DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount, this story depicts a loving/sexual relationship between women...okay, disclaimer done.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Valentine's Challenge
By T.J.

B'Elanna was wishing she could be anywhere but here. Here being onboard the Starship Voyager with only four days to go before the annual Valentine's Day Celebration a la Neelix. She and Tom had broken up three months ago, much to the flight controller's displeasure. She knew, through the gossip grapevine, that he intended to use the Valentine's Day party as a forum for wooing back his lady love. (His words not hers)

B'Elanna was working in one of Voyager's many Jeffries Tubes trying to realign some damaged EPS conduit, and also avoiding the lunch rush in the mess hall. She was aware that she was being a coward by avoiding all possible contact with Tom, but she really didn't want to deal with the insincere lovesick ramblings of the helmsman. She had ended their relationship because of his inability to remain faithful to her and she was in no mood to hear his protestations of reform and pleadings to reconsider her decision. Nope, better just to bury herself in work and hope the whole thing would just go away of its own accord. Still, a nice away mission wouldn't be bad right about now. Too bad there were none scheduled for several more weeks.

B'Elanna heard the sound of an access panel being opened near her and to her surprise the platinum blonde head of Seven of Nine appeared in the hatchway.

"Ah, Lieutenant Torres, I was hoping to find you here."

"Really, and why is that Seven?" B'Elanna couldn't imagine the circumstances under which the ship's resident Borg would voluntarily seek her out. It was no secret that the two of them were on less than friendly terms.

"I was wondering if you would care to accompany me on an away mission to assay the dilithium deposits on a nearby planet over the next week?"

Now B'Elanna was really confused. Why on earth would Seven be going on such a mission in the first place? It certainly didn't take Voyager's Chief Engineer and its Astrometrics officer, a brilliant engineer in her own rite B'Elanna grudgingly admitted to herself, to survey a planet for appropriate levels of dilithium for mining.

Seven must have read B'Elanna's confusion on her face for she hastened to give her explanation.

"I wish to avoid the Valentine's party this year and it has come to my attention that you might also wish to avoid the celebrations."

"Okay, I know why I don't want to go to the party, and I suppose it is pretty common knowledge onboard, but why don't you want to be there Seven?"

"I wish to avoid attending the Valentine's Day party with Captain Janeway, and this was the most efficient means by which to do so."

"You must really want to get away if you are willing to be stuck in the Delta flyer with me for a week," B'Elanna was only half joking.

"Indeed, and I am relatively certain that you are equally anxious to get away from here and so will agree to spend a week 'stuck' on the Delta Flyer with me."

"Well, I guess we're even then, but how do you intend to get permission from the Captain for us to be away over Valentine's day if she is so anxious for you to go to the stupid party?"

"I have already obtained her permission. She agreed to let me go only if you accompanied me. I believe she was counting on your animosity toward me as a deterrent. She is not privy to all of the ship's gossip as I am and so is not aware of your situation vis a vis Mr. Paris," Seven finished rather sheepishly.

"Wow, I had no idea you could be so devious Seven," B'Elanna was truly impressed with Seven's Machiavellian planning. "Okay, you have yourself an away mission partner. When do we leave?"

"Tomorrow morning at 1100 hours."

"I'll be ready."

Seven turned to make her way out of the Jeffries tube but stopped when she heard B'Elanna speak.

"And Seven…thanks."

Seven acknowledged B'Elanna's words with a simple nod before she exited the tube, leaving B'Elanna to puzzle over this new side of the former drone.

True to her word B'Elanna was onboard the Delta Flyer bright and early the next morning stowing her gear and completing the preflight check. She had suffered through a rather awkward scene with Tom in her quarters that morning as he had heard about the mission and come around to beg her not to go. She had been firm but kind with him as she reiterated yet once more that they would never again be a couple. Tom had been unhappy however she had left him no choice but to accept that she would not be onboard for the Valentine's party. She had heard from Harry Kim at breakfast that the captain had been none too pleased that Seven was leaving either and only the fact that she had agreed to the mission in front of Commander Chakotay forced her to accept Seven's absence from the party. The young drone looked so preoccupied when she finally arrived in the shuttle bay that B'Elanna almost felt sorry for her…almost.

Together they finished prepping the shuttle for launch and at exactly 1100 hours they made good their escape from Voyager. Once they were clear of the ship and had a course laid in for the nearby planetoid they fell into an awkward silence. B'Elanna wracked her mind for some way to start a conversation, but she could think of nothing to say. Seven seem likewise uncomfortable and so for several hours they occupied themselves with various tasks and did not pass a single word between them.

Finally unable to take the silence any longer B'Elanna spoke.

"Seven I'm starving…I'm going to replicate some lunch…would you care to join me?"

She was expecting Seven's standard refusal of 'nutritional supplements' and was surprised when the young drone accepted her offer of food. B'Elanna replicated a simple meal; with the food taking their sole attention off of one another they finally relaxed sufficiently to begin to talk. They chatted companionably through lunch and for the rest of the flight they worked in a much more comfortable silence. They landed the ship on the planet's surface just as darkness fell. Using the shuttle's sensors they mapped out the areas they would search tomorrow for dilithium and the other minerals they needed for the ship's stores. Once everything was in order for the next day's work they ate a light meal and occupied themselves separately for the rest of the evening.

The sun rose in a blaze of colour over the planet just as Seven and B'Elanna exited the shuttle to begin their explorations. The day became increasingly hot and B'Elanna discarded her jacket almost immediately in favour of her uniform's gray tank top. They found the first deposit of dilithium to be tested and Seven set up the equipment necessary for testing the purity of the crystals while B'Elanna worked at mining some of the material for testing. Seven found that she was entirely distracted from her work by the sight of B'Elanna's rippling sweat-slicked muscles as the young engineer laboured in the hot sun. After an hour or so of physical labour B'Elanna stood up to stretch out her back. Seven found herself unable to stop staring at the young Klingon's body as she arched her back to release the strain, thus bringing her pert breasts into sharp relief against the azure sky. The young astrometrics officer shook her head and forced herself to get back to work calibrating the sensors of her tricorder before B'Elanna noticed that her efficiency had dropped well below acceptable 'Borg' standards.

