Seven stepped from her alcove, a frown marring her usually serene features as she surveyed the area around her. Icheb her young former Borg charge ended his regeneration cycle to her right, and turned to issue his customary morning greeting, but the look on Seven's face stopped him.
"Is there a problem?"
The blonde woman's initial instinct was to deny any problem, not only did she not want to worry the young man but she lacked any firm evidence that there really was a problem. Her natural honesty and a deepening worry made her change her mind and share her fears.
"I felt something while regenerating." Seven stopped trying to catalogue her impressions. "As if I was being physically... touched."
"You did not wake?" Enquired the boy, his voice was calm but there was a tension developing behind his eyes.
"No." An irrational urge to immerse herself in cleansing water consumed Seven's thoughts, her hands distractedly tracing a route over her body, as if needing to check for themselves everything was as it should be.
"Could it have been a dream?"
"No, I do not believe so." Looking at Icheb Seven could detect his concern, and suddenly a fiery sensation engulfed her. "Did you feel anything?" Thoughts that someone could have been touching the boy as well overwhelmed any concerns of her own treatment.
"No, I felt nothing."
"Good." A held breath escaped Seven's full lips.
"Have you felt anything like this before?"
"No." Seven hesitated a moment. "I have never felt a touch before, but for the previous five nights I did have the impression I was being watched."
"Why did you not tell me, or the Captain?" From being an emotionally reticent ex-Borg, the young man soon metamorphasised into the image of a scared parent, a transformation that didn't go unnoticed by Seven, the sight almost bringing a smile to her troubled face.
"I presumed my impression came from crew members working or retrieving material from the cargo bay. It is not unusual for people to be in here while we regenerate." Cocking her head to one side Seven continued. "Captain Janeway has on occasion watched me while I 'slept', especially if she was concerned by some aspect of my behaviour. I thought it might have been her."
"Is it possible the Captain was the one who touched you?"
"No!" The touched had made her feel uneasy, and she couldn't equate that with her overprotective and sometimes overbearing friend.
"Then I believe the correct course of action would be to inform Captain Janeway and Commander Tuvok of your suspicions." Standing straight with his hands firmly grasped behind his back Icheb gave no doubt that his words were infact an order.
"Yes." Turning to leave Seven looked back over her shoulder at Icheb's worried expression and added with a slight smile "Sir."
Janeway had been troubled the moment Seven walked through her ready room door, after having waiting patiently outside for permission to enter, the young woman's face held traces of tension that to most would be unnoticeable, but to the Captain signalled something very wrong.
"What is it?" Coming around to face the young blonde Janeway laid what she hoped would be a reassuring hand on Seven's arm.
"I wish to report a..." Seven faltered not sure how best to describe what she suspected in Starfleet language. "I believe someone touched me while I was regenerating."
"What!" Janeway's voice rose into a near shriek, "Where?"
"Cargo Bay 2." Seven answered cautiously, wondering if the Captain was suffering some form of memory loss as she appeared to have forgotten where the Borg alcoves were located.
"No Seven, I mean where did they touch you?"
"I am not sure."
"Not sure?" Taking Seven's arm Kathryn led the young woman to the couch and sat down forcing the young former Borg to take the seat next to her. "I don't understand Seven, if you felt the touch how do you not know where you were touched?"
"I was regenerating." Seeing the blank look on Janeway's face Seven tried to explain. "When engaged in regeneration my bodies normal sensations are somewhat dampened, I believe it is similar to when you sleep, a touch of any force would bring me out of my regenerative state immediately, but a gentle touch, a caress, only registers on a subliminal level."
"But when you woke up you knew you had been touched?" Kathryn tried to qualify.
"Not at first, for point zero nine seconds after completing my regeneration cycle I was unsure of what had transpired, although I knew something had happened." Once again Seven's arms started a slow rhythmic caress of her own skin. "Then as I analysed my unease I knew that I had been touched." There was not a hint of doubt in Seven's voice.
"I will need to inform Commander Tuvok." Placing her hands on top of Seven's agitated ones Kathryn gave them a gentle squeeze. "Are you okay with that?"
"Yes, of course." Seven flinched at Janeway's touch but forced herself to not shrug off the friendly gesture.
Reaching up Janeway activated her comm. "Tuvok, please report to my ready room."
After explaining the situation to Tuvok he began to implement a security investigation, beginning with a check of the ships logs concerning the entrants into Cargo Bay 2 during Seven's last six regeneration periods. Unfortunately the logs appeared to have been altered masking the names of any entrants, and without this information or any other physical evidence Tuvok was unable to proceed satisfactorily with his investigation. On consultation with the Captain and Seven it was decided that the security investigation would expand to include members of the senior staff. Convening in the conference room Janeway explained the situation to the rest of the senior officers, Tuvok taking up the explanation to include the difficulties he had encountered when investigating.
"Are you all right? Were you injured?" The Doctor asked in a more than professionally concerned voice, his questions the first direct contact any of them had had with Seven.
"I am...fine." Seven's voice was quiet, but looking towards her friend she managed a vague smile. "Thank you."
A moment of quiet descended on the room as all thoughts turned to the suddenly fragile appearing ex-Borg.
"Do you have any idea who might have done this Seven?" Harry questioned gently. "Has anyone been bothering you lately?"
"Not any more than is usual." Seven replied in a calm voice.
"What do you mean 'than is usual'?" B'Elanna piped up, dread filling her at the thought that maybe she was the usual bother Seven was referring to. For years the two had shared a rather volatile relationship, but over the past couple of months there had been a definite change in the half Klingon's feelings towards the former drone, and to think that Seven might still see her as a source of bother troubled her.
"Some members of the crew do not feel comfortable around a Borg." Looking into B'Elanna's eyes Seven detected her unease. "They do not say anything directly to my face, as would be honourable, they just mumbled comments and obstruct my work."
"Why didn't you inform me of this?" Janeway interrupted. "I would have put a stop to it immediately."
"With respect Captain, if you'd interfered it would just have made people more resentful." B'Elanna offered, she didn't need to add that she herself had felt that way.
"Lieutenant Torres is correct Captain." Seven agreed. "The reactions of others are irrelevant, I did not require your assistance." She paused, "Until this time, this time is different."
"Why is now different?" Tom asked with a shrug.
"Mr Paris." Janeway's tone was sharp, and the eyes of all those around the table bore in on the sandy haired helmsman with either contempt or anger, in the case of B'Elanna both. Only Seven seem unaffected by his question and had been about to answer.
"I didn't, I just meant." Tom floundered.
"Now is different because it occurred while I was unconscious, not to my face, or even behind my back." Seven addressed a red faced Tom Paris. "It was also where Icheb regenerates."
"The touch, could it have been sexual in nature?" Chakotay tried to soften his tone, it wasn't a question he wanted to have to ask but he knew he must.
"I do not know." Seven looked confused "I am not sure how to differentiate between a sexual and a non-sexual touch, especially as I do not know the area of my body he or she touched."
Colourful words in several languages could just be heard issuing from B'Elanna's rigid mouth, her whole body was taut, desperate to find the person and rip their head off. "The sick bastard, he probably just sees a beautiful woman and figures he has the right to stare and..." Clenching her fist B'Elanna smashed it onto the table. "We have to stop him."
"Stopping him or her and apprehending them is the reason we are all here Lieutenant." Tuvok interrupted in his usual emotionless tone.
For the first time since ending her regeneration cycle that morning Seven experienced a moment of happiness, B'Elanna thought her beautiful. Normally others opinions of her appearance were of little or no importance to the former Borg, but if B'Elanna thought her beautiful it was just one less hurdle in her goal to gain the other woman's affections. Winning the half Klingon's heart had been a serious goal of Seven's ever since the other woman had annulled her marriage to Lieutenant Paris, but although there had been a definite change in the way B'Elanna acted towards her, this was the first proof she had that the woman could possible, in the future, be attracted to her.
"I would have thought the solution to that was simple." The Doctor addressed Tuvok.
"Really?" The Vulcan's eyebrow rose to the heavens.
"This 'person' has comes to Cargo Bay 2 on six consecutive occasions while Seven has been regenerating. Therefore if you 'stake out' the area tonight the perpetrator will show themselves." The Doctor leaned back in his chair, a smug look on his face.
"A logical assumption." Tuvok allowed. "However, the investigation into this crime may have alerted the perpetrator, who would therefore alter his or her modus operandi." Turning from the now not so smug EMH Tuvok addressed the Captain. "A surveillance operation will be put into effect in Cargo Bay 2 during Seven of Nine's next regeneration cycle, but in the event that it is not successful other avenues of investigation must be attempted."
"I agree." Janeway looked around the room as she spoke, "Does anyone have any ideas?"
"I'd like to have a look at the computer logs." Harry volunteered. "I might be able to find something the security team missed."
"Good. Anything else?"
"We should check the crew manifest to see who was off duty, or in unsupervisory positions during all six attacks." B'Elanna offered.
"I think it would be a good idea if Seven worked with you on that." Chakotay added. "She might be able to identify any person who has shown any overt interest in her recently."
"That could be practically all the guy's on the ship." Tom chimed in with a smile.
Ignoring the helmsman Janeway addressed the more productive members of her senior staff. "B'Elanna, you and Seven start work on the crew rosters, Harry, you take a look at the logs, and Tuvok I'll leave you to organise the surveillance." She again surveyed those around the table, "Anything else?" The only response was a few shaken heads. "Fine, then you're all dismissed."
Seven stood, her hands clasped tightly behind her back, an expression of icy calm settled on her beautiful face. Beside her B'Elanna was busy entering search perameters into the Astrometrics console, her fingers flying over the slick controls in her haste to identify the sick individual she knew was hidden among the crew.
"Do you have any idea what time this...this person touched you?" Forced out the engineer, just mentioning the individual responsible for frightening the ex-Borg made her want to seriously maim something, preferably the slime responsible.
"No, I have no real concept of time whilst I regenerate." Seven's voice carried a hint of apology that wasn't lost on B'Elanna.
"That's okay, its the same for me when I sleep." B'Elanna assured "Besides from the pattern of the log tampering it's possible to narrow the search down some." She started tapping at the console again. Names began scrolling down the large view screen, sections turning blue and disappearing once the duty rosters had eliminated them from the suspect list. After all the rosters had been checked there were still nearly forty names remaining on the screen. "We got lucky, the blank times on the logs occur during two different duty shifts, if not the list would have been more like eighty people long."
"Thirty-eight is lucky?" Borg implant rose.
"Sure, I mean a list of one would have been real lucky, but thirty-eight's not so bad." B'Elanna uncharacteristically laid a friendly hand on Seven's arm, but almost immediately remembered why they were there and removed what she thought would be an unwelcome physical gesture. "All we have to do now is narrow it down a bit."
"How do you suggest we proceed?"
"Lets just go through them one at a time and you can tell me what, if any, contact you've had with each, especially if they've ever shown any overt interest in you, erm." B'Elanna found herself studying the floor, "sexually."
"Why do you presume these visitations are of a sexual nature?" Seven asked her calmly.
"He touched you." The half Klingon practically shouted.
Seven studied the shorter woman for a moment, not quite able to understand her apparent anger. "There are other forms of touch besides sexual."
"Look Seven, you're a beautiful, sexy and ultimately unattainable woman, looking at you or touching you while you're unconscious might be the only way some creep would think himself able to be with you." B'Elanna's agitation just kept growing. "Some people can't handle rejection or even the possibility of it, they just have to take what they think belongs to them. They're sick!"
