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To See the Wizard
I can dream now. Dream and remember it afterwards, I mean. It's strange and a little frightening. That made her laugh when I told her. She did not think that the Borg got frightened.
What is frightening is that in the seconds after I wake up I don't know what is real any more. My mind processes the dream in the same way as it processes my actual memories and all the Borg memories that I still retain. Sometimes I relive some of those memories in my dreams, sometimes it is entirely new landscapes in which I walk, sometimes an amalgam of the two. They are the most disturbing.
The first time it happened I went to Sick Bay to talk to the Doctor. I still thought of him as the arbiter of all things human then. Her fault. Janeway. This was before she took me in hand, my Beloved, my Bel. He told me what dreams were, what they meant and what they didn't mean.
I was more confused than ever. In my dreams figures were twisted and merged. Janeway and the Borg Queen looked at me from the same eyes. Commander Tuvok, Chatokay, Kim, Paris, even the Doctor were drones. Yet I was fully human. They were forcing me into an alcove when a hand took mine, pulled me free. We ran and ran until suddenly we were no longer on the Borg cube. We were in a field, long grass intertwined with wild flowers the colours so intense so beautiful. It was hot, the sun high in the blue sky. At the edge of the field I could see a yellow brick road winding into the distance. My rescuer, my companion, my love fell into the grass and pulled me down with her. I looked into her deep dark eyes, ran my fingers gently over her brow ridges and told her that I loved her.
I kissed B'Elanna Torres and I woke up.
That bit I did not tell the doctor. I did not tell anyone. I found myself studying B'Elanna Torres. At the time she was deeply into a relationship with Tom Paris. I was firmly of the opinion that she hated me. Certainly she seemed uncomfortable in my presence, scornful of my existence, resentful of my position on Voyager, the resources that were being placed at my disposal in Astrometrics.
I amassed gigaquads of data about B'Elanna Torres, her likes and dislikes, her preferences in food and drink, in entertainment, what exercise routine she preferred, where she was likely to be at any time and in whose company. What made her laugh, what made her happy. I discovered to my interest that the answer to many of these did not include Tom Paris, however well known and reported their liaison apparently was.
And then she discovered what I was doing.
I was mildly surprised that I survived. And that alone gave me pause for thought. If B'Elanna Torres dislike of me was as intense as she professed then for the gross invasion of privacy I had just committed I should be gravely injured if not actually deceased given her Klingon temperament.
She did not touch me. And in her eyes I saw that beneath the anger was intrigue. Her words were harsh she said what the others expected to her to say given the circumstances and her usual attitude towards me.
For the first time I had hope.
In my dreams she whispered in my ear what she wanted me to do to her, how hard and where she wanted to be touched, licked, stroked, bitten. I spoke fluent Klingonese, I knew the protocols, the mating rituals. In my dreams she was mine and I was hers. Where I had fought against domination by the Borg Queen and then later against the assumptions of Katherine Janeway that I was this and not that, that I would be her protégé, I discovered that I would do anything that B'Elanna Torres wanted of me, I would strive to please her to hear her say my name. In my dreams I let her call me Nika, which I remembered being called when I was a child by someone who had loved me. It made me feel safe, it made me feel loved for the first time in a long time. And she was my Bel.
As I prepared to regenerate I reviewed what I knew of B'Elanna Torres. I realised that she had always treated me as an individual, that her anger and irritation with me had served to highlight what she saw as my limitiations and pushed me beyond them. I owed the person I had become as much to her as to the Doctor's 'lessons' and Janeway's fitful interest in me.
I dreamt I was back in the field again, the yellow brick road leading away into the distance. B'Elanna stood on the road, I hung back, afraid.
"Come with me, Nika, please. You won't regret it."
I looked down on myself, horrified to see that I was still Borg, my human flesh encased in metal and plastic, functional, hideous. In my hand I held an axe.
"I am Seven of Nine," I began, the familiar words falling with ease, my voice inflectionless. "Tertiary "
"No. Not any more. Never again." She reached up and kissed my cold lips, her hand pressed to my breast. Beneath her fingers I felt something stir, begin to beat. My heart. She had given me my heart. I threw away the axe. I felt the metal and plastic began to drop away from me, my flesh take on normal healthy tones, my hair grow to fall around my naked shoulders and breasts.
"You are Seven. Annika Hansen. My Nika," she said. Standing up on tiptoe she kissed me on the forehead. I felt all my doubts fall away, a new resolve take hold of me. I was Annika Hansen, Nika to her Bel. She had given me the freedom of my own thoughts and feelings.
This is just a dream, I told myself. Her fingers were threaded with mine, she held me close.
"This is just a dream," she agreed with me solemnly. Then she smiled, her face lighting up. "But it could be real. If you have the nerve."
