DISCLAIMER: This fan fiction story was written solely for the entertainment of the readers and is not for profit. All characters, including the Starship Voyager, are property of Paramount Pictures Corporation. The sole intent of this story is to enjoy the characters created by the Star Trek Franchise and to expand the program's fanbase. The producers have given me a great deal of enjoyment with their programs and I hope that my stories can add something back to the Star Trek universe. I write stories borrowing their characters for the enjoyment of the fans and in turn hope to offer them a larger viewing audience. No copyright infringement is intended and this is not for profit of any kind. Please read the Disclaimer before continuing to remain in the site or reading the stories.
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She Who Hesitates is Lost
By Lisa Countryman


Chapter 25: storm on the horizon

B’Elanna sat at one end of the conference room’s long table. She, along with the rest of the senior staff members, were watching Seven explain her latest findings. "She’s so incredible," B’Elanna thought as she studied her wife. "She has no idea how beautiful she is. She moves like a ghost, outside of our puny human reality, floating gracefully through our existence. Oh hell, I’m thinking in poetry. What’s next? Sprinkling flowers in her path so she won’t have to walk on the carpet?" B’Elanna covered her mouth with her hand and smirked. "I wonder what kind of flowers she likes best?"

Seven was wearing her blue and gray biosuit, the closet thing to a uniform she had, but instead of trying to force her long hair up into a bun, she had it braided and then looped it back into itself in the back. Even doubled back, it reached past her shoulders. Seven was all business, composed and focused, and B’Elanna couldn’t stop staring. How could she have ever thought Seven was an unemotional "Ice Queen?"

Even as professional as Seven was acting, as serious as she kept her expression, the passion just under the surface was obvious. All anyone had to do was look. Seven’s cobalt blue eyes flickered around the room as she spoke and the corners of her mouth edged up a fraction of a centimeter. It was enough to let B’Elanna know that no matter how much Seven enjoyed knowledge for the sake of knowledge, she was thrilled to have come up with a way to help Voyager.

"So," Seven said as she pointed to the large comm panel on the wall that was displaying the map Harry had constructed. "As you can see, the dark matter pockets overlap creating areas of intense gravity that rival those found in black holes."

"And?" Tom asked as he almost yawned. "So what? We already know that we won’t have warp drive for…what is it? …. Four months? Thanks for the news flash."

He was about to continue, but the twin glares he got from Janeway and B’Elanna made him change his mind.

"What it means, Mister Paris," Seven continued as if he had politely asked a sincere question. "Is that while we may not be able to use the warp drive, but we will still be able to travel at warp."

"How?" The captain leaned forward and rested her palms on the desk.

Seven nodded, acknowledging Janeway before pointing back at the map. "These areas of increased gravity form swirling vortexes, similar to whirlpools. Mister Kim and I have plotted a course between the spatial whirlpools that spin this same direction." It was generous to say that Harry had helped plot the course considering she was the one who quickly went through the maps and discovered the best flight plan, but she knew how important recognition was to humans, and she rather liked Ensign Kim.

"Well, it was mostly Seven," Harry said truthfully.

"Mister Kim, your assistance was critical to this project. Thank you for volunteering." Seven made a point of letting the captain know that Harry had helped of his own accord, something else humans found relevant. "Now," Seven said, getting back to the point. "These whirlpools overlap, and where the vortexes touch, they create an area of directed gravitational displacement." Seven pointed to the diagram that showed a current weaving through the dark matter field.

Janeway stood. "It’s a river," she said as she moved next to Seven to get a better look. "And it’s moving faster than the speed of light." Her lips curved up on both sides. "This is brilliant, Seven."

B’Elanna smiled brightly, because, damn it, it was a great idea, and someone was gonna’ beam proudly over Seven’s discovery and she knew Seven wouldn’t let her own happiness show.

"It was not my discovery," Seven said honestly.

Tom was not impressed. "So who’d you assimilate it from? Some nice peaceful…"

"Paris," B’Elanna hissed before the captain could. "I’ve had about all of your mouth that I’m gonna’…"

Janeway cleared her throat, stopping B’Elanna midsentence. "I will handle Ensign Paris… after the meeting." Her voice was deep, and rumbled, the way it did right before she gave someone a verbal lashing that left them feeling like their skin had been flayed off. "Seven, please continue."

"As I was saying, this was not my idea. I noticed ion trails through the matter field, and figured that previous travelers would have plotted the safest courses. I noticed the predominate pattern and realized that the gravitational current had propelled the ships as they traversed the sector."

"An astute observation," Tuvok said, impressed, but too Vulcan to say any more.

"There are however, two areas that are…problematic," Seven said, bringing the mood down a notch.

"Yes?" Janeway asked.

"On this end of the gravitational ‘river,’ there is an area of extreme turbulence where the whirlpools have increased backwash. It will be unstable and have extremely elevated gravity. The ship will have to be reinforced."

"Rapids," Janeway said. "I think our ship can handle a little rough water."

Seven raised her metallic implant over her left eye. "This ‘rough water’ is capable of pulling the iron out of your bloodstream."

"Well then," Janeway said with a smile. "It’s a good thing I take my vitamins."

"Ha," the Doctor snorted. "How I wish that were true."

B’Elanna leaned forward and pushed Seven’s chair away from the table as the blonde returned to her seat. "Great job," she whispered as Seven sat down.

Seven tilted her head to the side as she slid the chair into place. She was glancing sideways at B’Elanna, almost coyly, and she let a whisper of a smile pass over her lips before turning to focus on the captain.

"Oh, yeah," B’Elanna thought. "She knows she’s good."

"All right," the captain said as she stood facing the table with her hands on her hips. "Let’s get to work on the reinforcements. We should reach the Gravity River in just over one day, and I want to be ready. You all have copies of Seven’s findings, so get to work on figuring out where the structural integrity needs to be shored up. Dismissed."

The crew stood and moved toward the door.

"Ensign Paris," Janeway said ominously. "You will be staying behind."

"Umm, yes ma’am," he said as he studied the carpeting.

Janeway stood in front of Tom, pinning him in place with her most murderous glare until the rest of the crew disappeared behind the hissing door.

"Ma’am, I can explain," Tom said as the doors were hissing closed.

"Did I give you permission to speak?" Her eyes had lost all of their blue and looked completely gray.

He opened his mouth to say "no"…then stopped. Was he supposed to speak now or just be quiet?

"Well?" she demanded.

That answered that question.

"No, ma’am."

"Mister Paris, I will not tolerate your temper tantrums. If I had my way, you’d be in the brig right now." She stepped closer, her anger coming off her body in waves. Tom took a half step away before she could continue. "I got a report about an incident in the mess hall. It seems several witnesses reported that you hit Harry Kim."

The captain walked behind Paris, but he had enough sense to remain standing at attention as she circled him.

"Tuvok interviewed Harry about the incident, and Harry explained that you were showing him a Tsunkatse move and he forgot to duck." She circled back around and stared him down, letting him know that she recognized a lie when she heard one. "I would have you in brig except that I’d have to have Harry in the cell next to you for lying to a superior officer, and I won’t punish him for his loyalty…no matter how misguided."

Tom continued staring dead ahead. "Well, at least Harry didn’t rat me out," he thought.

"I realize that you are having a difficult time coming to terms with recent events," Janeway said, her voice softening to the ‘mortal wound’ tone instead of the ‘instant death’ tone she had been using. "You can’t keep taking it out on Seven."

"But…" Tom shifted his weight, as antsy as a thoroughbred in a race gate.

"No buts." The ‘instant death’ tone was back. "Get over it…grow up… or just pretend that you are an adult. I don’t care what you do as long as you quit storming around the ship like it’s your private playground and someone stole your favorite toy." She turned and walked to the window, silent as she watched the stars blur past. Each one was a sun, part of a solar system that whipped past in the blink of an eye. There were probably thousands…tens of thousands of people in each solar system dealing with broken hearts…and every one of them was probably acting more mature than Tom Paris was.

"Tom," she said as she turned and walked back to him. "They are happy. Deal with it. I hate getting involved in my crewmembers’ romantic lives, but in this case, I have to say that you don’t have any right to act so wounded. You and B’Elanna had broken up more than a month before she and Seven went on the away mission."

"Maybe if you did get involved in romance with the crew this wouldn’t have happened at all," Tom said before the adult part of his brain could convince the child part that the words were suicidal.

"You will not take that tone with me." Janeway’s eyes narrowed and Tom Paris learned first hand that the "instant death" tone was not the most lethal one in Kathryn Janeway’s arsenal. "And you will not presume to comment on my personal life."

"Yeah?" he asked. The helmsman often mistook stupidity for bravery. "Well, that Borg was in love with you before she left, now all of the sudden she’s hot for Lana? What am I supposed to think?"

"You are supposed to THINK." Janeway stepped closer, her chest inches from his. She was shorter than him, but somehow managed to use the height disadvantage to seem more imposing. "Use your brain for once and not a lower part of your anatomy." She knew the comment was inappropriate, but damn it... He pissed her off. She didn’t need a sniveling Ensign reminding her that she could have had Seven if she had just reached out and taken what was offered.

