Out in Thirty Days -- Ch. 19-21 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 19

As Ani looked on, Dannan wrapped a bandage to keep the healing gel in place around the Borg's thin arm, after he had finished cleaning the wound. His stout hands and fingers were in reality skilled and nimble as he manipulated the material with ease and accuracy. Moka took the basin filled with soap and water to the sink, and emptied it, all the while peering through the window to watch Bey in the back grove. The old woman laughed wickedly at the young woman's expense. Ani had refused to allow the poor woman in the house with the offending boot and had banished her to clean it. Initially, the young Klingon was about to fling it out into the street and be rid of it, until Ani pointed out that it would not be a prudent move, taking into account the hot, scorching sand underfoot everyday. Bey wrinkled her nose at the unpleasant task, as she chipped away at the unwelcome fertilizer with a stick. Lastly, she rinsed the sole with some hot water and plopped the worn boot on the back porch to dry.

B'Elanna entered the house through the extra door to see the newly bandaged arm of Seven of Nine. It was a sight that still bothered her, and when she approached the table, she looked shame-faced in front of the two older persons. She sat pensively at the table, as if waiting for a long lecture from either of them. Moka observed the broad shoulders as they slumped.

"Ani," Moka called to the ex-drone. "Would you please help me with the dishes?"

Sparing a glance at B'Elanna as she got up off her chair, Seven answered, "Of course."

Dannan re-packed the materials he took out from the medical kit, and put the case aside. He had been quiet when he cleaned the wound, but that was his way. He liked to work in silence, to help him concentrate on his task. But now, when that was done, it seemed he needed to come up with something appropriate to say. It worried him and Moka that the two engaged in dangerous activities. Though they had not known the women for long, both Rangoons had developed a quick affection for Bey and Ani. They had filled his house with laughter and tears since their arrival, and when they leave, it would be empty again. Should he show them the fatherly concern that he had been denied the opportunity to give?

"So.... Did you get to make the arrangements you wanted before the fight broke out?" he asked.

B'Elanna swallowed hard so that she could answer. "Yes, Sir."

Since when did he become a "Sir," he mused. Bey stared down at the table, her attention seemingly more interested in tracing the grain of the wood before her with a finger.

"There was a new flock of ships that docked this morning," he mentioned. "It was probably very rowdy at the Hyperdrive today."

"A little." Bey bit her lip anxiously.

"Fights are pretty common there," Dannan noted, his eyes kind in their reflection.

"They are?" B'Elanna asked, poorly masking her surprise before she tried to cover up. "They are,...usually...in those types of places," she agreed, nodding.

"What happened?" he inquired, as he rested his elbows on the table.

Bey froze for a bit before she found her voice again and replied, "A man who tried to buy Ani a drink stumbled onto a nearby table and spilled beer on a bunch of tall, furry creatures."

He let out a brief chuckle. "These things happen. Sometimes we're caught in the middle. When it does, the only thing we can do is look out for each other."

Bey slumped again. "I guess I didn't do a good job of it," she said dejectedly.

Dannan reached out and clasped her on the shoulder. "You did. These--things--happen. And Ani can take care of herself too," he comforted, patting her shoulder softly, as he captured her eyes purposefully.

Moka hoped the conversation resolved the issue for Bey, for she put herself up against such heavy expectations no one demanded of her. Their dinner was ready as she removed the loaf of bread from the oven, filling the room with its aroma. She handed Seven the other dishes so that she could slice the bread.

Seven cleared her throat as she approached the table, a decidedly human gesture she picked up from the Captain on the bridge. B'Elanna got up halfway to take the dishes from her so that she could return to the kitchen for the rest. Seven trusted that by talking to Dannan, B'Elanna could feel better about the afternoon's incident since the Klingon also cared about the opinion of their caretakers, and she was glad Dannan reiterated her thoughts. Finally, everyone gathered around the table for another rich, wonderful meal prepared by Moka to share together. Seven sat next to B'Elanna, and kissed her on the cheek before she picked up a dish to pass around the table. The gesture was not lost on the lieutenant, who finally snapped out of her funk and cheered up, especially when Seven decided to play footsie under the table with her bare foot.

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

B'Elanna was naked, soaking in the tub, and it was heavenly. The past two days had left her body bruised and somewhat sore, though she never showed any signs of her discomfort. She and Seven wanted to leave the doors open between their room and the washroom so they could keep conversing, but it was already late and they didn't want to disturb Dannan and Moka. Instead, the Borg convinced B'Elanna, who was hesitant at first, to take a bubble bath while she remained in the room with her.

The half-Klingon sat in a round tub of warm water, with the lather covering the surface of the tub, all the way up to her collar, and hiding her naked body from Seven's interested gaze. The blonde planted herself on the stool next to the tub at B'Elanna's feet, and rested one arm on the edge of the tub while her other hand dipped into the warm, soapy water, idly playing with it. She watched as B'Elanna worked the soap around her wet, silky shoulders. All of a sudden B'Elanna slapped her hand away, which she didn't even know had wandered.

"Ani," B'Elanna said warningly, raising a brow.

"Why won't you allow me to bathe you, like you did for me?" she asked, her forehead crinkled in a frown.

"Because,... We wouldn't be able to stop things from progressing further," B'Elanna replied, washing the undersides of her firm breasts, the movement causing Seven to catch her breath.

"And that would be........bad?" Seven concluded, finding the correct colloquial term.

B'Elanna stopped what she was doing, and leaned forward slowly until she was a few centimeters away.

Looking into Seven's blue, shimmering eyes, she said, "No. It'd be good,...too good."

Disappointed, Seven grumbled, "I still do not understand." She truly did not know why B'Elanna did not want to copulate with her, to consummate their relationship, as she had with Ensign Paris.

B'Elanna returned to her original position and rested her head against the rim of the tub, gazing fondly at the woman before her. It was a long time before she answered.

"It's just like watching the sun set, Ani. All things have to follow their natural course."

Seven propped her chin in her other hand, smiling imperceptibly. 'Which is inevitable,' Seven finished quietly in her thoughts, as she returned to playing with the water.

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

"Glad to have you back on board," Janeway greeted the men as they exited the turbo lift.

"Thank you, Ma'am," accepted Paris, as he walked down the steps to the lower level of the bridge.

"Good work, the both of you."

"Thank you, Captain," Neelix replied modestly, scratching his whiskers. "Although it seems the message came to us."

Chakotay smiled back. It had been a while since the mood struck him.

"Well, whatever you did, it worked. We know where they are, and now we just have to get there," he told them.

"Harry, could you transfer the coordinates to the helm. Tom take us there at Warp 9," commanded Janeway, as both of her bridge officers acknowledged her orders.

They had obtained the coordinates to the planet B'Elanna and Seven had been on for more than a week now, from a passing freighter. Apparently, the two had crashed there and had to purchase the services of a certain "Captain Abcedi" to relay a message for them.

"I'll be in my Ready Room," she added.

Janeway walked over to her haven. She was ecstatic with joy, but she didn't want to show it in front of her crew. She needed to keep a tight control over her emotions because she didn't want to demonstrate what could have been misconstrued as favoritism. Reaching the confines of her chamber, she flopped down onto her couch with relief. The tension and sadness of the past several days seemed to have been lifted. She was still worried since her two crewmembers were as yet to be safely back on the ship, but at least they had finally been located after all the searching they had done. Voyager had passed by the planet a few days ago with no signs of the two women's presence, and had been unable trace the whereabouts of the shuttle either. The women must have hid themselves well among the inhabitants, and that meant they had been hiding from trouble.

Janeway released a big breath, and rubbed her neck while she sauntered over to the replicator for a nice cup of coffee. Sitting at her desk, she thought about seeing her wayward drone again, something she was starting to anticipate. It was times like these that made one appreciate what one had, and Janeway valued her relationship with her Borg. They had formed a mentor-student bond initially, that eventually evolved into a kind of friendship. Seven was one of the few people she spent her off-hours with, which weren't many. She had encouraged the young Borg to embrace her humanity, and now the captain wondered if the ex-drone was ready for more.