"Lieutenant? Are you alright?" Seven was concerned by B'Elanna's seemingly unreasonable anger.
"Yes." Forcing herself to calm down B'Elanna faced a worried looking Seven. "I'm sorry Seven, the last thing you need is me going off the deep end. I just can't stand the idea of someone taking advantage of you."
A gentle smile found its way to Seven's lips. "Then let us hope the person's intentions were homicidal not romantic."
A Klingon jaw gapped open.
"I was joking." Seven explained, wondering if her attempts to master humour had failed yet again.
B'Elanna slowly brought her eyes up to lock with the blue of Seven's, her face still a picture of surprise. Then just as she detected the young former drone about to explain further B'Elanna winked, "I know." A cheeky smile dominating the engineers face. "Come on we'd best get on with this."
"Acceptable." Stepping up to the console Seven press the button that brought up the first in their list of suspects. Half turning she spoke quietly into B'Elanna's ear, "I am not unattainable Lieutenant, at least not to the right person."
Looking up B'Elanna was captured by the intensity of Seven's eyes, her heart rates soaring with every second she was held in the electric gaze. "You are? What I mean is...do you think, I mean...we, we should get to work."
"Yes Lieutenant." Seven replied unsuccessfully trying to hide her smile.
At the assigned time Seven stepped into her Borg alcove, Icheb already ensconced in the alcove to her right, and began her regeneration cycle, hopeful that by the time her cycle came to an end the identity of her nocturnal visitor would be known. Tuvok had positioned a select team of security personnel, all taken from those already eliminated, around Cargo Bay 2. While Harry Kim and B'Elanna monitored the sensor readings for the area directly surrounding the cargo bay. B'Elanna had wanted to be in the cargo bay when the perpetrator was apprehended, but one look at the Klingon fury just waiting to be unleashed had quickly decided the Captain that the best place for the young woman was in Astrometrics.
Seven's regeneration period was scheduled to last six hours, and for all of that time the security team, and the majority or the senior staff, just waited. Waited, and waited, and then waited some more, until the feminine tones of the computer announced "Regeneration cycle complete."
Seven stepped from her alcove and after checking on Icheb walked towards the approaching security detail. "Did you apprehend the individual?"
"No." Tuvok replied, "No one has entered Cargo Bay 2 since the start of your regeneration period."
"I see." For a moment Seven just stood there unsure of what to do next. Her thoughts interrupted by the hasty arrival of the Captain, B'Elanna and Harry, all of whom gathered around the blonde in what she supposed was a sympathetic manner.
"I'm sorry Seven." Janeway soothed, placing a hand on her shoulder. "We'll figure out some other way to find this person."
"We still have some names to recheck, I'm sure with the information Harry's managed to gather from the logs we should be able to work out who it is." B'Elanna added, surpressing the desire to knock Janeway's hand from Seven's shoulder and replace it with her own. "Captain, if you don't need Seven anymore we should get on with our investigation."
"Do you want any extra help?" Janeway offered, rather hoping that she could be of personal use in this situation.
"Not right now Captain, its kind of a two woman job." B'Elanna smiled over at Seven, "You ready?"
Seven looked over at Icheb, and seeing her young charge give an almost undetectable nod, replied "Yes Lieutenant." After receiving permission from Janeway the two women exited the cargo bay, soon followed by Harry Kim.
On entering Astrometrics B'Elanna and Seven had been greeted by three ensigns from Stella Cartography who were in the process of charting a nearby nebula. Hoping to keep the investigation as quiet as possible B'Elanna decided to reconvene to another location. Few areas on the ship offered the degree of privacy the half Klingon wanted, her office in Engineering had been a possibility, but it lacked the relaxed atmosphere she thought would be an advantage to the former Borg when discussing peoples adverse reactions to her. The one place on the ship she felt truly relaxed and at peace was her quarters, seeing that the nearest Seven had to quarters was the cargo bay, the scene of the crime so to speak, she decided to invite the blonde into her safe place. So the two found themselves sitting comfortably on B'Elanna's couch, sifting through a collection of data pads.
"Ensign Janice Clunes, twenty-eight, works in the hydroponics bay." B'Elanna turned once more to Seven, this was the fourteenth name they'd gone through, but they were still no closer to identifying their guy. Harry's work on the logs had managed to isolate the time when the computer logs were tampered with, and from what group of computer consoles, although not the actual console. So what had been a list of thirty-eight was now down to just nineteen, they were getting closer, just not quite close enough.
"We were on an away mission together 174 days ago, it lasted four days seventeen hours, a routine assessment of an M class planet for nutritional supplements." Seven began. "53 days ago I was assigned by the Chief Engineer to work in the hydroponics bay," B'Elanna smothered a grin, remembering having sent the ex-Borg as far from engineering as she could in the hopes the other woman wouldn't get in her way during the latest emergency repairs. "Ensign Clunes assisted me at that time."
"Okay, lets back up to the first one." B'Elanna began tapping notes into a data pad. "How did she react to you on the away mission?"
"We performed our duties adequately."
"Seven," B'Elanna interrupted wearily, "we've been through this a dozen times, I need to know how she reacted to you as a person, not a work colleague. Tell me if she.."
"Lieutenant, if you had allowed me to finish I would have elaborated further." Seven was getting tired of explaining her relationships to all the suspects, and wished she could have been involved with the more academic areas of investigation. "Ensign Clunes was at the time of the mission friendly and even engaged me on several occasions in conversations about ships business and in particular Neelix's cooking."
"Was she hitting on you?" Each time B'Elanna had asked the question she'd secretly dreaded the answer, not so much that someone would make a pass at Seven, but that the blonde might indicate she was receptive to the pass, or wished the person had made a move.
"I do not believe so." Seven always found this question difficult, she had so little experience in sexual matters that she wasn't always sure of what made up an overture or just simple friendliness. "She made jokes about Neelix's cooking, not malicious jokes, infact I think they were a sign of affection, although I am uncertain."
"Could be, I think Janice has kind of a crush on Neelix."
"Really?" Seven's implant rose and she slid slightly closer to B'Elanna on the couch, the half Klingon's usual reaction to gossip having, over the course of the day, rubbed off on the ex-Borg.
"It's what Sam Wildman told me." Leaning in further B'Elanna continued in a conspiratorially lowered voice. "Apparently Janice has taken to arriving at the mess-hall towards the end of the day and joining Neelix for tea. Then about three weeks ago Naomi caught the two of them kissing in the galley."
"Kissing, that's erm," noting the close proximity of B'Elanna's lips to her own Seven couldn't stop a blush from overtaking her face, "that's nice. He's a good man, and I think he's been lonely."
"Yeah, and he deserves to be happy." B'Elanna's eyes fixed on Seven's full lips, the urge to kiss them getting increasingly hard to resist. "We all do."
Seven's heart rate was increasing, her pulse echoing inside her mind, a mixture of fear and excitement. For seconds they sat unmoving, so close their breaths mingled in the air infront of them, then as if they were both privy to a special set of directions they eased back in their seats, the moment broken, the time not yet right.
"So," B'Elanna cleared her throat, and with it her more lustful thoughts, "did Janice ever mention anything about the Borg, or sound resentful about your position?"
"Fine, I think we'd best go on to number fifteen." B'Elanna picked up the next data pad, and looking at the name and profile displayed she couldn't help but pull a face.
"Is something wrong Lieutenant?" Seven questioned, reaching for the data pad she scanned the details. "Lieutenant Williams, thirty-six, assigned to sensor maintenance. That is a rather lowly position for a lieutenant is it not?"
"It's where I thought he would be of most use." B'Elanna defended. "Have you met him?"
"Yes." Pausing a second she continued. "He has 'hit on' me on several occasions, I refused his advances each time. I found him to be rather... 'slimy' I think would be the correct term."
"Yeah that describes him down to a tee." Came the disgusted reply. "Did he ever try to touch you without your consent? Maybe try and kiss you or something?"
"Not exactly, although he did stand closer to me than I believe is considered polite, and his eyes tended to wander my body as we spoke." At that Seven lifter her own eyes from feasting on the sight of B'Elanna's lips, worried that she too might have been guilty of behaviour similar to that of Williams. "After I refused him he made detrimental remarks about my Borg nature and physiology, although I do not think he realised I could still hear him."
"That sounds about right," B'Elanna scoffed, "you reject him so obviously there must be something wrong with you. Typical of that type of slimeball."
"You have experience with 'that type of slimeball'?" Came Seven's curious voice, accompanied by a raised ocular implant.
"Yes unfortunately, Williams isn't the only person to think they're god's gift to women, or men come to that." Leaning back B'Elanna allowed her mind to wander to her time at the academy, and an incident with her roommate and one of the fitness instructors. "In the academy I shared a room with this woman Clea Otaren, she was friendly and outgoing and I grew to really like her. Then we started a new physical fitness course and she set her eye on the instructor, John something, anyway she'd flirt with him during class and tell me how she was going to win him over and stuff, and it all sounded fun, like a harmless crush. Then a few weeks later she started telling people how he had some kind of emotional problem, couldn't get close to anyone and that he probably couldn't even get it..." She trailed off blushing, somehow describing someone's sexual inadequacies to Seven made her feel dirty. "That he was unable to have sex."
"Brief periods of impotence are not that uncommon in human males." Seven offered, her knowledge of human biology being rather extensive, thanks to Borg tactical information and the Doctor's insistance that she peruse his data base whenever she wished. "It is generally easily corrected over time or with medication, and not I would have thought a matter for derision."
"You're right its not," B'Elanna smiled at the blonde, there she was afraid of tarnishing Seven's innocence when all along the Borg encyclopaedia new more about the facts of the subject than she did, but still remained as innocent as ever. "Well from things Clea said I got the impression that John might have tried to force himself on her or something, and so being the hot blooded Klingon that I was back then," The past tense earned a raised brow from Seven, "I decided to confront him over it. So I found out where he lived and practically forced my way into his house demanding to know what he'd done to my friend."
"My deduction would be nothing."
"Correct, it turns out the guy was happily married with a two month old daughter, and so when Clea made a pass at him he declined, explaining that he was married and although flattered he couldn't go out with her." Shrugging B'Elanna picked up Williams data pad once more. "The first month on board Voyager Williams made a play for me, I wasn't interested, he said some things about how a half breed Klingon should feel lucky anyone was willing to date her. Well," B'Elanna's flush was one of anger this time not embarrassment, "he didn't actually say date, but you get the idea."
"Did you hit him?"
"No!" The half Klingon seemed indignant at the idea. "I'm not a barbarian you know."
"I know that." Seven began to stand, "He acted in a reprehensible manner, if you do not wish to strike him, I will." Her face had taken on a cold demeanour that would have been enough to send the Borg Queen packing.
"Hold on Seven." B'Elanna managed to force the young blonde back into her seat, no easy task given her Borg strength and obvious determination. "That was years ago, and besides we have other things to focus on now."
"I am not sure I agree with that assessment," Seeing B'Elanna about to launch another volley of reasons not to pulverise Williams, Seven decided to desist for the moment, her wish to cause physical harm to the man was surprising but she had every intention of going through with it, she would just wait for a more appropriate time. She did have one idea for speeding up the process however. "If it transpires that Lieutenant Williams was the person responsible for my nocturnal visits, would it be acceptable if I struck him then? For what he did to you."
