DISCLAIMER: Seven, B'Elanna and all things Star Trek as everyone knows do not belong to me, but they certainly are inspiring at times.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Stating Her Intention
By Carola "Ryûchan" Eriksson


"Get it through your head, Tom... I COULDN'T CARE LESS!"

The angry roar was loud enough to make bulkheads tremble and spread far enough that even a certain skittish Bajoran jumped with a frightened yelp right back into the turbolift she had been about to exit, consequently shuffled around and ending up four decks below the one she had been aiming for.

It was the explosive eruption of a temper tantrum that had been building for days and that would be noted down among the memorable ones, even among the much put-upon Engineering crew.

The exact point where it began, B'Elanna's growing annoyance and headache where Tom Paris was concerned, was hard to locate, but the part where it took the path towards this particularly explosive outlet was easier to determine. It had been a slow week by Voyager standards, no major battles or dangerously strange phenomena, and most of the crew were enjoying a nice lull in their duties compared to the usual frantic activity. All, that was, save for B'Elanna and a fair part of her Engineering crew, whom had discovered a very dangerous degradation in the functioning of the ship's bussard collectors.

The crisis was not immediate, and as such most of the ship's crew knew nothing of this engineering trouble, but B'Elanna knew that the problem indeed was a dire one. If she could not find a solution to the dilemma, the ship would function as usual... for a time, and then the bussard collectors would gradually fail, bringing a multitude of other systems down along with them, until in the end the ship would no longer be spaceworthy. If they had no outside help at that point Voyager's crew would have to find a planet to inhabit, no matter how far away the Alpha Quadrant.

Well, not on B'Elanna's watch, she would make sure of that. She just needed time to solve the problem, that was all. Time... and some peace and quiet to think, and more importantly, work.

Unfortunately, for Tom Paris the day that did not involve either dashing manoeuvres at the helm or emergency medical assistance, was a playday. And if it was a playday for Tom Paris that meant it must surely be for others as well. Or something to that effect.

To begin with B'Elanna had explained and excused, slightly annoyed at the man but still civil and still not entirely blaming him for his ignorance, when Tom showed up in Engineering to talk about his latest holo-project and try to entice B'Elanna to join him. When he returned to continue more of the same B'Elanna had sighed to herself and thought that perhaps she wasn't making the situation clear enough to him, and that surely once Tom understood the importance of the work she had yet to do, he would back off and go play his mindless little games with someone else, like Harry.

No such luck. Tom left, certainly, but only to return later, with some more holo-deck information and various talk of 20th century trivia that B'Elanna truly could do without.

So she tried to ignore him, but even though he was 'just keeping her company', Tom Paris was rarely quiet or still for long. The whole situation was preventing B'Elanna from finding any kind of solution for Voyager's predicament, in fact, the most that she found herself doing was gripping her work station and thinking violent thoughts in regards to Tom's person. Her migraine set in somewhere during the second day, and did not seem to want to let up even with the doctor's hypospray.

When tall, cool and collected Seven of Nine breezed into Engineering to offer her assistance B'Elanna felt intensely jealous for a moment, Seven certainly did not have a constantly yapping five-year-old in a man's body always in her face, distracting her and annoying her until she was sure she could feel her brain slowly seep out of her ears. But ridiculously jealous pangs aside, B'Elanna would not refuse Seven's assistance on something this important, she was long past her little ego wars where Seven's skills were concerned.

It was B'Elanna's only refuge, strangely enough. Working alongside Seven was... peaceful in a way she had not really considered, it was quiet, no more or less spoken than needed, the blessed relief of speaking to one who actually understood without having to 'dumb down' herself in the process, and the focus she had been lacking Seven more than amply brought with her. B'Elanna sighed in relief and pushed the thoughts of Tom to the back of her mind.

And then of course Tom returned, along with an increase in B'Elanna's migraine.

Tom meant well, he truly did, B'Elanna reminded herself as she tried to tamp down on the urge to tear out his vocal cords with her bare hands. He wasn't a bad person, just... annoying.