Tom gapped at her. Had she just said what he thought she said?

"Report to the bridge and start working on the course Seven plotted." Kathryn retreated into captain mode because she wasn’t sure she could keep her temper in check if the personal nature of the discussion continued. "If I see or hear about you throwing anymore of your hissy fits, I will put you in the brig… and Harry will be there with you. You may not give a damn about your own career, but maybe you’ll have a little respect for his."

That hurt. Harry was Tom’s best friend, and lately he done a pretty good job of alienating him. "Yes, ma’am," he said.

"Both you and Ensign Kim will be pulling a double shift today. So, after the alpha shift, Harry will have the bridge. You can ask him what post he wants you to fill. Don’t be surprised if he has you doing grunt work," Janeway said, some of the anger draining off her.

"I… I never asked Harry to lie for me," Tom said quietly.

"I know that," Janeway said, "If you had, I would have had you both in the brig cleaning waste reclaimers with your sonic tooth brushes."

Tom let his expression show his disapproval.

"Yes, Mister Paris, I am not above using the ‘classics’ of military discipline." She sighed. "Go on, get to work."

"Ma’am?" he paused, looking truly contrite.


"I’m sorry… I was really out of line with those comments about you." He looked to her expectantly, like a puppy wanting a bone, except his bone was absolution.

He didn’t get it.

"Yes, you were," she said. "Dismissed."

B’Elanna went to her quarters for lunch, hoping she would surprise Seven. She had asked the computer where Seven was, and was thrilled when the computer unemotionally stated ‘Seven of Nine is in her quarters.’ Seven’s quarters, not Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres’ quarters. The computer had simply stated a fact, but to B’Elanna it was a reminder that her dream was in fact reality. She quickened her pace as she made her way through the corridors toward…home.

She entered their quarters and smiled when she saw the biosuit Seven had been wearing earlier in the day. It was tossed across the couch, and B’Elanna suddenly forgot about lunch and headed for the bedroom. Apparently, Seven had some other kind of meal in mind for their lunch break.

She paused at the doorway and leaned in, but instead of finding Seven dressed in a silky nightgown and propped up on a pillow, she found her wife sound asleep. Seven was wearing a pair of flannel boxers and an oversized tee shirt, both of which had been replicated to match B’Elanna’s ‘lazy wear.’ B’Elanna chose the same outfit when she didn’t feeling like doing anything, or… when she didn’t feel well. B’Elanna rushed to the bed and knelt beside it so she could study Seven. She brushed her fingers over Seven’s forehead, checking for any sign of fever. Seven was cool.

Seven’s eyes flickered before slowly opening and she sighed, then yawned.

"Hey," B’Elanna whispered. She leaned over and kissed the forehead she had just touched. "You feeling okay?" She looked at Seven, noticing that she had dark rings under her eyes. "You look tired, darling."

Seven smiled up at her wife and moved to the far side of the bed and patted the mattress. "I’m fine, just a little tired." She held her hand out to B’Elanna.

"Have you seen the Doctor?" B’Elanna put her hands on her hips and gave Seven a stern look.

"Lana, I’m pregnant. This is normal. Remember how tired Nara used to get?"

"Okay… but when do you see him again?" B’Elanna kicked off her boots and crawled onto the bed, groaning when she slid into Seven’s arms.

Seven kissed B’Elanna’s forehead, letting her lips linger on the ridges, making sure each of the four bumps got equal attention. "I have a check up in three days… and you know that. You made the appointment."

"Oh, yeah…" B’Elanna snuggled closer. She had hoped that Seven had made another appointment, though it really wasn’t necessary. B’Elanna just worried about everything. "I’ll meet you in sickbay. It’s at thirteen hundred hours, right?"

"Yes," Seven said. She was smiling and playing with the tie holding B’Elanna’s ponytail in place. She removed it and sighed when her fingers dug into B’Elanna’s thick, satiny hair. "I do not mind going alone," she added. She didn’t want to force B’Elanna to leave engineering, but secretly hopped that she would be there. Seven didn’t know if Tom Paris was scheduled for sick bay that day, and he was beginning to get to her with his overt hostility.

"Not a chance," B’Elanna said. She turned her head and kissed Seven’s hand as it played with her hair. She felt Seven’s body relax, it was subtle, considering the exdrone was sprawled out comfortably on the mattress, but B’Elanna felt the change. "What is it?"

"Hmm?" Seven let her eyes close, the idea of a nap pulling at her consciousness.

"Why are you nervous about the check up? Are you sure you’re okay?" B’Elanna lifted her weight up onto one elbow so that she could look at Seven.

"I am fine…the baby is fine." Seven’s eyes opened and she saw the concern on her partner’s face. "It… it is just… I…" Seven sighed. "I believe it is time for me to have a … discussion with Ensign Paris."

"Tom?" B’Elanna asked, then the realization hit her. Seven was going to confront him, something B’Elanna knew she should have handled herself before it began bothering Seven. "No," she ordered.

"What?" Seven asked.

"No. He is my responsibility. I’ll talk to him…today." B’Elanna hoped she could keep her temper in check with him because she really didn’t want to end up in the brig.

"I am the one he has the problem with. I will not have you fighting my battles," Seven said as she sat up. "You do not have to protect me."

"The Hell I don’t," B’Elanna said a bit too quickly. "You’re my wife, and he is my problem. I have to be the one to talk to him. Just leave him to me. I don’t want you getting involved."

"I am involved." Seven’s eyes narrowed as her temper kicked in. "And you are also my wife. It is my responsibility to protect you as well."

"Seven," B’Elanna said as she realized her hormonal wife was offended. "I know you want to help, but this isn’t your place. It’s traditional for the spouse who was involved with a…trouble maker…to deal with the problem."

"Isn’t my place?" Seven climbed off the bed and stared down at B’Elanna. Seven’s hair was down, and bounced when she put her hands defiantly on her hips. "And what is my place? To stay at home while you talk to Tom Paris…while he tries to convince you that you should return to him, while he tries to seduce you? I should deal with this…problem. I assure you he will not bother either of us again."

B’Elanna almost laughed, almost. The idea of returning to Tom was the most ludicrous thing she had ever heard, but if Seven brought it up, it must be bothering her. "Seven, Tom has nothing to offer me, nothing to entice me… I have everything I could ever want right here with you." B’Elanna stood up and moved in front of Seven. "I’m just gonna explain to him that if he doesn’t leave us alone…I will rip his face off." B’Elanna wrapped her hands around Seven’s waist and she looked up at her wife.

"I am more than capable of ripping his face off." Seven’s lips puffed out as she began her infamous Borg pout.

B’Elanna laughed and leaned into her wife. "I know, love. That’s why I should handle this." She let her hands migrate around to Seven’s back and then began to massage the tight muscles of her lower back. "He’s not a complete jerk. I think he’ll come around."

"I do not wish for him to come around you at all," Seven said with a twinge of anger in her voice. "I do not like the way he… leers at you."

"Umm, Seven?" B’Elanna eased back and looked up at her. "I have to put up with ninety percent of the men on board leering at you…and about sixty percent of the women."

Seven raised her blonde eyebrow, letting B’Elanna know she doubted the statistics the Klingon had just quoted, then her eyes darkened. "Yes, but I was never in love with any of them."

"I never felt anything for Tom like I do for you. Yes, I loved him, but it was… child’s play compared to what we have. You are my heart, you own my soul… and…" B’Elanna let her hand move onto Seven’s belly, "You are the one having my baby."

"It is…disconcerting. He doesn’t seem to notice those things." Seven relaxed as B’Elanna’s hand circled her belly.

"He doesn’t have to. You and I know," B’Elanna said.

"I try to remember that, but…" Seven sighed again.

"But what?" B’Elanna reached up and caressed Seven’s cheek. "Talk to me, love."

"It is different for you. I have no past," Seven explained. She felt B’Elanna’s body stiffen as tension filled her compact frame. "What is it?" Seven asked.

"You have a past. Your past just has a lot more integrity and class," B’Elanna said quietly.

"Explain." Seven studied B’Elanna’s expression. She didn’t like the worry lines around her wife’s eyes.

"The captain," B’Elanna said as her eyes locked with Seven’s.

"I had feelings for her at one time, but she did not return them." Confusion covered Seven’s face. "And you know that you are my life, you gave me my soul, Be’nal." She stroked B’Elanna’s cheek with the back of her fingers. "You are everything to me. I love you. My feelings for the captain never filled me the way you do."

"I love you, too." B’Elanna pressed her cheek against Seven’s fingers. "But…"

"There are not buts," Seven said sharply. "We love each other…nothing else matters."

"The captain is in love with you," B’Elanna explained.

"That is… preposterous." Seven’s eyes widened. "She is happy for us. She has told me so. I have seen her looking at us…together…and she smiles. Tom Paris does not smile when he looks at us."

"Like I said, she has more integrity and class than Tom."

"That is obvious, but I do not see how that relates to this conversation," Seven said.

