World Enough, and Time
Seven of Nine awoke with a start and was struck by three things in succession. First, she was naked. Second, she was not in her own bed and, third, there was an arm slung across her body. Turning her head to survey the large room in which she lay, Seven noted how dingy it was, crowded with what must be the entirety of its occupant's belongings. She had no idea where she was, nor how she had gotten there, but found her current surroundings to be less than appealing. How did she come to be lying in a strange bed? She remembered staying late at her lab at the Utopia Planetia shipyards and then going home to her apartment – alone, as usual these days. She glanced around the room again for any sign of familiarity, but found none.
Her slight movements had caused the other person occupying the bed to stir and grip her more tightly, drawing her attention away from the room and its contents. Finally, doing what she had tried to avoid since opening her eyes, Seven slowly looked down to see with whom she shared the unfamiliar bed and was shocked to see the brown eyes of Tal Celes upon her.
"Mmm. Good morning," Celes groaned, pulling Seven to her, making the ex-drone even more aware of her own nakedness and now also intensely cognizant of Celes' soft skin against her own. To make matters even more complicated, Celes began to run her lips and tongue up Seven's neck, distracting her entirely from the utter confusion of her situation.
"We have a little time before we need to get to the rations station," Celes continued, punctuating her words with soft kisses. "Enough time for a little distraction, I think." Seven started at the feeling of Celes's hand cupping her breast and it was wtih considerable determination that she ignored her body's response to the touch. "How did I get here?" she asked in an attempt to deter Celes from her desired course of action.
Celes raised herself up on her elbow and smiled at Seven. "I knew you had had something to drink at the party last night, but I didn't think you had *that* much," she laughed.
Seven swallowed nervously, confusion beginning to overwhelm her. "I am serious," she replied. "Please tell me how I got here."
Celes frowned, concerned by Seven's agitated state. "We went to Dan's party downtown San Francisco after working at the site and then came home. Don't you remember?"
"I do not remember this and I have never been in this room before," Seven said, sitting up and drawing the sheet up to cover her body. She looked around the room for some clothing she could put on.
"What do you mean you've never been here before?" Celes asked, sitting up as well. "We've lived here for almost three years."
"That is not possible," Seven replied, turning to look at Celes again, but averting her eyes immediately at the sight of the woman's naked body. "I work at Utopia Planetia and I live on Mars – alone."
"I don't understand," Celes said hesitantly, becoming increasingly worried.
"Neither do I," Seven asserted. "Please," she continued softly, "tell me where I can find my clothes?"
"They're over there on the chair where you left them," she said, pointing to a chair in the far corner of the room. "You always leave your clothes there next to your work station."
Seven climbed out of bed, trying not to think about the fact that Tal Celes, who had been her subordinate in Voyager's Astrometrics department, had a clear view of her naked body. She hurried to get dressed, donning loose slacks and a blouse, and turned to find -- to her great relief -- that Celes had also put on clothes. "I went to sleep in my own bed, in my own apartment on Mars last night," she insisted.
"We went to sleep," Celes said, her eyes wide with disbelief. "Here, in our apartment, in our bed, on Earth."
"This is not right," Seven muttered, her mind running over the circumstances that could have brought her to this place. "What is the year?" she asked.
"2384," Celes told her.
"And when did Voyager return from the Delta Quadrant?" she continued.
"2378," Celes said slowly. "I don't understand. How could you not remember?"
Seven's mind was still working, trying to determine how it could be the same year she remembered and yet things could be so different. "I remember Voyager's return in 2378," she assured Celes, "but I took a position at Utopia Planetia and have been working there ever since. As I understand it, it is also 2384." She paused and thought again, considering the possibility of having landed in an alternate universe. "I must speak with Captain Janeway," she declared.
Celes released a long breath and stared at Seven for a moment. "Captain Janeway died four years ago in the epidemic."
"She died?" Seven asked incredulously, reeling from the news of her friend and mentor's fate.
Celes nodded mutely, trying to understand the cause of Seven's confusion about the past six years.
"In an epidemic," Seven repeated Celes' words in a numb monotone.
