DISCLAIMER: This Star Trek Voyager story utilizes characters that are copyright © by Paramount Pictures.  No infringement on their respective copyrights is intended by the author in any way, shape or form. This is an original story. The story and non-trek characters belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Feedback and constructive comments are always welcome. You can reach me at rjnolan@gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Unexpected Arrival
By RJ Nolan


Chapter Nine

Del's eyes widened in surprise when she stepped into her quarters, apparently Maintenance had not wasted any time. The Chief Maintenance Engineer had contacted her shortly after she and Seven arrived in Astrometrics that morning for the security code to her door and to ask how she wanted the quarters reconfigured.

Janeway had kept her word that she would get the ball rolling immediately. Del had tried to get Seven involved in the reconfiguration of what was to be their quarters but she had deferred to Del.

Del walked around checking out all the changes. The large dining room table and chairs were gone. In their place was a much smaller two person table with two chairs tucked in a corner near the replicator. The size of the living room had been reduced; where there had been a couch and a side chair with ottoman now only the couch remained.

A second desk with a terminal inset in it's top had been added near the first desk so they sat back to back. Stepping into her bedroom she noticed the large walk-in closet was gone and had been replaced by a standard model. Opening the door to the ensuite, she saw a second door on the other side, leading to what would be Seven's bedroom. Walking through the ensuite, she entered Seven's bedroom. It was smaller than hers but sported the same queen size bed she had. The only other furnishing in the room was a small nightstand next to the bed. There was a small closet in the far wall but no replicator. Del wondered if Seven would like it. Yawning hugely, she made her way back out to the living room.

Del flopped down on the couch with a groan. She was beat. After being up all night in the cargo bay then working a full shift in Astrometrics she was about asleep on her feet. Seven had chosen to remain in Astrometrics working on the survey of the planet they were now orbiting. It was the planet she had been scanning with long distance sensors that was hoped would provide the ship with much needed supplies.

Janeway had ordered extended sensor scans before making the decision to send down an away team. Her experience in the Delta quadrant had made her very cautious about beaming down to an unknown planet. With the incidents Del had read about in the mission logs, she couldn't say she blamed her.

Del closed her eyes hoping to catch a nap before Seven arrived. Though she was nearing exhaustion she could not help worrying about the blond. Seven had been especially subdued today and when Del had suggested they get some lunch, Seven had refused despite repeated requests.

Finally unable to ignore her growling stomach Del had gone to lunch alone. The mess hall was abuzz with speculation about the events in the cargo bay and Daniels and Philips imprisonment in the brig. After fending off repeated questions Del made her escape. She couldn't fault Seven for her decision not to join her. Despite her worry she eventually dosed off.

The chiming of her door jerked Del upright. She grimaced. She'd fallen asleep on the couch and now along with being exhausted, her neck was killing her. Stumbling over to the door still groggy, she hit the com panel.

"Yes, what is it?" she growled irritably.

She was met with momentary silence then a hesitant voice answered. "It's Seven of Nine."

Del immediately hit the door release and beckoned Seven inside. "You don't have to signal at the door Seven. That's why I gave you the security code."

"I did not wish to intrude if you were busy."

"You're not intruding. You live here now; these are your quarters too. You can come and go as you please," Del explained patiently. "Come on, I'll show you your bedroom."

Seven allowed Del to lead her across the cabin to the new door set in the far wall. She looked around the room with interest but with none of the excitement Del expected.

"What's wrong, don't you like it?" For the first time she was having a hard time reading Seven's emotions. It happened sometimes when she was overly tired; her abilities just did not seem to work as well.

Seven didn't answer Del's question nor would she meet her eyes. "It is very nice, thank you," Seven said finally, obviously parroting one of the doctor's stock polite phrases.

Del took hold of Seven's arm, "Come on," she said, leading her over to the couch. She sat down and pulled Seven down right next to her. "What's going on, Seven?"

"Going on?" Seven repeated as if she didn't understand the phrase.

Del knew different. "You know what I mean," Del said sternly, calling Seven on her evasion. Seven still had not met her eyes. Del reached out and gently lifted her chin. She was surprised by the uncertainty she saw in Seven's eyes. "Whatever it is, Seven, you know you can trust me."

Seven took a deep breath and seemed to come to a decision. "Do you think I made Daniels do what he did?"

"WHAT!" Of course not!" Del replied adamantly. "What would make you think such a thing?" Seven looked down, refusing to reply. "Seven?"

"I heard several crewmen talking this afternoon. One of them said it was my fault what Daniels did, because of the way I display myself. He said, 'of course people are going to react, who wouldn't, when someone flaunts themselves like that?'" Seven looked down at the tight biosuit she customarily wore. "The doctor designed my biosuit to support my implants after he removed my exo-plating. I do not understand… do I do that…flaunt myself? I do not mean to," Seven said worriedly.

Del ground her teeth together in anger at the ignorance displayed by some of the crew. Forcing herself to be calm she again lifted Seven's chin and waited until she made eye contact.

"You did absolutely nothing to encourage Daniels. What he did was a crime, that's why he's in the brig. The crewman you overheard were probably friends of Daniels or Philips. They were making up excuses trying to justify and defend what their friend had done. There's no justification for what he did. It was wrong and it had nothing to do with how you dress or act."

Seven looked over at Del, her expression open and vulnerable. Del reached out and wrapped her arms around Seven. She was surprised and concerned to find her trembling.

"Everything is going to be fine, I promise," Del assured her.

"Do you still wish to date me?" Seven asked unsurely.

"Of course I do, Seven. Have you changed your mind?" Del asked, trying not to show her own sudden concern.

"NO!" Seven declared adamantly making Del smile. "I did not know if you would wish to continue after what happened in the cargo bay."

Del pulled back from Seven until she could meet her eyes. "What would make you think that? I told you nothing that happened in the bay was your fault."

Seven stared into Del's eyes then finally looked down before replying. "I did not think you would wish to touch me after he…"

Del was truly shocked; she couldn't believe what she was hearing. Now she realized what had been bothering Seven all day.

Del's lack of response just confirmed Seven's suspicions. She pulled away from Del and attempted to stand.

Del's arms tightened around her drawing her back into her arms and refusing to let go.

"Listen to me, Seven. I love you! I'm furious about what Daniels and Philips did to you in the cargo bay but it in no way changes the way I feel about you."

Del pulled back slightly and again met Seven's eyes. Deciding that sometimes actions spoke louder than words she slowly leaned forward giving Seven plenty of time to refuse. She gently brought their lips together and kissed Seven with all the feelings she had for her. The kiss was gentle and filled with love. When Seven started to respond Del let the kiss escalate, softly licking Seven's lip asking for entrance. Seven's mouth opened and she whimpered when Del's tongue slipped inside and entwined with hers. The lack of air eventually forced them apart. Both women were breathing heavily and Del could feel her heart pounding in her chest as well as Seven's beating rapidly against her breast. Del couldn't help smiling when Seven's eyes remained closed for several moments after the kiss broke.

Seven's eyes slowly fluttered open and a contented smile graced her face. She turned pressing herself against Del and pushing her back against the couch cushions. Tightening her arms around her, she pressed their upper bodies tightly together, burying her face in Del's neck. Del tightened her arms around Seven returning the heartfelt hug.

"Okay now?"

Seven seemed overcome by her emotions; she simply nodded her head against Del's shoulder but made no move to break the embrace.

Del was more than happy to hold Seven for as long as she needed. She shifted slightly drawing Seven further onto the couch and into a more comfortable position against her. Del stroked Seven's hair then unable to resist, released it from its customary tight bun, allowing it to flow over Seven's shoulders. Seven unconsciously groaned in pleasure, leaning harder into Del as she ran her fingers through her hair. The sound sent a shot of arousal straight between Del's legs. Knowing she couldn't let this turn sexual she gently eased Seven away from her.

