online casinos

Disclaimer: Star Trek, Star Trek Voyager, and Characters, are property of Paramount. I am not making a profit on this story.

 

x

 

B’Elanna and Seven love story. Endgame never happened and there are changes to the circumstances surrounding B’Elanna and Tom’s marriage.

 

x

 

A religious order kidnaps baby Miral Paris. Seven of Nine volunteers to fight in a contest for her custody. However, the rules state she must be a relative. The only solution is for her to marry B’Elanna in order to qualify as a relative. Happy ending. Mild violence and a loving and sexual relationship between two women. Rated PG 13.

 

x

 

Note: This story contains a Klingon Ritual that is not canon as well as other non-canon Klingon elements.

 

x

 

'TaHqeq' is a Klingon swear word used as a slur. It is a stronger insult than Peta’Q is.

 

x

 

Thank you Karla Jensen.

 

x

 

My Cherished Warrior

 

By Cygirl1

 

x

 

Prologue

 

x

 

 

Seven of Nine scurried on hands and knees down the Jefferies tube, the tool bag she carried around her shoulder hanging low and bumping against her left breast. It was time for a routine check and diagnostics on the gel packs in Section ten.

 

When she came to the junction of Jefferies tube thirty-two, she stopped suddenly, hearing a distinctively human sound as if someone was in distress. Her Borg hearing picked up the sound of two distinct humanoid moans. Lifting her right hand to tap her comm-badge and inform Tuvok, she paused when deciding to investigate further and assess the situation. Activating her optical implant to night vision, she peered down into tube thirty-two toward the terminal point, making out two crew members in the shadows approximately forty feet away from her present location. It was Ensign Delores Mathers from Engineering and Lieutenant Pat Summers from Security. They removed pieces of their uniforms and commenced stroking and kissing each other’s breasts. The two remained unaware they were being observed with keen interest, continuing this activity for 2.3 minutes.

 

Seven proceeded to access her node for the appropriate memory from millions of gigabits of information assimilated by the Borg on what activity these two were engaging. In a matter of mere seconds she found the information, her eyes growing wide and her breath momentarily ceasing causing her nanoprobes to reactivate her breathing. However, her nanoprobes were a bit overworked in controlling her physical reactions to what she was observing…and learning…as the two subjects began removing more items of clothing and…

 

x

 

Chapter One

 

x

 

B’Elanna Torres, Voyager’s Chief Engineer, made her way wearily down the corridor to her quarters. She just finished a fourteen-hour shift in engineering to do necessary repairs after an ion storm some six days earlier damaged many of the ship’s systems.

 

Opening the door to her quarters she noticed it was dark and quiet…too quiet.

 

"Computer, lights at full." She blinked at the momentary brightness as her vision adjusted. Immediately she looked over at Miral’s crib, noticing it was empty. A quick check of the bedroom showed it too was unoccupied.

 

She let out a sigh of dismay when seeing the mess Tom left in their living quarters. Scattered about were half-eaten trays of food, not only on the dining table, but on the coffee table as well. Sofa cushions lay strewn on the floor, and various items of his clothing haphazardly covered the back and seats of chairs. She walked into the bedroom, seeing the unmade bed and other clothing items randomly dotting the floor.

 

“Damn, what a mess,” she groused, letting out a frustrating sigh. Tom always left her to clean the place up. He rarely lifted a hand to help unless she ‘nagged’ him, as he called it. Then he only did it grudgingly and rarely did a thorough job.

 

“Computer, what is the location of Tom Paris and Miral Paris?”

 

Tom Paris and Miral Paris are in holodeck one.”

 

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. Kahless, Tom has no sense at all keeping Miral up this late. Wonder what program he’s running. I hope it’s one of Naomi’s old holo-programs and not some circus or carnival program like the one he took Miral to a couple of weeks ago. She’s too young to understand clowns are supposed to be funny and not scary. B’Elanna found clowns to be creepy herself. Never did like them. Especially those white faced ones. Look like the dead to me. What’s the big attraction to them any way?

 

She remembered Tom bringing back an upset and screaming Miral. Tom stated he had only taken her to a circus program and all was going well until a clown approached her and she started screaming. She had really laid into him for that, informing him Miral was too young for those types of programs, and had instructed him to use the ones that Sam Wildman had made for Naomi when she was Miral’s age.

 

B’Elanna hit her comm-badge to contact Tom, but there was no answer. She left her quarters and took the turbo lift to deck six where the holodecks were located.

 

Entering holodeck one she stood in momentary shock before a wave of anger hit her. What is that Peta'Q thinking? She was on the sidewalk in front of Sandrine’s. Stalking quickly through the bistro’s door, she heard Miral crying, but before she could locate her the holographic Gigolo approached and smarmily said, “I see a star has fallen from the heavens and has graced us with her light.”