"That's the last of the samples for today," B'Elanna said as she dropped another carrier filled with samples next to the spot where Seven was busy analyzing the crystals B'Elanna had already collected. She threw herself on the ground and leaned back on her hands. The young drone stole a quick glance at the older woman as she lounged on the ground while Seven herself worked. Her muscles were full and hard as a result of her physical labour and her shirt was soaked with sweat and clinging to her body. The young drone felt her heartrate increase as she observed B'Elanna relaxing and once again found it necessary to force her mind back to her task.

They worked until the sun went down and then returned to the ship to analyze the sensor readings from the first day's work. After they had finished their work they debated over what to replicate for dinner, with B'Elanna teasing Seven gently over her uniformly bland suggestions. Finally Seven just told B'Elanna that she would eat whatever the engineer replicated for her and then she sat back and waited. She was certain that B'Elanna would program in something terribly spicy in order to torment her, and so she was pleasantly surprised when B'Elanna produced a moderately spiced pasta and chicken dish that was as delicious as it was thoughtful.

"That was delicious Lieutenant," Seven complimented as B'Elanna cleared away the dishes for recycling.

"Do you think you could bring yourself to call me B'Elanna one of these days?" B'Elanna teased.

Seven felt her face colour slightly as she answered, "I believe so…B'Elanna." She loved the way that the engineer's name sounded as it rolled off her tongue.

B'Elanna had been pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to work with Seven of Nine once they were off Voyager. Even though she had agreed to come on this mission she had been dreading spending this much time alone with the younger woman. Only the possibility of Tom Paris proposing marriage to her yet again in front of all of their friends had been a sufficient prod to get her to agree to the mission. B'Elanna had seen the slight colouration of Seven's face when she had asked the former drone to call her by given name. Maybe there was a person underneath all of that Borg efficiency after all.

"So Seven, mind if I ask you a personal question?" B'Elanna decided it was time to get to know the former Borg a bit better.

Seven hesitated, uncertain as to what it was B'Elanna might be about to ask her. She had been enjoying this time with the older woman and was hesitant to risk the nascent truce with the volatile engineer. Still, refusing to engage in conversation with her was certain to anger B'Elanna even more than any answer Seven might give to her questions.

"If you wish."

"Why were you so anxious to avoid Captain Janeway over Valentine's Day. I thought you two were the best of friends?"

Seven answered with her typically brutal Borg forthrightness.

"Captain Janeway has been a mentor to me ever since she freed me from the collective. Everything I have achieved as an individual is because of her. I will always be grateful to her for her support. However, of late she has shown a desire to change the nature of our relationship, from that of friendship to one of a more romantic nature. It is for that reason that I did not wish to attend the Valentine's Day party with her."

For once B'Elanna was at a loss for words. "Oh, I see," was all she was able to manage at first.

"So you don't have any interest in the Captain romantically, or is it women in particular you aren't interested in?"

"The Captain is an attractive woman, but she can never really love me for who I am," Seven replied ignoring the second half of B'Elanna's question.

"I thought you just told me that she was responsible for you being the person you are?" B'Elanna queried.

"She is, but she will never be content with me as I am. She wishes for me to be completely human, and I never will be. She wishes for me to have more of my implants removed now that the doctor has developed procedures to do so."

"I would have thought you would have been anxious to get rid of the implants Seven. Wouldn't it make your life easier if you didn't have to regenerate…wouldn't it make it easier for you to fit in if you looked more like the rest of us?"

"I am Borg…or at least partially so, and I always will be. Don't you see B'Elanna, Katherine wishes me to repudiate that entire part of my life. I am aware of everything I did as a Borg. I am acutely aware of the atrocities I committed as a drone, but to remove my implants would be to say that I can simply surgically remove the past…and I cannot…nor do I wish to. I see these implants as a kind of memorial to the people who were assimilated by me. I refuse to pretend it never happened or that those people never existed. These implants are a legacy to the assimilated, and I will never forget them or deny them. Katherine cannot accept this. She sees me as a problem to be solved, or a person to be perfected…not as a half-Borg, half-human hybrid who is learning to accept herself for who and what she is."

"Don't you think that's a little harsh Seven…I'm sure the Captain doesn't want you to forget the past or the people you assimilated. I'm sure she has your best interests at heart, and that she only wants you to be more comfortable as a human."

"Perhaps I am judging the Captain rather harshly…but she will not let go of this idea that I should become more fully human by eradicating the elements of me that are machine. If she cannot accept me as I am then I do not wish to become involved with her."

"Maybe she just needs more time Seven," B'Elanna tried once more to persuade Seven that the Captain only wanted what is best for her.

"She has had ample time to come to grips with this. There is also the fact that I am simply not attracted to her sexually. I believe that her role as my mentor precludes my feeling anything other than platonic love for her."

"Well then, I guess you know best how you feel," B'Elanna finally acquiesced. "I never knew you felt so strongly about your Borg implants Seven."

"It is one of the essential ironies of my life that as I become more and more evolved as a human being I am more and more able to accept my Borg nature."

Seven fell silent after that and B'Elanna decided not to push her any further for now. She felt as if they had made a kind of breakthrough in their relationship and she was reluctant to press her luck. Finally she settled for saying,

"You know you can always talk to me if you want to Seven. I mean…if you just need to let off some steam or you want to talk about stuff like this I'll be there for you…if you want."

"Thank you B'Elanna."

They tidied the cabin up a bit more and then they both retired to their bunks for the evening.

The following morning they were both up bright and early and they spent several hours hiking up into a series of hills to find the next deposit of dilithium to be assayed. Once again B'Elanna removed her tunic and Seven was treated to the sight of the play of her muscles as they worked. She found it as distracting today as she had yesterday. The day went quickly and Seven was pleased to note that the awkward silences between them appeared to be diminishing…replaced with a friendly banter and much more comfortable silences as they hiked and worked. She was beginning to see that she might have misjudged the engineer when she dismissed her out of hand as someone who might become a friend. They worked hard all day and only arrived back at the shuttle as the sun was going down behind the hills.

