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 9

"Captain's personal log, Stardate 54047.2. It's been almost two days since the disappearance of Lt. Torres and Seven of Nine during an away mission to survey planets for dilithium deposits. All other teams assigned to the various sectors have returned safely, with no reports of anything that had occurred out of the ordinary. We had received B'Elanna' distress call, two hours into their flight, and arrived at the site of the last transmission only to find no trace of them. No ion trail, which would have been normally detected by our sensors, was found. After a few hours of searching the area, we discovered a piece of the shuttle's hull plating at a nearby asteroid belt. Tuvok also discovered scattered debris in the asteroid field containing materials consistent with Star Fleet construction. He has been analyzing the debris ever since, and I am awaiting the results.

I find myself wondering about all the possible problems Seven and B'Elanna might have run into, and I am terribly concerned for their safety. The lieutenant is a fine officer, an experienced away mission leader, and has more lives than a cat. She has been through numerous life-threatening situations, and always managed to come out on top. Seven has the knowledge of more species than I can count, as well a brilliant mind of her own, and I know she will be able to assist B'Elanna. I only hope B'Elanna and Seven can set aside their differences, and work through whatever obstacles they may be facing.

On a more personal level, I am struggling to remain the optimist. I would hate to lose either of them. B'Elanna and I have had our difficulties in the past, but her fierce loyalty, talents, and strength of character have always made me proud to be her friend, and perhaps, more than that. Seven and I have also had our share of differences, but as I watch her grow into the person she is becoming, I find myself very attached to the ex-drone..."

Before, Janeway could finish her thought, the chime to her Ready Room rang. She paused her log entry, and sat up formally on her couch.

"Come in," she invited, adjusting her uniform.

Commander Tuvok entered through her door, with a data padd in hand, and approached her. Evidently, they were both burning the midnight oil tonight. She offered him a seat, but he declined, as it was more of an official visit.

"Is that the report I've been expecting?" she asked, her voice low and deep.

"Correct. I have analyzed the contents of the debris, and have come to some conclusions."

"Yes?" she urged him to continue.

"The debris contained materials consistent with our Class 2 shuttles, with more or the less the correct proportion of duranium, titanium..."

"Please get to the point, Tuvok," she interrupted, impatiently, setting her coffee mug down.

Raising his brow, he answered, "The results would indicate that the shuttle was destroyed, most likely due to an explosion, which would explain the unrecognizable fragmentation of the debris, with the exception of the hull plating. There are traces of combustive residues. Since the debris was located in an asteroid field, I would hypothesize that a high impact may have caused a chain of events that would have led to an explosion. However, that remains purely speculative."

The Captain got up from her couch, and went over to her computer station, downloading the report to go over later for herself. But from her short skim, she knew that the Vulcan had been thorough in covering all possible scenarios.

"Thank you, Tuvok. I want you to continue your analysis, however, and look over those residual substances. It may give us more clues," she requested.

"Of course, some of these conclusions are preliminary," he added. "I will continue until I have exhausted all of the resources in Voyager's data base. If there is nothing further, I wish to continue in my quarters. And may I suggest you also get some rest."

"Yes, suggestion noted. Dismissed," she replied, appreciating his thoughtfulness.

Tuvok bid the Captain goodnight, leaving her far more worried than she had been before, though she did her best not to show it. Janeway sighed, knowing it was going to be another long, sleepless night, her thoughts wandering back to the two women who were, in her heart, still alive. She wondered about what sort of danger her Borg must be facing, and hoped the half-Klingon officer would do her best to keep Seven out of trouble. Or was it the other way around, she mused.

"Computer, another cup of coffee, black."

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

At 0700 hours, the Captain called the senior officers to the Briefing Room. Tuvok had worked all night, and found new startling facts. The others had also put in extra shifts in the search for the two missing crewmembers. Tom had flown the Delta Flyer through another sector while Voyager had been exploring the sector where the Class 2 shuttle had disappeared. They all looked tired.

Tuvok repeated the same things he said last night to the Captain. This time however, he had something new to add. "I analyzed the residue found on many of the components obtained from the debris. They show trace amounts of plutonic radiation," he revealed. "As you know, Star Fleet shuttle systems have not used plutonium since the Twentieth-second R.

"So, what you're saying is, it didn't come from our shuttle," deduced Harry. "They were attacked."

"Indeed. That is the most probable hypothesis," Tuvok agreed.

"My guess is that B'Elanna and Seven were attacked, their ion trail masked. They may have gotten away in an escape pod, but more likely they were taken prisoner, kidnapped," added Janeway, her voice throaty from the controlled-anger underlying her tone.

"We can look for a crashed shuttle or an escape pod, or trace a subspace message, but trying to find two individuals in this sector..." Tom deplored. He had been upset over the disappearance of his former lover ever since they had received the distress call.

"There are still ways to find them," Chakotay argued harshly, his patience wearing thin. "Neelix, see if you can contact some of the local trade authorities in this sector. Maybe they've heard something. There are several class M planets in this sector worth exploring, near enough to the asteroid field. There might be some favorite port stops along the way where we can gather information from people who are willing to talk. We were warned that this area was big on crime along with the commerce. Maybe B'Elanna and Seven wandered into something they weren't supposed to."

"I agree. We'll contact any vessels we might encounter, scan each ship if we have to. If I know those two, they're probably trying to find a way to communicate with us," ordered the Captain. "Meanwhile, Tom, Neelix, you both will take the Delta Flyer and meet up with any of the official channels that are willing to help us."

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

Seven shifted around again. Gradually, she became more and more aware of the incessant murmuring just outside the door to their room, and let out a quiet, suffering groan. At last, she plucked her eyes open, apparently not a real morning person. Sleep was a difficult human activity for her to become accustomed to for now. Seven did not like the initial disorientation upon awakening, and the lack of regeneration was wreaking havoc on her systems in general. Her entire body felt stiff today, but she concluded it must have been the result of yesterday's exertion. Lt. Torres was not in bed with her or even in the room. She swung her left leg around, over the edge of the bed, and stood up. Then she limped over to the night table, and began to wash the final remnants of sleep from her face, noticing a faint trembling of her hand. The voices from the other room became louder as she focused her hearing to the conversation.

"I'm glad you slept well, Bey." It was Moka, she recognized.

"Thank you, Moka." B'Elanna, no question.

"Breakfast will be ready soon. You should go wake Ani."

"Ay, let the girl sleep a minute or two longer. I reckon she earned it." And Dannan. His and Moka's accent were distinct, and reminded her of the holograms from Fair Haven.

"Yes, she has. But I think I better help her get ready, in any case. Otherwise, her breakfast might get cold by the time she comes out."

"I took out some more of my wife's clothing for you both. It should hold you over."

"Thank you, Dannan. But I feel like we shouldn't. We've already asked for too much."

"No, no. She would have been happy to lend you some. I'm just sorry they're so old, twenty-five years to be exact.

"I'm sorry. I wish I could have met her."

"I think she'd have like that, too. She and my daughter died in childbirth, but they're in a better place now."

Seven heard a sniff. "Come now." Moka's voice was wavering. "No more talk of things of the past. You have to get Bey to town today."

Then she heard footfalls approaching the room. The door opened and B'Elanna stuck her head in, glancing quickly over the small room, and finding Seven already standing at the night table.