"Ready for some dinner?"

Seven's response was to bury her face back in Del's neck.

Del laughed good-naturedly and urged Seven off the couch.

Del yawned and stretched before glancing at the time. It was still early; she didn't need to be up for another hour. She was pleased to note that the lights were on in the main cabin. She had not been able to convince Seven to sleep in her new room but was happy to know she remained in their cabin.

Dinner last night had been a quiet affair as they shared their first meal as roommates. Del had fought to stay awake, but lost the battle not long after dinner. She had retired to bed leaving Seven to work. Seven had insisted that since she regenerated the night before she didn't require sleep. Del had been too tired to argue. Sensing Seven's presence she rolled over and saw her standing in the doorway.

Seven had spent the night working, drawing comfort from Del's nearness. After so many lonely nights spent in the cargo bay recently it surprised her how soothing it was just to know Del was in the next room. When she heard her stir she had been drawn almost unconsciously to the doorway of Del's bedroom.

"Good morning," Del greeted with a sleepy smile. "Come on in," she invited, sliding over and patting the side of the bed.

Seven sat down gingerly on the bed. "Good morning," she greeted softly.

"Did you work all night?"

"Yes, I completed the sensor scans of the planet. It is uninhabited with lush tropical areas. We should be able to find plentiful foodstuffs."

"Humm…" Del murmured not really paying attention. She was mesmerized by Seven's hair flowing over her shoulders and the starlight reflecting in her eyes. Seven had left her hair down after Del had removed the pins last night. She reached up and stroked Seven's cheek then ran her thumb along the implant at her jaw line. Seven shivered and pressed into Del's touch. "You're so beautiful," Del said in a low husky whisper. She smiled into Seven's eyes when a faint blush of pleasure covered her cheeks. Her hand slid into Seven's hair and she slowly drew her down. Seven whimpered when their lips met in a series of soft, feather light kisses. She instinctively grasped Del's shoulder to keep from falling on her. Del brought her arms up around Seven's back and urged her the rest of the way down until she was half laying on Del's chest, their breasts pressed firmly together.

Seven's emotions were rapidly spiraling out of control. This time she initiated the kiss. Del groaned and opened her mouth when Seven's tongue tentatively brushed her lips seeking entrance.

Del was sure she was going to come when Seven pressed her tongue into her mouth and started to explore. She pulled back from the kiss gasping as she tried to regain control of herself. It was taking all her self-control not to pull Seven into the bed with her and ease the throbbing ache between her legs. Del knew she should stop this; it was moving way too fast.

Seven laid her head on Del's shoulder. Her whole body felt strange and tingly all over where it was pressed to Del's. The pounding pulse between her legs she had felt the last time they kissed good morning was back with a vengeance.

"Please…" Seven begged, not even knowing what she was asking for. She grasped Del's wrist and pressed her hand between her legs.

Del lost control when she felt her hand pushed between Seven's legs then held there. She cupped Seven's sex in her hand and squeezed. Capturing Seven's lips in a steaming kiss, she thrust her tongue deep into Seven's mouth. Seven's hips started to jerk as Del began to stroke her through her thick biosuit. It wasn't but moments later that Seven's body stiffened and she pulled away from the torrid kiss, crying out as her body shuddered.

Del howled in pain as Seven climaxed. Seven was still trying to recover from her first orgasm when she realized something was seriously wrong. Del pushed hard against her chest and tried to pull away from her. Seven released her hold on Del and sat up, still shaking. As soon as her weight was gone, Del sat up against the headboard. She was breathing heavily and cradling her arm to her chest.

"What's wrong?" Seven asked frantically.

Del gulped, the pain in her wrist was unbelievable. "I think my arm's broken," she admitted, her voice harsh with pain.

Seven looked at Del's arm and saw the rapidly forming bruises and the deformed look of her forearm. She felt a wave of nausea wash over her and stared at Del unbelievingly for several seconds. Coming to her senses she called out, "Computer, Medical emergency! Two to transport directly to sickbay."

"Wait…" Del started to protest but not quickly enough as she felt the transporter beam take her. Next thing she knew she was sitting on the floor in the middle of sickbay.

"Activate the EMH," Seven called as soon as they materialized.

"State the nature of the medical emergency." The Doctor said as he appeared. He picked up a tricorder and approached Seven where she knelt on the floor next to Del. "What's the problem, Seven?" he asked, starting to scan her. He had heard the rumors about Seven's new living arrangements. Finding her here in sickbay with her hair down around her shoulders and her new roommate in tow was a bit of a surprise.

"Not me! Del is hurt. Do something!" Seven demanded. The Doctor gaped, astounded by her emotional tone. She didn't wait for the doctor to respond. She wrapped one arm around Del's back and slipped the other under her knees. Standing she easily picked Del up and carried her over to one of the bio beds.

Del was in too much pain to protest Seven's manhandling.

The doctor ran his tricorder over Del's forearm. "What happened here?" he demanded. "Two of the bones in your wrist are fractured and the bones at the distal end of your forearm are shattered." Not waiting for an answer, he reached for a hypospray and injected its contents into Del's neck.

Del let out a big sigh of relief when the pain in her arm and wrist subsided. She glanced over at Seven but she refused to meet her eyes. Del had been in so much pain she had not realized how upset Seven was. Now that her head was clearer she could sense Seven's roiling emotions. She reached out with her uninjured hand to touch Seven. Del frowned when she stepped away from her touch. "Seven…" she began. The doctor interrupted.

"I'm waiting, Commander."

Del turned and glared at the doctor. She wished he would just use the bone knitter and dermal regenerator and let her be on her way. She had no intention of telling the EMH the real circumstances of her injury. "I fell out of bed."

The Doctor snorted in disbelief. Seven's head jerked up and met her eyes in surprise. Del smiled reassuringly before she could look away.

"Yep, must've been some dream, tumbled right out and landed on top of my arm. It was a good thing Seven was there and acted so quickly."

He looked at her suspiciously. "This is a crush injury. You couldn't have gotten it from falling out of bed," he stated categorically.

"Well I did," Del insisted.

Seven started to speak but a quick warning glance from Del silenced her.

"Is that what happened Seven?" The Doctor questioned having caught the quick exchange.

Del jumped in before Seven could answer. "She wasn't in the room when it happened. She came in when she heard me cry out." The Doctor opened his mouth to question Seven further but Del cut him off. "I told you what happened. Now fix my arm so I can return to my quarters," she demanded.

"This is highly irregular Commander," complained The Doctor.

Del glared at the EMH.

"Very well," he huffed and repaired Del's arm.

Del flexed her arm. There was some residual soreness but otherwise it felt normal. "Thank you." She told the doctor as graciously as she could.

"No strenuous use of that arm and no heavy lifting for at least a week," The Doctor ordered.

Del nodded her acceptance and turned to Seven. "Let's go home." She stopped at the door when she realized she was still in her pajamas. She stepped over to the replicator and ordered up a robe. After donning it, she turned to Seven, who still stood hesitantly near the door. Del knew she was still very upset and was feeling incredibly guilty.

"Everything's okay…I promise." Del tried to assure Seven. She reached and put her hand in the small of Seven's back. Del felt a stab of pain when Seven pulled away breaking the contact. Deciding not to push her, Del dropped her hand down to her side and didn't attempt to touch Seven again.

They made their way back to their quarters in silence.

Del keyed the door and they stepped inside. Seven went directly to her workstation and picked up several data pads. She turned around and headed directly for the door. She had not said a word since they left sickbay.

Del stared in astonishment, then found her voice just as the cabin doors slid open. "Where are you going?"

Seven stopped in the doorway but didn't turn around. "I must report to duty." Her voice sounded as cold and aloof as Del had ever heard it. But she wasn't fooled, she could feel the waves of pain and guilt flowing off Seven.