The fact that she considered her boyfriend an annoying imbecile made B'Elanna feel guilty, which in turn added to the tension and the migraine, and, of course, her rather foul mood.

So, when Seven of Nine, after a strangely searching look at B'Elanna, faced Tom Paris and ordered in a cool but not unfriendly tone for him to leave the premises, adding that the faster she and B'Elanna could get to work without distractions, the faster B'Elanna would be free for off-duty activities, B'Elanna felt a surge of sheer happiness. Especially since Tom actually left without objection, slightly intimidated but no less cheerful than before.

Sighing deeply B'Elanna looked over at Seven with heartfelt gratitude and blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Seven, I'm so grateful right now I could kiss you."

As soon as the words left her lips B'Elanna felt herself go stock still. Oh shit, had she really said that? To Seven? Her face heated up in no time.

Seven had also gone absolutely still, her expression strangely innocent and unguarded in its wide-eyed surprise. If that look had come as something of a shock to B'Elanna, then the following look of awkward shyness floored her. "Yes. You may." A momentary hesitation followed by a slightly more determined nod. "I believe I would... like to experience this."

Upon hearing the first brief words from Seven B'Elanna had opened her mouth to explain, as kindly as she was able while still embarrassed, that it was just an expression and not a state of intention. She never got that far as the rest of Seven's response reached her ears and left B'Elanna absolutely speechless... and beet red.

B'Elanna opened and closed her mouth a few times while Seven merely watched her, looking rather expectant. B'Elanna had to say something, and quick, before Seven got entirely the wrong idea.

"A-are you s-sure?"

What? Wait, that wasn't what she had meant to say! And why was she stammering like a schoolgirl anyway?

Oh goodness, Seven was coming closer... and she looked... shy?

"I am certain." A bit closer still, and a tilt of her head. "I have yet to experience... a kiss... and if you wish, I would like to experience this with you, Lieutenant."

And just since when had B'Elanna gotten this lucky? This just had to be some kind of joke... No! No, treacherous body, don't you get closer too!

"Alright." B'Elanna mumbled slightly as she reached up and gently pressed her lips to Seven's in a brief but pleasant kiss.

B'Elanna had not taken into account that although Seven might not have kissed before, inside that impressive mind there were stored vast amounts of data on many things and one of those things being the mating rituals of many species that Seven herself had chosen to study. When B'Elanna made to pull back, Seven instead pushed forward and took B'Elanna captive with her lips and tongue alone.

When Seven finally let go and B'Elanna slumped back against her workstation, out of breath and with decidedly wobbly knees, the odd thought came to her that despite Seven's peculiar mode of speech no-one should ever question her oral skills. B'Elanna certainly wouldn't.

"...thank you, B'El... Lieutenant." Seven spoke uncharacteristically softly as she glanced at B'Elanna while turning towards her own workstation.

B'Elanna gripped the sides of her station rather hard, blushing madly again, and muttered in a voice that utterly failed to be casual. "B'Elanna is fine, Seven."

Nothing more was mentioned of what had transpired as B'Elanna frantically tried to get herself to focus yet again on the work at hand – succeeding eventually with supreme effort – but both women unbeknownst to the other glanced discreetly at the other far more often than work or conversation would have required.

It did not hit B'Elanna until much, much later that all this had occurred in Engineering, and while there had not been that many working in the same area as Seven and herself there had been people present... and the entire section had been suspiciously silent for the event.

Frustration and annoyance had gotten friends called anxiety and confusion, culminating in a party of tension and migraine that had B'Elanna moaning miserably as she fell into bed once she and Seven had decided to stop working for the night. Sleep eluded her, but at least she felt grateful that she was spared having to face Tom that night.

Morning saw a very grumpy engineer who had just had far too little sleep and far too much to think about to be anything short of dangerous to approach, and so her crew kept quiet and out of the way as much as possible. The only thing that lightened B'Elanna's mood was the prospect of having the solution she and Seven worked on finalized and tested that same day, and thus ready to be implemented next shift. Seven was, of course, already there when B'Elanna arrived, and if the two of them just had a few hours without any crisis or interruptions, then...