"Seven, my beloved…" B’Elanna said as she shook her head. "You are so incredible. Your heart is so true that you don’t even notice how she looks at you, do you?"

"I do not care how anyone else looks at me. I only care about you." Seven studied her wife, wondering if she should perhaps pay attention to other people’s expressions. With the exception of Tom Paris, she really didn’t care how anyone else looked at her or B’Elanna.

"Seven, I’ve seen the captain when she doesn’t realize I’m watching her. She loves you, but she can tell you’re happy. She would never interfere with that." B’Elanna’s face saddened. "Darling, she looks at you like I would if I ever lost you."

"You will never lose me. How could you even say that?" Anger covered Seven’s face.

"Hey," B’Elanna soothed. "I’m not saying that…just that I recognize how much she loves you." She sighed and rested her forehead on Seven’s chest. "I guess I’ll talk to her when I finish with Tom."

"No," Seven said.

"Seven, I need to clear the air with her. I have too much respect for her not to," B’Elanna said.

"No," Seven repeated. "She is my responsibility. If what you say is true, then I should handle this."

"I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I have a lot more experience with this kind of thing." B’Elanna eased back and looked up at Seven, imploring her to give in.

"So you must handle your own romantic entanglements, but I am incapable of handling mine?" Seven asked. She was angry, but she knew in the back of her mind it wouldn’t have bothered her so much if she wasn’t so tired, and if she didn’t ache all over. She loved being pregnant, but in the last few days, she had felt progressively worse, not enough to think she was ill, just the cumulative effects of being tired.

"I didn’t say that," B’Elanna said carefully. She could see the fire in Seven’s eyes and was working overtime to extinguish it before it burned them both. "It’s just that you two never actually had a relationship, and…well… since I understand how easy you are to love…I would be the logical choice," B’Elanna said as she tired using a more practical approach.

"B’Elanna," Seven said. She smiled, seeing right through her wife’s blatant attempt to shift her focus. "I will speak to the captain. You must let me do this. It is the right thing to do."

"Okay," B’Elanna said. "I’ll talk to Tom, you talk to Janeway, but if you don’t feel comfortable… I can go with you…"

Seven raised an accusing eyebrow.

"Okay…okay. Besides? How bad can it turn out?" B’Elanna asked.


Chapter 26 Tempting fate

Kathryn Janeway sat at her desk in her ready room studying the data on the gravitational river. It was an amazing piece of deduction on Seven’s part. She had figured out how to use the gravity currents with only a smattering of evidence left behind by the previous ships. Janeway admitted to herself that while she may have figured it out eventually, it would have taken her far longer than it had taken Seven. She looked up when the ready room door chime sounded.

"Come in," she ordered. The doors hissed open and B’Elanna Torres walked in.

"Captain? You asked to see me?" B’Elanna walked over and stood in front of Janeway’s desk.

"Yes. Thank you for coming so quickly. I know you’ve been working overtime in engineering to get things ready." Janeway pointed to the chair next to Torres. "Have a seat, please."

"Yes, ma’am, we’re almost finished." B’Elanna sat, keeping her back straight.

"Relax, B’Elanna." Janeway smiled. "I’m not checking up on you. I just wanted to thank you for all the extra effort you’ve put in on this. I know you haven’t had much time off to get acclimated to being back on board."

"We’re fine," B’Elanna said, unconsciously mentioning Seven anytime she thought about her own well being; their fates were completely intertwined.

"Glad to hear it." Janeway smiled. She caught the plural reference. "You both certainly look well." Kathryn ran her fingers through he own hair, and nodded toward B’Elanna. "That’s a good look on you."

B’Elanna blushed. "Seven likes it long."

"She’s done a great job on the gravitational river. I’m impressed." Kathryn leaned back and studied B’Elanna. She looked fabulous.

"Seven was happy to help," B’Elanna said, unaware that her eyes sparkled when she said her wife’s name.

"I’m happy for the two of you," Kathryn said sincerely. "You’re a good match."

"Thank you." B’Elanna decided that there was no time like the present. Seven couldn’t possibly be mad at her…It wasn’t like she had approached the captain. Janeway brought it up. "Captain, there’s something I’d like to talk you about. Off the record… it’s a personal matter."

"All right." Kathryn leaned forward and rested her chin on her closed fist.

"Umm," B’Elanna said as she looked around the ready room, not quite sure how to start. "This is really hard. Captain... Kathryn..." B’Elanna looked into the older woman’s eyes to see if she would balk at the use of her first name.

"Go ahead, B’Elanna." Janeway smiled disarmingly.

"Thank you. Kathryn, I don’t want this to sound...possessive, or defensive or confrontational..." B’Elanna realized this was going to be much harder than she had first thought.

"What is it?" Kathryn’s eyes were completely sincere, and her face showed honest concern. "Just say it."

"Okay." B’Elanna sighed. "I just want you to know that I appreciate the support you’ve shown Seven and I... Despite your feelings for her."

Kathryn raised both eyebrows, but didn’t deny it. Inside she was panicking, she had tried so hard to keep her feelings hidden. Obviously she hadn’t done a very good job.

"Seven and I both care a great deal for you," B’Elanna continued. "I’m so sorry that you...that you are hurting."

"Hey," Kathryn said quietly. "Don’t ever apologize for being happy." She leaned back and shook her head, then smiled ruefully. "I can’t say that I am happy I was so obvious, but I can promise you that I am happy for you both."

"You’re not obvious," B’Elanna assured her. "It’s just that I recognize what you feel."

"Yes, I guess you would," Kathryn conceded. "I hope this doesn’t interfere with our friendship, B’Elanna. I assure you, I have complete respect for your relationship."

"Kathryn, I know that." B’Elanna stood and walked around the desk and leaned against it, facing Kathryn. "That’s why I wanted to talk to you. You have been a wonderful friend, mentor, and champion for me, and Seven. She considers you one of her best friends, and I’d hate to see her lose that. I don’t want to lose your friendship either."

"That won’t happen." Kathryn smiled up at B’Elanna. "It helps that you’re both so happy. I’m happy for you. I’ve never seen either of you so... so..." Kathryn searched for the right word.

"Complete?" B’Elanna offered.

"Yes, complete." Kathryn stood. "If either of you need anything, just ask. I mean that."

"We will," B’Elanna said as she stood. "Oh, which reminds me, after we get through the dark matter field... we might need a little time off." She smiled shyly.

"You’ve earned it," Janeway said. "After all, that away mission was a bit longer than expected. You’re overdue for about three months of leave."

"I think we’ll save some of that time off for after the baby," B’Elanna said as Kathryn walked her to the door.

"Good enough. That’ll give you time to train a replacement for your absence." Kathryn smiled, but inside, she ached, the mention of the baby another reminder of what she didn’t have.

"Thanks, captain," B’Elanna said as she walked onto the bridge. Janeway smiled and waved as the Klingon went to the turbolift. "Well, that was easy. Now I just have to talk to Tom," B’Elanna thought.

Finding Tom only required one question to the computer. He was in his quarters, and B’Elanna considered waiting until he was in a more public location, but then realized that he might not be as belligerent without an audience. She stood in front of his door for a moment before activating the chime.

Tom was sitting on his couch eating dinner and watching the television that B’Elanna had constructed for him. He looked at the door when the chime sounded.

"Go away," he yelled.

"Tom, open the door. We have to talk," B’Elanna responded through the closed door. She knew how to override his privacy code. In fact, he probably hadn’t changed it since they had been together. She had changed hers as soon as she broke up with him.

"B’Elanna?" he said as he jumped up. ‘She finally came to her senses,’ he thought as he went to the door, pausing to smooth his hair with both hands. "Come in," he said as the door opened. He gave her a charming smile. "Guess you missed me, huh?"

"Tom…" B’Elanna rolled her eyes, but he took it as a playful gesture instead of recognizing it as exasperation.

"Lana, I really like your hair like that. I love the way you tie it so far down your back…it makes it look, Klingon…wild. I’ll bet it feels great." He stepped closer and reached for her ponytail.

She knocked his hand away as she stepped back. "What part of ‘I am married’ do you not understand?"

"Lana, you were trapped on a planet, all alone. I understand you were…lonely, and hey, she is hot, but…"

"Tom, I’m trying to be civil, but you’re making it really difficult not to kick your ass." B’Elanna walked over and looked at the TV. The sound was muted but she recognized the program, Buck Rogers.

"All that hostility?" Tom asked with a smirk. "There must be some feelings left if I still get under your skin."

He was so smug it took all of B’Elanna’s strength to keep from smacking the half smile off of his face.

"Paris, I came to talk to you because, believe or not I do care, as a friend. You’re making a complete ass of yourself, which is pitiful, but not my business. You are also harassing my wife. That is my business. I won’t put up with that."

"Okay…" Tom stopped and studied B’Elanna. He realized Seven must have done quite a number on her to have her acting so… well, so married. He decided to switch tactics. "So, is that all you came to say? Do you think we can still be friends, Lana?" He gave her his wounded puppy look.