"Please come back inside, we need to talk."

Seven shook her head adamantly and quickly stepped through the doors and was gone.

Del stood frozen in place for several seconds. She couldn't believe Seven had just walked away. Cursing she headed toward the door to track her down. She stopped short when she realized she was still in her pajamas. Snarling she rushed into her bedroom and quickly changed into her uniform then headed out after Seven of Nine.

Del had anxiously paced Astrometrics for fifteen minutes. When Seven had run out of their cabin she assumed she would head there. Growling in frustration, she had eventually queried the computer as to Seven's location only to find out she was in Cargo Bay Two. She headed there immediately determined to talk to Seven about what had happened earlier.

Del came to an abrupt halt to keep from smacking into the cargo bay doors. They hadn't opened at her approach as she expected. What the hell! She hit the door override to no affect. Slamming her hand into the panel in irritation she called to the computer.

"Computer, open the doors to Cargo Bay Two."

"Unable to comply."

Del growled. "Why not?"

"The cargo bay doors have been sealed from inside."


"Unable to comply. Security lockout in place."

"Damn it!" Del snarled. Reaching up she slapped her combadge. "Del to Seven." No response. "Seven, please respond." Nothing. "Computer, is the com system working?"

"Communications system is operating within normal parameters."

"Fine, so she can hear me, she's just ignoring me…" Del muttered. "Computer, override the security lockout on the cargo bay doors, my authorization: MacMillan, Delta, Zero Five Eight One, Omega."

"Unable to comply."

Del was frustrated beyond belief and quickly becoming angry. She slapped her combadge again. "Seven! Open the doors! I know you can hear me!" She waited a few moments for a response then approached the computer terminal next to the door determinately. Alright then, I'll just override the damn door manually!

Del worked for several minutes growing more aggravated and irate by the second. "What the hell! -- Borg encryption codes!" She slumped against the wall in defeat; she would never be able to override them. Damn it Seven! Why are you doing this? It was an accident! She brushed irritably at the tears that had begun to trail down her face. She jumped when her combadge tone sounded.

"Seven," she called eagerly.

"Um…no, it's Chakotay. You were due on the bridge twenty minutes ago. The captain is in her ready room but I don't know how much longer she'll stay in there…"

"Thanks, Chakotay, I'll be right there."

"No problem…just hurry," Chakotay urged before breaking the connection.

Del gave one last longing look at the cargo bay doors before heading to duty on the bridge.

Seven sat in the cargo bay at the base of her alcove. She had heard Del over the com line and it had taken every bit of her will power to keep from answering her. She watched her attempts to override the lock on the bay doors but knew she did not stand a chance against the Borg encryption codes she had set in place.

Seven could not face Del after what she had done. She did not understand why Del was even speaking to her. She couldn't get the image of Del cradling her bruised and broken arm out of her mind. Seven felt physically ill knowing that she had injured the one person who truly loved her. Not to mention the fact that she had been the only person to ever accept her just as she was. She was certain Del would stop loving her now that she had seen what she was really capable of. Seven had tried to warn her that she was not human and now she knew first hand that it was true.

Seven hugged her knees to her chest and looked around the cargo bay. After just two nights spent in Del's cabin, the cargo bay seemed like a bleak lonely prison. But it was more than she deserved after what she had done to Del.


Chapter Ten

Del headed down the corridor toward the transporter room cursing under her breath.

She had smiled her thanks at Chakotay when she stepped onto the bridge only seconds before the captain summoned her to her ready room to brief her on the away mission. Del had only had time to get a tricorder issued and pick up a phaser from the armory before reporting to the transporter room. She hadn't had time to try and talk to Seven again before going down to the planet. Del hoped she could get Seven alone for a few minutes once they were dirt side.

She stepped into the transporter room and checked out her away team. Although Janeway had assigned her as Commander of the away team, the Captain had chosen the other members of her team.

The away team was to consist of Seven of Nine, B'Elanna Torres, Harry Kim, Janice Lewis from Security, as well as someone from planetary sciences. She acknowledged B'Elanna and Harry then nodded to the dark haired woman she assumed was Lewis as she was dressed in security colors.

Glancing around the room she looked for Seven. Del couldn't help the quick grimace when she spotted Commander Grimes. The selection of the crewmember from Planetary Sciences had been left up to the head of that department. Grimes had been avoiding her since her dressing him down in the mess hall. Del had hoped he would send someone else from his department. She wondered where Seven was.

"Great, now we can go," B'Elanna stated impatiently. She was looking forward to some time off the ship.

"Not yet. Seven's not here."

"Captain Janeway just called down, Seven's not coming. She said we were good to go as soon as you arrived."

As much as Del wanted to contact the Captain and question Seven's absence she knew she could not. Forcing away the distracting thoughts about Seven, Del readied her team. No matter how much she was hurting over the situation with Seven she knew being less than 100% on a strange planet could get you or your people killed. She resolved to confront Seven as soon as she came back onboard.

Del looked around as her people surveyed the area. So far they had found plenty of edible fruits quite near the beam down site. The area was very lush with a riot of tropical plants. The fruits they had found so far had been unbelievably similar to those found in the tropical regions of earth. There were the local equivalent of bananas, mangos and a large melon that while it's deep purple color and thick skin was reminiscent of an eggplant, tasted like a cantaloupe.

Del looked up when Harry Kim called to her. "Over here, Commander."

"What have you got Harry?" Her brow furrowed and she frowned as she examined the burned and blasted looking bush he had found. The plant must have originally been almost six feet tall and four feet wide. The whole center area of the plant appeared to have suffered some kind of a blast; it was a burned, twisted mess.

"What the hell caused that?"

"According to the tricorder readings, it's from a lightening strike, a big one," Harry explained. "This isn't the only one either. At first I wasn't concerned but I've been finding plants like this scattered all over the area."

"How recent are they?"

"I estimate three, four weeks at the most. I think the only reason we don't see any evidence of fires spreading because of this can be attributed to the large amount of precipitation the area receives. The storm that caused this must've been big, Commander…very big," Harry added, cautiously looking up at the sky.

The repeated scans of the planet had shown that the area was prone to frequent large rainstorms. But nothing in the reports mentioned any potentially devastating storms that could do this kind of damage. Still Del couldn't afford to ignore this.

She gazed into the clear purple sky; there wasn't a cloud in sight. "Good call, Harry. Check in with Voyager and request constant atmospheric scans of the surrounding area. Tell them I want to know the second there is even a hint of a storm front approaching."

"Aye… Commander."

The storm struck without warning an hour later. The sky was clear without a cloud in sight, and then in less than a minute it turned a sickly green color. The wind whipped up, lightening started to flash, and then the deluge hit.

The away team had been in the process of regrouping at the beam down site. The team had completed their preliminary survey and was ready to return to Voyager. They were waiting for Commander Grimes. He had found an interesting cave formation approximately 400 meters away. He had just stepped back into the clearing when the storm struck.

"Get under the canopy of the trees," Del shouted to her team. It wasn't the safest place to be in a thunderstorm but the rain was coming down so hard it stung.

As they were making their way under the trees lightening struck nearby knocking them down. Del shook her head, her skin still tingling…that had been close.

"Everyone okay?" she shouted, making sure everyone got back to their feet. At the answering nods from her team they continued forward to the shelter of the trees.

Del didn't waste any time, even under the trees the rain was drenching them and the temperature had dropped significantly. "MacMillan to Voyager…five to beam up." Del growled when she didn't get a response. "MacMillan to Voyager!" she shouted over the storm. Del watched in growing frustration as the members of the team tried their combadges in an attempt to contact Voyager.

Harry moved over next to Del. "There's something in the atmosphere that's blocking our com signals," he shouted.

