Out in Thirty Days -- Ch. 22 - Epilogue by BCBones

Disclaimer: The characters belong to Paramount, but the story and ideas belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended. I only borrowed them for a little while, no profit will be made, except for maybe psychological. WARNING: DO NOT read if you are uncomfortable with or offended by F/F romance. Few instances of bad language. Sorry for the melodrama. Constructive comments welcome. Torres/Seven story. Rated R. BCBones@aol.com  6/00 to 11/00. (This is a step away from my Where series, as a non-related story.)

| Ch. 1-4 | Ch. 5-8 | Ch. 9-12 | Ch. 13-15 | Ch. 16-18 | Ch. 19-21 | Ch. 22-Epilogue |

Out in Thirty Days

Chapter 22

Draining her glass of milk, Seven replaced the cup on the table she shared with Kathryn Janeway. When she had awoken from her regeneration cycle this morning, she opened her eyes to the sight of the older woman. The smile on the Captain's face that greeted her gave her a sense of warmth and homecoming, relieving some of the initial anxiety she felt since returning to the ship yesterday.

"How's your breakfast?" the Captain inquired politely, as she looked across the table at Seven, who was wearing the blue biosuit which Kathryn favored, liking the way it accentuated the young woman's eyes.

Janeway was already enjoying her second cup of java since they sat down, which was accompanied by a Southwestern omelet and toast.

"It is...delicious," Seven replied, adapting some common adjectives she used with Moka's...cooking, peering down at her simple plate of scrambled eggs and hotcakes. She sighed at having thought of the Rangoon woman, briefly remembering the way those weathered hands deftly kneaded dough, tossed spices into boiling pots, and comforted her so easily.

"So.... Are you going to tell me what happened to you and B'Elanna on the planet, or are you going to keep me in the dark?" Janeway asked, her expression faintly amused.

"I intend to make a full report, Captain," Seven replied, not understanding the conversation.

"I know you will. But I'd also like to hear it from you, how it impacted you," Janeway explained, taking another sip from her cup of coffee. "This isn't an official inquiry, Seven. I just thought it'd be nice to catch up with each other over breakfast."

Seven had intended to enjoy a short meal with the Captain, and then excuse herself to find B'Elanna. She had been looking forward to spending the day with the half-Klingon, but now she realized that her friends also wanted some share of her time. It was another one of those human rituals that she was unfamiliar with, her own selfish needs to be set aside. Perhaps, she could discuss with the Captain what had occurred between her and Lt. Torres, and have a few of her questions answered.

Just then, the doors to the Mess Hall opened, and in walked Lt. Torres. " few crewmembers that weren't focused on their breakfast noticed how well the half-Klingon filled out her casual clothes. B'Elanna spied Seven and the Captain out of the dining crowd, sitting at their own table in the far corner of the room overlooking the port windows. They were chatting amicably, secluded in their private conversation. Though annoyed, the engineer walked over to the counter as nonchalantly as she could manage, finding a few things she actually thought were palatable.

"Lieutenant."

B'Elanna turned, wondering who was possibly addressing her, to find Vorik standing near her, his breakfast plate already filled. He waited patiently for her to answer.

"Vorik," she acknowledged in surprise.

"Yes," he said simply. "I took the liberty of finding a table, if you would like to join me?"

It took a moment for her to answer, her expression bewildered, because it wasn't the first time he had reserved seats for them. Four years ago, he had tried to court her with similar actions, prior to his Pon Farr. Thank Kahless that wouldn't happen for another three years.

"Of course..." the lieutenant answered evenly, picking up a plate, and headed towards the dining table the ensign pointed out.

In truth, she wanted the distraction. B'Elanna didn't know why she came here, other than the fact that she could watch the Captain and Seven eat together, which wasn't all that appealing to her come to think of it.

Seven, in the meantime, had lost her train of thought when she saw the lieutenant enter without attempting to come over and greet them. The ex-drone didn't even bother to ask Janeway any of the questions on her mind, witnessing Vorik approach B'Elanna and evidently, her joining him.

"Seven... Earth to Seven?" Janeway realized she might as well have been speaking gibberish.

Janeway followed Seven's consternated gaze which was directed evidently at Lt. Torres. Now the Captain was really curious as to what happened between the two women. When they returned yesterday, it had appeared to her that they had reconciled their antagonism. Perhaps she assumed incorrectly.

"Is there something wrong with the lieutenant?" Janeway asked, back in her officer mode.

Startled from her focus, Seven reverted her eyes back to the Captain. "No. I...I did not expect Lt. Torres to be up so early on her day off," Seven tried to cover unconvincingly.

"If you prefer to be doing something else, Seven, feel free to excuse yourself," Janeway told her.

"Of course not, Captain. I enjoy the time we spend together," Seven responded earnestly, not wanting to injure the older woman's feelings. "And I would like to continue our conversation." She would have to meet up with B'Elanna later.

Janeway's face lit up with a surprisingly coy smile at the compliment, and reached out to pat the young Borg's hand casually in thanks. The expression seemed to lift years off of the Captain's face, which always seemed to be weighted down by the burden of command. Seven couldn't help but smile back.

The ex-drone then began the painstaking process of revealing to the Captain what happened to her and the half-Klingon, starting with the shuttle being attacked by an unknown vessel after locating a deposit of dilithium, and the harrowing chase through the asteroid belt relying only on the engineer's piloting skills. Janeway chuckled at Seven's description, obviously entertained by Seven's unexpected skill at storytelling. She was horrified when she learned how they had crashed, and the extent to which Seven had been injured. She was visibly impressed by B'Elanna's heroics for carrying the damaged Borg through the desert, and noticeably touched when Seven revealed the Lieutenant's initial attempts to comfort Seven in such dire circumstances. But Janeway's expression became one of rage as the story progressed to the encounter with Kal and his gang of lowlifes. It took a great deal of reassurance by the ex-drone to pacify the woman that sat across from her.

"He touched you...inappropriately." Kathryn practically choked out the words, clutching her coffee cup.

"Not to the extent he could have, Captain," Seven explained. "B'Elanna made sure of that. And he was duly punished..."

Seven continued her story, describing the house where they had received refuge and the wonderful people who had provided it. She described Moka, Dannan, Edyn and even Fessi with clear detail, and obvious affection in her voice. She talked about her experience with being half-paralyzed, her feelings of pain, vulnerability, and fear, as well as her joy when B'Elanna had found the Borg escape cube, essentially her cure. Seven spoke of each event that impacted her with so much passion, honest reflection, and exuberance that Kathryn was genuinely moved. Though Seven never touched upon the intimate moments between her and B'Elanna, nevertheless, the Captain was impressed by how the two women had stuck by each other through the good and the bad, and sensed that this had been a life-changing experience for both.

Finally, they realized that the breakfast crowd had been replaced by the lunch crowd, and the Captain had to return to the bridge. Neelix inadvertently cued them when he came by, wondering if they would like to order another meal, but both declined. Seven scanned the room, disappointed but not shocked to find B'Elanna had already left.

"Well, Seven, I've really enjoyed our conversation, and I'm so glad you told me what happened. I think the experiences and what you've learned from them will be with you for the rest of your life. I suspect there's more, but maybe we can resume where you left off in a more private setting. Today, I just wanted you to be around your crewmembers, since many of them have missed your presence." Janeway offered, "Perhaps, we can talk again, like over dinner tomorrow night?"

"That would be acceptable, Captain. May I confirm the time when I have arranged my work schedule?"

*****************

Chakotay made his way up on the lift in Engineering. As first officer on Voyager, he only occasionally made it down to Deck 11 even though his good friend had headed the department, his skills more known for diplomacy than warp mechanics. On this day, however, it was that very good friend he was searching for, and he found her on the top tier, working furiously at the console, despite being out of uniform.

"I thought the Doctor gave you today off too," he said as he snuck up behind her, the only person who could without consequences.

B'Elanna spun around at the sound of his voice, pleasantly startled to see him, yet at the same time wary as she turned her attention back to the console.

"Shouldn't you be on the bridge?" she asked, knowing the captain was still away from command at the moment.

"I thought you might care to join me for lunch. And you should be resting, not working," he pointed out.

"I'm just taking a look ahead for tomorrow. No harm in that," she jested.

"No, I guess not, but you still have to follow the doctor's orders. Besides, the captain's on the bridge now. I'm sure she has everything under control," he drawled.

B'Elanna paused her tapping, a fleeting ripple in her cheek at the mention of the captain, then resumed her data download. Chakotay knew her long enough to know something was up. The half-Klingon looked tense like she was coiled tightly, ready to spring into action.

Quietly, he took her firmly by the elbow, and mumbled in her ear, "Let's go somewhere and talk, privately."

B'Elanna had two options, either she clock him right then and there so he would release her, or cooperate and avoid being thrown in the brig. He was only trying to be a friend, so she settled for being led away. They walked silently through the corridors until they reached her quarters. When they entered her relatively simple, Spartan living area, he sat her down on the couch.

"So, are you going to tell me what's going on?" Chakotay began.

"I'm not sure what you mean," B'Elanna evaded, folding her arms.

"Well, you looked like you were about to explode back in Engineering. You're angry about something. Since you just returned from an away mission gone wrong, I'll have to assume that it's because of something that happened during that time," he reasoned, staring at her with great intensity.

B'Elanna scoffed, and turned from his gaze. Her face tightened, frustrated that he could always read her so well to a certain extent. His friendship had always been one that she could depend on, and no one else could command the loyalty from her like him, not even Janeway. They had risked their lives for each other on too many occasions not to have formed such a connection.

"So what is it?" he entreated in that soft, steady voice of his.

"I'm...I'm in love with Seven." There, she said it candidly, with no apology.

"Oh...I see."