"Hey, good morning," she greeted, walking into the room with a bundle of clothes in her hand. "More clothes for us to change into from--"

"I heard your conversation," Seven interrupted softly. "Borg-enhanced --"

"Auditory acuity," B'Elanna finished for her with a smirk. "Got it."

Seven answered with a quirk of her brow. B'Elanna ambled over and helped Seven to a chair. She sifted through the bundle and found a few things that might fit the tall figure, a sleeveless gown, leggings and some sandals. Seven had no underwear underneath her biosuit, something B'Elanna found out two days ago, much to her surprise and dismay. It was just too much information for her to handle at the time. Luckily, Dannan provided some delicates that were fairly adjustable with a few tucks and ties. Seven looked at them in wonder, but B'Elanna abruptly got down to business, not letting anything distract her from dressing the ex-drone rapidly, and with little flesh showing as impossible as that was. B'Elanna settled for some gray work trousers, a simple white shirt which she left the single collar tie undone, and wore her Star Fleet boots. She didn't think she was such a prude, but she found Seven watching her change extremely unnerving, though the Borg did politely turn away when she changed her underwear.

Finally, B'Elanna helped Seven up to walk to the common room, where Moka already had the breakfast plates out. Seven noticed B'Elanna squinting at her carefully.

"Is there something wrong, Lieuten...Bey?" She had to be more careful Seven noted, catching herself.

"Nothing. Well, you're not as tall without your heels," teased B'Elanna. She hid her concern, having noticed that Seven looked paler and more tired than usual. The Borg really needed to regenerate under the circumstances.

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

It had taken several minutes of pleading to convince Seven of Nine to stay behind. She did not wish to be separated from B'Elanna after two days of constant companionship on an alien planet. But when Moka put her foot down, even Seven had to obey without further argument. Besides, she had promised Seven she'd return as soon as her tasks were done before dinner. Dannan suggested that B'Elanna take a look at his shop. Though she had already perused his workshop at home, he said he had more advanced instruments and machinery in town. Then he advised her to go to the local watering hole called the "Hyperdrive" where she could find freighter pilots, deep-space travelers, and the like who might be willing to transmit a message or transport them off the planet. Unfortunately, she was limited in what she could barter with, a few weapons she might actually need, a chunk of dilithium. She hid one of the disrupters, holstered to the back of her waist, under the hooded coat Dannan had given her.

Dannan kept a clean shop. There were a number of droids lined up along the walls with varying problems. The hardware wasn't all that different from the androids B'Elanna encountered more than four years ago, remembering with an ache the prototype APU she created and destroyed all in one day. Since it was still a bit early for the watering hole crowd to gather, she decided to work on repairing some of the droids, to repay Dannan for opening his home to the two women.

They chatted amicably while they worked side by side. B'Elanna felt a little guilty for all her relatively vague answers. She learned a bit more about the planet they had landed on, however, which was a melting pot. The planet was at the crossroads, allowing lots of commerce, legal and illegal, and as a result, the inhabitants were a mixture of alien species from several sectors. Dannan's people, the Rangoon, came from one of the more distant sectors, and thrived because of their specialty in robotics. Other species from around this particular sector were more hostile in nature, probably because of the way people made a living in a highly competitive environment. He even recognized the species that attacked their shuttle, though B'Elanna left out some of the more disturbing details of their story.

By the afternoon, B'Elanna decided to check out the "Hyperdrive," and see if she could arrange something with some of the freighter crew. Dannan gave her some money credits to buy drinks with, as a way of starting up conversation. "t this rate, she would owe the man her first born child for all of his help. She entered the bar with the swaggering confidence of her old Maquis days, finding a seat at the counter where she could view the whole establishment. The interior was dim, fairly unremarkable with a stage for entertainment, and a spread of tables and chairs. " mixture of shady characters were already making a nuisance of themselves, but the rest merely drank, conversed, and tolerated the more rambunctious few. " number of conversations appeared more serious, taking place in the darker corners, probably consisting of negotiations or exchange of information. B'Elanna kept her hood on, and ordered a drink Dannan recommended, from the bartender.

"Where can I find a reliable freighter pilot?" she asked the alien, when he returned with her drink. He reminded her of a Bolian.

"Depends on what kind of goods you want to transport," he replied.

"Normal transportation for a couple of passengers, or just a message transmission."

"Hmm.... Not much profit from that. You might want to try that corner over there." He pointed over his shoulder with the jerk of his thumb. "They're always transporting local goods, boring stuff. They probably won't mind a little side money. Or try that fella over there in the black vest. He might want to do a quick and easy job, since he's been in a lot of trouble lately. But that corner near the stage is a bit more..."

He left it at that. B'Elanna tipped him for the info, and decided to sit patiently and observe the people for a while. The alien in the black vest and pants almost looked human, except for some subtle differences. He finished speaking with two other individuals, and it appeared that they had just negotiated some sort of deal. B'Elanna may have been too late. She was about to walk over there when another alien sat down next to the humanoid. Their disagreement appeared to be escalating, as the other alien, green skinned and odd-looking, underhandedly pulled out a gun. She could see it from where she was sitting. All of a sudden, the green alien slammed face first into the table, with smoke seeping out from between his torso and the table. The black-vested man got up from his seat, and walked out of the bar, no one stopping or paying attention to him. Apparently, it was business as usual.

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

Seven sat out on the porch in the front enclosure of the house, observing the pet animal walking around in circles. Moka had insisted on laundering their soiled uniformed before the stains of their travel became firmly fixed into the cloth. Now she was hanging them to dry while the sun was still high in the middle of the empty sky. She listened to the elderly woman hum, remembering vaguely a time when someone had similarly done so while she played in a garden of flowers.

Seven had been tired all morning, but it did not detract from the cheery conversation she had with Moka over lunch. Her muscles felt stiff so she was content to sit on the bench and wait for Lt. Torres to return. She thought about the flowers and the garden again, recalling how the blossoms had opened and the fairies had left their tears behind in the morning. The colors were brilliant, swirling about her, as she spun her body around and around to the laughter of other the children, in a child's game.

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

Finally, B'Elanna got up from her seat and sauntered over to a table where one lone alien, a Norcadian, sat nursing an ale. He glanced up at her with indifference, and didn't react when she sat down uninvited. He accepted her offer to refill his drink, but otherwise didn't speak any further. The Norcadian had expected her actions, since, after all, the watering hole was a place where business was conducted.

"I'm looking for transport, two individuals, packs are light, nothing in the black," she used the local lingo as Dannan taught.

"Where are they heading for?" he asked, putting his feet up, letting her know he was willing to listen.

"Most likely the next sector."

"That'll cost 300 credits," he said, getting to the point.

"I don't have that many credits. How about an ore of dilithium and the location of the vein it belongs to?"

The pilot leaned back, stroking his woolly beard. "Most of the ships here use power crystals. You might find someone willing to take your offer. I have neither the time nor the equipment to mine and refine the power crystals myself." He sat up and drank the rest of his ale signaling the end of the conversation.

"Wait, let me buy you another," B'Elanna pressed.

The Norcadian sat back again, and nodded. B'Elanna ordered one more round of drinks before she proposed another deal.