Once again they chatted amiably over dinner, but this time it was Seven who turned the conversation onto a more personal level.

"B'Elanna, I was wondering if you would tell me why your relationship to Mr. Paris ended."

"It ended because I ended it," B'Elanna replied gruffly.

"Do you not wish to discuss this with me?" Seven tried to keep the hurt out of her voice.

"No, sorry…you just caught me by surprise is all. I broke up with Tom because he just couldn't seem to grasp the basic concepts of an adult relationship. Things like fidelity, honour, spending time together outside of the bedroom or the holodeck seemed to be just beyond his grasp. I had fun with him in the beginning but in the end I needed more than just fun. I guess I want someone to romance me…and not just in an attempt to get me into bed…but just because they think I'm worth the effort. Does that explain it Seven?"

"Yes B'Elanna, I apologize if I raised a painful subject for you. I was just trying to…I believe the phrase is 'get to know you better.'"

"It's okay really Seven…I think I'd like it if we got to know each other better. I've really enjoyed working with you the last couple of days."

Seven felt her face blaze with colour at the engineer's unexpected compliment. As much as she was beginning to hope for it she never really believed that the fiery Klingon would want to be her friend.

"As long as we're getting to know each other Seven…" B'Elanna began but then stopped; unsure of how to phrase the question or even whether she really wanted to ask it.

"What is it you wish to know B'Elanna?" Seven's voice was quiet; she sensed that something important was about to transpire.

"I was just wondering…I mean you told me part of why you didn't want to be in a relationship with the Captain…but is there more to it than that. What I mean is…are you interested in women at all, or is it just the Captain you don't want to be involved with?"

"I believe that I am interested in women almost exclusively. I have yet to meet a male in whom I could take a sexual interest…although admittedly there is a rather limited pool of examples aboard Voyager from which to choose."

"Soo, is there anyone on board Voyager that you could be interested in…among the women I mean?" B'Elanna finished lamely.

"And if there were what makes you think that I would tell you Lieutenant Torres? You are widely acknowledged to the biggest gossip aboard Voyager…I believe it would be more discreet to make a shipwide announcement over the Comm." Seven smiled and cocked her optical implant to let B'Elanna know that she was only teasing. To her relief B'Elanna seemed to take the remarks in stride, even laughing at Seven's attempt at humour.

"Well, you've got me there Seven…but all that teasing doesn't distract me from the fact that you didn't deny that there was someone on board in whom you are interested." She smiled broadly, "but don't worry…I'll never tell."

Seven was becoming uncomfortable with how close to home some of these questions were hitting so she decided to turn the tables before B'Elanna continued her interrogation.

"What about you B'Elanna…are you only interested in men or could you ever be attracted to a woman?"

"What…me?" B'Elanna floundered looking for a way to avoid the question…but since they were the only two on the planet there was little hope of a convenient interruption. "Well, I have found myself attracted to women in the past…I've never acted on it…but I certainly understand the urge. I've never had a woman be attracted to me so I suppose it has been kind of a non issue."

"And how would you know if a woman…or anyone for that matter was attracted to you?" Seven inquired. "I mean…if I was interested in someone…how would I go about showing it?"

"Are you asking me for dating advice Seven?" B'Elanna was incredulous.

Seven's only answer was to raise her ocular implant and look around the shuttle in an exaggerated fashion to indicate that there was no one else present that she could possibly be asking.

"Well, I can only speak for myself…but I suppose most of it is fairly universal. I guess I like it when someone really listens to me…I mean when I can tell that are completely concentrating on every word I'm saying, and not just planning the next thing that they are going to say. You know…give them your full attention. Little touches are nice too…you know…a touch on the shoulder when you are talking…brushing up against them when you are together. If you want someone to know you are attracted you can try getting into their personal space…but getting out again quickly if you can tell they aren't comfortable. Try putting them at their ease…getting to know their likes and dislikes and then trying to be sure they get what they want…like finding out their favourite food and then making it for them…just simple stuff like that. I don't need huge public displays…just kindness and interest…connection. Does that make any sense at all?"

"Seven?" She asked after a few moments had passed with no reply from the young drone.

Seven appeared slightly dazed, but she rallied herself quickly. "Yes B'Elanna, that all makes perfect sense. It is what I would want as well should anyone ever be interested in me. Thank you."

"What do you mean should anyone become interested in you…the Captain was interested in you…didn't she do any of those things?"

"The Captain's methods of wooing were slightly less conventional than that. Many of her attempts involved the ritual incineration of something known as Yankee Pot Roast. She involved me in long philosophical conversations about the nature of love and attraction, and once she pinned a Shakespearean sonnet to my biosuit while I regenerated. Although as Ensign RalSt pointed out all that really happened was that she ruined a perfectly good biosuit…most inefficient."

B'Elanna stifled a severe case of the giggles brought on by the thought of the Captain pinning a sonnet to the biosuit of the beautiful young Borg while she slept. She covered quickly by inquiring which sonnet the Captain had chosen.

"Sonnet 94. I must admit that Shakespeare's numerical cataloging of his poetry is most efficient. He would have made an excellent drone."

"That's funny Seven…A Klingon general once said that Shakespeare was obviously a Klingon based on the passionate and warlike nature of much of his work."

They bantered back and forth for a while longer, relieved that the tension that had been building was dispelled by their laughter. Seven, for her part, had never had the opportunity to laugh quite so much in her short existance as a human. She found the experience both rewarding and exhilarating. Finally they decided it was time to get some sleep if they were going to accomplish all of their work the next day.

Several hours later Seven awoke to an unfamiliar sound. She listened in the darkness of the shuttle and heard what sounded like a whimper coming from the other side of the cabin. She lay perfectly still…there it was again. It reminded her of the sound of a child crying. She got up and made her way silently across the shuttle to B'Elanna's bunk. The older woman was asleep, but obviously in the throes of a bad dream. Seven knelt beside the bunk and stretched out her hand to awaken her friend. She froze when B'Elanna spoke.

"Daddy please…don't go Daddy."

The rest of her words were an unintelligible murmur. Seven reached out and shook her gently. B'Elanna came awake with a sob…sitting bolt upright in her bunk and looking wildly around the cabin.