 

He made a grab for B’Elanna’s hand to kiss it, but she snatched it back, growling, “Touch me, creep, and I’ll disperse every photon in your body and erase you permanently from the program. Now, move it or lose it.”

 

He held up his hands in surrender and scurried away. The sound of Miral’s crying drew her attention to the bar where she immediately saw the upset child in her carrier that was on the bar’s surface. After hurrying over and picking up the crying four-month-old child from her carrier, she hugged her against her shoulder, comforting her. She slipped her finger into the top of the unhappy baby’s diaper and found it wet. Glaring at the holographic bartender, she growled, “Where’s Tom Paris?”

 

The bartender motioned with her head toward a door on the left side of the bar.

 

With a quick motion she snatched the diaper bag off a nearby stool, took it and the baby to a table, and changed the wet diaper. Miral quit crying, but was still fussy as it was way past her bedtime.

 

Cuddling Miral against her shoulder and patting her back, B’Elanna said gently, “There, there, my sweetie pie. Momma has you." Now to go see what Tom’s up to. Probably got some card game going on behind that door. Well, I’ll just bust that up. Kahless, the man is as useless as tits on a boar targ.

 

After flinging the door open she discovered it led up a flight of stairs. B’Elanna didn’t even know that the place had an upstairs. Making her way up the stairs, she immediately heard the unmistakable sounds of Tom groaning, and an accompanying sound of higher pitched female groans, leaving her no doubts what was going on behind the door of room number one. Tom was bonking a holo-character.

 

A rush of anger hit her and she covered Miral’s eyes as she kicked the door open. To her surprise a naked Tom jumped up and off Ensign Sandra Blocker from hydroponics. B’Elanna was stunned out of her anger and into disbelief.

 

Tom immediately grabbed a pillow and held it in front of him, more for protection than to cover his nakedness. Sandra snatched the covers up and around her shoulders, her expression one of sheer terror.

 

“What the Grethor…!” B’Elanna roared.

 

“B’Elanna, look…I can explain--” Tom cajoled.

 

“Explain?!” B’Elanna felt as if the top of her head would explode as rage infused her entire being. It was all she could do to keep herself from jumping on the two and beating them to a pulp. Fortunately, for Tom and Sandra, she had her daughter with her. Gritting her teeth, she somehow managed to hold her rage in check.

 

Snarling, she spit out, “TaHqeq! Don’t even bother coming back to our quarters...my quarters now. I’m through with you!”

 

She turned and quickly exited the room, stomping loudly down the stairs, and out the front entrance of Sandrine’s. Before she exited the holodeck, she ordered, “Computer, end program.” She heard a couple of loud thumps behind her and Sandra’s screech. She didn’t even bother to turn around and look knowing the holodeck safeties would prevent the two TaHqeqs from injuring themselves when the upstairs room dissolved around them.

 

After exiting the holodeck she saw a group of fellow crewmates entering holodeck two, and called out to them, “Holodeck one is empty.” Several of the crew left the group and hurried to holodeck one and entered. B’Elanna bared her teeth in a predatory grin, continued down the corridor, and entered the turbo lift. She exited on her floor and passed a couple of crewmates, who seeing the look of rage on her face, quickly moved out of the way. She went directly to her quarters to care for Miral. She would deal with Tom later.

 

x

 

Tom tried to contact B’Elanna by comm that night. He didn‘t dare show up at their quarters for fear B’Elanna would kill him, or at least maim him. B’Elanna later informed him by comm that if she saw hide or hair of him, she would divest him of his manhood. She changed the codes on the doors to their quarters, now her quarters, and put a hold on any comm calls from him.

 

In reality, B’Elanna had seen this coming. After Miral’s birth, Tom had made it clear that he wasn’t going to get up in the night to change diapers or feed Miral.

 

He spent more and more time in the holodeck than at home. And, when he was home, he demanded B’Elanna pay attention to him. He couldn’t understand why she needed to devote time to Miral and wasn’t in the mood for love making or fixing him his dinner and catering to him.

 

He only cared for Miral when nobody else was available, and as soon as B’Elanna got off work, he was gone to one holo-program or another.

 

The only reason she had married the Peta’Q was that her birth control had failed due to her being a hybrid. She never had any intention of a permanent relationship with him before her pregnancy. True, she initiated the physical aspects of their relationship due to that damn episode with Vorik, which caused her to go into Pon Farr. At the time, Tom had been pursuing her and this made him the easy choice. However, once married, she intended to make it work as that was the honorable thing to do.

 

Captain Janeway placed a moratorium on having children due to the limited space and resources on Voyager. However, Janeway was not one to demand the termination of a pregnancy if the woman did not wish it. B’Elanna had thought long and hard about an abortion, but after Tom swore to her that he would stand by her and help raise their child, she decided she would keep her child. Even with Tom turning out to be non-supportive, she was still glad she opted to have the child.