"That’s up to you, Tom. I love Seven. She’s my life, and I won’t let anyone or anything hurt her. I’d rather die… or kill." B’Elanna rubbed her hand, massaging the palm. She had calluses on her hands from the tools she hadn’t used in years. On the planet, she used different tools every day, but none quite like the ones in engineering, and not for the long hours she had used them earlier in the day.

"B’Elanna, I want to work this out, okay?" He looked over his shoulder. "Can you give me a second, I need to splash some water on my face. I just climbed out of a Jeffrey’s tube. I was reinforcing the bridge structural integrity fields all afternoon. Give me a minute, okay?"

"Okay," B’Elanna said as she sat on the edge of the couch. "I’ve been crawling around them myself. I feel like I’m covered in grime." She was perched on the edge of the cushion, still not comfortable relaxing.

Tom smiled, not believing how lucky he was, and then hurried into his bathroom, splashed water onto his face and quickly dried off. He opened the medicine cabinet and took out a small jar of salve. He looked over his shoulder and then smelled the medicine and rubbed some onto his thumb. He carefully closed the jar without smudging his thumb and hurried back to the living room.

"Lana, I’m sorry I’ve been so… difficult." He moved over to the couch, but before he could sit next to her, she stood.

"Tom, can’t you just try to be happy for me?" B’Elanna asked.

"I’m trying," he said. He crinkled his brow, frowning as he studied her neck.

"What?" B’Elanna rubbed her neck self-consciously.

"Grime," he said as he reached out and used his thumb to rub her throat just under the ear. "There, got it." He smiled. "I really should finish my dinner. Janeway’s got me pulling a double. I guess I asked for it."

"Just try to be nice, Tom. I know you’ve got it in you." B’Elanna moved toward the door. "I’m glad you still like the TV."

"You kidding? I love it," he said as she opened the door. "Thanks, Lana," he said as she left.

"Be nice," she said again as she went down the corridor. ‘I really have the hang of these sensitive talks,’ she thought as she headed back to engineering.

Tom went into the bathroom and washed his hands. He looked down at his thumb, which was turning purple, and smiled. "Now for a little chat with the Borg," he said to the mirror.

Seven was in Astrometrics when she heard the door open. She turned to see Tom Paris coming toward her and she stood to her full height.

"Ensign Paris, if you are here for the course corrections, I have already sent them to the bridge." Seven was not in the mood to put up with his antics. Her back was aching and she was exhausted even after she had taken a short nap.

"I just came to see if you had anything I should know about before I report to the bridge for the beta shift," Tom said as circled her.

"You were on the alpha shift," Seven pointed out.

"Janeway thought I could use a double." He moved in front of Seven, blocking her view of the console.

"You are disturbing my work. Please move." Seven wondered what B’Elanna would say if she talked to him about his attitude, then decided she would not break her promise to B’Elanna.

"Sorry," he said as he moved aside. "It must be hard for you."

Seven looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

"You know, being back here, with everyone. It’s not just you and Lana anymore," he explained.

"We are adapting, Ensign." Seven wanted to choke him for calling her wife ‘Lana.’

"Yes," he smiled broadly, then leered at Seven. "I’m glad to see that you’re so…open minded."

"Explain," Seven demanded. She was tired of his games.

"Oh," he said, suddenly looking like he had ruined some surprise, or revealed something he shouldn’t have. "I…I thought you and Lana had an open relationship. I mean, when she came by to…visit me this afternoon, I thought…well never mind."

"Explain," she demanded again. "What is an ‘open relationship?’"

"Never mind. I really should be going. Tell Lana I really enjoyed our…conversation this afternoon." He moved toward the door. "If you have anything new, send it up to the bridge."

Seven glared at him as he left. She didn’t like him coming to her department and didn’t believe he was being truthful about the reason for being there. She closed her console and logged off for the day.

B’Elanna hurried home after her shift, eager to see Seven. She missed her wife, and she was a bit confused by the glances and giggles she kept getting from her crew. She wanted to go to her quarters and fall into bed…with Seven.

"Hey, I missed you," B’Elanna said as she came through the door. Seven was resting on the couch with her feet up.

"And I missed you, Be’nal." Seven sat up and smiled at B’Elanna.

"You look tired," B’Elanna said with a frown. "Are you working too hard?" She sat next to Seven and lifted the exdrone’s feet onto her lap and began rubbing her calves.

"I am tired," Seven said as she leaned back into the couch. She sighed as B’Elanna worked the tension out of her legs. She had forgotten how many hours she used to spend on her feet. On the planet, when they were on their feet they were walking through the dense forest, not standing in one place on the hard deck plating.

"Seven, I’m getting scared, you shouldn’t be this tired." B’Elanna ran her hand up Seven’s leg then detoured to her hand and squeezed it.

"I am fine." Seven yawned.

"Okay," B’Elanna said, not quite convinced. "How about some dinner?"

"Okay," Seven said as she sat up.

"We can eat here tonight. You rest," B’Elanna ordered.

"I will rest later," Seven said as she pulled her legs around and she leaned over and kissed B’Elanna’s cheek. "I have not welcomed you home. Come here," she ordered in a husky whisper.

B’Elanna turned her head and welcomed Seven’s lips. The kiss started slow, with tender bites, and tongues tracing lips before entering. Seven shifted her weight and draped herself across B’Elanna’s lap as the Klingon took control of the embrace. B’Elanna moaned into Seven’s mouth as her tongue massaged Seven’s and her hands moved across the prone former Borg’s chest.

"I thought you were tired," B’Elanna said when she pulled away for a breath.

"I am never too tired to properly greet my wife," Seven explained.

"I love you," B’Elanna whispered and gave Seven a quick kiss on the forehead.

"I am glad," Seven said. "I love you too." She suddenly frowned, considering her talk with Tom Paris. "B’Elanna? What is an ‘open relationship?’ Does it mean that we are completely honest with each other?"

B’Elanna stared down at Seven, shocked. "What are you talking about?"

"Tom Paris came by Astrometrics," Seven said. "He said you talked with him, and that he believed we had an ‘open relationship.’ I assumed, given our level of trust, that must have been what he meant."

"I’ll kill him." B’Elanna’s face contorted with rage. "That bastard."

"What?" Seven asked.

"An open relationship means that a couple agrees to take lovers," B’Elanna said with her teeth clinched.

"Why would he think that?" Seven stood up and stretched, trying to get the kink out of her back.

"I’m sure he didn’t. He probably thought he could start trouble between us." B’Elanna stood and moved over and took Seven by the shoulders, looking her in the eyes. "What else did he say?"

"Nothing of consequence," Seven said. She tilted her head and then concern filled her eyes. "You are injured." She reached out and touched B’Elanna’s neck. There was a small purple mark on her neck.

"What?" B’Elanna rubbed her throat.

Seven leaned over and studied it, then gently ran her fingers over it. Her Borg enhanced eye zoomed in on the skin and she noted that it was not a contusion at all. Rage filled her eyes and she took a deep breath.

"I know precisely why he said what he did," Seven said. She gently took B’Elanna by the arm and led her to the bathroom and pointed out the mark.

B’Elanna’s eyes widened as she saw what looked like a well placed hickey. "I… I…I never! I swear."

"Of course you did not," Seven said. "He obviously caused this mark in some manner other than using his mouth."

"It’s that easy for you?" B’Elanna’s eyes filled with tears. "You just believe me like that?" She was furious with Tom, but Seven’s complete faith melted her heart. She wondered if she could be as trusting if Seven came home sporting a hickey. She hoped so.

"I believe in you, in us, and I know our hearts are bonded." Seven rubbed the mark in question. "Besides, I am familiar with your hickeys… they do not discolor in this manner."

B’Elanna laughed. She loved when Seven, the prim and proper former Borg drone, used words like hickey.

"But," Seven said. "I will deal with Ensign Paris. It is obvious he assaulted you in some manner." Her eyes turned cold, and B’Elanna remember the men in the cell, the vacant looks in their lifeless eyes.

"I’ll take care of him," B’Elanna said. "But this time, I won’t be…diplomatic."

"He hurt you," Seven stated, her voice quivering with the rage she held in check. The more she thought about it, the more angry she became.

"Hey," B’Elanna said as she pulled Seven to her. "He didn’t even touch me. I don’t know how he…" B’Elanna closed her eyes and sighed, and she remembered him touching her neck, right where the mark was. She also remembered the stares and giggles when she returned to engineering after her talk with him. "That bastard."

"What?" Seven asked.

B’Elanna pulled away and went to the other room and found her tricorder under a stack of padds. She went to Seven and held it out. "Scan me." She handed it to Seven.

Seven raised an eyebrow and carefully lifted B’Elanna’s chin, her fingers warm against the Klingon’s skin. "There are traces of an organic compound. I am not familiar with it." She handed the tricorder back to B’Elanna.

"I know this," B’Elanna said as she looked at it and tried to remember what it was. She went to the comm panel and downloaded the data to the main computer. "Computer, identify this compound… common name."