Since he had not seen her since the previous day, Tom Paris had no idea of his girlfriend's extra-volatile mood when he gleefully walked into Engineering to chat for a while before he was needed at his station for the start of his duty shift.

Besides, B'Elanna was going to be so excited when she heard about his latest progress with his new 20th century holodeck program...

To her credit, B'Elanna did try very hard to reign in her temper. However, when Tom interrupted her attempt at explaining to him why she was busy working for the umpteenth time with elaborate details about a monochrome holodeck adventure with him as the dashing hero...

The scream that tore out from B'Elanna was as primal as it was loud. By the time she had stopped screaming, not only Tom but all of Engineering knew to the smallest detail how well and truly B'Elanna Torres disliked using the holodeck, how utterly she detested the 20th century, how she hated role-playing, and most of all how infantile she found the combination of these things, and how she would rather ram red-hot needles into her retinas than participate in the kind of programs Tom always created.

The shouting match continued with both parties equally active, during which Tom found out how B'Elanna truly felt about his interruption of her important work, and B'Elanna was told just what Tom felt about her obsession with work and lack of interests outside it. Things got ugly from there, until Tom said a few very hurtful things that crossed the line completely.

Seven, up until that point a silently astonished spectator to the shouting match, stepped in and caught B'Elanna as she lunged for Tom in hurt and anger. The look she levelled at Tom as she held B'Elanna in her arms was stark but not accusing, though her order when it came could not be disobeyed. "Leave!"

Tom, already regretful and shocked by the things he had said, turned around without protest and hurried as far away from B'Elanna as he could. Locating Vorik among those present for the explosive display Seven, with a look and a quirk of her eyebrow, charged him with getting the rest of the crew back to work as Seven herself simply lifted the woman in her arms a few inches from the floor and walked B'Elanna into her office. It was quite the testament to her upset state that B'Elanna did not even seem to notice.

When the veil of fury lifted enough from B'Elanna that she was once again cognisant of her surroundings, there were many things B'Elanna might have expected and being located inside her own office in Engineering was one of the possibilities. What she would not have expected was to return to her senses while sitting backwards in her desk chair, with a pair of very warm, very strong and capable hands doing a thorough job on the screaming muscles in her neck.

"Do not be alarmed, I know what I am doing." Seven reassured in a quiet voice that felt as if it was just way too close to B'Elanna's ear. "Take off your jacket."

The concept of being told to take off her clothing by Seven managed, beyond suffusing B'Elanna's face with red as she was mortified at the direction her thoughts seemed to take, to derail the remaining anger in B'Elanna. The jacket obediently came off and B'Elanna leaned her head forward anticipating the much-needed massage.

"You have had a stress-induced headache lately, correct?" Seven went to work. "I shall help you relieve that tension."

B'Elanna mentally added divinely skilled hands to her little list of the unknown merits of Seven of Nine as she moaned out loud. This was oh so much better than the doctor's hypospray and lecture-laden treatments.

Seven was enthralled by the noises B'Elanna was making, and put a little extra time and effort into coaxing the sounds from the smaller woman. It was all very intriguing... apparently B'Elanna's moans were quite audible outside the office as well, since Seven heard snippets of conversations from the crew passing by outside.

"Do you hear that?"

"...oh my god, is Seven doing the chief right there on the desk or what?"

Interesting, Seven thought and stored the colloquial for later use, then dismissed the overhead conversations to focus on the woman she was swiftly turning into a mass of boneless putty. She did not stop her ministrations until B'Elanna was quite blissfully floating in her own personal happy place, staring into thin air with a goofy smile on her face.

At the sight of this Seven strangely found herself quite reluctant to refocus B'Elanna's attention at the work they were supposed to be doing, but duty was duty... and perhaps B'Elanna would allow a repeat performance at some time when they were not scheduled for duty. Taking comfort in this thought Seven swiftly brought them both back to the task at hand.