"What's going on…Seven what happened?"

"I believe you were having a nightmare. You called out for your father and you were crying in your sleep."

B'Elanna dashed the tears from her eyes.

"I have that dream a lot. My father is all packed and is leaving my mother and me. I beg him to stay but he just keeps walking and he never turns around, no matter how much I beg."

Seven crossed the room and replicated a glass of water that she then gave to B'Elanna. The young engineer drank from the glass, her breathing returning slowly to normal.

"Thank you Seven. I'm sorry if I woke you up."

Seven sat at the head of the bunk with her back to the bulkhead. She took the empty glass from B'Elanna and set in on the floor. She reached out, tenderly wiping the tears from the Klingon's cheeks and stroking her hair softly. Acting completely on an instinct she never knew she had, Seven very slowly guided B'Elanna's head downward until it was resting in her lap, and she continued to caress her hair ever so gently.

"Go to sleep B'Elanna. I am here now and you are safe."

A thousand protests leapt into B'Elanna's mind as the former drone treated her like she would an infant, but somehow none of them made their way past her lips. An age-old need for connection and touch took over and she gave in completely to the comfort offered by her former adversary. Her mother would have been derisive of her very human need for consolation; she would have told B'Elanna that Klingon's did not require such things, but B'Elanna couldn't bring herself to care. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the feeling of Seven's fingers stroking through her hair. Very soon she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. Seven remained where she was, comforting her friend until she too fell asleep sitting upright on B'Elanna's bunk.

B'Elanna awoke the next morning to a feeling of confusion as to where she was. It took her a moment to realize that she had spent the night sleeping in Seven's lap. Her left arm was hooked around the former drone's waist and Seven's left hand was resting lightly on B'Elanna's shoulder. The momentary sense of embarrassment that flared up in B'Elanna's mind was extinguished quickly by the warmth and comfort the half-Klingon felt as she lay close to her new friend. She moved slightly to see if Seven was asleep and her small movement awoke the sleeping drone. Seven blinked sleepily for several seconds before she realized where she was. Her eyes met B'Elanna's and after a second in which she seemed to be gauging the engineer's mood she smiled warmly in greeting.

"Good morning B'Elanna…did you sleep all right?"

"I did Seven, and thank you. Your being here really helped."

Seven shifted uncomfortably, her body unused to maintaining such an awkward position for a prolonged period of time. B'Elanna, seeing the drone's discomfort, sat up and allowed Seven to stand up and stretch out the cramps in her muscles. After she had stretched sufficiently Seven told B'Elanna to go ahead and take the first shower, and after a few token protests B'Elanna complied. When she got out of the shower she was surprised to see that Seven had already replicated breakfast, and judging by the smell B'Elanna was going to just love the menu.

"Do I smell banana pancakes?"

"Yes, I thought it would be more efficient if I prepared the morning meal while you were in the shower."

"Yum…my favourite…how did you know?"

"I have observed you eating them on several occasions. I believe it is called a 'hunch.'"

"Borg intuition huh? Thanks Seven, and I don't just mean for the breakfast."

Seven once again found herself blushing under B'Elanna's direct gaze and so she attempted to distract the engineer by insisting that they begin the meal before the temperature of the food dropped to unacceptable levels. B'Elanna knew that Seven was unused to emotional scenes of any kind, and not being a particular fan of such scenes herself she allowed herself to be distracted. Besides…the meal smelled delicious.

As they ate Seven asked B'Elanna about her father and her childhood and to her surprise B'Elanna found herself answering the questions. She was amazed at how attentive Seven was…she felt as if when she was telling Seven about her painful childhood memories nothing in the universe mattered to the young Borg except what she was saying. No one had ever listened to her like that before and she found the sensation wonderful. Seven barely touched her food and her azure eyes remained locked intently on B'Elanna as the young Klingon explained the origin of her nightmares.

After the meal was over B'Elanna offered to clear up while Seven showered and changed in preparation for the day ahead. As she tidied the cabin of the Delta Flyer B'Elanna shook her head in wonder at how easily she found herself opening up to Seven. She had never told Tom the things she had just confessed to Seven, not that he had ever really asked, but still how could she have stayed in a relationship for so long with someone that was so obviously unsuitable for her. 'More to the point how could you have gone so long without realizing what a great person Seven is Torres?' She demanded of herself angrily. 'Well, better late than never I suppose.'

Seven came back into the room and they spread out the sensor maps of the planet in order to decide where they should go for the days' work. B'Elanna was seated at the table and Seven stood behind her so that she could see over the engineer's shoulder. B'Elanna was surprised to feel Seven's hand come to rest on her shoulder as they studied the map. As they plotted the route they would take to the next deposit of minerals to be assayed Seven leaned over B'Elanna's body to get a closer view of the map; B'Elanna felt Seven's body heat even through the tough fabric of her Starfleet uniform, and it was pleasantly distracting. Seven drew a potential route through the hills with her finger and then turned her head to see B'Elanna's reaction to her suggestion. Their faces were only inches apart and for a moment neither of them dared to even breathe. Finally B'Elanna broke the moment by agreeing to Seven's plan, and they both moved apart to complete preparations for the day.

As they hiked Seven took the lead, and B'Elanna was pleasantly surprised by how considerate the younger woman was being. She often stopped to ensure that her Borg enhanced body was setting a pace that would not overly tired the young Klingon. She also took pains to hold back the bushes and branches that might scratch at B'Elanna as she passed, and even more surprising was the regularity with which she offered B'Elanna her hand to help her over particularly rough spots of terrain. B'Elanna couldn't help but wonder at the young drone's overly solicitous behaviour. As she walked she let her mind wander over the past few days. She remembered their conversation of the night before, and nearly stumbled over her own feet as she realized that Seven's behaviour was almost exactly what B'Elanna had described in their discussion about attraction. 'It can't be,' B'Elanna thought to herself. 'But she didn't seem to want to tell me who she was attracted to, and I know it is a woman…but still. There's no way…is there?' Her thoughts were interrupted as they reached the site and began to set up for the mining operation.