 

She spent a miserable night both crying and cursing. She couldn’t sleep and spent most of the night throwing his ‘junk’ and clothes out into the corridor. She contacted him and informed him to come and clean up his trash that was outside her quarters. She cut communication before he could reply.

 

The next morning, she called in sick, something she rarely did. She did not want to face Tom right away at the staff meeting, afraid she would throttle him. Later that morning she contacted the Captain and requested a private conference. Captain Janeway agreed to see her right away.

 

B’Elanna took Miral over to the mess hall for Neelix to watch while she met with the Captain in her ready room.

 

After Captain Janeway heard B’Elanna’s story, she did not hesitate to start the paperwork for the divorce.

 

Tom didn’t protest, and B’Elanna felt this was a sign that he was glad to be out of the marriage.

 

x

 

Chapter Two

 

x

 

B’Elanna spent the next two months doing nothing but her job in Engineering and then going home to take care of her daughter…not spending time with co-workers or her old Maquis friends. During mess hall’s peak hours she avoided eating there because she couldn’t stand the pitying and speculative looks from the crew.

 

She told Tom if he wished to see his daughter, he would have to tell her at least 48 hours in advance. He was to visit Miral only in her quarters and he was not to take her out of them. Tom mildly protested, but B’Elanna could see this was all for show so he could complain to all who would listen that the bitch B’Elanna was keeping him from his child.

 

Captain Janeway had backed up the visitation plan when she learned of Tom abandoning the baby in the care of a hologram so he could commit adultery with a crewmate. He had only come by to visit Miral eight times since their divorce and stayed no longer than thirty to forty minutes.

 

Today, B’Elanna’s shift ended on time for a change, and she made her way to the mess hall to pick up Miral. She entered the mess hall and immediately saw Voyager’s resident Borg and Ice Queen holding the baby and making goo goo sounds. B’Elanna stood frozen in surprise not only by the beautiful wide smile on Seven’s face, but also by Miral gurgling in delight while trying to tear Seven’s optical implant from her brow.

 

The way Seven held Miral, and the baby’s reaction to the Borg, made it clear that this was not a first time occurrence. Seven glanced up and seeing B’Elanna, she immediately sprang from her seat, holding Miral close. It was obvious Seven was nervous. B’Elanna casually took Miral from Seven and said sweetly to the child, “Momma is here now, Sweetie pie, you want to go home, hmmm?” But to B’Elanna’s surprise, Miral reached out for Seven and started to fuss.

 

Neelix walked out the kitchen area and seeing the three said, “Hehehe. Miral had a good time with her Auntie Seven.” He looked at Seven and said, “Thanks for watching her for me.”

 

There was silence for a moment, as B’Elanna looked at Neelix and then Seven, before looking back at Neelix and inquiring, “Neelix, I thought you would be watching her. Why is Seven watching her?” She noticed out of the corner of her eye Seven had reverted to her customary Borg pose, hands behind her back and spine stiff.

 

Neelix answered, “Well, Seven has been helping me out with both Naomi and little Miral here, while I attend to the cooking. I must say, I don’t know what I would do without Seven’s help. Both children are comfortable with her, which is a good thing, as Miral does not take to just everyone.”

 

Seven spoke, her voice cool, but with an underlining strain, “I assure you, Lieutenant Torres, Miral is adequately attended to while in my care. I have researched Voyager’s database on childcare as it relates to both Human and Klingon infants and their needs and development. I am fully capable of providing adequate care for Miral while you are on duty.”

 

B’Elanna thought about this for a second and handed a squirming and fretful Miral back to Seven. “Here, Seven, do you mind holding her while I get something to eat and drink?”

 

Seven hesitated slightly before nodding and taking Miral in her arms, and settling back down in her seat. Miral smiled and gurgled while trying to pull the metal mesh off Seven’s left hand. B’Elanna could tell Seven knew how to hold the baby and was comfortable with her. She noticed Seven’s features relax, and there was a small smile on her lips.

 

Neelix said, “Allow me Lieutenant, what will it be?”

 

“Uhm, I’ll have enchiladas and a glass of prune juice.”

 

“One plate of enchiladas and a glass of prune juice coming up. Anything for you Seven? My treat.”

 

“I do not require nutritional supplements at this time.” Seven paused and added as an afterthought, “Thank you for your offer.”

 

B’Elanna bit her bottom lip to keep from snickering, sure Seven was recalling the lessons in courtesy from the EMH. “Err…So, Seven, how long have you been helping Neelix babysit?”

 

“For approximately thirty-six months I have assisted Neelix for two hours a day, my duties permitting, in the care of Naomi. On those occasions when Neelix has not been available and I had no pressing duties, Ensign Wildman has solicited my help in caring for Naomi.”