"Yes," Celes whispered. Seven sat down, too stunned to remain standing.
"She became infected in the first wave and died quickly," Celes explained, wincing at the memory. "Harry Kim, Tom Paris . . . lots of Voyager's crew died early on."
"I do not . . . how . . . what type of epidemic?" Seven finally got out. "What caused it?"
Celes sat down as well and reached out for Seven's hand, but stopped herself when Seven sat up straight to put some space between them. Celes looked down and began to speak haltingly, finding it difficult to revisit the horrible events of four years ago. "Two years after Voyager's return, a Starfleet ship encountered the Trakonans who insisted that we evacuate Earth so that they could colonize it. Of course the Federation refused, and the next thing we knew, they had destroyed Starfleet headquarters, much of the fleet and the planet's infrastructure. Then they released a virus that killed millions within a month and infected every human and most other species on the planet."
"How does it help them to have released a plague?" Seven asked, stunned by the horror her crewmates had suffered.
"We assume that they plan to take over the planet in a few years when we've all died. The built environment has been damaged considerably, but not Earth's natural environment. Starfleet medical hasn't been able to find a cure for the disease and none of our allies have either."
"You're infected?" Seven asked quietly.
Celes nodded. "I have no symptoms yet, but I guess its only a matter of time."
Celes shrugged. "I've learned to live with it. We've been carrying on trying to rebuild, hoping that we'll have things up and running by the time we find a cure. You and I . . . I've been working at the Starfleet headquarters' site for the past year."
"Is Commander Chakotay on earth?" Seven asked, hoping that someone who might be able to help her was still alive.
"He died aboard the Constitution, trying to defend the planet," Celes responded, closing her eyes at the memory of hearing the news.
"Is Commander Tuvok alive?" Seven tried again, not wanting to know the answer.
"As far as I know, he is. He was on a Vulcan colony in the Beta Quadrant the last I heard," Celes answered.
"Perhaps he can help me determine how I got here," Seven mused.
"Maybe, but you'll have to stick to the comms because we're quarantined. There's no travel to or from Earth and it isn't easy to get a subspace message out these days. I was only visiting when the Trakonans released the virus and found myself stuck."
Seven closed her eyes, the magnitude of her situation sinking in. She opened them when she became aware of Celes kneeling by her chair.
"I don't know what's going on, Seven," Celes whispered, "but I'll do anything to help you. Ever since we met again three years ago, I knew that I wanted to be with you. . . ."
"Tal Celes," Seven began, looking into the eyes before her, aware of how difficult it would be to hear what she had to say. "Celes, I appreciate your kindness, but I cannot stay here. I do not belong here and need to find out what has gone wrong."
"Don't you want to be with me anymore?" Celes asked in a vain attempt to force Seven back into the parameters of the reality she knew, however dismal.
Seven laid her hand on Celes'. "It has nothing to do with you. As far as I remember, we worked together on Voyager and parted ways as colleagues upon our return. We have had no relationship for three years as you recall. I am sorry if this hurts you, but I know that I do not belong here and I need to find out how this happened."
Celes nodded, despite the tears welling up in her eyes. As happy as she had been with Seven – relatively speaking, given the difficult current circumstances of life on Earth – she had always known deep down that Seven was not completely present in their relationship. If things had been different, Celes believed that she would never have found herself in this relationship. The tragedy that everyone on Earth had endured and the meeting of a familiar person from Voyager had given her the courage to pursue Seven. She knew that her lover had taken comfort in the relationship, but Celes always wished that she could reach deeper into Seven's heart. Her musing was interrupted by a sudden exclamation from Seven, who had also been deep in thought.
"Lieutenant Torres! Is B'Elanna Torres on Earth?"
Celes looked up and thought for a moment. "Yes," she said finally. "She was living in New Mexico when the epidemic struck. I don't know where she is now."
"Was she infected?" Seven asked, again afraid to hear that another of her crewmates had died.
"No," Celes confirmed. "I saw Voyager's Doctor last year and he said that he thought that there was something in her Klingon DNA that made her immune. It seems that Ferengi and a number of other species are also resistant. Starfleet medical has been trying to use this information to create a cure, but they haven't had much luck so far. B'Elanna's not infected, but wouldn't have been able to get out because of the quarantine. I'm sure you can find her."