"Great…just great," she snarled sarcastically. "We need to find shelter." She motioned to Grimes. "How big is the cave you found? Will it hold all of us?" She questioned close to his ear. The rain and wind were making it difficult to communicate.

"It's not very big but it's got to be better than this."

With Grimes leading the way they quickly made their way to the cave. Lightening continued to strike the surrounding area but so far nothing as close as that first strike in the clearing. Grimes stopped abruptly and Del almost ran into him.

"What's wrong?"

He had stopped at the edge of another clearing. Grimes pointed across the clearing where Del could just make out what must be the cave he had found. Still wondering why he had stopped she quickly got her answer. A bolt of lightening hit the ground two meters in front of them. Del felt her hair stand up and her skin tingle from the discharge. As she watched the clearing took two more strikes.

Everyone looked at her nervously. Del huddled her people around her. "I don't think we have a lot of choice here…we have to get out of this storm." As if to punctuate her words lightening struck and a large plant exploded several meters away in the jungle behind them. "Everyone spread out and make a run for it," she ordered.

Del took the lead and started to run for the cave. It was only six meters but it seemed much further as soon as she left the cover of the trees and felt the rain full force.

They had almost made it to the cave when tragedy struck.

Seven watched the whirling storm on the bridge viewscreen, her anxiety rising. She had been in Astrometrics monitoring atmospheric conditions after being contacted by

Ensign Kim. She had immediately tried to contact the away team when the storm suddenly appeared. There had been no warning. One minute the conditions had been stable and the next the huge storm that now covered most of the continent where the away team was surveying had just appeared. Janeway had ordered her to the bridge to help monitor the situation.

Janeway knew her away team was in trouble as soon as Seven informed her she was unable to make contact. The team had no shelter and no supplies; it had been a routine survey mission. She had never seen a storm like this just appear out of nowhere and in the time they had been trying to contact the away team the storm had continued to intensify. She glanced at the viewscreen, watching the storm swirling and the lightening flash across the sky below.

The Captain turned to Tuvok. "Lock onto the away team and beam them out of there, Tuvok."

Janeway watched as Tuvok spent several moments attempting to carry out her orders. He finally looked up and met her eyes. "What ever is interfering with communications appears to be affecting the transporters as well. I am unable to obtain a lock on any of the away team members."

Seven was struck by a sudden sense of panic. Her chest felt like a band was tightening around it. She should have gone down to the planet like she was supposed to. What if something happened to Del?

"What about sending down a shuttle pod?" Paris suggested.

Janeway shook her head. "It's too dangerous, with the intensity of the storm and all the lightening. I'm not going to put more people at risk."

"I'll go by myself," Seven volunteered. She had to get to Del.

"No, Seven, I'm not going to risk you too," she stated flatly, letting Seven know the subject was not open for discussion. "We'll just have to wait it out."

Seven started to protest, then stopped her fingers sliding rapidly over the board in front of her. Janeway looked at her expectantly. "I'm picking up a garbled communication."

"Put it on speaker!"


"That was all I got…the signals gone."

"That was B'Elanna. I'm sure of it," piped up Paris.

Seven thought she recognized the engineer's voice as well. That just increased her unease. Why hadn't Del been the one contacting Voyager? The one clear word in the message had been hurt. Seven felt her stomach roil at the thought that it might be Del.

Janeway glanced over at Chakotay hoping he might have something to offer though she knew there wasn't anything they could do.

"Seven, continue to monitor communications and the storm. Tuvok, if that storm let's up in the slightest and you can get a transporter lock, don't wait for the team to contact you, just get them out of there. Chakotay, you have the bridge. I'll be in my ready room."

Janeway quickly made her way off the bridge. She hated situations like this where her people where in danger and possibly hurt and all she could do was watch helplessly. At least in her ready room the crew wouldn't see her pace and realize just how worried she was.

B'Elanna tried to contact Voyager again. The situation was becoming more desperate by the minute, at least for one member of the away team. The storm outside continued unabated. She glanced over at the figure lying on the floor of the cave wrapped in several uniform tunics. She was amazed that she was still alive. But B'Elanna knew she would not survive if they didn't get her back to Voyager and soon.

They had almost made it to the cave when the bolt of lightening struck. She had been knocked down and had the wind knocked out of her. B'Elanna knew she would never forget the sight that greeted her eyes when she picked herself up out of the mud. Lying not two meters in front of her was a body on the ground, still smoking from a direct hit.

She scrambled over and cursed, feeling her stomach lurch when she saw how bad it was. Del's body was badly burned. She had a large scorch mark starting at her right shoulder and traversing diagonally across her body ending just below her left knee. The skin had a melted look and even in the pouring rain the stench of burned flesh was strong. She had yelled for Grimes to come help her move Del. He had taken one look at her body and stumbled away to empty the contents of his stomach.

Harry and Janice had helped her get Del into the cave and they had all striped out of their tunics and used them to try to keep Del warm. Even though the tunics were wet, they hoped it would at least provide some insulation against the cold cave floor. Janice had used her phaser to heat some rocks in an attempt to further warm the cave. She had the basic medical training all security officers were required to have but without supplies besides trying to keep Del warm, there wasn't much else they could do. Her injuries were well beyond anything they could treat. B'Elanna wondered if even the doctor could save Del at this point.

Seven waited until the doors to Janeway's ready room slid shut then stepped down to where Chakotay sat. "I am going to return to Astrometrics. I can better monitor the situation from there."

Chakotay looked up at Seven in surprise at her calm tone. He expected her to be more upset with Del down on the planet. "Okay, Seven, let me know if there's any change." He watched as she entered the turbolift and turned to face the bridge. As the doors closed he saw a flash of what could only be described as anguish cross her face. Maybe he had misjudged her after all.

Seven leaned back against the turbolift wall unable to hold in her emotions any longer. Several tears tracked down her cheek. She didn't know how she knew but she knew something had happened to Del. She had a deep, aching, empty feeling inside. Knowing she could not help Del in her current state she forced herself to be calm and think like a Borg… emotionless and efficient.

When the turbolift doors opened she knew exactly what she had to do. She strode purposely toward the shuttle bay.

"Lieutenant Torres! Commander MacMillan is asking for you," Janice called.

B'Elanna made her way over to Janice; she had been looking after Del. She squatted down next to Del, astonished she was conscious.

"Hey Del, how you holding up," B'Elanna asked, trying to keep her voice even.

Del knew she didn't have much time left, not only was she in excruciating pain but she could feel herself growing weaker by the second. Her thoughts were of Seven and how all this was going to affect her. Del only wished she had gotten a chance to say goodbye to Seven and tell her how much she loved her.

She looked up at B'Elanna with pain filled eyes. Reaching out with her uninjured hand she grasped B'Elanna's hand. Her voice was hoarse and raspy. B'Elanna had to lean close to hear her.

"Look after Seven for me…please…" Del whispered hoarsely. "Promise me," she pleaded, her grip tightening on B'Elanna's hand.

B'Elanna's eyes locked with Del's for several seconds. "I promise," she pledged.

"And tell her…tell her…" Del's voice trailed off as she started to cough but she didn't let go of B'Elanna's hand. Tears poured from her eyes as she struggled for breath.

"It's okay, Del… just rest," B'Elanna said, trying to sooth her. "You can tell Seven yourself what ever you want to when we get back to the ship."

"No!" she gasped struggling to speak. Using the last of her strength she pulled B'Elanna close and looked her straight in the eyes. "Tell her… I love her…and I always will." Her message delivered, Del welcomed the darkness that was rapidly dimming her vision. I love you, Seven, was her last conscious thought. She took a single rattling breath before her eyes rolled back in her head and her body went still.

"Oh Kahless! Is she…?" B'Elanna gulped, unable to even say the word. She glanced over at Janice and they shared a panicked look.