Chakotay was stunned, to say the least, the lines on his forehead creasing the dark tattoo of his tribe. It was completely unexpected. He knew B'Elanna would never say such things lightly, nor feel such emotions for another person frivolously. Having come right out and said it meant that the half-Klingon had it bad. Real bad.

Sighing, B'Elanna continued, "And I believe she has feelings for me too." Her voice, however, sounded miserable.

"Then, what's the problem?"

"The problem," B'Elanna raged, getting up from her seat and stomping away a few steps, "is the Captain. She's interested in Seven."

Remembering who she was talking to, B'Elanna clamped her mouth shut. Chakotay looked down for a moment, seemingly in deep thought. When he looked up, he had a wry expression on his face, as if he was almost mocking himself.

"Does it really matter, B'Elanna? You just told me that Seven returns your feelings."

"Of course it does!" B'Elanna sputtered, watching Chakotay frown, not understanding this time.

She tried again. "You know as well as I do that Janeway and Seven have a special bond between them. You've seen them together, how they've interacted in the past. The captain's being far more obvious now about how she feels. Seven's never had a romantic relationship before, and it's only been a few days since we admitted that we cared about each other. She doesn't realize that things can change between two people, but I do. This is it for me, Chakotay. I love her and there's no turning back. What if she discovers that she'd rather be with Janeway?"

"Seven isn't one to take a relationship lightly either, B'Elanna. She's tried before, and it's taken her this long to determine who she wants to be with. She's an intelligent woman, and she's made an intelligent decision. She knows what the consequences are," Chakotay argued passionately, trying to console his friend. "You're just scared that she might not love you as much as you love her."

"No, that's not it," B'Elanna vehemently denied, waving a finger at him.

"No? Then, think about this. Love may not be rational, B'Elanna. But it doesn't just come on a whim, and it doesn't just go away either. You have to work at it. Take it from me, sometimes, a few days is all that's necessary between two people." He had gotten up and approached her, his gestures all pointing to his own heart.

Just then, the door chimed, catching them off guard.

"Come," B'Elanna invited after a bit of hesitation.

It was Seven, and the Borg got the distinct impression that she had interrupted something. She saw Commander Chakotay and B'Elanna exchange glances, then he excused himself politely and left. Seven watched as B'Elanna walked over towards the recliner, sitting down heavily.

"Hey," the lieutenant greeted, forcing herself to be cheerful, "are you a sight for sore eyes."

"Perhaps, the doctor should take a look at them for you?" Seven asked as she trailed after the half-Klingon.

"It's just an expression," B'Elanna told her affectionately.

"I know. I was attempting to make a joke," Seven explained, arching her brow.

"Ah..." B'Elanna rubbed her eyes, already feeling very exhausted by the day.

Concerned, Seven knelt down in front of the woman. B'Elanna looked at her with a sad expression, and Seven felt an instant pang of pain in her chest. She pulled the woman to her by the arms, and hugged her fiercely.

"What's wrong, B'Elanna?" she implored, running her hands up and down the lieutenant's back in a comforting motion.

"Nothing. I just missed you, that's all," B'Elanna dismissed, as she moved Seven onto the couch next to her.

"I'm sorry I could not join you earlier. I found the Captain waiting for me when my regeneration cycle ended, and she wished to speak to me. I did not realize it would take so long."

"It's okay. I guess we have to expect that we'll both be busy for the next few days until things get settled."

"We still have four hours and twenty minutes before I need to regenerate. And as I said before, I could always delay it," Seven proposed.

"Stand up and let me look at you," B'Elanna instructed.

Curious, Seven obeyed and stood, allowing B'Elanna to inspect her. B'Elanna took her by the hand and led her around the room, noticing how fluid the Borg's motions were once again. Obviously, the Doctor was successful in repairing Seven's neural synapses.

"Your motor function...it's normal again," B'Elanna noted, beaming from ear to ear.

B'Elanna's apparent concern for her well-being warmed the young Borg. "The Doctor says my systems are approximately ninety-two percent repaired, and he doesn't foresee any complications."

"Ninety-two percent, huh? I guess we can't go to the Holodeck for a game of Hoverball just yet," the half-Klingon teased. Her brow furrowed as she tried to think of something for them to do in the time remaining.

"What do you usually do when you are off-duty, B'Elanna?" Seven asked, linking her arms around the lieutenant's shoulders.

"Well, other than using the Holodeck, I work on Engineering proposals, maybe play a game of Derata, watch a little television with Tom--," she mentioned before she could stop herself.

Seven's arched her brow, but allowed B'Elanna to continue.

"Sometimes I read a Klingon novel, but usually I'm in Engineering, " B'Elanna finally admitted, to which Seven smirked. "What about you?"

"When I am not playing velocity or sculpting with the Captain, I report to the Holodeck to work on my social lessons with the Doctor. Other times, he and I practice singing. However, for the majority of my recreational time, I spend it on more constructive tasks in Astrometrics or monitoring the children's activities."

B'Elanna snickered, leaning into Seven. "Kahless, what are we going to do with two workaholics..."

"It does present a bit of a problem," the ex-drone conceded.

"Hey, I have something to show you."

B'Elanna pulled away, but beckoned Seven to follow her to her desk where her computer console laid. Offering Seven the seat, she leaned down over her desk and activated her files, bringing up the holo images they had taken while on the planet. Seven reached out unconsciously to touch the screen, as if she could somehow reconnect with the loved ones they left behind.

"I miss them," Seven said softly, balling her outstretched hand into a fist as she withdrew it.

"I do too. My appetite hasn't been the same since. I thought I had to let out all my uniforms," B'Elanna joked, albeit half-hearted.

Seven cupped B'Elanna's cheek tenderly, the comely face so close to her own. Something in B'Elanna's eyes told her the lieutenant wasn't happy. Whether it was from leaving the planet or for some other reason, Seven vowed to find out, no matter how difficult. And more importantly, Seven wanted to discuss their relationship, hoping at last she could reveal to B'Elanna all she felt for the half-Klingon. Love. " concept that she never thought for one minute, during the first years she had been severed from the collective, she would grasp.

They spent some of the time chatting about the friends they missed, reminiscing over the objects they had brought back with them, and talking about other idle matters as they relaxed on the couch. This was what B'Elanna missed, the solitude of being in each other's company. B'Elanna held Seven in her strong arms, not wanting ever to let go.

********************

"Are you hungry? Perhaps, we can have dinner in the Mess Hall before I return to the Cargo Bay to regenerate," Seven suggested, getting up from her seat.

"Hmm.... I don't think I'm in the mood for one of Neelix's concoctions," B'Elanna replied, still slouching against the cushions.

B'Elanna's answer didn't surprise the ex-drone, but Seven was losing patience with the situation. She wondered why B'Elanna was so afraid of being out in public with her. B'Elanna was never one to shy away from being truthful. What did it matter if their romantic relationship became apparent to the rest of the crew. Seven didn't want to hide the change. It was not as if they were intentionally flaunting the relationship. The lieutenant's reticence only caused her to speculate the worst.

"We could replicate our meal. I thought it would be nice to invite Ensign Kim to join us as well."

B'Elanna shifted uncomfortably. "I'd rather just stay in, and have dinner here," she answered, not really looking at the other woman.

"Why do you wish to hide our romantic affiliation from the rest of the crew?" Seven asked bluntly, her posture distinctly Borg.

"What?!" B'Elanna balked, sitting straight up in her seat.

"Why do you wish to hide the change in our relationship?" she repeated. "Are you ashamed to be associated with a Borg, with me, in such a manner?"

"Where the hell did you get that idea?" B'Elanna demanded, now standing in front of Seven, her exasperation overshadowing her concern.

"From the way you isolate us from the rest of the crew. Since we have transported back to Voyager, you avoid showing me any affection in front of our friends that I have been accustomed to. We have yet to acknowledge the development of our feelings toward one another," Seven passionately stated, "openly like other couples do on Voyager."

"I can only conclude," Seven continued, her face flushed, "that you find it difficult to express your feelings towards ME, since you have been able to in the past with Mr. Paris."

"Don't compare what I have for you with my relationship with Tom," B'Elanna seethed. She took a step back, looking away for a moment, and calmed herself. "What I had with him was in some ways...immature. How could you ever think I would be ashamed to be with you?"

"I am Borg. When we first interacted, you made that clear whenever you pointed out what I did was Borg. Isn't that why you disliked me?"

B'Elanna was flabbergasted. "I may not like the Borg Collective, but I didn't dislike you just because you were Borg. I never ever felt hatred for you, Seven. I didn't like you at first because you were so smug in your attitude of Borg superiority. You made it seem like the rest of us were inferior."

"But when you were learning to be human again, when you acted for the good of the crew, my opinion of you changed. You were just like the rest of us, became a valued member of this crew. Sure, we didn't always get along, but I've never felt embarrassed to be associated with you."

B'Elanna could feel the tears welling up in her eyes, but she held back the sob. Seven turned her gaze away unable to bear the hurt expression on the other woman's face.

"Then why do you distance yourself from me when we are out in the corridors, in the Mess Hall... I suggest dinner with Harry Kim, so that we may integrate our lives together, and yet you do not wish to..." Seven couldn't continue, the words would not come even though the tears were abundant.

"I just don't want to share you right now. It's hard enough to have time for one another now that we're here," B'Elanna answered, her eyes pleading.

"But that's not going to improve. We will always have interruptions, jobs, duties, other people we have to attend to," Seven countered, a frown creasing her normally smooth brow. "What is it, Bey?" she implored.

"I guess...I guess I'm just scared," B'Elanna told her when she finally replied.

"What are you scared of?" Seven asked, gently taking B'Elanna's hands in her own and stepping close enough so their bodies grazed.

"That we're not ready," she murmured.

Seven took the smaller woman in her arms, and whispered, "We are."