Seven breathed a sigh of relief at the first sign that someone might be able to help her find out what she was doing there and how to get back to the reality she knew.
Seven looked out the window of the small transport ship on which Tal Celes had helped her secure passage to New Mexico and heaved a sigh of relief that her journey on the dilapidated vessel would be a short one. Celes had decided to book passage on an unregistered ship to avoid attracting any undue attention. Although Seven could have any number of reasons for wanting to visit her former crewmate, Celes had made clear her fear that, in her typical straightforward and honest manner, Seven would not be able to contain her insistence that they were all trapped in some present reality that was not meant to be. Even though Seven thought it might be comforting to people to know that their current tragic situation might be a mistake that could be corrected, apparently Celes thought it might cause too much confusion. So, Seven had agreed to this trip through 'lurkerdom,' as Celes had called it, where it seemed that a great many people desired to remain unnoticed.
She had spent the duration of the short journey staying out of the way of the other lurkers on board and considering ways to approach B'Elanna Torres for assistance. The two had established a working relationship in their last few years on Voyager and, in Seven's reality, saw one another on occasion since Voyager's return and B'Elanna's divorce from Tom Paris. They had never become close friends, however, and Seven worried that B'Elanna would be even less likely to believe her than had Tal Celes.
Her thoughts returned briefly to the recent parting with the young woman who had worked under her direction on Voyager and in whom she had felt little confidence during that time. It was difficult to imagine how she had ended up in a relationship with Celes, but in their brief time together in what Seven had come to think of as "this reality," her former crewmate had been attentive and tender and, despite the fact that she did not quite believe Seven's contention that she belonged somewhere else, had been extremely helpful. It had been difficult to convince Celes to remain behind, but Seven knew that she would not be able to continue and do whatever was necessary to get back if she remained in the presence of a woman who felt a claim on her. Seven had only a small inkling of the pain she had caused Celes in leaving her, but was grateful for the young woman's generosity and sacrifice.
Warm, dry air met Seven's skin as the door to the passenger compartment of the transport opened to reveal a landing strip in Albuquerque. She and Celes had learned that B'Elanna had been teaching high school in the city in the four years since Tom Paris had died. Seven imagined that, by this time of the day, B'Elanna would be home from work and caring for six year old Miral. Getting her bearings and inquiring about directions, Seven made her way to the small home that was B'Elanna's residence and rang the chime.
"Just a minute," she heard from inside and was soon rewarded by the appearance of B'Elanna Torres in the doorway. Seven was struck speechless momentarily by how different this B'Elanna looked from the woman she knew in her own reality. She was beautiful -- Seven imagined that any B'Elanna in any reality would be so -- but she looked older, though unquestionably the same age as "her" B'Elanna, and exhausted, perhaps even defeated. She wanted to reach out and pull B'Elanna into an embrace and promise her that everything would be okay and, in that moment, Seven began to consider the possible consequences of her drive to return to her own reality. She had not thought clearly about what it might mean for those in *this* reality. Would B'Elanna's circumstances improve? Or perhaps Seven's fiddling with reality, the time line, or whatever it was that had sent her here, would make things worse. Would B'Elanna and Miral cease to exist altogether?
For her part, B'Elanna was more than a little surprised to see the former drone on her doorstep. The two had not seen one another since shortly before the epidemic had begun to spread, but B'Elanna knew, from Voyager's Doctor, that Seven was living in San Francisco with Tal Celes and that the two had been working on the reconstruction of Starfleet Headquarters. She couldn't imagine what had brought Seven here. Running a hand through her slightly messy hair and straightening her t-shirt, B'Elanna marveled at just how beautiful Seven looked, despite everything that had transpired in the past few years. She could only imagine how she herself looked, but was certain that it was nowhere near as good as Seven did. The sight of Seven at her door brought on a rush of emotions connected to her life before everything had changed so dramatically – of a time long gone now when she felt hope for her future and for that of her daughter. But Seven's obvious fortitude in the face of tragedy and the look of determination on her face caused B'Elanna to wonder if there might be reason to hope again.