"I'll tell you what, if he is responsible I'll hit him for you and you can hit him for me, deal?"
"Deal." Taking Williams data pad Seven placed it face down on the floor. "For now he shall remain at the top of the suspect list."
"Right, on to the next one, Ensign Bradley Roth, thirty-nine..."
After having sifted through the list of possible suspects B'Elanna and Seven were called to the Captain's ready room, where the three women were joined by Tuvok and Ensign Kim. Harry had spent most of the morning trying to analyse the computer logs so as to narrow the suspect list, but apart from his initial pruning the list remained at nineteen. His agitation at what he saw as his failure was evident, and Seven, in a rare show of emotional understanding, tried to reassure him. "Your work on the computer logs has been exemplary Ensign, I do not believe anyone else, including myself, could have narrowed the list further."
"Thanks Seven." The young man blushed slightly at this rare praise from the super efficient young woman, his not quite forgotten crush making him want to make a good impression, but more importantly catch the person responsible for scaring her. "The problem is that whoever did this has used a scrambling device on Cargo Bay 2's sensor logs, which has spread out to encompass all the sensors for the surrounding area. If only I could find the pattern sequencer I'd be able to unscramble the thing again, but even using the computers that could take months, if not years."
"Expending too much time on this problem would be a waste of resources." Seven declared, she was already concerned that the time expended on what was her problem, was in disproportion to the actual offence committed. If it hadn't been for her worry that the person responsible might, in addition to bothering her, start to harass Icheb she would have called the investigation off before now, well that and the opportunity to work closely with the Chief Engineer.
"We have to find this sicko!" B'Elanna protested.
"He'll only do it again if we don't catch him." Agreed Harry.
"This individual has broken the law," Tuvok calmly intoned, "not only by touching a crew member without their permission or supposed knowledge, but also by sabotaging ships systems, which could have led to serious repercussions."
Raising her hands Janeway blocked any further protest. "No-one is suggesting dropping the investigation, now lets get back to it shall we?" Her questioning stare was met by signs of agreement. "B'Elanna, did you and Seven come up with anything from the crew list?"
"We've got four people who've shown either romantic interest, Borg hostility or both directed towards Seven."
"Is that all?" Harry asked, but after doing so realised that he'd sounded a bit too much like Tom. "I mean, well the romantic bit, not the hostility, cos you know she's well..." He looked around desperately for someone to take his foot out of his mouth.
"Beautiful, sexy and ultimately unattainable?" B'Elanna offered with a barely restrained smile.
Three faces turned to her with some astonishment, Seven merely cocked her head as if in deep thought and clarified, "I thought we had agreed to delete the unattainable portion of that declaration?"
The two women shared a gentle look, which had the effect of confusing further the others in the room. "Can we get back to the list now please." Janeway finally interrupted.
"Yes Captain." B'Elanna pulled her eyes from Seven's reluctantly, and made a decision to act on these flirtations before they sky rocketed her blood pressure even further. "Of the four we do have a firm favourite, or I should say least favourite, as to be honest neither of us like the man." She handed Janeway Lieutenant Williams data pad. "So perhaps he should be considered by someone more impartial?"
Janeway looked over the file recalling the man but not really knowing anything about him on a personal level. "He's assigned to sensor maintenance, would he have the computer expertise to scramble the cargo bay sensors as Harry described?"
"He's a fully trained engineer, so I don't think it would have given him any problems." B'Elanna took another cursory look through her main list. "In fact I don't think anyone on the list would be incapable of scrambling the sensor readings, the result may be hard to undo but the execution is pretty simple once you know the basics of sensor data storage. The details of which are stored in the ships main computer, and readily available for use by the technicians and theoretically anyone else who is interested."
"A search of computer records for requests for that information may be prudent." Tuvok suggested, at which Harry stepped up to the Captain's console and with her permission began the computer search. Before he'd finished inputting the request the chime sounded on the ready room door.
Tom Paris entered, and seeing all those gathered took on the look of a little boy not invited to the party, before taking his position infront of Janeway. "Captain, I have some news about Seven's admirer."
"Go ahead." All eyes were now focused on the helmsman.
"I was talking to Ensign Lawton about a party she wanted in the holodeck for her birthday next month, its her thirtieth and she wanted something special to commemorate it." Four faces practically screamed 'get on with it', even though none had actually spoken. "She then happened to mention how Lieutenant Edwards had originally been going to help with the preparations, only for the last couple of weeks he'd been acting strangely and appeared to be spending a large amount of his off duty time in Cargo Bay 2, although she couldn't think why he'd rather be there than in the holodeck with her."
"Lieutenant Edwards?" Janeway double checked, and when Tom affirmed that she turned to B'Elanna. "Is he on your list?"
"He's on the main list," She looked towards Seven, "but we never had him down as a suspect."
"Captain!" Came Harry's excited voice. "Lieutenant Edwards accessed the sensor specifications eight days ago."
Janeway looked to Tuvok, "I think we need to have a word with Lieutenant Edwards." She turned to regard the others. "Good work all of you, we will take it from here. I hope I don't need to add that all of this information stays in this room until the investigation is complete?"
"I wish to accompany you to interview Lieutenant Edwards." Seven stated, her stance rigid.
"I don't think that's such a good idea Seven." Janeway did her usual soothing pat of the hand to the shoulder gesture, but this time it appeared to have no success. "We don't yet know for certain that Edwards is the one who touched you, and if he is there's no need for you to have to suffer through any excuses or reasons he might try to concoct in his defence."
"You say that as if any defence on his behalf would be unacceptable?"
"Well.." Janeway floundered, she knew that where the young ex-Borg was concerned she tended to be overprotective, and would have a hard time accepting any mitigating reason for the worry these events had caused her.
"I need to know why he did this." Having remained calm through the whole process Seven's demeanour slipped fractionally as a pleading note entered her voice. "Please Captain, I have to know if something about me made him think he could just..." Her words trailed off, unable to describe why having someone just watch her had in some strange way stripped her of her humanity, and the touch had left her feeling defiled.
The Captain knew without a shadow of a doubt that she should refuse the request, but Kathryn, the friend, knew without a shadow of a doubt that she could not refuse, and on this one occasion Kathryn was victorious. "You can join us, but Seven you leave the questions to Tuvok and myself, okay?"
Seven nodded sparing Kathryn a smile of gratitude.
"I should be there too." B'Elanna jumped in.
"This is an investigation not a picnic Lieutenant." Janeway snapped.
"I am fully aware of that Captain," Unmindful of how it might look to the others B'Elanna gestured for Janeway to follow her to the side of the room, which she did reluctantly, and continued in a softer voice. "She might need someone there, if it turns ugly with Edwards. I know she doesn't show it but you and I both know how vulnerable she really is, and with you and Tuvok conducting the investigation someone has to keep an eye on her."
Kathryn studied her Chief Engineer, what she'd said made sense but she was rather surprised that it had been B'Elanna who'd thought of it. Not that the young woman wasn't sensitive, in her own way she was, but the fact she was displaying her more caring nature because of Seven was astonishing. "Fine, but if I tell you to leave you go, and if I tell Seven to leave you make sure she does."
The two women rejoined the group and after ascertaining Edwards location the four person posse left to find its target.
Richard Edwards was a tall man, at least 6'5", and had muscles straining for freedom beneath his red and black uniform. At the time the investigative team arrived at his quarters he was busy polishing his bat'leth, a present from his Klingon instructor at a prestigious martial arts training academy, the weapon was honed to a fine point, a killing blade just waiting for its next worthy opponent. With weapon still clutched in his hand Edwards answered the chime on his door, his surprise at seeing the Captain was soon over shadowed by the sight of the blonde ex-Borg standing just behind her.
When the door to Edwards quarters opened to reveal the bear of a man carrying a bat'leth B'Elanna immediately fell into a defensive pose, her body partially blocking that of Seven's and her muscles primed ready for attack. Tuvok was also on the alert, his mind calculating defence scenarios quicker than the supposed attacker had time to blink. Both had their eyes glued to the hand grasping the weapon, and so both were caught slightly off guard when the bat'leth fell to the floor, a dull thud marking its harmless position resting on the carpet.
Astonished the four watched as Edwards appeared to loose his balance and after stumbling a few feet back into the room collapsed in a boneless heap on the floor, the sound of uncontrollable sobbing the only noise in the room. Sharing a bewildered look with the others Janeway stepped fully into Edwards quarters, and kneeling beside the man tried to speak to him. "Lieutenant Edwards, I have some questions to ask you." The man just continued to sob, his hunched figure beginning to sway to an unknown rhythm.
"I'm no legal expert, but that looks a lot like proof of guilt to me." B'Elanna offered, while reaching down to retrieve the bat'leth, the man's behaviour had unsettled her but she wasn't taking any chances that the man mountain would regain his composure and try to hack them to pieces with the blade.
"Perhaps we should call the Doctor?" Seven asked, she found unrestrained emotional outbursts like this unnerving.
The sound of her voice had an instantaneous effect of Edwards, his rocking stopped and his sob's receded to a barely audible level. Looking up his eyes fixed on those of Seven. "Don't worry Laura daddy's okay." A wavering smile traversed his face before crumbling at Seven's blank expression.
"Who is Laura?" Disregarding Janeway's orders, and the looks she was now receiving from her Captain and Tuvok, Seven bent down to kneel besides Edwards. Her movements causing B'Elanna to rush to her side, and placing a restraining arm around her waist attempt to pull Seven away from the possible danger. "It is all right B'Elanna." Seven whispered, her eyes pleading with the other woman to trust her judgement, and although her arm remained around Seven's waist B'Elanna allowed her to move in closer to the silently weeping man. "Lieutenant, who is Laura?"
"My angel." Unconsciously his hand reached up to touch Seven's hair, the ex-Borg's flinch sending it plunging to the floor. "My golden haired angel."
"Where is she?"
"You're here." Puffy blood shot eyes stared at the tall blonde, indecision suddenly communicated through his stare. "Seven? Where's....are they all gone again?"
"All who?" Janeway interrupted, she had no idea what was going on, she'd come here to arrest some pervert for playing peeping tom with one of her crew, now she felt as if they were being given front row seats to a psychiatrists convention.
"Our children." He gave his answer directly to Janeway, and as if the sight of her had reopened a page in his mind he thrust out an accusing finger in her direction, his body straining to rise and meet hers. "You gave them our children!" He screamed, Seven and B'Elanna having to hold him in his place before he could accost the Captain.
"Shhhh," Gently rubbing his back Seven tried to calm him, her mind wondering where this instinctive gesture had originated, "gave who the children?"
"The Borg." Capturing one of Seven's hands Edwards stared into her eyes with desperation, "They took Laura, then Mitzoti and the twins, they'll try and reclaim you soon, and Icheb. I won't let that happen, I won't loose you again."
"The Borg do not have Mitzoti or the twins." Seven reasoned. "They are safe."
"No!" His scream pierced the room. "The Borg have them, they take everything." The rocking began again, his body curling up into a ball. "They destroy everything I love." His agitation was mounting, and with it the speed of his bodies movement.
"Lieutenant?" Seven's address was met with silence, the large man having retreated into himself. "Richard? Can you hear me?" Still nothing.