The nerve. The courage to grasp what I wanted most of all.
"Ask her," Bel said softly. "Ask me. You may be surprised."
Today I booked some holodeck time. I knew when B'Elanna would finish her shift in Engineering. I designed the programme carefully from landscapes I dimly remembered from my childhood, from the fractured memories of the places the Borg had been, the vids I had seen since I joined Voyager. And the meadow from my dream.
I intercepted her in the corridor to her quarters. "B'Elanna Torres," I began.
"Hey, Seven," she said absently, still reading from a padd in her hand.
"B'Elanna Torres," I began again, closing my eyes in humiliation. I did not after all have the nerve.
"Seven," she smiled at me, her head cocked as if she wondered what craziness the Borg was about to come up with me. "Seven, I'm not going to hit you. Just say it."
"I wondered. Bel wouldyouliketocomeforawalkontheholodeckwithme?" My respiratory unit was malfunctioning, I could not breathe. I waited while she processed the words I had rushed out, her frown turning into a smile.
"I'd love to? What programme are you running?"
"One I designed myself. There's a story attached to it that I would like you to hear." She said yes. She said yes. My Bel said yes.
"Okay, give me ten minutes to freshen up and I'll join you. You are still experimenting with eating aren't you?" I nodded, trying to keep the grimace off my face. "Good. I haven't eaten yet. I'll bring a picnic." She paused, and a blush crept onto her cheeks. "It's a date then."
"A date," I confirmed, my voice slightly huskier than normal. I searched her face for any sign that she was making fun of me, but saw no guile.
"Ten minutes. Holodeck Two." She reached out, squeezed my fingers for a moment. "I'll see you there." She turned up the corridor towards her quarters.
I almost ran to the Holodeck, activated the programme and waited inside. I was wearing my blue biosuit, which I decided at that moment that I really really disliked. It was a reminder of what I was, not what I wanted to be. I had five minutes. I unfastened my hair, combed it out loose around my shoulders. I created a mirror, looked at myself. I described the outfit I would prefer to wear on the occasion of my first date with Bel, a picnic in the woods. My reflection changed to show the new me, the well fitting but comfortable jeans, the hiking boots, the loose shirt in a blue that complemented my eyes over a lighter blue t-shirt that moulded my figure to desirable effect. It would do.
Thirty seconds. I instructed the programme to clothe me in the required garments and then as the suite informed me my guest had arrived, discreated the mirror. I turned to face B'Elanna and smiled. She was also dressed in jeans, her t shirt white, her favourite leather jacket over the top. In one hand she carried a large rucksack. She smiled when she saw me. "Seven you look great. Really."
"Thank you. You also look very nice. We can be different here," I stumbled over my words. "We can be what we want to be."
She was watching me again, an almost guarded expression in her eyes. I was reminded that B'Elanna Torres did not give her heart easily and did not forgive those who hurt or disappointed her.
"And what do you want to be?" she asked softly.
Yours, I wanted to say, but I did not want to go to fast.
"Call me Nika," I smiled. "It was a nickname I had when I was a child. No one has called me that for many years."
"Nika," she tried it, smiled. "I like it. Earlier you called me Bel."
"I'm sorry," I said swiftly. "It was an accident. That's "
"Go on," she whispered, when the pause went on too long. "Tell me, Nika, please."
"That's how I think of you. Bel."
She took hold of my hand. "Then here, we are Nika and Bel, and Voyager and the Federation and the Borg do not exist. Are you okay with that, Nika?"
"Yes, Bel. I am okay with that."
I did not relinquish her hand as I led her through the woods towards the meadow. She smiled when she saw the yellow brick road winding into the distance.
"I haven't seen that film in ages," she said.
"What film?" I asked.
"The Wizard of Oz." I shivered as a whole reef of memories opened up to me. It was a couple of weeks before we left earth on the Raven to study the Borg. My parents had left me at an aunt's house and she had set me in front of a vid screen with a bag of cookies and an injuction to be quiet. I had watched the Wizard of Oz, enthralled and terrified at the same time.
"That's where it came from," I whispered.
"Nika, you okay?"
"Remember I said I had a story to tell you?" She nodded. "Well, you just filled in some of the blanks for me."
We were on the edge of the woods. She pulled me back towards the last of the trees and we sat down, our backs comfortably resting against the trunk, the field and all its wildflowers in front of us, the road winding into the distance. "So tell me," she said, nestling against me, her head resting on my shoulder, her hand still entwined in mine.
I grinned, brought her hand to my lips and gently kissed the fingers and as it unfurled in mine, pressed my lips to the palm. Her fingers stroked my jaw for a moment, and then slipped down to rest on my stomach. I heard her soft giggle.
"Tell me a story, Nika."
"Once upon a time "
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