DISCLAIMER: All characters and settings are borrowed from Star Trek: Voyager and everything in the Star Trek Universe belongs to Paramount/Viacom. No infringement of copyright or trademarks is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only. This story depicts a loving relationship between two women, if this is something that will offend you please read no further. If you are under 18 or this is illegal where you live please read no further.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Feedback to T.J


What the Heart Wants
By T.J

Chapter 1

Seven approached the holodeck dressed in her tight fitting velocity suit. The captain had called to cancel their scheduled match but Seven had decided that she could use the allotted time to practice her skills. She was somewhat surprised to find a program already running on holodeck 2. She was about to summarily end the program that was currently interfering with her personal time, but remembering the Doctor's lessons on proper etiquette she restrained herself and instead inquired of the computer who was currently occupying holodeck 2.

"Holodeck 2 is currently empty" came the dispassionate female voice of the ship's computer.

Seven shrugged, idly wondering who could have forgotten to close down their program. An obvious waste of ships resources.

Curiosity got the better of the statuesque drone and instead of shutting down the program she entered the holodeck. She was immediately transported into a lush tropical rainforest. In the distance she could hear running water…perhaps a waterfall. She was once again about to terminate the holoprogram in favour of her own when she decided to further explore this tropical paradise.

She wandered through the primeval forest her feet unconsciously taking her toward the sound of falling water. As she came to the clearing she was shocked to see someone sitting under the gently falling water. Assuming it was a holocharater she took a few steps further into the clearing, stopping as she realized the figure was that of Voyager's chief engineer B'Elanna Torres. Unsure of what to do she began to back into the bushes, freezing again as she heard the sobs of the young Klingon even above the sound of the misty waterfall.

Seven realized that she should leave the holodeck, even though protocol told her that it was the Engineer who was intruding and not the other way around.

"Who is that?" Came the choked sound of the Lieutenant's voice.

"Umm.. I'm sorry Lieutenant I didn't realize you…I mean the computer said the holodeck was empty.

"Oh…I must have left my communicator in my room…I guess I lost track of time…I'll get out of here now" said the obviously distraught young engineer. 'Kahless help me,' thought B'Elanna, 'of all of the people to find me like this it would have to be Miss Perfect herself.'

"NO…I mean…are you all right Lieutenant," stammered the former Borg as she stepped forward into the clearing.

B'Elanna was wearing Khaki shorts and a black tank top and all of her clothing was soaked and stuck to her skin as she sat on a ledge under the misting water, her legs drawn up tight to her chest, held there by her muscular arms. Her head was resting on her knees… all in all she was the picture of utter dejection.

For some reason this affected Seven although she was unsure as to why. She and the Lieutenant had never gotten along. Seven found the fiery engineer's temper altogether too violent leading to many arguments which, in Seven's opinion, detracted from the overall efficiency of the ship.

Yet seeing her like this bothered Seven as she realized that in the past few months that temper had been less and less in evidence…in fact B'Elanna had been so subdued as to be almost invisible in the senior staff meetings and engineering lately. Come to think of it… perhaps it was the lack of temper and fighting that led to the recent decrease in engineering's overall efficiency of late. Indeed the half-Klingon had not been herself for some time now and Seven decided that in the interest of her new collective she would put aside her personal feelings and help the Lieutenant recover her usual demeanor.

In two long strides Seven was beside the lieutenant under the water…. mimicking B'Elanna she sat cross-legged and allowed the cool water to cascade over her body.

"I, ahh, I wish to know what is troubling you Lieutenant" queried Seven as she braced herself for the smaller woman's acerbic retort.

B'Elanna didn't even bother to raise her head from her knees…she merely turned it to face the former drone and sighed. "Look, I appreciate the offer…but I don't think talking to you is going to help me out any if you know what I mean."

"No, I do not know what you mean."

B'Elanna sighed heavily, as her tears continued to fall. "It's got to do with Tom and I…. I just don't think this is really your area Seven."

"You have finally terminated your relationship with Lieutenant Paris," stated Seven calmly.

"What…NO…. HE finally dumped me."

"Why would he wish to do such a thing."

"Are you kidding me Seven…he's…well…he's Tom Paris…. One of the most popular guys on the ship…and I'm…well…. I'm just a half-breed who nobody really likes," sobbed B'Elanna. "He finally admitted that he was only with me for kicks…you know the thrill of the forbidden. He liked that he could be as rough and unfeeling as wanted with me but when it came to real emotion and real love he just went elsewhere. He's never been faithful to me. Not since the day we met. He was just slumming and now that he is tired of it he just cut me loose."

Seven was completely taken aback by the torrent of emotion she had just witnessed and she was also very confused.

"But you are the far superior officer Lieutenant Torres," was all she could think of to say.

B'Elanna just closed her eyes and turned her forehead back down on her knees. Her voice, when she spoke again, was muffled and rough with emotion. "It has nothing to do with military prowess. It has to do with being human…or not in my case. Hell, even my own father couldn't stand me…. He left when I was only five. I heard him telling my Uncle that he just couldn't stand living with two Klingon's any longer…that it was a mistake to marry my mother at all."

B'Elanna cried silently and Seven, noticing her shaking, moved closer and put her arm around the sobbing Klingon.

"My mother couldn't stand that I wasn't more of a Klingon and my father left because I wasn't more human…I should have known that a guy like Tom could never really have feelings for me."

Seven bit her tongue thinking that now was not the time to reveal her low opinion of Tom Paris to the emotional woman she was now holding in her arms…. One thing did bother her though and she couldn't seem to stop herself from asking the question.

"If you know what it is like to be unable to fit into any world why is it that you hate me so much."

B'Elanna's only answer was to cry even louder…her entire body was wracked with the sobs.

Seven was becoming alarmed…afraid that the young Lieutenant was going to do herself harm. So she did the only thing she could think to do and shut down the holodeck and initiated a site to site transport of the two of them to B'Elanna's quarters.

As they materialized on the living room floor of B'Elanna's quarters Seven began to wonder if she had made a mistake…. Perhaps she was not the right person to be dealing with this particular situation. "B'Elanna would you prefer to go to sickbay?"

"NO…Kahless…no…. Please I understand if you don't want to stay but please don't tell anyone about this…please…promise me this is just between us," B'Elanna begged.

Seven acquiesced to B'Elanna's request and then stood up, offering the still-sobbing engineer her hand. She led B'Elanna to the couch and sat down beside her and placed her arm once more around the Klingon's shoulders.

B'Elanna couldn't take it anymore. It no longer mattered that this was the one person on this ship whom she had treated badly on a regular basis…it no longer mattered that the hand caressing her shoulder was clad in Borg metallic implants…it only mattered that there was a living breathing…human…of course Seven was human…holding her. B'Elanna simply dropped her head onto Seven's shoulder and pressed herself into the former drone's side taking all of the comfort Seven was able to give.

While B'Elanna had no idea of how long she allowed herself to be held by the young Astrometrics Officer, Seven knew it was 37 minutes 34 seconds before B'Elanna finally stirred in her arms and sat upright on the couch.

"I don't know about you but I could use a drink."

"I do not require any refreshment at this time," came the stilted reply. Several weeks ago Seven knew that this answer would have elicited a sharp remark on the nature of the Borg, but today B'Elanna merely nodded and shuffled to the replicator to ask for a glass of something called Scotch Rocks.

When B'Elanna came back to the couch she sat at a distance from Seven…seeming uncomfortable…with nothing to say now that the storm of tears had passed.

Seven shifted uncomfortably and finally forced herself to say, "would you like to discuss this further Lieutenant."

"The truth is I'm not even sure that I know what the problem is."

"I wish to understand why you feel someone like Tom Paris is the 'most popular guy on the ship' I believe you said. He is a small-minded childish boy who is only interested in his own pleasure no matter who that hurts. His only redeeming quality is his ability to pilot this ship."

B'Elanna finally smiled "I see you know him" she sniffed. "I know he is all of those things its just that people seem to like him…they find him nonthreatening and when I was with him I guess that's how I felt they saw me as well. I was so tired of being alone and lonely that I was willing to make myself believe his lies to me about love in the beginning. It was so nice to walk into the messhall and have someone to sit with, and as long as I was with him I felt as though I was more a part of things on the ship…. You know Tom, always the life of the party. I guess I thought it would be enough just to sort of bask in the reflected glow of all of that. The problem is I gave up my honour and allowed him to treat me like dirt until I really started to believe that a filthy half-breed Klingon like myself was lucky to have a great guy like him even deign to touch me at all."

"He actually said those things to you," Seven snapped?

B'Elanna looked up and saw that Seven was truly angry. It was the first real emotion B'Elanna could remember the drone evincing and it shocked her to see it displayed on her behalf.

"Of course…all the time."

"That P'Taq! Assimilation is too good for him," said Seven as she got to her feet and prepared to go in search of the P'Taq in question

"Seven," B'Elanna actually laughed, "when did you learn to curse in Klingon?"

"I did some research, I thought it might come in handy the next time we had a disagreement in engineering," Seven said shyly and she turned back toward the door.

B'Elanna couldn't believe her ears…the Borg Ice Queen actually made a joke.

"Seven hold on…don't go…he isn't the first person to tell me those things and he won't be the last…its just a fact of life…but I guess you know a little something about that don't you?"

Seven stopped and looked B'Elanna straight in the eye and intoned "yes I do."

"Seven…look" B'Elanna screwed up all her courage and decided that now was as good a time as any to try to restore some of her lost honour. Brown eyes sought blue as the fiery Klingon began her confession. "I need to apologize to you for my behaviour ever since you came aboard. I've been cruel and unfair. I never gave you a chance, hell I never gave myself a chance to get to know you at all. I just jumped right in and treated you like Targ shit, and I'm truly sorry."

Seven was about to accept the heartfelt apology but something stopped her. She still needed an answer to the question she asked on the Holodeck. "Knowing how it feels to be so ostracized, I still wish to know why you hate me so much. Is being half Borg so much worse than being half Klingon…perhaps you blame me for the countless assimilations in which I participated." Seven's eyes began to well with tears as she voiced out loud her own personal shame. "I assure you nothing you could do or say to me would be worse than the things I have thought about myself since I was freed from the collective."

B'Elanna was the one now to wrap her arms around the ex-drone as the tears began to spill down both of their cheeks. 'OK Torres' she thought to herself 'you want your honour back now is when it starts to get tough.' She only hoped that the fragile beginnings of a truce between them would stand the truth of what she was about to admit.

"I never hated you because you were Borg…in fact I never hated you at all…I just convinced myself of that because it was easier to admit to than the truth. The fact is that I was jealous of you from the moment you came on board the ship. You were as good an engineer as I was, not to mention your abilities in Astrometrics…. I didn't feel good enough anymore I suppose. Being the best at my job was the one thing I could always hold onto until you came aboard. More than that though, Captain Janeway used to take an interest in me…have dinner with me from time to time and talk to me as if I were a friend. That all stopped when you came on board…all she was interested in was you…helping you to regain your humanity. Then you started to make friends on board…something I've never been able to do…Neelix, Naomi and Sam Wildman, even the Doctor. I couldn't stand that a Borg drone was able to develop relationships where I couldn't…I suppose that's part of the reason I got involved with Tom in the first place. At least then I could convince myself that I had someone."

Seven stood still but B'Elanna could see that she was trembling. Her eyes became cold, she backed out of B'Elanna's arms and looked at her as if she were seeing something less than human. "How could you treat me that way knowing from personal experience how difficult it is to 'fit in.' " Your lack of honour does not excuse your behaviour, in fact it makes it worse. You hurt me for no other reason than petty jealousy. I had thought perhaps there was a chance for understanding between us…perhaps even friendship but I can see now I was wrong."

Seven turned on her heel and left B'Elanna's quarters without so much as a backward glance.

She practically ran to Cargo Bay 2 and collapsed on the dais in front of her alcove. She began to weep again for all that she had lost in life…her family, her childhood, and her innocence. Hearing the Lieutenant confess to such hurtful and petty feelings tonight seemed to reopen old wounds and remind her again that she would never truly be accepted onboard Voyager or anywhere for that matter. It was too much for Seven to take in and so she programmed an extra long regeneration cycle and stepped into her alcove.

B'Elanna stood in the centre of her quarters shocked at the vehemence of Seven's reaction to her confession. She wiped the tears from her eyes and ordered another Scotch from the replicator. Carrying her drink to her couch she sat down and thought about everything that had transpired this evening. She knew she had to find a way to try to make up for her hurtful behaviour toward Seven. Perhaps then they could both find a way to feel more at home in the world.

Seven awoke from her regeneration cycle and was immediately assaulted by the memories of yesterday. She felt her anger and indignation rising again and worse yet the threat of more tears. How could someone with whom she seemed to have so much in common hurt her so callously over petty jealousy? Seven left the Cargo bay and arrived at the messhall only to regret her decision to come to breakfast early as she saw the object of her ire sitting alone in a corner of the mess. Seven retrieved her usual nutritional supplement and made sure to sit as far away from the Lieutenant as she possibly could. She couldn't stop herself however from positioning herself in such a manner as to be able to observe the young Klingon. B'Elanna looked as if she hadn't slept all night…there were dark circles under her eyes and her hair was disheveled and matted down. Seven had never seen her look quite this way before.

Seven tried to hang on to her anger but the diminutive Klingon looked so sad it was getting harder and harder to keep that diamond edge to her anger. The Lieutenant had behaved badly but she had also had the courage and honour to confess to every terrible thought and feeling. Seven's mind ran back unbidden to the day in engineering when her cortical node had been failing. B'Elanna had been kind and caring…helping to hide her and helping her to see that there had been meaning in her life.

In a small secret part of her that she hated to admit existed, Seven realized that perhaps her own jealousy had also contributed to the legendary fights between herself and the engineer. She was jealous of the half-Klingon's intelligence, emotions and strength, and she had let the same pettiness she so hated in B'Elanna poison any chance they may have had at an amicable working relationship. Understanding the kind of life that B'Elanna had led, and seeing the pain she was feeling now, suddenly Seven let go of her anger, let it flow out her like water. She still wasn't ready to speak to the young engineer though so she finished her breakfast and left the messhall.

B'Elanna looked up in time to see Seven leaving the room and sighed, feeling that any chance she had of a friendship with the younger woman was gone. Well, at least, as ever, she had her work to fall back on. Thanks to her early start she could finish up some paperwork she had been ignoring for weeks before the morning senior staff meeting. She quickly finished eating, recycled her plates, and headed to engineering.

"B'Elanna," came the captain's voice over the Comm, "will you be gracing us with your presence this morning at the meeting or not."

"ARGGG, sorry captain I'm on my way." B'Elanna threw down the PADD she had been working on and ran for the exit. Several heads turned in her direction as she ran. She jumped into the turbo lift and ordered it to deck 2. She couldn't believe it. Here she had finally decided to get her head back into the job and be the Chief she once was and she had already blown it. She had been so engrossed in the formulas she had been working on to improve the efficiency of the dilithium mixture in the Warp core that she had lost track of time and now had embarrassed herself in front of the Captain and the entire senior staff.

She raced down the hall and through the doors to the conference room and took the first available seat. Realizing only after she sat that she was directly across from the haughty features of Seven of Nine.

'Great,' she agonized to herself, 'I am not going to catch a break today.' Out loud she apologized again to the captain and the staff for her behaviour.

The Captain gave an indulgent smile that was in contrast to the harshness of her voice when she had called B'Elanna earlier. She was aware that B'Elanna was going through some tough times and was inclined to cut her Chief Engineer some slack. It helped that the computer had informed her that B'Elanna had been working in Engineering for several hours already that morning. Janeway sincerely hoped that the troubled young woman was putting the worst behind her and getting back to her old self again.

As the Captain began the meeting B'Elanna snuck a quick look over at Seven of Nine only to find that the former drone was staring at her. She blushed and looked away but not before she saw Seven raise her ocular implant in speculation.

When it came time for B'Elanna to give her departmental report she spoke of the plan she had for improving the efficiency of the warp core. This was the first time in months that she had come up with a project of her own and was desperately hoping for a good reception. She knew it wasn't the most original plan but felt that if she could get it to work they would be able to stop looking for dilithium so frequently and could possibly shave some time off their trip home.

Her hopes were dashed when Tom snorted from the other end of the table. "Oh come on B'Elanna…this again. Didn't you improve the warp core last month," he sneered. "Why don't you do some real work for a change. I've asked a dozen times for improvements to the speed and handling of the Delta Flyer and you always put it off. Its about time you paid some attention to big picture around here."

The Captain leveled her best force 10 glare at the impudent young helmsman and was about to reprimand him for his behaviour when a voice from the other end of the table spoke up.

All heads snapped around in shock as Seven of Nine spoke up in B'Elanna's defense. "I hardly think that the extension of your ego qualifies as the 'big picture' for Voyager. B'Elanna has a plan that will shorten the timespan required to get Voyager home and if you could see past your overinflated sense of self you might realize that for a change."

Silence reigned in the conference room as even Janeway was at a loss after hearing Seven defend her biggest adversary.

Finally Harry spoke up, ever the peacemaker, and added his support of B'Elanna's plan to the mix. He even offered to help out after hours if it was needed.

The Captain nodded gratefully and the rest of the meeting went much more smoothly.

As the senior staff was filing out of the room Tom brushed by both B'Elanna and Seven as they were heading for the door.

"At least the Borg can still take pity on you huh Lanna," he sneered.

B'Elanna couldn't think of anything to say and wasn't sure she would have been able to speak over the lump in her throat anyway.

As he passed Seven he muttered "Borg bitch" under his breath realizing that of all the crewmembers on this ship only B'Elanna and Seven would be able hear his comment with their advanced hearing abilities.

Seven ignored him and turned on her heel to head to Astrometrics. She had work to do.

Down in Engineering B'Elanna got right to work on her formulas, working steadily for over an hour until she heard voices being raised out in main engineering and saw the lights flicker right before the ship dropped out of Warp.

"Here we go again" she murmured darkly.

"Looks like some gelpacks failed in Jefferies Tube 56," said Vorik as she walked out onto the floor.

"I'll take care of it," B'Elanna said, "my eyes need a break from staring at my terminal anyway."

Vorik nodded and helped her gather up the tools she would need. Glad to see that at last his Chief seemed to be taking an interest in the ship again.

B'Elanna had removed the panel to the access hatch and was about to crawl in when she heard a voice behind her that froze her in place.

"I believe you will require assistance with this task Lieutenant Torres. I am running a long-range scan that will not require my presence for several hours. I will help you repair the malfunction."

"Seven…umm…you really don't need to help. I can manage."

"It is a more efficient use of resources if we work together."

B'Elanna was about to argue when she realized that she really didn't want to. Fact was she would be glad of the company and she was happy that Seven was at least willing to relate to her on a professional level. Maybe all wasn't lost after all.

"OK Seven, sure, lets go."

Seven watched as the chief engineer disappeared into the access panel and she followed without hesitation. They climbed several levels of ladders and Seven had to send a message to her nanoprobes to increase bloodflow and respiration in order to keep up with the young Klingon. As Seven glanced up to see how much further they had to climb, she felt a small frisson of sensation run through her, concentrating in her stomach, as she watched the shapely hips of the Lieutenant sway as they climbed. The young drone's confusion at this unfamiliar sensation caused her to lose concentration and miss her hold on the ladder rung. She gasped as she fought to keep from falling.

"Whoa, Seven, are you OK."

It couldn't be concern for her well being that Seven heard in the young Lt.'s voice could it?

"I, I am fine Lt."

"Wouldn't want to lose you Seven." 'Where the hell did that come from,' B'Elanna wondered to herself. She turned back to the climb once she had ascertained that Seven was indeed alright.

As they began crawling through the Jefferies tube, Seven once again found herself contemplating the form of the young engineer. She was small, compact, but Seven knew that aside from herself and possibly Commander Tuvok, there was no one aboard Voyager who was as powerful or dangerous as B'Elanna. Seven again felt a shiver run through her frame as she observed the young Lt.'s economy of movement…even crawling through this cramped space there was a grace about her that Seven admired. Unable to control her thoughts, Seven was relieved when they finally reached the junction containing the malfunctioning gelpacks.

Chapter 2

As they settled down to work, Seven noticed that she was somewhat less than comfortable around Lt. Torres. She dropped several of the tools that B'Elanna handed her and found that her heartrate was increased and she was beginning to perspire. She put it down to guilt, to the fact that she felt honour-bound to tell the whole truth to B'Elanna regarding her own jealousies. Perhaps once she broached the subject and apologized she would feel more normal. She found as they began working however she was much calmer. She liked the feeling of working in sync with the young engineer…they were able to anticipate one another's needs and the work was going exceptionally smoothly. It worried Seven however that B'Elanna had not once made eye contact and seemed to be doing her best to avoid physical contact, however fleeting, with Seven.

Finally, unable to put her task off any longer Seven cleared her throat, "Um, Lt. Torres, there is something I feel I must tell you. In fact I fear I owe you an apology after my behaviour in your quarters last night."

"Kahless Seven you don't owe me anything. I messed up and you were right to be angry" B'Elanna interrupted.

"No, you don't understand," insisted Seven. "I let my hurt regarding your actions drive me to behave irrationally. I believe I was so ashamed of my own jealousy of you and your abilities that I let it overshadow your apology. I reacted out of shame and not anger."

"What do you mean your jealousy of me?"

"Lt. Torres, you are a superior engineer in every way. You make leaps of faith and logic that would never occur to me. Your emotions fascinate me and I fear that our arguments are as much a result of that fascination as they are with our disagreements."

"Oh come on Seven you're a great engineer."

"You do not understand Lieutenant. My abilities are derived from countless assimilations. All the knowledge I possess came from other cultures and individuals whose enslavement was enacted to serve the collective. My knowledge is a result of the untold suffering of millions. I did nothing to earn it, and I do nothing to deserve it. You, on the other hand, worked hard and studied harder for your knowledge. Everything you know and everything you achieve is organic to you personally. I could never hope to achieve such a measure of success."

Once again B'Elanna saw that the person she regarded as an emotionless drone was on the verge of crying. Her cerulean eyes were filled with tears that threatened to fall.

"Seven, I had no idea you felt that way! But you're only partly right. Sure, you did gain much of your knowledge through the collective, but you've grown beyond that. You're an individual now and I see you learn everyday. Don't ever let yourself believe that somehow your achievements are less because of the knowledge you gained from the Borg. Argg…look, I'm no good at this kind of thing, but trust me, I wouldn't be saying any of this if it weren't true. You are a brilliant person, an individual, and that has nothing to do with your Borg background."

They sat in silence for a moment after B'Elanna's passionate outburst. And then…"Wait a minute…. What do you mean your fascination with my emotions is why we argued so much," demanded B'Elanna.

Seven had hoped she wouldn't have to explain that one. Unable to look B'Elanna in the eye she began, "I have no emotions of my own…. I do not understand them and I am afraid that I allowed our arguments to escalate so often because a part of me felt at least I was participating in an emotional experience vicariously through you," Seven replied softly.

"Of course you have emotions Seven…I've just seen them right here in this Jefferies tube and last night in my quarters. I can't believe how hard you're being on yourself."

"Then, you are not angry with me," Seven pleaded softly.

"Hey, I didn't say that," B'Elanna growled, but softened her words with a gentle smile as she saw the fear return to Seven's eyes.

"Why don't we just both agree that we could have behaved a lot better around one another and try a fresh start. How about it Seven…are you game?"

Seven had trouble speaking over the inexplicable lump she felt in her throat, so she settled for nodding vehemently in agreement with B'Elanna's suggestion.

Feeling that they had both taken about as much emotion as they could stand for now, B'Elanna turned back to the task at hand. Seven was grateful for the reprieve and happier still that B'Elanna now seemed to accept her presence physically as well. She no longer seemed to be shrinking into the furthest corner of the tube and allowed their hands and shoulders to brush softly several times as they worked in amicable silence.

They finally crawled out of the tube several hours later, both of them feeling stiff and dirty from the cramped and dingy spaces. They sorted the various tools back into the tool locker and were about to part company for the evening when Seven got up the nerve to ask the question she had been thinking about for the past hour or so.

"Lieutenant Torres, do you think. I mean… would you like to consume, or rather, I mean perhaps you would like to have dinner with me this evening," Seven stammered.

"Well, sure Seven, I was about to head to the messhall anyway."

"The messhall, right… oh, it is just, I thought…never mind, the messhall will be adequate."

"Sorry Seven you mean you want to have dinner in your quarters?"

Now Seven was blushing furiously…actually blushing! B'Elanna wouldn't have believed it had she not witnessed it for herself.