"Does your ship have a subspace transmitter?" she asked.

"Yes."

"How much for a subspace message, played continuously during your next transport flight?"

"Time and personnel to monitor communication links...50 credits," he presented.

Before she could answer, B'Elanna saw Dannan rush through the doors, turning his head left and right, searching, probably for her. She discreetly waved him over to the table. He composed himself as he walked over to their table. Briefly, he acknowledged the Norcadian, then bent down to whisper in her ear.

"Bey, you must come home. Moka just contacted me. She says there is something terribly wrong with Ani," he told her softly but with great urgency.

She apologized to the Norcardian, and started to get up and follow Dannan out, when the Norcadian grabbed her wrist.

"My name is Abcedi and my ship leaves in three days. I'm here around this time everyday until then."

Then he released her arm, and proceeded to finish his drink. B'Elanna acknowledged his words, and was out the door.

Chapter 10

B'Elanna ran all the way back to the house, with Dannan in tow, berating herself along the way for leaving the Borg when she knew something was wrong. She was responsible for Seven on this away mission. It was her duty to watch over her fellow crewmember as Janeway would have. ' B'Elanna tore through the house, finding Moka and Seven in their room. She went straight to Seven's bedside.

Taking the Seven's face between her hands, she called out, "Ani," repeatedly, until the Borg's eyes fluttered open. Her body began to spasm, and her speech was incoherent, nothing more than a string of unrelated words. B'Elanna held onto Seven until her spasms subsided briefly. Taking out the tricorder, she scanned the Borg, confirming her worst suspicions. Seven's cranioneural implants were depolarizing, leading to a cascade of failures her nanoprobes couldn't keep up with. She was going to lose Seven. The thought brought on tears of panic, as she struggled between being overwhelmed by her emotions of fear and despair, and maintaining her concentration.

"Dannan, do you have any instruments for neural optic networks?" she asked desperately, tears brimming.

"Yes," he replied tersely, already sprinting to his workshop.

"What happened, Moka?" B'Elanna wiped away the tears with the back of her hand.

"We were out on the porch, talking, when I noticed a long pause of silence. I asked her a question, but she did not answer me. "t first, I thought she had fallen asleep out on the bench, looking as tired as she was. Then I took a closer peek, and saw that she had her eyes closed, but was mumbling things I couldn't understand, sometimes in a different language. I told her she needed to get up, to help me to get her back to the bed for safety," Moka described, obviously distressed by what she had witnessed.

She continued, "She seemed to understand my intention. I was able to get her to the bed, and I rushed to call Dannan on our communicator, knowing he'd be at the shop. It's been worsening ever since."

Dannan came back into the room with the equipment in hand. B'Elanna took the box from him, and found what she was looking for. B'Elanna steadied herself, thinking back to what the Doctor told her nine months ago. She pried open the outer casing to Seven's ocular implant, and scanning with the tricorder, proceeded to access Seven's neural network with an optical stylus. Seven began to tremble again.

"Dannan, could you hold Ani still for me?" B'Elanna requested.

"Of course, Bey." Dannan joined B'Elanna at the bedside, keeping Seven from moving, while B'Elanna worked at the delicate task.

"Careful, Dannan. She can be quite strong at times," B'Elanna warned. Then she whispered to Seven her pleas. "Stay with me, Seven. Don't you leave me."

B'Elanna spent hours stabilizing the cortical synapses so that they could repolarize, reconnecting important interlinks, and creating backups within the implants. Seven's spasms also subsided slowly, but she remained stuporous, and eventually lapsed into unconsciousness. B'Elanna reached the point where there was nothing left to do but wait.

"Will she be alright?" asked Moka, with concern written all over her weary, worn face.

"I don't know," B'Elanna replied honestly, never having attempted this procedure before.

B'Elanna put her face in her hands, wondering if she had even done the right thing. Dannan watched as her shoulders began to shake. He reached out to put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her, but she turned, taking Seven into her arms. Her sobs were audible now. He sighed, and stood up, walking over to Moka, enfolding her in an embrace and removing her from the room, lest her old wounds reopened as well.

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

B'Elanna sat on the floor, curled against the bed, with her knees bent and her head propped up on her elbow, as she listened to Seven's even breathing. She never thought she'd cry again, like the way she did when she found out her father left. Everything was so confusing - their relationship, the situation they were in, her feelings for Seven.

"B'Elanna?" " mumble came.

"t first B'Elanna thought she was imagining things, but then she got up and sat on the bed, finding Seven's eyes open and unfocused but looking at her.

"Seven?..."

Seven tried to get up, but found she couldn't move much. B'Elanna held her down gently.

"Don't try to move just yet," the lieutenant instructed softly, tucking her back under the covers.

Seven gazed up at B'Elanna. The Klingon's expression was stoic, but her eyes, Seven observed, appeared haunted and red.

"What has happened?" she asked, wondering why B'Elanna was behaving so strangely toward her. She thought their relationship had moved past the distancing.

B'Elanna could not lie. "Your neural synapses had begun to depolarize. They're stable now."

"How were you able to repair the damage?" Seven questioned, not wanting to let the matter go.

"I accessed your cortical array through your ocular implant," B'Elanna replied curtly.

"What is wrong, B'Elanna?" Seven entreated because the half-Klingon would not look at her.

"Nothing. You should rest now."

B'Elanna was attempting to deceive her. After three days of being with the Klingon, Seven found that she could interpret the lieutenant's actions far better than before. She sensed that something had occurred which disturbed the woman greatly, and now B'Elanna was trying to suppress her feelings. ' Seven wondered.

"You promised you would never abandon me," recalled Seven. "But I cannot promise you the same. And for that...I am sorry."

Seven watched as B'Elanna remained expressionless, save for one single brow that twitched. B'Elanna closed her eyes for a moment, and when she opened them, she let the tension out of her body. She never thought she'd see those blue eyes looking back at her so brilliantly again. The Klingon reached over and cupped the Borg's face, lightly caressing her cheek with her thumb. Then aware of what she was doing, B'Elanna withdrew her hand, just in time as someone knocked on the door.

"Come in," B'Elanna invited, before the situation became awkward.

Moka shuffled in along with Dannan right behind her. They kept away initially, allowing B'Elanna time to express her emotions in private. Dannan did not want to intrude until he heard the muffled sounds of voices conversing. They were both elated to see Seven awake and alert, and told them as much. For now, it seemed that Seven was better to their relief.

"Bey, were you able to make any arrangements today?" Dannan inquired, not wanting them to dwell on what had occurred.

"Yes,...Bey, I would like to know what our situation is," Seven added, as they all helped her sit up.

"I was only able to speak with one of the freighter pilots this afternoon, but he wanted credits. I'll try to find another deal again tomorrow, but I think I need to come up with some other idea," B'Elanna noted.

"I was thinking about that. I have a friend who trades in all sorts of equipment. Since you're so good with repairing things, he may have something that he'd be willing to barter," Dannan suggested.

"A subspace transmitter?" offered Seven, catching on to what the man was thinking.

"Exactly," he acknowledged. "And I'll go to the watering hole, and see if I can find a better deal for you. Some of them are my customers. They might be willing to do me a favor."