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

The game box chirped away noisily as B'Elanna played it feverishly. The half-Klingon was lying prone on the bed, her legs swinging casually in the air, while Seven was making more use of her time repairing the damaged tricorder. The half-Klingon broke out with an occasional cackle or an odd assortment of grunts and groans, even though Seven was trying hard to concentrate, sincerely working at the night table. What was even more distracting were the quick glimpses of the tone thighs and cotton briefs under the short, gun-metal sleeping gown B'Elanna had changed into. And to her distress, the ex-drone was having her first experience of sexual frustration that had been escalating ever since they had admitted their blossoming feelings for each other. When the lieutenant shrieked again, Seven put her tool down and rose from her chair, approaching B'Elanna from behind in a quiet slink.

"Hey!" B'Elanna cried out, looking over her shoulder when Seven snatched the game away. "No fair! I was about to beat your score."

"Ah, an additional benefit," Seven replied as she carefully put the game aside.

Then Seven turned the half-Klingon over and stretched herself out between the caramel-colored thighs. Beguiled, B'Elanna watched her with a smirk, as the ex-drone climbed up the athletic, yet soft body. Seven reached up and brushed her full lips teasingly against B'Elanna's, then trailed her kisses along the strong jaw.

"Is there something you wanted, Ani?" B'Elanna asked, the humor in her tone evident.

Seven sat up and peered at her curiously, "My attempt at seducing you is not obvious? Is my performance insufficient?"

Laughing, B'Elanna took the sides of Seven's face between her hands and pulled the quirky, yet at this moment, extremely sexy blonde to her waiting lips and tongue.

"Mmm..." B'Elanna moaned as she felt Seven's tongue respond, caressing and swirling around her own.

It would have been so easy to let things progress. Kahless knows how much she wanted to make love to the young Borg, but B'Elanna couldn't. And it wasn't because she never made love to another woman before, although that was still something she kept in mind. Even though her own body was screaming for B'Elanna to comply, the weight of their plans kept her passionate fires in check, both her human and Klingon halves. Instead, B'Elanna returned the young woman's passion with tenderness.

After a few moments of bliss, the half-Klingon rolled them onto their sides. Seven separated from her, pulling a pillow under her head and gazed up at her with intoxicating doe eyes. B'Elanna cupped Seven's alabaster cheek and stroked the warm flesh with her thumb.

"What are you thinking about?" Seven asked, desiring to share whatever bothered her companion.

B'Elanna looked at her suspiciously, "What are you, part Betazoid?"

"I have no Betazoid DNA," Seven replied, puzzled.

"I know... But you seem to be able to read me, and that's scary," the lieutenant said wryly.

"What is preoccupying your thoughts? Please tell me," Seven persisted, grasping hold of B'Elanna's arm.

B'Elanna opened her mouth hesitantly, swallowed, and tried again. "I guess I'm thinking about when we leave here, and having to say goodbye."

Seven nodded in agreement. "I believe I will find it difficult to say goodbye to the friends we have made here."

"We've met some pretty special people, haven't we?" B'Elanna noted wistfully.

"You respect Dannan a great deal," observed Seven, after which B'Elanna threw her a questioning glance. "His approval is important to you. Why?"

The half-Klingon sighed, as she folded her hands under her pillow and snuggled further into the covers. "He reminds me of what's it like to have father. Someone who looks out for you. I had forgotten. And Dannan..., he's such a wise and kind man... cares unconditionally...."

Her eyes reddened slightly, and B'Elanna tightened her face to keep her emotions under control. "I can't believe it still affects me the way it does."

"You were a young child. You were not emotionally prepared for your loss," Seven responded, trying to comfort her.

"I was five when my mother told me my father had left. I remember wondering why. Why would he leave? I wondered why he didn't love me enough to stay? Why he didn't love me enough to find me? My mother and I moved to Kessick IV afterwards, but it was a Federation colony and my mother did research for the Federation..." B'Elanna continued as tears began to stream down her face. "All I could think of at the time...was that I was Klingon."

B'Elanna covered her face with her hands, not wanting to weep uncontrollably in front of the young Borg. Seven reached forward and kissed her fingertips, hoping to ease the pain and take away the tears. Seven removed B'Elanna's hands, finding her tortured face underneath, and laid sweet, gentle kisses on her eyelids, tasting the salty moisture.

"I'm sorry," the half-Klingon murmured in a hushed but raw voice.

"Do not apologize for your feelings," Seven told her, as she coaxed with a caress B'Elanna to look at her. "I believe I understand them."

Eyes still wet, B'Elanna searched Seven's face thoughtfully.

"After I was severed from the collective, I began to remember events before I was assimilated. And when I read the logs my parents made during their journey towards Borg space, I realized how much they had been willing to sacrifice in pursuit of the Borg. That their research was more important than the well-being of their only child."

Seven pressed ahead and revealed what haunted her deepest thoughts, the thing that she feared the most was true, when she was alone in the quiet of her Cargo Bay. "That, perhaps, they loved their research more than they loved me," she gasped, as her own tears clouded her face.

"Oh, Ani." B'Elanna cradled the trembling young woman to her bosom, and kissed the top of her head, whispering soft reassurances and endearments . The half-Klingon would never in her life wish the same pain upon anyone else, of growing up thinking one was unwanted and less than adequate.

"I know about your parents' logs. They thought what they were doing was safe," B'Elanna comforted. "Your parents loved you, Ani, they really did. But they were only human, and they made a mistake with the only experience they had then. You have to forgive them for it."

At last, Seven calmed with her words, but she still clutched at B'Elanna as if the half-Klingon was a life-preserver and she was drowning.

"Perhaps, we both fault our parents for being human," Seven finally murmured from the safety of B'Elanna's bosom.

Exhausted, the ex-drone fell asleep eventually, but B'Elanna couldn't, her thoughts on the last words Seven uttered. B'Elanna was never more vulnerable than when she talked about her father and her childhood, which was rare. Even Tom and Chakotay never managed to persuade her to tell her truest feelings and most hurtful memories, but one urge from Seven, and she had spilled her guts out. In return, the ex-drone revealed her own painful thoughts to her. As B'Elanna reflected on what was said tonight, she came to a decision that she had to put the past behind her and work on a future with Seven. Seven had spoken the truth, that they blamed their parents for mistakes any human being would have made, even if both of them thought those mistakes happened to be foolish. The best thing she and Seven could do now was not to make the same mistakes for themselves and their loved ones.

B'Elanna sighed and pulled the sleeping Borg into a deeper embrace, wanting to cherish the woman's presence in her arms, in her life. Which is why she didn't want to rush jumping into bed with Seven, a mistake she had made before. Especially not after only a little more than a week together, and not for Seven's first sexual experience.

B'Elanna couldn't believe how much time she had wasted in a relationship that didn't go anywhere. She didn't blame Tom, because, in all honesty, she didn't try very hard either to make their commitment fulfilling, emotionally and physically. However, in less than nine days, she had fallen in love with Seven of Nine and developed a much more intimate relationship. Putting off sleeping, B'Elanna considered this as she brushed away the sweat-matted blonde hair from Seven's face, and she realized they both had far more in common than in differences. And their differences seemed more like advantages, complementing each other in some ways.

As the night wore on, even the half-Klingon couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. It was just too comfortable holding the soft, lithe figure of the young woman in her arms. She cuddled closer, resting her chin on the top of the golden locks, finally falling asleep to the clean, flowery smell, and dreamed of happier memories, many of them revolving around the blue-eyed Borg.

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

"Why are we closing the shop earlier than its usual designated time, Dannan?" Ani inquired, as she stood, hands linked behind her back, while she observed the man putting away his instruments hurriedly.

She and B'Elanna had woken early to clean their room and the house, hoping to show their gratitude to Dannan and Moka for allowing them to stay and become part of the household. Now they had completed part of their work at Dannan's workshop by mid-afternoon.