B'Elanna nodded with all the confidence she could muster. "You're late for your cycle. I should get you to the Cargo Bay." She forestalled the argument from Seven's lips. "We'll work it out, but not all in one night."

Seven acquiesced, feeling completely worn out by the conversation. "t least, she had some idea of what was causing her love so much distress. Inexperienced in the matters of the heart, B'Elanna's fears triggered her own, and Seven failed to realize that one single declaration of love from her might have banished the Klingon's doubts away.

Chapter 23

The lieutenant reported to Engineering the next morning, looking forward to returning to duty. It gave her something to take her mind off of what she and Seven had gone through last night. She needed the petty assignments to divert her attention from what she had to tell Seven. After she had accompanied the ex-drone back to her alcove, B'Elanna had used most of the night thinking about their relationship, what was best for Seven, and what Janeway felt for the ex-drone, putting her own feelings aside.

All of a sudden, the ship lurched, and B'Elanna was thrown against the console she was working at. It was as if the ship had struck an object, and B'Elanna scrambled over to the diagnostic panels to find out what was going on. Lt. Carey was half a second behind her. The power readings to the warp core were low as if the core had been drained, and the engines were off-line.

"Bridge to Engineering," the captain's voice blared over the comm. "We've hit a spatial rift. Report."

"Warp engines are off-line, possibly due to damage to the plasma injectors. I'll get a team working on them. Long range sensors are also damaged, might be the rift emitting dechyon particles," Carey hypothesized.

"I need those sensors back online within the hour, Lieutenant, if we're going to navigate through this part of space," Janeway made it known.

"Aye, Captain."

Lt. Carey looked over to B'Elanna, and rolled his eyes, believing this was only the start of their problems. He started passing out assignments to the Engineering staff, and sent B'Elanna to work on the sensors, knowing she would be the one fastest enough to assess the damage and figure out a way to fix them within the time frame.

"Lt. Carey to Seven of Nine," he hailed, surprising the half-Klingon mid-step when she turned around to head towards the equipment lockers.

"Seven of Nine here."

"Seven, Astrometrics isn't going to be much use if we don't get the long range sensors back online. Can you come down and help Lt. Torres with the repairs?" Carey requested, as B'Elanna's eyebrows shot up.

There was a slight pause, then Seven responded, "I will be there shortly."

Not wasting one more second, B'Elanna jogged over to the diagnostic console for shipwide systems to track down the problem. It took a few minutes, but she located the source of the damage to one of the EPS conduits located near the plasma manifold in Jefferies tube junction 918. By then, the Borg had arrived in Engineering and joined the lieutenant. There was an initial awkward moment of silence, but both were professional enough to dissociate their emotions from their work, and made their way over to the access port. They crawled a short distance through the Jefferies tube to the EPS conduit, and in a matter of minutes, already made headway in the repairs.

"Did you sleep well, B'Elanna?" Seven inquired, even as she realigned the circuitry.

Sighing, the half-Klingon admitted, "Not really," as she removed the last piece of the damaged conduit, never to be used again.

"I wish I could have held you...."

"Yeah," B'Elanna replied softly, snapping in the new replacement.

Seven scanned it with a tricorder, noting that the temporary rearrangements would provide power to the sensor array and allow the afferent data stream to feed directly to Ops on the bridge.

"We are finished here," Seven informed her.

"Wow, we should tag team more often," B'Elanna quipped, injecting a little humor into the situation.

Seven gave her a wry look, and packed their instruments. Before she could comment, they heard a familiar voice calling down the tube.

"You guys need any help here?" Harry asked as he poked his head into the hatch opening.

B'Elanna smiled. Harry had that affect on her, maybe because he always seemed so goofy in a good way.

"You're too late!" she yelled over.

"Great. Then maybe you guys can help me alter the sensors so we can find these spatial rifts and seal them."

B'Elanna snorted, and tilted her head toward the hatch, indicating that they should get out of the Jefferies tube and go help Harry. Seven smirked and followed the more compact woman out of the confined surroundings. Buzzing with activity, Engineering looked like a zoo, when the lieutenant finally slipped out of the opening, with extra personnel having been called in to work on the ship repairs. "ll of the repair assignments and duty stations were covered, though somewhat excessively and almost inefficiently, B'Elanna noticed, but Carey was still new at running the department.

Seven had one long leg out of the hatch when her other foot got caught on the trimming of the Jefferies tube. She leaned back into the tube to maneuver her foot, letting out a small exhale, when she felt another hand on her ankle.

Something had clicked inside the Klingon's brain, something along the lines of 'foot not working--go help,' and B'Elanna had automatically responded to it, having performed similar actions when Seven was injured.

B'Elanna reached in, freed Seven's foot, and scooped up the young Borg in her arms, setting her down outside the access hatch. Caught off guard, Seven released her hold around B'Elanna's neck hesitantly, and murmured a quiet thanks.

Harry was visibly surprised to say the least, after observing the entire incident along with Ensign Bristow, who was only a couple of feet away. Bristow, who suffered from a unrequited crush on the former Chief Engineer, stopped breathing all together.

From across the walkway, a few crewmembers exchanged curious looks. They had seen the lieutenant carry Seven out of the opening, almost lovingly. The two women's reputation for not getting along was infamous, and therefore the whole event had been a shock to those who happened to have glanced in that direction at that particular moment.

Even Seven didn't know what to make of it, and she blushed uncontrollably as she stood next to her companion. B'Elanna caught their stares. Though she wasn't Chief Engineer anymore, her presence was still commanding.

"You all didn't get enough assignments?" she asked rather acidly.

The young officers promptly put their eyes back into their sockets and went back to work. Harry shrugged, and lead them over to the sensor consoles. He had suffered B'Elanna's temper before, and by now he knew when she was being truly serious and when she was not.

*********************

Seven had returned to Astrometrics when the long range sensors had been recalibrated. "n hour later, that left B'Elanna and Harry alone as they made their way to the Mess Hall to grab a bite before returning to their respective posts.

"So.... What was that all about?" Harry couldn't keep his tongue any longer, as he peered at his friend.

"Harry, did anyone ever tell you that you're nosier than a Ferrengi bartender?" B'Elanna remarked, not even dignifying the question with an answer.

"Oh, come on, B'Elanna. It was really obvious. What's going on between the two of you?"

"I don't want to talk about it right now."

After they had obtained their food and sat down at a table, Harry decided to broach the subject again, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"You know, when I fell in love with Marayna from the Holodeck, you told me you saw it in the way I looked at her," Harry recalled.

B'Elanna dropped her fork, and fixed a dangerous glare on him. "What do you want me to say, Harry?"

"Nothing. Just that I recognize the look. Heck, I used to look at Seven that way." He raised his hand when B'Elanna opened her mouth to speak. "BUT, I don't anymore. You can rest assure that my feelings won't be hurt," he said gallantly.

The half-Klingon let out a short chortle. "I'll remember you said that."

"You deserve to be happy. Does Seven know?"

Shrugging, B'Elanna replied casually, "She knows I care about her."

"God, you're worse than me."

She almost choked on his comment.

**********************

The rest of the day went by quickly for Seven. With Tal Celes and Icheb assisting her, Seven charted a preliminary safe path through the region avoiding the more dangerous spatial rifts. Some of the rifts were actually multi-dimensional, and the bridge crew was occupied for most of the day trying to seal them, stabilizing that area of space. By 1800 hours, Seven completed her tasks and was eager to leave and find B'Elanna. Unfortunately, Captain Janeway dropped by to see her, needlessly concerned about her first day back on duty, which she made sure to point out.

Kathryn just laughed and patted the beautiful blonde on the shoulder. "t the Captain's request, Seven showed her the course the she had plotted for Voyager to use once they repaired the warp engines. It seemed to Seven that the Captain was more interested in observing her as she spoke rather than the stellar map displayed on screen, and was standing quite close, enough to invade her, what humans termed, "personal space."

"Seven," Janeway spoke softly.

"Yes, Captain."

From the small distance, Seven could see the smooth contours of the smaller woman's face. Kathryn Janeway had aged nicely.

"I haven't told you how much I missed you when you were gone. I was worried that I had lost the both of you."

Seven didn't know what to say, but she was touched by the sentiment. "I missed your presence as well."

"You've grown, in a way, since you set out on the away mission. It's hard to explain, but it's almost as if you've become more open and expressive," Janeway marveled, placing a warm, gentle hand behind Seven's shoulder.

"I...I learned a great deal from my experiences, and from B'Elanna."

"How remarkable...." There was a long pause as the two women gazed at each other, no longer as mentor and student, but as two adults seeing past the exterior and the rank. "Would you like to join me for dinner tonight?" Kathryn asked.

B'Elanna chose to enter at that moment and paused near the doorway, finding the two of them standing close, their faces less than a foot apart. Oh, she tried not to get jealous, not to let the sight of their intimacy take a stab at her heart, but it was difficult. Even though her expression remained impassive, the sick twisting feeling in her chest left her breathless and in pain. "nd the touch. Janeway was touching Seven. Not in the friendly sort of manner a good buddy would casually dole out every now and then, but an actual caress only one might imagine a lover would give.

Sensing the Klingon's presence, Seven moved away, flustered, and unable to decide what to tell the Captain. Kathryn resolved the situation for her.

Glancing over to the lieutenant, Janeway said, "I see you still have some work to do, Seven. I'll leave you both to it. Let me know what you decide later."

Janeway walked over to B'Elanna on her way out of Astrometrics. "How's everything going down in Engineering? Getting back into the swing of things?" Kathryn asked, grinning warmly at the younger woman, unaware of the tension between them.

"Fine, Captain. Things are going smoothly," B'Elanna reported, her voice steady, but her complexion pale.

"Good. Let me know if you have any problems," called back over her shoulder as she strode out of the room.

"I was just about to find you, B'Elanna," Seven told the lieutenant as she moved over to the Borg's side.