*"Working,"* the computer responded and chirped as it processed the data. *"The compound is the synthetic form of Vulcan athletic balm."*

B’Elanna turned to Seven. "Vulcan athletic balm is used to help bring blood to an injured muscle. If it’s used full strength, on a non Vulcan species, it draws the blood to the surface, leaving a bruise."

Seven’s rage returned. "Is it dangerous?" she demanded.

"No," B’Elanna said as she shook her head.

"Then I will not have to kill him," Seven said. She was not making a joke.


Chapter 27 Rough water

Voyager approached the gravitational river on schedule, but most of the senior staff members were not on the bridge as they neared the event horizon. B’Elanna was in engineering, Seven was in Astrometrics monitoring the dark matter, and Tom Paris and Harry Kim were both taking a mandatory rest after pulling a double the night before. The captain decided to wait an additional eight hours so that Tom and Harry could come on duty. She was angry with Tom, but he was the best pilot on the ship, and she wanted him at the helm.

Several hours before the ‘big event’ B’Elanna went to Astrometrics to see Seven. She had waited while Seven regenerated before they began their shift, and had promised to meet her for their late afternoon break. Seven had said that she needed some advice, but wouldn’t elaborate.

Seven turned when she heard the door open, and smiled when she saw her wife heading toward her with a small container. Seven was glad she worked alone, because she could properly greet her beloved.

"I was not aware that we were having a picnic," Seven said as she tried to snatch the package.

"Not a picnic," B’Elanna said as she yanked the container away from Seven’s grabby hands. "Just a snack for my fussy wife."

"Then give it to me before I show you how fussy I can be," Seven said menacingly.

"Oh, trust me, I know how fussy you can be." B’Elanna held the container behind her back.

"Then kiss me." Seven smiled and moved against B’Elanna. She wrapped the smaller woman in her arms, using the closeness to reach behind her and grab the food container.

"Hey?" B’Elanna protested weakly. She smiled as she watched Seven rip open the package.

"Nuts?" Seven asked happily when she saw the contents.

"You were craving those crunchy nuts we used to get down by the lake." B’Elanna moved closer and picked up one of the nuts and fed it to Seven. "I had to taste every damn nut in Neelix’s kitchen to find one that tasted like your favorite."

"Mmm." Seven closed her eyes, savoring the flavor. She had been craving the sweet nuts since they had left the planet, but she hadn’t been brave enough to ask Neelix to find a substitute.

"Good?" B’Elanna smiled. "You owe me, love. I can’t tell you how disgusting most of the nuts I tried were."

"Thank you," Seven said sincerely, then took and handful of the nuts and put them all into her mouth.

"So, what did you need?" B’Elanna asked.

Seven’s smile disappeared. "I am… experiencing… apprehension, about… talking with the captain."

B’Elanna nodded. "I can understand that, but I don’t think you have to worry about that."

"Why?" Seven reached out and took another nut.

"I…ah…already spoke to her," B’Elanna confessed.

"What?" Seven demanded. "You forbid me to confront…him, and yet you approached Kathryn?"

B’Elanna flinched. It wasn’t the tone, or the fact that she knew she was wrong, it was hearing Seven call the captain by her first name. It was so intimate.

"You didn’t think I could handle it, did you?" Seven asked. Her eyes shined as tears welled up. "How could you?" Pain covered Seven’s pale features.

"No, Seven…it wasn’t like that," B’Elanna said as she took Seven’s hands in hers. She felt a lump in her throat as she watched a tear slide down Seven’s cheek.

"How was it?" Seven asked.

"I meant to tell you last night, it just slipped my mind," B’Elanna said, digging the hole deeper.

"Last night?" Seven pulled away from B’Elanna. "You did this last night?"

"That doesn’t matter," B’Elanna said. "What matters is that she called me to talk to her, and it just came up."

"You promised me," Seven said. She turned and walked away. "Please leave."

"Seven, please," B’Elanna pleaded.

"Go," Seven ordered. She was hurt, and angry, and couldn’t believe that B’Elanna would break a promise to her.

She turned to leave, wanting to let Seven calm down, but she stopped. "No," B’Elanna said. "I won’t walk out with you thinking I betrayed you. Damn it, Seven. Turn around and talk to me."

For a moment neither moved, Seven stared at the wall, and B’Elanna stared at Seven’s back, looking for some sign that she would give in. Finally Seven’s shoulders dropped, and B’Elanna knew she would talk to her.

"Why, Be’nal?" Seven whispered.

The pain in Seven voice cut into B’Elanna’s chest, so physical was the injury that B’Elanna almost stumbled. "The captain called me to talk to me, and it just came up," B’Elanna said, her voice barely a whisper, pain making her voice crack.

Seven turned, pulled by the pain in her wife’s voice. "You are…hurt," Seven said.

B’Elanna nodded, unable to respond.

The doors hissed open and Harry Kim came in, yawning.

"Get out," B’Elanna and Seven turned and yelled in unison.

Harry’s eyes widened and he practically ran as he spun and left.

Seven spoke first. "You promised."

"We were already talking, she… she was telling me how happy she was for us. It just seemed like the perfect time." B’Elanna knew that it had been a good time to talk to Janeway, and she wondered briefly why Seven was so upset. Then she realized, she had never broken her word to Seven, ever, not in any matter, until now. She realized she could have waited, could have let Seven bring it up in her own time. "Oh, god, Seven I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you."

Seven saw the regret in B’Elanna’s eyes. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She thought about what had happened, about B’Elanna, and how much she loved her, trusted her. Then she thought about the captain. It would be just like Janeway to begin a conversation that would lead to a discussion of feelings, and it would be awkward to avoid the issue and bring it up again later.

B’Elanna edged closer, needing closeness.

Seven’s eyes opened. "No, B’Elanna. I am sorry. I know you would not intentionally break your word to me. If it came up, you should have taken advantage of the opportunity."

B’Elanna closed her eyes and released a sigh, and tears rolled down her cheeks. "Thank you," she whispered.

"Shh," Seven said as she wrapped her arms around B’Elanna. The Klingon collapsed into Seven, clinging to her.

"I’m so sorry."

"No, do not apologize. You have done nothing wrong," Seven assured her. "I am being…hormonal."

B’Elanna laughed. "Well, so am I."

"How did the conversation go?" Seven asked without letting B’Elanna go.

"Great, actually," B’Elanna said and then explained in detail.

Kathryn Janeway stared at the forward viewscreen, amazed by what she saw. "Incredible," she said, shaking her head. The gravitational river was in front of them, and unlike most anomalies involving gravity, this one was quite visible. The light from the surrounding stars was bending toward the river, and there were flickers of light as any meteorites and space debris were being sucked into the river and being shot across the length of the disturbance.

"It’s beautiful," Chakotay said, his eyes sparkling. He was an anthropologist by choice, but still a scientist at heart, and he was seeing something he had never even heard of. "I thought only a black hole could bend light like that." The surrounding light was being pulled from every source making the length of the river look like a series of pinwheels.

"Take us in Tom," Janeway said calmly. Inside she was adding another notch on her professional belt, one more first for Voyager and her crew. "Nice and steady."

"Aye ma’am," he said as he headed into it.

The ship bucked as it was rocked by the pounding gravity. Tuvok was thrown to the floor, landing next to Harry Kim. The rest of the bridge crew were already seated, still, Janeway had to cling to the arm of her chair to keep from joining Harry and Tuvok on the floor. It wasn’t especially graceful or elegant, but it worked in a pinch.

"Mr. Paris, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep my ship in one piece. We don’t have warranty service out here," she said as the ship was tossed in the opposite direction.

"I'm trying, captain," Tom said as he fought to bring the ship into the safety of the gravitational river. "Okay," he said as the ship stopped pitching and settled into a bouncing rhythm.

"Tom," Chakotay said as he loosened his grip on his chair arms. "Can we looked forward to this for the next fourteen hours?"

"No," Janeway answered for him. "We only anticipate rough travel through the rapids. We should clear them in about an hour and a half."

Tuvok raised an eyebrow but didn’t comment. He was already feeling space sick.

In Astrometrics, the first impact knocked Seven to the floor. As she tried to stand, the second lurch sent her sprawling onto her backside. She sat there until the ship stopped flinging in every direction and began to rattle and shake as they entered the rapids. Only then did she stand and make her way back to the console and check the flight path. True, she knew what it would tell her, but she liked to be certain.

She rubbed her forehead and rested her weight against the console and decided that she may have to torture B’Elanna. They had completely patched things up before the Klingon left for engineering, but B’Elanna had never mentioned anything about pregnancy causing space sickness. B’Elanna was in serious trouble.

An hour and a half later, B’Elanna was more than ready for the shaking to stop. Most of her precious tools had been rattling obnoxiously inside their cabinets the entire time and she was about to throw every tool on the ship out an airlock and replicate new ones when they finished crossing the gravitational rapids. One final lurch and the ship settled into its normal smooth flight.

"It’s about damn time," Torres said to no one in particular, then turned to her Vulcan officer. "Vorik, run a complete diagnostic and see if anything shook apart."