With the combined power of two of the Delta Quadrant's – or was that Alpha Quadrant's – arguably more brilliant minds, the engineering problem was laid to rest at last, and B'Elanna had the satisfaction of overseeing her crew implementing the changes. All in all she was in a much better mood than she had been in a long while, and so her crew kept very quiet, carefully not mentioning or hinting at anything that had transpired lately in fear of jinxing themselves. Yes, her subordinates knew B'Elanna Torres and her temper very well indeed.

B'Elanna herself on the other hand fully enjoyed her happiness, knowing well that for her and for this quadrant happy moods never lasted long, but still felt just a smidgen guilty. She thanked Seven profusely for her aid, wanting the other woman to know that B'Elanna really appreciated all she had done, and she even managed an awkward and somewhat brief apology to Janeway for causing a scene in Engineering. However, B'Elanna had yet to speak to Tom.

It was just all making her so tired, the tumultuous ups and downs of her supposed relationship with Tom, and it was so hard to find any common ground for them... some days she didn't even like the guy, much less had any particularly warmer feelings for him. Was that really what a relationship was supposed to be?

What did it say about them, about her, that the one kiss with Seven had made B'Elanna feel so much more than anything she had shared with Tom? Even now the mere thought of Seven sent a tiny thrill to B'Elanna's midsection... when had she ever had any kind of thrills or similar reactions thinking about Tom? She sure couldn't remember having any. B'Elanna sighed deeply to herself.

It was past time to lay things to rest, for both of them.

Once B'Elanna had located Tom in their off-duty hours she found that he was surprisingly apologetic and rueful, which made her slightly uncomfortable since she had expected him to be irritated and near impossible to talk to. They apologised to each other repeatedly, though B'Elanna refused to let either of them take back what had been spoken. There were some truths that had to come into the open, even if it hadn't been the best of ways.

"You really hate my holodeck programs that much, huh?" Tom looked and sounded sheepish as he spoke, but underneath it B'Elanna could still tell there was a sense of sadness to him.

"Yeah... I really do." No little white lies to make him feel better, it was past time for truth. "And you hate that I do, don't you?"

He fidgeted slightly. "Not... hate, I'd never hate anything about you, but..." A shrug finished his sentence. Then "Did we ever really have anything we were both interested in, B'Elanna?"

"Betting on overly violent sports events, maybe." B'Elanna grinned slightly, but quickly grew serious again. "Look, Tom, I..."

"No, I know what you want to say." He interrupted, scratching his head slightly before meeting her eyes with some sense of determination. "We never quite... fit, did we? Not as lovers, anyway. And I'd rather lose a lover than a friend."

She couldn't help but hug him. "We were better as friends, anyway." He hugged back, and when they stepped apart she grinned a bit at him. "So, whadda ya say we get the gang together for shore-leave next beat-em-up type tournament we come across... friend?"

He left wearing a smile, both of them filled with a sense of relief. It crossed B'Elanna's mind that the general lack of emotions, of hurt, in either of them when breaking up was a fair indicator that there just hadn't been anything there in the first place. Kahless, what a waste of time, but at least now she was single again and it felt as if a huge weight had lifted from her shoulders.

Although it was hard to find a positive spin on such a long perpetuated mistake B'Elanna supposed she had ultimately learned a valuable lesson from all of it, that coming home to the wrong person was even worse than coming home to no-one at all... how fortunate after all that neither of them ever felt inclined to move in together, it made things so much easier now.

Days passed and on the outside the change in B'Elanna's life did not amount to much, she went about her life much in the same way as before, even cheerfully having lunch in Tom and Harry's company now and again, the difference seemed to be just a general lift of her mood. On the inside though there had been a small but very important shift, allowing B'Elanna to finally look upon Seven without the shackles she had put on herself while supposedly in a relationship with Tom. More and more B'Elanna found herself following Seven with her eyes, a sense of excitement and longing bubbling inside and making B'Elanna feel strangely like a teenager, awkward and embarrassed.