This mineral deposit was considerably larger than the others and so Seven decided to help with the mining efforts in order to ensure that they would be back at the shuttle before nightfall. The planet was uninhabited but the terrain was rough and neither of them wanted to risk injury by travelling at night. B'Elanna found herself watching Seven as she worked. The young drone was incredibly strong and she gave total concentration to her work. Having felt that total concentration directed at her this morning B'Elanna knew the work was going to get done quickly. They worked steadily and without speaking for several hours before they had collected sufficient samples for testing. B'Elanna helped Seven carry the rocks out into the sunlight so she could begin testing. She then decided to return to the cave structures to do some final scans before declaring this deposit fully explored. It was another hour of continuous tricorder scans before B'Elanna was convinced that this area was fully mapped. She rejoined Seven in the sunlight and began to help the younger woman assay the minerals.

As they worked side by side B'Elanna was constantly amazed by the number of times she and Seven came into physical contact. It seemed that their hands touched whenever they passed equipment back and forth and that they brushed against one another almost every time that they moved. B'Elanna was starting to wonder if in fact Seven was trying to show that she had an interest in her. It just didn't make sense…they had been adversaries for so long that to imagine her feelings could have changed so much in just a few short days was difficult to believe. Still, her opinion of the former Borg had been radically altered in those few days. NO…it just wasn't possible and it didn't bear thinking about. B'Elanna mentally shook her head and went back to work.

They finished up the assays about an hour before sunset and so they quickly packed up their gear and headed back to the shuttle. Although they were moving quickly Seven still made a conspicuous effort to ensure that B'Elanna was able to keep up and was undamaged by the undergrowth they were moving through. They made it back to the shuttle with daylight to spare. B'Elanna wanted to stay outside and watch the sunset, but Seven felt that dinner was a more pressing issue. So she went inside to begin to replicate their evening meal while B'Elanna watched the sun sink below the horizon in a blaze of colour. She had hoped that Seven might come outside and watch the sunset with her, but the drone remained inside the shuttlecraft.

When B'Elanna finally went inside, the aroma told her that Seven had been busy with her preparations. She had already placed dishes on the table and was retrieving a bowl of something from the replicator.

"Smells great Seven, what is it?"

"I did not know what you might like so I prepared something from your cultural heritage on the chance that perhaps you consumed it as a child and might like it."

This was as close to rambling as B'Elanna had ever heard Seven get, but since she still head no idea what the younger woman might have prepared she merely cocked her head and waited for her to continue.

"It is paella; I thought that since Torres is a Mexican surname perhaps you would like Mexican food." She paused for a moment to take a breath, and then looked at B'Elanna with what could only be described as panic. "Torres is a Mexican name is it not?"

"Relax Seven, yes Torres is Mexican, but I've never tried paella. Don't worry it smells great, and if you had to take a culinary shot in the dark based on my heritage I'd much rather be eating this than a huge plate of Gak or Serpent worms." Seeing the worried look in Seven's eyes at her gentle teasing B'Elanna hastened to add, "Thank you Seven…. This was really thoughtful of you."

Dinner turned out to be delicious and Seven was gratified to see that B'Elanna took a healthy second portion of the food that she had prepared. They talked mostly about work as they ate, discussing the minerals they had tested so far and speculating over what they might expect over the next couple of days. When they had finished clearing away the meal they continued to discuss engineering issues for several more minutes until the conversation seemed to die away. B'Elanna was lounging on one of the bunks letting her mind drift back over the past few days when Seven abruptly broke the silence.

"Do you ever worry that you will never find love again?"

"I guess so, although life without love can be far less complicated and just as rewarding in other ways I'm sure. What makes you ask Seven?"

"I do not believe that anyone will ever find me attractive as I am, and therefore I will never find love with another. I fear that I will spend my life alone, and that thought makes me sad."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much if I were you Seven. Everyone on board Voyager finds you attractive, and the Captain seems to love you in her own way. It will happen for you Seven, I'm sure of it."

"They find my fully clothed appearance to be attractive, but there is much more to me than what you are able to see now B'Elanna, and the Captain was unwilling to accept my true appearance as it is. I do not imagine that anyone will ever be able to look on me as anything other than flawed and unattractive. I believe that most humans would find my Borg implants repugnant."

"Seven, it just can't be that bad. The Captain probably had her own reasons for wanting you to have the rest of your implants removed, but I'm sure it wasn't for aesthetic purposes…she's just not that petty."

"I need to know B'Elanna if anyone could ever truly find the real me attractive. Will you help me?"

"I'll do what I can Seven, but what is it you want?"

"Your honest opinion of my appearance."

"I think you are beautiful Seven."

"No, I mean what I truly look like, Borg implants and all."

B'Elanna couldn't believe what Seven was asking of her, but she could see how important it was to her and so she merely swallowed hard, her throat suddenly dry, and nodded her agreement to Seven's request. Seven stood and tried to undo the zipper of the biosuit, but her hands were trembling and she soon had the fastener caught in the fabric of the suit. Unable to speak she looked at B'Elanna for help. Without a word B'Elanna crossed the room on unsteady legs and with shaking hands worked the zipper free from the fabric. She very slowly lowered the zipper, shocked at the depth of her reaction to the slow revelation of Seven's flawless porcelain skin. She reached up to slide the suit off of Seven's shoulders, her stomach contracting almost painfully when Seven's hand brushed over her own as she reached back to remove the suit.

Not knowing what else to do, and afraid her legs would not support her for much longer B'Elanna returned to the bunk she had been sitting on and watched as Seven removed the rest of her biosuit and stood before her completely exposed.

"Please…The truth…I need to know…just tell me the truth."

Seven stood before her revealed in all of her humanity and all of her borgness. Her abdominal implant circled her belly like an old fashion corset, it's twin bands circling her waist and curving down toward the floor. The silver-gray metal was fused perfectly with her skin and looked pliant and soft. She turned around so that B'Elanna could see her back; the implant was joined together in the back with a nexus of delicate circuitry and the wires disappeared under her skin. B'Elanna couldn't stop herself from crossing the room to inspect the implants more closely. She could see beneath the translucent skin and intertwined with Seven's spinal cord a thin rope of wires ran from the nexus up to the base of Seven's neck where they disappeared further under her skin, presumably to interconnect with her cortical implant. From this distance it was possible to see intermittent flashes of light beneath the surface of her skin as the optical fibre wiring system transmitted messages.

