World Enough, and Time
A little more than a week later, B'Elanna returned home from work late to find Miral curled up in Seven's arms and the two asleep on the couch. It had been a particularly stressful day and she had been prepared to be grumpy all evening, but just couldn't keep a smile from her face at the sight before her - a little normalcy and sanity in the midst of chaos. She had become so accustomed to not feeling and to not being able to imagine life beyond the day in which she found herself, that she had not been prepared for what Seven's arrival had unleashed. Hope. But hope in or for what, she wouldn't quite let herself imagine. B'Elanna fought back the tears that threatened to fall, knelt down and touched Seven's arm lightly.
"Seven," B'Elanna whispered, running her hand along the sleeping woman's forearm. She watched as blue eyes opened slowly and met her own and became immediately aware of how her pulse quickened.
"I am sorry," Seven whispered back, blinking groggily. She sat up carefully, making sure not to wake Miral. "I did not mean to fall asleep."
B'Elanna reached out and took her daughter from Seven's arms. "I'm not surprised," B'Elanna responded. "You've been working so hard and you've given me so much help with Miral. Of course, you're exhausted." B'Elanna stood up with her daughter's head resting on her shoulder and inhaled, the tension ebbing as the familiar and comforting scent flowed into her.
Seven sighed almost imperceptibly as she watched the tender exchange, but froze momentarily when she noticed what looked like unshed tears in B'Elanna's eyes. Standing up and stretching slightly, she spoke in a soft voice to be sure not to disturb the sleeping child. "I wanted to have dinner ready when you got home, but I sat down with her for just a minute and must have fallen asleep immediately."
"I don't expect you to cook for me, Seven," B'Elanna responded, amazed at how quickly Seven had become such an integral part of her life. "Look, let me put Miral to bed and we'll both get dinner ready." Only when Seven nodded her assent did B'Elanna carry her daughter to her bedroom. When she returned to the living room, she was shocked to find that Seven had lit candles and set the table and was already bringing food out of the kitchen.
"I apologize for having to replicate dinner, but I . . . ," Seven said as she placed a plate on the table.
"Seven," B'Elanna interrupted her, placing a hand on Seven's forearm to emphasize her point. "There's nothing to apologize for and, again, I don't expect you to cook for me."
"I know that, B'Elanna," Seven replied, "but I wanted to thank you for everything you have done to help me." They locked gazes, the growing emotion between them almost palpable. "Please, sit down and let me do this for you," Seven said finally, breaking the silence.
B'Elanna acquiesced and sat down at the table, surprised to find herself hungry despite the anxiety gnawing at her gut. The two ate in companionable silence and then moved to the living room sofa.
Looking at Seven sitting across from her, B'Elanna decided that unburdening herself might make her feel better and she wondered in passing how she had come to trust Seven so much in such a short time. "A student in my class died today," she began quietly. "He had lost his entire family and was living with a neighbor whose wife had also died in the first wave. He put up a tough front, but he was a sweet young man who would have had a great future."
Seven set her tea down and met B'Elanna's eye. "I am very sorry," she said, aware of how inadequate her response was.
"He wanted to be in Starfleet - an Engineer, he said," B'Elanna continued. "Every time I think I've accommodated myself to this insanity, I realize that it just isn't possible. I doubt the Trakonans bargained on this many people being immune, or on some dying quickly and others living with the infection for much longer." She pinched the bridge of her nose to try to keep the tears from coming, but knew it wouldn't work for long. "Sometimes I wish the virus had worked the way they wanted it to and it had just wiped us all out at once," she finished bitterly.
"Do not say such things!" Seven exhaled, a strange combination of dread and anger washing over her. She grasped B'Elanna's shoulders, forcing her to look up. "Do not ever wish yourself dead . . . or Miral." This last part came out in a whisper. "I could not bear it," Seven finished and wrapped her arms around B'Elanna.
B'Elanna felt herself snapped out of her gloom by Seven's panic and, without thinking, pulled out of the embrace, brought her hand to Seven's cheek, and stroked it with her thumb. "Oh, Seven, I didn't really mean it. I swear. It was my grief over the death of another innocent child talking."