 

B’Elanna knew Seven spent time with Naomi but was unaware she also babysit Naomi and assisted Neelix with these duties. It irked her that no one had thought to inform her of this. After all, she was the number one source that others ran to with the latest scuttlebutt, as well as to see if she knew any gossip. It didn’t go unnoticed by her Naomi was with Seven on several occasions. One of her staff informed her Seven and the child would often run Naomi’s Flotter program in the holodeck. At the time, she just took it as an opportunity to make a joke along the line of, “Someone should run the program to make sure Seven didn’t substitute Borg drones in the place of Flotter and the other characters.”

 

Feeling a slight cringe when remembering her remarks, she swallowed and asked, “So you have been helping out with caring for Miral?”

 

Seven smiled down at Miral, wiggled her fingers out of the child’s mouth, and tickled her belly, causing Miral to laugh. “Yes. On my off hours I have assisted Neelix in the care of both Miral and Naomi. Naomi, however, does not wear diapers or need to be spoon fed, as does Miral. She does enjoy interacting with Miral. I have a blanket I place on the floor for Miral to utilize as a play space. I have also replicated toys appropriate for a child of Miral’s age. Naomi often interacts with her at playtime.” Seven looked up quickly at B’Elanna, a look of concern on her face. “Do you object to my interaction with Miral?”

 

B’Elanna took only a moment to reach a decision. She remembered the care Seven had given to the Borg children and that Sam Wildman trusted Seven to care for Naomi. “Of course not, Seven. I was just surprised, that’s all. But I know Naomi is in your care, and that you took good care of the Borglings.” B’Elanna saw a look of profound sadness pass quickly over Seven’s face. Damn. She really cared for those kids.

 

Seven recovered and said, “I find that I …enjoy interacting with children.”

 

Seven’s eyes still looked pensive to B’Elanna. Yeah, children are more accepting than the rest of us. She cleared her throat and said, “Well, I have no objections. I can tell Miral likes you and that you have taken good care of her.”

 

By that time Neelix brought over B’Elanna’s order and placed it on the table in front of her. “Anything else, Lieutenant?”

 

“No thanks, Neelix. This will do.” B’Elanna started to eat while observing a happy Miral in Seven’s arms. She felt her heart still when Seven suddenly gave the child a brilliant smile. Kahless, she’s beautiful. Almost otherworldly. Her thoughts quickly turned to her childhood and a picture her grandmother Torres had of the Christian Mary and Baby Jesus.

 

Past thoughts faded to the present and she asked, “Don’t you have other things you would rather do with your free time? I mean, you do have a social life don’t you…dating, and such?” The breakup of Seven and Chakotay was old news…several months old. Scuttlebutt was Seven had dumped the first officer. No one knew the reason why, and Chakotay had not volunteered any information. That there was bitterness, at least on Chakotay’s part, was obvious, as he completely ignored Seven at the staff meetings and on several occasions referred to her as ‘that Borg’.

 

“No. I have not engaged in a relationship of a romantic nature since terminating my relationship with the Commander.”

 

B’Elanna was dying to know the reason why Seven terminated the relationship. All she knew was that the Borg dumped him. True, there had been wild rumors floating around. Some of them so absurd she knew they were fabrications. “Oh? Hmmm. Ah…Seven, why did you break it off with Chakotay? Whatever you tell me, I swear, won’t leave here. I know you had a few dates with him and things seemed to be going fine. At least that’s what Chakotay said.”

 

Seven didn’t hesitate to answer, “I participated in six dates with the Commander. I could not generate the expected feelings for him and terminated the relationship.”

 

B’Elanna snickered. “Well, gee, Seven, six dates aren’t much to go on.”

 

“Perhaps. However, I made a discovery during the time I was involved with him that had a direct bearing as to why he would be an unsuitable mate for me.”

 

B’Elanna was all ears now. Did Seven know something about Chakotay she didn’t? “Well, Seven, you know a lot of women would consider him an ideal mate.”

 

“Women that are heterosexual would, perhaps, consider him an ideal mate. However, I am not heterosexual. This is why I could not generate feelings for the Commander of a…romantic nature.”

 

B’Elanna almost choked on a piece of enchilada, grabbed her drink, and took a huge swallow, her eyes tearing.

 

Seven looked at her with concern. “Lieutenant, you appear to be in distress. Should I summon the Doctor?”

 

B’Elanna shook her head from side to side, having effectively relieved her coughing, and replied, “I’m fine. I just swallowed a piece of food the wrong way. So, ah… Seven…How did you ah…find out that you’re gay?”

 

Seven looked at her with confusion and B’Elanna quickly added, “I mean, you are telling me that you’re a lesbian, aren’t you…that you prefer women as romantic partners and mates?”