The lingering looks did not go unnoticed by the crew at large, especially since the rumour mill had stories of the events of that day in Engineering doing the rounds, complete with varying degrees of supposition on exactly what it was Seven of Nine had done to the Chief Engineer in her office to make her sound the way she had. The gossip-mongers had for once the good sense of not discussing this hot topic within earshot of either of the women involved – or for that matter the Captain that all knew to be rather protective of both women – however no-one had realised the inherent danger in broaching the subject within earshot of Tom Paris.

Tom, while neither able to confirm nor deny any relationship between Seven and B'Elanna, had angrily risen to the defence of his ex and friend in such a way that although things had not escalated to violence, security had still been summoned. Tom's parting shot had declared his support of whatever B'Elanna and Seven might or might not be doing, and also imprinted on all present what would happen if Tom overheard anyone bad-mouthing his friends again. The outburst only ensured that the rumours thrived but were passed on discreetly in fear of alerting the wrong people, and so Seven and B'Elanna would not hear of them until much later.

B'Elanna wondered though why for a while it seemed the doctor was particularly acidic and curt during her few and brief visits to sickbay, just as Seven was bewildered as to why the hologram was being overly solicitous suddenly, and why his ever-present commentary seemed more laden with incomprehensible innuendo than before. They both chalked it up to subroutines and went about their business as usual.

Except... they tended to gravitate towards one another more, spending time together at lunch or other random times, talking or occasionally laughing, as B'Elanna found that Seven indeed did possess a sense of humour, and a quirky dry one at that.

Eventually they gravitated towards each other for all matter of social things, finding in each other the perfect game partner for both old and new games, a willing ear for new ideas, and the perfect sparring partner for holodeck training. The latter proved somewhat dangerous for B'Elanna, not because Seven was in fact stronger, faster and despite her inexperience a very fast learner who never did the same mistake twice, oh no. For B'Elanna the danger stemmed from grappling close up and personal with Seven sparked a desire to simply push Seven up against whatever was handy and kiss her senseless. Already B'Elanna had on several occasions found herself leaning in to kiss her friend, only managing to stop herself at last possible moment before her actions became obvious.

Unnoticed by both the women in question and their select group of friends, the sight of the two spending time together became so common that their friends stopped giving them separate invitations to gatherings and activities. What had used to be "B'Elanna do you want to..." became "Do you think you and Seven would like to...", and likewise they became each other's favourite excuse to get out of various engagements that they couldn't care less about.

Somehow without really intending to, Seven and B'Elanna gained a kind of couple-like status despite having between them only a solid friendship and a single never since mentioned kiss. It would have been bewildering... if either woman had realized what was going on.

Then there had been an away-mission gone wrong, ending up with a small group lead by B'Elanna having to fight their way out of an alien encampment as Voyager swooped down to the rescue. All had ended well and the various injuries had already been taken care of by the doctor, however a persistent twinge remained in B'Elanna's neck, and after days of compensating for it while working B'Elanna had worked up a nice duranium-hard stiffness that defied her usual ready-made cures. She did not mention it of course, mainly because she was not looking forward to having to run to the doctor for a pathetic neck-ache, especially since she was more than tired of his snippiness towards her lately.

So it was that B'Elanna was in the messhall with Seven, Captain Janeway and Chakotay, laughing slightly at Seven's dry suggestion at just what the gelatinous brown blob with a side dish of extremely chewy pasta-like strings really were, light-hearted guesses traded back and forth as the group nonetheless ate the blissfully bland meal. An unconscious gesture in reply to something the Captain had said made B'Elanna flinch slightly with pain, and although she covered it up quickly it was not quick enough to fool the pale blue eyes that was watching her closely, and B'Elanna knew it.

She sighed. "Don't worry Seven, it's nothing. I'll take care of it when I get home."

Seven studied B'Elanna for a moment before responding in an earnest and serious tone "Shall I 'do you' tonight, B'Elanna, to help relieve your tension?"