Placing a hand on Seven's shoulder Janeway caught her attention, then with a shake of the head indicated that they should leave the distraught man for the moment. Leaning back Seven permitted B'Elanna to help her stand, the feel of the other woman's hand in hers a comfort she didn't immediately let go.
"The Doctor will be here shortly." Janeway informed the two women. "I think it best if Edwards is sedated for now, and then when he is calmer we can try and talk to him again. Tuvok is arranging a security detail to guard him in sickbay."
"I would like to be there when he is questioned." Seven stated.
"I'm not sure that's such a good idea Seven, he doesn't appear to me to be in any state to undergo an interrogation." Looking down on Edwards Janeway's face took on a trouble expression. "He looks more in need of a therapist or counsellor, neither of which we have."
"I did not plan on interrogating him Captain, I thought I might be able to help, he appears to have formed a connection to me."
"I'll discuss it with the Doctor and Commander Chakotay, if they agree then I'll let you participate." Janeway's eyes turned to the door as it opened to admit the EMH. "For now, B'Elanna I want you to take Seven somewhere to relax." Seeing Seven about to protest Kathryn gave the Borg's Klingon shadow a stern look. "Now Lieutenant."
"Captain." Placing her arm around Seven's shoulders B'Elanna began guiding the young woman out. "Come on Seven, I think we could both use a drink."
The mess-hall was reasonably empty enabling B'Elanna to commandeer a corner table for her and Seven, the young blonde complaining that the consumption of liquid refreshment was unnecessary at that time, and that she had been away from her duties for long enough. Pushing Seven into a seat B'Elanna growled at her to, "Sit." Before retrieving their cups of tea. "Drink this."
Seven took a sip of the drink before scrunching up her face in disgust and pushing the offending beverage away from her. "The replicators need to be recalibrated, this liquid is overly sweetened. I can perform the procedure immediately, unless you would prefer a member of engineering to carry out the task Lieutenant?"
"There's nothing wrong with the tea Seven."
"Yes there is, it has an increased.."
"I asked for it to be extra sweet." B'Elanna interrupted. "Sweet tea is good for shock, I think."
"I am not in shock Lieutenant." Seven pushed the cup further from her. "If we are finished here I should return to Astrometrics."
"Stay where you are Seven." B'Elanna placed her hand over Seven's as the young blonde attempted to rise from her seat. "Those three from Stella Cartography are probably still in Astrometrics, and if you go barging in now you'll only get in their way."
"Are you saying I'm an encumbrance?" Indignation rolled off the perfectionist in waves.
"No!" B'Elanna brought her other hand up to join its twin in holding Seven's still captured hand, her fingers making small circular patterns across the Borg metal and then on to caress the skin underneath. "I didn't mean it like that." Looking up into confused blue eyes the half Klingon gave a small guilty smile, "I just don't want you to leave yet."
"Why?" The sensations travelling through Seven's hand were making it hard for her to concentrate, she knew she should be angry with B'Elanna, but all she could think about was how those strong yet gentle fingers were touching her, and not only her human skin but also the Borg implants.
"You need to talk about what just happened, with Edwards, and" B'Elanna looked down at her hands still busy holding Seven's and knew she should withdraw them, but she didn't. "I want to spend more time with you."
"Yes." As she answered B'Elanna indicated their linked hands. "Is that okay?"
Seven's fully human hand came up to join the others in a gentle hold. "Yes, it is okay." Her half smile was met by a fuller one from B'Elanna.
"How do you feel? About what just happened with Edwards." Although at first she had planned on asking 'how do you feel about me', the half Klingon found herself in the unusual position of loosing her nerve, and so backed out before the sentence was even complete.
"I am uncertain." Seven's thoughts were momentarily halted by the sight of Tom Paris and Harry entering the mess-hall, she was afraid that B'Elanna would remove her hand when she caught sight of them, but apart from a flicker of recognition in her warm brown eyes she made no move. "He wasn't hostile, that I would have understood."
"I am Borg. People dislike or even fear me because of it." Her tone was neutral but through their touch B'Elanna could feel a slight tremor run through her.
"You're not a Borg anymore." To stop the interruption she knew was coming B'Elanna squeezed Seven's hands. "They have no reason to dislike or fear you." Then to lighten the mood she gave Seven a big smile. "Not until they get to know you anyway."
"You dislike and fear me?" Seven knew B'Elanna had meant it as a joke but it was a question she had long wanted the answer to.
"No." Suddenly she wished she'd just let Seven go back to work. "I was never afraid of you, and I don't dislike you now."
"But you did?"
"No. Yes. I don't know." Bringing up one of her hands B'Elanna raked her fingers through her hair trying to work out how best to explain her previous feelings towards the blonde. Then fearing how the abandoned touch might look, returned her hand to intertwine with Seven's. "You annoyed me, you always thought you were right and you had no manners. I know I said hurtful things about you being a Borg, but if you'd been a Vulcan or Bolian or anything else I would have said the same, only blamed it on that culture instead of the Borg, but I am sorry if I hurt you."
"So it was not the Borg you disliked, only me?"
"No! I'm not explaining this well, what I meant was that I didn't dislike you because you were a Borg. I just don't like it when anyone interferes with my work, or goes over my head to the Captain." B'Elanna shook her head, this just wasn't coming out right and every time she tried to explain she just seemed to get herself in deeper. "Look Seven, we had a clash of personalities that's all, but as I got to know you and you became more your own person, I realised that we're really a lot alike, and that's when I came to understand how much I do like you."
Brown eyes searched out blue, trying to see if they really had accepted what she was trying to say. The need to explain further how her feelings had changed, and to what degree, was strong but B'Elanna held back, wanting to get the discussion about Edwards out of the way first. "Lets get back to Edwards, okay?"
"The Captain said I could not see Lieutenant Edwards until she has discussed it with the Doctor and Commander Chakotay."
"What?" B'Elanna thought back over what she'd actually said and surpressed a smile. "I meant get back to discussing Edwards, and what he did."
"He watched me."
"Yes I know, and touched you." Trying again to make her open up B'Elanna pressed further. "What I want to know is how you feel about that?"
"The touch was not sexual." She deflected.
"I kind of realised that, I guess I was just projecting." Seven's eyebrow rose, and blushing B'Elanna continued hurriedly. "Stop trying to change the subject, how do you feel?"
"I... his reaction was not what I expected, I am unsure... I don't know how I feel." Seven's eyes dropped to their joint hands, she wanted to answer B'Elanna's question, more to please the other woman than a desire to examine her own feelings. "When I saw him on the floor, crying, I felt...I felt responsible."
"Responsible? I don't understand."
"When we entered his quarters I was expecting hatred or disgust, but the look in his eyes was one of....sadness." Seven appeared to retreat into herself as she thought of the weeping man, her own eyes misting with tears. "I felt as if in some way I had caused that sadness, as if I had done something to make him hurt like that."
"Seven don't." Without thought to anyone watching B'Elanna moved around the table to the chair next to Seven, and placing her arm around the ex-Borg's strong shoulders tried comforting the once ice princess. "You did nothing wrong. I don't know what made Edwards do what he did, but from the way he acted I think it goes back a lot further than his meeting with you."
"I know." Seven took pleasure in B'Elanna's nearness, although she felt guilty as her thoughts turned from her encounter with Edwards to possible closer encounters with the warm bodied half Klingon. "But I still feel responsible."
B'Elanna fought the urge to pull the tall blonde into her lap and rock her until the pain stopped. "Look, until we've had the chance to speak with Edwards we won't know why he did what he did, and in the meantime it would be a waste of resources to blame yourself for his actions." She lifted a brow in further imitation of the ex-Borg. "Come on lets get out of here."
"Where are we going?" Standing Seven was thrilled when a warm hand clasped her own and began leading her from the mess-hall.
"My quarters." Leading Seven towards the exit she turned to regard her, "you know its about time you had some quarters of your own."
"I do not require living quarters."
"Not even for somewhere private to invite your friends? Say for dinner or...." B'Elanna allowed her sentence to trail off, and with it the colour rise in Seven's cheeks.
"I shall speak with the Captain."
For the second time that day B'Elanna led Seven into her quarters, but unlike the first time she wasn't looking for a quiet place to work, now her reasons for bringing the blonde beauty there were much more personal, and because of that she was suddenly nervous about what to say or even where to sit. Seven solved the seating problem by returning to the same place on the couch she had occupied earlier, but unfortunately for B'Elanna she remained silent, her large blue eyes staring up at the still standing half Klingon in expectation.
"It's getting kind of late." B'Elanna tried by way of an opening, even though she wasn't quite sure why she said it.
"Do you wish for me to leave?" Seven's glance dropped to the floor fearing she had outstayed her welcome.
"No!" B'Elanna rushed to sit by Seven, and once again taking her hand tried to reassure her. "I don't want you to go. I'm not sure why I mentioned the time, I was just...just nervous."
"Nervous?" An ocular implant rose. "Why would you be nervous?"
"I'm not used to you being here when we're not working." Talking about what was making her nervous was just increasing B'Elanna's anxiety. "Are you hungry?" She suddenly asked, both to change the subject and because her stomach had started to growl. "I could replicate us some dinner."
Seven had missed her last scheduled nutritional supplement, but she realised that even if she had just eaten she would still have accepted the offer of spending this personal time with the Lieutenant. "I would like that."
"Good. Are you still on a restricted diet?" B'Elanna asked as she neared the replicator.
"I can digest most substances other humans ingest, although some of the more spicy varieties can cause minor stomach pains." Seeing the half Klingon temporary chef in thought she added. "I also do not like cheese, although I am unsure why."
"No cheese, right." B'Elanna began inputting data into the replicator. "We all have foods we don't like Seven, it just depends on the individuals taste buds. Me, I can't stand armonds or raspberries, well except in jam and then they taste great on fresh scones."
"I do not believe I would like cheese even if it was turned into a jam and spread on a scone." The normally impassive ex-Borg pulled a face of pure disgust, sending B'Elanna into a fit of the giggles.
"Okay, don't worry I won't try and sneak any cheese into the meal disguised as anything." Still laughing B'Elanna began to set the table, refusing Seven's help when it was offered as she wanted something to occupy her thoughts, and divert them from the rather lascivious images they were supplying of herself and Seven. The rather lustful images were not something she wanted to dwell upon with Seven sitting so near to her, and even though she'd promised herself that she would act on their flirtations at the next possible opportunity, she didn't think that after the stressful day Seven had endured that she would welcome her advances.
Once the meal was ready the two sat down and after Seven's initial murmurs of appreciation concerning the choice of food, they continued to eat in near silence. Unlike on other occasions recently this silence was not a companionable one, instead it was uncomfortable, both women wanting to continue their flirtation, but at the same time afraid they would scare the other off. Then underneath that level of uncomfort was their equal need to move past the flirting and touch one another, which they were even more afraid to do.
"I found the meal constituents most agreeable." Seven praised. "Thank you."
"I should go." Seven stood rather abruptly, the atmosphere having unnerved her more than she thought. "I need to regenerate, and I wish to speak with Icheb before he begins his cycle."
"Okay, I guess now it really is kind of late." B'Elanna was disappointed, but also relieved, she wasn't sure she could go another ten minutes without trying to kiss those so very inviting lips. Reaching the door Seven turned to say her farewell, but B'Elanna beat her to it. "I hope we can do this again. The meal that is, not looking for a peeping tom."
"You would?" Seven had began to think the Klingon's silence during dinner was a sign of her indifference, but if she wished to engage in this form of social activity again, she might have been mistaken.