B'Elanna had had no idea that Seven was still implanted with so much Borg technology. She slowly reached out her hand and traced the subcutaneous wiring path from the small of Seven's back to where it disappeared at her neck. She felt the young drone tremble beneath her gentle touch.

"Tell me B'Elanna, is it possible that anyone will ever find me attractive?"

In a voice made ragged by desire B'Elanna replied.

"I don't think I have the words to tell you what you want to know Seven."

She slid her hands down the sides of Seven's back gripping her waist at the abdominal implant, and pressing firmly, evoking another shudder from the young drone. She gently turned Seven around until they were facing one another, B'Elanna's hands still on the gentle curve of the abdominal implant.

"Let me show you," she whispered almost imperceptibly

She knelt in front of Seven and leaned in until her face was a breath away from the implant. She inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of the young drone in an intoxicating whiff. She smelled the clean fresh scent of human female underscored with an invigorating metallic tang. She breathed deeply again, loving the smell of the younger woman. Her thumbs were caressing the sides of the implant in a circular motion that was wreaking havoc on Seven's senses, but when B'Elanna pressed her mouth to the metal and tasted the Borg for the first time with her lips and tongue Seven had to grasp at the table to support her weakened legs. She felt herself grow dizzy with desire as B'Elanna's tongue explored her abdominal implant and the surrounding flesh. Not until this moment had anyone, not even Seven herself, found beauty in these mechanical remnants of the Borg.

B'Elanna could sense Seven's growing lack of equilibrium and she rocked back on her heels, hearing the whimper of sadness at the loss of contact between them. It took a moment for Seven to open her eyes and gaze down at the young engineer. She reached down and drew the fiery Klingon up to stand before her, and she pulled her close until they were standing need to need, desire to desire. B'Elanna's pupils were dilated to the point that her eyes were completely black, and Seven responded to this sign of desire with a kiss. Just a touch, like the fluttering of butterfly wings, but it begged a question the answer to which neither of them could voice out loud.

B'Elanna took Seven's hand and they walked over to the bunk built in to the bulkhead of the Flyer. One look at the bed told them it was inadequate for their purposes so they pulled the bedding from the bunk onto the floor in the centre of the cabin.

Seven once again pulled B'Elanna into her embrace, and this time the kiss was bolder. The former drone slid her hands beneath the tank top of B'Elanna's uniform and she gasped as her fingers met B'Elanna's fevered flesh. She traced the lines of the young Klingon's muscles all the while pulling her tee shirt inexorably up, brushing the sides of her breasts, pulling the shirt up over her head as B'Elanna obediently raised her arms. With deft fingers the younger woman removed the constrictive barrier of the engineer's bra, pausing to drink in the sight of caramel breasts before moving to unbutton the uniform pants and free her from the last of her clothing. At last they stood together skin to skin. B'Elanna took this one last chance to be noble asking,

"Seven, are you sure this is what you want?"

"I am certain that this is what I want and most certain that you are who I want B'Elanna Torres."

Seven rested her forehead against B'Elanna's brow ridges and they stood together like that for some time before B'Elanna pulled the young drone down onto the mattress and took her in her arms once more. Seven lay looking up at B'Elanna's face as the engineer drank in the sight of the former drone, the young Klingon's hair fell over her face as her hand softly traced the outlines of Seven's facial implants. Seven had never seen the fierce Klingon hybrid look so young or so vulnerable. She was only beginning to understand that this situation was as important and as charged for B'Elanna as it was for her. She reached up to trace the strong line of the engineer's jaw before drawing her down into a searing kiss.

When the kiss ended Seven lay back and willed herself to give control of the situation over to B'Elanna. While neither of them had any actual experience, Seven knew that B'Elanna had at least been intimate with someone else before. She felt the young Klingon's fingers begin to trace the lines of her face, and she felt a surge of almost electric desire when the engineer's fingers and tongue caressed the starburst implant on her face.

Involuntarily she began to categorize the sensations that B'Elanna's touch was provoking in her, and she began to plan the ways in which she would touch B'Elanna in return. She realized after several moments of such contemplation that she had lost touch with what it was B'Elanna was doing to her and this lessened her pleasure in the moment. She realized with a start that she was afraid to let herself truly feel what was happening to her—her mind was protecting her by hiding behind its Borg nature. There was a part of her mind that was on alert for danger, a part that was wary of being hurt by the volatile Klingon and then there was the part of her that was planning how she would make love to B'Elanna when it came her turn to do so.

She had never realized that trust itself was an act of will, and she forced herself back into the moment, realizing with a start that she needed to trust in B'Elanna or she would never truly enjoy their lovemaking. She relaxed slowly and concentrated on the Klingon's soft and loving touch. She saw a look of concern flicker over B'Elanna's face and realized with shock that B'Elanna was having the same concerns she was. The Klingon was worried that she might not perform well, or that Seven might not return what were becoming obvious affections to Seven.

Finally she let herself really feel. She could feel the love in B'Elanna's touch and it thrilled her to her core. She let all of her cares and concerns fade away and fell into the trust and love she was feeling for B'Elanna. It was only then that she truly began to experience lovemaking for the first time. B'Elanna's hands were gentle as they ran over her skin; she could feel the heat in her fingertips and feel the subtle nuances of the calluses B'Elanna had earned in her work. She gasped aloud as she felt B'Elanna draw her nipple into the warmth of her mouth, her fingers squeezing and caressing her other breast.

She could feel a pressure building in her stomach, and the sensation was growing as B'Elanna continued her lovemaking. Without volition Seven felt her legs fall slowly open, wanting, needing B'Elanna's touch. Her hands, of their own accord it seemed, began to touch B'Elanna's silky hair, and then to explore the muscular expanse of the Klingon's back. She felt herself losing control of her cortical implant; words and sounds were ripped from her throat as the tempo of B'Elanna's lovemaking increased.