As if by magic, the entire room fell silent just in time for Seven's words to ring clear to everyone present, and B'Elanna felt her face just about implode upon itself right before she was overcome by a wheezing coughing fit. The Captain's reaction was even more memorable though, as Janeway had unfortunately been mid-chew at Seven's question and by sheer surprise showered the entire table, herself, Chakotay and Seven in the brown goo.

Seven was on her feet in an instant, gasping and frantically wiping at her face and hair with a napkin. "Captain! How... repulsive! And... offensive!" She scolded in an agitated tone, brushing at her biosuit with a shudder of disgust while B'Elanna and Janeway clung to each other, wheezing and coughing their way to some air.

"B'Elanna, I shall meet you at your quarters after I have cleaned myself and changed biosuit." Seven still looked and sounded upset as she then stormed out of the messhall without B'Elanna managing to muster a single word in reply.

Silence reigned supreme, disturbed only by the shuffling of Neelix as he anxiously hovered around the table trying to help Janeway and Chakotay clean themselves off. B'Elanna was staring unblinkingly at the spot vacated by Seven as Chakotay, surprisingly calm though still covered in what had been his Captain's dinner, spoke up with a teasing air.

"So, is it alright not to go after her?" B'Elanna's head turned towards him reluctantly, somehow sensing what would come next. "After all, she might get the idea that you didn't appreciate her offer to, ah, relieve your tension tonight, if you don't say anything."

His smirk was pure evil. "Seven did quite generously offer to do-"

Chakotay got no further as Janeway sprang to her feet and smacked him in the face with the wet rag Neelix had been wiping the table with – twice. Glancing around to the many wide-eyed and raptly listening faces providing a still-silent audience for everything Janeway struggled to regain her composure.

"AS YOU WERE" The command was a trifle too loud and a trifle too high-pitched for the normally smooth Janeway, but nonetheless it got those present to raptly take great interest in their meals. Janeway then grabbed B'Elanna by the arm and proceeded to drag her as discreetly as possible from the room.

They got as far as the turbolift.

When the doors closed around them B'Elanna instinctively knew that she was done for, and when Janeway spun around to level a glare at her that made the fabled Force Ten glare seem meek, even the woman who usually refused to show fear in the face of an enemy whimpered and flattened herself against the wall.

"B'EEELAAANNAAA!" Janeway's bellow was deafening in the small space, and B'Elanna cringed. "To relieve tension? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?! Just WHAT are you TEACHING SEVEN?" Janeway gasped for breath before continuing, and B'Elanna just meekly continued to press herself against the wall, knowing that she had better not in word or deed interrupt her Captain until Janeway's ire was spent.

The migraine set in and B'Elanna thought to herself, not for the first time, that Captain Janeway really had many similarities with her mother.

By the time B'Elanna returned to her quarters she felt like she had just taken any number of painsticks to the head. Janeway had calmed down eventually, at least enough so that B'Elanna had managed to explain that though B'Elanna had absolutely no idea where Seven had managed to pick up that particular expression, whatever Seven actually meant by it must be innocuous since the two of them were just friends.

The fact that B'Elanna had blushed when she spoke had not helped her case, and Janeway had clearly not believed her at first. Finally B'Elanna had, beyond embarrassed, explained that she and Seven had only shared a single and rather incidental kiss, nothing more.

What Janeway had told her before they parted still had B'Elanna blushing as a matter of fact.

Apparently it wasn't that Janeway objected to the two of them dating, in fact she very much approved if that would come to be the case, but... the person onboard Voyager that were to abuse Seven's innocence and treat Janeway's little girl like a toy, a mere tool for stress relief, well... Janeway would make it her personal goal in life to make sure that the rest of the journey home to the Alpha Quadrant would be living hell for that person. Even if that person would be someone as dear to Janeway as B'Elanna herself.

Duly chastised and properly intimidated B'Elanna slunk away at first opportunity, and once in the sanctity of her own quarters heaved a big sigh of relief.

And then yelped in surprise as Seven rose from the couch to meet her.

"Is something wrong, B'Elanna?" Then somewhat softer, with concern colouring the melodic voice. "Are you in pain?"