Grimes and Harry rushed over when they heard B'Elanna. They stood silently staring down at Del helplessly.

Janice felt for a pulse in Del's neck for several long moments then sighed in relief. "She's got a pulse but it's very weak and thready and her breaths are very shallow. I don't know how much longer she can hold on."

B'Elanna stared out at the storm. It only seemed to have gotten stronger and time was rapidly running out for Del. She cursed long and colorfully but there was little else she could do except wait for Voyager to rescue them. Even that she realized was unlikely. The only way to get them would be by shuttle and it would be suicide to try and bring a shuttle down in this storm.

"Commander, we have an unauthorized shuttle launch," Tuvok announced.

Chakotay looked up just in time to see a shuttle accelerate away from Voyager and head for the planet. "Can you stop it?" he asked.

"Shuttle is out of range of our tractor beam."

"Who's onboard?" Chakotay asked, though he already had a pretty good idea who it was. Captain Janeway was not going to be happy.

Tuvok managed to scan the shuttle before it disappeared into the atmosphere. He too already knew who was onboard. The scan merely confirmed it. "Seven of Nine is piloting the shuttle."

Chakotay took a deep breath before activating his combadge. "Chakotay to Janeway…you're needed on the bridge Captain. There's been a development."

Seven struggled to keep the shuttle in the air while she scanned for the away team. The winds whipped the shuttle sideways almost tossing Seven to the floor. She plunged deeper into the atmosphere trying to break through the thick cloud cover. The rain was coming down so hard visibility was markedly impaired. Just as she got a glimpse of the ground the shuttle was hit by a massive bolt of lightening jerking it off course and knocking Seven to the floor. Sparks erupted from the control panel and alarms blared.

"Warning…Shields off-line, power down 57%," intoned the computer.

Seven's hands worked frantically over the control panel trying to get the shuttle back under control. A beep on a side panel drew her attention. The computer had located human life signs off to the west approximately two kilometers away. Seven fought the controls and managed to turn the shuttle and headed in that direction.

She over flew the area twice before she spotted the small clearing in front of what appeared to be a cave. The rain and wind continued to buffet the shuttle. She managed to set it down directly in front of the cave with a resounding thump.

B'Elanna's head snapped up when a shuttle craft seemed to appear out of nowhere and slam down in front of the cave clearing the entrance by centimeters. Everyone cheered at the sight of the shuttle. The rear door to the shuttle open. B'Elanna was not the least bit surprised when Seven of Nine came striding out.

Seven ducked into the cave and was met with enthusiastic greetings from the away team. She barely acknowledged them looking around frantically for Del. She cried out when she spotted the tunic draped figure on the floor. Rushing over she knelt down already knowing it was Del. She pulled back the uniforms covering her and gasped at the horrible injury across her body.

"Del…Del… can you hear me," she cried, her voice taking on a slightly hysterical note.

B'Elanna stepped over and laid her hand cautiously on Seven's shoulder. "We need to get her out of here, Seven, she's hurt very badly." She gasped when Seven looked up, anguish clearly written on her face. "Come on… I'll give you a hand."

Seven shook her head adamantly. She carefully slipped her arms under Del's body and picked her up. They quickly headed for the shuttle. Seven gently strapped Del on one of the benches then squatted down next to her and began to gently stroke her face. She seemed oblivious to everything around her.

The shuttle was rocked by a nearby lightening strike. Again B'Elanna approached Seven. She called her name several times before Seven looked up. "We need you to pilot the shuttle. None of us have the skill to get us through the storm." Seven shook her head. "You're the only one who can get her safely back to Voyager, every second counts," B'Elanna insisted firmly. She couldn't imagine how hard this must be for Seven.

Seven took one last longing look at Del then stood up. Her face hardened and the cool facade B'Elanna was used to seeing appeared. But now she knew that was just what it was, a facade. B'Elanna reached out and gently squeezed Seven's arm. "I'll keep an eye on her, I promise."

Seven nodded, then headed for the pilot's seat without a word. The return trip was even rougher than coming down. Several times Seven thought for sure they were going to crash as she fought the shuttle controls. Just as she thought they had finally made it and were about to break through the atmosphere and into space they were struck by another lightening bolt. Without the shields it cut through the port nacelle causing a major explosion. The main console exploded throwing Seven backward out of her seat. Her head struck the floor and everything went dark.

"Any sign of the shuttle?" Janeway demanded of Tuvok again. She had been asking that question every few minutes or so it seemed since Chakotay called her back onto the bridge.

Tuvok had been running continuous scans for the shuttle. "I'm registering an explosion in the atmosphere." The bridge went still and every eye was locked on the viewscreen. "Shuttle breaking the atmosphere now." There was a collective sigh of relief on the bridge when the shuttle was spotted. "It appears to have suffered major damage to the port nacelle," he continued, relaying the information as it came onto his board. "Engines are offline, life support is minimal. I am reading six life signs, though one of them is very faint."

"Tom, take us into range of the tractor beam," Janeway ordered.

Voyager swooped toward the planet, her tractor beam locking on the shuttle and pulling it into the bay.

"Janeway to the Doctor. We have a medical emergency in the shuttle bay."

"Acknowledged, on my way."

"Captain, permission to leave the bridge to help the doctor?" Tom requested. He regularly assisted the doctor when there were multiple wounded. Besides he knew B'Elanna was on that shuttle.

"Granted. Chakotay, you have the bridge. I'll be in the shuttle bay." She wanted to check on her people first hand. Then she was going to have a serious discussion with Seven of Nine about disobeying her orders… again!

Janeway stood next to Seven's biobed. She had been among the injured. The doctor had assured her that although Seven had suffered a minor concussion in addition to a bevy of bruised and strained muscles there was no serious damage.

The other members of the away team had suffered minor cuts and bruises from being tossed around in the shuttle. They had been treated and released. B'Elanna had filled her in on the events on the planet before retiring to her quarters.

Janeway's thoughts turned to Commander MacMillan. The woman's injuries were horrific and the doctor had not been optimistic about her survival. He had sedated Seven when she became hysterical upon learning of the Commander's condition. She became belligerent and refused to listen to anyone including the captain. The doctor had tried unsuccessfully to reassure her he was doing everything possible for the Commander.

That had been four hours ago and the doctor was still working on her. The Captain's attention was drawn back to Seven when she started to stir. Janeway stepped over and placed a restraining hand on Seven's shoulder trying to get her to lie back down. "You need to rest, you have a concussion." She told the obviously disoriented blond.

Seven tried to remember what happened. Everything seemed a jumble and her thoughts were very sluggish. "DEL!" she cried out as it all came rushing back. She looked frantically around sickbay for her. When she didn't see her she sat up, this time ignoring Janeway's pleas to lie back down. "Where is she?" Seven demanded.

She knew there was no sense pretending she didn't know who Seven meant. From the look on her face she would start tearing sickbay apart looking for her if she did not get an answer quickly.

"The doctor is still working on her."

"I want to see her!" Seven commanded, sliding off the biobed and onto her feet. She clutched the side of the bed for a second before straightening up. Janeway tried to assist her but was met with such a cold look she quickly removed her hands.

"You can't see her yet, the doctor is…"

"Finished," the doctor interrupted. Janeway looked over in relief as the doctor strode into the room. "What are you doing out of bed?" he questioned angrily, stopping to pick up a hypospray on the way over to her.

Seven grabbed his arm before he could inject her. "I will not be sedated again. I want to see Commander MacMillan," she demanded in a tight voice.

The doctor started to increase the strength of his holomatrix intent on sedating Seven.

"Do as she asks, Doctor," Janeway ordered. "You're not to sedate her…IF she remains calm," Janeway added, looking directly at Seven.

Seven nodded her acquiescence.

The doctor led them both reluctantly into the back section of the sickbay where Del was located. She looked white as a ghost against the dark pillow. A large arch shaped console covered her chest providing life support.