"Today I have to leave early, Ani," replied Dannan, anticipation in his voice. "A group of my friends and acquaintances have a game of Terraball at around this time of the month out in the abandoned airfields. You and Bey are welcome to come along," he invited.

Seven looked at B'Elanna, who had just returned form the back lot after storing away a few repaired droids and caught the end of the conversation. She knew it would be nice for the lieutenant to spend some time with the man. The ex-drone was dressed lightly for a day in the sun anyhow, wearing a long belted, sleeveless, olive tunic and sandals.

"That would be acceptable," she answered. She perceived she had made the right choice when she saw the smile emerge from B'Elanna's lips.

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

Seven and B'Elanna rested on the artificial turf along the side lines of the field where they watched the game unfold. Two teams of aliens of various species, including a few Rangoons and Nokks, and of varying ages, were playing against each other in a game of Terraball, which, B'Elanna concluded, resembled the old Earth sport, soccer. She had seen a few competitions on Tom's television set, and had recognized the similar rules and player positions.

At least B'Elanna found the patch of grass she had wished for, Seven mused as she leaned up against a large rock that shadowed them from the hot sun that hung high in the sky over the field. B'Elanna sat next to her, cheering Dannan's team on whenever she was not explaining to Seven the finer points of the game. The half-Klingon had pulled off her boots and rolled up her dark colored trousers to relax. A fair number of people were actually watching along the sidelines with them, family members no doubt of the players themselves. Many had infants and children with them, the smaller ones more preoccupied with teasing and chasing each other around rather than paying attention to the game. Not unlike what she and B'Elanna had been doing all along on board Voyager was the funny thought that came to her mind, as she smiled at the sight.

A stray ball was shot out of bounds and rolled over to were B'Elanna and Seven sat. B'Elanna disentangled her legs from Seven's, picked up the animal-skin, stood, and cast it smoothly overhand to one of the forward players, a surprised Norcadian. The Nokks on the playing field smirked.

B'Elanna turned back to rejoin Seven on the grass when she heard, "Do you want to play?"

A fleeting expression of child-like wonder and delight flickered across the half-Klingon's face, but not before Seven caught a glimpse. Seven realized something special had just happened. Dannan jogged over to see what was going on.

Eyes wide like saucers, B'Elanna looked incredulously towards the Norcadian and Dannan. Overcoming her speechlessness, she answered, "I would really like to but I don't want to leave Ani...," gesturing to Seven.

The Borg stood and walked over to B'Elanna. Gazing at her warmly, Seven told her, "Go. I will watch you."

B'Elanna clasped her hand tightly for a brief moment as they grinned at each other, then the lieutenant ran over to pull on her boots, and rolled her pants down before she took her place on the field. Dannan wanted her near him in the forward positions. Seven slowly made her way up the field so she could get a good view of B'Elanna playing, moving between the little children that seemed to take joy in hiding behind her tall legs. She picked up the loose linen shirt that B'Elanna had thrown off, and watched as the Klingon sprinted down the field, sweat already glistening off her bare shoulders, drenching her tank top. Dannan caught her pass, and weaved his way around the opposing team players, controlling the ball with his big feet.

"Fzzzz.......fzzzzzwwwzzzrrrrrtttttttt.....fzzzzeven of Nine."

Shocked, Seven stood frozen, before she recognized what was happening.

"FZZZZZRwwwwwwzzrrrrrrzzzzzzzz. This is Captain Janeway to Lt. Torres, please respond..."

Seven scrambled for the inside of her tunic. Each day she had placed her comm badge on the inside of her clothes, perhaps out of habit, perhaps out of hope, as did B'Elanna. Seven walked away from the small crowd towards a deserted cluster of rocks, and now she stared at the comm badge, not knowing what to do or say. Finally, her years of experience with the Federation crew kicked in and she tapped the comm badge.

-Chirp-

"Seven of Nine here, Captain."

There was a brief pause, before the Captain's throaty answer came through. "Seven, it's good to hear your voice. Are you alright and where is B'Elanna?"

"To answer your first question, Captain, I am doing well. And B'Elanna is currently indisposed as she is participating in a sporting event." Seven swore she could hear laughing in the background as she waited for a response.

Janeway dipped her head to keep herself from joining her helmsman and Ops officer in a bout of chuckles. Seven was obviously her normal self but oddly, the captain couldn't help but catch her use of Lt. Torres' first name. There must be an interesting story behind it, she considered. Regardless, Janeway just wanted her crewmembers safely back on board her ship and to warp out of this part of space as soon as possible.

"We're ready to beam you both aboard. Please get B'Elanna out of the game," Janeway informed, a hint of amusement in her tone.

Seven took a deep breath and risked asking, "Captain,...the lieutenant and I have unfinished business on the planet. I would like to request that you allow us to stay for one more day so that we may complete our tasks, before we beam aboard." She added, "We are in no current danger here."

Chakotay glanced curiously at Janeway, who had arched her own brows in wonderment. The rest of the bridge were also amazed, since they assumed that their missing crewmates would have been anxious to return home to Voyager, as much as they were anxious to have them back.

"All right, permission granted, Seven. You have twenty-four hours. Contact us when you are ready to be transported. We'll keep a lock on you both at all times," Janeway replied.

"Thank you, Captain. May I request one more item?.... Could you beam down a holo imager at my coordinates," Seven asked nervously, peering about to make sure she was alone.

Janeway crinkled her brow, but smirk. That was definitely odd for Seven, but she was willing to indulge. Janeway had a lot of questions though, that the Borg had better be able to answer when she did see her.

The captain signed to Harry at Ops, and hailed, "He's sending one down now."

Chapter 20

B'Elanna felt the harsh jolts in her joints as her legs pounded the ground hard, running down the middle of the field with the wind she generated whipping her hair behind her. She felt the sweat from the rival player sprinkle on her as she feinted left, then stole away on the right, moving the ball deftly with her feet. Out of the corner of an eye, B'Elanna saw another player approach dead on to meet her with a backup pressing her from behind, so she booted the terraball to the side where Dannan was waiting. Glancing around, she didn't see Seven at the sidelines. That worried the lieutenant as the Borg had a propensity to find trouble. After a few more turns of her head, she found Seven amongst the crowd to her relief, walking back to the sidelines, and waved to the beautiful blonde.

Seven saw B'Elanna wave and returned the gesture. She hid the holo imager behind her back, wrapped within the lieutenant's shirt, not ready to tell B'Elanna that Voyager had found them, and wanting the lieutenant to enjoy her game with Dannan. The communication from Voyager had unsettled her somewhat. Though she had missed her friends and the children, Seven was dreading their eventual departure from the planet which meant saying goodbye to Dannan, Moka, and even Edyn.

-Boink!-

The ball had bounced off the top of the lieutenant's head, and Seven bit her lip to keep from laughing. She could see the expression on B'Elanna's face even from where she stood, and the half-Klingon looked positively predatory.

"Oy!" yelled the Norcadian running by, as he caught the ball against his chest and transferred it smoothly to his knee, and then to the ground. "Don't get distracted by the pretty young thing!"

A little miffed, B'Elanna trailed after him as he broke through the line up of opposing players, jostling them out of the way. The lieutenant leaped over another player who had slid forward in an attempt to steal the ball away. The Norcadian lost the terraball when an agile Nokk came up behind him and scoop the it up with his long foot. But the young Nokk wasn't prepared enough as he turned around, when B'Elanna approached him immediately afterwards and stole the ball back right out from under him. The half-Klingon then sped up her sprint, an act born partly out of anger, partly out of sheer excitement. As the distance to the goal dwindled, B'Elanna lobbed the ball high over towards Dannan on the left, but only after drawing the attention of their opponents to herself.

Dannan caught the pass, feinted, pivoted, turned, trying to out maneuver the block, and finally return the lob back to B'Elanna who by then had broken free. Reacting faster, B'Elanna jumped a head above her opponent, fired a head shot to the right upper corner of the net. As the terraball careened toward the net, the Nokk goalie made one desperate leap to block, but only succeeded in tapping the ball lightly with her fingertips. It was not enough. The ball narrowly missed the pole, and flew into the entangling embrace of the net.