B'Elanna smiled. This man was a gem. Maybe this was what it felt like to have a father, someone looking out for her best interests. "Sounds like a plan to me."

"If everything's worked out, then I think it's time for Ani to rest," Moka chimed in.

"You're right as always, Moka," chuckled Dannan.

"Perhaps I should run a bath for you, my dear. I know your muscles have been sore, but you have remained quiet about it," she chided.

B'Elanna looked at Seven questioningly. Seven hadn't complained once since the injuries occurred, but instead, always asked the lieutenant about her condition. From now on, B'Elanna wasn't going to let Seven hide her suffering behind a cool Borg exterior if she could help it, even if she had to be a major pain.

"I feel some discomfort, but it is minor. You do not need to be concerned with it," she brushed off, not wanting to be the center of attention. She was Borg, and she would not be weak.

B'Elanna frowned at Seven disapprovingly, and told Moka, "I'll get the bath ready, and help her with it."

"I assumed you would," she said knowingly. She sniffed the room. "Both of you definitely need it."

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

Sitting in the washroom, Seven observed as B'Elanna stripped down to her underwear. The ex-drone was already covered with only a towel, resting on a stool against the wall, and waiting for the bathtub to fill as Moka instructed. She could never quite get used to seeing the half-Klingon without her clothing, as the play of skin and muscle always seemed to fascinate her. B'Elanna's body was lean and muscular, yet retained the right amount of soft flesh that hid as well as hinted at the underlying power, unlike her own body that was deceptively thin. She could almost reach out and touch the cocoa skin, if only her body would comply.

B'Elanna took a deep breath, running a Vulcan mantra over and over again in her head, hoping she wouldn't do anything stupid like gawk at the beautiful blonde's body. She turned around, meeting Seven's lingering gaze, second for second. Then she knelt and lifted a naked Borg into her arms, and carried her over to the tub. Gingerly, she lowered Seven into the perfectly warmed water. It was a sensation Seven had never felt before, easing the weight of her bones away, and soothing her cramped muscles. B'Elanna watched as subtle expressions of delight and astonishment flickered over Seven's face.

"Feels okay?" B'Elanna asked.

"Yes," Seven answered, smiling slightly up at the lieutenant.

The Klingon picked up a washcloth and began to lather it with soap, steeling herself for the task. Oh, who was she kidding. She was looking forward to touching Seven, even though she scolded herself for such thoughts. The first time her hand brushed over the soft, smooth, pale skin, B'Elanna felt her knees buckle. Slowly, she washed Seven's back for her, trying to massage away the tension she felt in those muscles, gliding over the implants, that did nothing to mar the perfection. B'Elanna could feel the same malleable metal, as in Seven's left hand, outlining her lower rib cage and wrapping around her waist. She tilted Seven's head back, holding her behind the neck, and began washing through the luxurious blonde tresses. The sweet scent of the soap already permeated Seven's hair and skin. Then B'Elanna rinsed the lather away, careful not to let the substance drip past the fine brows.

When Seven finally leaned back, the Klingon hesitated, not sure if it was alright to proceed with the front, but Borg looked up at her expectantly. B'Elanna began at her neck, lathering with long strokes, and then moved lower, rubbing the knotted shoulders. As B'Elanna proceed down her chest, Seven raised her hand up to grip the edge of the tub, analyzing the multitude of autonomic responses coursing through her body. Just like the time B'Elanna applied the salve to her skin, the lieutenant became so absorbed in her task that she did not notice how close their faces were to each other. When B'Elanna brushed over her left breast, Seven closed her eyes to the strange, electrifying sensations. She felt herself flush all over, and wondered if B'Elanna noticed her reaction.

B'Elanna lathered the cloth again, and slowly made her way down the taut stomach. She tried not to dwell on how supple the flesh felt under her hand, how full and heavy the breasts were, or how the large, pink nipples stiffened under her ministrations. Gradually, her hand descended, reaching deeper under the water until she could almost touch the top of Seven's sex, which was completely bare. Apparently, the Doctor had not found it necessary to stimulate the hair follicles there. She pulled away from Seven's sex though, not having the courage yet, not knowing if she could tempt herself. Instead she lifted one of Seven's long, slender legs and glided the washcloth over and under, making her way back to the inner thigh. Then she repeated the same massage to the other leg, taking her time, until there was nowhere else to go. B'Elanna caressed the inner thigh closest to her, stroking back and forth until finally one stroke went further than before. It was only a brief moment as B'Elanna passed over the lips once, maybe twice, and then gone.

Seven didn't even know she had closed her eyes once again. When she opened them, she was staring straight into the Klingon's intense, desire-drugged gaze. B'Elanna's hand had stopped, resting on one of her knees. Almost imperceptibly, B'Elanna moved forward, closing the small distance between their faces, and kissed the Borg on the lips, slowly and sensually, just wanting to feel the texture. Becoming aware of what she was doing, B'Elanna retreated, but Seven pressed forward, wanting the kiss to linger.

Finally breaking away, the lieutenant stammered an apology. "I...I...I'm so sorry, Seven."

"Why do you apologize? I wish to continue this activity," Seven implored, searching B'Elanna's face for answers.

"No, I...We can't. I feel like I'm taking advantage of you," she explained. "You've been ill, and practically delirious for the past several hours. You can barely move, and I'm supposed to be helping you with your bath. It's just not appropriate." She was completely flustered.

Seven was disappointed. However, seeing the other woman's uneasiness, she decided to acquiesce. She was certain that her cognitive capabilities were functioning normally. B'Elanna expressed sexual interest in her, and Seven was equally interested in the Klingon. But she supposed that human mating rituals were complex.

"I will comply, as you have more experience in such matters. But you had my consent..." Seven tried to convey as much in the look she gave B'Elanna.

B'Elanna nodded, understanding the significance of the admission, but not ready to address what it meant about the relationship between her and Seven.

"Let's get you out of the tub. The water's getting a bit cold."

She reached in and picked up the wet Borg in her arms, then sat her back on the stool. She rinsed Seven off with a clean bucket of heated water, watching as the water streamed and dripped down over the long length of the body. B'Elanna wrapped Seven in a clean towel, and proceeded to dry her blonde hair reverently. The lieutenant tensed slightly when Seven leaned her face against her bare tummy, but then relaxed, allowing the physical contact. "t last, they reached the cot, and B'Elanna dressed Seven in her bed clothes so that she could go to sleep. The half-Klingon made sure Seven was comfortable before returning to the washroom.

Removing the last of her clothing, she ducked her own body in the mildly warm water, and enjoyed a nice but brief bath herself, finally cleaning away the sweat of the past few days. By the time she got to bed, Seven was already asleep. B'Elanna was actually relieved since she wasn't ready to talk about what just happened. She laid awake gazing at Seven, occasionally reaching out to caress an arm or a cheek, unable to help herself. Thinking over the events of the past few days, B'Elanna realized she had become increasingly affectionate with the Borg. 'Oh, Kahless! What the hell am I doing? I'm seducing the Captain's girlfriend.'

The lieutenant had to get Seven back to Voyager. That was not an option, as Seven needed the medical attention. "nd whatever their relationship was here on the planet, it would change once they returned. Seven would always belong to the Captain, and she would only be left with a memory. Her heart ached as she looked at Seven, unable to deny what she felt for the beautiful, exceptional woman any longer.