Seven walked directly to Del's side and took her pale limp hand in hers. Tears from Seven's human eye trailed down her cheek. She leaned down and whispered something to Del then kissed her gently on the forehead.

Janeway turned away from the tender scene. She felt as if she was intruding on a very private moment.

"How is she?" she asked the doctor, guiding him subtly away from Seven and Del.

"Honestly, I'm surprised she has survived this long. She took a direct hit from a bolt of lightening. I was able to regenerate her liver and stomach; they were basically cooked. Her lungs were burned and full of fluid. Luckily it missed her heart though when she arrived she was having arrhythmias caused by the electricity that flowed through her body. I stabilized that as well as repaired the rest of the damage. Her brain is still functioning but we won't know if there's any permanent brain damage until she regains consciousness… if she ever regains consciousness."

Janeway felt heartsick. "So there's still a chance she won't survive?"

"Yes," the doctor admitted, "a very big one actually." He glanced over at Seven. "What do you want me to tell Seven?"

Janeway looked back over at Seven. She had not moved. She stood with Del's hand clasped in both of hers as she stared intently into her face as if willing her to awaken.

She did not reply to the doctor's question immediately. Finally taking a deep breath she met his eyes. "The truth… you need to tell her the truth, so she can prepare herself should the worst happen."

The doctor nodded and stepped over to the other side of the biobed and faced Seven. Janeway came up and stood next to her. The doctor opened his mouth to speak but Seven cut him off.

"I heard you," she informed him, "and she's not going to die. I won't let her!" she declared emotionally.

"Seven…sometimes we don't have any choice in these matters," the doctor tried to explain in a sympathetic tone.

"She is not going to die! Leave us, I wish to be alone with her," she demanded, glaring at the doctor.

Janeway held up her hand stopping the doctor's response. She motioned for him to follow her.

"Do what you can for her doctor. If her condition changes contact me."

"What about Seven?"

"Let her stay." Janeway could see Seven whispering to Del again. "Who knows maybe she can reach her, give her a reason to keep fighting." Janeway's heart went out to Seven. If she had doubted it before, she didn't any longer. Seven was obviously in love with the Commander. She just hoped her first love did not end in tragedy. With a heavy heart she took one last look at Seven then made her way out of sickbay.


Chapter Eleven

B'Elanna stepped through the door and into sickbay carrying a tray from the mess hall. It had been three days since Del was injured on an away mission. She had come by sickbay every day to check on her condition and see how Seven was holding up. Watching Seven at Del's bedside further convinced B'Elanna how much she had misjudged her. It was obvious that she was in love with Del and hurting deeply. B'Elanna knew Seven hadn't left Del's side since she rescued them on the planet. So far she had held off giving Seven what she was worried would turn out to be Del's last words. Squaring her shoulders and knowing she had a promise to keep, she made her way across sickbay. Though she admitted to herself, promise or not she wanted to help Seven through this any way she could. She started in surprise when the Captain stepped out of the doctor's office.

Janeway looked at the tray in B'Elanna's hands. "B'Elanna, what brings you to sickbay?" she greeted curiously.

"I came by to see Del." Janeway looked pointedly at the tray in her hands. "I thought maybe Seven would like something to eat," she added.

The surprise was evident on the captain's face. The last she heard B'Elanna couldn't stand to be in the same room with Seven and now she was bringing her food. She couldn't help wondering what had brought about this seemingly abrupt change.

"Carry on," she said, motioning B'Elanna on her way.

The captain watched B'Elanna stop for a moment then step into the room where Seven stood vigil over Del. The doctor had called her to sickbay insisting she do something about Seven. She had spoken to Seven and tried to convince her to regenerate for a few hours. Seven had adamantly refused to leave Del's side. Janeway had considered ordering her to go knew the uselessness of the gesture. Seven wouldn't think twice about defying her.

At this point, she figured the only way Seven was going to leave sickbay was either by force, or when she collapsed. Neither was a particularly appealing option but she knew Seven well enough to know they were the only ones. She ordered the doctor to allow Seven to stay and for him to stop harassing her, though she held little hope of that order actually being followed.

The doctor had admitted he had not expected the Commander to survive this long and was actually beginning to be hopeful that she might survive. Janeway hoped for Seven's sake that he was right. She only wished it was soon; she didn't know how much more Seven could take.

Although she found the very thought amazing, if B'Elanna had gone to the trouble of getting a tray for Seven, she must think she had some chance of convincing her to eat. She wished her luck.

B'Elanna stopped in the doorway. Seven looked as if she had not moved an inch in the last twenty four hours. She was sitting as close to the biobed as she could get with Del's hand clasped between both of hers. The captain had finally managed to convince her to sit on a stool after finding out she had been standing for over twenty four hours. B'Elanna made her way quietly over to the bed and set the tray down on the table next to it.

"Hi, Seven," she greeted quietly as she stepped over next to her. When Seven looked up she could see the strain was taking its toll on her. The best B'Elanna was able to estimate, Seven had been awake for over eighty hours. She had dark circles under her eyes and some of her hair had come loose from its customary tight bun and hung in limp strands around her face.

Seven nodded but did not speak, her attention going back to Del. She started when she felt B'Elanna's hand come to rest on her forearm.

B'Elanna felt Seven tense but didn't remove her hand. "You need to eat. I brought something from the mess hall."

Seven shook her head, but B'Elanna ignored her and reached for the tray opening the stasis lid. "It's your favorite, a grilled cheese sandwich and chips…" Seven glanced at the tray then shook her head .

B'Elanna took a deep breath, not knowing how Seven was going to react. She reached out and turned Seven's chair around so they were facing each other, forcing her to let go of Del with one hand. Seven glared at B'Elanna and began to turn back.

"Wait! … please," B'Elanna requested. Seven scowled but stopped trying to pull away and stared at B'Elanna.

"I umm… need to tell you…umm…" B'Elanna stuttered. She cursed under her breath, and then straightened, knowing she had to do this. "Del regained consciousness for a few minutes on the planet after she got hurt." B'Elanna now had Seven's undivided attention.

"Did she say anything?" Seven asked eagerly.

"Yes, she asked me to look after you," B'Elanna informed Seven. "She made me promise."

Seven stared at her disbelievingly. She glanced over at Del wondering what had made her do such a thing. "You do not have to keep that promise, I am quite capable of looking after myself," she said in a surprisingly gentle voice.

"I'm not sure Del would agree with you, Seven. Don't you think she'd be upset if she saw you weren't taking care of yourself? I know you haven't left this room in three days."

Seven looked down guiltily. She had no answer for that.

"Come on…I promised Del I would look out for you. You don't want her to be mad at me do you… at least eat, if you won't go and rest."

"Did she say anything else?" Seven asked, giving in. She stood and reached over to pick up the sandwich B'Elanna had provided.

B'Elanna hesitated, this was something Del should be telling Seven. She had no idea how far their relationship had progressed before Del got hurt. B'Elanna glanced over at Del, pale and still as death and knew she had no choice.

"Del told me to tell you that…she loves you and always will," she said quietly. B'Elanna watched helplessly as Seven's face crumpled and tears began to run down one side of her face. Seven dropped the untouched sandwich back onto the plate.

Surprising even herself, B'Elanna stepped forward and lightly wrapped an arm around Seven's shoulders. She felt her stiffen for just a second then Seven just seemed to collapse. B'Elanna drew an unresisting Seven into her arms and held her tight allowing her to cry herself out.

It was several minutes before Seven regained control of herself. She straightened slowly and pulled back out of B'Elanna's embrace. Her face was flushed from crying and she was embarrassed by her loss of control. "I am sorry… I," she tried to apologize.