 

“Indeed. I am a lesbian. I discovered this fact 131 days ago when I was assisting in Engineering with diagnostics on the gel packs.” Seven commenced telling, in vivid detail, how she acquired the information. “…Ensign Mathers proceeded to perform an act I later learned is referred to as cunnilingus for approximately 6.1 minutes when…”

 

Waving her hands back and forth and feeling her ears turning red and heat flush her cheeks, B’Elanna quickly said, “Okay, okay. I get the picture. They were having sex in the Jefferies tube. You’re telling me you had no idea two women could engage in sexual activities until you observed them?”

 

“Correct. After witnessing this incident I researched Voyager’s database on information related to same sex couplings. There were numerous references pertaining to lesbian relationships from dating to copulation. This information was not just from a human perspective, but also included those of other species. I confronted the Doctor as to his reasons for not including female members of Voyager on my list of potential romantic partners. He stated that he assumed I was heterosexual as the majority of humanoid species fall into this category.”

 

B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “Wait a minute, Seven, you just can’t decide you’re gay. I mean a lesbian, unless you felt…or feel attraction to members of the same sex.”

 

Seven hesitated, looked at B’Elanna and back down at the tabletop before saying, “All of my attractions have been toward females. I concluded since the Doctor failed to include same sex couplings in the information that he provided, these attractions I felt were erroneous and flawed.”

 

B’Elanna felt a rush of anger go through her on Seven’s behalf. “Gee, Janeway should have never put the Doctor in charge of your socialization. He’s a damn hologram. What does he know about attractions and chemistry? There’s nothing wrong with same sex attractions…or relationships. Nothing at all. Don’t let the Doctor, or anyone else, tell you who you must find attractive.” B’Elanna remembered her own attractions to various females, Seska among them, and a brief but satisfying sexual relationship with a Bajoran Maquis member named Ro Laren.

 

“I realize that now, even though the Commander tried to convince me otherwise.”

 

“What do ya mean? What did Chakotay do?” B’Elanna asked with some alarm in her tone.

 

“I informed him that we were not compatible. I informed him why. He stated that I must have felt some attraction toward him and that I was confused. He stated that if I were to engage in a sexual relationship with him he would show me that I was mistaken in my orientation.”

 

B’Elanna saw red and blurted out angrily, “Why that Peta’Q! I oughta go punch him in the nose! I hope you told him to go screw himself.”

 

Seven’s expression was one of amazement, and then confusion.

 

“You did tell him to go fuc…You did tell him off, didn’t you, Seven?”

 

“Tell him off? Ah…I see. You want to know if I informed him that I did not intend to comply with his suggestion. Yes. I informed him that I had no desire or intention to engage in copulation with him. He persisted in trying to persuade me otherwise. He attempted to kiss me. However, I am Borg. My strength is greater than his and I dissuaded him of any further attempts.”

 

“Dissuaded him? How did you do that?”

 

“I executed one of the Tsunkatse moves I learned and proceeded to kick him in the groin. It was effective.”

 

B’Elanna laughed and said, “Way to go, Seven. I wish I had been there to see that. So…you have any dating prospects in mind?” Holding her breath, she was almost afraid Seven would say yes and she would feel disappointed if this was so. She quickly put aside this train of thought.

 

“No. From my observations of the female members of Voyager’s crew I have concluded that there are approximately nine lesbians, excluding myself, on Voyager. Six are in relationships. My…research on the other three reveals that we share no common interest.”

 

“Oh. Well, you sure there are only nine women on Voyager who would fit into the category of lesbian? I mean…there might be others whom you don’t know about. How would you know unless you asked them? You’ve got to consider those women that may be bi-sexual, too.”

 

“You are correct. The current information I have is what I have surmised from data I have observed or heard about the individuals.”

 

“See there. Maybe you need to make a list of women candidates regardless if you know what their orientation is, and narrow it down from there.”

 

“I have already done so.”

 

“Oh. And did you ask any of them out on a date?”

 

Seven looking down at Miral, replied, “I ruled out the first two that were the most compatible. The one most compatible was in a relationship at the time, but has since terminated that relationship. However, she has given no indication she would be interested in pursuing a relationship with me. The second one on the list has made it clear she is not allowed, by Starfleet regulations, to engage in a relationship with a subordinate.”

 

B’Elanna thought for a moment. Captain Janeway, that‘s the second choice. But who is the first? “Well, you just hang in there. You know, Ms. Right will show up just when you least expect it.”

 

Seven gave B’Elanna a puzzled look. “Ms. Right? I do not believe I have met her. In what department does she serve?”

 

B’Elanna laughed. “Ms. Right is a way of saying the right woman will come along.”

 

Seven looked intently at B’Elanna for a moment before stating, “Perhaps she will.”