B'Elanna began to feel a bit unnerved when Seven did not reply, but simply searched B'Elanna's eyes.
"I cannot do this," Seven said finally, releasing B'Elanna and standing up.
B'Elanna frowned as she grew even more confused and concerned about Seven's strong and emotional response to the story about her student's death. "What can't you do, Seven?"
Seven glanced at B'Elanna briefly, but simply shook her head.
"Tell me what's going on," B'Elanna pleaded and reached out to grasp one of Seven's hands. "I can't help you if you won't tell me."
Seven pulled her hand away and covered her eyes before beginning to speak. "I believe I discovered it today."
"The precipitating event that altered the time line," Seven replied, turning to look at B'Elanna.
B'Elanna stood, excited that her friend had solved the mystery and accomplished her goal. "That's amazing," she said. "How did you find it? What was it?"
"The answer was in the information we retrieved from my cortical node - in my own memory, as it turned out," Seven explained, not meeting B'Elanna's eye. "I recalled that approximately 14 hours prior to my apprehension that my reality had changed, Starfleet Command had launched an experimental subspace transmitter it hoped would have the capacity to enable even longer distance communication. I hypothesized that the transmitter had somehow created a rupture in the fabric of space-time that caused the changes that we have all experienced."
B'Elanna contemplated Seven's theory and nodded. "That makes sense," she admitted.
"I had been searching for a natural event at some distance from the Earth," Seven continued with a sigh, "but it turned out to be of human construction and in the next sector."
Perching herself on the arm of the sofa, B'Elanna mulled over the possible courses of action. "So, how are we going to fix it?" she asked and watched as Seven's body tensed and the look of desperation that had been on her face moments before returned.
"I have no intention of fixing it," she declared.
"You can't be serious!" B'Elanna responded in disbelief. "The whole point of all of this was to restore the timeline and return things to the way they're supposed to be." Seven said nothing. "I don't get it. I thought you wanted to go back?"
"I have nothing to go back to," Seven whispered.
Reaching out, B'Elanna grasped Seven's arm and pulled her so that she was standing in front of where B'Elanna had perched on the sofa. She searched Seven's eyes, trying to figure out where to begin. "I know how hurt you were by what Olivia did to you, but you can't just give up like that. You have lots of things to go back to. From what you told me, you love your job and all our friends are there - alive and well." B'Elanna reached up to wipe away the tear that had begun to fall on Seven's cheek and left her hand there, hoping to offer some comfort.
"But you are not there," Seven choked out.
B'Elanna frowned. "Of course I'm there." B'Elanna thought for a moment, alarmed by the possibility that Seven hadn't told her the truth. "I am really there, right? I'm not dead in that timeline, am I?"
"No, you are not dead," Seven assured B'Elanna as she pulled away from her, "but you are not there. In that timeline, we are not friends."
"Seven," B'Elanna began, trying to convince them both that Seven's concerns were unfounded, but was quickly interrupted.
"I am content to stay here with you and Miral," Seven insisted, her back to B'Elanna.
B'Elanna studied the woman before her and contemplated the complexity of the situation before them. She hadn't imagined when Seven had appeared on her doorstep that her life would change so dramatically - and not simply from learning about the changes in the time line. When she finally spoke, it was with deep emotion in her voice. "I haven't been able to admit, even to myself, how happy I am to have you here with us, Seven. At first, I thought it was because you reminded me of how life used to be before the epidemic and then I thought it was because I had just been so lonely, but I know now that its you - your presence here that's made me happy." When Seven failed to respond, B'Elanna got up and moved to stand behind her. "Despite what I feel, I do know that we have to fix this. You know it's the right thing - the only thing to do." When Seven finally turned to look at her, B'Elanna could feel the emotional tension stretched between them and saw the unshed tears in her eyes.
"I know that you are correct," Seven choked out, "but knowing that cannot make me feel anything but regret."
B'Elanna sighed and took Seven's hand. "Regret doesn't begin to cover it," she replied.
