. "I’m sure you’ll manage just fine."

"Indeed?" Tuvok wondered if the Doctor would be as glib if his matrix were as effected as Tuvok was when he got space sickness.

"All right," Janeway said, cutting off the useless debate before it could begin. "Let’s get to work. Harry, I want a class four probe prepared within the next week. Use the Borg shielding so we can send it into one of the dark matter clouds and recover some anti-matter. But let’s get our course safely plotted first."

"Yes, ma’am." Harry smiled. He enjoyed special projects and the challenges they offered.

The group stood and slowly left the table. Tom came around the table and quickly left. Seven waited for B’Elanna to catch up with her so that they could walk out together.

"Will you meet me for lunch?" Seven asked coyly. She felt like she was making her first date. Illogical considering she knew she had B’Elanna’s heart.

"Think Neelix will have anything as good as that stew you used to make for me when it rained?" B’Elanna had to consciously remind herself to not hold Seven’s hand. It was not professional, and they didn’t want to start any bad habits.

"Stew?" Neelix asked as he joined them. "Seven, have you been doing more cooking? I can always use another helper in the mess hall." He smiled, waiting to see if he had successfully hooked the exdrone.

"Conditions on the planet were harsh," Seven said gravely. "I do not think the captain would allow cannibalism on board. Plus it would considerably reduce the crew manifest."

Neelix’s jaw almost hit the floor. He stopped and gapped at her like he was a fish yanked out of its tank, his mouth opening and closing.

B’Elanna took Seven’s elbow and herded her out of the room. "You are so bad, Seven," she whispered as they climbed into the turbolift.

Harry Kim entered the Astrometrics lab and cleared his throat. "Ah, Seven?" He asked.

"Ensign Kim, how may I assist you?" Seven asked without looking up from her calculations.

"I was wondering if you could help me modulate the Borg shielding for the probe."

"That project is to be completed after we finish plotting our course through the dark matter zone." Seven looked up at Harry, her expression chastising.

"Well, yeah," he stuttered. "But there’s nothing more I can do to plot the course, so I thought I’d get a jump on it."

Seven let him off the hook. "Your initiative is admirable. However, I am still busy calculating the most efficient flight plan."

"Well, do you need some help?" he offered.

She paused, torn between her preference for working alone and the prospect of finishing the task sooner.

"That would be...acceptable," she finally said.

"Great," Harry said enthusiastically. "Where should I start?"

Seven smirked, but didn’t let him see it. "I am tracking what appears to be an ion trail through the sector. It would seem logical that the other ships traversing this sector would have had similar concerns as Voyager."

"Yeah, that’s logical," Harry said, but he doubted he would’ve thought to check for old ship courses.

"Access the aft sensor information and use it to create a map that overlays the various gravity wells and the cumulative effects they have on each other," she ordered.

"No problem," Harry said. He retrieved the data and began cross referencing the material as Seven had suggested. It was a time-consuming process.

"So, are you excited?" Harry asked when the silence became bothersome to him.

"It is a routine action. Plotting a course could hardly be called exciting." Seven moved from console to console adjusting the sensors to get the latest results.

"I meant about the baby," Harry said with a disarming smile.

"Oh…" Seven was stymied. Of course she was excited. Why did people insist on asking questions with obvious answers? She couldn’t understand why crewmembers continually asked her if she was happy, or excited, or her least favorite, "don’t you wish the baby was already here?"

"So," Harry asked again, "Is B’Elanna excited?"

"Yes." Seven smiled, and then consciously chose to let her guard down with Harry. "She can barely wait. I think she is the epitome of ‘the nervous father.’"

Harry laughed at the image that painted. "Hey," he said he looked down at his completed data. "Look it this."

"Intriguing," Seven said she studied the way the overlapping gravity wells interacted. The conflicting gravity made the surrounding space look like a Labyrinth, but that was not what caught her eye.

"Ensign, check these areas here… here… and here, then see if the increased gravity of the overlapping fields is stable."

"Okay," he said slowly. "Why?" he asked even as he checked the data. His eyes widened. "Yes, it is."

"Is there a consistent direction of movement? Is it in the direction we wish to travel?" she asked as she leaned over the console with him.

"Yes..." he said. "What are you thinking?"

"That we may have found a way to cut several months off of our journey," Seven said.

Part 25

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