"Seven?" B'Elanna asked when her visitor failed explain her presence.
Seven started and her eyes met B'Elanna's questioning gaze. "B'Elanna, I apologize for disturbing you, but I was wondering if we could speak for a moment."
"Its okay, Seven. I'm surprised to see you here since I heard that reconstruction work on Starfleet Headquarters was in full swing. It certainly has been a while." She stepped aside and motioned to Seven to enter. "I was just getting some dinner for Miral. Come on in."
Seven surveyed the living room briefly as they passed through it on the way to the kitchen. The furnishings were sparse and simple and Seven was not entirely sure if this was the result of B'Elanna's continued commitment to the pared down life to which they had become accustomed on Voyager, or simply a reflection of the limitations of life under quarantine. Once in the kitchen she saw Miral seated at the table and waiting for her dinner. Miral looked as healthy and lively as B'Elanna looked tired and worn down and Seven was not surprised to know that B'Elanna had put her daughter's well-being ahead of her own.
Seven greeted Miral and took the seat that B'Elanna offered her and observed the playful exchange between mother and daughter as Miral wolfed down her dinner. Between exclamations from the lively youngster, the two women chatted idly about Miral's development. Once the girl had gone off to play, Seven felt she could turn the conversation away from Miral and toward her current situation.
"B'Elanna," Seven began hesitantly, looking down at her hands as B'Elanna worked to clean up the kitchen, "I am sorry to disturb you, but I did not have anywhere else to go."
B'Elanna stopped what she was doing at the gravity of Seven's opening and turned to face her, leaning against the kitchen counter. She frowned and considered waiting for Seven to continue, but the vulnerability in Seven's demeanor took her off guard. Moving over to the table, B'Elanna sat down again. "Seven," she said quietly. "What's happened? What's wrong?"
"I do not know where to begin," Seven responded, looking up briefly into B'Elanna's eyes.
"It's okay," B'Elanna assured her.
Despite having given considerable thought to how she would approach B'Elanna in a way that would be persuasive, Seven blurted the first thing that came to mind. "I woke up in an unfamiliar bed this morning and I have no idea how to get back home." She exhaled and met B'Elanna's eye.
B'Elanna's eyes widened. "You mean you cheated on Celes and she threw you out?"
"No," Seven exclaimed, standing abruptly. "No . . . no, that is not what I meant. I'm not . . . we're not . . . never."
"Take it easy and slow down," B'Elanna said, not understanding Seven's outburst. "Please, sit down and tell me what's going on."
"You will not believe me," Seven exhaled, her frustration with her situation mounting. She turned her back to B'Elanna.
B'Elanna chuckled, making Seven brace herself for rebuff. "I may not agree with you 90 percent of the time, but I never thought you dishonest. I swear on my honor, Seven." This last bit was uttered with complete sincerity.
Seven heaved a sigh of relief, smiled slightly and turned back to face B'Elanna. "Only 90 percent? I have made considerable progress in the past few years then."
"Yeah, well, I haven't seen you very much and I must be growing soft in my old age," B'Elanna shot back with a grin.
"I am very fortunate, then," Seven returned lightly, but her tone quickly turned somber, "since, indeed, I had no one else to whom I could turn."
"It's okay," B'Elanna assured her once again. "I believe you."
"But you have no idea what this is about," Seven responded.
"Well, we've established that you're not a liar and it's clear to me that *you* believe whatever it is, so let's go from there," B'Elanna said, gesturing again for Seven to join her at the table.
"Thank you," Seven said quietly as she sat down.
"Okay," B'Elanna said, "why don't you start over and tell me what's wrong."
Seven took a deep breath and began. "I have become convinced that something has altered my reality in a dramatic way. I do not know whether I have been transported to an alternate universe somehow, or if there has been an incursion from one reality into another – thereby altering the timeline of my reality – but I do know that when I went to sleep in my bed, in my apartment on Mars, that there was no Trakonan epidemic on Earth and the Federation was not in danger."