"Dammit," B'Elanna muttered as she readjusted the calculations she was running at her work station. She had spent almost the entire morning working on her part of the plan to restore the timeline now that Seven had determined the cause of the problem. Seven had returned to San Francisco to try to enlist Tal Celes' help and even though she had only been with them in Albuquerque for a short time, B'Elanna felt her absence profoundly. If all went well, she would never see Seven again, she admitted to herself with a sigh. Hell, "she" won't even exist after they put their plan in motion.
Stepping back to wait for the computer to run the numbers one more time, B'Elanna could not help but think back to the previous evening. Even though the two women they had confessed their developing feelings for one another some days prior, they had not dealt with them in any way, but had turned their attention to devising a plan to set the timeline right and restore the lives of so many who had died, including many of their closest friends. They had determined that, if they calculated everything correctly, a series of tachyon bursts could force the rift to close and restore the timeline. That evening Seven had begun working on the calculations while B'Elanna tried to determine a means for them to reach the rupture in the next sector, given the quarantine imposed on the planet.
"I have been able to determine the general parameters for the required tachyon bursts," Seven informed her, "but the precise pattern will depend upon the specifications of the vessel we use."
B'Elanna nodded to acknowledge the bind they had found themselves in. "I've been looking at some of the unmanned repair bots that Starfleet developed to maintain the massive security grid around the planet. We'll have to make some major modifications if we plan on getting one all the way to the next sector in addition to configuring it with a deflector to create the tachyon burst."
She glanced at Seven as she contemplated the required modifications to the bot and B'Elanna wondered how precisely to present her next suggestion. In the end, she knew that Seven valued the most straightforward approach to anything and so she simply forged ahead. "Our only other option would be to commandeer a couple of shuttlecrafts. I could present a diversion to the security grid while you tried to slip through." She could see Seven's anger rising and the muscles in her jaw clenching and so just charged through the rest of her proposal. "I'd have to say that our odds are probably the same with the repair bot as with the shuttlecrafts, but I'm certainly willing to try either."
Seven said nothing, but continued clenching her jaw.
When Seven finally spoke, B'Elanna could her raw emotion in her voice. "I do not know how you could even raise the possibility of your own death, B'Elanna. You would most assuredly be killed by the automated security grid and I will not entertain such a suggestion under any circumstance."
B'Elanna hung her head sheepishly, knowing that Seven was right.
"What would happen to Miral if I were to fail in resetting the timeline? She needs you." The horror she felt at the prospect was evident in Seven's expression.
"I know," B'Elanna replied, "but I have confidence in you that, one way or another, Miral would be taken care of." B'Elanna thought that her heart would stop beating when Seven reached out and pulled her near.
"You can be certain that I would do anything within my power to ensure Miral's safety," Seven assured her, "but if I am successful and am forced to leave you when the timeline resets, I cannot do so having seen you die. I cannot," she repeated, bringing her hand to B'Elanna's cheek and stroking it lightly.
B'Elanna brought a hand up to caress Seven's neck and, for a moment thought that it was just her luck to realize how drawn she was to Seven in a timeline that would soon cease to exist. Looking into Seven's beautiful blue eyes, B'Elanna decided that she would have to make the most of the world and of the time that she had before her. Giving in to the desire that had been building in her for what seemed like an eternity, B'Elanna pulled Seven to her and kissed her.
Shaking her head to bring her thoughts back to the present, B'Elanna was amazed at how quickly such strong feelings for Seven had risen in her. Despite her intention to focus on the work before her, B'Elanna's mind returned to that night. Even with life and death questions hanging over their heads, Seven had made their time together a remarkable combination of erotic intensity and playfulness. She smiled as she remembered the concentration with which Seven had examined the flat plain of her stomach as they lay sated and sweaty, using her hands, her lips, and tongue as instruments.
"Species 3148 - Klingon," Seven said in the formal tones of the Borg. B'Elanna squirmed as Seven ran her tongue across her belly. "Our previous research did not reveal this information, which appears to be vital to subduing this warrior species." Seven placed puckered lips just below B'Elanna's navel and kissed her way up a few inches before looking into her lover's eyes. "Species 3148 - ticklish."