B'Elanna cuddled closer the slumbering Borg, wanting to hold her again like she did minutes ago. She nuzzled her face against Seven's forehead, and whispered something she would never risk saying aloud when the ex-drone was awake.

"I think I'm in love with you."

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

Chapter 11

Seven woke the next morning to find what she had missed the day before, the sight of B'Elanna lying next to her, almost face to face, but more than that, the feel of B'Elanna's unguarded embrace. The half-Klingon slept on her belly, having thrown an arm and a leg around Seven. The ex-drone arched her brow in amusement as B'Elanna burrowed her nose further into the pillow, causing her soft snoring to grow louder. Seven spent the next few minutes memorizing the moment. Too curious for her own good, Seven stretched out her right hand and ran her fingertips along the Klingon ridges.

B'Elanna stirred a little and murmured, "I'm awake, Mother..."

As mischievous idea came to mind, Seven raised herself up slightly, and quirked a brow. She took a deep breath, and shouted, "BIVEM!"

Yelping, the Klingon sprung up with a start and tried to scramble out of bed, only to lose her balance, and rolled out of bed onto the floor with a thud. She stood up and stumbled about the room, attempting to untangle herself from her blankets. She stopped when she heard a certain Borg struggling unsuccessfully to stifle her giggles. B'Elanna put her hands on her hips and glared at Seven, but she was unable to keep a straight face, loving the way the peels of laughter sounded and the supple tummy shook. It was refreshing to see that the Borg indeed had a fun side to her. Seven was surprised at herself. She had never experienced such uncontrolled expressions of humor before, and it was a pleasant feeling. She had always found amusement in the lieutenant's behavior and verbal comments, but B'Elanna's response was just so unexpectedly entertaining, to the point where her sides began to hurt.

"Oh, you think that's funny, huh?" B'Elanna asked with a low growl, blowing her hair out of her face and giving the ex-drone a predatory grin.

Seven knew she was in trouble when B'Elanna jumped back into bed. She was at quite a disadvantage when B'Elanna started swatting her with a pillow, not being able to get away or stop laughing. Instead she grabbed the pillow and B'Elanna along with it in a one-arm bear hug. Before she knew it, they were nose to nose, with B'Elanna on top and a pillow in between. Seven ran her hand up over the curves of B'Elanna's well-defined back, while she looked up unwaveringly into the now smoldering, brown eyes, hoping the lieutenant would take the next step. But as if on cue to protect her virtue, Moka's call for breakfast came through the door, and B'Elanna was again "saved by the bell," as she put it.

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

B'Elanna swore that today she was going to find a way to get back to Voyager or at least, a way to contact the crew. She knew something was keeping Voyager from locating them, and it was probably related what Kal had said. If he had made it look like their shuttle had crashed into an asteroid, then the crew may have already thought them dead and moved on. Or even if they had seen through the deception somehow, Voyager may still have difficulty searching for them. Unfortunately, B'Elanna didn't want to risk alerting their enemies to their location even if it helped the Captain. As far as she could tell, Kal and his riffraff gang were still after them. Seven agreed with her reasoning, noting that what was threatening them may also put Moka and Dannan in danger as well.

"Bey, this is the fifth time you have scanned me this morning." Seven observed as B'Elanna ran the tricorder over her body. She sighed in resignation.

"I just want to be sure, Ani," she replied automatically, still reading the data. "Now if you start having strange sensations or altered motor function, I want you to tell Moka, and she'll call me right away on a communicator. I just need to know you're all right." She added the last bit after seeing Seven's expression.

"I will be all right if you do not delay now and return early this evening. I do not wish to lie in this bed all day long," Seven pouted in exasperation.

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

As she did yesterday, B'Elanna spent the morning assisting Dannan at his shop, tinkering with a few androids and artificial intelligence units. She didn't mind the work as it kept her hands busy, and Dannan liked to make jokes and tell her stories of his ribald youth. In return, B'Elanna poured her heart out, telling as much of her childhood as she could under the circumstances. By the afternoon, most of the work was done, and Dannan decided it was best to bring her over to the dealer's lot, before he headed off to the "Hyperdrive" to try his luck with the freighter pilots. They walked through the hot, dusty streets, littered with haggling aliens, booth after booth, until they arrived on the other edge of town.

B'Elanna followed Dannan through the structure that housed the entrance to the lot. Piles of junk, machines, and equipment crowded the room, spilling out into the large lot that housed even more technological items, vehicles, and droids. Distant clanging of metal striking each other and bright reflections were scattered all over the property. The lieutenant watched from the doorway as Dannan wound his way around the piles and greeted a tall, but skinny humanoid, with short salt and pepper hair, long pointed ears, and weasel-like face. Not to say he looked like a rodent literally, because his phenotypical features kind of reminded her of Tuvok, but there a certain crafty quality to his looks not found in the tactical officer. His eyes were squinty and lips were pursed as if he was calculating some problem in his mind constantly. Even in this heat, the alien wore a tunic under a flowing robe, covered with lots of grease spots. Dannan waved her over.

"Bey..., this is Edyn, my good friend," He introduced. "Edyn, this is Bey. I'll let you two get acquainted, while I get over to the bar."

Dannan took his leave of them. He chuckled as he walked out, observing how the two cynics had appraised each other right away. He was sure they were going to get along. Edyn may love to haggle and scheme, but he knew the old man couldn't resist a pretty face and a fiery temper to go with it. And fairly soon, Bey was going to figure that out too.

"So, what brings such a pretty young girl like you to such a hot, dirty planet?" Edyn asked, sidling up to the woman who was already walking around, scoping out his goods.

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "I need a subspace transmitter. Do you have one lying around?" She looked him full in the face, displaying her beautiful bone structure.

He licked his lips nervously. "Well, I do have a couple, but they're not in the best shape. Allow me to show them to you, my dear." He said with a flourish of his hand.

They browsed his merchandise, but found that the transmitters were missing several key parts, that could have been substituted by other parts of a working ship. As a result, they weren't worth very much to B'Elanna at least.

"Sorry, good subspace transmitters get snatched up quickly around these parts," Edyn apologized gracefully. "However, I have a few digital relay transmitters."

"Not good enough," B'Elanna told him as they continued to stroll around his lot in the aisles between the heaps of machinery. "My message needs to travel far."

Edyn nodded in understanding. "I could always keep my eye out for one. How much would you be willing to pay?" he asked, his eyes dancing at the chance to negotiate.

"I have a few good weapons to trade. I'm sure they're popular with the people here."

"Ah,...I try not to peddle lethal objects. Costs an extra license, you know."

"I have a sizable sample of dilithium, what people here seem to refer to as power crystals, and the coordinates to the vein it belongs to," she offered.

"That might be worth something. May I see a piece?"

B'Elanna snorted, but reached in her pack and brought out the chunk of crystal.

Edyn eyed it with disguised interest, examining it with a magnifying eyepiece. "How do I know you're telling the truth about the location?"

"I don't lie. I'm sure you can sense my honesty, just as I can sense yours." She sugar-coated her words by placing a warm hand on his arm for a moment.

"Yes, well, Dannan is quite a good judge of character. I never seen your species before. Are they all as attractive as you?" he complimented, winking at the half-Klingon hottie.