B'Elanna sat back in her chair and took a moment to digest what Seven had told her. "What does Celes have to say about this?"
Seven looked down at her hands. "She wishes to believe me, but finds it difficult. In the reality I remember, I am not involved with Tal Celes, nor are we even friends. She was, understandably, distressed by my departure today."
"And you and I?" B'Elanna asked, uncertain why of all things she needed to know this. "Are we friends?"
Seven looked up and regarded B'Elanna for a moment. "We are cordial to one another, but we are not friends," she admitted.
B'Elanna considered this for a moment and then stood, clearly lost in thought. She hurried into the living room and returned quickly with a tricorder which she opened and pointed at Seven. B'Elanna looked from the tricorder into Seven's eyes. "You *are* infected," she announced.
"I had assumed so," Seven mused. "I suspect that something has altered the timeline, rather than my having been moved from one reality into another in which I might encounter an alternate of myself."
"So you think that *everything* has been changed somehow?" B'Elanna asked.
"Yes, that is correct."
Seven could see the proverbial wheels turning in B'Elanna's head as she considered the possibility. "And you are the only one who remembers how things are supposed to be . . . because of your cortical node!"
Seven nodded. "That is what I believe as well."
"With the right equipment, we could access the node to try to determine the precise time of whatever event changed the timeline," B'Elanna said excitedly.
Seven felt suddenly buoyed by B'Elanna's enthusiasm. "That would make our search for the event itself considerably more efficient."
"My thoughts exactly," B'Elanna confirmed.
Seven frowned, realizing that they might not be able to gain easy access to her cortical node.
B'Elanna raised her hand. "I know just what you're thinking," she smiled, "and you came to the right place. I think I have almost everything we'll need to get started right here. I may not have worked as an engineer for a few years, but I still have lots of equipment lying around, including some of the Borg technology from Voyager."
"I thought you despised the changes I made to the ship," Seven asserted.
"They were too much trouble on a ship in the Delta quadrant," B'Elanna responded. "And, besides, I didn't want to give you the satisfaction, but that doesn't mean I don't want to understand how they work." She stood and motioned to Seven to stand as well. "Come on, let's get started."
"What?" B'Elanna asked with irritation, looking up from her work at the nagging feeling of being watched.
"Nothing," Seven replied, looking quickly back down at the display before her.
"You were looking at me – staring, in fact. What gives?" B'Elanna narrowed her eyes as she looked at Seven who, by this time, was avoiding meeting her eye.
"Nothing 'gives,'" Seven insisted, ducking her head. "And I was not staring."
B'Elanna shook her head. The two women had been trying for more than a week to determine the event that had altered the timeline – Seven going at it full time and B'Elanna joining her when she was not at work. Each evening they had eaten dinner together and put Miral to bed before continuing with the work. B'Elanna knew that Seven was frustrated by the slow progress and really couldn't blame her for letting everything get to her. Life on Earth at this moment was difficult – to say the least – and Seven had been thrown into the situation cold. B'Elanna thought back to how unbearable it had all been four years ago when the epidemic had first hit and sighed when she recalled the deaths of so many people she loved. She frowned when she thought with sadness about how the pain had dulled over time. She had held on to the pain and anger like an anchor for a long time, but eventually had realized that Miral needed more from her. Despite the muted nature of the ache and, despite her efforts to keep herself together for Miral's sake and for the sake of the young people she had committed herself to teaching, it was almost too much to bear at times. So, it was usually easier to try not to think about it and to throw herself into her teaching instead. But getting on with her life – if you could call it that – often made her feel guilty beyond measure.