Her body began to tremble and her breath was coming in pants as B'Elanna began to explore her abdominal implant with hands and mouth. Her consciousness seemed to be contracting down until it was only able to encompass the points of contact between her body and B'Elanna's. The ache between her legs was growing ever greater and she was shocked to hear her own voice begging "please, B'Elanna, I need you inside of me."

She felt B'Elanna's fingers make their way between her legs with agonizing slowness. She felt a gush of warm wetness flow from her as the young Klingon slid her fingers between the folds of her sex. At last she felt those fingers enter her ever so slowly. She had seen those fingers dancing over computer consoles and wielding tools with great skill, but she had never imagined that one day she would feel them filling her up with their warmth; she had never imagined the love and the passion those fingers might one day inspire in her. She felt her hips began to rock in tempo with B'Elanna's thrusts; she gasped as she felt the Klingon's thumb slide up to circle the rock hard nexus of nerve endings at the apex of her sex. In that moment she was nothing but feeling and emotion. Whoever Seven of Nine had been was gone and was replaced by this cauldron of seething emotions. She felt her body's fire begin to concentrate between her legs, her entire body thrummed with tension, and her release, when it finally came was accompanied by her voice calling out B'Elanna's name again and again. She felt her lover gather her trembling body into her strong arms, cradling and rocking her, murmuring her name and other gentle words of love. Seven felt like a woman and like a child as she allowed herself to be held and comforted, burrowing her head under B'Elanna's chin and allowing tears she had held back for 18 years to finally fall freely.

When the storm passed she forced herself to look up into B'Elanna's eyes, ready for the mocking derision she fully expected to find there. What she found instead was a look of loving concern that rocked her to her core. B'Elanna cared for her, she was certain of it; more surprising was the depths of emotion she felt for the engineer. She had never known she was capable of such feeling.

Without words she pressed her lips to B'Elanna's and laid her softly back on the mattress as she began her own explorations of her lover's body. She let her mind enjoy the sensations she was receiving as she touched the Klingon's fiery skin, and she let her emotions be her guide as pleasured her Klingon love. When B'Elanna finally came she was pleased to hear her own name ripped from those beautiful lips. As she held her lover close, soothing her trembling with loving hands she whispered quietly,

"Happy Valentine's day B'Elanna."

B'Elanna awoke to the sensation of being held in the arms of Seven of Nine, former Borg drone, former adversary…current friend… lover. Time would tell. B'Elanna was filled with tenderness as she remembered their lovemaking of the previous evening. She was surprised to find a sense of trepidation mixed in with her other emotions. Somewhere along the line last night had become about much more than just comfort or sex for the young Klingon, and she worried that Seven might not share her feelings about the events of the previous evening. B'Elanna was unused to feeling out of control in any situation. She thrived on control and it worried her now that Seven held all of the cards in what was no longer a game for her.

She lay quietly, enjoying the feeling of Seven's body pressed against her own, until she felt the younger woman stir and come awake. She steeled herself to meet the eyes of the beautiful young woman and was relieved to see a look of love and happiness reflected in the former drone's eyes. Her worries began to fade as Seven touched her lips in a gentle kiss, the last of her doubts being massaged away as Seven's hands explored the musculature of B'Elanna's back. Much time passed before they broke apart long enough to say good morning.

Neither one of them wanted to cease their loving activities but they were both consummate professionals and so they eventually moved away from one another and began to prepare for the day's work. Seven prepared the morning meal while B'Elanna remade the bunk beds and gathered their supplies for the assays they wished to complete that day. They had not talked about feelings or the future…the word relationship had not been mentioned, but somehow there seemed to be a tacit agreement that they would be together. There would be time enough for talk later, for now they were both happy to feel the closeness growing between them. Their bodies seemed to be in constant contact and B'Elanna was relieved to find that Seven's interest in what she had to say had not waned in the least.

When they were ready for the day, they began the hike to the mining site. They walked in silence and B'Elanna was able to appreciate the display of her lover's sensual power as she covered the ground in smooth efficient strides. She was gratified when Seven reached her hand back to help her over a rough patch of ground, and even happier when she retained that hand after the ground leveled out. They walked hand in hand for the rest of the way to the site and set up their equipment, working quickly despite the fact they could not seem to keep from touching one another.

Once again Seven was treated to the sight of B'Elanna's firm glistening muscles as the young Klingon worked. Today however she made no attempt to hide the fact that she was watching. B'Elanna noticed her observation and obliged by giving her quite a show of strength. When she brought the last of the overloaded carriers of samples to Seven's location she was pleased to hear Seven's breath catch in her throat at the sight of her well-defined muscles. She grew weak in the knees when Seven reached out to trace her fingertips over her biceps, then, pulling the young Klingon onto her lap, she reached out with her tongue to taste the beads of sweat covering B'Elanna's arms.

B'Elanna was unprepared for the wave of passion that crashed through her body at the sight of Seven's small pink tongue dancing over her heated flesh. Professional or not their work was interrupted for several hours as they made love under the alien sun.

Their final days on the planet were spent in this manner; they talked and made love for hours in the evening and worked and made love throughout the day. Even with their lovemaking they still managed to complete their work in more than enough time to make their rendezvous point with Voyager. They even had time to bring aboard a cargo load of raw ore for refinement back on Voyager when they returned.

When it was time to leave the planet they were both a little sad to be leaving what for them had become a magical place. Still, they were both looking forward to being back aboard Voyager and heading for home. They chatted as they piloted the shuttle to the rendezvous point, discussing what they felt might be the reactions of various crewmembers to the news of the change in their relationship. They laughed uproariously at the image of the look on several of the engineering crews' faces when they realized just how much had changed between the two former adversaries in the course of one week. The only person they were worried about was Captain Janeway. She was the only one who had the power to hurt them, but B'Elanna refused to believe that the honourable Janeway would abuse her power in such a manner.

There had been a flurry of activity aboard Voyager in anticipation of the return of the away team. Janeway and Paris had discussed their strategy regarding the returning women at length and it was decided that Janeway would greet them in the shuttle bay with an dinner invitation for Seven, and Tom would wait in B'Elanna's quarters with a sumptuous meal and a chilled bottle of wine by way of a welcome. They were both certain that after a week with only one another for company both B'Elanna and Seven would be deliriously happy with such a greeting. Both Janeway and Paris were certain that after such a romantic welcome the objects of their affections would fall into their arms.