"Yes, of course I would." B'Elanna laid a gentle hand on Seven's arm, and doing so realised that she'd touched her more within the last day than in the three years preceding. "I'd like the chance to spend a lot more off-duty time with you, if you want?"
"I would like that." Seven hesitated at the doors threshold, she didn't want to leave but didn't have the experience on how to proceed, even though her instincts were screaming at her to just kiss B'Elanna, and quickly.
They stood there for a moment, both wanting the same thing, both waiting for the other to make the first move. Eventually it was B'Elanna who moved, after recognising the longing in Seven's eyes she couldn't hold back anymore. Reaching up her free hand she cupped Seven's cheek, her thumb caressing the silky smooth skin as she brought their faces closer. As if out of instinct Seven's eyes closed, and when finally she felt the delicate brush of lips against her own she couldn't stop a tiny sigh from escaping. The lips soon returned, the kiss just as delicate as the first, and just as maddeningly short. This time when Seven sighed it was one of frustration, and placing her hand at the nape of B'Elanna's neck she brought them together for a third and more prolonged kiss. B'Elanna's desire not to overwhelm the inexperienced woman with her passion was quashed the second she felt the strong hand begin to caress the base of her skull, sending shock waves of desire throughout her body.
Using her unoccupied hand Seven encircled B'Elanna's waist and brought their bodies into closer, and more heated contact. The feel of having another body pressed so intimately to her own was a new and thrilling experience for Seven, and the fact that the body belonged to the fiery engineer was making her tremble and hold on even tighter. Just as her legs seemed to have regained their ability to work without assistance B'Elanna dropped her hand from its resting place on Seven's arm, and following a slow caress of her back the hand came to rest on Seven's behind. The feel of the hand alone was enough to send her heart into overdrive, but then with a squeeze B'Elanna pulled her closer and a moan of absolute pleasure left her lips, only to pass through the excited Klingon.
Feeling Seven moan was like pouring oil on B'Elanna's desire, it ignited, and the need to consume her beautiful blonde love became overwhelming. Delicately brushing her tongue against Seven's full and inviting lower lip she was soon welcomed inside. The velvety softness of Seven's tongue meeting her own in a lustful dance, each taking their turn to lead, and both revelling in the intimacy of the gesture.
Relinquishing her caress of B'Elanna's neck Seven allowed her fingers to slowly feel their way down the other woman's enticing form. Her hand slowing to encircle B'Elanna's breast, exerting the tiniest amount of pressure, but enough to produce a growl from deep in the Klingon's throat, before the fingers carried on in their quest, a quest to find a way inside the restrictive uniform. Somehow managing to squeeze into the non-existent space between them, Seven's fingers found the edge of the uniforms fastening, and pulling gently, even though what she really wanted to do was rip the thing off, Seven pulled the uniform top open. Then as if they'd had years of practice her fingers found the edge of B'Elanna's t-shirt, and making their way underneath began a leisurely caress of the bare stomach before moving upwards.
B'Elanna's breathing started to come in short gasps as she felt Seven's hand touching her bare flesh, a shiver of desire following each pass of a finger across skin. As the gentle caress moved ever higher up her body B'Elanna wished she too could feel the skin of her soon to be lover, but all her efforts were frustrated by the mere fact she didn't know how to undo the formfitting biosuit. As Seven's hand came into contact with her bra, and made short work of releasing the front fastening clasp, B'Elanna could wait no longer. Regretfully breaking off from the kiss, she planted smaller kisses along Seven's jaw until her lips were resting next to the delicate ear. "How..Oohhhhh." B'Elanna's words were cut off as Seven's finger began a slow assault on her nipple, the sensations robbing her of speech, and driving the lustful Klingon to take sanctuary in nipping at Seven's bared neck, although not enough to break the flawless surface. "Mmmm, tell me how," B'Elanna placed a tiny kiss to Seven's ear, followed by another, "to remove your biosuit?"
"In...the...back" Seven suddenly lost the ability to speak as B'Elanna's lips engulfed her earlobe, "in..in..the..collar."
B'Elanna's hands were soon searching the neck of the tight suit, her fingers fighting for the opportunity to be the ones to free the beauty from her bindings, the once much admired blue suit now only an obstacle.
"Icheb to Seven of Nine."
Two sets of hands stopped their wandering, although for a moment neither could understand where the interruption had come from. Then reluctantly moving slightly away, and more reluctantly removing her hand from inside B'Elanna's top, Seven activated her comm. "Yes Icheb. Is anything wrong?"
"No." There was a definite note of relief in the young man's voice. "I just wanted to know you were all ri...that the investigation was progressing adequately." He covered, still not used to showing his emotions so openly.
"The investigation has been successful." Seven felt guilty for failing to keep the young man up to date on the investigation, she knew he had been concerned but still she had allowed herself to be side-tracked by the prospect of spending time with B'Elanna. Sharing a slightly embarrassed look with her almost lover, Seven couldn't feel guilty about wanting to be with the woman, but she knew she must hold back on her desires, at least until after she had allayed Icheb's fears. "I shall return to Cargo Bay 2 shortly, I will inform you of the situation then." With that Seven cut off the link and reluctantly faced what she thought would be an angered half Klingon. "I am sorry."
"Me too." With a groan B'Elanna let her head drop onto Seven's chest, before with a weary chuckle adding, "you've got to teach that kid about timing."
"I am sorry."
Looking up B'Elanna saw the real worry barely hidden in the blue eyes, so reaching up with both hands she pulled Seven's head down for one final kiss, this time not hurried or demanding, but loving and gentle, a kiss that she hoped conveyed the promise of more to come. "I understand, you need to speak with him, he's been worried about you."
"You are not angry?"
"No." Slipping her hands from around Seven's shoulders B'Elanna trailed them along the other woman's arms until she could grasp her hands. Bringing their joined hands to her mouth B'Elanna kissed the knuckles of both Seven's before looking up at her with eyes still full of desire. "We can finish this at a more appropriate time, when I can guarantee we won't be disturbed for hours. If that's what you want too?"
"Yes." Any further speech was beyond Seven, so she repeated B'Elanna's gesture by raising their joined hands and kissing the darker ones before regretfully having to leave.
With shaky hands B'Elanna began to straighten out her uniform jacket, her mind already trying to work out how to secure the undisturbed time she had promised Seven. Willing to part with a life times supply of replicator rations if she could get to finish what they had started here tonight.
Late the following afternoon Janeway called a senior staff meeting to discuss the situation with Edwards. Having decided to involve them in the hunt for what, at the time, she thought was a peeping tom, it now seemed appropriate, especially for Edwards future amongst the crew, to explain as fully as they were able the real reasons behind the Lieutenant's actions. The situation had also brought to light several changes in ships business that needed to be discussed, and she was hoping for suggestions for a candidate to fill a long overdue post.
As the senior officers filed in Janeway noticed an obvious change in their demeanour from the last meeting. Tom, who had barely seemed to register any need for concern at Seven's accusations, now displayed a serious and troubled face, as if someone had taken the time to point out to the helmsman what an invasion of privacy being stalked like that actually was. Next to Tom sat his most probable enlightener, Harry Kim, who having missed the confrontation with Edwards was still angry at the man and determined to see him punished to the full extent of Federation law, a subject he had spent much of the previous night studying. Tuvok sat as impassive as always, his countenance echoed in that of Commander Chakotay and, in a drastic change from his obvious concern and agitation at the previous meeting, the Doctor. The biggest change Kathryn noticed was in the attitudes of B'Elanna and Seven, one had been hostile and fuelled by anger, while the other confused and sad. Now as she watched Kathryn saw the smiles that fought for release on each of their faces, and more than that there was a certain lightness to their countenance, and sparkle in their eyes that could not completely be explained by Edwards capture.
"Captain?" Chakotay interrupted her speculation, indicating the meeting was now ready for her to begin.
"Thank you Commander." Janeway surveyed the people sitting around her, a small smile on her lips an indication of happier news, or at least that was the impression she hoped to achieve. "I expect you all know why we are here, the individual responsible for spying on, and touching Seven has been apprehended. Lieutenant Richard Edwards is currently in sickbay, recov..."
"You hit him?" Tom blurted to the two women sat opposite him, his tone one of joy and vicarious excitement, although his eyes did travel in confusion from one face to the other trying to guess which had actually thrown the punch.
"No." Seven replied calmly, although the question did remind her of one Lieutenant Williams with whom she had unfinished business.
"As I was saying." Janeway's raised voice was enough to curb Tom's more obvious excitement at the thought of a fight. "Lieutenant Edwards is currently recovering from what in layman's terms I would call a breakdown." The EMH was about to step in with the correct terminology for what he believed was afflicting the Lieutenant, but refrained, knowing the language would most likely pass over most of their heads anyway. "His actions towards Seven were, we now believe, a result of long standing emotional problems brought on by severe trauma. For that reason Commander Tuvok, Seven and I have decided that it would be best to refrain from pressing charges in this matter."
"Excuse me Captain?" Harry butted in, his data pad full of Federation legal precedents clutched in his hand. "I don't understand how you can let the man get away with sexually assaulting Seven, just because he's a bit..." Harry wavered between his distaste at what he thought Edwards had done and his natural empathy for those suffering emotional difficulties. "A bit unsettled."
"Ensign Kim." Speaking for the first time, Seven caught the attention of all those around the table, and calmed Harry's rising temper at the same time. "Lieutenant Edwards did not assault me, sexually or otherwise." Looking over at B'Elanna she wondered why all these individuals seemed to have a fixation with the sexual nature of touch, admittedly she had been think of little else for the past eight hours, but still she was uncertain why they all assumed that any unwanted contact was sexual in nature. She would ask the Doctor and research the phenomena at a later date. "He was attempting to secure my safety."
"Huh?" Harry's eloquence was joined by a confused look from Tom, and even B'Elanna was unsure of exactly what Seven meant, having missed the mornings lengthier session between Edwards, Seven, the Doctor and Chakotay.
"I think it best if you explain it from the beginning Doctor." Janeway broke in, again taking control. "The shorter version." She added quickly seeing the man puff up his holographic lungs in preparation for a two hour operetta.
"Yes Captain." The EMH collected his thoughts before continuing. "Seven and a half years ago Lieutenant Edwards was stationed with his family on the USS Cassiopeia, a long range science vessel, at that time he was a member of security and his wife a research immunologist. They had one child, a little blonde haired girl called Laura, who was on the ship with them. It appears the Cassiopeia came into contact with a Borg scout ship, one of the smallest vessels used by the Collective, and during the altercation almost half of the ships personnel were either killed or assimilated before they were able to hide behind a nebulous gas formation. Edwards daughter Laura was one of those assimilated."
"So that's why he attacked Seven?" Tom asked, never one to wait patiently for a story to unfold.
"He did not attack me!" Seven's words were becoming more forceful as the constant interruptions began to wear on her patience.
"If I was allowed to continue you might find your questions already answered." The Doctor spared the helmsman a condescending look, wondering for the 1,736th time why such a man had been assigned as his medical backup. "The trauma caused by his daughters assimilation was compounded by his temporary separation from his wife, which became permanent when he along with the rest of us was stranded in the Delta quadrant. The speed with which he transferred from his old ship to Voyager, and the hectic nature of the first months, or I could say years, in the Delta quadrant meant that he never allowed himself to grieve properly for his lost child." Stopping a moment the EMH remembered his own holo-family, and although he had only been with them a short time he in some tiny way was able to empathise with the man, having also experienced the loss of a child. "Our not infrequent encounters with the Borg only added to his bottled up feelings of grief and anger, but when Seven joined the crew he recognised in her another child that had been taken from her parents, and I think in some way seeing her returned to humanity alleviated some of his grief, while at the same time instilling within him a need to protect her safety."