B'Elanna clenched her jaw, determined to let go of the gloomy thoughts that would inevitably lead to tears. She certainly didn't want to show weakness and break down in front of Seven. B'Elanna hated to admit it even to herself, but having Seven around these past few days had been deeply comforting. She had forgotten what it felt like to draw strength from someone else and, at moments, B'Elanna felt Seven's pull so strongly that it frightened her. It was simply the comfort of having a familiar face around her, B'Elanna kept telling herself, but she knew it was not the whole truth. Contemplating how Seven's presence had been affecting her, B'Elanna could not help but recall how her heart had clutched at the look of vulnerability on Seven's face as B'Elanna prepared to access her cortical node for the information they needed. It certainly wasn't the first time that B'Elanna had been required to perform some procedure on Seven's implants, but this time there was something so profoundly intimate about the experience that it had caught B'Elanna off guard. Perhaps it was the hope for changed circumstances that Seven's arrival had elicited that caused her to feel so close to the woman now working beside her. Perhaps it was simply the fact that, as far as they knew, only the two of them were aware of how everyone's reality had been changed. Perhaps it was Seven's power and beauty, both somehow highlighted by the utter dreariness of her own life in plague-ridden Albuquerque that drew B'Elanna to her. Not wanting to travel too far down this road either, she turned her attention back to her work.
The two women had decided to divide their attentions in looking for the precipitating event, with B'Elanna searching through news reports and other Earth documents and Seven focusing on astronomical and astrometric data. With access only to a limited range of equipment, Seven had found a way to use B'Elanna's console to piggy back on more powerful equipment located in a nearby sector. B'Elanna had been paging through planetary reports looking for something unusual, but hadn't found anything that remotely qualified as out of the ordinary. The day the epidemic hit had been completely ordinary, as she remembered it. Little did she know at the time that it would mark the end of life on Earth as she had known it.
"I have completed the scan of sector 195 and found nothing anomalous," Seven announced, turning to look at B'Elanna.
"Nothing unusual here either," B'Elanna responded, running her hand through her hair but not looking up from her work. "I'm going to continue with it anyway, just to be sure."
Seven sighed and regarded B'Elanna for a moment before turning back to her scans.
"What?" B'Elanna asked again with irritation, certain that Seven was looking at her strangely.
Seven looked up slowly, her eyes widening slightly as she realized that she had annoyed B'Elanna and dreading the consequences. "I do not know to what you are referring."
B'Elanna turned to face Seven and placed her hands on her hips in frustration. "Out with it. Now."
Seven returned her gaze to the display in a futile attempt to ignore B'Elanna.
"Look, maybe we should take a break and clear our heads. I know I'm getting a little cranky," B'Elanna said, allowing a small smile to emerge on her face when Seven turned to look at her. "Crankier than usual, I think."
Seven nodded her head. "Acceptable."
"Good," B'Elanna said, trying to lighten the mood. "Follow me."
Seven followed B'Elanna into the kitchen and watched as she opened a beer for herself and poured lemonade for Seven. She tried not to let her pleasure show at the realization that B'Elanna knew her beverage preference and took a sip of the drink. The two sat in silence for some time before Seven finally broke the stillness with a sigh.
It took a great deal of will power on B'Elanna's part not to respond but, by now, she knew that Seven had something serious on her mind and had decided to let it come in its own time, which it eventually did.
"I apologize for causing you any irritation while we were working," Seven finally said softly. "I did not mean to disturb you. I was merely thinking."
B'Elanna played it cool and took another sip of her beer. "About what?" she asked, keeping her tone as casual as possible.
Seven sighed again. "I was wondering how you handle it all. I have only been aware of the epidemic and the deaths of our friends for a week and it is emotionally . . . overwhelming. You have been dealing with this situation for four years – alone."
"Well, first of all," B'Elanna said, trying to keep her voice constant, even as sadness washed over her, "I've been dealing with it for a long time now and, as difficult as it is to admit it, the pain has just gotten duller over time."
Seven could see the muscles in B'Elanna's jaw pulse as she paused and regretted letting her curiosity get the best of her in this instance. She wanted nothing more than to take away the pain that her question had forced B'Elanna to revisit, but had no idea what to do about it now.
"Some days I wish I could get back the sharpness of it all and remember how incredibly horrified and hurt I was when I heard that each of them had died," B'Elanna sighed, standing up and pacing the kitchen floor. "It feels as if time is taking them away from me."
"I have just begun to realize that, should I not be able to restore the timeline, I too will never see them again."
B'Elanna nodded and leaned against the kitchen counter. "Hard to believe that Kathryn is dead. Somehow, deep down, I believed that she was invincible."