B'Elanna slapped herself, hard.

Quite a bit harder than she had intended to as a matter of fact, causing her eyes to water slightly and her jaw to sting. Blinking rapidly to dispel any potential tears B'Elanna kept herself from grimacing, if just barely... Seven was watching, after all.

Or perhaps not just watching, as Seven's reaction to B'Elanna's... bout of self-discipline, was to gasp softly, rush forward and wrap her arms around the engineer, effectively trapping B'Elanna's arms at her sides.

B'Elanna blinked, somewhat confused at the sudden embrace. "Seven, what are you doing?"

"I am preventing you from causing yourself injury." Seven frowned and looked stern, but there was worry still in those pale blue eyes. B'Elanna couldn't help but chuckle.

"It's alright Seven, honest. I wasn't... I'm not going to hurt myself, okay? You can let go." Seven seemed undecided so B'Elanna just waited, smiling slightly. "We kind of need to talk though."

When Seven finally decided to let go B'Elanna urged the taller woman back towards the couch, scratching her chin as she took a seat and tried to come up with a decent way to phrase what she needed to talk to Seven about.

"Seven? The expression you used earlier... when you offered to, err, uh, do me... where did you hear that?"

So Seven told her, complete with quoting the conversation between the crewmembers where she had first heard the expression used, her head tilted slightly and an eyebrow raised in question. B'Elanna blushed fiercely and hid her face in her hands.

Great, so now undoubtedly her entire crew was thinking B'Elanna had a habit of dragging Seven into her office for the occasional not-so-secret tryst during working-hours. Just wonderful.

No wonder there had been an unusual amount of grins and friendly slaps to her back lately from old Marquis buddies, they thought B'Elanna had managed to snatch the resident ship babe.

B'Elanna cleared her throat. "Erm, Seven, what those crewmen meant was... what they thought we were doing..." A deep breath. "They thought we were c-copulating in my office." Muttered under her breath with a sense of chagrin. "On my desk of all places."

"That's usually... what people mean... when they say... that." She finished lamely, fidgeting nervously as she watched Seven go from an inquisitive expression with a slight tilt of her head to a surprised widening of pale blue eyes, and then finally to an unreadable expression that was new to B'Elanna.

"I see."

The Borg eyebrow went up, mesmerizing B'Elanna to the point of distraction as it tended to do of late. It was accompanied by a cute little sound that, if pressed, B'Elanna would describe as a Seven-snort.

"The crew in Engineering must think me very lacking as a mate then, to require so little time for such an activity. And to leave you so readily able to resume your duties..." A subtle smirk towards B'Elanna. "They must think my abilities in this regard to be very inadequate indeed."

B'Elanna would have sworn she sprained her tongue as she accidentally tried to swallow it in shock, however she was too focused on Seven to notice much else, broken tongue included.

What was this? Whatever happened to the righteous indignation at the perceived insult to Seven's work-ethics that B'Elanna was sure would follow the little explanation of what people thought they had done during duty shift? Indignant and slightly pissed-off Borg B'Elanna could handle, drop-dead gorgeous women taking about leaving B'Elanna unable to work, she could not. Was Seven flirting with her? No, no, no, Seven could not flirt, that was just not possible.

"Fwaash?" Was the only thing that actually left B'Elanna's lips.

Suddenly it was as if the teasing confidence vanished from one spoken sentence to another, and Seven rather shyly averted her face to look down on the hands she daintily held in her lap.

"Although of course I have no experience to judge their assumptions against. I would like to assume that as I am a quick study and strive to improve myself, as well as having recently renewed my studies with the doctor regarding mating rituals, that I would not do too poorly."

She lifted one hand slightly, flexing the fingers and tracing the dark metal of her Borg exo-skeleton with her other hand, frowning a little with a poorly hidden sadness in her eyes. "However, how aesthetically pleasing I might endeavour to be is another matter."