"My species are from a planet far from here. They haven't traveled to this sector yet," she answered evasively, turning away from the man though disturbingly flattered by his attempts to flirt with her.

"Are you always so intriguingly mysterious, or are you trying to be vague on purpose?" he asked, his long, pointed nose twitching as if he sensed something amiss.

B'Elanna stopped in mid-step, crossed her arms, and turned to glare at the inquisitive man. "And do you always have so many questions for your customers?"

"If all my customers looked like you I might," he replied slyly, checking her out again.

"Let's just say I've had a run in with some bad people, and I'd like our discussion to be discreet. I don't want any harm to come to Dannan. Look, let's just get back to the transmitter. When do you think you'll come by another one?"

Edyn rubbed his chin as he thought about it, and came up with an estimate. "Oh, I would say in a couple of weeks or so."

"That's too long." B'Elanna frowned, and went around the last pile to walk back to the dealer's shack.

"Why the rush?"

When Edyn didn't get his answer, he glanced at the feisty woman next to him. She stood in stunned silence, in front of one of most useless pieces of technology he ever obtained and purchased. B'Elanna turned to him, mouth agape but speechless, with a finger pointing to the massive object in question.

When B'Elanna finally found her voice, she asked, "Where did you get that?"

Clueless as to its importance, he nonchalantly answered, "A crew of deep space travelers saw it floating out in space, damaged. The occupants were all dead, so they ejected the bodies out to space and towed the thing all the way back here." He huffed, "I thought it would be of interest to someone, but it's been sitting here for the past two years collecting dust. No one seems to know how to operate it."

"I WANT it. And you can have anything I've offered," B'Elanna demanded adamantly, her eyes burning passionately. How could he refuse?

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

It was dark outside as B'Elanna waited in the dealer's hut for Dannan to arrive. She peered through the window again, wondering why it was taking so long. Edyn watched the aggravated young woman pace back and forth as he polished one of the droids he picked up the other day. Whoever she really was, the alien certainly knew what she was doing with the technology in that vessel. "t last, both of them heard the plodding of hoofs coming down the deserted road to the lot. B'Elanna ran out of the hut to greet the two people and one animal who had made it all the way across town. Dannan had gotten Seven onto Fessi's saddle, and brought her over to Edyn's shop as soon as he received B'Elanna's communication. The girl had been nervous at first, staring at the animal with reservation, but Dannan convinced her that he wouldn't let her fall. Seven was relieved to see the lieutenant, and happy to be lifted off of Fessi in her arms.

After setting Seven down in a chair, B'Elanna introduced her to Edyn, who of course, immediately ogled and gushed over her. He was still unclear why the woman called Bey asked the other humanoid female to be brought to his establishment, but he was content to let everything reveal itself at its own pace. Turning on the lamps in his lot, he guided them over to the vessel which the feisty one bargained for this afternoon.

Seven was surprised when she saw the damaged ensemble of machinery. She looked to B'Elanna for answers, and B'Elanna didn't keep her waiting.

"A Borg escape cube?" Seven questioned. "How was this obtained?"

"Edyn says a group of deep space travelers found it floating out in space. Evidently, the drones were dead by the time it was discovered, and they hauled the escape pod here." Capturing the Borg's attention, B'Elanna emphasized, "Ani, the Borg alcoves are functional. There's enough power left to run a regeneration cycle."

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

Seven laid patiently in the tilted Borg alcove. In the distance, she could hear Dannan and Edyn chatting over a couple of alcoholic beverages, and a game of chance. The structural damage to the escape cube was extensive, but many of the consoles remained intact. She waited as B'Elanna realigned the energy supply to the alcove and set the parameters for the regeneration cycle to fit the Borg's needs. B'Elanna hoped that there would be enough reserves in the system to augment the reparative capabilities of Seven's nanoprobes, enough at least to stabilize and restore most, if not all, of Seven's synapses, even though it may be temporary. Something suddenly occurred to Seven, and she was compelled to ask however busy the lieutenant seemed to be.

"Bey, I did not realize you knew so much about Borg systems. First you stabilized my cortical network using my ocular implant as access. Now you are able to divert power from the subsystems to this regeneration alcove."

B'Elanna stood up from her kneeling position where she had been rerouting the energy conduits around the damaged stations, and walked over to the alcove. She began tapping in the last of the instructions to the computer terminal to maintain a low but constant level of power. Offhandedly, she answered the Borg in hushed tones.

"A long time ago, the Captain suggested that I get well-acquainted with Borg technology because she feared if something happened to the Doctor, no one else would be equipped to take care of any problems that might arise for you. I take Janeway's suggestions very seriously. Besides, I can't stand having technology that I can't understand on my ship."

The lieutenant moved over to the alcove to replace a distributor that had a low energy output on the last scan. When the output increased to the appropriate levels she sealed the connections.

"I thought Ensign Kim was Voyager's expert on Borg systems?" Seven asked, now intrigued with the topic.

"Well, Harry does know a lot about Borg systems. He can translate Borg data files faster than I can, and he's been on more away missions inside Cubes. But who do you think he bounces all his ideas off of?"

"The Doctor informed you of what had occurred on board the Equinox?" Seven was not aware of the amount of time B'Elanna had spent concerning herself with Borg technology. She had always thought B'Elanna wanted nothing to do with it, and rather disliked it.

"I read the official reports, especially since the Equinox crew were able to break into and bypass so many of our systems, and also steal stuff off our ship. When I learned what happened to you, I asked the Doctor just how he managed to access your cortical implants." B'Elanna grunted when a panel on the alcove wouldn't budge.

"For a while, everything I heard about in Engineering was Borg this, Borg that. I'm sorry I've been so disgruntled about it," admitted B'Elanna, as she made the final adjustments to the alcove.

"I did not realize I have made things difficult for you with the integration of Borg systems to Voyager." Seven also apologized, leaning over to watch B'Elanna strong, reliable hands at work.

B'Elanna glanced over at the Borg with a smirk. "Oh? I thought you liked making my life difficult."

Seven looked away, her lips upturned in amusement. "I did not intentionally do so. However, I did notice you were highly responsive to certain words or actions, and made no attempts to avoid them."

The half-Klingon shook her head in mock sarcasm. "There. All done." She wiped her hands on her pants, and poised her fingers over the alcove controls. She let out an audible sigh. "Well, this is it, and it had better work. I'm sorry Captain Janeway isn't here to tuck you in," she commented.

Seven knitted her brows in bafflement. She did not understand why B'Elanna chose to mention that the Captain often saw to it personally to settle the Borg into her regeneration cycle. Perhaps, B'Elanna felt insecure in a new role as her friend. In truth, the experiences of the past few days had made Seven desire the lieutenant's company above all others, and eased her separation from Captain Janeway and the Doctor. She discovered an extraordinary side to B'Elanna that the half-Klingon rarely shared with those not closest to her.

"Your presence is all that I require," Seven told her sincerely.

The expression in B'Elanna's eyes changed from poorly suppressed envy to warm tenderness. And Seven wanted to be on the receiving end of more of these looks from the half-Klingon in the future.