 

B’Elanna was working up to asking whom the first choice was when Miral let out a huge yawn. B’Elanna reached out to Seven and took her daughter in her arms, smiling down at her. “I got to get this sleepyhead home and in bed. Thanks, Seven, for watching her.”

 

“You are welcome, Lieutenant. Any time you need assistance with her care, and I am available, I will assist you while you are at your duties.”

 

B’Elanna gave Seven a smile. “You know, Seven? I’ll take you up on that offer.”

 

x

 

Chapter Three

 

x

 

Over the next few weeks B’Elanna took Seven up on her offer. Those times she had to work late in Engineering, Seven would pick Miral up from the care of Neelix or Sam and return to B’Elanna’s quarters. Once there, she would feed and bathe Miral, and if it were bedtime, put the youngster down to sleep.

 

B’Elanna had come home a few times at Miral’s bedtime to find Seven rocking the child and singing her a lullaby. The first time this happened, Seven had stopped singing and seemed embarrassed. B’Elanna had asked Seven to continue as she thought Seven’s voice was beautiful and soothing. Now, Seven was no longer embarrassed to sing in B’Elanna’s presence when she realized B’Elanna enjoyed her singing.

 

Tonight B’Elanna arrived home late, and smiled when she entered her quarters, hearing Seven singing a lullaby as she held a sleepy Miral. B’Elanna started dinner and listened to the lullaby. Seven finished her song and lay a soundly sleeping Miral in her crib. B’Elanna said in a soft and low voice, “Seven, why don’t you stay for supper?”

 

Seven replied quietly, “Lieutenant, I do not require nutritional supplements at this time.”

 

“Ah, come on, Seven. Just try this. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. What I really want is your company. You can fill me in on what happened today and what you did, and I’ll fill you in on what’s going on in Engineering.” B’Elanna knew Seven liked to keep abreast of what was happening in Engineering. B’Elanna thought Seven had missed her calling by going into Astrometrics, as she knew a lot about engineering.

 

Seven hesitated and then gave a shy smile. “Very well.” She took a seat at the table and looked at the bowl of soup and salad placed before her as if she were uncertain on what to do.

 

B’Elanna took her seat and ate a spoonful of the soup. She looked at Seven and said, “It’s vegetable soup and made from carrots, peas, corn, and potatoes. And I promise you, there is no leola root in it.”

 

Seven gingerly took a spoonful and tasted it. B’Elanna smiled at seeing her dinner guest’s eyebrows rise in approval, and said, “Not bad is it?”

 

“It is very acceptable, Lieutenant,” Seven said with enthusiasm.

 

B’Elanna gave a pleased smile. “Hey, Seven, please call me B’Elanna when we’re off duty.”

 

Seven smiled and nodded. “As you wish…B’Elanna.”

 

Seven filled her in on the latest Astrometrics findings and B’Elanna informed her about some of the updates she was making in Engineering.

 

Dinner took longer for B’Elanna to consume than normally. This was because she wanted to stretch out the time with Seven. She found the Borg an interesting conversationalist and she was someone who understood engineering and what B’Elanna was talking about.

 

The only thing Tom had wanted to talk about was his latest holo-adventure. That is if B’Elanna could pin him down long enough to have a conversation. His habit was to eat quickly and run out the door to play Captain Proton. Or apparently, sneak off to Sandrine’s for a tryst with Ensign Blocker. She had found out that he had been having an affair with the Ensign for over a month by the time she caught them ‘in the act’. Seven, asking her a question brought her attention back.

 

“B’Elanna, I understand tomorrow is your…time off. I have scheduled holodeck one for two hours tomorrow. I wish to take Miral, with your permission of course. I have found a program in Voyager’s holodeck catalog called ‘Petting Zoo’. It is designed for very young children and has a variety of baby animals that can be held and petted. You, of course, are invited. Naomi already has permission to attend and is taking her camera and wishes to take pictures.”

 

“Thanks, Seven. I think Miral would enjoy that. I know I would,” B’Elanna said with a grin. She found the prospect of spending time with Seven, appealing.

 

Seven’s smile was scintillating, her eyes bright, causing B’Elanna to feel a jolt in her heart. She’s so beautiful when she smiles.

 

“I shall come to your quarters at ten hundred hours tomorrow. Then we shall proceed to the holodeck and initiate the program.”

 

B’Elanna felt almost giddy at the thought of spending time with Seven and returned the smile with a blazing one of her own.

 

x

 

B’Elanna had Miral dressed and ready the next day. Right at Ten hundred hours the doorbell chimed and B’Elanna opened the door to a smiling Seven of Nine. B’Elanna noticed, with approval, Seven had her hair in a ponytail and was dressed in a light blue t-shirt and cream-colored slacks. She had donned a pair of flat-soled white tennis shoes that made her around two inches shorter than when she had on those ridiculous high heels that were a part of her biosuits. B’Elanna thought the whole look made the Borg appear much more human and approachable.