B'Elanna smirked and jogged over to the sidelines, winking at her ex-drone smugly, who could only smile tolerantly and hope the lieutenant would not get overly enthusiastic. There weren't enough healing packs left in the household for both her and Dannan.

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

The air had cooled considerably as the sun began to dip low behind the rising hills. The game had ended a few minutes ago, with Dannan's team winning, and the crowd of people began to disperse after a round of congratulations had been distributed. The clamor of high pitched voices was also gone as the boisterous children followed their parents home, still unexhausted by the day's afternoon at the park.

The half-Klingon happily strode over to claim her companion who had sat patiently along the grassy turf, watching her play for hours. The young woman stood as B'Elanna approached proudly showing the shiny object in her hand.

"Hey, Ani!" she spoke excitedly, raising the object. "Look what the opposing team gave me."

Seven gazed at the strange object in curiosity. It seemed like a makeshift, polygon-shaped plaque on a stand, the components most likely a collections of various previously used metal parts, re-worked and shaped.

"What is it?" Seven asked, quirking her brow as she tried to figure out its technological use, a tool perhaps.

"It's a trophy, silly."

"Indeed," Seven murmured, more interested in the fact that B'Elanna was covered with the yellow-orange dirt she was accustomed to seeming everywhere, and which should have spared the field of artificial turf.

Dannan came up behind the small Klingon and clapped her on the back. He seemed to have kept most of the dirt below the waist.

"Great playing out there, Bey," he congratulated. "Oh! I see you got the "Most Annoying Player" trophy from the other team."

Seeing the sheepish, self-deprecating look on B'Elanna's face, he laughed and reassured her. "That's really a compliment, Bey. That means they have to watch out for you the next time you play. In fact, I'd like to have a trophy like that some day. It says you're the best." He clapped her warmly on the back again.

Smiling once more, she moved closer to Seven, wanting to relax and wrap her arms around the beautiful woman, after the tiring game. Wrinkling her nose, Seven stepped back and raised her hand in front of the soil-clad lieutenant.

"Do not touch me, Bey, until you have had a bath," she said pointedly.

B'Elanna looked down at herself, noticing how dirty and sweaty she had gotten for the first time. When she looked up again, her grin had turned frankly evil, and Seven knew instantly what B'Elanna was plotting.

Slowly, Seven backed away. "Do not come closer in proximity, Bey." she warned, as the half-Klingon stalked her.

"Do not..." she repeated, as she tried to quicken her pace, futilely realizing that she could not outrun the lieutenant in her current state.

"What's a matter, Ani?" B'Elanna asked innocently. "You seemed eager for my embrace last night?"

B'Elanna trailed after the retreating Borg, poking a little fun at Seven's compulsion for cleanliness and order. The Borg glanced over her shoulder at B'Elanna suspiciously.

"Give us a kiss?" B'Elanna begged contritely as she jogged after the Borg.

Dannan shook his head as he watched the two zigzag around the sidelines of the turf. The remaining children turned to watch curiously, their bottles and toys dropped and forgotten, as the two adults seemed to be having a lot of fun playing tag, wondering if they could join in too.

"Go away."

"No."

"Keep your hands to yourself."

"Come here."

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

Seven observed as B'Elanna meandered back to the room, now clean from her bath and dressed in comfortable brown tunic, more interested in polishing her odd object rather than paying attention to where she was going. Grinning, B'Elanna plopped her butt down on the bed as she shined the trophy in her hands with a soft cloth. She was obviously enamored by it, and Seven found that somewhat endearing. However, it did not make the ex-drone's task any easier. Telling the lieutenant that Voyager had finally arrived was proving difficult for the normally blunt Borg. Seven fingered the holo imager that still laid hidden in the lieutenant's shirt, took a deep breath, and rose from her chair. She approached the half-Klingon unnoticed, since B'Elanna did not look up from her activity.

"Bey, I don't see the need for you to polish the object which already has a brilliance," Seven noted.

"Hold on, Ani. I'm almost done, just one little spot...," B'Elanna answered, squinting her eyes as if seeing the tarnish that did not exist.

"Bey, we need to talk," Seven said seriously, though B'Elanna barely noticed as she wiped the shiny surface with the corner of the cloth.

"About what?" the Klingon asked offhandedly.

Seven sighed and removed the holo imager from its wrap, setting it on the bed next to B'Elanna. She waited quietly for B'Elanna to notice. The lieutenant turned her head and gazed at the object for a moment before returning wordlessly back to her trophy, but even from her height, Seven could see the sullen look on B'Elanna's face.

"When?" B'Elanna asked.

Seven frowned, not understanding the question.

"When did Voyager contact us?" B'Elanna repeated.

"Captain Janeway hailed us while you were playing in the game," Seven replied.

B'Elanna snorted, almost in sarcasm.

"We have less than a day left here. We have permission to transport tomorrow," Seven informed.

B'Elanna did not respond and would not even look up at the ex-drone, only studying the trophy now griped in her hand. A dreadful suspicion dawned on Seven.

"You...you are not leaving here?"

The question hung in the air, as the words that left Seven's lips seemed louder than usual. An uneasy silence fell between them like a blank, unending wall.

Finally, B'Elanna lifted her head and her gaze, and looked into the beautiful, unwavering, azure eyes that tore silently at her heartstrings.

Softly, B'Elanna spoke, "I go where you go..."

The lieutenant's response had been murmured so quietly that Seven was not certain she had heard correctly at first. Then, as a tide of relief washed over her, Seven bent down to B'Elanna's waiting lips. Who knew the half-Klingon was such a romantic at heart. Seven lowered herself over B'Elanna and straddled the smaller woman, their kiss never breaking, and delved deeply into B'Elanna's mouth. Lips kissed and hands roamed in new places, discovering what made each woman moan and sigh.

"Bey?" Seven asked with a quirk of her brow, shifting awkwardly as they broke apart for air. "Is that your trophy?"

B'Elanna laughed, a full throaty laugh, all the while pulling the offending object out of the way and placing it on the floor by the bed. Seeing the half-Klingon relax, Seven felt better about having informed B'Elanna of their imminent departure.

Seven kissed B'Elanna one more time before she said gravely, "We must tell Moka and Dannan."

"Yes," B'Elanna replied, gazing up at the Borg as she swept a hand through a blonde ponytail.

"After dinner, you will take Dannan aside, and speak with him," Seven suggested, "while I speak with Moka."

"Okay," B'Elanna agreed, and pressed Seven close, resting their foreheads together.

Once she had made her choice, the half-Klingon would not back away from it, Seven realized. But the ex-drone wondered how much of the decision was somewhat of a sacrifice on B'Elanna's part. It was a question Seven could not answer nor bring herself to ask. All that mattered was that they were going to stay together.

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

"Moka?" the Borg called out, as she walked up behind the tiny woman in the kitchen.

"Yes, dear," the elderly Rangoon replied good-naturedly, her hands busy with the preparation of their dessert.

Seven already began to tear uncharacteristically. In a voice which quivered, she said "I must inform you..."

Moka had never heard such depth of emotion in the young woman's voice than at that moment, though there were times when its control had been challenged. As she turned, Moka saw Ani tremble, and opened her arms immediately, into which the young woman fell.

"We must leave you tomorrow," Seven said simply, when she finally calmed, her body limp and spent.

"As all children do, my sweet Ani. They grow and leave the nest," Moka observed, sighing as she wiped away the tears.

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

The night sky was so clear that night, as Dannan and B'Elanna loitered out in the front porch on the wide, cooled, marble bench. They had just finished walking Fessi, and had patiently waited for the animal to finish nibbling on the bush just outside the gate, reminiscing on the game they played in the afternoon. Now they sat in amiable silence, watching the stars wink without a cloud in the sky above the hot, dusty, dry planet.

B'Elanna didn't know how to begin telling Dannan she and Seven were leaving tomorrow. She was never any good with good-byes, rarely having the opportunity, it seemed, in her life to have any formal ones. Usually the departures came unexpectedly. B'Elanna looked at his calm profile, trying to memorize the content face for the rest of her life as her heart beat in anguish

"Dannan?" she began. "There's something I have to tell you."