"See you in twenty-four hours," B'Elanna promised. Seven nodded in acknowledgment and closed her electric blue eyes as she drifted off into regeneration. The lieutenant stood there beside Seven, lingering over the last words the ex-drone had spoken, thinking that it was possible Seven returned her feelings, even if it sounded delusional.

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

The energy output was beginning to fluctuate early, and the computer powered down the alcove until Seven emerged from her regeneration. Seven opened her eyes, and found her bearings in the Borg escape pod. She could see that it was still dark outside, as it had been when she began the cycle. Nervously, she attempted to move her Borg-enhanced hand, and found, to her surprise as well as elation, she could move the limb. Despite the fact that every part of her felt stiff, Seven stood up from the alcove and moved around without assistance. She looked at her body in wonder, lifting her arms in front of her as if seeing them in motion for the first time. Uncontrollable tears of joy sprang to her eyes. She needed to find B'Elanna immediately, because more than anything, she wished to share the moment with her companion who had stayed with her through the struggles.

The day had gone by at an agonizingly slow pace for the temperamental half-Klingon. She didn't dare to walk away from the escape pod for more than ten feet, checking on the systems every half an hour. Dannan came straight from his shop after work, since Moka demanded that he watch over the girls. Sitting around a campfire in the middle of the lot, B'Elanna had been discussing the merits interstellar space travel with Dannan and Edyn when both men paused in mid-sentences. Fearing something terrible, she spun around to check on the Seven, and was greeted by the beautiful sight of a smiling six foot blonde emerging from the vessel. The happy Klingon ran over to her, sweeping her off her feet, and Seven never would have imagined in the next minute, she'd see grown men dodging her flying limbs.

Chapter 12

The group had returned to Dannan's house. The regeneration cycle had ended earlier than expected, but it was enough to stabilize all of Seven's neural synapses returning function to her Borg implants. Moka had been especially joyous to see Seven's very tall frame enter the house, walking on her own, though B'Elanna was never far behind. After a fulfilling dinner the two women sat near the hearth and rested as the group discussed the alternatives they had obtained in the past few days. Despite all the negotiations, everyone B'Elanna and Dannan had talked to only wanted credits, due to the struggling economy of many settlements in the sector. The discussion was long and tiresome. It was discouraging that every deal negotiated, every angle pitched was not working out. "s a result, B'Elanna brought up a suggestion, that Seven immediately rejected.

"I could find work as an engineer on a vessel while we are both passengers," B'Elanna suggested.

To which Dannan replied, "The crew wouldn't just hire for short term. They'd still need an engineer during the course of the trip if you left abruptly once you contacted your ship."

"Fine, then I'll get an advance, work for the entire route, but get Ani passage first. She can find our family and have them meet up with me," she argued.

"Many of those freighter and deep space crew are a bunch of ruffians. I'd rather not picture you among them, Bey." Dannan did not approve, plainly seen by his grimace.

"Nor would I," Seven added with a hint of disgust, picturing B'Elanna among Kal's band of riffraff. "It would be an unacceptable sacrifice on your part."

"Ani, that regeneration cycle was a temporary solution at best. We have to get off this planet. Our family might stop looking for us if we don't." B'Elanna frustration was beginning to escalate, and her Klingon temperament was a bit frayed after the stress of the past few days. Didn't the Borg realize she was just looking out for her?

"I understand the situation," Seven responded indignantly, "but I am willing to take that risk." Seven then played her trump card. "Besides, you said you would never leave me."

Not liking her own words thrown back at her face, B'Elanna resorted to the one thing she did best, and that was pushing people away. "Well, maybe I'm not willing to risk it, if that means we can get back to our ship. I'm tired of hiding. And maybe I'm tired of the burden I'm carrying."

They glared at each other, neither one yielding. Seven's eyes widened in outrage, and betrayed her feelings of hurt with a sheen of tears. In the lieutenant's own words, she had been a burden. Those words made her stomach churn, made her feel small, imperfect, and unwanted. B'Elanna narrowed her eyes in anger, blinded to the fact that the Borg had taken her literally.

"Bey, please." Dannan interrupted before B'Elanna could say something she'd regret later, if she hadn't already.

"There is another way to earn the money." Edyn had been listening to the conversation as he reclined in his chair, smoking a pipe. Up until then, he found the argument between the two women extremely stimulating, with heaving bosoms and passionate words.

"What do you mean?" asked Dannan, suspiciously. He knew his friend after all.

"You know what I mean. We were talking about it just this morning," he said, calmly blowing smoke rings.

"You can't be serious!?" Dannan was flabbergasted at his suggestion.

Edyn sighed, swinging his legs down from their perch on another chair, and put his pipe aside. He looked straight at Dannan. "They have a right to know if there is another option. Especially since our sweet Ani here disproves of the others."

Dannan just folded his arms and shook his head over the whole thing. Impatiently, B'Elanna told him to spill the beans.

"Of course my feral femme fatale, I'm talking about the Nokk tournament. They have it every turn of the third moon over at their tavern. The next one is tomorrow night."

Moka gasped. "You aren't suggesting one of them enters the tournament?!"

"What is a Nokk tournament?" Seven inquired.

"Well, they're not really tournaments, per say." Edyn started from the beginning. "The Nokk are a species that came to this planet about a hundred years ago after their sun went supernova. They came in droves and colonized several planets in these few neighboring sectors, and they brought with them their traditions. There are several prominent Nokk Houses in this settlement, and every turn of the third moon they hold fighting matches. By tradition, these are rituals held to bestow honor among members of the houses or even those not belonging to any houses, who prove themselves by winning these fighting matches. When the Nokk came here, they adapted their ritual so that monetary awards were also bestowed to the winner."

"So you're saying someone like me can enter the matches?" B'Elanna asked, suddenly interested in the idea of participating in the ritual. "t least it sounded better than the Day of Honor and Klingon pain sticks.

"Yes. They finding it entertaining when other species join in the ritual. Plus, males and females among the Nokk are seen as equals, since their physiques are predominantly the same, unlike the Rangoon examples you see here." Edyn noted, gesturing offhandedly to Dannan and Moka.

Dannan interjected, "The Nokk are formidable warriors, Edyn. You forgot to mention that. And they've been playing this game for a long time." He did not like this idea at all.

"What are the physical demands of these rituals?" Seven wanted to get to the main point.

"The ritual involves two individual fighters in a ring, engaging in weapons combat in the first round, all blunt instruments of course. The subsequent rounds are hand to hand until there is a winner or until five rounds have been completed and are judged by who wins each round. The combatants are matched by weight class. There is an entrance fee however, or rather, a gift a participant must present when he or she registers."

"I'm not sure if we have anything of value," B'Elanna noted with a frown.

"Well, actually you do. Your dilithium crystal," Edyn offered.

B'Elanna raised her brow distrustfully. "You'd be willing to give me back my sample?"

"Of course, as long as I get to be your sponsor. And I get 10% in commission, if you win. I can register you tomorrow morning."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. She knew there had to be a catch, but Edyn reassured her that the prize winnings were more than enough to pay for a message transmission or transport to the next sector.

"I have heard enough of this suggestion," Seven stated heatedly, getting up and walking stiffly out of the common room.