 

“You look very nice, Seven. I like that look on you,” B’Elanna said sincerely.

 

Seven hesitated before saying, “Thank you“

 

B’Elanna had donned a pair of black shorts, sandals, and a red muscle t- shirt. She noticed Seven was looking at her with less than her typical cold and detached Borg assessment. This pleased her.

 

Seven raised the implant over her left brow and said, “You look…aesthetically pleasing.”

 

B’Elanna chuckled and said, “Why thank you, Seven. That’s one of the nicest compliments I think I have ever received.” B’Elanna couldn’t help but grin when noticing Seven’s cheeks turn red. Seven embarrassed? I don’t believe it.

 

Miral squirmed and gurgled happily on seeing her Auntie Seven, reaching out her chubby little arms for Seven to take her. She was dressed in a new yellow sun suit with a pattern of small baby bunnies. B’Elanna handed Miral to Seven, and grabbed the diaper bag.

 

Seven smiled at Miral and said, “You also look aesthetically pleasing.”

 

B’Elanna laughed and they continued on to the holodeck, passing many crewmates who did a double take at the two smiling women and the happy baby.

 

They met Naomi at the entrance to the holodeck and entered the door, where Seven ordered the computer to initiate the program.

 

The program was set under pink skies with light blue fluffy clouds lazily passing overhead. The petting zoo was located on an area of pale blue grass. There were many meandering paths through the various small fenced areas. Naomi skipped ahead and began taking pictures.

 

They spent the next hour viewing and petting various animals from different planets: Lambs, kids, ponies, kittens, puppies, grishnar kits, and even a nest of targlets.

 

Miral squealed with delight at watching the antics of the animals, and also getting to pet them. But an inquisitive pony nibbled at the pants leg of her sun suit and frightened her, causing her to cry.

 

B’Elanna laughed and shooed it away. She looked around, spied something of interest, and said, “I see an ice cream stand over there by the pond. Let’s go check it out. I could go for a little snack about now.”

 

The stand set amidst some shady trees. Under the trees were several benches.

 

Seven said, “That would be acceptable.”

 

Naomi shouted out, “Goody! I want a triple scoop cone of Strawberry Smash, Bubble Gum Yum, and Zonker Zing!”

 

Seven looked intently for a moment at the exuberant child and stated, “Naomi Wildman. You may have a single scoop of the confection of your choice.”

 

“But, Seven--”

 

“Comply. You are in my care and your mother gave me specific instructions that you were not to over indulge in food that serves no nutritional value.”

 

“But, Seven. This has nutri…nu-tri-tial value. It’s programmed into the replicator to make all the desserts nu-tri-whatever.”

 

B’Elanna snorted and said, “Afraid she got ya on this one, Seven.”

 

Seven considered this for a split second and replied, “That might be so. However, your mother instructed me that you were not to overindulge. Three scoops of this confection fall into the category of an overindulgence. Therefore, you are allowed only one scoop.”

 

B’Elanna laughed and looked at a sulking Naomi. “She got ya there, kiddo.”

 

They found a bench close to the pond and B’Elanna handed Miral to Seven. “Naomi and I will go get the ice cream. What kind do you want, Seven?”

 

“I require no nutritional supplement at this time.”

 

“Have you ever had any ice cream?”

 

“I believe I had some as a child. However, when the Doctor downloaded his matrix into my cybernetic matrix, I believe he indulged in consuming this confection. It did not agree with my physiology as I felt ill when I once again took control of my body.”

 

B’Elanna smirked. “Seven, Harry was there and told me about all the stuff the Doctor replicated and ate while in your body. Not to mention mixing wine with the stuff. I would be sick too, and I have a cast iron stomach. A little bit won’t hurt you. I’m getting you some to try. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.”

 

Having said that, B’Elanna headed toward the ice cream stand, hearing Seven say to Miral, “Your mother is persistent.” She glanced back and saw Miral reach for Seven’s eye implant. Seven tried to hold her hands back but Miral was persistent in her attempts to grab the implant, prompting Seven to say, “It appears you have inherited that trait from your mother, as well.”

 

B’Elanna returned with a small vanilla cone of ice cream for Seven and a chocolate one for herself. Naomi had a cone with one scoop of a purple and orange mixture. Naomi also carried a small cup with vanilla ice cream and a wooden ice cream spoon and placed it on the bench.

 

B’Elanna sat by Seven’s left side. “Here Seven, I got this for you. It’s vanilla and has a mild and sweet flavor that you may like. Of course, my view on ice cream is if it’s not chocolate then it’s just a confection.”

 

Seven settled Miral in the crook of her left arm and took the cone in her right, studying it with an intent look on her face, and asked, “Is not all ice cream considered a confection?”