Turning towards the young woman, Dannan encouraged her to continue. "What is it, Bey?"

"Our ship contacted us today."

"Ay...I see," Dannan acknowledged softly. "I guess Abcedi came through for you after all."

"Thank you for letting me and Ani stay with you and Moka for so long. If it hadn't been for the both of you, we wouldn't have survived on this planet," B'Elanna thanked sincerely.

"You're welcome, Bey," Dannan told her warmly, gazing at the young woman he had come to love like family. "But there's no need to thank us. We were happy to have you with us."

Both of them lifted their faces to the stars again, lost in their own thoughts, reining in the emotions that were coming to the surface. There was one more thing for B'Elanna to do, felt compelled to do.

"My real name is B'Elanna Torres. I serve on the Federation Starship Voyager as the Chief of Engineering. My father is Human and my mother is Klingon..."

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

"...which is how we ended up here on this planet. Once we return to Voyager, our crew will try to find a way back to the Alpha Quadrant again," B'Elanna finished, having told him everything.

The half-Klingon sat quietly, waiting for Dannan to absorb all the information she had just revealed. B'Elanna had done so because she felt he deserved to know the entire truth, about who she was at least.

Still a little overwhelmed by what he had heard, Dannan swallowed against the lump in his throat. He wasn't too surprised though. He and Moka had suspected there was more to the women's background than they had originally told them, not out of cold deception, but rather more for necessity.

"That's quite a story..." Dannan remarked, his voice hushed and heavily weighed. "Well, I guess it's B'Elanna then... ay?"

"Bey," B'Elanna insisted to him, reaching out to cover his large hand with one of hers. "My father used to call me that."

Dannan nodded briefly, turning his hand over to hold onto hers, as they watched the stars for a little while longer until Seven came out to get them. Her eyes seemed slightly puffy, and B'Elanna took that as a sign that she had spoken to Moka as well.

Conversation was subdue around the table as they ate. The taste of the wonderful, warm dessert was somewhat bittersweet that evening, with each individual lost in their own thoughts, unable to give a false sense of high spirits. But it was a meal shared by a family, no matter how brief the union had been. Of course, it wouldn't have been complete without Edyn dropping by for a visit to see his favorite ladies. Though sadden by the news, the junk dealer still kept his humor about him throughout the rest of the night, entertaining them with exaggerated tales of a brave warrior and brilliant lady love that turned rather raunchy and made even the typically thick-skinned half-Klingon blanch and the young Borg confused. Blushing furiously, poor B'Elanna was left to the task of explaining the bawdy details until Seven began flushing herself.

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

"Bey, how is that anatomically possible--" Seven asked from the bed.

"Ani, please don't ask anymore about that ending. I have no idea what to tell you. " B'Elanna begged, raising a hand to pause Seven mid-sentence.

Seven closed her mouth, then apologized.

"No, it's alright. I just don't think my face take anymore flushing."

Dressed in her blue sleeping gown, Seven was already tucked into the bed, while the lieutenant stayed up to pack all their items into the survival pack. They didn't have much with them, many of the items they had picked up along the way on the planet donated to the "Poor Junk Dealers Relief Fund," as Edyn put it. The only items they had left were their Star Fleet issue gear, the well-used holo imager, a few clothing items Dannan wanted them to keep, Seven's game box, B'Elanna's prize scroll from the Nokk tournament and her trophy. B'Elanna studied the object in her hand before setting it on the night table, dimmed the lights, and approached the bed, clothed comfortably for sleep in her maroon sarong.

Seven pulled the covers away to allow B'Elanna to slip into the bed as they settled down to sleep one last time in this room, in this house. The half-Klingon laid on her back, urged by Seven who then proceeded to wrap her arm around the compact woman, resting her head on the soft chest. B'Elanna held Seven close, secretly wishing this would not be the last time she and Seven would share the same bed and sleep in each other's arms through the night. The blond sighed in pleasure while B'Elanna rubbed her shoulders soothingly.

"It is odd that I find myself wanting to lie here in this bed yet I have no desire to sleep. I do not feel tired," Seven noted with trepidation, looking up from where her head rested.

"Yeah, me too. I just want our last moments here to last forever," B'Elanna murmured, cuddling the ex-drone closer.

Seven nuzzled her face up against B'Elanna cheek, needing to feel the intimate connection. Her only reassurance now was that B'Elanna would never leave her, however their collective changed. The loss of Dannan and Moka was going to be painful, but she would be able to live with it, no matter how much she was going to regret it. Being without B'Elanna's presence, however, was unacceptable.

"It is as though I have been here for much longer than nine days. I find myself anticipating our return to Voyager and seeing the Captain, Doctor, Naomi Wildman and the rest of the crew, but I also feel distress when I think about leaving," Seven continued.

"I feel the same way. I'm torn between wanting to stay, and being happy to see everyone on Voyager again as well as my engineering room." B'Elanna could picture everyone at their posts, their faces with stark clarity, but yet they still seemed so far removed.

"I am...glad to have spent these days here with you, Bey" Seven admitted, propping herself on her elbows so their eyes met. "Our exchange of personal thoughts and information has been invaluable to me. I wish to know more about you."

"What do you want to know?" B'Elanna asked indulgently, smiling at Seven.

"Everything," replied the Borg eagerly, and leaned down to kiss her lightly. "Please tell me about your childhood, your years before Voyager was lost in the Delta Quadrant."

"Only if you tell me about yours," B'Elanna countered.

"My life before Voyager was short-lived," Seven pointed out.

"Mmm...maybe," B'Elanna replied dubiously, "but it sure as hell wasn't boring..."

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

Morning came all too quickly for them, though they spent most of the night talking, holding, and kissing each other. The room had been a safe haven for them, bringing them together, spending the most intimate moments here, and discovering love they had never felt before. Seven took one last lingering look at the room, now in pristine order as if they had never lived there, and walked away.

They decided to leave early that day. Moka and Dannan understood, knowing any delays would prolong the pain of saying goodbye. They sat for one last meal together with Edyn, who, to no one's surprise, showed up near the crack of dawn that morning. Moka packed the rest of the leftovers for the two women to take with them, satisfied with a glance that they looked a bit heavier and healthier than they had been when she first saw them several fateful nights ago. The group stood out in the front enclosure until finally B'Elanna emerged from the house, carrying all their belongs in the sack.

"It's not fair!" Edyn wailed as he grabbed onto Seven, hunched over crying pathetically into her bosom. "My angelic Ani!"

Seven sighed and rolled her eyes, but allowed the man a little latitude, simply because of the affection she had for the oddball alien. Strangely, he had played a pivotal part in helping them contact Voyager. Seven patted him fondly on the head.

"Ahem!" B'Elanna interrupted, tapping on Edyn's shoulder.

"Goodbye, my beauty," Edyn said to Seven, and quickly gave her a kiss before she could react. Then he turned and pulled the half-Klingon into a bear hug.

"Oofff..." B'Elanna let out as the air was squeezed out of her.

"Goodbye to you, my beloved Beylanna. I shall miss you." Then he gave her a smooch like he did with Seven, and gazed adoringly at her fiery temper that seemed to ignite in her eyes. Suddenly, she chuckled and hugged him back.

Seven exchanged kisses with Dannan on the cheek, thanked the man quietly and told him she'd miss him and his reassuring presence. He whispered something in her ear before releasing her. She acknowledged it with a nod.

B'Elanna walked over to Moka and enfolded the elderly woman in her strong arms. Moka had told her the night before, "no more thank you's," and B'Elanna kept her word, giving everything she felt in a kiss on the wrinkled cheek.

Moka murmured, "She loves you deeply. I thought you needed to know."

B'Elanna looked at her in shock, then blushed before pulling the woman, who had been like a grandmother to both of them, into another hug. Then Seven walked over to Moka, and covered her face with kisses.