B'Elanna shocked them both when she brought her fingers up to Seven's lips stopping her from saying anything further. It wasn't very often she let her human side show but B'Elanna found the longer she was around Seven, the easier it was to do.

"It's okay…I know…you must love her very much."

B'Elanna was dismayed when Seven broke into tears again. She reached out and rubbed her hand up and down Seven's back comfortingly.

"I never told her," Seven admitted sadly.

"Told her what?" B'Elanna asked in confusion.

"I never told her… that I love her," Seven whispered around a throat tight with tears. "I've never loved anyone before… I wasn't sure…but now…" Seven's voice broke with emotion.

B'Elanna's heart clenched at the anguish in Seven's voice. "She knew Seven, I'm sure of it," she tried to reassure her.

Seven looked up with hope shining brightly in her eyes. "Do you really think so?"

"Yes, I do…now come on…Let's get you cleaned up and then you have to eat. You don't want Del to wake up and find you like this…do you?"

B'Elanna took Seven over to a nearby sink and got her to wash her tear-streaked face and put her hair back up. Once she was reseated next to Del, B'Elanna offered her the food she brought. She watched as Seven took a tentative bite of the grilled cheese sandwich. Her face lit up and she quickly looked down at Del; just as suddenly her expression crumpled in disappointment.

"Is there something wrong with it?" B'Elanna was sure she had ordered it just the way Seven liked it.

When Seven took a bite of the sandwich and the taste filled her mouth, she felt a thrill knowing Del must be awake and providing the taste for her like she always did. She looked down expecting to see her eyes open and that loving smile she had come to know gracing her face. She felt crushing disappointment when that hadn't been the case. She knew she should be excited that her taste buds were working on their own but it was a hollow feeling without Del to share it with. She noticed B'Elanna watching her worriedly.

"No. it's fine…thank you."

B'Elanna stayed until Seven had finished everything on the plate. Unable to convince her to leave and get some rest or regenerate, she left vowing to return later.

Seven watched as B'Elanna made her way to the door, amazed at the woman's actions. She had come by every day since Del was injured. Never in her wildest imagination would she have thought that she and the feisty engineer could ever be friends. When Del had talked to her about developing relationships with other crewmembers Seven had listened but never really believed it was possible.

She realized now that B'Elanna was her friend. Only a friend would have done what she did today, holding her and consoling her when she was hurting. Seven was surprised at the comfort she had found in B'Elanna's arms. Now she understood what Del had tried to explain about the differences between the feelings for a friend and the feelings of loving someone. In her mind, it was just one more gift Del had given her, in helping her regain her humanity.

She leaned down close to Del's ear and whispered to her as she had been doing for the last three days. "I love you, please come back to me. You promised I would not ever be alone again."

Del did not know how long she had been locked in the darkness. It felt as if she was trapped in a thick, black tar that was trying to pull her under. She continued to struggle, refusing to give up, no matter how bad the pain or how hopeless it seemed. One thing kept her going, a soft voice called to her, urging her toward a tiny pinprick of light in her dark prison. She knew she had to reach that light and the voice calling to her. Del recognized somehow deep inside that that voice was her salvation.

She gasped as the light suddenly brightened and her body was shrouded in pain. She struggled to open her eyes as alarms blared.

Seven jumped when Del's hand suddenly tightened on hers. She called for the doctor when Del began to gasp. Her heart pounded in fear.

The doctor immediately appeared and began to scan the readouts. He reached out and touched a control causing the life support arch to slowly disappear back into the table.

"Stop! What are you doing?" Seven cried in alarm.

The doctor ignored her and continued to attend to Del. Seven watched in amazement when Del's eyes fluttered open.

Del looked up at the man standing next to her in confusion, then turned her gaze to the other side of the bed, where a woman held her hand.

Seven reached out and stroked Del's face as tears ran freely down her cheek. She was too overcome with emotion to speak.

Del was confused, she knew she should know this woman, but at the moment she could not recall her name. She wondered what had happened to her and where she was.

"Commander…Commander…" the doctor called, trying to get her attention. Del reluctantly turned to face the man. "Do you know where you are?"

Del shook her head, then turned when she heard a gasp from the blond woman. She frowned when she sensed how upset the woman was.

"Do you know who you are?" the man, Del assumed to be a doctor, persisted.

It took several tries for Del to speak, her voice was hoarse and raspy. "Commander Del MacMillan."

"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked.

Del tried to remember but her thoughts were jumbled and the pain made it hard to think. What was the last thing she remembered? She glanced at the blond before turning back to the doctor. "I was onboard… a ship…the…the…Franklin," Del finally managed.

Though the doctor's expression never changed, Del felt a flash of pure anguish coming from the blond. She did remember that she was an empath but for the life of her could not remember who the blond woman with the strange facial jewelry was. Even though she couldn't remember her, somehow she knew she was very important to her for some reason.

Seven stared at Del in stunned disbelief…she didn't know her. How was that possible? Seven listened as the doctor continued to question Del. It seemed her memories stopped shortly before she arrived on Voyager.

"Alright, Commander you need to rest now. I'll give you something for the pain and I want you to sleep," the doctor instructed. Before Del could protest he pressed a hypospray to her neck and injected its contents.

Del felt herself slipping away. She fought against the drug. The blond still had hold of her hand and Del tightened her grip on the hand in hers. She turned to the woman and met her sorrow filled blue eyes. "Please don't leave me," Del pleaded, as she lost her grip on consciousness.

Seven stared down at Del as the drug took hold. Her heart clenched at Del's whispered plea. Why would she beg her to stay if she did not remember her? Seven glared at the doctor. "What's wrong with her? Why doesn't she remember me?" she demanded stridently.

"It's not uncommon with the type of injury the Commander sustained to have short term memory loss." The doctor quickly explained, realizing how upsetting it must be for Seven. As much as he had not wanted to accept it, he had come to understand over the last three days just how much Seven cared for the Commander. He was happy for her that she had finally found someone who not only cared about her but who she cared for in return. "Her memory could come back at any time…" his voice trailed off, "or it might never come back," he finally admitted.

Seven looked down at Del then up at the doctor. "That is not acceptable," she stated flatly. She would not accept the fact that Del might never remember her.

"Hopefully, it will just be short term. Once she regains her strength, her memory may return." The doctor tried to encourage Seven.

Seven returned to her seat and leaned down and began to whisper to Del as she had been doing, totally shutting out the doctor and anything else he had to say.

The doctor sighed dramatically before turning to his office. He needed to contact the captain and apprise her of Commander Macmillan's condition.

B'Elanna made her way to sickbay for the second time that day. Tom had been on the bridge when the doctor contacted the captain and informed her of the change in Del's condition. Tom contacted B'Elanna as soon as he came off shift with the news.

She could not imagine how devastating it must have been for Seven when Del regained consciousness and didn't remember her. Tom had been shocked when she told him she was going to sickbay to check on Seven. She was not quite sure when or how it had happened, but somewhere recently, she began to consider Seven a friend. She knew it was Del's influence that had allowed her to see Seven as she really was and not the persona she projected to the world.

B'Elanna enjoyed being around Del and hoped she would get the chance to become good friends with the woman. In the mean time, Seven needed her support, and she was determined to provide it. With that thought foremost in her mind, she stepped into sickbay and made her way across the room to where Seven sat next to Del's bed.

Seven looked up when she heard B'Elanna approach and was embarrassed when she felt herself tear up.

B'Elanna stepped close and gently wrapped an arm around Seven's shoulders. Neither woman spoke for several minutes as they silently watched Del. She never stirred but to B'Elanna she looked better, not quite so still and she was please to see the life support arch gone.

B'Elanna finally broke the silence. "Has she woken up again?"

Seven shook her head, glancing down at B'Elanna. She could tell from the sympathetic look on her face that she heard what happened earlier.