Vorik nodded and went to his own comm station to begin the check. He didn’t point out that starships were designed for rough travel and the likelihood that Voyager would actually fly apart at the seams from some minor bouncing was quite rare. He also knew from experience such an astute observation would not be taken well by the volatile half-Klingon Chief Engineer.

Seven felt awful. She was nauseous, and sore, and worst of all, she didn’t have B’Elanna there to hold her. On Jusari Prime, when she had experienced morning sickness, she took great comfort from B’Elanna’s tender devotion. Dealing with the space sickness alone just made her feel worse. To make it even more aggravating, now she was getting cramps.

She went to the console on the far side of the room and began checking for any sign that the sensors had been vibrated out of alignment when she suddenly felt the room spin. She grabbed the console, wondering why the bridge hadn’t given any warning, then she realized it wasn’t the room that was moving. She slid down the console and rested her head on her bent knees and tried to take slow breaths. She knew she had to monitor the ship’s progression through the gravitational river, but she couldn’t seem to stand. Space sickness was far more disabling than morning sickness. At least she wasn’t vomiting. She hated that particular human bodily function.

Kathryn Janeway smiled, hoping all of her teeth were still intact and hadn’t been shaken out of her mouth. "Ensign Kim, I want a ship wide diagnostic and damage reports from all divisions," she ordered.

"Aye, ma’am," he said as he straightened his uniform.

"What is that?" Neelix asked as he pointed to the viewscreen. There were hundreds of meteorites and chunks of debris in the surrounding space and all of it seemed to be matching Voyager’s course exactly.

"That is flotsam, just like us." Janeway smiled ruefully at the Talaxian who had asked to witness the unique anomaly from the unused science station on the bridge. "That debris field was all of those tiny points of light we saw being sucked into the river. Inside here, we're all moving the same speed. Just along for the ride."

"It’s not nearly as beautiful in here," Neelix noted.

* "Seven of Nine to the bridge."*

"Go ahead, Seven," Janeway said.

*"Captain... "* Seven paused, and her voice was odd, disconnected.

"Seven, is everything all right?" Janeway stood like she always did when something bothered her and she needed to feel like she was doing something.

*"No,"* Seven said, her voice filled with disgust. *"I am unable to access the consoles, and I need someone to replace me in Astrometrics."*

"What’s wrong?" Chakotay asked. Behind him Neelix turned around and his wrung his yellow hands.

*"I am experiencing extreme space sickness,"* Seven responded bitterly. *"I cannot reach the console."*

"Where are you?" Chakotay asked.

There was long pause before Seven sheepishly answered. *"On the floor."*

"I'll send someone right up," the captain promised. She would have laughed at the comical image of the elegant exdrone sprawled across the floor, but there was more than irritation in Seven’s voice. There was fear. "Seven, I want you to report to sickbay, on the double."

*"Yes, captain. Seven of Nine out."*

Seven never agreed to go to sickbay, not without an argument, and her agreement now made Kathryn very nervous.

"Captain," Neelix said. "I’d be happy to go down and take over for Seven," he offered.

"I'm worried too," Janeway said as she smiled knowingly. She knew the Talaxian could run the Astrometrics scanners in a pinch, but the concern on his furry features gave away his real intent. "Go, and instead of baby-sitting Astrometrics, make sure she gets to sickbay. We’ll have Harry monitor the scanners from ops."

"Thank you," Neelix said as he hurried to the turbolift.

At the helm, Tom Paris smiled. He figured Seven wasn’t space sick as much as she was just good old fashioned angry. Harry Kim had told him about walking in on Seven and B’Elanna in the middle of a huge fight. Obviously his plan had worked perfectly. B’Elanna had returned home sporting a hickey, and Seven had gone ballistic. B’Elanna probably tried to explain that she must have bumped into something in one of the Jeffrey’s tubes. The Borg must have refused to believe her. He was sure that they would both have been too upset to even consider checking for any other cause. Tom shook his head, and smiled; it was almost too easy.

Neelix asked the computer for Seven’s location for the second time, and she was still in Astrometrics. It was just like her to wait to be relieved before leaving her post, he thought. The doors opened and he saw her on floor, leaning against the console with her eyes closed. She was paler than he had ever seen her, and that was saying a lot considering he had seen her when she was completely Borg.

"Seven?" He ran to her, kneeling and feeling her face, she was cold, and clammy, and her eyes didn’t open when he touched her.

"Mister Neelix," she said without opening her eyes. "Could you assist me? I cannot seem to stand."

"Neelix to sickbay, medical emergency, transport Seven of Nine directly to sickbay." He leaned back but she didn’t dematerialize as expected.

*"Mister Neelix?"* the Doctor’s voice came over Neelix’s comm badge. *"We can’t get a lock on Seven. What is the problem?"*

"Doctor," Seven answered. "I am experiencing space sickness. I am reporting to sickbay now." She opened her eyes and tried to stand, but was only successful when Neelix pulled her to her feet.

"Easy," Neelix said as he wrapped his arm around her waist.

*"Seven?"* the Doctor asked. *"If you’re sure you’re all right, I’ll let Mister Neelix bring you in. All the people with similar complaints are still emptying out of my sickbay. This rough ride has taken its toll on the crew."*

"Acceptable," Seven said as she nodded toward the door. She wished B’Elanna were there. Her wife’s touch was much more soothing than Neelix’s despite his sincere concern and the way his grip was gentle, yet firm.

"Just a little farther," Neelix said when they were almost to the turbolift. "You know, space sickness causes some nasty cramping, and from the way you’re holding your stomach, I'll bet you’d like some nice hot tea to settle that tummy."

"You would lose that wager," Seven responded. "In fact I believe you would end up wearing your tea," she added, remembering the time B’Elanna had tried giving her tea for her nausea on the planet. Even Lana’s Klingon reflexes hadn’t been fast enough to help her avoid the tea on its return journey.

"He he he..." Neelix giggled. "At least your sense of humor in intact," he said.

Neelix’s unique laugh was a comfortingly familiar sound. Seven really did like the silly man. All thought of comfort left Seven’s mind as she dropped to the floor.

"Lana," Seven yelled as she double over and clutched her belly.

Neelix reacted instantly, drafting the nearest crewmember. "Lieutenant Larson, come here," he ordered.

Larson jogged over to him, concerned by the display. All of the crew in the corridor had stopped what they were doing and moved closer to offer assistance.

"Grab her," Neelix ordered as he moved to her side. The two men lifted her and hurried to the turbolift.

"This is not space sickness," Seven said. Her teeth were tightly clinched and she was now sweating profusely.

"Easy, Seven," Neelix said. "We’ll get you to sick bay in no time." They stepped into the turbolift and Larson ordered the lift to sickbay, adding the emergency express command that kept the lift from stopping for other passengers.

By the time Larson and Neelix carried Seven through the doors to sickbay she was convulsing.

"Doctor!" Neelix yelled.

The hologram turned and instantly hurried to them. "What happened?" he demanded. "This is not space sickness."

"I don’t know," Neelix said as they put her onto a biobed. Larson quickly left, not sure of what to say or do to help.

"I want B’Elanna." Seven tried to sit up.

"Lay down," the Doctor snapped. "Hold still and let me scan you."

"Easy," Neelix said as he took her hand and patted it. "I’ll get B’Elanna in just a second. Let’s find out what’s wrong so we know what to tell her."

"This can’t be," the Doctor said as he stared at his tricorded.

"What?" Seven and Neelix demanded in unison.

"No wonder the transporter could get a lock on you," the hologram said as he began gathering equipment and piling it onto the empty bed next to Seven’s. The other crewmembers had already left, their space sickness going away once the ship stopped bouncing.

Seven screamed, and hugged her belly, the pain making her see red and white sparks behind her closed eyes.

"What is it Doctor?" Neelix asked.

"The fetus...it’s growing at a rate... it’s ... for every second Seven experiences, the fetus is maturing the equivalent of 186.2 seconds." The Doctor hurried to a storage locker and removed a large device.

"The planet, Jusari Prime," Seven said. "That is the exact temporal differential."

"Well," the Doctor said, "apparently this fetus misses Jusari Prime. It’s gone back to that temporal metabolism."

Neelix let go of Seven’s hand long enough to tap his comm badge then reached down and took her hand again. "Neelix to Lieutenant Torres," he said quietly, not wanting to disturb the Doctor who already seemed quite disturbed.

*"What can I do for you, Neelix?"* B’Elanna asked.

"B’Elanna, you need to get to sick bay, now." Neelix looked down at Seven. She still had her eyes tightly closed, unable to do much more than hold her belly. "It’s Seven," Neelix explained.

*"I’m on my way,"* she said, her voice cracking. *"What’s wrong?"*

Seven chose that moment to sit straight up and let out a blood curdling scream. Until that moment, Neelix hadn’t truly known what that term meant.

*"Seven?"* B’Elanna yelled over the comm badge.

"Computer, deactivate comm signal," the Doctor ordered. "Neelix, we don’t need Lieutenant Torres listening to this. She will be worried enough as it. Now, get over here and help me." He was moving a large device next to the bed. It was on rollers, and he had to retrieve it from a rarely used locker. He had never used the device in his entire existence.