Moka took Seven's face between her weathered hands, and told her gently, "You are a woman now, Ani. And remember, don't think about what happened in the past, focus on the future." She seemed to emphasize the latter part, and Seven promised to remember. At the moment she would have promised the elderly woman anything, as she loved her dearly.

B'Elanna approached Dannan one last time, as they searched each other's faces. Everything had already been said the evening before. Dannan took the young woman into his arms for one more great big hug, kissing her forehead ridges, before she too kissed him goodbye.

Eyes bright with a sheen of unshed tears, the half-Klingon bravely led the still crying Seven by the hand out the front gate, taking one final look at the cherished faces. Wordlessly, they walked to the edge of the settlement to the beam out coordinates, composing themselves before they transported back to Voyager. The familiar harsh surroundings seemed befitting for the moment. When they reached the rocky destination, the two crewmates gazed at one another and shed their cloaks to reveal their Voyager attire. In the vast desert, upon the hot orange sand, no one noticed the blue shimmering light that claimed the two figures.

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

Dannan walked through the doorway to his home. The clay walls were bright as the day he painted them. The door was as strong as the day he installed it with his own two hands. The furniture looked almost as new as the day he constructed them. And yet, as he stood in the common room peering about, the house seemed so old and empty to him. A bright reflection on the mantle caught his eye. Slowly he walked over to it, and picked it up. Dannan held onto the trophy and retrieved the pile of images that had laid next to it, laughing and tearing at the same time.

Chapter 21

"Captain, the away team, I mean, B'Elanna and Seven are requesting to beam up," informed Harry, unable to contain the joy and enthusiasm in his voice.

Captain Janeway smiled over her shoulder at the young Ensign, feeling the same giddiness in her heart as well. "Permission granted. Chakotay, you have the bridge. I'm going down to greet them."

"Aye, Captain."

As she climbed the few steps to the upper tier of the bridge, she heard Paris call out and looked over to him.

"Ma'am, may Harry and I accompany you?" Paris asked with a slight yearning.

Nodding, the Captain assented. "Of course."

The two bridge officers proceeded to jog over to the turbo lift where Janeway waited impatiently. She was ready to jump out of her skin, knowing that her two missing officers were about to be transported back onto the ship. Days of worrying and wondering what happened to them were almost over, but a new sense of curiosity and concern invaded her thoughts. Now she wanted to hear the entire story of their ordeal, see their familiar faces, and spend a little time with them, especially Seven. No doubt, the young Borg must have been through a lot of difficult situations she had never been placed in before, and she wanted to guide the young woman through the consequences, if there were any.

When they finally reached Transporter Room 2, the doors couldn't open up faster for her. She instructed the crewman to beam the two women on board immediately in her most commanding voice. Hearing the tone, the poor man scrambled to comply with her wishes.

In less than a few seconds, B'Elanna and Seven materialized on the transporter pad. Slightly disoriented, the two women glanced around them for a moment and then at each other, oblivious, it seemed, to the friends that were standing there in the same room.

Janeway caught her breath as she took in the sight of the lieutenant and the ex-drone. B'Elanna appeared to be sporting a few healing bruises on her face, while Seven, in her untainted brown biosuit, appeared none the worse for wear. But Janeway found something in Seven's gaze toward the lieutenant that she had never seen before, some emotion she couldn't put her finger on because the Borg was trying to hide it. Never had she witnessed such a look on Seven's face, other than emotions such as anger, fear, confusion, and humor. Both of them appeared as though they had been crying, their eyes slightly red and swollen, to the Captain's observant eyes. Harry and Tom were more excited, however, and missed those details as they moved to intercept the two stepping down from the pad.

"Welcome back!" Harry cried from behind Tom.

B'Elanna saw Tom head straight for her, and though part of her welcomed him, the majority of her hesitated, wanting to turn and explain to Seven. But explain what? As if in slow motion, B'Elanna watched him walk towards her, arms outstretched to hug her and pull her close. She could see him bending down, his lips opened slightly, the tip of his pink tongue peeking.

'Oh, god! He's going to kiss me here, in front of the Captain. In front of Seven!'

The half-Klingon accepted the embrace, but turned her face away as his mouth descended toward hers. Luckily, Tom got the hint and gave her a full-bodied hug instead in welcome, thinking she was just reserved as usual in front of other people. He would save the real welcome for when they were alone. B'Elanna gently but firmly pushed him away, glancing carefully at Seven to see what her reaction was. Though the ex-drone's face remained impassive, her rounded eyes told the half-Klingon she had seen the entire exchange.

Janeway moved over to Seven's side and gave her a quick one-armed squeeze around the shoulders, and repeated the same gesture with the lieutenant.

"It's good to see you both. I trust you are alright?" the Captain asked with a small smile and crook of her brow.

"We are fully functional, Captain. But it would be best to proceed to Sickbay as both of us have sustained injuries," Seven replied.

B'Elanna turned around from receiving a friendly hug from Harry, upon hearing her words. "She's right, Captain. Seven's neural synapses were damaged by an EM pulse during our crash. The Doctor should examine her first."

"I'll come with you, B'Elanna," Tom interrupted, his eyes focused on his ex-lover with concern.

She was a bit disturbed by his attention, but since he was the Doctor's assistant, she thought he should be there to help EMH just in case Seven's treatment needed an extra pair of hands.

"Okay."

Seven felt her stomach roll when B'Elanna invited Ensign Paris to Sickbay with them. She didn't think there could be any substantial feelings left between them, but she started to have doubts.

"I'll take you down there myself," Janeway announced, as she began urging them out of the transporter room. "I want the full story of what happened, and an official report from each of you."

As they walked through the deck, both of the women looked about as if the surroundings were strange to them. Crewmembers that passed them by in the hallways greeted Seven and B'Elanna politely, gratified to see the two women had been retrieved successfully and were back among them.

Janeway smiled as she walked with Seven, her hand returned to rest against the ex-drone's back, unconsciously stroking up and down. Maybe Seven didn't really notice, her attention still dwelling on the interaction between B'Elanna and Tom Paris, as well as adjusting to being back on Voyager. However, B'Elanna did, as her eyes narrowed watching the Captain caress what was hers, and the lieutenant was about to go Klingon. But years of restraining herself paid off, and B'Elanna remained silent, feeling only a deep sadness envelope her. It seemed to the lieutenant that the Captain had feelings for Seven, strong ones, by the way her unconscious actions had betrayed her.

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

Seven watched as the EMH waved the tricorder over her ocular implant while she sat patiently on the biobed. It had been a pleasant reunion, which of course included a bit of witty banter between them, and a bit of sarcasm toward the lieutenant. B'Elanna just ignored the barb and rolled her eyes, being quite accustomed to the Doctor's bedside manner, something about "leave it to the Klingon to find a way to get paid for violence." Nevertheless, he seemed genuinely glad to see her as well, having shown her equal attention. They had given a brief history as to how they obtained their injuries, but otherwise, the rest of their adventure remained unrevealed.

"Well, Seven," the Doctor began, as he completed his scan, "it looks like some of your Borg neuromuscular junctions were damaged, and you have a few neurotransmitter imbalances. But otherwise, the one regeneration cycle you underwent on the planet saved your Borg systems from further injury. I should be able to repair most of the systems now, the rest with a couple of long regeneration cycles."

"That's good news, Doctor," Janeway responded as she stood next to Seven, one hand leaning on the edge of the biobed.

Seven peered over to the next biobed where B'Elanna laid listening to the EMH's pronouncement, a look of relief touching her bronze features. Seven arched her brow, realizing B'Elanna had saved her again, and for a moment, B'Elanna shared her gaze.

After making the final passes over B'Elanna's bruises with the dermal regenerator, Tom brought over the medical cart for the EMH. Solicitously, he returned to B'Elanna's side to Seven's irritation.

"This compound should balance out your neurotransmitters," the Doctor indicated as he inserted the solution into the hypospray, and injected Seven with it. "You should stay here until I've worked out the final procedure to repair most of your major neural synapses. The lieutenant can be discharged to her quarters. And I recommend that you both take today and tomorrow off before you return to active duty."