Janeway waited outside of the shuttle bay quivering with excitement at the thought of Seven's return. She was determined to help Seven regain her humanity in its entirety. There was so much she had to teach the Astrometrics officer if only Seven would let her. While she had been unhappy at Seven's decision to leave Voyager and not attend the Valentine's day party she was secure in the knowledge that a week trapped aboard a shuttlecraft with the volatile chief engineer was punishment enough. Surely by now Seven must see the logic in their being together.

She heard the klaxon warning as the shuttle bay decompressed and waited until she heard the space doors come down before she entered the bay. She hoped that Seven hadn't suffered too greatly during her week with B'Elanna, but she was fully prepared to hear vociferous bickering emanating from the shuttlecraft. What she wasn't prepared to hear was the sound of laughter. She felt a wave of jealousy sweep over her…Seven had never laughed like that in all of their time together. Surely they couldn't actually have become friends during one short week… could they? If she hadn't been prepared for the sound of laughter her mind nearly unhinged at the sight of Seven jumping down from the shuttlecraft and then lifting B'Elanna gently to the deck plating. The sight of HER Seven of Nine with her hands resting lightly on the young Klingon's hips was more than she could take in all at once.

It was a testament to Janeway's supreme self-confidence that she was able to disregard the physical evidence in front of her eyes so easily. She walked quickly across the shuttle bay and greeted them warmly.

"Seven, B'Elanna, its good to have you back," she gushed. "How was the survey?"

The pair jumped apart looking slightly guilty. It was Seven who recovered quickly enough to reply.

"Its good to be back Captain; you'll have our report on your desk in the morning."

Janeway insinuated her body between theirs and placed a rather possessive hand on Seven's shoulder, saying in a seductive voice,

"I was rather hoping that you could join me for dinner this evening and give me a preview of the report in person Seven."

Only Seven's Borg-enhanced hearing allowed her to hear the growl emanating from B'Elanna's throat as she watched another woman touching her lover. Seven was concerned that B'Elanna might end up in the brig if she didn't do something quickly.

"I'm afraid that won't be possible Captain as I already have plans for this evening," she said moving back out of Janeway's reach.

The Captain's willful ignorance was staggering to Seven as she again moved closer to the Astrometrics officer.

"I'm certain that Naomi would be willing to forgo your Kadis Kot game for this evening Seven."

B'Elanna understood the term 'seeing red' for the first time as she felt a murderous rage creeping over her body at the sight of Janeway's continued attempts to seduce her lover. She moved toward the pair and only stopped when Seven spoke again in a tone of voice she might use to describe a difficult algebraic equation to a child.

"My plans are not with Naomi Wildman Captain, they are with B'Elanna Torres and as they are of an extremely personal nature I do not wish to postpone them."

Just to be certain that Janeway understood what was happening she placed a rather passionate kiss on B'Elanna's lips. Janeway stood dumbfounded at the inconceivable sight of her drone kissing another woman. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, and there is no telling how long she might have stood there gaping if Seven hadn't reached out to close her mouth. She turned the auburn-haired woman around to face the exit and actually gave her a slight push to get her moving.

"You will have our report in the morning Captain Janeway," she said as Katherine stumbled toward the exit.

B'Elanna couldn't believe her eyes as she watched Seven practically shoo Janeway out of the shuttle bay. She shook her head to clear it and then she and Seven turned back to their work.

Janeway could hardly believe everything that had happened in the past few minutes. How could she have lost Seven to B'Elanna Torres all in the space of a week? How could her persistent wooing not have swayed Seven? 'The sonnet…I mean come on…that was brilliant,' she thought to herself as she made her way back to her quarters. In all of her confusion and disappointment she forgot that Tom Paris was waiting in B'Elanna's quarters to welcome her home.

B'Elanna beamed the load of ore into a cargo container in engineering to be dealt with the next day. While she finished up with that Seven uploaded the results of their survey into the ship's computers. They had completed their report on the ride home in order to have the evening free to spend together in B'Elanna's quarters. When they were finished putting the shuttlecraft to bed they gathered up their personal gear and headed towards B'Elanna's quarters. They happily held hands as they walked, both eagerly anticipating the night ahead.

When they reach her quarters B'Elanna keyed in her access code and stepped inside, motioning Seven to follow her. At the look of shock on Seven's face she followed her gaze into the room. Her table was set with a fully prepared dinner and a bottle of wine was chilling in a silver bucket. What was shocking however was the sight of a completely naked Tom Paris lounging on her sofa, his genitalia covered with a dozen red roses he had replicated for the occasion.

"What the F%*K!" she shouted.

"Now B'Elanna honey I can explain," the helmsman stammered as he came toward B'Elanna holding out the roses as a peace offering.

B'Elanna knocked the roses from his hands, immediately regretting the action as it left him completely uncovered. She was about to do him serious bodily harm when she felt Seven's arms encircle her from behind.

"B'Elanna darling if you damage Mr. Paris we will have to spend the entire evening filling out security reports and I can think of at least 10 much more pleasant activities in which we could engage."

Tom couldn't believe his ears…had the Borg Ice Queen just called B'Elanna darling. It wasn't possible was it? B'Elanna reigned in her temper and fixed Paris with a chilling glare.

"Get it through your thick head Paris…we are over…completely. Now get out of my quarters and don't come back…EVER…am I clear?"

"Crystal," muttered Tom as he scurried to gather up his clothing and get out the door before B'Elanna changed her mind and pummeled him.

Seven let go of B'Elanna when she was certain her lover was sufficiently calm. The younger woman studied the couch where the former helmsman had been waiting.

"We are getting rid of that sofa," she said.

"Oh yeah…first thing in the morning," B'Elanna agreed.

"Sooo, you can think of 10 pleasurable things to do tonight," the young engineer teased.

"And that is just off the top of my head," Seven joked back as she drew B'Elanna into her arms. "Let's start at number 10 shall we," she said.

"I am in so much trouble," B'Elanna laughed as she allowed herself to be pulled into the bedroom.

The End

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