"What are you doing?" Seven asked as she fought to get a full breath. Her belly felt like it was tearing in half, and each time she tried to speak, she felt like she was suffocating because she had to stop panting.

"The fetus is maturing too quickly." The Doctor plugged in the device. "The only reason it hasn’t spontaneously aborted is because of the neonatal nanoprobes. The Borg technology is protecting the fetus, expanding the womb nano-seconds before the fetus fills the space."

"What are you doing?" Seven asked again.

"Seven," he explained. "You won’t survive much longer under these conditions. I’m going to abort the fetus." He patted her arm, and tried to look comforting.

"No," Seven said as she pushed his hands away. "You will not harm my child. I forbid it."

"Seven, the fetus is drawing all of your energy and trying to rip you in half. There’s no other choice." The Doctor went back to setting up the machine.

"No," Seven ordered. "I am the patient and I refuse to undergo any procedure that will harm my child." She was gasping between words, the struggle to speak taxing what little energy she had left. "You cannot do this. I refuse."

"Doctor, you can’t do this. She just told you not to," Neelix said as he tried to grab the hologram’s arm. "It’s her right to choose… you can’t do this against her wishes."

"She doesn’t know what she’s saying," the Doctor yelled. "I am the physician. She’ll thank me when this is over." He shoved Neelix aside and grabbed a long tubular device from the rolling table.

"Computer, deactivate Emergency Medical Hologram," Neelix ordered. The hologram gave him an angry glare as he dematerialized.

"Lana," Seven yelled. "Why isn’t she here?"

"She’s coming," Neelix said. He didn’t know what to do, he wasn’t trained to treat more than a broken leg, but before he could ponder that issue, the Doctor rematerialized.

"Mister Neelix, get out of my sickbay." The hologram went back to the rolling table and grabbed the device.

"No," Neelix said as he blocked the Doctor from Seven. The fur on his face stood on end and the tuft of hair on his head seemed to fluff. "Stay away from her."

The Doctor swatted the Talaxian away as if he were a fly, using his superior strength to fling Neelix away. "Seven, this will only take a second. Hold very still," he said as he moved closer. "Trust me, this is for the best."


Chapter 28 Darkness

"Move!" B’Elanna yelled as she sprinted toward the turbolift, dodging crewmembers in the corridor. "Computer, hold turbolift on deck ten, main Engineering." She rushed into the lift, her mind replaying the sound of Seven’s screams. "Sickbay, emergency express," she ordered. The decks moved by too slowly for the Klingon. She swore that she could see the decks inching past. "Come on!" she yelled.

*"Command not recognized. Please restate request,"* the computer responded.

"Hurry up," B’Elanna said, although she knew the express command would get her there as quickly as possible.

*"Turbolift speed already at maximum."*

B’Elanna pounded her fist against the door, willing it to move faster. She remembered when she and Seven had crashed on Jusari Prime and how Seven had snapped her own arm to get out of the restraints. Seven had shattered the bones in her arm and she hadn’t so much as whimpered. B’Elanna shuddered as she wondered what could possibly make her wife scream out in agony.

The lift stopped and B’Elanna ran toward sickbay. She could hear Seven screaming, but not just screams of pain. Seven was terrified, devastated by the sound of her voice. She was screaming "No!" over and over. B’Elanna ran into a crewman and was knocked to floor on top of him. She quickly climbed back to her feet and sprinted the last few meters to sickbay as she heard Seven let out a wounded howl that almost tore B’Elanna’s heart out of her chest.

The door hissed open and B’Elanna saw Neelix flipping over some kind of medical device and struggling with the Doctor. Behind them, Seven was arching her back off of the biobed and screaming. B’Elanna jumped over the device and went to Seven, taking her hand.

"Seven?" she asked.

"Lana," Seven gasped. "Stop him."

B’Elanna went into warrior mode and spun to face the two men. "Neelix! Let the Doctor help her," she yelled.

"No," Seven said, her voice hoarse. "He wants to kill our baby."

"I am trying to save Seven’s life," the Doctor said as he got the upper hand and tossed Neelix aside.

Neelix stumbled to his feet and slapped his comm badge. "Neelix to the captain, I need you in sickbay now. Please, emergency transport." The Talaxian was panting, exhausted by his struggle with the hologram.

"B’Elanna," the Doctor said disarmingly. "If I don’t take action right now, Seven and the fetus are both going to die. If I act now, I can at least save Seven."

Seven had B’Elanna’s hand in a death grip. "He wants to abort our daughter. Do not let him…Promise me, Be’nal."

"What’s happening?" B’Elanna demanded as she looked down at Seven, noticing her extended belly.

"Promise," Seven begged.

"I promise," B’Elanna said. She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew that if she had been carrying the child, she would die before terminating the baby. Her heart ached at what the promise might cost her. She could lose them both. "Why aren’t you helping her?" B’Elanna demanded.

"Lieutenant, you don’t understand." The Doctor moved to the biobed, scanning Seven.

"Don’t trust him," Neelix said as he moved over to the biobed.

The Doctor let out a disgusted sigh. He would never injure Neelix, but his enhanced holographic strength gave him a great advantage in any physical confrontation, still, as a Doctor, he had little or no training in the art of combat.

Neelix had used his scrappy size to keep the stronger Doctor at bay until B’Elanna arrived.

All heads turned toward the sounds of a materialization. Captain Janeway appeared with Tuvok at her side, armed with a compression riffle.

"Explain," Janeway ordered as she studied the stand off in front of her.

"Finally," the Doctor said. "Captain, get Neelix and Lieutenant Torres out of my sickbay. Their delays may cost Seven her life."

"Captain," B’Elanna snarled. "This photonic psycho has flipped out yet again. He is trying to force Seven to have an abortion against her wishes. It’s just like when he used that Cardie hologram when I told him not to."

"The fetus has returned to the metabolic rate of Jusari Prime. If I don’t abort it, Seven will die and so will the fetus," the Doctor summarized.

"Tuvok to the bridge, all clear." Tuvok lowered his weapon.

*"Understood,"* Chakotay said over the comm.

Janeway moved to Seven and B’Elanna. "Do you want this?" she asked Seven.

"No," Seven said as she shook her head to emphasize her response.

Janeway spun and glared at the hologram. "Find another answer, Doctor."

"Captain," he whined. "I don’t even know what’s causing it. If it continues at this rate, she could die in two to three hours."

"Three hours? Then why the Hell were you rushing to kill our child?" B’Elanna bellowed.

"In case you hadn’t noticed, your wife is in agony," the Doctor snapped. "With the metabolic rates out of sync, I can’t even give her anything for the pain. Do you want her to suffer?"

"When did this start?" Janeway asked. "Could it be related to the gravitational increase? Time and space are closely linked."

"It started well after we entered the increased gravity field," the Doctor pointed out.

"Yeah, but the effects wouldn’t have been severe enough to notice for a few hours," B’Elanna said.

"We can’t be sure," the Doctor said.

Tuvok stepped forward. "The increased gravity may have mirrored the conditions causing the temporal differential on Jusari Prime. If the Borg nanoprobes interpreted that as a return to the planet, they would try to adjust."

"And just where did you all get your medical degrees?" the Doctor asked.

"Is it possible?" Janeway demanded. She looked over at Seven, her blonde hair was matted to her face and she was covered in sweat. She was breathing irregularly and clutching B’Elanna’s hand.

"Possible, but highly unlikely," the hologram said. "If that were the case, Seven would be out of sync with the rest of us as well." He crossed his arms over his chest.

"No," Seven said as she tried to roll onto her side. "My metabolism was formed in regular space, as were my nanoprobes. I would not be forced out of phase, in fact my nanoprobes would keep me in sync with the surrounding temporal conditions."

"Why wouldn’t the baby’s nanoprobes be the same as yours?" the captain asked.

"The neonatal nanoprobes were created on Jusari Prime, but they adjusted to the temporal conditions when we left that planet." Seven had to stop to take deep breaths, and B’Elanna stroked the exdrone’s face offering what comfort she could. "The neonatal technology is separate from mine. I programmed the baby’s nanoprobes to supersede my safety to keep our child healthy."

"Seven?" B’Elanna asked. "Why didn’t you tell me that?"

Janeway wasn’t interested in placing blame. They had a working theory and she wasn’t going to watch Seven die. "Doctor, get Seven ready to travel. We have to move her to the protected areas in Engineering. We’ve kept the gravity there as close to normal as possible."

"I’m a Doctor, not a taxi service. I can’t haul my patients around like luggage," he said indignantly.

"Can you help her here?" Janeway demanded. She looked at the device flipped onto its side. She didn’t recognize it, then realized that it must be the device to terminate the pregnancy. "Can you help her here without harming the baby?" she corrected.

"All right," the Doctor said with a defeated tone.

"I do not want him touching me," Seven said between gasps.