"Until Captain Janeway invited you to dinner," B'Elanna added.

"I will decline so that we can spend the evening together," Seven replied, hoping they could bridge the gap that had formed in their relationship since they returned from the planet.

B'Elanna strolled up the steps to the large screen, and stood quietly admiring the view of stellar space and all its magnificent natural wonders. Seven surveyed her silence patiently, noting the way even the most enchanting elements of the universe could not compare with the Klingon-Human hybrid. Of all the qualities B'Elanna's lineage had assimilated, somehow the most perfect blend of attributes had combined to create this woman.

Looking out into the stars, B'Elanna felt her initial jealousy and heartache subside. It had taken her a long time to come to the point where she was now, a lot of thinking, a lot of debating, and most of all, a lot of crying last night, but the half-Klingon knew that what she was about to do was for the best. Maybe Seven wouldn't understand it right away, but the Borg needed the truth.

"Seven, have you ever noticed the way the Captain treats you differently from the rest of the crew?" B'Elanna asked, not trusting herself to look at the young woman just yet.

It was an odd question coming from B'Elanna, but Seven was willing to indulge the discussion. "Captain Janeway had taken it upon herself to guide me in developing my individuality when I was first separated from the Collective."

"Do you think, if we hadn't been stranded on that planet, that you and the captain would have eventually...formed a romantic relationship?"

Seven frowned. "B'Elanna, why are you asking this?"

"I just want to know..." B'Elanna folded her arms, still facing away from the ex-drone.

"The captain and I are friends." She emphasized the last word, as she walked up to the platform. "Do you doubt the sincerity of my feelings toward you?"

B'Elanna turned and gazed into Seven's eyes. "No," she said softly.

"Do you doubt my ability to have feelings for you?"

"Never," the lieutenant denied, shaking her head slightly. She swallowed hard and tried to again. "Don't you ever notice the way the captain looks at you?"

Seven creased her brow in confusion.

"I think the captain is interested in you, Seven. I think she wants more than just a friendship."

"You are wrong," Seven angrily protested. "The captain and I have a platonic relationship, and you will not cheapen it by making her intentions obscene."

"That's not what I'm trying to say," B'Elanna replied, putting her hand on Seven's arm to soothe the Borg. "Seven, in all the time you've spent with the captain, you've never thought of her from a romantic prospective? We've all seen the way you two interact. Can you tell me honestly that you've never considered Janeway as a potential lover?"

"My past feelings are irrelevant. What is relevant here are my feelings for you." Seven felt uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had turned. Hands clenched tightly at her side, she moved away from the other woman.

"You didn't answer my question," B'Elanna noted, as she came up behind the ex-drone.

"I don't see the point in answering," she replied, taking in a deep breath as the situation felt suffocating. "But if you must force me to.... I have wondered in the past, but those thoughts were fleeting. It is illogical to dwell on them. What I want now is to be with you."

"But you still feel something for her, don't you? When she looks at you with all her focus, when she touches you in that gentle, comforting manner, when she drops everything else to assure your well-being, it draws you to her, doesn't it?"

Seven tried to fight the images, the memories that came to mind of the petite, auburn-hair woman with the powerful presence, the one who guided her, demanded her loyalty and won it. They had spent so many hours together alone, sharing an understanding of what it meant to be isolated from the rest of the crew.

"I do not comprehend what you are attempting to do B'Elanna. Do you wish to terminate our relationship?" Seven questioned, her anguish growing with each second. She did not understand why humans like to play such games.

"I'm not doing this to torture you, Seven," B'Elanna murmured, her voice wavering from her own pain as she spoke. "But I can't...we can't ignore the fact that part of you loves Kathryn Janeway."

"Just as part of you loves Tom Paris," Seven countered, giving B'Elanna an accusing look.

"Okay, that's true. However, I've had closure on that relationship. You haven't had the chance to make a choice yet, with all the possibilities in front of you."

"I have made my choice! I don't know why you can't accept it. Why you don't want me."

Seven voice's was harrowed and passionate. And in a fit of desperation, she struck out at the bulkhead next to her with an open hand, a Borg-enhanced hand. The metal crunched audibly under the blow, and a small dip in the surface remained as a lasting reminder of the ex-drone's heartache. Forgetting her own safety, B'Elanna grabbed Seven about the shoulders, spun her around, hugging onto the blonde tightly, and captured Seven's gaze.

"You listen, Seven. I want you. I want you so much it pains me when you're not around. I just don't want you to have any regrets. To look back one day and think what if.... You and Janeway have a bond, and could have a future together. When we were stranded together on the planet, we didn't know if we would ever be rescued, if we would ever find Voyager."

B'Elanna freed one of her own hands from holding the Borg, and pointed to the two them. "Then, we happened,... and it's wonderful," she continued. "But now we're back on Voyager, and the circumstances have changed. There are other people involved. We can't make mistakes like our parents did by not thinking things through."

Seven sobbed, turning her head away, not wishing to hear anymore of what B'Elanna had to say. "Why do you hurt us, B'Elanna?"

"I don't mean to." B'Elanna wept, knowing she may well have given up the love of her life. "I love you, Ani...."

Seven looked up wonder at the sweet words she had longed to hear from B'Elanna. But what would have given her overwhelming joy was tempered by the emotional turmoil in her heart.

"I wish I could believe you, Bey," Seven responded brokenly.

"Believe me. I love you, and sometimes that means I have to be able to let go of you a little so that you can be your own person and make the decisions you need to make without influence. And if you decide you don't mind settling for a non-practicing half-Klingon engineer..."

Seven stopped crying, and looked at B'Elanna, really looked at her, letting the woman's words seep in. She held the exquisite face in her hand, coming to realize that B'Elanna wasn't breaking up with her. If the Klingon felt she had a choice to make then Seven wasn't going to disappoint. She would consider everything carefully.

"We can still see each other, correct?" Seven asked.

"You better count on it," the Klingon replied, and kissed her.

Chapter 24

Seven retired to her Cargo Bay, finding solace in the quiet hum of her alcoves. The children were preoccupied with a camping trip with Neelix, who had been thoughtful enough to take care of them while she adjusted to her work schedule. He seemed to think that she had some matters to work out, and it amazed her how accurate he had been. Seven hailed the Captain and told her that she could not join her that evening for dinner, her thoughts still clinging to the conversation with B'Elanna. Instead, she agreed to dinner with Janeway tomorrow night, hoping perhaps to bring her closer to understanding the nature of both her relationships with B'Elanna and with Kathryn Janeway.

The ex-drone heard the Cargo Bay doors opened, and turned to see a small, familiar figure enter wearing a cheerful smile. And she greeted her friend in her usual manner.

"Naomi Wildman."

"Seven, you're here!" the tiny girl squealed, and ran up to the Borg, embracing the long legs. "I've been trying to find for the past two days."

Seven hugged Naomi back, having felt her friend's absence all this time. "I have been looking forward to seeing you too. I am sorry I have been so busy with regenerating and my duties."

"That's okay. I understand," Naomi replied, pleasantly surprised by the open affection. "What was it like on the planet? Was it scary?"

"At times," Seven admitted, "however, it is a lengthy story. Perhaps, I can tell you about it over a game of kadis-kot."

"Great!" The little girl bounced around the room with excitement. She spotted an item on Seven's computer console, and before Seven could stop her, picked it up in curiosity.

"What this?" she asked, fingering the machine.

"Naomi Wildman, be careful with that!" Seven cried out, rushing over to her side.

The poor girl literally jumped and quickly set the game box on the console to its former place, putting her hands behind her back.

"I'm sorry," she apologized, a bit scared at Seven's reaction.

Seven regretted her actions immediately, and knelt down to address her friend. "It is I who should apologize for yelling. I had no right to raise my voice in such a manner."

"No, Seven. I...I shouldn't have touched your belongings without your permission."

"That still does not excuse my behavior. Someone special gave this game box to me. I'm sorry I overreacted," Seven explained, her eyes beginning to redden with tears just thinking about the Lieutenant, while Naomi slipped a small hand in her bigger one.

The young girl sensed her older friend's distress, and though she did not know what was troubling her, Naomi gave her support in the most natural way she could. Seven was grateful for the gesture.

"Would you like to play with it?" Seven asked, trusting her friend, and handed her the precious object.

"Yes, and I promise to be really careful," Naomi answered sincerely.

The two of them sat on the platform of her alcove, and Naomi played as Seven looked on, her arm around the child's shoulders.

***********************

B'Elanna woke the next morning feeling very tired, even after a full night's sleep. With her bed empty, without Seven to warm it, she had no desire to linger there any longer than she needed. She did have something to look forward to today, however. She and Seven made plans to meet in the late afternoon at one of the Doctor's opera recitals. Though she wasn't particularly interested in one more rendition of Faust, it was an opportunity to spend time with Seven, something she sorely craved. Every moment that they lived their lives separately filled her with remorse. The half-Klingon hoped that she wouldn't look back on this someday to find that she had acted like an idiot.

"Seven of Nine to Lt. Torres."

B'Elanna smiled. "Torres here. You're lucky you didn't call a few minutes earlier. You'd have a grumpy Klingon on your hands."

"I doubt you would be in a negative mood if I did have my hands on you," came the reply.

Biting her cheek at the blatant come-on, the lieutenant swore she heard a bunch of Borg children giggling in the background. She wondered what else the Borg picked up from Edyn, that rat.

Seven continued, "You are late for breakfast."

"Breakfast?" B'Elanna asked, rubbing the sand out of her eyes, and yawned.

"The nutritious meal one ingests traditionally at the start of a day," the ex-drone kept baiting.

"Hah, hah. Very funny, Seven. I don't remember us talking about it yesterday," she replied hoarsely, idly scratching an itch on her tummy.

"No, we did not.... I thought it would be...nice."