"I do not actually have quarters…." The young drone let her voice trail off.

"Oh, I get it," B'Elanna growled, "you are inviting me to have dinner in MY quarters."

"I am sorry Lieutenant, please forget what I said; I believe the messhall is a preferable location. I did not mean to…I only wished to get to know you better, and I thought…"

"Seven," B'Elanna finally took pity on the younger woman and interrupted, "its OK. Why not…let's have dinner at my place. Give me an hour to have a shower and change and then drop by alright."

Exactly one hour later, to the second B'Elanna would have wagered, the chime to her quarters rang.

"C'mon in Seven."

If anything the young Astrometrics officer looked even more uneasy than she had when she asked B'Elanna to have dinner, so B'Elanna hurriedly gave her the task of setting the table and helping to replicate a simple meal for the two of them to share. Fortunately her tactic worked, and before long the amicable feeling returned between them.

"You look very different when you are not in your uniform," Seven, who was as ever wearing a biosuit, finally ventured.

"Um, thanks." B'Elanna looked down at her attire.

She was wearing black pants resembling her uniform pants only slightly tighter, and a black T-shirt that hugged the contours of her body and accentuated her musculature. Seven thought she looked wonderful and found herself fascinated by the play of the Klingon's muscles rippling as she moved about the room and carried dishes to the table. Once again she felt a rush of heat in the pit of her stomach and wondered if she should report to sick bay for a checkup.

Dinner was a success as they talked into the night about details of their jobs. They even began talking about the formulas B'Elanna was working on for the dilithium mixture. B'Elanna was surprised to find herself having such a good time. She had been secretly dreading spending social time with the former drone, but quickly reevaluated her position as the evening wore on. Seven was intelligent and interesting, and was as excited about B'Elanna's projects as the engineer herself. This was something B'Elanna had never shared with anyone. Tom was only ever interested in sex and his holoprograms and not necessarily in that order.

"Lieutenant Torres, you are looking sad. Is something the matter." B'Elanna hadn't realized she had fallen silent until Seven spoke.

"Not really…I guess I was just thinking about Tom, and…you know…" her voice trailed off. "You know I think you should really start calling me B'Elanna, now that we're…well…friends."

The hopeful note in the young engineer's voice as she spoke of friendship caused Seven's heart to manifest a minor malfunction. Seven was certain she had felt the muscle constrict and stop beating for a moment upon hearing B'Elanna's shy request.

"B'Elanna," Seven breathed softly.

"What is it you were thinking about Lieutenant Paris B'Elanna," Seven queried?

"I guess I was thinking about how he never was interested in my work; he was more interested in playing on the holodeck than actually talking to me. I'm mad at myself for wasting so much time and energy on him, and madder still that there is a small part of me that will miss the social world he let me have access to for a while."

"You are referring to your belief that your friendships were a result of your relationship with LT. Paris," Seven stated.

B'Elanna nodded silently.

"I believe that your hypothesis is flawed on this subject. While it is true that Lt. Paris has many acquaintances on Voyager, I believe that the crew values you and your presence on this ship far more than you appreciate. If you would allow them to, I believe most of the crew would be happy to be considered your friend, just as I do." Seven paused and then continued gently, "easy going and mildly amusing only go so far…honour and intelligence wear much better in the long run."

"Wow thanks Seven." B'Elanna was truly moved by the young Borg's words. She didn't really believe them, but it felt wonderful to hear them spoken just the same.

They chatted happily as they finished dinner and cleared the dishes away to the recycler, neither of them willing to acknowledge the late hour. It was Seven, who, noticing B'Elanna stifling a yawn, finally said, "I believe it is time for you to regenerate B'Elanna."

"Sleep Seven, and I suppose you're right. Look, I had a nice time tonight…I'm glad we finally got to know each other." B'Elanna was feeling awkward…unsure of what to do next. She felt like hugging her new friend but as she stepped forward the look of panic she saw in Seven's eyes stopped her cold.

For her part, Seven had seen the young engineer step forward and open her arms slightly. She was shocked at the physical reaction her body produced at the thought of B'Elanna's strong arms wrapped around her. Once again her stomach felt as though it was constricting and the young Borg found herself unable to breathe; she worried again that she was becoming ill. Seeing a look of displeasure cross B'Elanna's face, Seven assumed the young Klingon had changed her mind about wanting physical contact. Unsure of what to make of the situation, Seven fell back on Borg efficiency. "Thank you Lieutenant Torres for a pleasant evening," she intoned in an emotionless voice. She turned on her heel and left B'Elanna's quarters without even waiting for a reply.

Seven walked out into the corridor and after she heard the door to B'Elanna's quarters hiss shut she stopped and leaned against the bulkhead for support. She thought her legs were going to give out. Her heart ached as her eidetic memory replayed the image of displeasure on B'Elanna's face as she changed her mind about wanting to touch her. Seven's lack of experience with emotions and with people was too limited for her to have any other context in which to understand B'Elanna's perceived actions. All she could think of was that B'Elanna was unable to accept her Borg nature…that she was too repulsed by what Seven was to want to touch her. This thought was too much for Seven and she fought back tears as she made her way to Cargo Bay 2 for her regeneration. She had so hoped that B'Elanna would accept her, and now those hopes seemed irretrievably dashed.

B'Elanna was confused and a little angry as she found herself looking at the cold metal of her door. 'What the hell was that all about,' she wondered to herself. 'I guess I'm good enough to talk to but not good enough to touch…not even for the Borg…' she thought bitterly as she went to her bedroom to change for bed. She tossed and turned for quite some time as she replayed the moment over and over in her head. She didn't know whether she was angrier with Seven for rejecting her or herself for caring so much that she hadn't been able to embrace the younger woman. 'Klingon's don't hug, get over it already Torres,' she muttered darkly. Finally she drifted into a sleep filled with dark dreams of rejection and pain.

The next day B'Elanna was irritable and sleepy. She was short with Vorik when he approached her for clarification on a diagnostic he was running, and snapped at several of the junior crewmen. By noon everyone in engineering knew to steer clear of the Chief. B'Elanna buried herself in her work, missing lunch and asking Carey to bring her something from the messhall so she could eat at her desk. She had hoped that Seven would come by engineering for something during the shift so she could have a chance to talk to her and perhaps figure out what went wrong last night. Two hours after her shift ended B'Elanna finally gave up and returned to her quarters. She was about to order a drink and go over some of the dilithium formulas, but she realized she wasn't in the mood to bury herself in her work.

"Screw this," she said out loud and headed to holodeck 2, where she knew the Sandrine's program would be running at this hour. "Why should I hide in my quarters, I have as much right to be there as he does," she thought, referring to the fact that Tom Paris was sure to be found on the Holodeck at this time of night. She swung into the bar and noticed that several of the crewmen smiled on recognizing her figure. Perhaps Seven was right, maybe all I need to do is give them a chance.

She stepped up to the bar and ordered a beer. Turning around she scouted out an empty table and sat down. She threw her head back and gulped down half the beer, gasping for breath as the ice-cold liquid slid down her throat. She listened to the music and finished her beer. She obtained another beer and was nursing this one more slowly, enjoying her solitude, when she noticed the doors to the holodeck open and Seven of Nine enter the room.

Seven scanned the room and found was she was looking for, alone at a table at the back of the bar.

After her duty shift had ended Seven had decided to do some research in an effort to understand the physical reactions she was having while in close proximity to the engineer. She had been shocked by what she found, but despite her best efforts she could not find a better explanation. So, seeing B'Elanna alone in the bar she strode purposely through press of bodies and right up to the Klingon's table.

B'Elanna was unnerved at the sight of the young Borg bearing down on her table and so she covered, "hey there stranger, what's a beautiful girl like you doing in a joint like this," she drawled in imitation of a film she had once seen with Tom.

Seven regarded her seriously, "Lieutenant Torres, are you damaged… perhaps some of your memory engrams have been erased or your ocular nerve is malfunctioning…I believe you should report to sickbay immediately."

"Relax Seven, it's just a joke." B'Elanna started to explain, stopping when she noticed a crooked smile on Seven's face and her raised ocular implant. "Was that, a joke," she queried? If possible Seven's ocular implant rose even further.

"God Seven I think you're smirking."

"Borg do not smirk," Seven's voice was again without inflection. After a pause she relaxed her face and continued, "however half-human former drone's HAVE been known, on occasion, to…smirk." Seven smiled shyly at B'Elanna.

"Not bad for a beginner," B'Elanna laughed. "So, Seven, what are you doing here. I didn't think the holodeck was your cup of tea."

"Normally I would not bother with such entertainment, but I asked the computer where you were and it told me you were here, so…" Seven's voice trailed off.

"So…what?" B'Elanna queried.

Seven steeled herself to reply when they were interrupted by the unwelcome presence of Tom Paris and several of his inebriated friends.

"Hey guys, check this out, if it isn't beauty and the beast" he snorted.

B'Elanna felt her temper rise even as she started out of her seat to knock the mocking look off the helmsman's face. She was blocked in her efforts however as it was Seven who stood toe to toe with the laughing Lieutenant. She stepped forward and Tom stumbled back, afraid of what might happen to him if he angered the Borg further.

"Leave us," she commanded, her blue eyes boring into his, now frightened, eyes.

Without a word Tom retreated to the other end of the bar where he contented himself with casting dirty looks at the Borg's back and making crude comments about the two of them to his group of drunken friends.

"Impressive," B'Elanna remarked as Seven sat back down and visibly wrestled her anger back under control.

"He is a willful child. Naomi Wildman has more discipline than…that," Seven spat.

"Still, thanks…I probably would have hit him and done some brig time if you hadn't stepped in."

B'Elanna was sincere in her thanks…"I've never had anyone stick up for me before. I'm supposed to be the Klingon warrior you know; I guess people just take it for granted I can take care of myself."

"I have no doubt you can 'take care of yourself,' but if you are in the brig we will never finish the refinements to the dilithium matrix…my solution seemed more efficient."

B'Elanna grinned happily "Borg humour…will wonders never cease. So you came here to drag me back to work on the formulas is that it," B'Elanna asked?


Seven was lost in her observation of the look of happiness on B'Elanna's face and suddenly was shy of revealing her true purpose in coming to the holodeck that evening. "Oh…yes, I thought perhaps we could go over the formulas tonight if you don't mind," Seven covered.

B'Elanna finished her beer in one long pull and stood, motioning for Seven to lead the way. They walked back to B'Elanna's quarters together and spent several hours refining the formulas. B'Elanna was longing to ask Seven why she had so abruptly rejected her after their dinner only to seek her out again a few days later. Seven, for her part, wished to discuss the findings of her research with the young Klingon, but neither of them was ready to risk the easy manner in which they were now working. As they finished their work Seven rose and walked to the door. B'Elanna was not about to make the same mistake twice so this time she merely smiled and wished Seven a good night. While neither of them was completely satisfied by this, they were both relieved to have ended the evening without further misunderstandings.

Chapter 3

The next few weeks were incredibly hectic aboard Voyager. One or two minor skirmishes resulted in several days' worth of repairs. Other than that B'Elanna dedicated herself to her project. Seven was busy in Astrometrics but she came to engineering to help out whenever she could spare a moment. Their working relationship had improved immensely. They still argued, sometimes vehemently, but generally managed to come to a truce more quickly these days. They even managed to have dinner together in the messhall on two occasions while they went over schematics for the warp core upgrade.

B'Elanna was beginning to see the many different aspects of Seven, and to have a better appreciation for the depths of emotion that the younger woman possessed. Over dinner one night they were discussing other crewmembers and Seven mentioned the obvious crush Ensign Kim had on her. B'Elanna, always protective of Harry, began to bristle at the thought of Seven possibly hurting her young friend. As they talked however, it became clear that Seven was herself worried about hurting the young operations officer. She didn't return his feelings and was not sure how to dissuade his advances and still maintain what was, to her, an important affiliation. She thought of Harry as a friend, but was afraid to interact freely with him in case she inadvertently led him to believe there could be more between them. B'Elanna had had no idea that Seven could even feel that way, and she did her best to try to advise Seven about the situation, reassuring her that Harry's big heart would never hold a grudge if Seven was honest about not returning his feelings.

Finally the day came for testing the new refinements. Seven had delegated all astrometrics duties to Ensign Celes in order to be available to assist B'Elanna in implementing her plan. Harry was assigned to engineering for the day as well. The initial testing phases went without a hitch, and by early afternoon they were ready bring the enhanced core online.

"Torres to Bridge."

"Go ahead B'Elanna," came the calm voice of commander Chakotay.

"We're ready when you are."

"On your mark Lieutenant" replied Captain Janeway.

"Beginning startup sequence…. now."

Seven was busy monitoring the output from the core, but she couldn't help watching the young engineer's face as her plan came to fruition. The core came online without a hitch and Seven's advanced hearing could detect a smoother, slightly lower hum begin to emanate from the engines.

"The sensor readings indicate that your modifications are exceeding your initial estimates by a factor of .021% Lieutenant," Seven said watching B'Elanna carefully for her reaction to the news.

B'Elanna smiled and closed her eyes "Hmm, I don't need the sensor output Seven, I can hear it in the engines. They have a slightly lower sound to them now because they aren't doing as much work to utilize the dilithium."

Seven smiled, she liked the idea that of all the crew aboard Voyager only she and the fiery Klingon would be able to hear such a small variance in the engine output. "Yes, there is a 1/16th % drop in the tone of the engine Lieutenant."

B'Elanna's grin widened…"You can hear it too?"

"There are some advantages to my Borg physiology."

The Captain's voice came over the comm to congratulate B'Elanna on the success of the experiment.

"Thanks, but I couldn't have done it without Seven's help captain."

"Well done all of you," came the reply "now keep an eye on the readings, we're going to put the old girl through her paces up here. Ensign Kim please report back to the bridge…We'll need you to monitor engine output from here. Janeway out."

For the rest of the day Paris and the bridge crew ran the engines as hard as they could, dropping in and out of warp quickly, accelerating and decelerating often. By the end of the day, other than a few minor adjustments, the ship had performed above all estimations.

B'Elanna was ecstatic…she was practically vibrating as they analyzed the last of the sensor data before going off shift. "Thanks so much for your help Seven. I meant what I said, I don't think this would have worked nearly as well without your input."

Seven was unused to the engineer being so effusive in her praise, so she was rather shy about replying. "I am honoured to have been included in your project Lieutenant."

B'Elanna couldn't contain herself. "Call me B'Elanna will ya," she teased as she threw her arms around the former drone and pulled her into an enthusiastic hug.

Seven was alarmed at her body's response to the engineer's touch, her heart was pounding and her throat was dry. She carefully moved her arms to encircle B'Elanna's waist, using all of her control not to crush the engineer too tightly. They stood like that for several seconds before B'Elanna began to feel awkward at her uncharacteristic display of emotion. She pulled back gently from Seven's arms, "um, I guess we're done here then."

B'Elanna was feeling a bit disoriented after their embrace, and while a part of her wanted to get as far away from the statuesque blonde as possible, there was another part of her that wanted the closeness to continue. "How about dinner in the messhall before the senior staff debriefing," she queried.

"Acceptable," Seven replied, still a bit flustered by the effects of the embrace.

Dinner was a fun affair as several other crewmembers including Harry Kim joined them at their table to talk over the day's events. Seven was disappointed as she had been hoping to have B'Elanna to herself, but she admitted that she was having fun being included in the friendly teasing and banter at the table. She began to have a clearer understanding of B'Elanna's reasons for staying with the childish helmsman for so long. She could see how happy B'Elanna was and she loved the way she threw back her head and laughed out loud when someone said something particularly amusing. She was thrilling to watch. B'Elanna for her part went out of her way to ensure that Seven was included in the fun and was obliged to see both her blush and her shy smile on several occasions when the friendly teasing was directed at her. In the end they were all reluctant to end the meal as the time for the staff debriefing drew near.

The meeting was technical in nature with all departments reporting on any reactions to the change in the engine configurations. All feedback was generally positive and the senior crewmembers spent the rest of the meeting going over the data from the tests. The captain was anxious to keep the meeting brief, as she knew how hard they had all worked that day during the testing phase of the project.

Once the data had been thoroughly analyzed she stood up, clearing her throat. "If there is no other business I believe we can call it a night."

"Actually Captain," Tom Paris spoke up, "I was thinking that since we all worked so hard and this project was such a success, maybe we should have a crew party in the messhall…you know, sort of a 'job well done' affair. Food, drink, dancing, that kind of thing."

B'Elanna snorted at the thought of Tom Paris working hard, but she bit back any comment that would earn her a reprimand or a Force 10 glare from her Captain.

The Captain appeared to consider the request briefly, and gave her permission for the party only after ascertaining from Seven that there was nothing 'troublesome' on long range sensors at this time.

Neelix rubbed his hands together gleefully as there was nothing he liked more than planning a good party, and frankly he felt Seven and B'Elanna deserved some kind of recognition for all of their hard work. The hard part for him would be convincing both of them to attend. Nevertheless he promised 'a night to remember' in just three days time, and set off to the messhall to begin planning the party.

As predicted, neither Seven nor B'Elanna planned to attend the affair. B'Elanna was reluctant to go, as she knew that Tom and any number of female crewmembers would be there, and she didn't feel like being reminded again of her rejection at the hands of the helmsman. Seven was simply uncomfortable at the thought of interacting with so many crewmembers and so covered by declaring the social occasion 'irrelevant.'

Neelix was well aware that the crew thought of him, albeit fondly, as a bit of a buffoon. He knew they valued his contributions as morale officer, and he knew he was well liked in general, (He had no idea, however, how the crew truly viewed his abilities as a chef) but he also knew he was very rarely taken seriously. This was a mistake on the part of the crew. Neelix was in fact one of the most consistently underestimated members of Voyager's crew. He could clearly see the change in Seven's relationship to B'Elanna over the past few weeks and he couldn't have been happier. He was determined to make sure that they both attended the party, and he ascertained, quite correctly, that Seven would be the easiest to convince. In fact, if he did his job right Seven might well be the one to convince Lieutenant Torres to attend.

He chose his time carefully and made his way to Cargo Bay 2, ostensibly to perform yet another inventory of ship's stores. As he predicted Seven was alone in the bay working on her console. Neelix gave her a cheery hello and was gratified to receive a rare smile in return.

"So, Seven, what are you up to this evening," he asked?

"I am rechecking the sensor data from yesterday's test," Seven replied.

"An excellent job on both of your part's, it will be a relief not to have to search for dilithium quite so frequently from here on in." Neelix paused for effect and then sighed heavily and said, almost to himself "It does seem like a shame about B'Elanna though."

He was surprised at the vehemence in the normally emotionless drone's voice when she demanded, "what has happened to B'Elanna, perhaps I should see if she requires assistance."

"No, no…she's fine…its just…well, really this party is in her honour, and I know she doesn't feel comfortable attending. You know Klingon's, never comfortable with public recognition." Neelix knew he was winging it here and he only hoped that Seven's concern over B'Elanna would stop her from catching him in his fabrications.

"I suppose that Tom Paris's plan to attend with not one, but both of the Delaney twins is adding to her discomfort. It's a shame…I think she really deserves the thanks of the crew, and a chance to show Mr. Paris that she has recovered from their break up. I'm just afraid if she doesn't go she'll feel her honour has been further damaged." Neelix knew he should quit while he was ahead. He'd laid it on pretty thick, and all he could do now was hope Seven would take the bait. He sighed once more and pretended to begin his inventory.

Neelix was gratified to see Seven staring off into space for a few moments, and then turning to leave the holodeck with a very determined look on her face. 'B'Elanna doesn't stand a chance' he chuckled to himself.

B'Elanna was relaxing on her couch reading a holonovel when the chime to her door sounded. "Come in," she said wondering who could be stopping by.

She was surprised to see the figure of Seven of Nine in her doorway.

"Hey Seven, what's up?"

Seven glanced at the ceiling for a moment before remembering that this was another one of those 'figures of speech' she had so much trouble with. "I was wondering what you planned to wear to the party," Seven queried. On her way here in the turbolift she had come up with this ruse to find out if B'Elanna was planning on attending the party without giving away too much of her personal interest in the matter. She was terribly proud of herself…truly the doctor's social lessons were beginning to pay off.

B'Elanna raised an eyebrow at that…Seven was interested in fashion…she didn't think so. Nevertheless she replied "actually I'm not planning on going Seven. Parties aren't really my thing. Besides I don't really want to see Tom hanging all over his 'tart du jour'."

Seven had no idea why a French dessert would stop B'Elanna from attending the party, but she didn't have time to worry about that now…her new friend's honour was at stake.

"I am sorry you will not be attending. I was looking forward to the occasion, but if you are not going I believe I will stay away as well." Seven had also worked out in the Turbolift that the quickest way to get B'Elanna to attend was to make her think that she would be helping out a friend by doing so.

"What does my not going to the party have to do with you Seven," B'Elanna was truly curious?

"I am uncomfortable in large crowds, and I am unsure of how to 'mingle' and 'make small talk.' I was counting on your presence to reassure me. I just thought it would be nice to have a friend in the crowd."

B'Elanna was touched at the drone's admission, but still didn't really want to go to the party.

"Thanks Seven, but to tell the truth, I'm not really good at that stuff either, so I'm not sure how much help I'd be."

Seven frowned and did her best to look inordinately sad. "I suppose I thought we could support each other. Perhaps if we only talked to one another it would be less difficult." She felt her logic was flawless in this matter.

"Seven, if we're only going to talk to each other why go to the party. We could just stay here," B'Elanna countered.

This was clearly going to be more difficult than Seven had imagined. She carefully lowered her head and looked up at B'Elanna through her eyelashes, a tactic she had witnessed Naomi Wildman use to great effect on her mother on numerous occasions. "It is just that I had so much fun with you and your friends at dinner last night…I thought it would be fun to have a chance to interact in such a way again. But if you do not wish to attend the party I would be happy to stay and talk to you here." 'This had better work,' Seven thought to herself because frankly she was out of ideas.

"OK, OK. If it means that much to you Seven of course I'll go to the party." B'Elanna promptly caved upon witnessing her first ever full-blown Borg pout. "So that's what they mean by 'resistance is futile,'" she joked.

Seven smiled broadly at her success and, mission accomplished, turned to go after thanking B'Elanna for agreeing to go to the party.

"Hang on Seven, I thought you wanted to know what I was wearing?"

Seven froze, caught in her own deception she panicked and began to babble "Oh, yes of course, well whatever you wear will be wonderful I am sure, I am just glad that you'll be going. I really must regenerate now…. Goodnight Lieutenant Torres." With that she was gone and B'Elanna once again found herself staring at the inside of her door. 'We really do not do well with good-byes,' she thought to herself.

Two days later, promptly at 1900 hours, B'Elanna showed up at Cargo Bay 2 to meet Seven for the party. She had chosen to wear the same black pants as she had the night Seven came for dinner, and was also wearing a dark green silk shirt that looked wonderful with her skin tones. Seven was working at her console updating her personal logs. She turned to observe B'Elanna and caught her breath at the site of the young engineer in her civilian clothes. "You look wonderful Lieutenant Torres."

"I really thought you were going to work on calling me B'Elanna."

"I apologize, B'Elanna, I was distracted by your appearance."

"You look nice as well Seven." In truth Seven was wearing one of her ubiquitous biosuits, but this one was black and the young woman looked quite lovely. "Shall we go."

They walked in silence to the turbolift and smiled at the two junior crewmen who were already on board, obviously on their way to the party as well.

They lingered behind the younger crewmen until they were at the doors to the messhall. "Well, here we go," B'Elanna smiled up at Seven as they prepared to enter the room.

They pushed through the doors and were immediately assaulted by the sights, sounds, and smells of a typical Voyager party. There were lots of people there already and both Seven and B'Elanna were secretly relieved that there was no sign of Tom Paris as yet.

Neelix smiled to himself as he saw the two friends enter the room, and he hustled over to get them a drink. They were happy to see the cheerful Talaxian and spent several minutes chatting with him after he fetched drinks for them both.

They stuck close together as they drifted around the party so Seven was aware of B'Elanna's reaction when Tom Paris arrived with a Delaney on either arm. The young Klingon stiffened as she realized that Paris had brought two dates to the party. She watched him laughing and talking with them and other members of the crew. She was mortified when Tom caught her staring at him and leaned over to kiss Megan, never taking his eyes off B'Elanna to be sure she was watching. She was angry with herself that she felt a lump forming in her throat and tears welling up in her eyes. She didn't even like the guy, why should she care who he kissed. She was self aware enough to realize that she didn't, in fact, care who he kissed, but rather she missed the physical affection that a relationship afforded. She always felt so alone and somehow untouchable and Tom seemed determined to show her he knew it.