"In a way Seven became a replacement figure for his lost child." Chakotay added for clarification.
"Precisely." The Doctor looked over at Seven, and with a smile continued. "It is plainly obvious that Seven isn't a child, so although linked in his mind with his daughter, Edwards was able to easily distinguish between the two and carry on his duties mostly unaffected. Then three separate events occurred to 'tip him over the edge', firstly we rescued the four Borg children, but instead of identifying them with his daughter, Edwards began to see Seven as both a representation of his child and as a parent, like himself, of Borg assimilated children."
"Sounds to me like he's ready for a rubber room." Came another interruption from Tom.
Ignoring him, but putting the count up to 1,737, the Doctor went on. "Secondly he received a communication from his wife in the Alpha quadrant, in which she informed him that she had remarried having thought him dead." Janeway made a slight wince at this, the news too closely resembling her own from Mark. "Finally, three of the Borg children, including Mitzoti a girl only a few years older than his own when she was taken, left the ship. Now in Edwards mind he believed the children had been reassimilated by the Borg, and so to protect Seven, his substitute daughter, from suffering the same fate, he decided to protect her at the time she was most vulnerable, while she slept."
"I can understand him wanting to look out for Seven when she was regenerating, but why did he touch her?" B'Elanna questioned.
"It was my hair." Seven turned to talk directly to B'Elanna. "His daughter had golden coloured hair, and apparently as he stood watching me my hair reminded him of his daughters. So he did what he used to do with her when she fell asleep, he brushed the hair from her face and told her he loved her. Or in this case brushed my hair, and told me he loved me." There was a yearning in Seven's big blue eyes as she told this to her friend, a wish to remember her own father ever having shown as much love and attention towards her.
Reaching across the table B'Elanna rested her hand on Seven's for a moment, "I can understand that."
"So what happens to him now? Edwards I mean." Harry asked, his anger and list of Federation laws forgotten.
"The Doctor and Commander Chakotay have both offered to help counsel Edwards, and Seven and Icheb have also volunteered to talk and listen to him, when the need arises." Janeway looked agitated at this part of the meeting, the fact that a man had been suffering like this for years aboard her ship and no-one, including herself, had noticed anything or in anyway tried to help made her feel useless. She just wondered how many others were suffering in silence. "This brings up an important matter I wanted to discuss, the lack of a ships counsellor. This incident has displayed the very real need for a trained professional who would be able to handle, not just the past trauma's of the crew, but those we are forced to endure on a seemingly regular basis whilst in the Delta quadrant."
"How do you propose to find a trained professional?" B'Elanna asked sceptically, then with a sense of dread added. "You're not suggesting handing over the ships emotional well being to a hologram? No offence Doctor, I meant a normal hologram not you."
"No offence taken." In fact he was quite pleased at the engineers classification of him as not a normal hologram.
"No, I wanted suggestions of possible candidates for training, although some of that will of necessity be done on the holodeck." Both B'Elanna and Seven's attitude towards non-sentient holograms always left Kathryn feeling slightly soiled, so she moved the conversation on quickly. "I thought if any of you knew of someone who had shown a natural inclination to this type of profession I could approach them about beginning a training program. With our now more regular communication with the Alpha quadrant we might even be able to put them in contact with a trained counsellor there to help with any problems."
"Chakotay has experience with this sort of thing, but I guess he doesn't really have the time to take on that kind of role." B'Elanna thought out loud.
"Correct, it will be a full time job, especially at the beginning." Janeway clarified.
"I suppose that would take Neelix out of the running too, what with him already being chef, moral officer and diplomat." Harry added with a smile.
"I would suggest Tal Celes from Astrometrics." Seven offered.
"Is that because you think she'd be good, or you just want her out of your hair?" B'Elanna asked her with a smile.
Seven put on her most superior glare and replied, "Both." Before returning the half Klingon's smile.
"I must agree, after working with her on an away mission I think she'd be a good choice for counsellor, she seemed genuinely interested in people and had a desire to help." Kathryn looked around the table once more. "Anyone else?" When no further names were forthcoming Janeway looked ready to adjourn. "In that case I shall approach her about the position, and inform you later of her response. If that's all?"
"Actually Captain there is something else." B'Elanna got in quickly. "The incident with Edwards has highlighted the situation as regards Seven and Icheb's living quarters."
"Well basically that they don't have any." With a look to Seven B'Elanna continued. "As it stands neither of them has any privacy while they sleep, or any space in which to relax or even just sit without interruption. That is a problem not shared by anyone else onboard, and from what the Doctor has told me, both Seven and Icheb will eventually need to start sleeping normally as well as continuing shorter periods of regeneration. Therefore they need quarters in close proximity to the Borg alcoves."
"I see." Janeway looked over to Seven to gage her reaction, the ex-Borg's eyes were transfixed on B'Elanna, a small smile edging up her lips. "Do you have a proposal for these new quarters?"
"Yes Captain." B'Elanna handed over a data pad, one she had worked on most of the night when sleep had proven unattainable, at least without the blonde resting beside her.
"You have?" Seven questioned, pleased that the other woman would expend so much energy on her.
"Here." B'Elanna passed a data pad with a duplicate set of designs to Seven. "The construction would actually be quite simple, we would use the sides of the cargo bay to form two of the walls then just add the other two outer walls and the room divisions. My people could most likely have it completed within two days."
"Fine." The Captain set the designs down more than satisfied with the details, turning to Seven she just needed the young woman's opinion before giving the go ahead. "What do you think Seven, is the space adequate?" At the use of one of the ex-Borg's most frequently used words Kathryn couldn't hold back a smile.
"It is more than adequate Captain." Seven's finger traced the lines that made up the design of her quarters. "It is a home."
"Good. Start work on Seven's new 'home' immediately Lieutenant." With that business was concluded and the staff meeting was adjourned.
For two days Seven and Icheb avoided entering Cargo Bay 2, the one time they had attempted to enter a flustered engineering detail, led by the Chief Engineer, had practically thrown them out, with admonishments to 'wait until its finished'. The logical argument that they need to enter in order to regenerate were pushed aside, and once outside the doors to the cargo bay they were directed to sickbay where the Doctor had readied a portable regeneration unit.
"It is impractical for Seven and I to take turns using this inferior regeneration unit when our own are perfectly serviceable in Cargo Bay 2." Icheb complained to the EMH on the second day.
"That would spoil the surprise."
"What surprise?" The young man looked confused. "We already know they are constructing quarters for us, I have even see the designs, so how can that be a surprise?"
"You may have seen the designs, but not the finished building." The Doctor would never get used to the ex-Borg seeming lack of the dramatic. "Lieutenant Torres wishes to present it to you complete, so you can enjoy it properly."
"I believe Seven would rather enjoy spending time with Lieutenant Torres, and wait for the completion of our quarters."
"Really?" The Doctor looked around sickbay, making sure they couldn't be overheard before he began digging for gossip. "They did appear to be on much more friendlier terms recently."
"I suppose that means they've been seeing a lot more of each other, before the Lieutenant began construction that is." The Doctor tried again.
"So did Seven mention if they were planning on..." The Doctor took a moment to think, questioning adolescent ex-Borg males about their guardians love life was not as easy as he had hoped. "Extending their friendship."
"I give up." This was positively the last time he tried to engage former members of the Collective in gossiping.
"Three nights ago Seven returned from being with Lieutenant Torres in a highly agitated state." The boy linked his arms behind his back as if giving a recital to the Borg Queen. "Her temperature was increased, her eyes still marginally dilated and her breathing rapid. I deduced from this she had either been involved with a violent altercation or had engaged in some form of sexual activity. From the look on her face, and the absence of injuries, I concluded that she and Lieutenant Torres had formed a sexual bond."
The Doctor just stared at the boy, silently taking back all he had said about not gossiping with former drones, the lad was a natural. Then his mind turned to the information he had retrieved, he had long come to the realisation that his own feelings for Seven would never be returned with anything beyond friendship, and was glad that she had finally found someone who she could share her feelings with. He liked and respected B'Elanna, although he would never tell her so in those words, and thought it a good, if on the surface odd, match. "I think Seven and B'Elanna would appreciate it if you didn't share these assumptions with anyone else until they are ready to have any relationship between them known." Surpressing gossip was contrary to his natural instinct, or some glitch in his program, but the EMH didn't want to be the one to have to reattach any of Icheb's severed limbs if B'Elanna found out he was innocently spreading rumours.
"I will comply." Icheb slipped back into true Borg vocabulary only when he was confused, and the person who had just spent the last few minutes trying to get him to talk about Seven's relationship now telling him he shouldn't, was confusing.
Just then Seven entered sickbay, "Icheb, I have been informed by Captain Janeway that our quarters are ready. You may resume regenerating in your Borg alcove." The clipped nature of Seven's speech was due to her disappointment that B'Elanna herself hadn't contacted her with news of the completion, she had hoped to finally spend some time with the other woman.
"Doctor, the Captain informs me that it is customary to hold a 'house warming party' when you move into new accommodation." A raised ocular implant signified Seven's own thoughts on the warming of her home. "Therefore you are invited to attend the event tomorrow evening, 1800 hours."
"I would be delighted."
Without anything further the two ex-Borg left sickbay.
Entering Cargo Bay 2 the two former drones were met by silence, the large rooms lights set to minimum, and tools still in evidence around the outer perimeter of what they knew must be their new quarters. Seven's heart was heavy, despite the prospect of viewing her new home. She had hoped B'Elanna would be there to greet her, the past two days had been interminably long as she waited for contact, her usually disciplined mind constantly betraying her to slip into memories and fantasies about the fiery Klingon. A glimmer of hope found a home in Seven's heart as she recalled the custom of 'surprising' individuals on the occasions of birthdays or anniversaries, and thought that perhaps a new home was also an occasion for surprise. If that were the case B'Elanna, along with her other friends, would be waiting just inside their quarters.
"We should examine our accommodation." Seven told Icheb, with barely concealed enthusiasm.
"Acceptable." The boy allowed Seven to proceed him into the room.
On first entering the living area the lights were off, so calling for them to illuminate Seven prepared for people to rise up and shout 'Surprise' in a way guaranteed to scare three years off the life expectancy of anyone unfortunate enough to walk in on it. The lights came on, and Seven waited.
"Is something wrong?" Icheb enquired from behind her.
"No." She peered around the room, the decor was standard Starfleet issue, with a large couch taking up the left hand side of the room, a table and chairs the right, but no sign of a hiding Chief Engineer. Walking quickly Seven went to the first of the doors adjoining the living area, looking in she expended just enough time to find out if anyone was present before moving onto the next. Two bedrooms with en suite bathroom, one on either side of the living room, and an area to the back of the living room containing the Borg alcoves, were all checked and still no sign of B'Elanna, or anyone else.
"Do you have a preference over bedrooms?" Icheb asked, he was unsure if he too should begin a whirlwind tour of the house, but as his regeneration cycle was now overdue by forty-three minutes, two seconds, he just wanted to pick a room and step into the alcove.