B'Elanna didn't know if she was giving Seven false hope but she couldn't stand the anguished look on her face. "She'll remember, just give her time." She met Seven's eyes. "Who could forget someone like you," she said teasingly, trying to lighten the somber mood.

Seven stiffened for a second, then a brief smile crossed her face, when she realized what B'Elanna was trying to do.

"I guess you should have been here when she woke up then…no one could forget a face like yours," Seven shot back. She couldn't help but smile at B'Elanna's shocked expression.

B'Elanna couldn't believe it, not only had she successfully teased Seven, Seven had actually teased back. She looked at the blond with renewed respect. She had made amazing strides since Del arrived. B'Elanna gave her a lot of credit. She didn't know if she would have handled the current situation as well as Seven had, if it had been someone she loved who had been injured so badly.

B'Elanna stayed with Seven in silent vigil for over an hour before making her way back to her quarters.

Seven remained alone at Del's bedside late into the night. The doctor had made repeated attempts to convince her to regenerate, before finally giving up and turning himself off in frustration. She knew that eventually she would have no choice but to regenerate. Her implants would soon start shutting down. But she couldn't bring herself to leave especially after Del's brief return to consciousness earlier in the day. Even though she had not known her, Del had begged her not to leave, and Seven was determined to remain at her side as long as she could, regardless of the consequences to herself.

She started when she felt Del's hand tighten around hers. "Del…Del," she called softly.

Del's eyes fluttered open and she looked around the dimly lit room in confusion, then her eyes met Seven's.

"Seven," she whispered huskily, her voice rough. Tears began to pour down her face at the sight of Seven. She thought she would never see her again.

Seven gasped when Del said her name. Tears flooded her eye and forgetting all about Del's injures she threw herself onto her chest and started to sob.

Del gritted her teeth against the pain of Seven lying on her chest and forced her arms up and around the distraught blond. She didn't care how much it hurt, all the mattered was that Seven was in her arms. Del stroked her back soothingly, whispering nonsense words in her ear trying to calm her.

It was several long minutes before Seven regained control of herself. She realized she was lying on Del and probably hurting her. She tried to pull away only to have Del's arms tighten around her.

"No! Don't go…stay here…please," Del whispered hoarsely.

Seven remained in place for a long time, bent over the biobed with her face pressed against Del's neck. Eventually she straightened, needing to see Del's face. As she lifted up, she leaned forward and brushed a soft gentle kiss against Del's lips. "I love you," she whispered.

Del's eyes filled with tears. "I love you too."

Seven stroked Del's face softly, leaning close to her. "I thought I had lost you," she sniffed tearfully.

"I promised you would never be alone again, remember?" Del reminded her, her eyes tearing up.

"That's what I've been telling you for the last three days."

"Three days." Del gasped, amazed at how long she had been unconscious. Then it sank in just what Seven had said. She looked up at her in amazement. "I heard you! I heard you calling me; I kept fighting trying to get back to you."

Seven bent over and gently laid her head on Del's chest, needing to be close and taking comfort in the strong beating of her heart. "How much do you remember?"

Del thought for a moment. "Most of it, I think…except the last thing I remember, I was in a cave with the away team on the planet and communications were out. How did we get back to Voyager?"

Seven stood up, looking suddenly hesitant. "I brought a shuttle down to the planet and picked you up."

Del frowned, she could not believe Janeway would have allowed anyone to bring a shuttle down in a storm that severe. It was a miracle Seven had survived. "Captain Janeway let you bring a shuttle down in that storm?" Del asked incredulously.

Seven looked at the floor. "Not exactly."

Del felt her anger rise, when she realized what a risk Seven had taken. But then she stopped knowing full well if Seven hadn't disobeyed orders and taken the shuttle she would not be here having this conversation with her. She was also honest enough to admit, she would have done the same thing had the positions been reversed.

"Thank you for coming after me," she said sincerely.

Seven looked up in surprise, she expected Del to be angry but there was no hint of censure on her face. "I love you," Seven stated, as if that explained everything, and it did. "What are you doing?" Seven asked in concern as Del tried to move over on the bed and grimaced in pain.

Del didn't say anything until she managed to scoot over on the bed. She looked up and met Seven's eyes and then patted the empty space next to her. "Come up here… I need to hold you."

"I'll hurt you," Seven said worriedly.

"No, you won't…please…I need to feel you next to me," Del pleaded softly.

Seven couldn't resist, she needed to be close to Del. She carefully moved onto the bed and lay on her side careful not to touch Del.

Del shifted over until their body's met down the length of her side. She reached over and lifted Seven's arm and laid it carefully across her body. "Hold me…please," she whispered to Seven.

Seven moved carefully and snuggled against Del's body. It felt so good to be near her and the horrible fear she had experienced while Del remained unconscious began to wane. Del was here and in her arms, nothing would ever separate them again.

Neither woman was aware of drifting off to sleep.

"Chakotay," Janeway greeted her first officer just outside the doors to sickbay. "What brings you to sickbay so early? Is everything alright?" She asked, looking him over.

She was surprised when he seemed to hesitate and cocked her head to the side, a quizzical expression on her face.

"I just thought I'd stop by and check on how the Commander was doing, and see if Seven needed anything," he said, chagrined at having run into her.

Well… seems my crew was full of surprises these days, Janeway thought. First B'Elanna and now Chakotay were concerned about Seven. They had been two of the most vocal opponents to the pact with the Borg and keeping Seven onboard after she had been severed from the Collective.

It appeared that Commander MacMillan had been busy during her short time onboard. Her intervention was the only thing that made any sense in not only Seven's transformation but also the abrupt attitude change of her first officer and chief engineer. She now realized how she had allowed her feelings for Seven to cause her to misjudge the woman severely. Hopefully with some good news from the doctor she would get a chance to correct that mistake.

The doctor contacted her first thing this morning and asked that she come to sickbay. He refused to say why, but his voice was too upbeat for there to be something seriously wrong.

Janeway's attention was brought back to Chakotay when he shifted uncomfortably.

"Well then, by all means Commander, let's go see how they're doing," she told him with a smile, stepping through the door into sickbay.

The doctor met them as soon as they stepped into the room. He put his finger to his lips motioning them to silence. Janeway glared at his dramatics but followed him when he motioned to them.

He stopped and pointed to the bed where the Commander lay. Janeway and

Chakotay's mouths dropped open in shock. The Commander wasn't alone in the bed. Curled up around her was Seven of Nine and both women were fast asleep.

Janeway felt a wrenching sense of loss as she gazed at the two entwined women. Although she knew in her mind that she would never allow a relationship to develop between her and any member of the crew her heart cried out at the sight before her.

She slammed her command mask down in place and tried to ignore the silent tearing of her heart. She glanced over at Chakotay to see how he was reacting to this. She was aware of his attraction to Commander MacMillan.

Chakotay stared, not wanting to believe his eyes. He had accepted mentally that he didn't have a chance with the beautiful Commander but it was still disconcerting to see it with his own eyes. He realized that Captain Janeway had been right all along in insisting that Seven would, with help, fully regain her humanity.

They stepped away from the door and followed the doctor to his office.

"I found them like that this morning when I reactivated myself. I'm assuming from Seven's position that the Commander has fully regained her memory. I can now safely predict a full recovery for Commander MacMillan but Seven will still have to regenerate as sleeping will only restore her biological systems but not her Borg implants," he explained to the still slightly stunned Janeway and Chakotay.

"That's good news, Doctor. Let me know if there are any further developments." Janeway instructed before making a hasty retreat. She needed time to process all she had seen.

Chakotay quickly excused himself as well.

The doctor walked over and gazed at the two women. He couldn't help the twinge of disappointment that ran through his matrix but he reminded himself what was important was that Seven was happy.

Seven and Del slept peacefully totally unaware of the scrutiny, both happy and content in the other's loving embrace.

Part 12

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