She was, therefore, a little shocked when she heard Seven laugh loudly and felt the young woman throw her arm around B'Elanna's shoulders. Seven then proceeded to tell a story about something B'Elanna had done last week that she had found particularly amusing. She exaggerated wildly and pretty soon the whole group was laughing and teasing B'Elanna. B'Elanna was grateful for the reprieve and happier still to see the look of annoyance on Tom's face when he realized she was actually having fun. The strange thing was that she was also enjoying the feeling of the arm Seven had left draped around her shoulders. She tilted her head back and leaned close to Seven's ear whispering a heartfelt "thank you." Seven felt a tremor course through her body as she felt the engineer's breath on her skin. She hugged B'Elanna closer, smiling as she replied, "I told you we would support each other."

B'Elanna was sorry when eventually Seven removed her arm, but happy that the two of them were getting along so well tonight. She was glad to see Harry finally arrive and make his way toward the group.

Seven was also happy to see the young ensign and so was unprepared when he asked her to dance just as a slow song began playing. She didn't want to hurt his feelings but was unsure enough about her ability to extricate herself from this situation that she stammered. "I am sorry Ensign Kim, but I promised this dance to Lieutenant Torres, umm, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna nearly dropped her drink when she heard Seven tell an outright lie. She didn't want to hurt Harry's feelings though so she took Seven's hand and led her out onto the dance floor. "What the hell do you think you're doing" B'Elanna hissed as they began to slowly circle the dance floor, angry at Seven's apparent disregard for Harry's feelings. "I am sorry," Seven replied. "I panicked…I did not wish to hurt his feelings but I was afraid to accept his offer in case he mistook my acceptance for encouragement. I fear I have hurt Harry and angered you as well." B'Elanna felt her anger fade as she saw that Seven was once again on the verge of tears. "Hey, it's ok…I understand, but you really need to be honest with Harry or you will wreck your friendship with him."

Seven nodded, and visibly relaxed when she noticed Harry already dancing with someone else. As she began to calm down she suddenly became vividly aware that she was being held in B'Elanna's arms. Once again her chest constricted and her heartrate increased, the feeling of the lithe young Klingon's body pressed so close to hers made feel giddy and out of control.

B'Elanna herself was surprised at her reactions to finding herself dancing with Voyager's resident Borg. Seven was moving gracefully in B'Elanna's arms and as she relaxed into the dance she lowered her cheek to rest on B'Elanna's brow ridges. B'Elanna was embarrassed to feel her palms begin to sweat as they danced. 'Oh well,' she thought to herself, 'I'm sure Seven won't understand what it means anyway.' The truth was B'Elanna was enjoying holding Seven in her arms. The younger woman's body was firm and athletic, B'Elanna was well aware of just how powerful Seven was, and it was a rush to be holding that power so close. She unconsciously drew Seven closer as she moved her around the dance floor.

When the song ended B'Elanna was reluctant to let go of the beautiful young woman, so she merely leaned back in her arms and asked if she wanted to continue dancing. She was surprised to see that Seven's eyes had been closed. The young Borg appeared almost dazed as she readily agreed to another dance.

They danced several more songs without speaking, both just reveling in the feeling of being held. When the tempo of the music increased they both reluctantly drifted apart and went back to join their friends. No one seemed to care that the two former adversaries had been dancing so closely and the mood remained light and jovial. When the music again slowed Seven looked expectantly at B'Elanna and found to her delight that the Engineer was looking back at her. Just as she was about to ask B'Elanna to dance again she found Harry at her side. This time when he asked her to dance she graciously accepted and they stepped out onto the dance floor. B'Elanna was shocked to hear herself growl softly at the sight of 'her' drone in the arms of someone else. 'Ok Torres, get a grip here, she's not YOUR drone,' she chided herself, but she couldn't help staring as they danced.

She was still watching Harry and Seven dance when she heard Tom Paris's voice in her ear. "So the best you could do for a date was the Borg and now you've lost her to Harry," he mocked.

"Look flyboy piss off before you get hurt," she growled.

Paris couldn't see the danger he was in so he kept pressing his luck, "so, if you're going to fuck the borg do you need any special equipment…I see you don't have your tool box with you this evening. Although I must say I'm not surprised that you would find a way to date a machine."

B'Elanna's entire body was shaking with her losing effort to control her anger. She moved toward Tom, who, upon realizing his danger, was now in full retreat. Just as she was about to take a swing at the helmsman she felt herself lifted off the ground by a strong arm encircling her waist. At that moment Harry brushed by her, and, grabbing Tom by the shoulders moved him away from the angry Klingon.

"Honestly, I cannot leave you alone for a moment without you getting into trouble," Seven's soft voice whispered in her ear, as the taller woman carefully set B'Elanna back down on the ground.

At the sound of Seven's voice B'Elanna relaxed visibly and even managed a wan smile. "Looks like this is the second time you've kept me out of the brig," she laughed. "Seriously, thanks…I was about to tear him apart."

"He is not worth the trouble, and nothing he says about you could possibly be true; you should learn to ignore him," Seven advised.

"I don't care what he says about me, but when he insults…" B'Elanna let her voice trail off as she realized she didn't want Seven to hear the hurtful things Tom had said about her.

"I see, you were defending my honour is that it," Seven demanded?

"Look, let's just forget it OK," B'Elanna pleaded.

"I wish to know what he said about me." B'Elanna remained silent for a moment, "Comply" Seven demanded again.

"Look he just made an asinine crack about me needing a tool box to…. I mean…if we were to be…um…He just said he figured I would finally find a way to date a machine," B'Elanna finished lamely.

Seven understood exactly what Tom had said, and her eyes were sad as she told B'Elanna "this is not the first time a member of the crew has made a comment to that effect about me, and I am certain it will not be the last."

"What…who else said that…I'll take 'em apart with my Bat'leth…who else Seven…I want to know."

"It does not matter B'Elanna."

"It does to me."

"I am gratified that you hold my honour in such high regard, but you yourself have often made comments about my being a machine in the past."

This time it was B'Elanna who was on the verge of tears. "I'm so sorry Seven…can you ever forgive me for being such a P'Taq."

"Do you still believe that I am a machine without emotions," Seven asked timidly?

"Of course not, you are a beautiful young woman, and you are my friend. I'm really sorry if behaved in anyway to make you doubt that," was B'Elanna's heartfelt answer.

"You find me beautiful?" Seven's eyes were wide with wonder.

'How do I get myself into these messes' B'Elanna wondered to herself as Seven waited for an answer to her question. "Um, Yes…I think you are beautiful," B'Elanna settled for the unvarnished truth hoping that would be the end of it. She wasn't ready to analyze what in the world had prompted her to say such a thing in the first place. Lucky for her they were interrupted by Harry coming back after having hustled Tom out of harm's way.

The party was winding down now, and so they finished their drinks and said goodnight to their friends. B'Elanna was sure to thank Harry for his part in stopping the fight before it began. Seven was disappointed that she did not get another chance to dance with B'Elanna, but was happy when the young Engineer offered to walk her back to the cargo bay after the party.

Once again they walked in amiable silence and upon reaching the door Seven turned to face B'Elanna. "Thank you for attending the party with me B'Elanna. I enjoyed our time together."

"As did I Seven, as did I"

They again found themselves caught in the moment of parting, unsure of what to do. Finally B'Elanna stepped forward and pulled Seven into a hug, pressing her cheek to Seven's briefly as Seven hugged her back.

"Goodnight Seven."

"Sweet dreams B'Elanna."

Seven turned and walked into the cargo bay. She checked the ship's sensors quickly, fearful that Voyager's artificial gravity was failing…she was certain that her feet hadn't touched the ground since B'Elanna had hugged her. She was feeling lighter than air. The sensors indicated that the artificial gravity was within established parameters so she quickly made another entry in her personal log and stepped into her alcove. She paused for a moment to relive the feeling of dancing with B'Elanna and being held in her arms before she made contact with the regeneration unit and fell into her cycle.

B'Elanna was also feeling strangely elated as she walked back to her quarters. She changed and crawled into bed. She too replayed the night's events, both good and bad, in her head as she tried to sleep. She couldn't stop thinking about what it had felt like to dance with Seven. She tossed and turned fitfully for a long time before falling into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter 4

The next few weeks were quiet aboard Voyager. They encountered no hostile species, and there were no major malfunctions in any of the ship's systems. In Engineering they were happy for the opportunity to run diagnostics and do some major cleanup of systems that had been patched quickly and were now in need of more permanent solutions. B'Elanna made sure that her crew worked only the number of hours required by their shifts. She was the only one who worked any overtime at all, and this was by her choice.

She was confused by events the night of the party. She was trying to come to terms with her feelings regarding dancing with Seven of Nine. It was hard enough to admit she felt a friendly affection for the drone, and she was no where near ready to admit, even to herself, that she might be attracted to the beautiful woman. They had worked together on several small repairs, and while they were definitely on friendly terms, neither one of them seemed to able to find a way to address the events and feelings of the night of the party. B'Elanna was angry with herself for being unable to decide what she hated most, that she missed Seven when she didn't see her for several days, or that she was slightly uncomfortable around her new friend when she was in her presence. A small part of her longed to go back to the days when they fought incessantly, at least she knew where she stood back then.

The stagnation in their relationship was hardest on Seven. She was aware that she was attracted to the young engineer. All of her research pointed to the fact that this attraction was the cause of the physiological reactions she had to B'Elanna. She was unsure of how to proceed, unwilling to risk her friendship with the Klingon woman by showing her affection openly. The hardest part, ironically, was that they no longer seemed to have their famous fights. Seven found it extremely illogical that she missed those fights, but nevertheless she did. Perhaps it was because the calm friendliness they now shared seemed somehow less, almost boring, by their usual standards. She longed to see the strong emotions B'Elanna exhibited when she was angry, and was strangely saddened that they were no longer in evidence. She also knew that she didn't really want B'Elanna to be angry with her, she just missed the spark that used to exist between them when they fought. She wasn't sure what was preferable, to be around the Lieutenant and be unable to show her feelings, or to be away from B'Elanna entirely…she vacillated wildly between both extremes.

B'Elanna was in a good mood. She had just left a breakfast meeting in the Captain's ready room where they had been discussing the diagnostics and cleanup as well as several small projects the Captain wanted undertaken. The Captain was pleased, the ship was running perfectly, what could be better.

She swung through the doors to main engineering, the tune she was whistling died on her lips when she saw the shapely rear end of the Astrometrics officer protruding through an access hatch in the lower part of the bulkhead near the entranceway to the room. She felt her anger flare as she realized that several of the younger crewmen were ogling Seven's, rather obvious, attributes. They were smirking and making comments to each other as they stared.

"Don't you people have something better to do than stand around here and stare," she snapped angrily. "I can certainly come up with a long list of unpleasant tasks if you are running out of work."

The young men had the good grace to look sheepish as they sloped off to find something to occupy themselves with before the Chief made good on her threat.

Seven, upon hearing B'Elanna shout, had started up quickly and knocked her head against the sharp edge of the access panel. She was now sitting on the floor rubbing the back of her head.

"Seven, are you alright?" B'Elanna knelt down beside her friend. "Here, move your hand, let me see."

Seven allowed B'Elanna to gently part her hair and examine the wound, reveling in the feel of the engineer's soft touch.

"Hmm, its not too bad, but you need to go to sick bay and have the doctor run a dermal regenerator over that cut. I think you're going to have a nasty bump there."

"I would rather stay here with you." The words escaped Seven's lips before she could stop them. She felt B'Elanna's gaze and could not bring herself to look the Klingon woman in the eyes. She was certain that B'Elanna would approve neither of the sentiment nor the weakness it betrayed. She felt the engineer's strong fingers hook under her chin and gently, but insistently, lift her face until brown eyes met blue. There was a questioning look in B'Elanna's eyes, and something else that Seven couldn't identify. She was afraid B'Elanna was angry with her, and her fear showed clearly in her fine features.

They stared at one another for a moment and then to Seven's immense relief B'Elanna's gaze was softened by a gentle smile. "Its Ok Seven…Look why don't I walk up there with you…. You never know with a head injury, maybe you shouldn't be alone" she finished sheepishly.

"Thank you B'Elanna."

They sat like that for another minute or so, simply staring into one another's eyes until B'Elanna shook her head slightly and stood up, offering her hand to steady Seven as she rose.

"Hang on a second Seven." B'Elanna walked across the room and had a brief discussion with Lt. Carey, entered something into the main console, and then came back to where Seven was waiting. "Ok, let's get this over with shall we."

They walked quietly to the turbolift and while both of them longed to talk, neither seemed to be able to break the silence. It seemed like a long ride to sickbay.

As they came through the sickbay doors together the doctor looked up from his work. Upon seeing who was entering a concerned look crossed his face. "Good Lord, what have you two done to each other now. I thought you were through with your childish behaviour."

"Relax Doc," B'Elanna interrupted, "Seven just bumped her head and needs a little fixup…I had nothing to do with it."

"That is not entirely true Lieutenant Torres."

"WHAT…B'Elanna's temper flared…I never touched you…."

"If you had not yelled so loudly at the young men who were staring at me I would not have been startled and bumped my head…. Therefore I believe you had everything to do with my current condition."

"Kahless…if that's the thanks I get for trying to help out I won't bother next time." B'Elanna was about to stomp out of the room but stopped as she felt Seven's hand on her arm.

"I am only attempting to tease you Lieutenant…Thank you for defending my honour." Seven stated with melodramatic, mock decorum as she smiled shyly.

"I am never going to get used to this" B'Elanna growled jokingly.

"I feel certain that you will…. adapt…in time."

The doctor interrupted their friendly banter by announcing that Seven was all fixed up and free to go. The two friends lost no time in leaving sickbay. The silence between them was easier now, the tension having been released through their joking. As they entered the turbolift B'Elanna finally mustered the courage to speak. "Listen, Seven, do have anything pressing to do today?"

"I have several long range scans running that do not require my input. That is why I was attempting to help out in Engineering."

"Um, the thing is…I thought maybe you could log off duty for the rest of the day. There's something I'd like to show you. I already told Carey and logged off duty before we left engineering. I guess I was kind of hoping you'd say yes."

"In that case, I believe I will have to say yes."

They stopped by Astrometrics so Seven could ensure that the scans were running smoothly. Everything seemed fine so she logged off duty and followed B'Elanna from the room. They got into the turbolift and chatted calmly until they reached their destination.

"You are taking me to the holodeck."

"Yeah, it's not what you think…I mean, I didn't ask you to take the day off just to play a game or anything."

"I would never make that assumption B'Elanna, I know how seriously you take your work."

They stepped into the holodeck and B'Elanna paused before telling the computer which program to run. "I kind of have trouble talking about myself…I'm sure you've noticed," she began nervously. "So I thought I would show you something that might help you understand me a bit better. Jeez, this is sounding lamer by the minute, maybe we should just forget it."

Seven placed her fully human hand on B'Elanna's arm and softly said "Show me B'Elanna. I wish to see."

"Computer run Torres Beta Phi 2."

The room disappeared and they found themselves standing in a forest. In the near distance Seven could see a fire burning. B'Elanna motioned for Seven to be quiet and follow her nearer to the fire. As they drew closer Seven could see two men and several children sitting around the fire. B'Elanna sat cross-legged under cover of some bushes and motioned for Seven to follow suit. Once seated, Seven could clearly see and hear everything that was happening in the small clearing.

The two men were cooking breakfast for the children, who were planning a fishing trip without their fathers. Seven could clearly see that while three of the children were human the other had forehead ridges indicating a Klingon heritage. Seven was certain she was seeing B'Elanna at a much younger age. It was obvious the younger version of the engineer was unhappy in her surroundings. The other children seemed uncomfortable around her and often the young girl was left on her own, amusing herself by reading and building a stronger fishing pole for her father.

At lunch, when the fathers were away fishing, one of the younger boys teased B'Elanna, placing a worm on her sandwich and laughing that he thought Klingons liked live food. The tiny Klingon ran away in tears. The program seemed to jump ahead to the return of the two older men. From the discussions, Seven understood that the darker man was B'Elanna's father John Torres and the sandy-haired man was his brother Carl. She heard the men talking about B'Elanna. When Carl started to apologize for his son's behaviour B'Elanna's father hastened to assure him that he felt it was B'Elanna's fault. Seven could see the figure of the young B'Elanna in her tent and realized that she could hear every hurtful thing her father was saying about her. He called her willful, angry and unpredictable. He went so far as to imply that his brother didn't know B'Elanna very well when Carl remarked that B'Elanna was a great kid. How awful that must have been for the small girl. Seven felt her heart begin to break on the young Klingon's behalf. A tear was falling down B'Elanna's cheek as she heard her father say that it had been a mistake to marry Miral, B'Elanna's mother, and that if it had been difficult to live with one Klingon it was impossible to live with two. Seven was beginning to have a clearer picture as to why B'Elanna was so conflicted about her Klingon heritage. She saw it as the thing that had cost her everything she loved in her life.

The worst was yet to come and Seven watched the young Klingon attempt to run away from the camp only to be caught by her father. They argued and her father chastised the young girl for eavesdropping. He told her that he and her mother were having trouble, and B'Elanna accused him of not liking Klingons. The argument ended when B'Elanna told her father to leave them if he didn't love them anymore. At that point the program froze…the young B'Elanna's enraged face was still frozen in its scream.

They sat in silence for a moment and then B'Elanna softly said, "He left us 12 days later and I never saw him again." She was crying softly and when Seven put her arm around her shoulder she just leaned into the contact, burying her face in Seven's side. "I loved him so much," she sobbed. Seven rubbed B'Elanna's back as she cried, trying to comfort the distraught young woman. Finally the storm subsided and B'Elanna sat up.

"How often do you run this program," Seven queried?

"I'm not sure…a lot…it's like touching an open wound…it hurts but I can't seem to stop."

"You blame yourself for your father leaving," Seven stated calmly.

"Hey, it's a little hard not to…I told him to go and he did. Its like he was just waiting for permission to leave."

"You were twelve years old and despite your beliefs, you are simply not that powerful—you did not control his actions. Had he been determined to go nothing would have stopped him, and had he wished to stay he would have." Seven knew she was being blunt, but she couldn't stand the thought that B'Elanna was carrying so much guilt and pain around inside.

B'Elanna didn't look up, merely nodded at Seven's words…"I wish I could make myself believe that."

Seven hesitated, and then having made up her mind she spoke softly. "It would seem we have yet one more thing in common."

B'Elanna looked up with a puzzled expression.

Seven gestured at the frozen program. "May I?"


"Computer run Seven of Nine program Tau Alpha 1"

The room shimmered around them and when it rematerialized B'Elanna found herself aboard a small starship. Seven took her hand and led her to a darkened corner where they stood as the program unfolded. B'Elanna could see a man and woman working furiously aboard the ship. They were both tall and blonde and completely riveted by what they were doing. From off to the left, a pretty young blonde child entered the bridge. She was holding a small doll and had clearly been crying. She tried to engage the attention of both of the adults, and finally the man knelt down and took her by the shoulders. "Annika, you know that we're both busy…just go back to your room and we'll be there shortly. I know you're daddy's big girl and you can take care of yourself for a little while right," he smiled at the child and then gently turned her around, giving her a gentle push in the direction the sleeping quarters. She wasn't even gone from the bridge when he was back at his work.

B'Elanna realized that she was aboard Seven's parent's research vessel, the Raven, and as the program unfolded she watched the young girl wander about like a ghost in her own life. Her parents were so devoted to their study of the Borg that it took precedence over everything else in their lives. The program was a litany of broken promises, interrupted dinners and forgotten birthdays, and slowly the young Annika stopped crying and began drifting emotionlessly through her life. B'Elanna was shocked to realize that the Borg had stolen her childhood long before she was assimilated. She would often come to the bridge and hide in the darkened corner just in front of where Seven and B'Elanna now stood and simply watch her parents work. She was there now, just in front of them when there was a sudden burst of activity on the bridge of the vessel and the first Borg drone transported on board. B'Elanna was transfixed as she saw young Annika watch silently as her parents struggled with the drone. She watched as her father was grabbed from behind and she watched as the assimilation tubules punctured his throat. His face was a rictus of pain as the implants began to burst through his skin. The young girl finally screamed as the armor-clad arms of a drone reached over the console and dragged her from her hiding place. The program ended as the drone began to assimilate the child.

"Oh Kahless Seven, I had no idea." B'Elanna turned to Seven who was frozen in place, staring at the now empty bridge of her parent's ship. She wasn't crying and if B'Elanna hadn't known better she would have thought that Seven had no feelings about what she had just seen, but her eyes betrayed the pain she was feeling, and her struggle to control it. Not knowing what else to do B'Elanna simply pulled Seven into her arms. The younger woman held herself there rigidly for a moment before she sagged into the embrace. They clung to each other as if their lives depended on the contact between them, and many minutes passed before they finally moved apart.

"We are quiet a pair aren't we," B'Elanna said bitterly.

"Indeed," was the quiet reply.

"Do you want to talk about this," B'Elanna queried softy.

"I am not certain I am capable of having that discussion at this time." B'Elanna finally recognized the stilted speech for what it was… a coping mechanism.

B'Elanna was a little unsure of what to do next…just what exactly DID you do after baring your soul, and your deepest shame to a person you thought hated until recently. In the end it was Seven who suggested going to the messhall for dinner. B'Elanna readily agreed, not so much because she was hungry but because in the neutral atmosphere of the messhall she knew she wouldn't have to deal with everything she was feeling…about what she had just witnessed and about the person with whom she had witnessed it.

After dinner B'Elanna was reluctant to part from the vulnerable young woman, so she timidly questioned, "maybe you've had your fill of holoprograms for the day, but I was wondering, there is an ancient earth film playing in Holodeck 1 and Sandrine's is running in Holodeck 2. I don't suppose you'd like to go to either of them would you?"

Seven couldn't help but smile at the hopeful note that crept into B'Elanna's voice. "I do not believe I am up for 'small talk and mingling' but I have never seen a 'movie,' if you wish, I would like to experience this with you."

B'Elanna grinned, "Ever had popcorn with extra butter?"

Seven shook her head in the negative wondering what she had gotten herself into now.

They entered the theatre, which was a perfect replica of one from earth's late twentieth century. B'Elanna obtained a huge tub of popcorn and a giant cardboard cup filled with Coke, and they found seats near the back of the darkened theatre. After explaining patiently to Seven, that indeed the entertainment was supposed to be monochromatic, they settled back to enjoy the film. Seven was happy to be in such close proximity to the object of her affections, and as the movie progressed she relaxed in her seat, allowing her leg to rest against B'Elanna's. Occasionally when their fingers would brush as they both reached for popcorn (her new favourite food) at the same time she felt a tingle like an electrical charge run through her body. The grief of this afternoon was slowly replaced with a sense of true contentment, for both of them.

As B'Elanna walked Seven back to the Cargo Bay after the movie ended they discussed the film.

"No Seven, she's not supposed to stay behind."

"But she loved him, not her husband. It is illogical that she would leave with a man she did not love."

"It's supposed to be romantic. She loved him Seven…just not the same way."

"I still believe the movie would have been more 'romantic' had she remained with her true love."

B'Elanna just laughed at Seven's logic. "Romantic advice from the Borg, will wonders never cease."

She couldn't remember a time in her life when she had ever been happier than right now. She threw her arm around Seven's waist and drawled, "Seven, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Chapter 5

B'Elanna Torres warrior, Klingon, chief engineer of the Federation Starship Voyager, former Maquis and survivor of the Cardassian prison camps was terrified. She was confused and scared and would rather do anything in the world than leave her quarters and attend the morning senior staff meeting. The reason for her terror was also the source of her confusion and her head was splitting as she tried to negotiate the unfamiliar waters of emotions and feelings. Give her something to fix or kill, give her a fight that had rules, an objective and a clear winner or loser and she was in her element. This, however, was different.

It had become quite clear to her that she was attracted to Seven of Nine, the ship's Astrometrics officer and resident ex-Borg. The thing was she also really liked Seven…over the past few weeks she had come to value her newfound friendship with the younger woman. Yesterday they had shared an intensely emotional experience together as they showed one another painful incidents from their childhoods and had explored the dual nature of both of their lives. At the movies that night, when Seven's leg had come to rest against her own, B'Elanna felt a fire she thought would forever be denied her. She had never felt that kind of molten fever before, not with anyone. But Seven was so childlike in so many ways …there was no telling if she knew the effect she had on B'Elanna, and there was certainly no reason for B'Elanna to believe that Seven would return her feelings.