"Klingons are not ticklish," B'Elanna protested. "Our skin is simply sensitive to certain kinds of touch."
"In other words, you are ticklish," Seven reiterated before placing a kiss on the underside of B'Elanna's left breast. In response to the low growl that emerged in response, Seven continued her ministrations, bringing her right hand into the operation as well. "Species 5618 - Human." The next bit she uttered in an almost reverential tone. "The Borg also neglected to retain the apparently irrelevant information about how soft and exquisite is the human breast." She ran her tongue across B'Elanna's nipple, eliciting an even more sustained growl.
"Irrelevant to the kind of conquest the Borg have in mind," B'Elanna offered between ragged breaths.
"But not to the conquest on which I have set my sights," Seven said, finishing B'Elanna's thought and caressing her lover's left breast.
"I think you're having some success," B'Elanna replied as Seven's eyes met her own.
Moving up to capture B'Elanna's lips once again, Seven then looked deeply into the brown eyes before her. "The Borg have acquired no vocabulary to describe you adequately, B'Elanna. I retain centuries of knowledge from the thousands of species assimilated by the Collective and nothing prepared me for this feeling."
"Kahless, Seven," B'Elanna said, placing a brief kiss on the former Borg's lips, "I had no idea you were so . . . well . . . you . . .." Seven laughed at B'Elanna's sputtering state, but stopped when her lover continued. "What I mean to say is that you're amazing and incredible and I can't believe I wasted so much time not seeing you. And now, I'm out of time and there's nothing I can do about it."
"I am grateful for what little time we have together, B'Elanna," Seven said softly.
Willing herself to return to the work at hand, B'Elanna hoped that the version of herself in the other timeline would have the sense to realize find her way to Seven. At the notification of an incoming transmission, B'Elanna activated her comm terminal.
"Celes has agreed to assist me," Seven informed B'Elanna, her image crisp and clear on the viewscreen on B'Elanna's desk. "We've been able to make the necessary modifications on a repair bot that is scheduled to be launched in two days. I'll be able to control it from her work station inside the interim Starfleet headquarters."
B'Elanna nodded, feeling idiotic for the rush of jealousy that had washed over her at Seven's casual use of Celes' given name. "That's good news," B'Elanna replied, trying hard to keep her varied and conflicting emotions hidden from Seven. "How is Celes?" she continued, knowing she probably shouldn't pursue this line of thinking.
"She remains somewhat confused and rather distressed, but I feel confident that we can count on her. How are the calculations progressing?"
B'Elanna fiddled with the stack of padds on her desk, looking for the most recent set of numbers for configuring the repair bot's tachyon emitter. "I'm sure she's glad to have you back," she muttered, unable to contain herself.
"B'Elanna," Seven replied quickly, "I may have returned to San Francisco, but she does not `have me back.' Indeed, Celes never had me at all."
"I know," B'Elanna said sheepishly, "but I can't stand the thought of her being with you there when everything's about to . . . change."
B'Elanna could see Seven reach out and touch the viewscreen. "You are with me. You will always be with me, and I will never be the same," Seven vowed.
Heaving a sigh of relief and smiling slightly, B'Elanna picked up a data padd. "Now, about those calculations. . . ."
Two days later Seven sat stiffly at Tal Celes' workstation and squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, calling to mind an image of B'Elanna and of Miral and recalling her lover's confidence that, despite how difficult it would be for them both, setting the timeline right was the only course of action to take. Observing the course of the repair bot they had commandeered as it neared the spot of the rupture caused by the launch of the subspace transmitter and the precipitating event in the changes in the timeline that she had experienced, Seven brought a trembling hand to the control panel. In 6.4 seconds she would initiate the tachyon burst that would, if their calculations were correct, erase her future with B'Elanna here and return her to a present which, not so long ago, she had desperately desired to restore. She counted the seconds silently. 3 . . . 2 . . . 1. . . .
To Be Continued
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