B'Elanna picked up the hesitation in Seven's voice, and instantly reassured the Borg. "That would be great! If I hurry I have enough time before my shift starts..." She got up off her bed, and ran over to the bathroom.

"I will meet you in the Mess Hall," Seven replied.

In fifteen minutes, the lieutenant exited her quarters completely rejuvenated by the fact that she would see Seven soon. When she entered the Mess Hall, she found a small crowd had gathered in front of the counter, and she could hear Neelix's voice projecting over her crewmates. Curious herself, B'Elanna walked through the group, which parted for her easily being a senior officer, and found Harry at the head. But that wasn't what captured her attention. All of them had been watching Seven of Nine, who was behind the counter putting the last touches on her crepes, and admiring her form as she worked. Beaming happily was Neelix at her side, observing and giving helpful tips. " lazy grin appeared on the lieutenant's face, who was drunken with pleasure at the sight of the gorgeous Borg attempting to make use of her lessons from Moka.

Finally, after topping the crepes with fruit, Seven wiped her hands clean from remaining flour, and picked up the plates. The ex-drone paused and straightened when she looked up to find B'Elanna had been in the crowd.

"Lt. Torres... As I recall, you volunteered to be my test subject," Seven told her, hiding a smirk in her cool facade.

A flash of confusion crossed over B'Elanna's amused face before she replied, "I...guess I did." She cleared her throat. "Well, yes, my redundant stomachs should be able to handle anything you throw at me."

Seven arched her brow and indicated that the half-Klingon should find a seat to sit down. B'Elanna walked over to one of the middle tables near the port windows while Seven followed her, bringing the plates with her. They ignored the stares from their crewmates who also went back to getting their breakfast, once the show was over.

"I'm sorry. I did not realize I would draw so much attention. Ensign Kim rises far too early for his shifts," Seven apologized, giving the young man a hard stare across the room.

"No, it's fine. They can look all they want," B'Elanna assured her. She couldn't shy away from their relationship, not now. The Borg looked positively adorable with a bit of flour smudged on her cheek.

"Are you going to taste my first attempt at cooking?" the young woman asked, waiting expectantly.

"Hmm... Oh, of course!" B'Elanna picked up her fork, but then peered at Seven warily. "Unless you've poisoned it," she asked, the corners of her mouth twitching, "not that I don't deserve it."

"Poisoning is inefficient. "n individual may show signs of nausea and vomiting early enough to be saved," she deadpanned.

"Klingons don't get nauseous. Well, actually I do.... But I don't think any other Klingon has had the privilege of an ex-drone cooking for them before," the lieutenant bantered back.

B'Elanna took a bite, and was immediately surprised by the flavoring. "Koli fruit? My favorite..."

"Moka had given us a few of the fruit to bring back with us, and I intend to plant the seeds I extracted from those I used this morning in the Hydroponics Bay."

"It tastes great," B'Elanna complimented, licking her lips, and dug into her crepes greedily, as Seven looked on with delight and joined her.

"Thank you, Seven."

"You are welcome."

********************

The high note the doctor hit was insufferable, and Tom Paris flinched as his ear drums began to oscillate, feeling sorry for the people who sat closer to the front. He had been hoping to catch sight of B'Elanna, after having overheard her tell Harry that she was going to the recital. Each time he had tried to invite her to share a meal or come over to watch his television set or even play a game of Derata after both their shifts, she had turned him down over the past few days.

At last, he saw her trim but curvaceous figure sneaking through the double doors of the Mess Hall. Before he could secretly wave her over, he saw her skulk to the opposite side of the aisle, finding a seat next to Seven, one the ex-drone had been saving in the back row corner. Tom's eyes narrowed suspiciously, realizing that he would have gotten those seats only with the intent of rendezvousing rather than actually paying attention to the performance. He watched as the two women exchanged meaningful glances on occasion and whispered to each other. It was rare, but he even detected a slight smile or two from the ex-drone all directed at B'Elanna, his former lover.

Tom sat there stupefied. If B'Elanna hadn't been acting so cold to him lately, brushing him off at every chance whenever he made romantic overtures, he would have just assumed that the two had patched things up between them on the away mission. But their behavior was something entirely different, and that had him shaken. Maybe there was something to the gossip. The helmsman looked around the room, wondering if anyone else noticed, or rather if everyone else knew and he was the only one kept in the dark. Then he caught sight of Harry, his best friend, who sat there with a whimsical smile on his face while he too squinted towards the two beautiful women in the corner. When Harry's eyes met his, the young man immediately tried to cover up what distracted him from the opera, and there was no doubt left in Tom's mind.

*********************

B'Elanna unzipped her mustard uniform jacket even before she stepped into her quarters, finding it annoying and now restricting in comparison to the comfortable Rangoon clothing she wore on the planet. It would be another lonely night for the engineer as Seven was expected at the Captain's quarters for dinner. She tried not to think about what that meant, allowing the young Borg to have some space.

The half-Klingon tried to ignore the feral part of her that demanded her to take action. 'Go and fight for your mate, you qoH!' it told her.

" voice startled her. "Busy night?"

B'Elanna jumped back as she peered into the dim room. She knew it was Tom from his voice, but she still searched him out. She found his dark outline sitting at her work desk, and despite the situation, she felt no fear, not from him, never from him.

"Computer, lights," she ordered, watching the helmsman adapt to the sudden change. "How did you get in here?"

"You didn't make it easy. I had to bypass the code. Since when did you change it?"

"Since I wanted more privacy," she retorted, irritated by the intrusion. "You shouldn't have just come in here, Tom."

"Yeah, you're right, but it's been hard to get in touch with you lately," Tom replied with a touch of sadness. "What's going on, B'Elanna?"

"It's been really hectic. You know how it is when there are repairs to be done," she explained regretfully.

"I mean this..."

Tom turned her laptop around to face her. The image of her and Seven together was plastered on the screen, an image of happiness in stark contrast to the expression on Tom's face.

"You had no right to invade my files, Tom!" she yelled, her anger flaring at the outrage.

"I didn't. It was just there on the screen, just out there! I didn't have to touch a thing!" he yelled back.

She smacked the computer keys and closed the file, even as the computer beeped in protest from the abuse. She stalked away from there, but not before she gave him a dirty look.

"Is that's what's been going on? Is that why you've been avoiding me lately? Cause you've got some fling with Seven?" he accused, following her over to the couch area, neither one sitting down.

"IT is NOT a fling!" she growled, turning around to confront him. "And I've been way too busy to stop you from trying to rekindle our relationship."

"So she's good-looking. You don't believe that Seven can actually love somebody," he mocked. "It's probably some kind of warped Borg experiment of hers."

If the half-Klingon ever felt like hitting Tom, it was right at that moment. Instead, she shoved him away, five feet away that is, of his hundred-eighty pound frame.

"Shut up, Tom! You don't know a thing about Seven, and I won't have you disrespecting her to me or anyone else on this ship," she snapped.

"And what about us, B'Elanna. I love you... We've been together for three years. You can't tell me you don't love me," he whined, his eyes starting to color red.

"I did love you, Tom. But it's over. Don't make it so we can't be friends," she pleaded, searching his face.

His shoulders slumped in defeat at her words, knowing he'd rather be something to her than nothing at all. If he had learned anything from their years together, it was to never question her resolve or devotion.

********************

Janeway lit the last of the candles, and stood back to observe the little scattered points of light throughout the room with satisfaction. The chicken was roasting, the salad was tossed, and best of all, the white wine was chilled to the perfect temperature. Of course, she wouldn't subject the poor ex-drone to alcohol unless Seven wanted it, but it just helped with the overall atmosphere. She put the final touches by dimming the lights twenty-five percent, and setting her audio program to play piano concertos during dinner. Once that was done, she looked herself over in the mirror, smoothing the soft, white silk button shirt and icy gray slacks she had on.

The chime to her door rang, just at that perfect moment, and Janeway couldn't help feeling a little excited, but also nervous. She invited whoever was at the door to enter, but expected only one person. Seven, dressed in her usual brown biosuit, stepped into the Captain's private quarters tentatively, her customary nonchalance absent.

"Come on in, Seven," Janeway invited, waving the Borg in. "Dinner's about to be ready."

"Captain. Do you require assistance?" Seven inquired politely, hoping that occupying herself would relieve some of her anxiousness.

"No, just settle yourself down at the dining table, and get comfortable," she replied jovially, pointing over to the table settings.

Seven nodded, and moved over to one of the tall-back chairs. She seated herself, and found there was nothing much to do but wait and observe Kathryn Janeway, who was famous for her disasters at cooking. Seven smiled as Janeway fiddled with the dishes and food, sometimes wrinkling her forehead in indecisiveness. Not wanting to be caught staring, her eyes wandered to the decorum of the Captain's quarters.

Books lined the shelves with literature from various cultures, many of which were poetry. Kathryn had collected quite a number of knickknacks and artifacts from other civilizations over the years, which where tastefully displayed throughout the living area and shelves. No doubt, there was a story behind every object in the room. Kathryn Janeway was a complex, highly intelligent woman, and Seven knew she could spend the next several years learning just who that woman was. The Captain's voice brought her back to the present, as the auburn-haired woman sat down at the table.

******************

Not noticing the appraising looks she got in her kick-boxing top and pants, B'Elanna walked to the Holodeck in cold silence. Her encounter with Tom had been unpleasant, but it resolved most of the immediate tension that had developed between them. Though they were far from being best friends, she had a gut feeling that with time, their relationship would return to the way it was before they had gotten involved. He was a good guy, but just not the one for her, and she wished him all the happiness in the universe.

Still, her mood was agitated, and there was no way she could stay in her room without going stir crazy, knowing Seven was with Janeway. The half-Klingon needed to purge her negative feelings, call it a biological need, but she learned how to do it constructively now. She initiated the gym program in the computer and entered the Holodeck doors. It contained the same sterile Star Fleet environment. The nice small running track circled around the padded work-out floor. The weights occupied one half of the floor, and the punching bags in the other. Even before she knew it, her legs carried her around the clay surface of the track.