"Either will be sufficient."
Icheb nodded his agreement and chose the room nearest him on the left. Then as she watched the boy entered the room, surveyed it for eleven seconds, then sat down on the bed, bounced on the mattress three times, then made his way back to the living room. "I shall redistribute my belongings once my regeneration cycle is complete." Moving towards the door at the rear he turned and attempted a smile, "Good night Seven, I..I like our new home."
After watching Icheb disappear into the back room Seven walked into what was now her bedroom, and following the young man's example took a quick survey of the room before dropping down on the bed and giving a tiny bounce. Arching a brow, Seven checked there was still no-one within range, and bounced again, harder and higher, followed by a second and a third, before red faced with embarrassment she stood and walked to the door of the bathroom.
Looking around the bathroom Seven noticed a couple of small bottles of scented oils, and other bathing paraphernalia. Peering further she was surprised to see a small corner bath as well as a sonic shower taking up the majority of the space. As far as she was aware baths were not common accessories in Voyager crew quarters. Which made her wonder why they were still called bathrooms and not shower rooms, before rejecting the enquiry and deciding to experiment with this new apparatus.
Harry Kim walked onto the Bridge to begin his duty shift, after having spent the morning helping the engineering team work on Seven's quarters. He was met by a friendly smile from the Captain, and her cheerful greeting. "Glad to have you back with us Harry, I hope Seven liked her new rooms."
"I'm not sure Captain, B'Elanna still had to recalibrate the replicator before she contacted Seven and Icheb." Harry had wanted to stay around to witness Seven's reaction, but he had already missed too much of his assigned Bridge time, so had left the Chief Engineer to finish up.
"You mean its not finished?" An urgent tone had entered Janeway's voice.
"The main structure is complete." Harry reassured. "B'Elanna just wanted to hold off until she had finished all the smaller details."
"I seem to have been previously misinformed." Kathryn prepared to tap her comm. badge and alert Seven to the mistake, but she realised it was now too late, the young woman would have wasted no time in moving into her quarters, and even if the replicators were not up and running, there could be no harm in her moving in a few hours early. "Its of no importance. I guess we can now look forward to Seven's housewarming."
"A Borg housewarming, only in the Delta quadrant." Piped up Tom, the others on the Bridge sharing his laughter.
Hoping to add a little colour and personality to Seven's new quarters B'Elanna decided to replicate a large bunch of red roses, she had worried that it was perhaps not the ideal gift, as the quarters were to be shared with Icheb and the young man might not be too fond of flowers, but the need to get Seven something was too strong to ignore. Wanting to add other small touches of personality to the place, and knowing the two ex-Borg would more than likely leave the place practically bare if left to themselves, B'Elanna also replicated two bedcovers. The choice of cover had taken her some time, she wished to get Icheb something that reflected both his near adulthood and his lost childhood, the choice made all the more difficult as she still wasn't that familiar with the boy, in the end she settled for a cover depicting a space shuttle race, although memories of her disastrous marriage to Tom Paris had almost made her change her mind. For Seven she wanted something with a bit of colour and warmth, a nice contrast to the sterile nature of the Borg alcove. She decided on an artists interpretation of spring flowers, each bud imperfect but still beautiful, the colour she thought would light up the room.
Carrying her presents, along with a three-line alignment wrench to finish the adjustments to the replicator, B'Elanna entered Seven's quarters. The first thing she noticed was that someone had turned the lights on after she left, and wondered if Harry had sneaked back after she'd dismissed him to welcome the new residents. She knew it was selfish but she had hoped to welcome Seven and Icheb on her own, and give them a personal tour of their quarters. Now with completion only minutes away she wouldn't be able to find an excuse to banish Harry.
Grumbling under her breath B'Elanna laid down her packages before turning to try and see which room Harry was occupying. Walking to the bedroom on the right she noticed the temporary bedcover had been disarranged, as if someone had been jumping on it, so with more grumbling directed at the ensign she removed the cover and replaced it with the patterned one. Standing back B'Elanna admired her choice, before a noise from the bathroom alerted her to Harry's position.
Striding to the bathroom door B'Elanna planned on having a few choice words with Ensign Kim regarding the proper execution of a superior officers orders, or simply put when she told him to scram he should scram. Walking through the door B'Elanna was caught momentarily sightless by the excess of steam occupying the room, then her sight was blocked altogether as she walked into a tall towelling clad figure.
"What! Harry?" Stepping back B'Elanna was caught by the sight of Seven, damp hair hanging loosely down around her shoulders, cheeks flushed with the after effects of a steaming bath, or just running into another person in her bathroom. "Seven?"
"Yes Lieutenant?" Although surprised to walk into the half Klingon only moments after getting out of her first remembered bath, Seven was still upset with the other woman for not being there when she arrived, even though having her here now was sending her heart into overdrive.
"What are you doing here?"
"These are my quarters." Moving out into the bedroom the ex-Borg made a sweeping gesture as if claiming the territory as her own. "I received permission from the Captain to take residence."
"You weren't supposed to move in until I'd finished." Feebly pointing at the new bedcover B'Elanna continued, "I wanted to make it nice for you."
Seven looked down at the new cover, she didn't understand why this new version had been chosen to replace the perfectly serviceable cover that had adorned the bed before she bathed, but if it meant B'Elanna had been thinking of her, of making this special for her, she was very happy with it. "Now you are here it is nice for me."
B'Elanna's blush wasn't only due to Seven's words, she had gotten her first full glimpse of the robe clad figure, and although the soft towelling covered nearly her entire body, its length ending just past her knees, there was something about the sight, or the knowledge that with one tug on the belt Seven would be naked, that set twin Klingon hearts thumping erratically. "Where's Icheb?"
"Regenerating." Approaching B'Elanna Seven could see the desire begin to awaken in her eyes, just as it had the night Edwards was caught. Only this time there would be not interruptions from Icheb, and her clothing would surrender to gravity with a lot less trouble and waste of time. "We are alone here Lieutenant." Seven's fingers effortlessly found the fastening to B'Elanna's uniform top and opened it, moving upwards they slipped the offending article from her shoulders allowing it to pool at the Klingon's booted feet.
"You can call me B'Elanna you know." She managed passed a mouth gone suddenly dry.
"Yes Lieutenant." Seven's fingers again found the edge of the Starfleet issue t-shirt and began lifting it from B'Elanna's trim body, the half Klingon raising her arms to help complete the action, before the garment joined its companion on the floor.
Having remained passive for too long B'Elanna's hand reached out to grasp the end of the belt securing Seven's robe, only to find her fingers captured by the blondes and brought to her lips where they received a tender kiss. "Not yet Lieutenant."
Placing B'Elanna's hand back at her side, Seven trailed her fingers down the length of the exposed stomach, then reversing the action brought them up to graze the sides of the still covered breasts before exploring the smooth skin of B'Elanna's neck and shoulders, then slowly trailing her fingers down the caramel coloured arms she capture both of B'Elanna's hands in her own. With minimal encouragement she lead the captivated woman towards the bed, turning as they reached the side, so B'Elanna was standing with the back of her legs only an inch from the beds edge. Letting a single finger slide around the waistband of the uniform trousers Seven located the fastening and tugged it free, allowing the last remains of the Starfleet uniform to gather around B'Elanna's feet. In a voice deeper and more strained than anyone had heard from her before Seven leaned forward to whisper in the excited Klingon's ear, "Take a seat please Lieutenant."
B'Elanna did as she was asked, she would have been a total fool not to, and saw Seven kneel at her feet, to remove first one then the other boot, and slip the trousers from her legs. Sitting there in nothing but her underwear all B'Elanna wanted to do was pull on Seven's belt and feel the naked form beside her on the bed, but she didn't, somehow during the course of the encounter Seven had chosen to lead, maybe given her inexperience it was her way of reclaiming control over uncertainty, or perhaps she just liked having her own way inside the bedroom as much as out, whatever the reason B'Elanna had decided to go along with it, they would have plenty of other opportunities, but this was Seven's first and she would decide how it progressed.
Standing Seven was again captured by the beauty of the other woman, the firm body leaning slightly back displayed all the perfection she could ever want from another, B'Elanna's face was open and filled with desire, desire that she had inspired. Trying to catch her breath the inexperienced woman was suddenly overwhelmed by all the feelings running through her, the needs of her body crying out to be met, but a small measure of fear seemed to be trapping her in mid-motion. "Seven?" B'Elanna called, a smile gracing her lips. Broken from her indecision Seven reached down and captured B'Elanna's face in her hands, bringing their lips together for a kiss filling with desire, tongues exploring freely as a hand found its way to Seven's belt. Ending the kiss Seven batted the hand away, "Not yet Lieutenant."
"When?" The desperation in B'Elanna's voice couldn't be masked.
"Soon B'Elanna." Full lips curled as they spoke the name, and fingers travelled the short distance to B'Elanna's bra, unclasping the object and slowly stripping it from around her body to fall in a heap with the other discarded items. Splayed fingers traced a path down B'Elanna's chest, then moved down further to slip beneath the panties and begin an agonisingly slow journey to finally free the Klingon of all unnecessary clothing.
Lifting herself from the bed B'Elanna could feel the material slide down her legs, leaving her naked and at the mercy of anothers gaze, but instead of feeling vulnerable or even shy, she was thrilled. The look in Seven's eyes only adding to her sense of desirability, and as she watched in silent astonishment a long pale finger worked its way into Seven's belt, and with a frustratingly slow movement pulled the belt apart. The white material opened to reveal her first glimpse of Seven's beauty, a slightly worried frown going unnoticed as B'Elanna feasted on the emerging form. Seven's body was much as she had always imagined, perfection and flaws in harmony, the creamy white skin broken in places by the dark metal of the Borg, a starburst implant similar to the one on Seven's jaw sat on the underside of her left breast where it joined her side. The contrast was beautiful, and B'Elanna wanted nothing more than to reach for it and consume the implant with kisses. Her eyes travelling up to take in the sight of full breasts, her hands straining to reach out and touch the delicate skin, with a groan of pure frustration B'Elanna looked up into Seven's eyes, her intentions forgotten the second she saw the fear in the blue pools. "You are so beautiful, I don't deserve you Seven."
A gentle smile curled Seven's lips, her fear of rejection vanquished with a few heartfelt words, "I think we deserve each other Lieu...B'Elanna." Moving forward Seven once again captured the Klingon's lips in a fiery kiss, using her momentum to lay the other woman down on the bed. Before she could fully take advantage of the change in position and begin to explore the newly revealed body, Seven felt her sides being held and a quick movement found her lying in the centre of the bed with a smiling B'Elanna leaning over her.
"Sorry, just thought I'd get comfortable." The move had been instinctive, and from the look on Seven's face welcome.
"Indeed." Seven again pulled B'Elanna's mouth to hers, this time forcing the Klingon's body to drape over her. Breaking the kiss and running her hands down the strong back Seven let her hands rest on B'Elanna's firm behind, "Now this is comfortable." Squeezing the firm flesh, just as B'Elanna had done to her the time before, Seven was rewarded with a deep groan and the feel of their bodies pushed closer together.