Since there was really nothing left to allow her to stay, reluctantly, B'Elanna proceeded to climb off the biobed and leave for her quarters. Seven suppressed the sudden, near panic she felt as she watched the lieutenant's retreating back, reminding herself she was among friends and acquaintances.

"Good work, B'Elanna," the Captain praised, while the half-Klingon turned to acknowledge her words. "I appreciate what you did for Seven."

B'Elanna looked at the Borg, and replied sincerely, "Anytime."

"Lieutenant," Seven called out, wanting to stall her departure. "I will retrieve my belongings from you at a later date."

B'Elanna wasn't stupid to miss the rope thrown at her, so to speak, and grabbed for it. "Sure, Seven. Stop by later today, if you'd like.

Satisfied, the Borg nodded in response, and the lieutenant turned once again to leave, with Ensign Paris in tow apparently.

"Now, Seven, lie down and try to relax while I set up the equipment I need," the Doctor instructed as he moved off to his medical consoles.

Janeway came closer and patted her shoulder lightly. "Get some rest, Seven. Regenerate. Maybe we can meet for breakfast tomorrow, and you can tell me about the past several days."

"Yes, Captain," Seven replied obediently.

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

"Hey, B'Elanna! Wait up..." Tom yelled out as he sped up to catch her before she got into the turbo lift. "Let me walk you back to your quarters."

"Alright," B'Elanna answered carefully, as she slowed down to allow her former boyfriend to escort her.

When they arrived at her doors, Tom invited himself in to her chagrin. She was really tired, mainly still upset from having to leave the planet, and she wasn't ready to deal with Tom and their relationship.

"How about I run a nice, warm bath for you?" Tom asked.

It sounded wonderful, but B'Elanna didn't want Tom to stay in her quarters while she naked only a few feet away. He might read too much into their usual comfort level which included being naked in front of one another up until several weeks ago.

"Thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll unpack, rest a bit, and get used to everything first," B'Elanna politely refused.

"How about I replicate us some food? You must be hungry," Tom offered eagerly, shuffling over to the replicator.

"No, really, Tom. That's okay. I just want to re-familiarize myself with my quarters and Voyager." B'Elanna took him by the arm, nudging him towards the doors unsuccessfully.

"Geez, B'Elanna, you make it sound like you were gone forever. You were only missing for ten days or so," Tom pointed out. "You and Harry were gone for much longer on that poet's planet."

"It seemed like more than ten days..." B'Elanna trailed off.

"Come to think of it, maybe the next time you're out on an away mission, count me in," Tom teased. "At least that way, I can look after you."

"I can look out for myself, Tom," B'Elanna replied, her tone slightly dangerous. "Now go, so I can freshen up and relax."

"I guess you are tired," Tom conceded. "I'll let you rest then. Let me know if you feel like grabbing dinner together in the Mess Hall tonight," he asked as he backtracked towards the door.

"Okay," B'Elanna replied noncommittally, watching him disappear through the doors.

After a passing thought, B'Elanna decided to key in changes to her door code. At last, she was alone in her own room, one among many on Deck 9, on an Intrepid class starship making its way back to the Alpha Quadrant. She pulled off her jacket, tossed it onto the couch and headed towards her bed. Kicking off her boots, she'd lay there now and wait for Seven to come by.

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

Seven anxiously stepped off the turbo lift. The Doctor had discharged her from Sickbay with strict orders to regenerate for twelve hours continuously through for the next two nights, in order for her nanoprobes to finish completing the repairs to her damaged systems. Those were orders she could not follow, however, until she saw B'Elanna, whose quarters she was making her way towards.

Strangely, she continued to feel nervous but for reasons she could not explain. There were so many thoughts running through her mind, mainly discovering how difficult it had been to curb her feelings toward B'Elanna in front of their crewmates. Seven did not understand why she and B'Elanna had automatically hid the change in their relationship, when it would only make things difficult for the both of them. She wanted to speak to the half-Klingon so that they could figure out a way to show the crew how their feelings had grown for one another since their departure on the away mission. She wanted them to be able to express themselves freely.

The turbo lift doors opened, and Mezoti walked in. Finding Seven, the little girl gasped and immediately hugged the older woman.

"Seven!" Mezoti cried, "They said you had returned. And you are functioning normally in all parameters?"

"Yes, Mezoti," Seven answered, her brow arched in amusement.

Noticing what she had done, the Borg child, dropped her arms and clasped them behind her back, once again resuming her customary drone demeanor.

"Please excuse my outburst, Seven of Nine," Mezoti apologized, as she took as step back.

"It is alright, Mezoti. I am happy to see you as well," Seven reassured, and took in the sight of the small girl smiling, answering it wholeheartedly to Mezoti's amazement.

"All the others are waiting in Cargo Bay 2 for your return, but I was too impatient and decided to come look for you. Is that where you were heading?"

"No, actually, I was going to Lt. Torres' quarters to retrieve my belongings. However, I will accompany you to our Cargo Bay instead." Seeing B'Elanna would have to wait, as she had almost neglected her responsibilities, and she wanted to make sure the children had been well-cared for in her absence.

When they arrived at Cargo Bay 2, Seven discovered Mezoti was indeed accurate in saying that the other Borg children had been waiting there for her. She found Icheb working diligently at the console and the twins busying themselves with organizing the equipment obtained over the past few months. When she walked in, all of them halted what they were doing and came to greet her with much exuberance despite themselves.

"Seven, you are back!" Rebi exclaimed, as he ran over to her.

"We have been so worried," Azan explained, as he walked to her other side.

"We have been trying to assist in locating your whereabouts," Icheb chimed in. "I trust the Doctor has repaired the damage you sustained during your mission."

Seven's eyebrows raised suspiciously. "And how did you know I had been injured?"

"Ensign Kim relayed the information at our request. We wished to know all information regarding the search and news of your well-being," he explained. "And Lt. Torres is well, I hope?"

"Yes, the Doctor allowed her to return to her quarters."

"We were concerned at first, that you and the Lieutenant had been lost on the away mission together. We have observed your previous hostilities," Mezoti added.

"Lt. Torres and I were never hostile," Seven responded primly, fixing a stern gaze at the young Borgs.

"A poor choice of words," Icheb apologized, giving Mezoti a glare. Turning back to Seven, he said, "But after accessing Lt. Torres' Star Fleet away mission leadership records, we were summarily satisfied to conclude that she would be a favorable crewmate under such circumstances, despite your relationship. Her level of intelligence and experience were appropriate."

"The Lieutenant and I have resolved our differences." Seven could not help the slight smile that arose on her face with those words. Then frowning, she noted, "You do not have clearance to access such records, Icheb."

"We were careful not to-," Azan started, looking up at Seven.

"-be discovered in the act. We even use Borg encryption to mask our trail," Rebi finished.

"No one knows what we did, not even Tuvok," Mezoti continued.

"That is not the issue," Seven chided gently. "You do not have authorization, and therefore, what you did was wrong. You will refrain from accessing any of the crews' performance records from now on."

"Yes, Seven," Azan replied quickly.

"When we accessed Lt. Torres' records, we noticed that someone else had done so before, one day prior to your away mission. They left a Borg signature, one that we could recognize since it was exactly what we did. The only other person who would have known how to do it would be you, Seven," Mezoti pointed out.

Embarrassed, Seven inhaled deeply. "I was wrong to violate Star Fleet protocol as well. I needed information which would assist me during the mission, but I realize now I should not have done so."

"We're sorry," Icheb said sincerely. "We were only concerned for your safety, and wanted to know if Lt. Torres would be able to handle the situation, not that we doubted your own capabilities. We're glad that you and the lieutenant have resolve your differences. She will be a most efficient...friend."

The Borg children all nodded in congruence.

"I'm glad you approve," Seven noted with humor.

"I wanted to ask Lt. Torres to sponsor my high resolution gravimetric sensor array project after the science fair," Icheb elaborated, "since she was Chief of Engineering. I was hesitant, however. But now that your relationship has improved, I feel less awkward in approaching her."