*******************

Kathryn laughed for the third time this evening, the first time after hearing about the willing offer the Nokk maiden had proposed to her supposedly flustered Klingon lieutenant. She genuinely wished she could have seen the expression B'Elanna's face when it happened. This time, it was because of B'Elanna's run-in with a disgruntled pet. The faint rustling and ruffling of the Captain's loose silk shirt over her chest as it shook in laughter distracted Seven for a moment. The Captain looked quite handsome in it.

Seven put her glass of wine down, and chastised herself. The first opportunity to demonstrate her serious commitment to B'Elanna, and she failed to keep her thoughts and eyes from wandering. She had to admit she was attracted to the Captain. Kathryn was an aesthetically pleasing, strong-willed, charming, and accomplished woman. She could sway leaders of other civilizations with a single speech, let alone a single Borg's heart. In truth, there was a part of her that could love Janeway, perhaps even intrigued by the notion, and it distressed Seven even more. If she loved Janeway, then she would have to stop loving B'Elanna. But that was not possible, unfathomable to her own Borg logic.

If she and B'Elanna had not been stranded on the planet together, then she might have pursued her previous budding feelings for the Captain. It would have been possible that she and Kathryn would have ended up loving one another for the rest of their lives, not knowing there could have been someone else. However, something did happen between her and B'Elanna, and there was no way to erase the knowledge and feelings that had developed, not that she wanted to. B'Elanna tried to give her freedom, at the expense of the Klingon's own well-being, and the injury she must have borne tore at Seven's heart. The possibility of her and Kathryn was in...the past.

Seven sighed. She had made a promise to Moka and she had forgotten. How foolish of her...

The dear woman had told her not to dwell on the past and focus on the future, but instead she had missed the meaning of the message entirely. Even Dannan had warned her during their whispered goodbye that Bey would put up a fight against their destiny together, and had encouraged her not to give up no matter how hard the half-Klingon tried to resist. The sudden insight came crashing down upon her.

********************

B'Elanna punched and kicked her pain away as she slammed the red punching bag with ferocity again and again, making it squeak on its hinge. She didn't have to think about anything as her arms and legs blurred with a savage speed. It was purely physical, acting and reacting to the motion of the object in front of her. But even her endurance had its limits, and she launched herself one last time against the bag in frustration, grabbing it as she slid down its length to the floor, and sat with her eyes closed. Her breathing came in pants, and perspiration dripped down the sides of her face, down her neck and disappeared into her clothes. Blinking, she came out of her daze, and began stripping away the tape from her hands.

"Computer, change program to the Nian Rainfalls," the half-Klingon ordered.

Instantly, the gym disappeared and changed to a cool drizzle of clean rain, relieving her fevered skin as it fell lightly upon her face and body. She sat, arms resting on knees, upon a flat plateau of slate rock next to shallow ponds of collecting rain water. For as long as she could remember, B'Elanna had always loved the water, and her favorite holoprograms were always of lakes and beaches. With a quick tug, she pulled her shirt over her head, allowing the rain to trickle down her back and wash away the sweat.

'I can't wait for her any longer. Ten more minutes and I'm going to go get her. I don't care what happens,' she thought to herself, as the sound of pattering water drowned all else.

But ten minutes came and went by a few times, and still she remained unmoved. B'Elanna wondered if she had created the dilemma for herself because she needed the conflict, the suffering in all her relationships. That she wanted Seven to leave her. But if that were true, she would have never told the Borg she loved her. It would have been more in character for her to suffer in silence the pain of unrequited love. She would never have dishonored herself by declaring her love only to hurt Seven in the end.

'Have faith in Seven,' the voice told her calmly, no longer angry.

********************

When Seven had fallen silent, Janeway had sat patiently watching her, hoping to give the ex-drone some time to her own thoughts. She enjoyed looking at Seven, at her high cheek bones, chiseled nose, downy lashes, and gold-spun hair. But when she saw the troubled expression cloud over the blonde's features, she spoke up.

"Seven, are you alright?" she asked, her own face concerned.

Seven looked up and sighed, not completely certain what she was about to say would not hurt the woman across from her. "Captain.... Do you think it's possible to love someone after ten days?"

It took a while for the question to register, and within moments, Kathryn's mask of command returned. But it did not stay long, for greater than her role as a mentor to the young woman was her role as Seven's friend.

Kathryn sat up, the motion pulling her elegant shirt straight, and answered evenly. "I think it's possible under very special circumstances,...like those on the planet," she concluded.

Janeway pursed her lips. "I take it we're talking about B'Elanna here?..."

Seven looked down shyly, unable to hold the captain's gaze, and nodded.

"I've noticed remarkable change in you, and I can't help but wonder if part of it hasn't been because of what being with B'Elanna has brought out. But you and B'Elanna have kept each other at arms length all these years. Do you really know each other that well?" the captain questioned, but not in a malicious manner.

"How can we not, Captain?" Seven posed calmly, after a moment's thought. "The ship is small, and the crew complement moderate. For the past three years I have been on Voyager, I have encountered and worked with B'Elanna almost every single day. I know when she wakes up in the morning, when she works, when she takes her breaks, and when she stubbornly does not. I know what annoys her and what gains her approval in Engineering. I know what of Neelix's cooking she prefers to eat and what she avoids."

She continued, more passionately this time, "I have observed her friendships and her romantic relationship, argued and agreed with her over issues that impact the crew."

Seven paused. "The ten days on the planet were the most intimate times I have ever had with anyone on this ship. B'Elanna and I shared things that we have never revealed to anyone else before. She has taught me what it means to love someone, and I believe I am honorable when I say that I love her."

"Ten days is enough," Kathryn replied with small, understanding smile.

Her gaze was filled with warmth for the young woman that blossomed in the presence of love, and reflected none of the disappointment she felt for not being the reason behind it. But at least she was comforted by the fact that nothing had progressed to the point which neither of them could not return, their friendship preserved.

"I think you should go to her and tell her," the captain suggested empathetically, releasing the young woman from her obligation to stay.

"Thank you, Capt...Kathryn. Without you, I would not have regained my individuality and my ability to love," Seven told her sincerely as she rose from her chair, knowing a small part of her would always care deeply for this woman. Without any further hesitation, Seven stepped out of the captain's quarters to seek her destiny.

Kathryn Janeway sat in her own chair, contemplating the Borg's words long after she had left. She sighed, remembering her own experience, a short period of special circumstances that she had denied and put aside. She had let the possibility pass her by, and now she was too late again. However, this time, she wondered if her own personal sense of duty was worth it all in the end. If Seven of Nine was willing to try, why shouldn't she?

"Janeway to Chakotay."

"Chakotay here," replied the comforting tone of her first officer.

"Would you like to join me for dinner? It seems my guest was unable to stay, and I have quite a meal prepared."

There was a pause before his voice returned. "Are you sure they won't change their mind and come back."

Janeway smiled ironically. "No, I don't think so...."

"I'll be right there."

*********************

Seven hurried through the corridor on her way to find B'Elanna. This time, she would not give the half-Klingon any opportunity to push her away for whatever the reason. She must have not paid attention to where she was going, because in her rush, she ran straight into Ensign Paris. Tom moved away from her as if she had struck him, his eyes ablaze with accusation.

"I'm sorry, Ensign Paris. Please excuse me," she offered, a lesson from the doctor on customary apologies.

Tom crossed his arms. "I don't think you're sorry at all," he told her.

Seven frowned, not understanding his demeanor. He of all people was the most agreeable in nature, and she never experienced any hostility from him before.

"You don't have any trouble 'assimilating' what's not yours, do you?" he scorned.

It became apparent to Seven just exactly who, not what, he was referring to. "I don't believe Lt. Torres belongs to anyone. She is an individual, capable of making her own decisions."

He seemed taken aback by her words, his anger cut off by her rational response.

"You don't deserve her," he said finally, without any sort of conviction behind it. Tom's fight had left him after his argument with B'Elanna.

"Perhaps," the Borg acknowledged, "but neither do you."

They both stood staring at each other across the corridor, until finally Tom turned away and nodded, leaving the ex-drone in the opposite direction with what comfort he took from the exchange. Though some might consider it heartless, for the Borg, Tom factored very little into her conscience other than being B'Elanna's previous love interest, and Seven resumed her search for B'Elanna.

*********************

Seven stepped hesitantly into Holodeck 1, not that she was having cold feet about declaring her love for the half-Klingon, but wondering if she could adequately convey all she felt for B'Elanna. She found herself sprinkled with a little shower of precipitation as she walked onto the slate ground that seemed to stretch beyond her field of vision, framed by a mountain vista in the background and a lush, leafy green jungle on either side. She softened her footsteps as her heels connected with the flat stone, in order not to disturb the serene setting, and she avoided the shimmering pools of water that punctuated the rocky terrain. The rain made it more difficult to locate the lieutenant, creating a slight haze and darkening the air, but it was extremely tranquilizing despite.

At last, the ex-drone saw the huddled figure of her beautiful companion in the short distance, who was still unaware of her presence. Seven approached quietly, finding a shirtless B'Elanna, with legs draw up to her chest, resting the side of her face on her arms. Her eyes were closed, and her face was calm as if in slumber.

Seven reached behind her neck, and pulled at the clasp of her biosuit before she spoke. "You are so beautiful, B'Elanna, in every way. Sometimes I do not think you are even aware of it, your effect on others, on me. And when I am in your presence, I am a woman, B'Elanna ... with needs."