"As did I," Seven responded, closing her eyes for a moment as she thought about everything her mentor had done for her. "I am sorry about Mr. Paris' death as well," she continued softly.
"Miral misses him so much," B'Elanna explained, looking up at Seven, whose face registered surprise at her response. "We had been separated for a few months before the epidemic hit and were in the process of getting a divorce. The whole thing was actually turning out to be pretty ugly and I had had it with him, but I was with him when he died. The disease was so . . . . No one should die that way."
"I am truly sorry," Seven reiterated.
"I do miss him," B'Elanna admitted and thought for a moment. "I miss Harry so much too. He used to visit once a week and he was so good with Miral."
Seven stared at B'Elanna and considered whether to ask the question that was gnawing at her. Never one to be anything less that direct, Seven forged ahead. "Were you and Mr. Kim involved?"
"No," B'Elanna smiled sadly. "I just miss him, his enthusiasm, his innocence. I didn't leave Tom *for* anyone," she continued. "I just wasn't happy and thought that both Miral and I deserved better. I haven't had time to think about anything but Miral and work since all hell broke loose."
Seven nodded in understanding.
"What about you?" B'Elanna asked, redirecting the conversation away from her own losses. "Is there anyone special you're trying to get back to?" She leaned against the kitchen counter as she waited for Seven to answer, cursing herself silently for feeling anxious about the answer.
Seven met B'Elanna's eye, uncertain of what she saw there, but decided to trust B'Elanna. "There is no one waiting for me." She looked down and continued, haltingly. "There was . . . . She did not . . . ."
B'Elanna moved to sit next to Seven at the table and touched Seven's hand reassuringly. "I'm sorry, Seven. I didn't mean to upset you."
Seven shook her head. "I know you did not intend to upset me, B'Elanna. In this case, the passage of time has somehow made the pain more acute."
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to," B'Elanna said, trying to put her at ease.
Seven sighed, irritated with herself for letting her feelings overwhelm her, but decided that getting it out might help her regain some control. "Olivia was a technician at Utopia Planetia. We were involved for a short time, but I came to believe that she did not truly care for me, but was interested only in the thrill of having a unique specimen in her bed."
"You're kidding me," B'Elanna said, her anger rising at the thought of the woman's callousness. "Are you sure?"
"I am certain because I heard her say as much to one of her friends. She was unaware of my presence." Seven closed her eyes and tried to release the feeling of humiliation that washed over her, but could not stop a tear from escaping.
B'Elanna gently wiped away the tear and then took one of Seven's hands in her own. "She's a fool, Seven, and if she were here right now, I would kick her ass for treating you like that."
"How do you know?" Seven asked quietly.
"That she's a fool? Well, I may not agree with you 88 percent of the time," B'Elanna continued, repeating a joke that the two women had developed over the past week together, "but I know that only a fool would not feel lucky to be with you."
Seven smiled slightly. "Only 88 percent? I do believe I'm making progress."
You certainly are making progress, B'Elanna thought, noting how much pleasure it had given her to improve Seven's mood. "Hey, maybe we should look her up in this reality so I can kick her ass," B'Elanna joked.
"Thank you for the offer," Seven responded, her smile widening, "but I cannot allow you to do that."
"I never get to have any fun," B'Elanna shot back, a mock pout on her face as she released Seven's hand.
"If it makes you feel any better to know, Kathryn arranged for Olivia to be transferred to a Federation dilithium processing facility."
"Hmm. Very evil of her," B'Elanna said, laughing at how creative Kathryn could be when it came to meting out justly-deserved punishment. "Well, now that I can rest assured that some Olivia somewhere has been punished, I need to get some sleep."
Seven nodded. "I will continue working for a while."
"Okay," B'Elanna responded as she stood up. Before she could move away from the table, however, she felt the cool metal and soft skin of Seven's Borg-enhanced hand on her own. She looked down into blue eyes.
"Thank you, B'Elanna – for everything," Seven said.
B'Elanna ran her thumb across the back of Seven's hand. "No need to thank me. I like having you here," she finished quietly. With one final squeeze of Seven's hand, B'Elanna left the kitchen.
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