So here she was on the horns of a dilemma…reveal her attraction and ruin the friendship…no that was unacceptable. Equally unacceptable was the thought of not taking the chance that Seven might reciprocate those feelings. If all of this weren't bad enough, B'Elanna's honour wouldn't allow her to keep such a secret from someone for whom she cared deeply. She felt like she needed to get a handle on this before she saw Seven again…which would be in about 10 minutes at the senior staff meeting. 'Shit, Shit, Shit, life was certainly easier when I kept myself to myself,' she grumbled to herself as she prepared to leave for the meeting. Feelings or no feelings she had a job to do.

B'Elanna hurried to the meeting and as she went old habits reasserted themselves with a vengeance. The only emotion in her life that had never failed her was anger. She knew anger well; it was the cloak with which she hid her fragile emotions and the armour with which she protected her heart. The closer she got to the meeting the more she convinced herself that she was angry at Seven for daring to breach the carefully constructed walls that protected her heart and for bringing all of this confusion, this emotional mess, into her otherwise orderly life. B'Elanna had a lifetime of experience with using her anger to protect herself, and by the time she got to the conference room she was convinced that she was furious with Seven for tricking her into revealing more than she wanted to about herself and her life. She was certain she was better off without the Borg in her life. She would just ignore her, cut her dead and go back to the way they were before the day Seven intruded on her private grief in the holodeck.

The doors to the conference room opened and the first, the only, thing B'Elanna saw was Seven of Nine sitting in a chair on the opposite side of the table. The angry young engineer looked her straight in the eye and prepared herself to turn away without even acknowledging the Borg's existence when Seven smiled at her. A brilliant, beautiful smile that lit up the young woman's normally inscrutable face, and brought an answering grin from B'Elanna in a heartbeat. 'Oh, Kahless you are so much trouble Torres,' she chided herself as she walked around the table to claim the empty chair beside Seven.

"Good morning B'Elanna," Seven's voice was pitched so low that only B'Elanna could have heard the words, and when she did she felt a flush creep over her face.

The young engineer clamped down on her raging emotions with every bit of Klingon control at her disposal, and whispered "Morning Seven."

The meeting seemed to drone on interminably and by the end of it neither the chief engineer nor the ship's usually infallible astrometrics officer could have recalled a single item that had been discussed.

As they left the room Seven walked beside B'Elanna, and when they were out of earshot of the rest of the crew she began shyly, "Lieut….B'Elanna, I wish to thank you for yesterday. I had a wonderful time. I am pleased that we could facilitate our friendship by sharing our emotional responses to our childhoods."

B'Elanna could tell how nervous Seven was by the way she fell back into Borg-speak to cover the extent of her emotions. She was just about to reply when Seven spoke again, almost in a whisper. "Did you mean what you said?"

"About what Seven?" They were stopped in the corridor now, facing each other. "That this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Seven didn't breathe until she saw B'Elanna smile.

"Of course I meant it Seven. Did you think I would lie about something like that?"

"Never," Seven replied vehemently. "I merely thought that once you had a chance to think about it you would change your mind and not wish to be friends with…. someone like me." 'Some thing like me,' Seven thought bitterly to herself.

"You mean someone brilliant, caring and wonderful?" B'Elanna queried. "Yeah why would I want to be friends with someone like that," she grinned at Seven?

"You truly believe that I am those things?" Seven couldn't believe what she was hearing.

"I'm not really given to saying things I don't mean Seven."

"No you are not." Seven couldn't keep the smile off her face, and B'Elanna was certain she'd never seem such a beautiful sight before in her life. She was also certain that if they stood in the hallway smiling like this much longer no amount of Klingon control was going to stop her from doing something she might regret.

"We'd better get to work Seven…this ship can't get along without us you know," B'Elanna joked to mask her embarrassment at exhibiting her emotions so publicly.

Seven cocked her optical implant. "Indeed…. I should analyze the sensor readings from yesterdays scans."

The two friends reluctantly parted as they began their duty shifts.

Seven found that by concentrating intensely she could manage to put last night out of her mind for up to 10 minutes at a stretch, during which time she worked furiously at her analysis of yesterday's scans. She was unfamiliar with the sensation of not being in total control of her thoughts. She felt positively…scattered. Her analysis had already taken an hour longer than it should have, and for the first time she cursed her eidetic memory. Unbidden, her mind would flash back to yesterday, and how it felt to hold the sobbing engineer in her arms, how it felt when they brushed against one another in the darkened theatre, and how it felt when B'Elanna had wrapped her arm around her waist and quoted the line from the movie. She could hear every word and feel every sensation and she had to lean against her console to stop her knees from giving out from underneath her. She looked down at her console and realized that she had been lost in thought yet once more for over 15 minutes. Annoyed with her lack of discipline she returned to her work.

Finally after another hour Seven was finished her work. She transferred the results of her scans to Ops and sent a copy to the Captain. She hesitated a moment to ensure that her voice was under control and then she tapped her Comm badge.

<Seven of Nine to Torres>

B'Elanna started up at the sound of Seven's disembodied voice over the comm. She had also been unable to concentrate on her work this morning. She had several reports to complete, and each time she began to fill out the forms, her mind would begin to wander. No matter what she did, her mind would always bring her back to Seven. It took her a second to realize that Seven was actually talking to her and that, for once this morning, she wasn't daydreaming.

<Go ahead Seven>

<I have finished my duties in Astrometrics and wish to know if you require any assistance in Engineering>

A plan began forming in B'Elanna's mind and she smiled to herself as she replied.

<Absolutely Seven, whenever you're ready>

<On my way, Seven out>

B'Elanna left her office and spoke to Vorik for a few minutes. While he was relived that he would not have to be the one to repair the blown plasma conduit in the aft nacelle, he was a little surprised to hear the Chief volunteer to do the dirty work. It was no secret that the Chief enjoyed hands on work much more than her more esoteric duties, but crawling through all those Jefferies tubes to one of the filthiest places on the ship seemed a bit overboard even for the Chief.

B'Elanna was immensely pleased with herself. If she couldn't concentrate on her paperwork at least she could be productive, and spend some time alone with Seven. A most efficient plan.

"Your plan seems most inefficient," Seven looked at B'Elanna with her implant cocked. She could not believe what B'Elanna was proposing. "It does not require the combined skillset of two of the best engineers onboard Voyager to repair a damaged plasma conduit. Our attentions would be better off directed somewhere else."

B'Elanna was at a loss as to how to explain herself. She had forgotten that she was dealing with Seven of Nine and her implacable logic. "Umm, Its just that…Well being in the nacelle…it's a really important conduit…if anything were to happen before it was repaired…well…" B'Elanna's voice trailed off. There was just no way she was going to be able to get out of this one. She was about to back down when she a look flash over Seven's face.

"Of course. I understand. We should proceed immediately."

B'Elanna couldn't believe her luck, or Seven's abrupt change of mind, but she wasn't about to argue. She gathered up the necessary tools and led the way out of engineering, trying very hard to keep a satisfied smile off her face.

Seven understood that B'Elanna simply wanted to spend time alone with her; she was less certain as to the reasons why. Seven's growing attraction to the petite engineer led her to hope that B'Elanna might reciprocate those feelings, and her transparent ploy to allow them to be alone was giving fuel to the flames of hope that were flickering in Seven's heart. But as Seven had only limited experience with friendship and none at all with love, she wasn't able to interpret the signals B'Elanna exhibited. She was unsure as to whether the beautiful young Klingon was seeking friendship or something more. Her own self-loathing about her Borg nature led her to believe it would be impossible for someone as warm and vibrant and alive as B'Elanna to care for a cold emotionless drone like herself. And yet still she hoped…

It was a long and exhausting climb and crawl to get to the aft nacelle and they were both filthy and exhausted by the time they arrived. B'Elanna shoved the tools next to the damaged conduit, removed her uniform jacket, and sat down with her back against the bulkhead as she rested a few moments before beginning the work. The truth was that now that she had Seven all to herself out here she had no clue as to what to say. He own ulterior motives were getting in the way of the easy friendship the two of them had developed over the past few weeks.

Seven, also looking slightly the worse for wear, was crouching in the conduit watching B'Elanna carefully. She sensed that the older woman was feeling uneasy and feared that already B'Elanna was regretting her overtures of friendship. To cover her own disappointment Seven began unpacking the tools and removing the access panel to the plasma conduit.

When the cover was open B'Elanna grabbed a tricorder and, flipping onto her back, slid into the access hatch to assess the damage that had been done when the conduit cracked. She was glad of the fact that she no longer had to look at Seven. She had seen a look that she was certain had been annoyance cross Seven's face before she had begun to unpack the tools and was worried that the young Borg was less than pleased at having been coerced into this little endeavor.

"Hmm, doesn't look too bad, but it's a good thing we have those extra gelpacks…I think we need to replace at least two of them while we're here. There seems to be some kind of corrosion at the couplings on two of the packs closest to the conduit."

She handed her tricorder out to Seven and then asked for an isolinear spanner to begin the removal of the conduit. Seven handed her the tool, careful not to allow contact between their hands, and then she began the work of preparing the new conduit for installment. It was delicate work and she was glad of the distraction. It was too easy for her to lose herself in her observations of the Klingon's muscular frame as she worked. B'Elanna had only been wearing her gray Starfleet issue tank top under her uniform jacket and her shapely arms were covered in a sheen of sweat as she worked. It was most…distracting. It was clear to her that B'Elanna did not return her affections and she did not wish to dishonour the young woman by observing her body uninvited.

Once the new conduit was installed B'Elanna began to remove the damaged gelpacks. As she tugged at the first one to free it from its connection, some of the corrosion flaked off and fell into her eyes.

"SHIT!" She levered herself out of the access hatch and began rubbing her eyes as the tears streamed down her face.

"Lieutenant Torres, please stop touching your eyes. I believe you will damage yourself further." Seven grabbed B'Elanna's hands away from her face and held them tightly in her own. "Let me see please," Seven's voice was pleading now and B'Elanna forced herself to sit still. She wasn't really in much pain, but she had been startled. She began to calm down until she realized just how close she really was to Seven's body. She felt her heart begin to hammer in her chest.

Seven herself was not unaffected by her close contact with the young engineer. She took a second to issue a command to her nanoprobes to slow her heartbeat and respiration levels to normal and to stop her hands from trembling as she took B'Elanna's face in her hands and tilted her head back. She very gently began to remove the debris from her friend's watering eyes.

It took several minutes to complete her task and as she worked she was aware of the sound of B'Elanna's twin hearts beating rapidly. She heard her sharp intake of breath as Seven touched her face, and she was forced to clamp down on her own reactions to stop her hands from shaking as she carefully worked.

When she was done she held B'Elanna's face in both her hands and watched as the Klingon blinked the last of the tears away. Finally able to see clearly, B'Elanna found she was looking up into the concerned face of the beautiful Borg.

"I trust you are…undamaged B'Elanna," Seven queried softly, continuing to hold the engineer's face gently in her hands.

"Yeah, thanks Seven…I'm fine now." B'Elanna made no effort to move away from Seven's touch and the two stayed that way for almost a minute…just looking at each other.

Finally they reluctantly parted and began to finish the repair. B'Elanna was just replacing the last gelpack and was still unsure as to what to do about Seven. 'Kahless Torres, are you a warrior or a Tikka cat...just ask her already,' she chided herself mentally.

It was not, however, until they had finished packing up the tools that she was able to muster the courage to speak. "Seven, I, ah, was wondering if you might like to have dinner with me tonight?"

"That would be nice, perhaps we could meet in the messhall after we have had a chance to clean up a little."

"Actually Seven, I was hoping you'd have dinner with me in my quarters."

"That would be lovely," Seven replied as a blush crept over her features. "I will have to go to Sickbay to use the sonic shower, I could come to your quarters after if you would like."

"You don't have a sonic shower in your quarters?"

"I 'live' in the Cargo Bay, it hardly seems practical to install a shower there, not to mention the fact that crewmembers need access to the room on a regular basis. It makes more sense to shower in Sickbay."

"No it doesn't…you have as much right to privacy as anyone on board this ship. It's not right that you have to go all the way to sick bay just to clean up." B'Elanna was indignant on her friend's behalf.

"I do not mind."

"Well I mind…you can shower at my place tonight if you'd like. Maybe I should talk to the Captain tomorrow about getting you some quarters. You should have a place to call your own."

Seven did not see the need for her to have her own quarters, but she was so enchanted at the thought that this time B'Elanna's anger was on her behalf, and not directed at her, that she made no comment.

They made their way back to engineering and Seven replaced the tools while B'Elanna looked over the schedule for the next day and finished the report she had been working on before they left to repair the conduit. Finally they logged off duty and left engineering together.

When they arrived at her quarters B'Elanna once again removed her uniform jacket and washed her hands as she said, "Why don't you grab a shower first and I'll start dinner, then you can keep an eye on it while I get ready."

Seven looked down at her filthy biosuit. "I do not have anything to change into after I shower," she said.

"Go ahead and replicate whatever you need, or you can borrow something of mine if you'd like."

In truth there was nothing Seven would have liked more than to wear an article of B'Elanna's clothing, but she was still unsure exactly what was going on and so she opted to simply replicate another biosuit before heading in to the bedroom ensuite to take her shower.

B'Elanna began to prepare dinner, working furiously so she wouldn't have time to think about the fact that a beautiful, naked Seven of Nine was just meters away in her sonic shower. She had everything just about ready when Seven emerged from her bedroom looking, as ever, like perfection.

"This will take another half hour or so…just make sure it doesn't get overdone. I won't be long."

True to her word it was only twenty minutes or so before B'Elanna emerged from the bedroom looking clean, dressed in a pair of tight blue denim pants and a white tee shirt that contrasted nicely with the colour of her skin.

Seven was taken aback by how different B'Elanna looked out of her uniform. She seemed so much younger, and her powerful frame was so much more evident when it wasn't hidden by the loose fabric of her Starfleet uniform.

Together they set the table. B'Elanna wanted to light candles and dim the lights but she was unsure of how Seven would react to that. 'Maybe she thinks we're just two friends having dinner together. I don't even know if she thinks this is a date or not.' She settled for lighting candles but not dimming the lights.

"Seven, why don't you pick out some music for dinner," she said as she put the finishing touches on dinner.

Seven went to the console and scanned through B'Elanna's personal music files and selected several that she recognized from her own limited exposure to music. She chose several pieces of music from ancient earth, an art form known as jazz, as well as some more contemporary orchestral pieces.

'Hmm, soft jazz, maybe she knows this is a date after all,' B'Elanna thought to herself.

They chatted throughout dinner, mostly about work however, leading B'Elanna to reassess her reassessment as to whether or not Seven felt they were on an actual date or not. By the end of the meal B'Elanna still couldn't really tell what Seven was thinking.

After dinner they cleared away the dishes, recycling everything, and then B'Elanna led the way back to the living room and curled up on the couch. Seven sat on the couch as well, but at the opposite end. 'Well, what did you think Torres, you'd cook one meal and she'd just jump on you the second you sat down.' They continued to chat, but the silences were growing longer, and B'Elanna was feeling uncomfortable. She had long ago lost the ability to make eye contact with Seven, afraid of bursting into hysterical laughter or worse. Seven was feeling confused by the obvious tension that was growing between them. She longed to touch B'Elanna, but it was steadily becoming more difficult for her to even speak.

Finally, when they both moved to put their arms on the back of the couch, their hands met…there was an instant of hesitation when they both froze, but finally they turned to face one another and their eyes locked. Their world seemed at once to expand to encompass the entire galaxy and at the same time contract until all that existed was this gaze. In one another's eyes they recognized an acknowledgement that if they took the next step, nothing would ever be the same between them.

Time drew out like a blade. The moment stretched to infinity and beyond as they leaned closer, closer still, until their lips were mere inches apart.

"Seven, I…" B'Elanna's voice was a hoarse whisper, filled with unspoken desire.

"Please…" was all Seven could manage in reply.

Finally their lips met…just the barest of brushes; it was like the flashpoint of a fire that has been smoldering forever. The kiss deepened as they pulled one another closer in the age-old desire for two to become one. B'Elanna pulled Seven's lower lip into her mouth, sucking on it fiercely then gently nipping it before she let go. She flicked her tongue out gently seeking an entrance that was instantly granted and gasped as Seven's tongue began a sweet and tortuous dance with her own.

It was as if a dam had burst in Seven…all the feelings and emotions she had tried for so long to deny even existed came flooding out. She clutched B'Elanna to her…moaning at the sensation of heat and melting she was experiencing. She let her hands explore B'Elanna's back and shoulders and tangle in her beautiful hair.

B'Elanna pressed forward, gently pushing Seven down as she reached for her shapely legs and pulled them up onto the couch. She was now lying on top of Seven, their legs tangling together, and she growled as Seven's hands began to massage the sensitive ridges of her lower back.

Not content with the amount of access she had, Seven pulled B'Elanna's tee shirt free of her jeans before she slid her hand under the waist band, moaning as she finally came into contact with B'Elanna's burning skin. She let her fingers roam freely over the ridges of B'Elanna's back, exploring each one thoroughly before moving on. She then trailed her fingers up her lover's pronounced spine, enjoying the feel of B'Elanna's fevered flesh under her hands.

B'Elanna reached up and freed Seven's hair, growling her pleasure as the silky tresses cascaded over her face. She arched into the contact Seven was making with her back and then eased up onto her elbow so she could free one hand to explore the supple body that was now writhing beneath her on the couch. She reached back, grasping Seven's slim thigh, sliding her hand firmly up the beautiful body, lightly brushing the side of her ample breast before cupping the young drone's cheek.

The sensation of B'Elanna caressing her starburst implant caused Seven to groan with the pleasure, and she moved her hands down to grasp B'Elanna's behind, pulling her into closer contact. She whimpered as she felt B'Elanna break their kiss, but sighed out loud as she felt the Klingon move to ravish her neck with a searing trail of kisses and nips that ended only when B'Elanna reached her ear and began to nip gently at her earlobe. The sound of B'Elanna purring in her ear, combined with all of the other sensations, was almost too much for Seven…she closed her eyes feeling dizzy with pleasure.

B'Elanna twisted their bodies so that they were now lying on their sides, and she moved her leg so it was between Seven's thighs. She felt the drone shudder as she arched into the contact. She continued ravishing Seven's neck with kisses, moving her hand down to cup her breast, feeling the nipple harden instantly in her palm.

Seven inhaled B'Elanna's scent as she buried her face in the young engineer's neck. She could hear the distinctive beat of B'Elanna's hearts hammering even over the sound of her purrs. Unable to restrain herself any longer, Seven reached up and laid her palm over B'Elanna's small, firm breast. Her nipple was achingly hard and Seven took it in her fingers, rolling her thumb over the top as B'Elanna growled with pleasure.

B'Elanna was rapidly losing the battle with the Klingon side of her personality, which was urging her to go ahead and take the young beauty moaning in her arms. She reached down, cupping her hand between Seven's legs, rubbing her gently through her clothing. She heard Seven cry out with pleasure and realized if she didn't slow things down quickly there would be no stopping them. She knew Seven had no experience, and it was up to her to protect the young woman…even if it meant protecting Seven from B'Elanna herself. She pressed gently one last time, enjoying the heat radiating from Seven's core, and then slowly wrapped her arms around the young drone. She kissed her deeply and then slowly, gently moved the young woman away.

Seven whimpered as she felt B'Elanna push her away, she did not want to stop this activity. At the same time she was grateful B'Elanna was slowing down their headlong rush. She knew that she wanted to be with B'Elanna, but so much had happened, and so little had been said, she knew they might both regret it if they went any further. She rested her forehead against B'Elanna's ridges and stole several more kisses before settling down in her lover's arms.

They lay without speaking for a long time, just enjoying the sensation of being held and loved. Finally, B'Elanna moved her head back so she could look at Seven. She was amazed, as always, with how beautiful the younger woman was.

"Wow, Seven. I had no idea…I, are you OK," she cried as she saw the tears shining in Seven's eyes?

"I am happy, and afraid…I have never felt like this before…I…" Seven's voice trailed off as she began to cry quietly.

"Shhh, hush sweetie. Everything is going to be OK. I'm right here, and I'm not going anywhere." B'Elanna continued to murmur lovingly to Seven until she felt the young Borg's body began to relax. Finally the actions and emotions of the day overcame both of them and they drifted off to sleep in one another's arms.

Chapter 6

B'Elanna opened her eyes. The lights in her quarters were still on at half intensity and she was lying on her couch holding a sleeping Seven of Nine. She stretched her head back slowly feeling the kinks in her neck from sleeping in such an unusual position. She spoke softly hoping not to awaken Seven; "Computer what time is it?"

"The time is 0231 hours."

She felt Seven stir in her arms and watched in wonder as the beautiful young woman opened her eyes and smiled upon seeing B'Elanna's face.

"Hey sleepyhead," B'Elanna teased.

"I really was asleep wasn't I," Seven queried softly?

"Sure, why?"

"It is just that I have never achieved a state of sleep before," she yawned.


"No, I do not believe I have ever been relaxed enough to perform this task before."

"Well, congratulations." B'Elanna paused, unsure of how to approach her next question. "Um, Seven, do you need to regenerate before work tomorrow?"

"I believe that a period of sleep will be sufficient."

"OK, its just, I…"

"You wish me to leave so you can return to your bed…of course…. I apologize for keeping you up this late." Seven began to get up from the couch.

"No no, slow down sweetie." B'Elanna held the young Borg firmly in her arms to prevent her from escaping the room.

"If you think you can sleep why don't you just stay here. You can have my bed, and I'll stay out here," B'Elanna offered.

"I would rather stay with you B'Elanna." The need and the loneliness was so evident in Seven's words that B'Elanna felt her throat constrict and she had to fight back tears as she felt her own solitude echoed in her lover's words.

Without saying a word, B'Elanna climbed off the sofa and offered her hand to Seven, leading her into the bedroom.

"I guess you'll need something to sleep in," B'Elanna said almost to herself.

"I usually regenerate in my biosuit."

"That might not too comfortable once you get into bed. I can replicate something for you if you like, or, you could wear something of mine."

This time Seven wasn't afraid of the answer to the question. "I believe I would like to wear an article of your clothing B'Elanna."

B'Elanna smiled softly and rummaged through her drawer. "Hmm, the shorts shouldn't be a problem but I'm not sure I have a top that will work. Hang on, these might fit," She pulled out a pair of silk boxer shorts and an old, oversized Starfleet academy tee shirt and handed the bundle to Seven.

She rummaged some more and pulled out another pair of boxers, black, with a matching silk tank top that only covered part of her midriff. Unsure of what to do next she opted to change in the bathroom and give Seven the bedroom while she undressed.

She waited until she was reasonably sure that Seven would have had time to change and then came back into the bedroom. Seven was standing in front of the mirror staring at herself. She looked absolutely adorable in B'Elanna's old clothes.

"Whatcha doin' Seven?" B'Elanna inquired.

"I have never worn anything but a biosuit before now. I am unused to my appearance, and unused to the sensation of this type of material next to my skin." The truth was Seven loved the feel of the cotton and silk against her body. She could smell B'Elanna's scent on the clothes and reveled in the idea of wearing something that had been so close to B'Elanna's skin.

"Well, you look great," B'Elanna breathed, coming up to Seven and wrapping her arms around her from behind, resting her forehead on the taller woman's shoulder. She stared at their reflections in the mirror, thinking of how opposite they were in almost every way, but of how right it felt for them to be together like this.

"C'mon, we should try to get some sleep," B'Elanna gave Seven a final squeeze and then led her to the bed. She pulled back the covers and then crawled in, lying on her back and watching as Seven gently eased her lanky frame onto the mattress. She lay flat on her back with her arms at her sides and stared at the ceiling for a few moments, adjusting to the feeling of the bed and pillow, then she turned to look at B'Elanna.

"I believe I am ready to attempt sleeping again," she smiled shyly B'Elanna.

"C'mere you," said B'Elanna as she pulled Seven into her arms, kissing her softly before settling the blonde head on her shoulder. Seven wrapped her arm around B'Elanna and insinuated her leg between the Klingon's, snuggling deeply into the warm embrace. B'Elanna called the lights down and they lay in the dark, each listening to the soft breathing of the other as they floated off to sleep.

For the first time in her adult life Seven of Nine awoke in a proper bed. She felt at once sleepy and disoriented, but also wonderful. With every breath she could smell B'Elanna's marvelous spicy scent, and with her head resting on the Klingon's shoulder she could hear her hearts beating in a steady powerful rhythm. She was perfectly content to lay in B'Elanna's arms and watch her sleep until the computer announced that it was time for them to get up.