"Oh Kahless!" Dropping her head B'Elanna began to rain kisses down Seven's neck, trailing a path across her collar bone and down to encircle her left breast with tiny kisses. Seven's back arched with the contact, and B'Elanna took that opportunity to capture her nipple with an eagerly waiting mouth. The sound of Seven crying out only fuelled her desire further, flicking a tongue across the excited flesh her hand came around to search out the starburst implant, the metal surprisingly warm, and as she'd hoped responsive to touch, a second moan was torn from Seven's lips as fingers dances along the metal, its Borg precision sending sensations throughout her body. Temporarily leaving the tempting flesh B'Elanna's lips encircled the implant letting her tongue trace the edges of the metal as it descended into pure creamy skin.
Waves of pleasure worked their way through Seven's body, her mind unable to process all the new and incredible feelings assailing her senses. Needing the grounding of B'Elanna's presence Seven reached for her, urging her lips into contact with her own. Smooth fingers gliding down her body forced Seven to deepen the kiss still further, their decent towards her thighs leaving her fighting for breath.
Stilling her hand B'Elanna broke the kiss. "You okay?"
"Yes, I just didn't know it was so..." Seven's dictionary of words failed her, and shadowing B'Elanna's hand as it rested on her thigh she whispered. "Don't stop."
Smiling B'Elanna resumed her hands path towards Seven's inner thigh, her brown eyes glued to the blue of her lover, for the first touch of that most intimate of flesh. As she watched Seven's breath caught and her eyes closed, then a new and decidedly erotic sound made its way from deep in her throat, bringing an answering whimper from B'Elanna. Letting her hand intimately explore the smoothly soft flesh she couldn't take her eyes from the beauty that was Seven, silently praying she would open her eyes so they could fully share this moment. As if reading her mind the heavy lids began to flutter, and then she was captured by a blue so vibrant it stole her breath.
Sensations were running rampant throughout her body, wonderful, exciting feelings that seemed to overtake all other responses. Her eyes had closed of their own freewill, but pushing as if against lead weights she prised them open to search out the woman who had captured her heart, and now her body. Brown eyes met hers and physical pleasure was overtaken by the pleasure of the heart, the love she saw in those expressive eyes was more than she could ever have hoped to inspire, physical and emotional pleasure collided in a wave of orgasm, "B'Elannnnnaaaaa," reaching out blindly Seven pulled her love to her, needing to feel every inch of this miraculous woman.
B'Elanna revelled in Seven's death grip, planting small kisses on a rosy cheek as she watched Seven's breathing come under control, and the blue eyes clear and turn to focus on her. "You are incredible." She told the young blonde, and knew her words had failed to even come close to how truly remarkable she was. "I have never felt so..." Unable to explain properly she kiss the inviting lips once more.
Breaking from the kiss Seven stroked the side of B'Elanna's face, letting her fingers follow patterns in the warm skin. "You are the incredible one B'Elanna Torres, no one has ever made me feel the way you do. I didn't think I could."
"Well how about we call it a draw?" B'Elanna kissed a finger as it passed her lips, "We're both incredible," smiling she leaned forward and gave Seven a tender kiss, "together."
"Acceptable." An ocular implant rose, soon followed by the corners of Seven's lips, before she pulled her lover to her with every intention of finding out even more ways they were incredible together.
Richard Edwards sat huddled on his bed in a quiet corner of sickbay, his fingers tracing lines on the data pad screen as tears streamed down his face. An image of a blonde blue eyed Laura stared back up at him, her face filled with such happiness and joy. For the first time in over seven years he allowed his mind to remember the day the image was taken, he and his wife Alyssa had taken their overexcited five year old on shore leave, the idea had been for a sedate picnic while Alyssa collected a few samples. What they hadn't anticipated was Laura becoming fascinated with one of the harmless fluffy pink mammals that lived in the area, and deciding to chase the probably very scared creature down towards the river. He remembered the panic at seeing her suddenly take off laughing towards the water, and the joy and relief when his strong arms captured her before she could try crossing the bridge. More tears followed the path of their predecessors as he recalled her turning to him with mounting glee, "Can I have one of the fluffy things daddy? I'll take care of him." At the time he'd had to refuse, but to keep the smile on his little angels face he'd promised to replicate her a fluffy pink teddy just like the animal when they got home. "Apple." A chuckle escaped him as he remembered the name Laura had chosen for the stuffed toy, at the time Alyssa had just looked at him with a barely restrained grin, "It's not round and it's not green, so of course he's called Apple." Then they had both laughed, only to be temporarily silenced by a five year old sigh of "Adults" before beginning to laugh even louder.
The EMH looked over at his most recent patient and was satisfied when he saw the object in his hands, for all the time he'd been on Voyager Edwards had refused to look at the picture of his daughter, his denial and guilt so strong even the thought of her had been like a knife wound. Now seeing him stare at the pretty little girl, and even hearing the occasional sound of muted laughter, the Doctor felt reassured they had not been too late to help the poor man. Going over to his console he wrote out a small progress report to give to Seven, the young woman and her ex-Borg charge had been Edwards most constant visitors, and even though he had been uncertain at first, the presence of the two Borg survivors had seemed to help the man open up and begin to come to terms with his grief. So he had agreed to keep Seven appraised of the situation, he only hoped their new counsellor, when they got one, would be half as good as the ex-Borg in empathising with people. Stopping his train of thought the EMH wondered if he should have his program checked, 'Borg do not empathise.' He grinned to himself, maybe not but the two they had seemed to do a pretty good imitation.
Picking up the next object that Seven had retrieved for him Edwards looked at the transmission he had received from his wife Alyssa in the Alpha quadrant. He could remember reading the words of her new marriage, but other than that the contents were a blur, another memory buried because it was too painful to deal with. With a feeling of dread he opened the file, but the first few words caught him as a surprise;
I have missed you and loved you so much over all these years, the memory of you and Laura sometimes the only thing that kept me going, while at others the thought of finally joining the two of you in death was so strong I almost ended it all. I've lost count of how many times I wished I'd joined you on Voyager as you wanted, but I needed time after loosing Laura although I soon realised not time away from you, I thought then we could have faced the end together, maybe even been able to comfort each other. Now to know you're alive its so amazing, I've been crying tears of joy and sadness ever since I found out, joy that you are still alive my love, but sadness because you are so far away I will never see you again....
Edwards put down the pad, somehow he'd forgotten about these words of love and had only remembered the story of a lonely woman who took comfort from one of his old friends and ended up his wife. This was the Alyssa he'd married, the warm, loving and generous woman who had always made him feel special, the woman whose later messages he'd ignored and tried to forget. He sighed, he would talk with the Doctor, and maybe Seven, about the prospect of contacting her, just to let her know he still cared, still loved her, and he understood about her marrying Brian, even though he was still unsure if he did. Putting the objects to one side he laid down to rest, suddenly wishing he had a fluffy animal names Apple to snuggle up to.
Laying on her side Seven watched as B'Elanna slept contentedly in her arms, the darker woman's face relaxed in a way she had never seen before, inspiring within Seven a deep desire to protect her. The young woman felt the corners of her mouth turn up in amusement, she could just picture the volatile half Klingon's reaction to someone attempting to act as her protector, the language alone would probably be enough to frighten off most of her foes.
"What's so funny?" B'Elanna drawled, still half asleep.
"Nothing." Seven was usually honest to a fault but didn't like the prospect of having to explain how she found B'Elanna's independence and stubbornness amusing. "I was thinking about the housewarming." Which was kind of true, she had considered it approximately two hours eleven minutes ago, after spending the first hour of B'Elanna's slumber just memorising the contours of her face, and scent of her body.
"And you were wondering why they wanted to set your quarters on fire?" B'Elanna smirked before snuggling in tighter to her Borg pillow.
"No." Seven was about to comment that she wasn't that naive, or literal, when the feel of hot breath on her neck stole her thoughts.
"So what about the housewarming?"
"Hmm?" Seven's finger began tracing patterns across B'Elanna's back, feeling the muscles ripple in her wake. "I was just trying to work out who I was meant to invite."
"You can invite whoever you want."
"What if I just want to invite you?" Seven's hand began to travel lower, her work being rewarded by a low purr from her lover.
"Well I think the Captain might feel a bit put out by that." She planted a tiny kiss on Seven's neck. "Not to mention the Doctor, Harry, Naomi, oh and of course Icheb, I mean this is his home too."
"Icheb!" Seven sat up straight in bed, much to B'Elanna's surprise, especially as she found herself practically thrown off the bed in the upheaval.
"Calm down, what about him?"
"His regeneration cycle finishes in twelve minutes thirty-one seconds." Seven pulled the bedcover over herself and her companion. "He will see you."
"Are you ashamed to be seen with me?" B'Elanna's voice had taken on an indignant but also frightened tone.
"No, how could I ever be ashamed of you? I love you." Seven quickly peered through the still open door to the living room. "But, well he's only a boy..."
"What did you say?" B'Elanna sat up in the bed, the cover falling from her body earned first a hungry look, then a rapid sheet rearrangement by the flustered ex-Borg.
"I said he is only a boy, seeing his, his parental role model in this kind of situation might confuse him. I know I experiences deep confusion and even revulsion when the Captain took Sullivan as a lover, and I'm an adult."
"But that was because he's a hologram, I'm not." Stilling Seven's almost frantic movements B'Elanna took her shoulders in her hands and turned the time calculating ex-Borg to face her. "That was not that part I want to hear you repeat."
Seven's face was a blank mask for a second as she replayed her words, then a shocked expression overtook her. She had not meant to express her feelings like that, she didn't want to scare the other woman off, and her research hand shown that too rapid declarations of love could have that effect if the feeling was not returned, or even in some cases when it was. "I am sorry, I did not mean to...to upset you."
"I'm not upset." B'Elanna's hearts were pounding, she had to know if Seven meant what she'd said. "Is it true? Do you love me?"
Seven felt like crying, she was caught between telling the truth and possibly loosing B'Elanna or telling a lie and still loosing her. Finally honesty won. "Yes. I love you."
Seven found herself engulfed in the tightest embrace she had ever experienced before lips found hers in a fiery kiss. If this was how rejection felt she didn't know what all those old country and western songs were complaining about. Her body was on fire yet again, and reaching down she began to let her fingers explore the exposed skin of B'Elanna's thigh.
"Mmm, stop that Seven." Having broken the kiss B'Elanna swatted enticing fingers away. "I can't have the almost son of the woman I love catching me in his new home, naked and being erm, pleasured by you."
"The woman you love?" Borg nanoprobes couldn't keep up with the galloping of Seven's heart at hearing those words, and for a moment she thought she would pass out. Most inefficient.
"That my annoying," kiss, "irrepressible," kiss, "alluring," kiss, "sexy," kiss, "woman, is you." Sitting back and observing a red faced Seven, B'Elanna took her hands and looking directly into her eyes told her "I love you Seven."
The Borg and Klingon equivalent of soppy grins were soon disturbed by the muted sound of the computer announcing a regeneration cycle complete. Leaping from the bed the two began a comical search for clothing, B'Elanna noting her house designs obvious lack of proper sound proofing, if the noise from the alcove could be so easily distinguished, and made the rectifying of that situation her top engineering project. While in the bathroom pulling at the skin tight biosuit Seven decided to replicate herself some more easily removable clothing, and to make sure B'Elanna had clear instructions on the fastenings of each.
Red faced and slightly dishevelled B'Elanna and Seven made their way to the living room, where they bade an overly cheerful 'good morning', to an observant Icheb.
"Indeed." The boy answered, glad to see he was right, and his family had grown.
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