"Icheb finds her aesthetically pleasing," Rebi teased.

"I do not!" he cried indignantly, looking at Seven and shaking his head in denial.

"Do too!" Azan added, grinning.

Seven quirked her brow high at the comment. "Indeed. Well, I am inclined to agree." She was openly smiling now to the children's surprise.

Mezoti observed, "I believe the Lieutenant will be part of our collective soon..."

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

"Computer, locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay 2," the computer responded.

B'Elanna had laid there on her bed for a long time waiting for Seven, and it appeared that the ex-drone was not coming any time soon. The Doctor probably ordered Seven to regenerate to speed her recovery, and was going to be in her alcove for the rest of the day. B'Elanna turned over and pulled the sack with their belongings from the planet over next to her. She rummaged through the pack, found the holo imager, and clicked through all the photos that were stored in the memory.

There was group shot of them all together, with Dannan, Seven and Edyn in the rear, her and Moka in the front, taken from Fessi's back where Edyn had set the timer. Then there was a photo of Seven holding her from behind, both of them laughing. B'Elanna smiled as she remembered her friends and the moments captured. Another photo caught her eye, never having noticed it before until now. It was an image of Seven and her kissing in the backyard apparently, and the half-Klingon guessed that Edyn had snuck the image in while they had been preoccupied. B'Elanna downloaded the photos into her laptop. Suddenly, she had an inspiration to go to the Holodeck.

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

"Computer, locate Lt. Torres."

"Lt. Torres is in Holodeck 1."

Seven had left the Borg children to find B'Elanna, but the lieutenant had not been in her quarters, and the ex-drone wanted so much to see her. She missed having B'Elanna at her side, and it was more difficult than she had anticipated once aboard Voyager. Seven arrived at the Holodeck and accessed the doors, not caring if B'Elanna would mind, out of urgency. When she entered, it was empty. Shaking her arms in frustration, she decided to hail the lieutenant instead.

-Chirp- "Seven of Nine to Lt. Torres."

"Torres here."

B'Elanna's voice, though surprised, came through over the comm, and Seven felt her heart rate increase because of it.

"Where is your location?"

"I was on my way to the Mess Hall."

"I..I would like to pick up my belongings, if that would not be inconvenient for you?" Seven asked, her insides fluttering with impatience.

"Sure, Seven. I'll meet you at my quarters?" B'Elanna replied.

"Yes, I am proceeding there now."

Seven pace seemed hurried through the halls even to those whom she passed by casually, until finally, she found herself once again outside B'Elanna's quarters. She rang the chime, and the doors swished open.

B'Elanna rose from the couch when she saw the lithe figure walk through her doorway. It had been agonizing to wait for the Borg all day. Quickly, she took the tall woman into her arms, finding the tension in her body released incidentally as she snuggled deeper in the embrace, and felt Seven sigh.

"I have desired to do this since morning," Seven murmured, her cheek resting against B'Elanna's forehead, and her arms wound around the young Klingon tightly.

"Me too...," B'Elanna whispered, pulling Seven's face down and kissing her.

"May I stay with you tonight?" Seven asked between each taste of B'Elanna's lips.

"Didn't the Doctor say you have to regenerate for the next couple of nights?" the half-Klingon recalled plaintively.

"Yes, but I can delay my regeneration cycles," Seven protested.

B'Elanna pursed her lips in thought. "No..., not at your expense," she replied, shaking her head slightly. "You need it. Besides, you'll be regenerating in a matter of seconds once you climb into that alcove of yours. I'm the one who has to suffer being alone in bed, without you."

"The idea of our continued separation is unappealing, B'Elanna," Seven responded, molding her body into the half-Klingon's with pleasant pressure.

"I know, but it will only be for the next two nights. I'll walk you back to your Cargo Bay and tuck you in, okay?"

"Can't we remain here for a little while longer?" Seven complained, which was a close to begging as she could get, B'Elanna noticed while chuckling.

"The sooner you regenerate, the sooner we can spend the day together tomorrow," B'Elanna reasoned, nibbling playfully on a nearby earlobe, clearly not making it any easier for the young Borg.

"You are correct. I will comply," Seven answered, grabbing a handful of ripe buttocks. Two could play that game.

"Oh god, we're going to your alcove right now," B'Elanna yelped, dragging the ex-drone with her out the door by the arm.

Once outside, however, B'Elanna all together dropped her hand, too aware of the fact that they were going to encounter a number of curious eyes. Seven sobered immediately, wondering if this was how their relationship was going to be, but she held her tongue, not wanting to bring the discussion up until they reached a more private setting, which was unlikely to happen in the Cargo Bay as well.

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

"Computer, what time is it?"

B'Elanna flipped over again under the covers, trying to find a comfortable position. It was the fourth time she had awoken since turning in early. She had gone over some of the day to day reports, updating herself on the jobs done in Engineering during her absence, but for the most part, she had remained distracted.

"The time is 0536 hours," the computer announced.

In a little less than half an hour, she would see Seven again, and her skin tingled with the thought. It had been hard to leave Seven in the Cargo Bay once she had walked the Borg there. The children were still in the middle of their daily activities since Seven was starting her cycle earlier, and they took a particular interest in the two women. B'Elanna felt their eyes on her during the entire time she programmed Seven's regeneration cycle and helped the ex-drone into her alcove. She wondered what that was all about.

"Computer, what is the time now?"

"The time is 0541 hours."

"Ahhhhhh!" she cried out in frustration, tossing her pillow up in the air only to have it fall onto her face.

B'Elanna got up from the bed and shuffled over to the bathroom, her restlessness radiating energy. A sonic shower and a bit of grooming should take up the rest of the time, she thought. As the buzzing vapors swept over her body, she let her mind wander. Part of her remembered living a different life not too long ago, but somehow her brain had managed to separate that existence. Data padds, turbo lifts, holodecks, sonic showers, the deck plating that had the dip in it, the door that was stuck longer than the rest in Engineering, everything she had been used to was back again. Everything was the same except for her relationship with Seven. B'Elanna knew she had been keeping her distance, and she had seen the brief expressions of confusion on Seven's face. Half of her wanted to forget all else and declare her love for the young Borg in front of everyone on the ship, but the other half wanted to slow down, take a breather, and adjust to the changes. She knew why part of her needed to hold back.

Feeling the sonic pulses weaken, she hopped out of her shower just as it had ended, wrapping a fluffy peach towel around her body. Her body clean and her hair still slightly damp, B'Elanna polished herself in the mirror, trying to occupy as much of the time left as possible. With one last sweep through her hair and a satisfied look in the mirror, the half-Klingon donned a fresh new uniform. Actually, she removed her uniform, putting it aside, and dressed herself in civvies instead, a long-sleeved, black T-shirt and brown pants. It was her day off after all.

"Computer, what's the time?"

"The time is 0606 hours."

"Locate Seven of Nine."

"Seven of Nine is in the Mess Hall."

That puzzled the lieutenant. When she left Seven last night, they hadn't made any plans to meet there this morning.

"Computer, who's in the Mess Hall at this moment?" B'Elanna asked, her mind working on overload.

It took a moment for the computer to answer. "Ensign Ashmore, Lt. Ayala, Crewman Jenny Delaney, Crewman Fitzpatrick--,"

"Computer, stop," B'Elanna ordered with annoyance. She had been looking forward to seeing the Borg as promised first thing today. "Is Captain Janeway in the Mess Hall?"

"Affirmative."

There. She had her answer, and that was the crux of the problem.


Author's Notes

  1. Elements of B'Elanna's past and emotional recollection are drawn from STV episode, "Faces" and Jeri Taylor's STV novel, Pathways.
  2. Elements of Seven's past and emotional recollection are drawn from STV episodes, "Dark Frontier," and "Child's Play."
  3. Sorry about the Terraball insert but I was inspired during the Y2K Summer Olympics.
  4. Resource for list of minor crewmembers: http://people.delphi.com/jmcquinn/RC/index.html

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