When B'Elanna finally woke up she was amazed at the fact that she didn't feel awkward in the least lying here with Seven. In fact it felt perfectly natural and perfectly wonderful.

"Morning Seven." B'Elanna tilted her head down to capture Seven's lips. Seven eased her body on top of B'Elanna's and returned the kiss with a passion before settling back down in her lover's arms. They lay snuggled together in the warmth of the bed for several minutes until B'Elanna kissed Seven one last time and reluctantly got up and made her way to the shower.

Seven stretched herself out slowly, loving the feeling of the bed beneath her. She rolled over and was instantly enveloped in the warmth of B'Elanna's recently vacated spot on the bed. She stood up slowly, allowing her body time to adjust to the unfamiliar sensation of rising after a prolonged period of lying horizontally. Her physiology quickly adjusted and she padded out into the living area, enjoying the feeling of the loose clothing moving over her body.

For the first time she allowed herself to explore B'Elanna's personal space. There was a large Bat'leth hanging on one wall, and a small display of other Klingon weaponry below that. There were also holopictures of several crewmembers including Ensign Kim and the Captain, and behind those pictures were several older ones that Seven assumed were of B'Elanna's family. She recognized the face of B'Elanna's father from the holoprogram and assumed the older Klingon woman he was with was B'Elanna's mother. There were a few other momentos scatter about the room, but the overall impression was of a spare and orderly life. The only mess was the console that was littered with PADDs and a few assorted tools. Looking about the room it was obvious that the driving force in B'Elanna's life was her job. Seven approved of the engineer's single-minded focus on her job, but at the same time she felt a sadness that there wasn't more joy in B'Elanna's life. She smiled softly to herself thinking that perhaps that would change in the near future.

She walked to the replicator and began obtaining the necessary ingredients to make B'Elanna's favourite banana pancakes. She was thoroughly engaged in her task and didn't notice that B'Elanna was in the room and had been watching her for several minutes.

B'Elanna, upon finishing her shower, had pulled on her uniform pants, boots and tank top, grabbed her tunic and had been about to enter the living area when she stopped, transfixed at the sight of Seven of Nine. The younger woman was still dressed in B'Elanna's old clothes, her hair loose and cascading over her face; she was carefully mixing ingredients in the cooking area. Her concentration was evident by the sight of the tip of a small pink tongue protruding from the side of her mouth as she stirred what looked to B'Elanna like pancake batter. She was beautiful, and B'Elanna had to remind herself to breathe. She could not believe her luck at having found something this wonderful with someone as special as Seven of Nine.

Finally realizing that she couldn't just stand and stare all day, much as she'd like to, she stepped into the room and tossed her jacket over the back of the chair. She moved behind Seven placing her hands on the drone's shapely hips and peered around her shoulder at what Seven was making.

"Mmm, is that banana pancake batter I smell?"

Seven merely nodded and continued her careful preparations.

"You didn't have to make me breakfast you know…we could've gone to the messhall."

Seven leaned back into B'Elanna's body, enjoying the feel of the Klingon's firm muscles, more than capable of supporting her weight. "I wished to make you something special to thank you for last night," she said shyly.

"Seven, sweetie, last night was special for me too, I should be thanking you."

Seven put down the bowl and turned to face B'Elanna, her blue eyes bored into the Klingon's, "Was it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Was last night special for you…I am unsure of what it meant to you." The young Borg's fear and confusion was obvious, and B'Elanna pulled her into a warm embrace.

"Of course it was special, YOU are special. Seven, listen to me, I would never do something like that with someone I didn't care for, and I would never toy with your affections like that. This is exactly why I stopped us from going further than we did. I know we have to talk, but we also have to get to work. So listen carefully. I care about you Seven, and I'm not going anywhere…we are going to talk about this and figure out where we are going, together…so please don't worry…just try to be happy. I know I am…happy that is…" The Klingon's uncharacteristic outburst of emotions left her rather drained and she buried her face in Seven's neck, feeling the young Borg's pulse pounding, she drew in a deep breath and savoured the intoxicating aroma of her lover.

Seven knew she could trust B'Elanna. She instinctively knew that the Klingon's honour would prevent her from lying just to get out of an awkward situation, and she was thrilled to hear B'Elanna say that she cared and found her to be 'someone special.' She held the young engineer closely for several minutes before lifting her head and bending to capture B'Elanna's lips in a searing kiss.

"I believe you, and I wish you to know that I also care deeply for you." Her nervousness at the unfamiliar situation caused her to fall back into Borg-speak, but to B'Elanna they were the sweetest words she'd ever heard.

"Well, now that that's settled you should jump in the shower and I'll finish up out here."

"But, I wished to make your breakfast for you," Seven protested.

"You already did the hard work. I'll just heat up the pan and start making them while you get ready…go on…otherwise we'll be late for the meeting."

Seven reluctantly left for the shower. She hated to remove the clothes B'Elanna had lent her, and she couldn't stop herself from bunching them up and burying her nose in the bundle, loving the way her scent and B'Elanna's mingled together on the clothing. She then folded them carefully and placed them on the bed before entering the shower room.

She was fascinated by the little bottles that B'Elanna kept in her bathroom. She removed the cap from several of them and smelled the scented oils and lotions that were reminiscent of B'Elanna's own scent. She knew she didn't have time to explore to her heart's content just now, so she replaced the bottles and stepped into the shower.

Seven emerged from the bedroom, once again clothed in her biosuit, and saw that B'Elanna had begun to set the table. She stepped into the kitchen and took over making the last of the breakfast. Cooking complete, they sat down and began to eat.

"These are delicious Seven, just like my Grandmother used to make."

Seven smiled at the praise and tentatively tried her first bite. B'Elanna watched, amused, as Seven carefully put the tiny bite of pancake in her mouth and closed her eyes as she savoured the flavour. A smile spread over her face and B'Elanna grinned as she saw the markedly increased size of Seven's next bite.

"I guess you like it huh?"

"It is wonderful, I had no idea that nutritional supplements could be this good. Please pass the syrup B'Elanna."

B'Elanna obliged and laughed as Seven drowned her pancakes in the gooey liquid, and proceeded to devour her plateful. She also entertained several, rather erotic, thoughts as to what they could do with the syrup later. She loved to see Seven in unguarded moments like this, when she simply showed her emotions and didn't try to hide behind her cool Borg exterior. She was so childlike in these moments that B'Elanna was always gripped with an urge to protect her. She knew without a doubt that she would spill her last drop of blood before she would ever allow Seven to be hurt.

Breakfast over, they cleared the dishes away to be recycled. As they worked B'Elanna noticed a drop of syrup still clinging to the side of Seven's mouth. She reached up and wiped it gently away, surprised when Seven captured her finger and placed it in her mouth, gently sucking the last remnants of the sweet liquid from B'Elanna's finger. "Mine," Seven declared. 'Oh, you have no idea,' B'Elanna thought to herself as Seven unwitting quoted a line from the Klingon mating ritual.

B'Elanna's knees nearly gave way at the heartstopping sensation of having her finger suddenly pulled into the warm and sensuous mouth of Seven of Nine. She grabbed the young drone's shoulder for support while she regained her equilibrium, and then, as Seven released her finger, she cupped the beautiful young woman's chin in her hand and kissed her, gently at first and then more deeply as she tried to convey all that she was feeling without words. It was Seven's turn to require support, and B'Elanna gave it willingly.

They reluctantly broke apart, still in a gentle embrace, content for now to simply smile at one another.

"We really should get going to the meeting Seven or we're going to be late. Just, please remember that I'm here for you and that everything is going to be all right. OK?" B'Elanna looked deeply into her lover's eyes.

"Thank you…I believe I will 'miss you' today," Seven began shyly.

"Well, you know you're always welcome in engineering."

Seven cocked her optical implant at B'Elanna's statement. "Indeed…I seem to remember a certain Chief Engineer threatening to make me a part of the ship's hull if I ever touched her precious engines again…That was you was it not, or is my eidetic memory failing me?"

"I, uh, right…but there are other things to do in engineering besides touch my precious engines. There are several tool lockers that need to be assimilated into some sense of order," B'Elanna grinned.

"I believe that you are lucky we need to depart for the morning meeting right now or the tool lockers are not all that might be 'assimilated,'" Seven's smile belied the stern voice she used to deliver her comment.

"Well then, we don't want to be late do we," B'Elanna said, grasping Seven's shoulders and planting one last kiss on those luscious lips before fast-walking out of her quarters, snagging her jacket from the chair as she went, leaving a slightly dazed drone to scurry after her departing form.

The meeting went as expected, engineering was running at peak efficiency. Food and dilithium stores were at acceptable levels, and sensor sweeps of the area had detected nothing of interest for the next several hundred light years. Life was good in the Delta quadrant. Sensor sweeps of the conference room however, would have picked up a curious anomaly…that being the Chief Astrometrics officer and the Chief Engineer holding hands under the table throughout the entire meeting. Life in the Delta quadrant was indeed good!

After the meeting broke up Seven and B'Elanna parted ways and B'Elanna headed to engineering to say good morning to her beloved warp core. After ensuring that the ship was not suffering any ill effects from being replaced as number one in her affections, she buried herself in some long overdue paperwork.

For once she was looking forward to lunch in the messhall as she was certain to see Seven there. She was terribly disappointed when the lovely blonde failed to appear. B'Elanna waited as long as she could in good conscience, but eventually had to leave without seeing the object of her affections. As she rode the turbolift back to engineering she contemplated calling Seven over the comm to see if everything was Ok, but decided that if Seven was busy she might not appreciate a call just to 'chat.'

When she got back to engineering she ran a few diagnostics from the console on the main floor, and noticed a slight phase variance in one of the plasma injectors. She was concentrating so hard on her attempts to isolate the problem that she didn't hear the sound of someone walk up beside her to observe her work.

She was startled, therefore, to see a mesh encased hand enter her field of view, pointing to the console screen, as a familiar patrician voice began to speak, "I believe if you compensate for rate of flow in the coil here, you will be able to overcome the variance."

A familiar flash of anger at the drone's self-confident speech flared and was instantly gone, replaced with her happiness at seeing Seven again. "Nuh uh Seven, already tried that…no joy." For several minutes they worked in silence, two pairs of hands flying over the console screen, working together on a problem.

B'Elanna was enjoying the closeness; she could feel the heat radiating off of Seven's body. Finally, still working, she shifted her weight toward the young drone, bumping their hips together in a playful hipcheck before asking, "So, Seven do you want to do something tonight…Maybe go to Sandrine's or take a walk in the airponics bay?"

Seven smiled to herself as she had come down here with the sole purpose of finding an activity to engage in with B'Elanna this evening. She had had a plan of her own, but decided that it would wait, and she agreed to meet B'Elanna in the messhall for dinner before going to Sandrine's. They worked together for several more moments until the phase variance was back in line, an event marked by B'Elanna's triumphant "YES!" She grinned up at the younger woman and said, "See, I told you we'd make a great team Seven."

Seven's only answer was a raised implant and an indulgent smile. "I will see you tonight at 1800 B'Elanna." The Chief engineer's eyes never left her gently swaying form as Seven walked out of engineering.

Having found one problem in the warp core B'Elanna decided that a thorough set of analyses was in order, and she promptly set about running them. She was engrossed in her work when she heard a sound that was completely out of place in engineering. She turned quickly in time to see several familiar blue sparkling figures begin to emerge out of thin air, right onto the main floor of engineering.

She was in horror as the transporter beams began to take shape in the form of large green aliens with a type of scaled armour covering their bodies. Her hand flew to her Comm badge.

<Intruder Alert! I need a Security team in Engineering. There are at least…. >

Her words were cut off by a blow to the head delivered from behind. She fell soundlessly to the deck plating.

Just as B'Elanna's words rang out on the bridge, Harry Kim noticed something on his console that had not been there a second ago. Tuvok was already heading for the turbolift when he stopped at Ensign Kim's words.

"There is a ship 50,000 kilometers off the port bow…it wasn't there a second ago. They must have some kind of cloaking device." There was a brief pause as the bridge crew digested his words. "They are powering weapons and preparing to fire."

"Red Alert, All hands to battle stations." The captain's voice came over the comm and all members of Voyager's crew stopped what they were doing and moved to prepare for battle.

"Shields up," Chakotay's voice snapped.

"I, I can't sir, We've been locked out of shield control. I'm trying to reroute the command subroutines and gain access now." Kim's hands were flying over the console in an attempt to gain back control of the ship.

"Evasive maneuvers Gamma 1 Mr. Paris," the captain spoke again.

"They are firing. Full spread…Direct hit. We have hull breaches on deck 7, 10, and 16."

"Seal them…. Get us out of here Mr. Paris."

"We don't have Warp engines Captain," Paris groaned as he attempted to maneuver away from the attacking ship.

<Bridge to Engineering>

No reply.

<Janeway to Torres. >


"Mr. Kim, what is the status of Engineering?"

"I don't know Captain, I no longer have access to the controls, and I believe all comms have been cut to that area."

"Keep trying."

"Aye Captain."

Seven's first impulse on hearing the Red Alert called was to go to engineering to ensure that B'Elanna was safe, but her overriding sense of duty wouldn't allow it. She headed to the bridge and as she exited the turbolift and saw the ship on the viewscreen her heart fell.

"Species 1327, the Hakari. They are scavengers. They have cloaking technology stolen from other species as well as disrupter type weapons. They will attempt to gain access to main engineering and take over the ship from within so as not to damage any valuable systems. They will not hesitate to kill the crew." Seven gave her brief dispassionate report as she moved to the secondary Ops station. Her heart stopped beating as she saw that engineering was already cut off from the rest of the ship. 'B'Elanna!' was all she could think.

B'Elanna's head felt like it was going to split open. She slowly opened her eyes and without moving glanced at as much of engineering as she could see. There were several of the aliens in her view…all engaged at the consoles. With agonizing slowness, she coiled her body and in one swift motion sprang to her feet, grabbing the nearest intruder around the neck. She twisted with all her strength and felt the satisfying crunch of neck bones breaking.

Still holding the lifeless body she faced the next challenge. The phaser bolt he fired was absorbed by the body she held like a shield in front of her. She grabbed the weapon of her victim and fired twice, taking down two more of the aliens. Dragging the lifeless body she moved backward to a relatively covered area of engineering. Holding the weapon in one hand she accessed the console to see what damage had been done.

The first thing she tried to do was unlock the doors to engineering, but she quickly realized it would take too long to break the encryption codes that had been placed on them. 'Tuvok will just have to blast his way in she thought,' as she began the job of getting warp speed restored to her ship.

Several phaser bolts fizzled around her and she looked up, firing at the intruders who were attempting to neutralize her. One of them took a direct hit and felt from the second floor onto the deck with a muffled thud. She fired several more times to keep the attackers occupied while she went back to work. She continued working feverishly, returning fire as needed. She was relieved to hear the sounds of the security team working away at the door.

She had managed to gain back control of the comm system, and shields, but to bring the warp core back online she was going to have to make a run for the main console. She decided to wait until the doors to engineering were breached so that she would have a better chance of making it in all the confusion. 'Hurry up guys,' she thought to herself as the noise outside increased.

Finally, with a loud blast, and a flash of light the doors were blown open and the security team came pouring in. 'Now or never,' she thought to herself as she ran to the centre of the room, firing as she went. She accessed the controls and entered the commands, and Voyager was back under the control of the bridge. She spun around to assist the security team in eradicating the last of the intruders. She never even saw the phaser bolt as it tore into her chest.

On the bridge Paris was trying his best to minimize damage to the ship by executing every evasive maneuver he could think of. Even with his skill they had taken several more direct hits.

"Shields are back on line."

"Good job Mr. Kim," the captain commended.

"It wasn't me," Harry replied.

Seven took heart at his words. There was only one person she knew of who was capable of getting control of engineering back that quickly. B'Elanna was alright, at least for now.

With shields back in place Tom had a bit more breathing room and for now they were escaping heavy damage. Everyone knew, however, if they didn't get weapons or warp drive back soon nothing else was going to matter.

There were several reports of intruders throughout the ship and armed security teams were engaged in skirmishes in several locations.

"Captain the warp engines are back on line."

"Get us out of here Mr. Paris, maximum warp, any course for now."

Voyager blurred into a beam of light and disappeared from the viewscreen of the enemy vessel. They didn't have the technology to track the ship down, and they had taken heavy losses in this battle. They turned their ship around and began to search for easier prey.

"Casualty and damage reports are coming in now Captain," Harry spoke up in the silence that ensued their remarkable escape. "The security teams have all the intruders in custody. There is heavy damage to engineering. Weapons are still offline. We have 25 injured in sickbay right now, and 3 casualties. Crewman Rhys, Ensign Johnson, and…Oh God no…Lieutenant Torres."

A stunned silence followed Harry's revelation. The captain covered her face with her hands and fought for control as she thought of the young woman who had come so far since she joined this crew. Even Tom Paris looked ill. He was as aware as anyone else on the bridge that only B'Elanna could have restored the warp engines that saved all of their lives.

Seven of Nine was fighting for control. This could not be happening. She was holding onto the console with such strength that the Plexan surface cracked under the pressure. Tears began to stream down her face, and she fell to one knee, no longer able to stand. Harry was at her side in an instant. He had seen how close the two had become in the past few weeks. He managed to put his own grief at the death of his friend aside for a moment as he helped Seven to her feet.

"Come on Seven, you need to get out of here. Captain, permission to leave the bridge."

The captain, who still had not taken in the enormity of what had happened, didn't speak. Instead Chakotay gave permission for Seven and Harry to go.

They entered the turbolift and Seven sobbed, "I need to see her, please, take me to her."

Harry tapped his comm badge and inquired of the computer as to the location of Lieutenant Torres. A second later he could have kicked himself as the computer, of course, informed them that Lieutenant Torres was not aboard the ship. Seven began sobbing anew, and Harry attempted to comfort her as he called sickbay to ask if B'Elanna had been taken there. They could hear the pandemonium in sickbay over the comm; a medic informed them tersely that B'Elanna was indeed there.

Chapter 7

Harry continued to support Seven as they walked down the corridor. He stopped her just outside of the doors to sickbay. "Are you sure you want to do this Seven, maybe it would be better to wait." He had no idea the kind of shape B'Elanna's body would be in after the battle, and the truth was he was a little afraid he would be in no shape to comfort Seven if things were too gruesome. After all, B'Elanna had been his friend as well.

"I must see her, please, I need to be with her."

Reluctantly Harry took the young drone's arm and led the way into sickbay. He was unprepared for what lay on the other side of the doors. He had never been to sickbay immediately after a major battle like this before. The injured filled every biobed and the rest sat on the floor leaning against the bulkheads, crude bandages covering wounds until the more serious injuries were dealt with. The medical staff was moving frantically between beds, and he could hear the sounds of moaning and crying from all over the room.

He pulled Seven to one side so they could be out of the way while they gathered the courage to search for B'Elanna's body. In the back corner of the room they could see the doctor frantically working over a patient. Seven's optical implant could detect the faint purple shimmer of a level 10 medical forcefield indicating the doctor was performing surgery of an invasive nature.

There was no sign of B'Elanna's body anywhere in the room. Finally Harry managed to grab the arm of a medic as he rushed by to gather more bandages. "We're looking for Lieutenant Torres," he asked quietly. The medic pulled his arm free and jerked his head toward the back of the sickbay as he hurried back to his task. Harry wasn't sure exactly what was going on at this point, so he took Seven's hand and they walked slowly toward the bed where the doctor continued to work furiously on his patient. They could hear his voice snapping out demands for instruments and hyposprays as he operated.

As they drew closer, Seven caught sight of the patient's dark hair. The doctor demanded a cardiac stimulator and he attempted to shock the heart back into rhythm. As the body of the patient arched into the air both Seven and Harry could clearly see the familiar brow ridges of the Klingon engineer. Seven grabbed the wall to support herself; she could clearly see that B'Elanna's chest was gaping open, the clean lines of the wound indicating the work of a laser scalpel. A tube was running out of her mouth to a machine that was regulating her breathing, and the sheet covering her body was soaked in blood.

Harry took Seven's hand and tried to lead her away saying, "Seven, maybe we should wait somewhere else, why don't we go into the doctor's office and get out of the way."

"NO," Seven snarled and refused to be moved from her spot by the wall.

It was over an hour later when the doctor walked through the forcefield and began to clean himself up in preparation for treating other patients.

Seven approached him cautiously. "Doctor, is she…will she be all right?"

"The next few hours will tell for sure, but I would go on record as saying that I'm cautiously optimistic."

"What happened Doc," Harry inquired? "I mean, the computer said she was, you know, gone."

"You mean dead? Well, maybe for a moment or two before her redundant organs kicked in. She sustained a severe phaser wound to the chest; it would have killed a human instantly. One of her hearts was damaged but I managed to repair it, as well as the third degree burns covering her chest. She did lose a portion of her lung, however, lucky for her she has a third one in reserve. I'm hoping she will be her 'charming' self again in a matter of weeks," the EMH answered before moving on to help the next patient.

They moved back to the forcefield to watch B'Elanna sleeping for a moment. Harry nudged Seven and pointed to a melted comm badge lying on the floor under the biobed. "No wonder the computer reported her as a casualty, once the comm badge was fried her life signs wouldn't register with the computer and she'd be reported as dead." He put his arm around the still trembling drone. "Are you sure you don't want to wait somewhere else. There really isn't anything we can do here for now."

Seven shook her head vehemently, "I need to be with her, if she wakes up she may need me."

Harry knew that B'Elanna would not be waking up any time soon, but he also knew when he was fighting a losing battle. "Will you be Ok here by yourself for a little while," he inquired gently?

Seven nodded, never taking her eyes of the still figure of B'Elanna.

"Just, take it easy ok, I'll be back soon." Harry left to give the good news to the bridge crew in person.

B'Elanna remained unconscious and behind the medical forcefield for several more days. Slowly the other injured recovered and resumed their duties until only the still body of the young engineer remained. Seven only left sickbay when she was ordered to sleep or regenerate, or when she was overseeing the repairs to engineering. She ran astrometrics from the consoles in sickbay. If anyone had missed the change in the nature of the relationship between the two former adversaries, the cat was well and truly out of the bag now. Seven was surprised at the number of crewmembers who stopped by sickbay to sit with her or bring her something to eat. Naomi Wildman made it a point to stop by with a Kadis Kot board every day after school, and Neelix seemed to appear every few hours or so to fuss after Seven to take care of herself.

When the doctor allowed the forcefield to be dropped, Seven sat with B'Elanna holding her hand for hours, and several times had to be evicted at night to go and regenerate when she was found sleeping sitting in a chair with her head resting on the biobed. Finally the breathing tube was removed and B'Elanna showed some signs of regaining consciousness. The doctor was now certain that he and his extraordinary skills had once more performed a miracle. He never tired of informing B'Elanna's visitors of that fact.

B'Elanna could hear muffled sounds, but she couldn't identify what they were. She slowly opened her eyes, but everything was out of focus. She blinked several times, squinting her eyes to try to focus on her surroundings, finally the worried features, and tear-filled eyes of Seven of Nine swam into view.

"Beloved," B'Elanna's voice was hoarse from the breathing tube. She felt Seven's tears as they fell on her face.

"I am here B'Elanna. Do not worry, everything is going to be all right now. Try to sleep my darling. I will not leave your side." Seven's tear-soaked voice was the most wonderful thing B'Elanna had ever heard in her life. She felt Seven's hand gently stroking her cheek, and she let her head fall into the contact even as she drifted back to sleep.

"Seven?" B'Elanna awoke disoriented.

"She's not here just now, but I assure you she will be back shortly," came the clipped tones of the Doctor. He stepped over to the bed and began his scans of the patient. "I see you are recovering nicely."

"What happened, why am I here?"

"You don't remember the fight in engineering."

"Fight, with who," B'Elanna was getting agitated.

"Calm down or I'll have to give you a sedative. We were attacked and you were injured in a fire fight in engineering."


"Almost two weeks ago now."

"Two weeks," B'Elanna yelped "I've got to get to engineering," she struggled to get off the bed.

"Lieutenant Torres, if you don't lie back down immediately I will be forced to sedate you," the Doctor ordered! "Besides your engines are in capable hands."

"Whose capable hands," B'Elanna ground out.

"Seven of Nine is overseeing all the repairs, so please try to calm down."

"Oh Kahless, my engine room will never be the same," B'Elanna sank back down on the bed in defeat.