Crystal clear, brown eyes shot open at the sound of her voice. Wordlessly, B'Elanna watched as Seven peeled away her clothing, slowly, a vision of sensuality. Smooth shoulders made way to creamy, youthful breasts with inviting, pale pink nipples that led to a tone, washboard stomach outlined by whisper thin bands of Borg metal. The circling bands meshed artfully with Seven's otherwise flawless alabaster skin, the pattern drawing the half-Klingon's eyes further downward to the ex-drone's tender womanhood, which gave her pause, and then down long, slim legs glistening intermittently with silver implants.

"I need you to love me, and I need to love you. It hurts when I cannot," the young Borg said, not breaking the intense eye contact between them as she stepped into the pool.

Seven waded across the small length, and stopped in front of B'Elanna, just as the Klingon turned and dipped her legs into the water to accept her. She could see the stark desire in B'Elanna's gaze, and continued her impassioned speech.

"I do not know what spirit or force or random chance of events brought this single drone to this ship, to you. But I do know you are my perfect match, my one true mate. Ten days, a lifetime...it does not matter. I love you now and I will love you for the rest of my existence."

Seven watched as B'Elanna's expression broke with relief. When the half-Klingon reach out, Seven cradled her in her arms and hugged her fiercely.

"I love you, Seven." Looking deeply into Seven's eyes, B'Elanna swore, her voice thick with emotion, "I've never loved anyone more and I never want to be apart from you again."

Seven smiled even as tears sprung from her ocular implant. She felt exhilaration as she had finally found her place, and there was no where else she'd rather be. She watched as B'Elanna took her human hand and lifted it to her lips, placing gentle kisses along her palm and wrist.

Full lips met with full lips in a heated passion when B'Elanna brought their faces together. There would be no barriers between them tonight. Seven pressed their bodies together, her hands running up and down the half-Klingon's well-muscled back, eager to remove the remaining clothing under her fingertips. Her caresses stroked the burning desire in B'Elanna, who slipped an agile tongue into the sweet mouth that beckoned her. Seven moaned softly in protest when B'Elanna pulled away, breaking off the steamy contact, but was utterly aroused by the wanton look on her face.

B'Elanna could feel an internal ache stirring as rampant Klingon hormones surged through her veins, her senses suddenly acute. The desire to bond with the woman she loved, her mate, to touch souls was so incredibly powerful. She picked up the unique scent that the Borg gave off, and could almost taste Seven's blood when she moved in close. With ease, she released the bun, entangled the fingers of her hand in the silky blonde locks, and moved her teeth closer to the delicate chin with the shallow dimple. The lieutenant struggled for control over her strong instincts, which were partly biological and partly cultural perhaps. She forced herself to look away, focusing on the smooth porcelain skin of Seven's shoulder.

"B'Elanna, please copulate with me," whispered Seven desperately, as she clutched the smaller frame, the repressed emotions she had endured crying out for release.

"Make love, Seven," B'Elanna corrected her, sliding into the pool, needing to feel the lithe body against hers.

As B'Elanna laid kisses along the slender shoulder, she could feel the tiny goose bumps on the naked flesh under her lips. Concern for Seven reined in her lust, as she contemplated a more comfortable setting, and only one befitting place came to mind.

Holding Seven tightly to her, she voiced her command, "Computer, change program to Torres-Seven Prime."

The rainfall halted, and a warm, familiar surrounding appeared. Seven glanced around as the Holodeck transformed itself into their small, quiet room in the back of Dannan's home. The young woman quirked her brow in surprise and pleasure at the sight of the one place she and B'Elanna had come together in love. She felt herself being led backwards toward the bed, and was gently seated on its cushioned surface. B'Elanna bent down and kissed her teasingly on the lips before standing up again. Seven observed as the woman in front of her began to strip away the top that hid the dusky red nipples and supple breasts from her gaze. She was drawn to the cocoa buttery skin, at long last being revealed to her in all its glory. The ex-drone reached out hungrily to caress the toned body, cupping the soft mounds, before sliding her hands lower and grasping the waistband. With a firm, steady tug, Seven lowered the pants over round hips and let everything drop to the floor.

Seven held the firm buttocks and pulled B'Elanna towards her, nipping the skin over the flat, subtle rippling of abdominal muscles all the while peeking inquisitively at the dark triangle of short, wispy hair. Both of them were still damp from the rain shower, but they paid no attention to it, knowing that in a few moments, both of them would be even more wet with perspiration. B'Elanna lowered herself and resumed their kissing, tongues touching each other with ease, until she lifted the Borg by the hips. Seven clung to the lieutenant's neck while she was carried over to the center of the bed, and did not release her hold even when her head laid on the pillow. She was content kissing her soon-to-be-lover, and wrapped her long legs around the trim waist, at last knowing what it felt like to have B'Elanna's smooth, naked skin next to hers.

"B'Elanna ... I've never engaged in making love before," the ex-drone admitted nervously, wondering if her research would be enough to please her companion.

"I'm in unfamiliar territory myself," B'Elanna answered, as she caressed the milky thigh within her reach soothingly. "We'll be all right. We'll do what feels good for the both of us."

Seven nodded, implicitly trusting the half-Klingon, whose every touch had given her pleasant, passion-inducing sensations thus far. She buried her left hand in the dark, rich mane of hair while her other hand alternated between gripping and stroking the powerful muscles on B'Elanna's back.

B'Elanna nuzzled her face against Seven's once before peppering the blonde with light kisses over her lips, cheek, and chin. Resting on her elbows, she traveled down the hollow of Seven's long neck, nipping once or twice before descending lower, very aware of the hardening pebbles against her own chest as she slid her wet body easily over Seven. "s her hands moved under the supple figure, the half-Klingon kissed the valley between the firm breasts, and avoiding the sensitive nipples, nipped and suckled on the abundant flesh before her. She definitely liked the differences from her past sexual experiences, finding the taste of Seven's moist skin and the resilient texture of her bosom under her lips addictive. She could hear the young woman's breathing deepen, and wondered what the reaction would be if she kissed the round nub.

The reaction was immediate as Seven allowed a slight moan to escape, followed by a sigh, while her hand pulled the Klingon's head closer. B'Elanna didn't keep her waiting for more as her tongue slipped out to graze the pink nipple to the left and her right hand reached up to caress the other nipple, kneading the soft mound gently.

"Bey...," breathed Seven, as she watched her lover through half-closed eyes, enjoying her own body's response to B'Elanna's actions.

She tried to memorize everything B'Elanna was doing, how each change in touch evoked a certain sensation in her body, storing away her first time. Her enhanced hand combed through B'Elanna's thick, dark hair while her other hand moved up to caress the back of her neck and spine. She could feel the bone ridges prickling her fingertips just under the surface of the skin and the muscles flexing as B'Elanna moved back and forth between her breasts, and then lower to her ribs, her belly. Her lover kissed and touched every implant, every part of her, and the former drone felt cherished. And each time she began to tremble, B'Elanna would stop to hold her and nuzzle her face against her body.

Her research described the physiological arousal one obtained during sexual activities, but nothing could have prepared her for the sensations she was experiencing. She knew that words and ideas could elicit strong responses between people, developing deep connections, but now, she understood that physical acts could create such moments as well, every since she and B'Elanna began kissing and touching each other. And when the Klingon kissed her intimately...down there, B'Elanna was truly loving her.

The breathy moans Seven released and the taste of mead that flowed between their lips were beginning to make B'Elanna feel heady. There was nothing of the young Borg that was short of perfection. Each subtle moan Seven produced was so undeniably erotic, and B'Elanna noted with humor that some part of her lover was still restraining herself, still attempting to maintain control. The thought of Seven losing that control urged B'Elanna on, hoping the next sound would be a cry of unbridled ecstasy. Seven's hips rocked when she slipped her tongue in deeply or at other times, just shy within the delicate folds, concentrating on the small, swollen nub that seemed to drive the beautiful blonde a little wilder, while her hand steadied the pelvic rhythm. Her other hand never stopped its ministrations along Seven's breasts, smooth belly, and metal ribbing.

"Ah ... Bey..." Seven gasped softly, eyes now closed as she arched her back.

And B'Elanna could feel her lover peaking, the motions becoming erratic, the grip in her hair tightening. Though she didn't stop her tongue caresses, she slowed her movements, only thrusting deeper and licking harder, and coaxed Seven to a slow, drawn out climax.

"Bey!" Seven murmured more loudly this time, as what started out initially as exciting tingles, then an almost painful yet pleasurable ache in her sex with each stroke of B'Elanna's tongue, exploded into an all consuming orgasm.

Gently, B'Elanna eased away a creamy thigh that had clamped down on her head moments ago. Pulling back her own mussed hair, she caught her breath and took in the appealing sight of her ex-drone, panting in the quiet afterglow. Slowly, she kissed her way up the long, slender body, licking away the sweat that collected between the soft, heaving breasts. B'Elanna captured Seven's face between her hands, and kissed the cherry lips tenderly.

Seven opened her eyes, and gazed up at her lover with a mixture of awe and bewilderment. "I have no words to describe what I just experienced. And yet I still need you," she told the half-Klingon, her voice raw and shaky, cuddling the half-Klingon closer.

B'Elanna looked back at her with a smoldering desire of her own. "I need you too, Ani" she replied huskily, as she straddled Seven's right thigh.

Without breaking their gaze, B'Elanna moved her hand down to cup the soft, unguarded mound of Seven's sex, and slipped her fingers between the wet lips. In response, Seven pulled B'Elanna towards herself, and kissed the darker woman passionately, tasting her own essence, pressing her tongue against B'Elanna's with urgency. Moaning, the Borg could feel the ache building again in her pelvis as B'Elanna stimulated her clitoris with loving strokes, sometimes brushing back and forth teasingly, sometimes grinding satisfyingly in circular motions.

When the fingers hesitated at her entrance, she heard B'Elanna whisper in her ear between breaths, "I don't want to hurt you..."