B'Elanna wanted to let the Borg cool off for a while in their bedroom, but Moka looked at her expectantly. She followed Seven of Nine, not sure if she was ready to argue with the blonde again. They were never going to agree on the issue, and B'Elanna was prepared to pull rank on her, though it might not mean very much to the ex-drone.

"Ani, this is the best idea I've heard so far," B'Elanna started.

"I do not wish to discuss this topic any further. I only wish to sleep," Seven stubbornly declined. She began removing her day clothes, pulling the beige gown off over her head.

B'Elanna felt an uncharacteristic burning in her loins, seeing the warm flesh revealed so suddenly. Her "adrenaline" was still raging from the recent arguments, and the Klingon in her had turned the arousal into something else, in view of the semi-clad Borg. B'Elanna quieted herself to abate the fires, before her hormones totally got out of her control. It was late, and she settled for getting ready for bed as well. She went to the washroom, bringing her maroon sarong along, and decided a quick dunk in cold water was in order. Upon returning to their room, her eyes literally bugged out when she saw a pile of bedding and pillows on the ground, and Seven hogging the entire cot.

' She was about to make a snide remark, but decided against it since Moka was probably listening for sounds of arguing, and she didn't want to upset the kindly woman anymore this evening. B'Elanna huffed audibly and puffed her pillows loudly as she set up her bedding for the night. Finally B'Elanna relaxed into the covers, hands behind her head, wondering just what in the universe happened tonight with Seven. Two words, Tom would say... "lovers' spat," only she and Seven weren't lovers. Nope, it was back to their old status quo. She heard the blonde shift in bed again. Seven always did that when she couldn't sleep because something was bothering her, B'Elanna noted.

As civil as she could manage, "Ani, do you want to talk?"

"What do you wish to discuss?" she replied in Borg-like clinical detachment.

"You tell me..."

"I do not understand why you insist on participating in the Nokk Tournaments. Do you enjoy inflicting and receiving pain?"

"Ani, this is the only plausible option we have to get the credits we need."

"It is crude and pointless," was the only response.

Where had she heard that before? B'Elanna propped herself up on her elbows. "It's not Tsunkatse, Ani. I know you had a bad experience with that game, but the Nokk Tournaments are a ritual, a tradition. People aren't out there to exploit others." She wanted to pursue the matter more because of Seven's feelings.

But Seven interrupted. "Then I should be the one to fight in the matches. I possess the skills of Tsunkatse."

B'Elanna sat up, but Seven's back was turned toward the wall away from her. "And what are you going to do, fall on your opponent until you knock 'em out?" she mockingly retorted.

"I still possess Borg strength," Seven argued somewhat unconvincingly.

"Yeah, well, I may not be a full fledged Klingon warrior, but I'm not a lame duck either," B'Elanna mumbled.

"I do not wish to be a burden. I will perform my share of the duties." Seven admitted bitterly, at last, what was really on her mind.

B'Elanna felt like a pile of targ dung when she heard the anguish in Seven's voice. Her concern for getting Seven back to Voyager coupled with her new feelings for the woman had placed an unexpected amount of stress on her nerves, and B'Elanna didn't know how to handle it yet. She lashed out like she always did, but this time, it injured the only person that mattered to her right now. She reached over and placed a hand on woman's left shoulder, but Seven didn't respond.

"Ani," B'Elanna called out. Then she sat on the bed, took the woman by the shoulders, and forced her onto her back. Looking into Seven's eyes, she could see the underlying hurt this time.

"I didn't mean that YOU were a burden. You sacrificed yourself to save both of us. How could I see that as a burden?" asked B'Elanna. "I've just been frustrated that I haven't been able to get us off this planet."

"I wish I could believe you," was all Seven said, and she pushed the half-Klingon's hands away, turning away from her again.

"I'm sorry for what I said, Ani,...because I care about you," B'Elanna apologized softly, swallowing hard, "...a lot about you."

Regretfully, she climbed back down to the floor, and laid there awake on the blankets. She felt like an ass, and turned onto her side, hiding her head with an arm. Minutes later she felt a stirring of her blankets, a warm body pressed against her backside, and an arm magically appeared around her waist. Surprised, B'Elanna uncovered her face, and looked at the slender arm that embraced her.

"Ani?"

"I wish to conserve body heat. But I am still angry with you." Seven replied, snuggling back down against her.

"Oh." B'Elanna felt relieved. She didn't think she could have gone to sleep knowing Seven was hurt by what she said, and she had feared that things would return to the way they were before, the distant bantering, the occasional antagonism. "Do you think we could do that on the bed?" complained the half-Klingon.

She felt Seven snort, then both of them got up. B'Elanna dusted off her thick, soft flannel-like blankets, and reached out to assist the Borg, but remembered Seven didn't need her help.

"Sorry, habit," B'Elanna explained, bothered by her own awkwardness.

Seven arched her brow, and extended her hand to B'Elanna, pulling the lieutenant with her onto the cot. The skimpily-clad blonde laid down on her back stretching out her full length, and turned B'Elanna around to spoon her from behind. The dynamics had definitely changed now that the Borg was almost back to her former capacity. It had been easier to hide her increasing physical affection towards Seven when she had difficulties doing things for herself. And that kiss in the bath tub...Seven had been a willing participant. But now the Klingon didn't know where to go from there, since she had no idea what exactly Seven felt for her.

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

The Borg could tell that B'Elanna had finally drifted off to sleep, her breathing deep and regular. Despite their argument, Seven needed to feel B'Elanna's compact form next to hers. She had become accustomed to their physical contact during sleep. Unlike other humans, the weight of B'Elanna's body felt comfortable, not too light or too heavy. Seven deduced it was probably because of B'Elanna's denser Klingon structure, much like her own Borg enhancements. Her physical attraction to B'Elanna was obvious to her now, noting the numerous physiological changes that occurred in her body each time their bodies grazed or touched, or each time she saw the Klingon's half-naked figure. That was the strange sensation she had felt in the Jefferies tube.

But there were emotional changes as well. B'Elanna's words had injured her deeply, and Seven was still mad, even though this was not the first time they had ever argued. They had heated disagreements previously on Voyager where her feelings had been affected, but not to such a degree. She wondered when had she become so sensitive to the lieutenant's opinion of her. She suspected the emotions had always been there, but she could not have recognized them before. Perhaps she had been incorrect when she informed the Doctor she did not require a romantic relationship with anyone on the ship. And if she interpreted B'Elanna's recent behavior correctly, the lieutenant would be willing to pursue one with her now that her bond with Ensign Paris had been terminated. However, the half-Klingon had refused other previous but ardent suitors, Seven noted with some jealousy. Seven sighed deeply, pushing away thoughts of what tomorrow might bring for them, leaned over and kissed the comely face gently before sinking back under the covers.

Author's Note:

  1. bIvem - Klingon for "(You) wake up"
  2. ST Voyager episodes referenced are "Prototype" and "Equinox."

Continue to Chapters 13-15

Return to Summary Page


You Are On
The Pink Rabbit Consortium
(click the above link to break out of frames)
Send Comments or Questions to Pink Rabbit Productions
pinkrabbit@altfic.com

| Home | Subtext Zone Art Gallery | Subtext LinksWhat's New | HTDTZ? |
 | Xena Fanfic Archive | Buffy Fanfic Archive | In Process |