She had several more visitors in quick succession, as the Doctor announced to the bridge that B'Elanna was feeling better. Captain Janeway popped in to check up on her Chief Engineer, and they chatted for several minutes until Harry popped his head in the door; the captain excused herself, promising to be back soon.

"So, Maquis, I see you're slacking off again," he teased, producing a small bouquet of flowers and setting on the console near her bed.

"If you really want to impress me Starfleet you'll smuggle me a PADD so I can see what the heck in going on in Engineering after all this time," B'Elanna grumbled.

"I'm shocked, you mean to tell me don't trust Seven alone in your engine room even after all this time."

"Come on Harry, what's going on down there, I need to know," B'Elanna pleaded.

"What is going on down where, exactly," came a familiar voice from the doorway?

"Oh Maquis, you are so busted," Harry laughed as he began to slink to the door in an over-exaggerated fashion that had B'Elanna laughing.

"Trying to check up on me were you Lieutenant Torres," Seven intoned with a severe look on her face as Harry exited the door behind her with a wave to B'Elanna.

"I need to know what's going on in my engine room Seven, there was a lot of damage, and some of the repairs could be delicate. I should take a look at what's been done and see where we stand."

"Where we stand is that you are recovering from a serious accident, and are in no shape to be worrying about ships repairs. You can trust that I am being most…efficient…in undertaking repairs."

B'Elanna groaned at hearing the Borg's favourite word. "Just tell me a little bit about what's going on and I'll stop worrying, I promise," she wheedled.

"Persistence is futile B'Elanna Torres."

B'Elanna slumped back down on the biobed fully prepared to sulk when Seven spoke again softly.

"Are you not happy to see me?"

B'Elanna, realizing that this was the first time she had really been awake to talk to Seven since the accident, was instantly remorseful.

"Seven, sweetie, of course I'm happy to see you. I'm sorry, you know how nuts I get when I'm stuck in sickbay. Come here, I'm really sorry," she held out her hand and Seven moved swiftly to take it.

They sat quietly holding hands for a few moments, and then B'Elanna tugged gently, pulling Seven to her to give her a soft kiss. The doctor, who had been watching the exchange between the two women, suddenly had an urge to do something somewhere else, anywhere else, and he left in a hurry.

B'Elanna giggled upon seeing the Doctor's less than dignified exit. "I guess we scared him off huh?"

A worried look crossed Seven's face, "he is the biggest gossip aboard this ship, are you not worried that he will tell everyone about what he saw."

"I don't care who he tells beloved, I don't plan on keeping this a secret…do you?" B'Elanna was suddenly unsure of exactly how Seven saw the relationship.

"I do not want you to be ostracized over our relationship. I worry that the other crewmembers will not accept your relationship with a Borg." Seven was aware that people had been very friendly since B'Elanna's accident, but she didn't trust that this wouldn't change once people realized that they were more than just friends. She was too inexperienced to know that her actions over the past few weeks were more efficient than a comm announcement in explaining the extent of their feelings for one another.

"You are a former Borg, I don't think people will have a problem with it, and I don't care if they do. I'm happy with you, and I'm hoping you're happy with me. That's all that matters." B'Elanna was exhausted after this outburst, and she lay back down, her forehead covered in a sheen of sweat.

Seven soothed B'Elanna, wiping her forehead and kissing her ridges gently. "I have never been happier B'Elanna."

"Well that settles it then, let the Doctor tell the world."

"B'Elanna," Seven's voice was quiet.


"What does this word you call me 'beloved' mean? I thought it was an adjective."

B'Elanna laughed at the young woman's literal translation. "Well, it is I guess, but it means that you are my beloved, that you are beloved of me. I don't think pet names are supposed to make grammatical sense." She paused for a moment; "It's also the title of an ancient Earth book. I was reading it before the accident and I guess it stuck in my mind. It's a book about how the past is a living thing, and if you aren't careful it can catch up with you no matter how hard you run. I guess it sort of applies to both of us."

"I would like to read this book."

"Tell you what, why don't we read it together when I get out of here?"

"That would be nice, my beloved," Seven said as she continued to caress B'Elanna's ridges.

The doors to sickbay opened and Neelix came in with a food-laden tray. "Alright, its time for the patient AND the visitor to eat," he announced. He proceeded to spread out several different types of food, assuring both Seven and B'Elanna that everything was exceedingly bland. He was about to leave, when B'Elanna insisted he stay and eat with them. It took almost no persuasion and soon he was making them both laugh with his tales from the messhall. They talked for several hours until the doctor chased both Neelix and Seven out saying that his patient needed her rest. Neelix was gratified to see the tender kiss that Seven and B'Elanna shared before the Doctor ushered them out the door.

Chapter 8

B'Elanna was losing her mind being trapped in sickbay. She had been feeling better for a week now, but the doctor refused to let her go. He kept running scans and fussing about 'opportunistic infections' were she to leave the relatively sterile environment in sickbay. He was also positive that the second she hit the door she would head straight to engineering and work herself to death. He had delayed the inevitable for as long he could, but frankly, having an irritating Klingon with too much time on her hands was beginning to wear on his holographic nerves. This morning when he materialized to find himself wearing a frilly white apron it was the last straw.

"Lieutenant Torres, return my programming to its original state this instant," he snapped.

B'Elanna was laughing herself silly in the corner of sickbay, but she quickly undid her minor 'modification' of the doctor's holomatrix. She was feeling better and could conceive of no real reason why she couldn't return to work. The only thing that made life bearable were the regular visits of Seven of Nine. Even that was a bit worrisome however, as Seven refused to discuss the repairs in engineering or any other part of the ship for that matter. When B'Elanna had attempted to gain access to the engineering computer to do a little 'reconnaissance' she had found herself locked out with a Borg encryption code protecting the files.

Seven had left last night promising to return after her duty shift at 1900 hours. B'Elanna still found the young drone's literal nature to be fascinating. She amused herself by watching the seconds of the ship's chronometer count up to 1900. Precisely as the chronometer turned over from 1859 to 1900 the doors to sickbay opened with a whoosh and the beautiful figure of Seven of Nine entered the room.

Seven cocked an implant at the site of B'Elanna, clad only in her hospital gown giggling like a child at the sickbay console. "What is it that you find so amusing Lieutenant Torres," she droned?

"Oh, Lieutenant Torres is finding everything amusing today Seven," the Doctor interrupted. "In fact since she seems well enough to be 'rearranging' my program I've decided to let her go home.

B'Elanna was halfway to the door when the Doctor called out, "on one condition Lieutenant."

The young Klingon turned slowly around, "what," she asked cautiously.

"You are to remain in your quarters for at least five days. I don't want you out and interacting with the crew until I've checked you out one last time. I am placing you in Seven's care. I trust her to be able to keep you under control for five days," he finished sternly.

"Ok, fine, no problem, come on Seven lets get out of here," B'Elanna was headed for the door again.

"I'm serious. Seven, make sure she does no work, that she eats properly, and that she doesn't have visitors or leave her quarters. I'm holding you responsible for this. I also want you to check with me every day before you visit B'Elanna so I can run scans to ensure you aren't carrying anything back with you."

"I will see that she complies," Seven stated emphatically and turned to escort B'Elanna from the room.

"Wait, I want you to use a site to site transport, I meant what I said, she is not to be exposed to the rest of the crew." Seven and B'Elanna waited patiently until the familiar pull of the transporter beam moved them to the living room of B'Elanna's quarters.

"Alright! Freedom," B'Elanna was positively giddy as found herself back in her own room.

"B'Elanna, I meant what I said to the Doctor, I intend to see to it that you follow his instructions to the letter." Seven's voice was stern.

"Oh, come on Seven, he was just being overprotective. There's no reason I can't just slip out to engineering for a few minutes, or go for a walk."

Seven sighed as she realized the enormity of her task. "I would have thought you would rather spend this time with me than with your engines," Seven's pout was only partially acting.

B'Elanna had the good grace to look abashed as she realized she had caused Seven to feel that she took second place to engineering for the second time in their short relationship. "Kahless, I keep doing this Seven. I'm sorry. I do want to spend the time with you. I'm thrilled to be home, and have you all to myself, and I'm grateful that you agreed to help out or the Doc never would've let me out of sickbay."

Seven smiled shyly, her doubts relieved by the vehemence of B'Elanna's words, "then I believe the least you could do would be to kiss me."

B'Elanna didn't need to be asked twice. She swept Seven into her arms and took her breath away with the passion of her kiss.

When they finally broke apart Seven shooed B'Elanna into the shower and began to prepare dinner for them both.

Seven looked up from her dinner preparations as B'Elanna came into the room. She was clad in her old sweats and looked thin and very young, her heart constricted to see her love looking so fragile. She was more determined than ever to see that B'Elanna followed the Doctor's orders to the letter.

"Smells great Seven, I didn't realize that you were such a cook," B'Elanna remarked as she made her way to the couch to rest before dinner.

"Mr. Neelix has been giving me lessons," Seven stated. "Do not worry, we have agreed to disagree on the matter of proper spicing procedures," she added upon seeing the worried look on B'Elanna's face.

B'Elanna sat in silence watching Seven finish making the meal. "Do you know you always stick the tip of your mouth out when you're concentrating on slicing or stirring something?"

Seven blushed, "I was unaware."

"Hey, don't be embarrassed, I think it is the most adorable thing I've ever seen," B'Elanna hastened to reassure her. This caused Seven's blush to deepen considerably, as she carried the plates to the table.

After the meal was finished and cleared away, B'Elanna took Seven by the hand and led her to the couch. She sat down and pulled the younger woman into her arms, holding her tightly. "There's something we need to talk about…something I need to tell you Seven." She could feel Seven's body stiffen and try to pull away at her words. The worry was evident in the young Borg's eyes. "No, no, Seven, nothing bad I promise. Its just something I have been thinking about ever since I woke up in sickbay and I don't want to wait any longer." B'Elanna fervently hoped she was doing the right thing. "Seven, I nearly died in that fire fight, and it really made me see that life is short. We're out here in this dangerous, unfamiliar place and anything can happen. I almost died before I could really tell you what you mean to me, so I don't want to wait any longer before I do. I, Seven of Nine, I love you. I love you with all my heart…I know this seems fast, we really just found each other, but I don't want to hold anything back anymore."

Tears were running down Seven's cheeks and B'Elanna was worried that she had upset the young woman, and terrified that her feelings weren't returned.

"Seven, please say something," B'Elanna begged.

"I am afraid," Seven's words were barely audible.

"Afraid of what Seven?"

"Afraid of losing you, afraid that you will change your mind once you have spent more time with me. Afraid that you will find out that a drone can never love you back the way you deserve. I am afraid of how much I love you." Seven's look bore into B'Elanna. "I do love you B'Elanna Torres."

Relieved at finally hearing the words, B'Elanna pulled Seven back into her arms. "I am never going to stop loving you Seven. You are everything I've ever dreamed of, and I will always love you."

Seven buried her head in B'Elanna's shoulder and allowed herself to be comforted as if she were a child. Finally she spoke. "I believe that I am also feeling guilty."

"Guilty about what?"

There was a long silence as Seven tried to put what she was feeling into words.

"As a part of the Borg I was guilty of terrible crimes. I stole the lives of so many people, destroyed so many worlds. I have never been punished for these crimes. Once I was severed from the collective and began my life on Voyager I tried to atone for these crimes by helping out the people on this ship. I have never stopped regretting my actions as a Borg. I learned to despise the collective and everything they stood for. I remained alone and separate on Voyager, the rest of the crew still sees me as Borg, and I allowed that to become a part of my penance. As long as I was feeling alone and guilty I could believe I was somehow being brought to justice in some small way for my crimes. But now I am not alone, and I am happy. I cannot reconcile my happiness in the present with my actions in the past. How can I hate the Borg when they brought me to you."

"Seven, sweetie, you can't help what you did when you were a part of the collective, you had no control. As to being punished, I think losing almost 20 years of your life, your entire childhood, your teenage years, I think that's punishment enough. No one expects you to atone for your crimes by being lonely for the rest of your life. The best you can do is accept what happened in the past, and embrace what is happening now. You have saved Voyager on more than one occasion using knowledge that you gained from the Borg. Maybe that's how you can honour those people who were assimilated, to use their knowledge to help others. As to being glad that the Borg brought us together, in some small way I guess I've been feeling the same conflict. I feel terrible about everything that happened to you, but it made you the person you are, the person I love, so maybe I owe a debt of gratitude to the Borg as well. I do know we don't need to figure this all out tonight." B'Elanna was emotionally drained by her outburst and allowed her head to rest on Seven's as they wept together for everything they had lost, and all that they had gained.

Much later, noticing that B'Elanna had drifted off, Seven gathered B'Elanna into her arms and effortlessly carried her into the bedroom. B'Elanna woke as Seven was tucking the blankets around her. "Stay with me Seven," she murmured as she held onto the younger woman's hand. Seven acquiesced and changed into the sleepwear B'Elanna had leant her previously. She crawled into bed and wrapped her arms around the engineer, kissing her gently before they fell asleep.

B'Elanna woke the next morning, feeling the bed move as Seven got up to get ready for work. She heard the sonic shower activate and dozed back off, only awakening again at the feel of someone kissing her. She responded to the kiss, pulling Seven back into the bed with her, letting her hands roam over the young drone's back. She loved the feel of Seven's body lying over hers, and she arched up into the contact, hearing Seven moan as their bodies pressed closely together.

It took all of Seven's considerable willpower to pull herself away from B'Elanna's embrace. "We have to stop," she whimpered. "You must eat breakfast and I must get to work."

"If we skip breakfast we can keep doing this," B'Elanna pleaded.

"Nno, you need to eat, Doctor's orders," Seven stated firmly levering herself up off the bed. She smiled indulgently at B'Elanna's pout before turning to walk out of the bedroom.

B'Elanna followed a little while later, only slightly cheered at the sight of her favourite breakfast prepared on the table.

"So what are you working on today," B'Elanna asked nonchalantly?

Seven was not fooled by the engineer's feigned indifference. "I have several scans to complete of nearby sectors."

"Sounds interesting," she fibbed, "what about engineering?"

"That, my dear, is not your concern for 5 more days."

B'Elanna knew when she was beaten.

After they tidied away the dishes B'Elanna walked Seven to the door of her quarters. She wrapped her arms around her and kissed her joking, "have a nice day honey."

Seven put her hands on either side of B'Elanna's face, looking deeply into her eyes. "I want you to promise me that you will follow the Doctor's orders today and simply rest. I almost lost you once, I do not wish feel that pain again."

B'Elanna promised to be good and was rewarded with a passionate kiss and a promise that Seven would be back at lunch.

B'Elanna prowled around her quarters like a caged Targ. She smiled to herself when she noticed that Seven had cleared all the PADDs and tools from her console. She hefted her Bat'leth thinking she might use the time to practice, but she tired quickly and decided to take a nap. She awoke to the sound of her door as Seven entered carrying two trays from the messhall.

"Wow, I guess I really drifted off there."

"I am glad to see that you are taking the Doctor's orders so seriously," Seven smiled.

"This has nothing to do with the Doctor, I promised you I'd be good, so that's that."

"A very mature attitude."

B'Elanna couldn't think of an answer to that so had to settle for sticking her tongue out.

Seven stayed until she was certain that B'Elanna had consumed sufficient food, and then she went back to work.

B'Elanna was once again alone with little to do. She listened to some music, took a shower, and flopped back on the couch. She curled up, thinking about the past weeks and everything that Seven had come to mean to her. The truth was she was terrified at the depths of her feelings for the young woman. B'Elanna had learned early in life never to want too much. She had always been careful to have very small dreams, that way she ensured she would only suffer very small disappointments. She knew that if you didn't want things, and tried not to care too much about them if you had them, then you wouldn't be devastated when you inevitably lost them. Now here she was involved in something that had the power to tear her very soul apart, and destroy her heart should something go wrong. She had never wanted anything this much since a very young half-Klingon had begged Kahless nightly to send her father back to her.

She was interrupted from her morose thoughts when her comm badge activated with a beep.

<Seven of Nine to Torres>

She leaned over to the coffee table to tap her badge.

<Torres here>

<Is everything all right>

<Sure Seven, I'm fine, why? >

<I, I am, uncertain. I suppose I was just concerned. >

<I'm fine sweetie, better still now that I've heard your voice. >

<Very well, but please try to stay out of trouble. I will know if you misbehave. > Seven used her best Borg voice, her stern demeanor only betrayed by her laughter after she spoke.

<I love you too Seven, Torres out. >

B'Elanna was in a decidedly better mood after Seven's call, and she began to think about their relationship and where it was heading. She knew she wanted to wait to make love to Seven until the timing was perfect. Seven's first time should be perfect. She thought about the various holoprograms other couples aboard the ship had used, and went so far as to scan through a listing of several of them. None of them seemed quite right however. She fell into thought and suddenly a smile spread over her face. This was going to be perfect. It was also going to be a lot of work, much of which she could accomplish right from her console. Finally happy to have found something to occupy her time, she set to work.

She was still hunched over her console happily working when Seven returned after her duty shift ended.

"I thought you promised to follow the Doctor's orders and rest," she stated severely upon seeing B'Elanna at her workstation.

"I'm not working, I promise."

Seven walked over and saw the program open on the console. "You are designing a holoprogram?" She was a little surprised, as B'Elanna had never evinced an interest in such things before. "What are you programming."

"It's a surprise sweetie. I promise not to overdo Ok."

"Very well, since you promise," she paused before smiling sweetly, "now put your toys away and come and eat."

B'Elanna happily saved her work and went to have dinner with the most beautiful woman she had ever known.

After dinner B'Elanna led Seven to the sofa and produced the PADD that contained the ancient, earth novel Beloved. Seven sat down with her back braced against the arm of the sofa and her feet up. B'Elanna positioned herself between Seven's legs, leaning back against her for support. The young drone wrapped her arms around her engineer, holding her closely as they began to read the novel together. Seven was moved by the story of the young mother who was so haunted by the past, and she understood why B'Elanna felt the story applied to both of them.

The five days passed quickly in this manner. After the first night Seven no longer slept with B'Elanna, but she was there for every meal, and she grew to love the feeling of taking care of her beloved. They spent some time each night reading the novel and talking about what they had read. Seven could not imagine a feeling of greater contentment than holding her lover in her arms each night as they read. She tucked B'Elanna into bed before she left, a task which seemed to take a little longer every night, and then returned to her alcove to regenerate. Unbeknownst to B'Elanna, at least once each night Seven interrupted her regeneration cycle for an hour or so and made her way back to the young Klingon's quarters to watch over her as she slept.

The morning of the sixth day B'Elanna was up early. She showered and put on her uniform for the first time in almost a month. It felt good. She was already out in the living room when Seven came in for their usual breakfast together. While happy that B'Elanna was well again, she was going to miss looking after the young engineer, and she knew that she might not see as much of her now that she was sure to throw herself back into her work with a vengeance. There was a small secret part of her heart that was also worried that once B'Elanna could chose from anyone on the ship to spend time with she might no longer wish to be with Seven. Still, she should be happy for her friend, so she forced a wide smile onto her face and entered the room trying to project the image of someone without a care in the world.

"I see you are up already, you must be truly anxious about the possibility of Borg enhancements in your engine room," Seven joked.

Wordlessly B'Elanna crossed the room and threw her arms around Seven. "Sweetie, don't worry, nothing is going to change between us just because I'm allowed to leave my quarters. I love you Seven, only you," she stated emphatically.

Taken aback Seven could only mumble, "how could you know?"

"Because I love you. You think I don't the difference between a real smile and a 'my heart's breaking but I'm Borg so nobody will notice' smile. Please try not to worry Ok. I promise, everything is going to be fine."

"I love you B'Elanna Torres."

"I know," B'Elanna smiled wicked, "but don't think that's going to save your cute little behind if I find even a single Borg enhancement to my engines," the young Klingon teased before kissing Seven on the tip of her nose. "Let's eat."

As they cleared the dishes away B'Elanna enthused about the day ahead. "I can't wait to get back to work. The first thing I'm going to do is run a diagnostic on the plasma injectors, the engines have sounded a little different the last couple of days, maybe they need realigning." Her ability to detect problems with the engines just from the feel of the deck plates vibrating was legendary aboard Voyager.

Seven smiled at the young engineer's enthusiasm, but interrupted nonetheless. "The first thing you are going to do is report to sickbay for your checkup."

"Oh, come on, that can wait. Tell you what, I'll stop by engineering and start the diagnostics and then swing by sickbay."

Seven crossed her arms and tapped her foot, the perfect picture of indulgent irritation. She raised her ocular implant to its highest level, "the first thing you are going to do is what?"

"Go to sickbay for my checkup." B'Elanna knew when she was beaten.

Seven insisted on a site to site transport to sickbay just in case the Doctor found anything wrong. She needn't have worried however as the EMH ran a series of tests and pronounced B'Elanna fit to return to duty immediately. B'Elanna thanked the Doctor effusively and turned to Seven. She looked up into the face that had become so dear to her, and even as the Doctor was reiterating how brilliant his cure had been B'Elanna spoke, "Computer deactivate the EMH."

"B'Elanna what are you doing, that was terribly rude."

"I'll apologize later," B'Elanna said as she pulled Seven's head down to capture her lips. Seven responded instantly, clutching B'Elanna's uniform jacket and pulling her close. The kiss deepened as tongues tangled and hands explored.

The EMH shimmered back into view with a angry remark about B'Elanna's gratitude, or lack thereof, but when he caught site of the scene in front of him he merely rolled his eye and heaved a theatrical sigh saying, "Computer deactivate EMH."

Seven had undone B'Elanna's tunic and she was untucking her tank top, frantically seeking access to the engineer's wonderful caramel skin, moaning as finally managed to touch the Klingon's warm back. B'Elanna let her hands run down Seven's back until she grasped the younger woman's perfectly shaped behind in her hands, gently kneading as she pulled Seven closer still. 'Kahless I want this woman in my bed,' she thought to herself even as she knew that they needed to stop right now. She slid her hands up to Seven's face, enjoying every inch of their sensuous journey up the young Borg's back and shoulders, caressing her cheeks even as she gently tried to disengage from the embrace. She almost lost her resolve when she felt Seven nip at her lower lip, but she managed to soothe the heated embrace into a gentle hug as the two of them fought for control over hammering hearts and panting breaths.

Finally able to trust herself to move, B'Elanna looked up at Seven. The young Borg's face was flushed and her hair was disheveled as her stormy blue eyes locked with B'Elanna's. She smiled shakily, a little surprised at how easily she felt out of control around this enchanting creature. Seven returned her smile before lowering her head so their foreheads were touching. They stayed that way for several moments, each taking strength from the other.

Seven was the first to straighten up, "I suppose we should return to our duties," her voice was less certain than she had intended.

"Yeah, I guess we really should." There was a moment of quiet before B'Elanna inquired, "do you want to meet for lunch in the messhall, say around 1300."

"Acceptable," said Seven as her legendary Borg control snapped back into place.

B'Elanna finished straightening up her clothes, quickly kissing Seven once more before they headed down to engineering.

B'Elanna began running her diagnostics of the plasma injectors before she greeted her crew, all of whom were ecstatic to see her. They hadn't really minded working for Seven of Nine, but they all felt just a little more relaxed now that the Chief was back. She endured the good-natured ribbing about her slacking off and the happy greetings for several moments before she grabbed Seven and demanded a full report of the repairs and upgrades completed since the encounter with the Hakari.

It was lunchtime before they were done going over all of the information regarding repairs so they walked to the messhall together. B'Elanna had to fight her urges to grab Seven's hand and hold it the whole way there. Neelix was vibrating with excitement at the sight of B'Elanna back in her uniform and back in his messhall. He grandly ushered them to a table and told them he would be right back with their lunches. B'Elanna was a little skeptical about letting him choose her meal for her but he seemed so happy that she couldn't bring herself to say to no.

"Here you are, my own special recipe, Leola Root Casserole," he said with a flourish as he set two plates of vaguely yellowish goo before them.

"Erm, thanks Neelix."

It was obvious he wasn't going to go away without getting a reaction to his selection, so B'Elanna picked up her fork and took a mouthful. It was definitely not as spicy as the Talaxian's cooking usually was, which was good, but the problem was it didn't have much taste at all. Still, sometimes that could be a blessing with Neelix's cooking.

"Thanks Neelix, it's great," she smiled widely at a gratified chef.

"Wonderful, well, enjoy your meal," he said as he scurried back behind the counter.