"I trust you, Bey...please..." Seven urged.

"If you need me to, I'll stop...."

Seven nodded, knowing what to expect, believing that her lover would never cause her any intentional discomfort in their lovemaking. And then she felt B'Elanna's gentle finger entering her.

B'Elanna heard a sharp intake of breath from the young woman, and paused her motion. The opening had been wet and welcoming as she eased her finger in, feeling only a slight resistance before her finger slid through the tight, hot channel. She leaned in and kissed Seven with all the devotion that was in her heart, and felt her lover return the kiss with equal intensity. She kept her hand still as the young Borg began to move against her, hips undulating on their own accord. And when she felt Seven's human hand touch her mound, she couldn't stop herself from growling. Her own need had been growing with each second she made love to Seven. The half-Klingon moaned deeply when Seven reached up and massaged her breast with her Borg hand, the edges of the metal rubbing her rosy brown nipple from all directions. She rocked against the lithe body under her as Seven began to thrust two fingers into her earnestly, mimicking the actions of her tongue earlier.

"Oh, Kahless ... Ani!"

The rain water that had covered both their bodies initially was replaced by sweat, as they moved in rhythm on the bed, touching each other ceaselessly. Their lips collided sensually when they were not busy tasting their partner's body elsewhere. B'Elanna nearly climaxed when her senses became aware of how their nipples rolled and danced around one another, their breasts mashed together as the two women moved. But the half-Klingon was almost there, already having experienced smaller peaks along the way. And when the ex-drone brushed her thumb against her clit, she knew she was lost. Her warm muscles began to spasm, pulling Seven's fingers deeper into her.

Seven felt the change in B'Elanna, and as if her own body had synchronized with her lover, she began to lose control of her building arousal. She thrust hard onto B'Elanna's hand, and pulled the Klingon down to her, wanting to connect every part of their body the same way their emotions did right at that moment. And when the blazing fires of sexual pleasure tore through their bodies, Seven lean forward in a paroxysm of passion and bit B'Elanna.

The teeth sank into her right cheek, just over her jaw, but B'Elanna felt no pain at all. Instead, the torrid act set her primal blood off into another climax just as the first began to pass, and she rode the waves that coursed through her just as Seven came. Their loud, unrestrained cries reverberated off the walls when they called out each other's names.

********************

Seven could feel her heart hammering wildly in her chest, and she found herself grateful that Borg had reinforced cardiopulmonary systems because a mere human would not have survived such a making love experience. Sighing with lazy satisfaction, she wiped the tears that had begun to fall from her eyes, even as she held onto her exhausted lover resting on her chest, and waited for the other woman to catch her bearings. She traced the tattoo, only she knew was there, with her Borg enhanced hand, its artificial nerves sensitive enough to feel the lines of ink just under the bronze skin. Finally, when B'Elanna's breathing slowed and decreased in effort, Seven lifted the dark head up to look at her half-Klingon. B'Elanna had a silly grin on her face despite the tears that tracked down her own cheeks.

The ex-drone quirk her brow in amusement and entreated B'Elanna to come up beside her. B'Elanna crawled up the lanky body, snuggled close, and propped herself up on her elbow to look down at the beautiful woman.

"I did not realize making love could be this way," Seven murmured bashfully, running her hand along the arm that embraced her around her waist.

"Neither did I," replied B'Elanna, with a tender expression on her face.

Seven smiled at that, and raised her fingers to trace the faint bite she had given the Klingon in the heat of passion. "You do not mind this?" she quietly asked, looking at her lover intently.

"The bite?" B'Elanna wondered out loud. "No ... I didn't even feel any pain. It was...kind of a turn on actually," she added wryly.

"...I meant...the engagement," the Borg murmured, apprehensive over what B'Elanna's response would be.

Recognizing the implication of that bite in Klingon culture, B'Elanna's eyes widened in astonishment before they began twinkling with mischief. "Seven, are you asking me to marry you?"

Seven gazed up at her lover, noting the change in tone, and responded with equal playfulness. "That depends. Do you accept?"

B'Elanna leaned down, and paused just millimeters away from kissing Seven.

"Yes," she answered sincerely, and kiss Seven deeply with all the love she felt.

When they broke apart again, Seven turned her head and offered her cheek to B'Elanna. Both women were breathing heavily as their desire to bond again was rapidly rising. The musk from their love making coupled with Seven's unique blend of human and slightly metallic scents called out to B'Elanna's lustful Klingon instincts.

Nestling her face against the flawless cheek, B'Elanna agonizingly whispered, "I don't think I could ever mark your fair skin, Seven."

The ex-drone cradled her close, and slowly flipped them over until she rested on top.

"You do not have to hold back with me, B'Elanna." The Borg took her smaller hand into her larger one, the one enhanced with implants, and lifted them until they could both see their fingers intertwined. "Just as I do not have to hold back with you."

B'Elanna understood what Seven was trying to tell her, and nodded. "I love you, Seven."

"I love you too, B'Elanna."

Seven wrapped her arms around her lover, as she sank her body between athletic thighs, and captured the full lips with her own, growling softly when B'Elanna's skilled hands began to knead the swells of her pliant buttocks. The half-Klingon had no trouble picking up where they had left off, and was already driving the young Borg insane with her knowing caresses. But there was one more question on Seven's mind before all thought was lost to her.

"B'Elanna,..." the young woman gasped, her voice laden with desire, "this bed appears...to be proportionately larger...oh...than the real one."

B'Elanna grinned against her lips. "Well,...we need room...to maneuver," she explained, as she moved her mouth toward the alabaster cheek.

**********************

Chapter 25 - Epilogue

Lt. Torres sat atop her desk, glancing around her now empty office, noticing how strange it appeared to her in the state it was in, and sighed. Next to her were boxes of personal possessions packed away neatly. She and Seven had spent nearly two days together when they discovered the Captain had given them the day off the morning after. And B'Elanna felt as though she had been on her honeymoon. Even now, she smiled in spite of herself, basking in the afterglow of their lovemaking.

"Lieutenant," greeted Carey as he walked into the office, noting with amusement the smug expression on B'Elanna's features.

"Good morning," she returned. "You know, Carey. You don't have to move everything out. From now on, you're going to be spending a lot more time in this office as Junior Chief, when I'm not around."

"I appreciate the offer, Torres, but I'm rather fond of my belongings. Somehow, I don't think they'll survive a Klingon-Maquis-Borg romance," he teased, chuckling as she swatted him good-naturedly on the arm.

Gathering his boxes, he asked, "So when's the engagement party?"

"Seven and I haven't set a date yet. We're talking with Neelix about booking the Mess Hall. But I'll let you know," B'Elanna replied happily, as she walked Carey out.

Even though the Borg told her it was unnecessary, B'Elanna insisted on observing some human customs for Seven's sake. The lieutenant had informed Janeway of their plans that morning when she had been summoned to the Ready Room at 0600 hours. Dreading some sort of confrontation, she had been prepared to discuss her and Seven's relationship with the Captain. Instead, Janeway brought up the subject that thirty days had passed, and she was waiting for B'Elanna's decision to step down from Chief of Engineering. Incoherently, B'Elanna only stuttered in surprise until she recovered, and ultimately asked to return to her position.

It had not been a difficult decision, knowing that being Chief Engineer allowed her to spend more time with Seven, even though on official ship's business. But it only took her a minute to realize that she needed to negotiate her time commitment and workload, and as a result, a new position was created for Carey. Though B'Elanna would always be head of the department and made most of the major decisions, Lt. Carey would carry more responsibilities and gain more independence. To her admiration, Captain Janeway accepted the changes graciously and supportively.

-Chirp- "Torres to Seven of Nine," she hailed as she moved over to the warp engine maintenance consoles.

"Seven of Nine here," her voice responded, after a few seconds of delay.

"You're twenty minutes late," B'Elanna reprimanded jokingly.

"It is already morning?" Seven's voice sounded slightly surprised.

"Don't tell me you don't remember what day it is?" B'Elanna asked, the humor in her tone evident.

"Perhaps, it is because I have not left your bed in two da--"

"Okay. I'll see you in a few minutes," the lieutenant interrupted, abruptly cutting the channel.

Shaking her head, she could just see the smirk on Seven's face at her embarrassment as the majority of the morning shift overheard their conversation and snickered. But B'Elanna chuckled with them. And when former Borg finally walked through the Engineering doors, B'Elanna couldn't stop herself from grinning, vaguely aware of the fact her crew could witness the continuing banter and loving relationship between them.

Who could predict that thirty days ago, when her life was in upheaval, when she was looking for a drastic change, when she couldn't figure out her own identity, that she would end up almost right back where she started. Only now, she was at peace with herself, content with the understanding of who she was - a half-Klingon, half-Human, engineer, warrior, and a lover to the most beautiful woman she had ever known.

The End.

Author's Notes

  1. Minor characters reference: "Roll Call" at http://people.delphi.com/jmcquinn/RC/index.html
  2. Bristow, Freddy, Ensign: Has a crush on B'Elanna Torres. Is described, by Tom Paris, as "...tall, good looking." [The Swarm
  3. Marayna, the Holodeck character, from STV episode "Alter Ego." Harry fell in love with her, and she fell in love with Tuvok, who also finds her compelling, causing problems between the two men. It turned out that an alien humanoid tapped into her character. Reference: Delta Blues Reviews.
  4. The Janeway factor placed in the story for those who see J/7 subtext, even though I don't. I like to tease
  5. qoH - epithet: a fool B at the qIb HeHDaq -- http://www.gcty.com/"thens/8853/curse.html
  6. Reference to Star Trek Voyager episode: Resolutions, first indication of J/C, where Chakotay tells Janeway he's in love with her through a story.
  7. Klingon mating rituals, first seen in TNG, then referred to subsequently in ST: Voyager episodes: Blood Fever & Infinite Regress.

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