"Seven," Kathryn said quietly. "You don’t have another option right now, but… you’ll have B’Elanna with you every step of the way… and Tuvok." She nodded to her Chief of Security. "If the Doctor attempts any procedure that you expressly forbid, Tuvok will delete his matrix. We will reprogram a new EMH from the cache files in the main computer."

"Understood, Captain," Tuvok said as he stepped closer to the Doctor.

"You can’t be serious?" The Doctor glared at Janeway.

"I can and I am," Janeway said as she stared him down. "Seven is the one person on board who fought me to let you be fully sentient, but you seem to bypass your ethical subroutines on a regular basis. We agreed that you would not be countermanding any patient’s wishes after you used the Cardassian program to save B’Elanna. I had my doubts about you after you were so willing to torture Seven for Captain Ransom. We won’t ever have this conversation again."

"Yes, and if I hadn’t saved B’Elanna, Seven wouldn’t have a wife or a child, now would she?" the hologram asked.

"Hey!" B’Elanna yelled. "Can we get my wife to the secured section of Engineering and figure this out later?"

"Of course," the Doctor said as he gave the captain a wounded look. "I am still the Chief Medical Officer, am I not?" he asked.

"For the moment," Janeway said.

The Doctor ignored the comment and began preparing Seven for her journey to Engineering. The captain backed out of the way and leaned against the wall, making sure her orders were followed. No one seemed to find it odd, in fact, Neelix leaned against the wall next to her. His eyes never left the Doctor.

B’Elanna was focused on Seven and the way her face was contorted in pain. She put her hand on Seven’s belly and winced when her wife flinched. "Did I hurt you?" she asked as she started to pull her hand away.

"Leave it," Seven said in a rasping whisper. She put her hand over B’Elanna’s and held it there.

"I’m staying with them, too," Neelix announced.

The captain nodded.

"If this doesn’t work, I won’t be able to do much to help her in Engineering," the Doctor said as he brought out an anti-gravity stretcher. "I can take the dermal regenerators, but trying to perform surgery down there isn’t really an option if she insists on keeping the fetus."

"Neelix," B’Elanna leaned away from Seven and waved the Talaxian over. "I need something from my quarters, can you get it for me?"

"Of course, B’Elanna." He moved closer and she whispered her request into his fuzzy ear. He eased back, confused, then nodded. "I’ll be back as quickly as I can," he said, then turned and hurried out.

They moved Seven quickly through the ship, her pain increasing as the strain on her body magnified. While they relocated her, Tuvok went over a data padd with the gravitational information. He determined that there had already been five times when the ship had been under the gravitational stresses that would cause a metabolic spike. Most were for under an hour at a time, short, unintentional incursions into the wakes of the dark matter whirlpools. The fact that the earlier spikes were short made them difficult to diagnose, but the fact that the child’s metabolism returned to normal was a good sign. The Doctor’s scans revealed that Seven’s pregnancy had advanced over a month in the last two days. Given the temporal differential on Jusari Prime, that mean Seven had been exposed to the increased gravity for just over four hours. Each hour with the metabolic spike in effect advanced the pregnancy an entire week.

They got to Engineering and all eyes were on them. It wasn’t everyday a Borg drone was being carted around by a Captain, Chief Engineer, Chief of Security, and the Chief Medical Officer.

"Vorik," B’Elanna yelled as they came into main Engineering. "Take the engines off line and put the ship onto emergency energy conservation mode. We’ll have to rely on the impulse engines to supply power for the entire ship."

"Yes, ma’am," the Vulcan said as he began the engine shut down sequence.

"Hang on, love," B’Elanna whispered. She leaned down next to Seven. "We’re almost there. Just hang on." The anti-gravity table hovered between the four, although the Doctor seemed as if he were not part of the small group.

He continued scanning Seven, his frown increasing with each new finding.

"Hurry up," B’Elanna yelled. Until they had the warp core shut down, they couldn’t safely move Seven into the protected area of the engine room. The Doctor wanted to position Seven as close to the warp core as possible. They had managed to keep the warp core on line so that the ship had full power. Seven’s condition changed that, although the ship wasn’t in any immediate danger. They would be able to restart the engines as soon as they cleared the dark matter field and moved Seven back to sickbay or her alcove.

"Lieutenant," Vorik stated calmly. "There is an established shut down sequence that must be followed."

"I know that," the Klingon said, trying to remember that ripping his head off wouldn’t help Seven.

Janeway stepped forward. "Vorik, use the emergency shut down sequence, and by pass the overload section and the start up routine. We haven’t been using the engines for propulsion, so we can leave that out."

He looked at her skeptically, but it was her ship. "Aye, Captain."

Four minutes later they had Seven in position and waited while the Doctor scanned her again. He let out a long sigh, a completely unnecessary act since he didn’t even need to breathe.

"The metabolism is almost normal," he said. "Almost."

"What does that mean?" B’Elanna asked. She still had Seven’s hand in hers, but the exdrone was getting weaker and was barely keeping her eyes open.

"It means that if she can replenish her energy reserves she may be all right, but I can’t be sure." The Doctor took out a dermal regenerator and a laser scalpel and cut Seven’s biosuit in half and then began healing the large bruises around her belly. The skin had stretched so quickly that even her Borg nanoprobes couldn’t keep the tissue from being traumatized.

"Oh, Seven," B’Elanna whispered when she saw the damage. No wonder she had been screaming so loudly. The bruises on the outside were from the internal tearing of her muscles.

Neelix came into the engine room, his arms full. He was wrestling the fur comforter from B’Elanna and Seven’s bed along with B’Elanna’s jacket. "B’Elanna," he whispered as he came closer. "Where would you like these?"

"Give them to me," B’Elanna said as she took them and put them on one of the nearby consoles. She carefully took off her uniform tunic, plucking off the comm badge first, and then slid on her leather jacket. She felt the comforting weight of the leather wrap around her, a physical manifestation of Seven’s love for her. B’Elanna closed her eyes and fought to keep from crying. Seven had spent weeks making the jacket, getting it just right, sitting in front of the fireplace at night stitching. The Klingon settled it against her body, enjoying the feel, the smell, and the rich chocolate brown color. She sighed and put her comm badge onto her chest.

"It gorgeous," Kathryn said quietly. She moved over to B’Elanna and ran her hand over the collar, and then straightened the jacket into place and helped B’Elanna zip it. "How did you find this on that planet?"

B’Elanna squeezed her eyes shut and her lip trembled. "Seven made it for me."

Kathryn pulled B’Elanna to her chest and held her. "It’s beautiful. I had no idea she was so skilled," she whispered into B’Elanna’s ear. "I’m so sorry."

B’Elanna let Kathryn hold her and remembered when she had her first experience with the Barge of the Dead. She had awakened and clung to Kathryn like a lost child, and the captain had cradled her, cooed to her until she was all right. B’Elanna knew if Seven didn’t pull through, she would never be all right again.

"I’m sorry, Captain." B’Elanna sniffled and pulled back.

"Don’t be. Remember," Kathryn said. "I told you to come to me if you needed anything."

"Thanks," B’Elanna said. She turned and took the fur and carried it to Seven.

"What are you doing?" the Doctor demanded. "This isn’t a barn. I mean, it’s not a sickbay either, but this is too much."

"Shut up," B’Elanna said as she pushed past him and tucked the folded fur under Seven’s head as a pillow.

Seven’s eyes flickered open. "Is the baby all right?" She looked up at B’Elanna, exhaustion making it difficult to keep her deep blue eyes open. She inhaled, smiling when the familiar scent of home filled her nostrils. She turned and rubbed her cheek against the fur. "I love that color on you," Seven said when she looked back at B’Elanna’s jacket and then her eyes drifted shut.

The Doctor scanned Seven, taking extra time near her belly. "Amazingly, there is no damage to the fetus…right now. I can’t make any guarantees about the next few hours. But, I will say that I am amazed by the resiliency of the neonatal nanoprobes. They have maintained the integrity of the placenta and umbilical cord, and the fetus has suffered no ill effects."

"How is Seven?" B’Elanna asked.

His eyes darkened. "She hasn’t fared so well."

"What does that mean, Doctor?" Kathryn asked as she rubbed her temples. She could see the anguish in B’Elanna’s eyes and wanted him to get to the point.

"As it stands, she is approximately eighteen weeks into the gestation, we can take the fetus safely at twenty four weeks," the hologram explained.

"What do you mean, take?" B’Elanna asked. She was still angry at the hologram, and didn’t trust him for one second.

"The fetus can be raised in an incubator at twenty four weeks, although the longer it can be carried, the better." He cleared his throat. "The problem is, I don’t know if Seven’s body can tolerate the pregnancy for another six weeks. I don’t know if she can tolerate all she’s been through so far."

"I will carry my child to term," Seven said from the anti-gravity stretcher. "As soon as we are clear of the gravitational river, I will regenerate. That will help my body heal."

"Captain," the Doctor said, "How much longer until we clear the gravitational river?"

"Maybe…twelve hours," Kathryn said after a few calculations in her head.

His expression was crestfallen, and he slowly shook his head.

"What?" Kathryn asked.

"She doesn’t have that long," the Doctor explained.

Part 29

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