B'Elanna was besieged by well wishers as she ate. It seems as if everyone who came into the messhall had to come over and comment on how good it was to see her back in action. She took it well considering she really just wanted to be alone with Seven. Even Tom Paris came up to them, having the good grace to look extremely uncomfortable, and told her he was glad to see that she was feeling better. The truth was there wasn't a soul on board Voyager who didn't feel safer knowing the B'Elanna was back in charge of the engine room.

Lunch flew by all to quickly and they soon headed back to work. Since she was finished briefing B'Elanna on the engines Seven was returning to Astrometrics. They got into the turbolift and announced their separate decks. The doors slid closed and Seven turned quickly spinning B'Elanna into her arms and kissing her passionately. "I will miss you this afternoon B'Elanna Torres," she stated when they broke apart.

B'Elanna could only manage a nod and a slightly dazed look.

The rest of the afternoon flew by as B'Elanna got reacquainted with her engines and her crew.

Sadly for Seven the same did not hold true for her. She had become used to the controlled chaos of engineering, and the utter calm of Astrometrics seemed a little, dull, this afternoon. She also missed B'Elanna terribly, but could come up with no good reason to visit the engine room. She checked the time for the 52nd time that afternoon and tried to refocus her energy on her scans.

<Torres to Kim>

<Kim here>

<Can you meet me in the messhall after your shift>

<No problem, see you there>

B'Elanna had done as much as she could on her little project, and now needed some help. Tom Paris was the acknowledged king of holoprogramming, but there was no way in the galaxy that she was going to ask him. Harry was almost as good and she could trust him to be happy for her, and, more importantly, to keep his mouth shut.

She showed him the PADD containing her work and he perused it with interest. B'Elanna was waiting until Seven to showed up so that they could eat together so she fetched Harry's food for him while he went over what she had done so far.

"It looks good," he said, "and I mean the program not the food," as he eyed the unidentified meal on the tray B'Elanna brought back for him. "I think I can help. Tell me what you want." B'Elanna leaned forward enthusiastically as she explained her ideas.

Seven came through the doors to the messhall and scanned for B'Elanna. She felt a twinge of something when she saw B'Elanna and Harry with their heads together pouring over a PADD. She forced herself to step into the food line as she analyzed her feelings. She was ashamed to admit that she was jealous of Harry. Having received her food, Seven was now at a loss as to what to do. She desperately wanted to go sit with B'Elanna but was afraid that she might be intruding. She stood in the middle of the messhall with her tray in her hands. She was about to go and sit elsewhere when B'Elanna looked up and saw her. Seven was relieved at the smile that crossed the engineer's face as she waved her over, but felt that familiar twinge as she saw the young Klingon hide the PADD that they had been working on.

She sat with them and they immediately began talking about ship's business and then Harry began catching B'Elanna up on all of the gossip she had missed during her enforced isolation. Seven picked at her food, for some reason she was no longer hungry. When the meal was over they all got up to leave and Harry invited them to go to Sandrine's that evening. B'Elanna had been about to accept when Seven made a point of declining the invitation. B'Elanna shrugged and said that maybe they'd be there another night. When they got onto the turbolift B'Elanna ordered it to Deck 9. She was a little shocked when Seven spoke up, ordering the lift to Deck 2.

"You aren't coming back to my quarters," she asked, her confusion evident?

"I was unaware that I was invited."

"Seven, you're always invited."

Seven made no comment but ordered the computer to ignore her deck request. They walked in an awkward silence to B'Elanna's quarters.

Once inside B'Elanna removed her uniform jacket and ordered a glass of wine from the replicator. Seven declined her offer of a drink and stood rather awkwardly in the middle of the room. B'Elanna crossed to the couch. She sat down and patted the seat beside her, "aren't you going to sit down Seven?" The younger woman sat rigidly beside her and continued to say nothing. B'Elanna put her arm around the young drone's shoulder and pulled her closer. She felt Seven relax slightly, and lean into her embrace. She was about to ask what the problem was when Seven cupped her chin in hand and kissed her. The question flew out of B'Elanna's mind as she returned the kiss with a passion.

They gently sank down on the sofa, until Seven was lying on top of B'Elanna. She could feel the ache of need in the pit of her stomach as she moved from kissing her mouth to ravishing her neck with kisses and bites. B'Elanna's head was swimming as Seven consumed her neck with an almost visceral hunger. B'Elanna reached up and freed Seven's hair, sliding her hands into it and glorying in the feel of the golden tresses. She felt Seven's hand pull her top free from her pants and gasped as skin met skin. Seven returned to B'Elanna's mouth as her tongue began to plunder the young engineer's mouth. She gloried in the growl that seemed to be ripped from B'Elanna's core. She slid her knee between B'Elanna's legs and pressed down on the raging heat of the Klingon's centre. B'Elanna was moaning now as her hands desperately tried to find access to Seven's skin through the biosuit. She felt Seven's hand slide up her belly and cup her breast, beginning to squeeze her nipple through the thin fabric of her bra. Her mouth replaced her hand as she nuzzled B'Elanna's breast through the fabric of her top, her hand, now free slid down to tug at the zipper to B'Elanna's pants. As turned on as she was B'Elanna knew they had to stop, this wasn't right, it was too soon for both of them.

She pulled back from Seven's sensual assault, moaning, "Seven, sweetheart, we, ahh, we need to stop."

Seven said nothing but tried to recapture B'Elanna' s lips with her own as her hands returned to the young Klingon's breasts.

B'Elanna twisted her head, avoiding the kiss and trying to remove Seven's hand from under her shirt.

"Seven, I said stop, please."

Seven moved to kiss B'Elanna's neck as she tried to free her hand from the restraint of the Klingon's. Her actions were getting rougher and B'Elanna began to feel angry. She pushed Seven aside and leapt to her feet.

"What the hell was that about," she demanded?

Seven looked up at her, her expression entirely Borg. "Lieutenant Torres, if you are not interested in pursuing this relationship with me than you could do me the courtesy of being honest. I will not be made a fool of."

"What the hell are you talking about Seven? You're the one who is acting like we just met one minute and then crawling all over me the next."

"What was on the PADD you and Ensign Kim were looking at during dinner?"

B'Elanna's head was swimming as she tried to keep up with the twist in the conversation. "What the hell does that have to do with you being all over me like a Targ in heat just now," she demanded?

"I wish to know what you and Ensign Kim were doing."

B'Elanna was getting really angry now and spoke without thinking… "It's none of your damn business what we were doing."

Seven said nothing, merely stared at B'Elanna as if she were a bug under a microscope.

"Very well, if you are incapable of being honest with me than I shall have to be the one to terminate the relationship." She replied and was gone from the room before B'Elanna could reply

"What the fuck just happened," B'Elanna said out loud as she watched the doors to her quarters shut.

B'Elanna was furious now and she ran out of her quarters and down the hall after Seven. She caught up with her outside the turbolift, grabbing her arm and spinning her around so they were facing. She demanded, "do you want to explain to me what just happened in there?"

"I have nothing to explain, I have acted honorably, it is you who are keeping secrets and being deceitful. You do not desire me sexually and you will not share your life with me, there is nothing more to talk about."

"Seven, damn it, I'm not going to have this conversation in the hallway."

"Then we will not have it at all."

B'Elanna lost it at that, she grabbed Seven's arm and proceeded to frog march her down the corridor and back to the quarters

"Computer seal the doors to my quarters."

"Seven, we are talking about this and we are talking now."

"Then tell me what you and Ensign Kim were discussing at dinner."



"Seven it's none of your business."

"If you feel that way then we have nothing further to discuss. It is obvious you would rather be with Ensign Kim than me."

B'Elanna felt her anger peaking; Seven was standing rigidly with her hands behind her back and that infuriatingly superior look on her face. She was about to rip into Seven with a vengeance when she saw a single tear escape the drone's eye and track down her flushed face. The logical part of B'Elanna's mind insisted she see beyond Seven's anger and remember that she had no experience with friendship let alone romantic relationships. She marshaled all of her control and spoke softly,

"Seven please just sit down and let's talk about this rationally."

She could clearly see Seven's pain and uncertainty as another tear began its journey. Looking closely at the woman she loved B'Elanna could see that the younger women was trembling. She took her arm and led her to the sofa, sitting her down gently and beginning to pace as she tried to find a way to get through to the now bereft-looking young woman.

She crossed to the couch in two quick steps, kneeling down she took Seven's hands in hers, caressing them softly she asked, "Seven, please tell me what's going on here."

"When I saw you in the messhall laughing and talking with Ensign Kim I felt, I believe the emotion is jealousy. When I came to the table you ceased your activities and tried to hide the PADD you were working on. You both exhibited rapid heart beats and an inability to meet my gaze directly, so I assumed you were hiding something of a personal nature, perhaps pertaining to our relationship or one that you and Mr. Kim were initiating." She paused, waiting for the angry response she was certain B'Elanna was holding in. She was surprised to feel the young Klingon squeeze her hands gently and urge, "go on Seven."

"I was unsure of what to do. When you told me I was welcome to come back to your quarters I thought perhaps you were willing to give me another chance. I thought that if I instigated a sexual encounter you might be willing to continue our relationship. You have made it clear, however, that I was in error. I apologize for attacking you 'like a Targ in heat.' I will understand if you wish to pursue legal action in this matter."

B'Elanna was heartbroken at the pain and need in Seven's voice. "Seven, how can you even think that after I told you just this morning how much I loved you?"

"I assumed that once you were back in the larger population of the ship you realized that you could do better than a relationship with a Borg drone."

"Look, Seven, I love you, and I don't mind telling you that a hundred times a day if I need to, but at some point you are going to have to learn to trust that love if we are going to have a shot at making this work."

"I will comply."

B'Elanna laughed softly, "honey trust isn't something you just comply with, it is something that you build, that we will build together. I'm going to have other friendships and I hope that you are too, but you are the one I love, the one I chose to live my life with, and that isn't going to change just because I find a project to work on with someone else."

"So you and Ensign Kim were working on a project for the ship?"

"Seven, honestly, you're incorrigible, I'm not going to tell you what Harry and I were working on. There are going to be times that we have secrets from one another. Not about important things, but little secrets, ones that don't impact on our relationship in a negative way. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

"Sometimes Naomi Wildman tells me her secret thoughts and asks that I not reveal them to her mother. Is this what you mean by 'little secrets.'"

"Exactly, you need to keep those secrets for your friend, and I have to trust that that doesn't mean that you love me any less."

"I believe I understand, but…"

"What sweetie, you know you can ask me anything?"

"Why do you not desire me sexually?"

The raw need and fear in Seven's voice cut B'Elanna to the core. She shifted up onto the couch and pulled the young drone into her arms. "I very much desire you sexually Seven. In fact lately I have trouble thinking about anything other than how much I want you."

She took the beautiful young woman's face in both her hands, gazing deeply into her eyes, "there is something we need to make very clear. Sex is not an answer to problems in a relationship. You can't just think that if you're feeling insecure that you can 'instigate a sexual encounter' and make the worries go away. As you can see it usually ends up having quite the opposite effect. I don't just want to have sex with you. I want to make love with you, and I want our first time to be perfect and special and someplace wonderful."

"It will be perfect as long as you are there."

"Seven, I know that, but for our first time I want some wonderful romantic adventure that we'll always remember. Most of all I want us to be sure that we are both ready to make love, and that we aren't doing it just because we think we should, we're feeling insecure, or we think it might bring us closer."

"I believe I understand. B'Elanna I am sorry that I questioned you honour. I will attempt to have more control in the future."

"Let's just promise each other that we'll talk about stuff like this when it comes up. We can work through these things together Ok."


They held each other tightly until Seven stirred, "it is late and you need your sleep after your first day back at work. I should be going."

"Stay with me tonight Seven…please. I…"

Seven stopped B'Elanna's words with a kiss; she stood up and led the way to the bedroom.

Seven wrapped her arms around B'Elanna, holding her close, sharing the feeling of warmth and safety as they fell asleep.

The next few weeks seemed to fly by. B'Elanna was busy in engineering, but was also spending every available second working with Harry to perfect her holoprogram. Because she was busy she had less time to spend with Seven than she might have liked, but they made up for it by trying to work together in engineering whenever it was possible. They found that they fought less now than they had previously, but on several occasions they found themselves shouting at one another in disagreement over how to proceed with one problem or another. The difference now was that eventually they calmed down and reached an equitable solution. Sometimes they even managed to laugh at themselves later when they recalled their disagreements. Even though great progress had been made, B'Elanna still had to keep her Klingon temper in check on several occasions when she was gripped with an intense desire to start throwing things around the engine room.

Seven missed the time she used to be able to spend with B'Elanna when the engineer had been confined to her quarters, and she was shocked at how often she struggled with her jealousy over B'Elanna's other friendships. She disliked that illogical part of her that seemed to begrudge B'Elanna's finding happiness with other people. She had learned from past mistakes, however, and when she felt that she might be getting out of control she talked it over with B'Elanna. She never ceased to be amazed at how understanding and gentle the usually volatile Klingon could be in helping her to come to grips with her emotions. Still, after several days of little or no personal time with her Klingon she had come up with a plan, and was determined not to be denied. She was a woman with a mission.

B'Elanna was getting very frustrated. She had been pouring over the diagnostics from the shield generators for hours. There was a problem maintaining a stable matrix, and she was worried that the shields might fail the next time they really needed them. She knew she was missing something, but she just couldn't seem to locate the problem. Growling in anger she hurled the PADD she was studying at the wall of her office. It hit the wall with a satisfying crack just a second after the door opened and Seven of Nine stepped into her office.

Seven observed the demise of the PADD with a wry smile, and raising her ocular implant to impossible heights asked dryly, "Lieutenant Torres, are you attempting to initiate a Klingon mating ritual with me?"

"Wha, huh, um no, I mean, Sorry Seven, I didn't see you come in."


"What, ah, what can I do for you Seven?" B'Elanna was still flustered over Seven's reference to the Klingon mating ritual.

"You can agree to spend the evening with me."

It was on the tip of B'Elanna's tongue to decline as she had plans to meet with Harry to finalize the last details of the program, but Seven looked so hopeful that B'Elanna quickly agreed. The program could wait another day.

"I will pick you up at your quarters at 1800hr. Casual attire will be appropriate."

"Great, it's a date."

B'Elanna redoubled her efforts on the shield grid and was rewarded with success a mere half-hour before she was to be ready to go with Seven. She logged off duty and jogged to her quarters, grabbing a shower and trying to figure out what a Borg's idea of casual attire could possibly mean. She finally settled for black dress pants and a cream shirt. She was just doing up the last button on her shirt when the chime to her quarters sounded.

"Come in."

Seven appeared in her quarters wearing a blue biosuit. B'Elanna smiled to herself thinking that they would really have to come up with a wider wardrobe for Seven.

"You know the codes to the door Seven you don't have to knock."

"I thought it was appropriate given that we are embarking on an official date."

"Ok, then, I believe this is the part of the evening when I tell you how beautiful you look."

"You may proceed."

"Seven of Nine, you look lovely this evening."

"As do you B'Elanna Torres…shall we?" Seven offered her arm to B'Elanna, who smiled at the courtly gesture before linking arms with her date.

"Where are we going?"

"It is a surprise."

Seven wasn't kidding it was a surprise. Holding her arm gently Seven led B'Elanna straight to…

"Astrometrics, our date is in astrometrics?"

"Yes, it was the most romantic place I could think of aboard Voyager."

B'Elanna was certain she could come up with about a dozen more romantic places, including Jefferies Tube 36, but Seven looked so eager that she merely smiled and said, "lead on."

Seven led B'Elanna through the doors and into, yup, it was the astrometrics lab all right. There was a rather large bundle in the corner and Seven went to fetch it. When she came back she led B'Elanna up to the dais. She placed the bundle on top of the dais and pushed it off to one side. She then turned to B'Elanna and placed her hands on her waist and lifted her up until she was sitting on the edge of the raised platform. In one graceful movement she was sitting beside B'Elanna. She kissed her tenderly for a moment before crawling over and unpacking the mysterious package.

She pulled out a large blanket and proceeded to spread it out over the dais. The bundle also contained a number of large fluffy pillows that she propped against the back of the console. The last item was a picnic basket, which she proceeded to unpack. All B'Elanna could do was stare in amazement as she brought out a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers and two stasis containers. She spread out the little feast and opened the bottle of wine; she then leaned over the console and entered in several commands. The view screen came to life and displayed a beautiful expanse of stars that B'Elanna recognized from her home planet of Kessik IV.

B'Elanna was absolutely speechless. Seven motioned her over to the blanket and B'Elanna crawled over obediently.

"What is all this?"

"It is a picnic. I thought you might find it relaxing…do you not like it?"

"Like it, Seven I love it. This is absolutely perfect."

Seven poured the wine as B'Elanna made herself comfortable against the pillows. She took the proffered glass and raised it to Seven, "to perfect evenings."

"To perfect evenings," Seven repeated as she sipped her wine.

"Tell me about these stars," Seven asked.

B'Elanna pointed out several of the constellations she recognized as Seven began to feed her small bites of bread and cheese. The feeling of being fed was incredibly sensuous and B'Elanna kissed the beautiful fingers as they brought the tender morsels to her mouth.

Suddenly the scene on the viewscreen changed and B'Elanna found herself looking at a stellar nursery that Voyager had passed several years ago. The swirling hues of colour were absolutely breathtaking as they contrasted with the utter darkness at the core of the nursery. It was the second most beautiful sight that B'Elanna had ever seen.

The screen displayed one wondrous vision after another as they ate. Seven had prepared a pasta dish she knew B'Elanna liked and for desert she had assembled a simple collection of fruits, which she also proceeded to feed to B'Elanna by hand.

At the end of the evening they lay together against the pillows, sipping the last of the wine as the final image shimmered onto the screen. It was a binary star system that B'Elanna had never seen before.

"I do not know the names of these stars, Voyager passed them several months ago. They are caught in one another's gravitational pull. When I first saw them I thought it was said that they would never achieve individuality, but now I see how beautiful it is that will always be together. They will dance together, just the two of them, fueled only by the force of their own attraction to one another, forever."

"I never knew you were such a poet Seven."

"Nor did I, until I met you. I simply know that I wish to hold you forever, just like those stars."

"Forever is a very long time," B'Elanna said as she reached up to kiss her lover.

"Not nearly long enough Beloved," Seven whispered as their lips met.

Chapter 9

B'Elanna stood outside the doors to Holodeck 1. She and Harry had finally finished creating the program and she was about to run it for the first time. She walked through the doors and was instantly overwhelmed with memories. She wandered about, checking out all of the details, making sure that everything was absolutely perfect. She wanted nothing left to chance. Finally certain that everything was as it should be, she shut down the program and left the holodeck.

The first part of her plan complete, she set about the second, more difficult phase. Having the programming down was one thing, finding a number of consecutive days to run it in was another. This was going to cost her and cost her big. She would also need a number of replicator rations. She was going to be a busy little Klingon for the foreseeable future.

She hit up her Maquis friends first. A favour here, a shift covered there and she had her first donations to the cause. She upgraded the doctor's hand eye coordination subroutines to shave a few point of his golf game in exchange for 10 hours worth of holodeck privileges. She babysat Naomi Wildman overnight so that Sam and Neelix could go on an overnight away mission together, something they had been wanting to do for some time. This netted her five more hours and was hardly even a favour as Seven joined them for an old fashioned sleepover much to B'Elanna's delight. She just plain begged 10 more hours from Harry in return for a favour to be named later. In truth it was easier than she thought it might be, as everyone seemed to understand the nature of the favour, and were happy to help out the new couple with their plans.

Seven had been more than patient with all of the mysterious wheeling and dealing, but finally the time had come for B'Elanna tell the whole truth. Seven was coming for dinner tonight, and while B'Elanna really didn't think she had any reason to worry, she found herself becoming nervous as the time for the young drone's arrival approached. She had chosen her outfit with care. She was wearing a simple black cocktail dress. It had just the barest of straps and plunged halfway down her back. It fell to just below her knees, but was slit up the front right side to midway up her thigh. She was also wearing heels for the first time since she had been seeing Seven, simple black pumps that served to accentuate her shapely calves. She wasn't sure if she was more worried about her appearance or the question she intended to ask Seven tonight.

Finally the chime sounded, and she opened the door to allow Seven entrance to her quarters. For the first time since the Borg had materialized on the deck of Voyager she was stunned into speechlessness. She was not even able to take the two steps forward it would require for her to actually gain entrance to the room.

"I believe my cortical node is malfunctioning," she stammered.

"Just breathe baby," B'Elanna said as she stepped out into the hall to take Seven's hand and lead her into the room.

"You are…Omega."

B'Elanna was blushing furiously, "it's just a dress Seven."

"It is more than a dress, it is a work of art. I must apologize for my appearance. I did not realize that you would be so…."

"Seven you look wonderful no matter what you wear. Don't worry about it. I just felt like dressing up a little for you that's all."

"I have no clothing apart from biosuits, or I would attempt to dress up for you as well."

"If you want to wear something different Seven go ahead and replicate it. Dinner will keep."

"I do not believe I know what to choose."

"Clothing is a very personal thing Seven, just try to figure out what you like, or what you think you would feel comfortable in."

Seven went to the console and began to page through the female clothing index in search of something suitable to wear. She finally found something that met with her approval and walked to the replicator to give her instructions. Upon receiving her package she went into the bedroom to change. Once changed, she regarded herself in the mirror as she let down her hair. She felt like she was looking at a stranger, a faint echo of someone she might have been had her life taken another course. Taking a deep breath she walked into the living room.

B'Elanna was amazed; she felt like she was getting her first glimpse of Annika Hansen. Seven looked absolutely breathtaking, in a royal blue dress with a plunging back and neckline. The dress had sleeves that just covered her shoulders, and for the first time since regaining her humanity she was not wearing heels. Her hair was loose over her shoulders, and she looked much younger and more vulnerable than she ever had. B'Elanna met her halfway as she crossed the room, taking her into her arms. She enjoyed the feeling of being taller for once.

"You take my breath away."

"Then you find my appearance pleasing."

"Absolutely," B'Elanna sighed as she leaned down to capture Seven's lips.

When they finally broke apart, both slightly breathless, B'Elanna led the younger woman to the table and began to serve the dinner. They both felt a little awkward at first and it took a few minutes before they stopped being self-conscious about their appearances.

After dinner Seven was in a playful mood. She loved the feel of the silken material sliding over her skin as she moved. She walked back and forth across the room, feeling a freedom that was unfamiliar to her. Finally she raised her arms over her head and twirled gracefully like a dancer, laughing as the dress billowed and swirled around her legs. B'Elanna watched the beautiful young woman with a loving smile, and then walked to the console, choosing a music program before crossing back to take Seven into her arms. A slow jazz tune began to play and B'Elanna led her into a dance. B'Elanna wasn't the only one to be enjoying the change in their respective heights. Seven lay her head on the young engineer's shoulder, closing her eyes and allowing herself to be guided about the room.

When the song ended B'Elanna led Seven to the couch. She sat and was gratified when Seven immediately curled up in her arms. She ran her fingers through her hair, enjoying the feel of the silken locks slipping through her fingers. Finally she spoke, "Seven, there's something I've been wanting to ask you."

Seven tilted her head up, waiting.

"I was wondering if you'd like to go away with me for a few days?"

"How can we go away, long range scans show no M class planets in the vicinity?"

"Well, I finished the project that I was working on with Harry, and I'd like to share it with you now."

Seven frowned slightly at the memory of the terrible fight they had had over the secretive project.

"It was a holodeck program?"

"Yes. I, sort of, programmed a place for us to go for a few days. The reason I've been so busy lately is that I've been trading favours and shifts with people so I could accumulate enough holodeck and replicator rations for 4 or 5 days."

"If you had told me I could have saved you the trouble, I have more than enough replicator and holodeck rations. You would not have had to work the extra shifts."

"I wanted to work the shifts Seven. I wanted this to be something that I made, something that I could give to you as a gift."

Seven felt very cherished in that moment, she struggled to speak over the lump in her throat; "I would love to go away with you B'Elanna."

"Perfect, now all we have to do is figure out when we can go. I've almost enough holodeck time for 5 days, so if you figure out when you can leave astrometrics for that long, I'll work out the scheduling."

Once they began trying to schedule the holodeck time it became apparent that it could be some time before they would be able go away, which had the added benefit of allowing Seven more time to wean herself off the regeneration chamber and adjust to sleeping. Finally Seven insisted that she be allowed to work some of the extra shifts so that they could leave sooner than three months time. In the intervening weeks they did nothing but eat, sleep and work, and while they missed each other terribly they took solace in the fact that would soon have 5 days and nights of uninterrupted time alone together.