"Seven?" B'Elanna forced her tongue into obedience. "Sweetie you're beautiful... gorgeous... easily the most attractive person aboard this ship, if not quadrant." She reached out to tilt Seven's face back up towards her again. "So please don't put yourself down... okay?"

Seven's eyes were wide and her cheeks dusted with a faint blush that B'Elanna found just too endearing for words. She had to acknowledge to herself that the strange course of events, and the even stranger conversation, was not quite how she would have imagine this to go... but B'Elanna, though a romantic at heart, knew far too well that waiting for the perfect moment meant waiting forever. And waiting just lost its appeal.

B'Elanna reached over and grasped one of Seven's hands in her remaining one.

"I hadn't planned on bringing this up tonight, so I hope you'll forgive me if I'm going too fast here." A deep, steadying breath to calm her nerves, and yet B'Elanna was far more calm about this than she thought she should be. "I know we haven't been this close for very long, Seven, but the truth is... I'm crazy about you."

The sudden blinking that meant that Seven was trying to determine what she had meant by that expression made B'Elanna smile, and hurry to make things clear.

"I mean, I think I've fallen in love with you Seven. No, no, in fact I know I have... I'm just being scared that you won't feel the same and that I'll end up loosing your friendship." B'Elanna let go of Seven's face and let that hand join the other in holding Seven's. "If you don't feel the same then nothing has to change, we can still be friends and I won't mention it again if you're okay with that."

"But if you do feel something, or think you could feel something for me... I would like to take you out on a date. If after that date you think you would like to give it a try, I would very much like to date you, as in several dates in the hopes of eventually developing a romantic relationship with you."

To B'Elanna's surprise the hands she was holding suddenly yanked her forward, and before she knew it B'Elanna found herself wrapped tightly in Seven's arms once more.

"B'Elanna." Seven whispered in B'Elanna's ear, her voice unusually emotional. "I have loved you for so very long. It took me a long time to come to understand the emotions I had towards you, and by then I knew how inappropriate they were as you belonged to another."

"I attempted to suppress my feelings towards you, as this was the only means which I had to continue functioning. There were still moments where my feelings got away from me in word or deed, and I thought you would notice and be repulsed." A breath. "You never did."

"Oh Seven..." B'Elanna whispered against Seven's shoulder. "I truly never did, I'm sorry. But Seven?" A smile. "I don't belong to anyone else anymore."

"I would very much like to... date you, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna drew back and grinned toothily at Seven, trying hard not to plain whoop for joy. "How about tomorrow night? At eight?" A shy nod in reply. "Great, it's a date!"

Looking at the gorgeous woman she was now hoping would become her lover B'Elanna realised that some things just could not wait.

"Seven? I intend to date you, to woo you, and to make you happy... and for right now I intend to push you down in this couch and kiss you senseless." B'Elanna grinned and eyed the lips she was going to attach herself to within moments. "And that, my beautiful Seven, is a statement of fact."

Seven eagerly met her half-way, and, moments later, B'Elanna did indeed gently push Seven down into her couch where they continued to kiss each other senseless for the rest of the evening.

As things would have it a prolonged courtship would not be necessary. By the time their second date was over B'Elanna finally got the massage that Seven had offered days before, which brought B'Elanna not only blissful pain removal but also a panting and aroused ex-Borg with very dilated pupils who was confused to why the sounds B'Elanna made and the sensation of B'Elanna's skin under her hands would make her react this way. What followed would give B'Elanna plenty of opportunity to discover that Seven's statements regarding her abilities as a mate was anything but an exaggeration, as her walking funny the next day would attest to.

In the end it didn't take long at all, from the time of their first date to the time when they realised that for all intents and purposes Seven was already living with B'Elanna, so it seemed perfectly reasonable to make it official. Half a year later had the two of them sporting matching rings and deflecting Tom Paris' persistent offers of a holodeck party in early 20th century theme to celebrate the happy couple. After a number of days where important work was constantly interrupted by Tom and his increasingly detailed, more and more monochromatic, plans for the holodeck program the voice of one B'Elanna Torres could be heard far and wide as she let her irritation be heard...


The End

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