B'Elanna was being terribly mysterious about the nature of the holoprogram she had created, to the point that she programmed in much of the clothing that Seven would require during their vacation. The only exception she made was to tell Seven to bring the dress she had worn to dinner. She refused to give the younger woman even the barest of hints as to what to expect so Seven was at a loss as to what she should pack. In the end she settled for an odd assortment of items, determined to be prepared for anything.

Finally the day arrived. Their allotted time began at 0800 hours and they had agreed to meet outside the doors of holodeck 1 at that time. B'Elanna was hardly able to sleep the night before, and for the first time she envied Seven her computer-regulated regeneration. B'Elanna was 15 minutes early and she paced in the corridor as she waited for Seven's arrival. She started when the doors to the Holodeck opened and four members of the Gamma shift exited their program. They smiled at her obvious nervousness as she sheepishly acknowledged their greetings.

Seven appeared exactly at 0800 and B'Elanna gave the computer the command to run her program. She took Seven's hand in her own and together they stepped through the doors.

They stepped into a forest. Seven had never smelled fresh air like this before. The canopy of trees was thick over their heads, but enough sunlight filtered through to illuminate a laneway that ran off into the forest. They followed the path and as they walked the sunlight grew steadily stronger. There was a wind blowing gently through the trees and they could hear the sound of water in the distance. As they neared the end of the lane, Seven could see a log structure in a clearing. As they walked out from under the trees Seven could feel the heat of the sun and she saw the bluest sky she'd ever seen. The cabin was built on solid rock that ran down to the edge of a crystal blue lake. There was a dock extending out into the lake and two small boats were tied one on either side of it. Several meters off shore there was a small wooden platform floating in the water.

The cabin was a small log structure with a deck running around two sides of it, and a large pile of wood stacked up beside the door.

"This is where my father brought my mother and I on our last vacation together. They were still in love then, and this is the best memory of my life. I wanted to share it with you."

"Where are we," Seven inquired?

"Earth, northern Canada actually. Dad brought us to earth to show us where he grew up. We went to his hometown, and New York City, Las Angeles, and then he brought us up here for a week. This is the happiest I ever remember being in my life…until you."

"Come on, I want to show you the cabin."

Inside there were two bedrooms, a bathroom with a real bathtub, and a large open space that contained the kitchen, dining and living room. A large glass door opened out onto the deck that faced out over the water. There was a comfortable looking couch, a few overstuffed chairs and a huge stone fireplace with a very thick rug on the floor in front of it. The dining room table was covered with the assorted packages of clothing and equipment that B'Elanna had programmed. She led Seven over to the table urging her to open the packages.

She had created jeans, and sweaters and tee shirts in Seven's size as well as her own, and there were two pairs of hiking shoes as well as hats, swimwear and even sunglasses. Seven had some vague memories of Christmas with her parents and she knew that this is what she had felt like back then.

"Do you want to unpack first or would you rather go exploring."

"I wish to put my new clothes away," Seven said with childlike glee.

They gathered up all of the clothing they could carry and walked back down the hallway to the bedrooms. The doors to the rooms were directly across from one another, and when they reached that point they stopped.

"Look Seven," B'Elanna began shyly, "I don't want you to do anything you don't feel like doing, so it's totally up to you how you want to do this. You can stay…"

"I wish to stay with you B'Elanna," Seven interrupted, her voice was steady and sure.

B'Elanna's heart was pounding as she led the way into the master bedroom. There was a huge bed covered with a down comforter and several pillows. Neither of them talked as they began to place clothing into drawers and hang things up in the closet. When they were finished Seven broke the silence saying, "Now that we have put everything away I will need your assistance in choosing more appropriate clothing."

B'Elanna smiled, "well, that depends on what you want to do first. We can go swimming, hiking, sailing, canoeing, whatever you want."

"I do not know how to choose."

"Well, I always used to put my bathing suit on under whatever I was wearing so I could jump in the lake whenever I felt like it, so why don't we do that and then we can go exploring a bit and take it from there."

They were both feeling a little awkward around one another so they turned their backs as they dressed. B'Elanna had made sure to include both a one piece and a bikini in her list of holographic supplies and she opted for a black one piece, covering that with a pair of shorts and a tank top.

She turned around to see Seven pulling a tee shirt on over her one-piece bathing suit as well. B'Elanna pulled on her shoes and stood ready to go. Seven was sitting on the bed looking at the hiking shoes she had pulled onto her feet, the laces trailing on the floor.

"What is it Seven?"

"I have never had shoes with this type of inefficient fastening before." B'Elanna could tell from her lack of inflection that Seven was uncomfortable.

"You mean you don't know how to tie your shoes."

"No," came the shy whisper.

B'Elanna kissed her quickly and knelt on the floor, gently taking one foot then the other and tying the laces while Seven watched analytically.

Job done, B'Elanna stood up and grabbed Seven's hand and led her out into the sunshine. They walked around to the front of the cabin and down the gently sloping rocks to the waters' edge. They followed the shoreline around to the dock and walked out over the water.

"I am unfamiliar with this type of vessel."

"It's a sailboat. My Dad taught me to sail when we were here. I thought it might be fun."

"It seems like a most inefficient mode of transport."

"Um, maybe, but it's an amazing feeling, like you're harnessing the wind. It feels like flying."

"This must have been a primitive culture."

B'Elanna laughed, "not really, I mean this place was fairly remote, but not primitive. The whole point in coming to a place like this is to relax and get away from technology for a while. There were skimmers and hovercraft here when we came, but, I never enjoyed them as much as I did sailing or canoeing, but if you'd like I can program one in easily."

"No, of course not, this is wonderful B'Elanna, I believe I am merely feeling a little 'out of my element.'"

"S'Ok, why don't we go for a hike and sort of ease into the rest of it later."

The set off along the path leading through the woods, holding hands until the trail became a rocky path that was winding its way up through the trees to a rocky outcropping overlooking the lake. It took over an hour to complete the climb and once they reached the top, B'Elanna led them to a granite overhang several hundred feet over the water. They sat, dangling their feet over the edge, drinking water as they looked out over the lake. The view was breathtaking as the sunlight danced over the waves, a million tessellated sunbeams sparkling like diamonds.

After they had rested for a while, B'Elanna took Seven to a series of caves that ran through the granite. They had a wonderful time exploring and clambering over the rocks. B'Elanna told Seven about the games she used to play in here as she pretended to be an explorer on a treasure hunt. Exhausted and hungry they headed back to the cabin several hours later.

After lunch B'Elanna was ready for a swim so they headed back down to the dock. Peeling out of her clothes, B'Elanna dove gracefully into the water. She swam strongly out several meters before flipping onto her back and looking for Seven. The younger woman was still standing at the edge of the dock still fully dressed.

"It's ok Seven, the water's warm," she teased as she swam slowly back to the dock.

Seven slowly took off her shoes, and undid her shorts. She hesitated again before removing her tee shirt to reveal a Borg implant on her shoulder that curved around to end near her shoulder blade. She then stepped slowly down the ladder and pushed off. She was feeling uncomfortably exposed in her bathing suit, worried that B'Elanna would be repulsed at the sight of yet another reminder of her mixed heritage. She covered by voicing her concerns over her lack of swimming prowess.

B'Elanna was only too happy to provide an impromptu swimming lesson and soon Seven was comfortable swimming further and further from the dock. Eventually they swam out to the diving float and climbed out of the water. B'Elanna stretched out on the warm planks and enjoyed the feeling of the sun beating down on her skin. Seven sat beside her, arms wrapped around her legs. Eventually she lay down on her stomach, careful to keep her implant as far from B'Elanna's sight as possible.

B'Elanna could tell that Seven was uncomfortable with her appearance, but was at a loss of how to deal with it. She decided to let it pass, not wishing to chase Seven away by pushing her edges just now. Curiously they both seemed reluctant to talk. B'Elanna had been planning this for so long that she was terrified that something would go wrong, that Seven would not be ready, or would reject her advances. Seven sensed B'Elanna's discomfort and attributed it to her appearance and worried that the young Klingon had changed her mind about wanting to be with her. Despite their fears they managed to spend a pleasant afternoon diving, swimming and chasing other through the water, under and over the dock and diving platform.

As the sun went down they returned to the cabin and changed into warmer clothes. Seven started cooking dinner and B'Elanna unpacked a box of candles, setting them out all over the room. When they were lit the room took on a cozy glow that was heightened when she lit a roaring fire. They sat out on the deck sipping wine as the sun set over the lake. In the distance they heard a haunting cry. Seven stiffened, "I believe there is someone else in the holodeck with us."

B'Elanna smiled, "no, it's a bird, a loon, its an amazing sound isn't it." The call of the bird continued and was soon answered by the voice of another. "It's how they find one another across the water." They snuggled closer; listening to the ululating call of the birds as the sun sank below the surface of the lake in a blaze of orange and red.

"I believe dinner is ready now," Seven said softly, reluctant to interrupt the comfortable silence they had been sitting in. Dinner was a simple affair of pasta and chicken and as they ate they chatted amiably and watched the full moon rise over the lake, cutting a swath of light over the mirror-still darkened water.

After dinner Seven sat on the couch, watching as B'Elanna stirred the fire and added another log. She loved the young engineer with all her heart, and she knew that she was more than ready to take the next step in their relationship, but the last remaining vestiges of the walls she had erected around her heart made her wary of moving too quickly. But when the beautiful young Klingon joined her on the couch she could no longer pretend that this was not something she longed for intensely. She set her wineglass aside, and leaning forward took B'Elanna's from her hand, setting it out of the way. She looked deeply into the beautiful brown eyes, and, leaned closer, her lips seeking and finding a home.

Slightly out of breath she sat back and slowly began to unbutton B'Elanna's shirt, tugging it out of the waistband of her pants and sliding it back over her shoulders until it fell to her elbows. She sat back and drank in the sight, reaching out a hand to trace the well-defined stomach muscles of her lover. Leaning closer she nuzzled the prominent collar bones, swirling her tongue into the hollows formed by them, then kissed gently along the beautiful neck and up to reclaim her lips. Her tongue gently traced the outlines of B'Elanna's sensuous mouth, and she was rewarded with a gasp of pleasure for the sensations she was evoking.

"I do not believe we have sufficient room on this couch," she whispered softly in B'Elanna's ear. "Do not move." She pulled the blanket from the back of the couch and laid it out over the rug in front of the fire. Transferring several pillows to the floor as well, she reached up, guiding B'Elanna down to her. Moving behind her she freed B'Elanna's arms from the confines of her shirt, drawing her hand up the prominent spine of the Klingon. B'Elanna gasped, hunching forward as she felt Seven's lips begin a tortuous journey up her back. The young drone massaged B'Elanna's muscular shoulders as she kissed the prominent spinal ridges on her lower back. She traced her tongue along the engineer's neck, blowing on the path she had taken, delighting in the goosebumps raised as cool air played over moist skin.

B'Elanna gasped as she felt Seven undo her bra, shifting her body back to face the engineer, she reached up and slowly eased the bra off, freeing B'Elanna's pert breasts as she discarded the now unnecessary article of clothing. B'Elanna leaned back on her arms, feeling completely exposed, as Seven stared at her, completely enraptured with the play of firelight over her lover's caramel skin. She undid the button on B'Elanna's pants, unzipping them partway before lowering her head to kiss the newly exposed skin. She could smell B'Elanna's arousal and this inflamed her desires. Using her tongue once again, she traced the hollow that ran up the centre of B'Elanna's stomach.

B'Elanna could feel her hearts triphammering in her chest and an insistent pulse began to throb between her legs. She moaned out loud, her head lolling back, as Seven began to slowly caress one nipple with the back of her hand, smiling as she saw the sensitive flesh strain to its fullest. She slowly teased her way to the peak of B'Elanna's other breast with her tongue, enjoying the feeling of the Klingon panting under her ministrations.

Moving back, she unzipped B'Elanna's pants completely, removing them slowly as the young Klingon raised her hips. Pulling the pants free of the shapely legs, she returned to remove both socks together. She kissed each toe in turn before making her way back up B'Elanna's legs, dropping butterfly kisses in a burning trail along both legs, inching her way back up to the last remaining article of clothing. She kissed B'Elanna through the silk of her panties before pulling the now damp cloth free of her body.

Her task complete, she sat back to enjoy the sight of her lover's beautiful fire-kissed body. "You truly are beauty B'Elanna. I do not believe that I have words to adequately express all that I am feeling right now. I have never wanted anything in my life as much as I want this with you now, but, I am afraid, unsure of how to proceed."

"There's nothing to be afraid of, just follow your heart, your desires. We aren't going to do anything that you don't want to do, just talk to me, tell me what you want."

B'Elanna moved closer, kissing Seven slowly and tenderly as she began to remove her clothing. Seven froze, this was the time she had both longed for and dreaded, the moment she would become one with her lover, the moment there would be no more secrets between them. Her eyes locked onto B'Elanna's face, looking for signs of revulsion, finding only love and desire.

As she removed the last of Seven's clothing she gently laid her back, stretching out beside her. She traced her hands along the abdominal implant and the bands the encircled the young drone's belly and arms. She was surprised to find them warm and pliant. She lowered her lips to the metal, making love at once to Borg and human, Seven felt the tears she had been holding back spill over, running down her face. B'Elanna wiped them away, murmuring words of love and acceptance, as the last of the barriers between them was swept away.

"You find my physical appearance acceptable?"

"Seven, you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. You are form and function, woman and machine, you are living art."

She lowered her lips to Seven's, her tongue begging entrance with one sensuous sweep. Her hand traced the muscles of Seven's stomach, dancing along the metal bands. She ravished her neck, inhaling deeply, her Klingon senses picking up the sweet smell of clean flesh as well as the tempting smell of her lifeblood. B'Elanna nuzzled into the pulse point, feeling the blood thundering through Seven's veins. Dragging her teeth along the impossibly graceful neck B'Elanna had to resist the urge to bite down and draw the intoxicating blood.

She began to caress the underside of Seven's voluptuous breast, slowly moving her hand north to claim the straining peak, her mouth moving down to pay sweet lip service to the other beautiful breast. Seven's body began to move underneath her, straining to deepen the contact, B'Elanna felt a rolling growl begin deep in her chest as Seven's barely contained passion begin to ignite her own desire to a white hot flame that threatened to consume her. This was love, this was what she had waited her entire life to find, her every desire and passion met and matched in kind.

Seven had never experienced this kind of controlled insanity. Her mind flew in a thousand directions only to be drawn back and concentrated on the point of contact between B'Elanna and herself. The feeling of the Klingon's tongue sweeping over her nipple threatened to consume her, and she allowed it to with a moan of pleasure. She gave herself over to the other's control, trusting her lover completely. Waves of passion crashed through her, overwhelming her nanoprobes' ability to compensate. This was what it meant to be alive, to feel. Her hands moved of their own accord, roaming through B'Elanna's hair and then down to feel the play of muscle as her lover moved over her.

B'Elanna explored every inch of Seven's beautiful body with her hands and her mouth, loving the feel of the impossibly silky skin beneath her. She drew a hand up the young drone's inner thigh, moving back up to her head to watch her face as she allowed her hand at last to find its way to Seven's centre. She rubbed slowly, tenderly parting the folds, soft and slick as liquid glass. Seven's eyes looked up, filled with trust, love and desire as B'Elanna touched her, as if she were a precious delicate flower. Seven gasped with pleasure as she felt B'Elanna's fingers slowly enter her. B'Elanna let her fingers lie quiet as Seven adjusted to the feeling of penetration. As Seven leaned up to be kissed, B'Elanna began to move her hand in and out gently, increasing in speed as Seven began to rock her hips in rhythm with B'Elanna's motion. The hot slick juices began to flow and B'Elanna moved her thumb up to caress a sensitive confluence of nerve endings, causing Seven's moans to increase in volume and urgency until they reached a crescendo that echoed across the rocky shores of the lake.

She gentled Seven, leaving her hand inside, still, feeling her internal pulse slow to normal as the young drone gave herself over to be held by her lover drawing comfort and strength from her contact with B'Elanna. As she recovered her composure Seven began to explore B'Elanna's body, reversing their positions until it was the young Klingon who was lying on her back. Seven reveled in the taste of B'Elanna's skin, loved the growls she elicited as she ravished her breasts, and exulted in the warm hot feeling of being inside her lover. She loved the sounds of B'Elanna's passion, displaying a feral smile as her lover cried out in release.

They spent hours exploring and touching as the fire in the hearth slowly died. It was almost dawn before they sought out their bed.

Awakening the next day to the blazing midday sun, Seven watched her lover sleep. She drew back the covers until she could see her entire body, appreciating the smooth hard planes and ridges of B'Elanna's body. She gently traced her forehead ridges with her mouth, smiling as she felt the young Klingon begin to stir. She kissed her mouth, her neck, a soft wet kiss on each nipple; her enhanced senses knew by the change in breathing that B'Elanna was completely awake now and her smile widened as she continued her sensual assault. She tangled her hand in the thick black hair covering B'Elanna's mound, sliding her body down until her head rested athwart her lover's hips. She could smell the spicy alluring scent of B'Elanna's arousal, hearing a soft whimper as she positioned herself between her legs. Using her hands she slowly parted the folds of B'Elanna's sex, seeing her centre for the first time. She leaned closer, B'Elanna's whimper becoming a moan as she heard Seven inhale deeply to savour the intimate scent. Seven flicked out her tongue gaining her first taste of her lover's arousal. She ran her tongue up the full length of B'Elanna's mound, then plunged deeply inside her hot tight core. B'Elanna arched up into the contact, clutching the bedding to keep herself from flying apart. Seven's tongue was moving in and out with an increasingly urgent speed. B'Elanna growled as fingers replaced the tongue that was now attacking the sensitive bundle of nerves at the apex of her sex. Seven rolled her tongue around the confluence, licking and sucking as B'Elanna neared her peak. She raked her teeth over the sensitive bud and B'Elanna screamed her pleasure. She was thrusting harder now, and B'Elanna's body bucked uncontrollably. Seizing her clit gently between her teeth Seven rolled her tongue around and over it until B'Elanna came, crying out Seven's name in her passion.

B'Elanna reached down to pull Seven up, wrapping her arms around her and rocking her still twitching body against the young drone's lithe frame. Seven waited until B'Elanna was calm in her arms. She rolled onto her back pulling the Klingon on top of her. Looking B'Elanna deeply in the eyes, she rolled her head to one side, exposing her cheek and whispering "please,"

B'Elanna knew exactly what it was that Seven was asking, but was unsure of how to proceed. She had been tempted to initiate the ritual herself many times even before they had made love, but her fear of rejection and her residual shame of her heritage had always served as a deterrent. Now she was being asked to draw the blood of her lover. "Seven, darling, I don't know. I want you in my life forever, but I'm not sure if I can bite you…you've suffered enough don't you think."

Seven turned back to face B'Elanna unshed tears shining in her eyes. "My body is covered with scars and implants. I've been ashamed of them and their ugliness ever since I was freed from the collective. I was ashamed of my body until now, until you. You have made me see that there can be beauty even in these remnants of the Borg, but they are still marks of hatred and destruction. I wish to be marked by love. I need to feel your bite, to carry your mark on my flesh. I wish to be possessed by you, and to possess you in return."

"You're sure about this Seven, I mean you know what it is you're asking right?"

"I assure you I have an in-depth knowledge of Klingon language and culture…This is what I want…do you?"

In answer B'Elanna sat up, pulling Seven up with her. She took Seven's beautiful face in her hands and looking deep into her eyes said, "Mine."

Seven's reply was sure, "Yours." Having said that she kissed B'Elanna firmly saying, "Mine."


Seven felt B'Elanna's arms pull her tight, felt a tender kiss on her cheek, and then the sharp pain of her lover's bite.

B'Elanna licked the wound clean saying, "jIH dok."

Seven kissed B'Elanna quickly sinking her teeth sharply into the caramel skin of her cheek, "maj dok," she said as she began to kiss away the spill of blood.

They spoke together, "Tlinghan jIH."

B'Elanna growled deeply as she bore Seven back down onto the bed to seal their vows with passion.

The rest of their holiday passed in a blur of lovemaking, laughing, and general happiness. Seven learned to love the art of sailing. She was skeptical at first, but after an hour or so on the water she became addicted to the feeling of flying close hauled into the wind, her body hiked out over the toerail. She controlled the jib sheet masterfully, and loved the sight of B'Elanna's muscles straining to hold the tiller steady and the mainsail taut as the boat heeled into the water. They learned to push the envelope of physics to its furthest edge, and then head up into the wind, tacking just before they capsized only to pull the sails in tight and commence the run again. Seven learned to hold the jib sheet as they tacked until the jib began to backfill, then she would release one sheet pulling the other one taut before the sail could luff, the little boat would spin on its axis, losing almost no speed as they tacked. B'Elanna loved the sight of Seven, a wide smile on her face and her hair flying in the wind, the absolute picture of concentration as she kept the sail shaped perfectly.

They sat out on the deck the night B'Elanna planned a thunderstorm, huddling naked under a blanket as the thunder rolled, echoing over the rocks like the sound of an ancient battle. The lightening lit up the sky and the rain hammered down on the roof, and they were warm, safe, and together.

They swam every day, often lying on the diving platform, enjoying the feel of the sun beating down on naked skin. Seven was no longer uncomfortable with B'Elanna's scrutiny of her implants. Often as they lay in the sun B'Elanna would touch them, her hands gently limning the outline of the soft warm metal, as a prelude to lovemaking.

The last night B'Elanna had planned a special surprise. They had finished dinner, and were sipping the last of the wine when she grabbed Seven's hand and led her out onto the rocks at the front of the cottage. It began with a small green shimmer coming from the north, gradually the surreal light began to fill the entire sky, dancing and streaking across the sky in sheets of green, yellow and purple.

"What is this?"

"It's the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. It's caused by solar winds reacting with the Van Allen radiation belt. I saw them one night when we were here and I've never forgotten it. It is one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen."

The entire sky above them was alive with the lights. They held hands as they watched, thrilling to the awesome display, enhanced by the mournful cry of the loons on the water. It went on for twenty minutes or so, and then as gradually as it started it faded away, leaving the star filled sky in its place.

They made love for hours that night, knowing that the next day they would have to return their lives aboard Voyager.

At exactly 1600 hours the next day they shut the program down and exited the holodeck. As sad as they were to leave the program they both looked forward to starting a new life together on Voyager.

Seven had to go directly to the cargo bay to regenerate overnight. B'Elanna walked her down and waited while she programmed the regeneration cycle. As Seven stepped into the alcove B'Elanna took both of her hands, and kissed her passionately. "Sweet dreams Seven. I'll see you tomorrow."

B'Elanna waited until the cycle began and then headed off to make plans to have a smaller alcove built into her quarters.

Even though they were both grown women they felt as if their lives had just begun.

Chapter10: Epilogue

They stood facing one another. A slight breeze ruffling their hair and clothes as the midday sun beat down, warming the rocks on which they stood. All of their friends and shipmates gathered around to watch. It was amazing to see the changes in both of the women. In the past few months Seven and B'Elanna had grown closer to their fellow travelers than they had ever imagined possible. Once they learned to accept the love and friendship of one another the gates were irrevocably opened, allowing to them see acceptance and friendship in the most unexpected of places.

They looked completely happy and relaxed. They were both dressed casually and the small white scars of their mating bonds were faintly visible on their smiling cheeks. It seemed that neither of them had stopped smiling for very long since they returned from their vacation. Even when they were arguing over the proper procedure for fixing ships' systems, you could hear a laugh bubbling just beneath the surface of the raised voices.

Captain Janeway stood before them in her dress uniform. She too was smiling broadly as she performed this most ancient of rituals for her two friends. She read a few words from the book was carrying, and then led the two women in their marriage vows.

When the union was sealed with rings and kisses they broke apart and turned to accept the congratulations of their peers. They had often returned to their cabin in the woods, but today was the first time they had shared this paradise with anyone else; it would not be the last.

If anyone had looked closely, they would have seen a tear of joy in more than one eye that day. Janeway had never been prouder of these two women who had endured so much before finding one another. Chakotay was gratified to see the angry young Maquis girl he once knew become the self-confident, happy and caring woman before him today. Neither Neelix nor the doctor could believe the changes that had come to pass in Seven's life. From an emotionless and taciturn drone she had become a young woman who cared deeply for her friends and whose laughter frequently echoed throughout the ship.

The crowd gathered around the newlyweds, laughing and talking, eager to share in this most precious of moments. Champagne was poured and toasts were offered. People were drinking and eating as they explored B'Elanna and Seven's holographic haven. The joy and laughter continued long into the night…


Of the beginning……

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