 

“Well, technically yes. But chocolate ice cream is different because, well, chocolate has certain…ah… medicinal and beneficial qualities.”

 

Seven raised her implant and gave B’Elanna a questioning look. “Those medicinal and beneficial qualities being?”

 

“Hmm, well, dark chocolate is known to lower high blood pressure and thin blood. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine, which makes you feel good. Chocolate also has certain…ah--other benefits. You better get started on your cone before it melts and makes a mess.”

 

Seven looked again at the cone and studied it intently as if she were unsure how to go about consuming this confection.

 

This caused Naomi to giggle. “You eat it like this, Seven.” She proceeded to lick the scoop of ice cream.

 

Seven tentatively touched the tip of her tongue to the cold confection for only a split second, and quickly drew back. “It is cold.”

 

B’Elanna smiled and Naomi giggled and said, “That’s why it’s called ice cream."

  

Seven swiped her tongue in a long languid curve around the scoop. B’Elanna’s eyes just about popped out of her head. Kahless! Can that woman make eating ice cream into something sexy.

 

Seven lifted her eyebrows in surprise and exclaimed, “It is very good.” She took several more long swipes as B’Elanna looked on avidly.

 

The two women finished their cones, and B’Elanna gave Miral a little of the vanilla Ice cream from the small cup. Miral smacked her lips and made small ‘mmm’ sounds of pleasure.

 

B’Elanna gave Miral a few more bites, took a wipe from the diaper bag, and cleaned the baby’s face. She looked up at Seven and noticed a small dab of the cream on her chin. She took a clean wipe from the diaper bag, leaned over, and removed the dab of cream from Seven’s chin.

 

Seven looked surprised at this action, but did not draw back. B’Elanna found this action to be somewhat disturbing in its intimacy. Disturbing both in a satisfactory way and in another way she didn’t have time to analyze. She finished and said with a smirk, “So, taste is irrelevant, huh?”

 

Seven smiled. “I find taste to be very relevant. I wish to partake of the chocolate when I next consume this confection.”

 

B’Elanna laughed and said, “It will be my treat.”

 

By now their allotted time was up.

 

They dropped Naomi off at her quarters, and Seven walked with B’Elanna to her quarters, carrying Miral. At the door, B’Elanna said, “Hmm, Seven, if you don’t have anything pressing to do, how about coming in for a while. There are some things in Engineering I would like your input on. But first, I have to put sleepyhead down for her nap.”

 

"That would be acceptable.”

 

B’Elanna entered her quarters, carried a sleepy Miral to her crib, and put her down for a nap. “Have a seat, Seven.” She indicated the sofa and Seven sat on the end. B’Elanna sat in the middle and facing her, stated, “I want to thank you for taking the time to arrange the holo-program. Miral had a big time and I did too.”

 

“You are welcome, Lieu…B’Elanna. I too enjoyed the program, as I did your and Miral’s company.”

 

“Hey, Seven, anytime you want to take Miral on an excursion like that, well, you only have to ask.”

 

Seven smiled shyly and B’Elanna nodded and said, “And if I have some free time I would like to go along. If that is okay with you?”

 

Seven’s smile broadened, lighting up her whole face, and she replied with evident joy, “That would be very acceptable.”

 

B’Elanna felt her heart skip a beat and smiled in return. “Alright then. Now, down to business and ah…why don’t you stick around for dinner.”

 

“I accept your offer.”

 

They went over several engineering problems, B’Elanna noticing Seven did not sound as condescending in her replies as she usually did. She was still confident when providing answers and suggestions, but not superior. Then it struck B’Elanna that of course she wasn’t acting the ‘Superior Borg’ because B’Elanna was not bristling at her and looking at her as if she were an unwanted intruder and making snide remarks to her. Yeah, Torres, you‘re the one with the chip on your shoulder. What an ass I’ve been.

 

After a while, B’Elanna smiled and said, “Hmm. Now what should I replicate that you would like? I know what you would like. Stir-fried shrimp over rice and an egg roll.”

 

Seven replied, “I did enjoy the vegetable soup you prepared last night. However, whatever dish you replicate will be acceptable.”

 

B’Elanna smirked. “Not if it’s my mother’s recipe for Klingon Chili. It was too hot for my father and he grew up eating hot chili peppers.”

 

She set the table and replicated a bowl of rice, stir-fried shrimp, two egg rolls, and two glasses of water.

 

Placing them on the table, she took a seat across from Seven.

 

She watched as Seven hesitantly took the serving spoon for the rice and dipped out a spoonful onto her plate. She next took a spoonful of the shrimp mixture and put it on top of the rice. B’Elanna took one of the egg rolls and Seven took the other.

 

B’Elanna knew Seven was observing her and following her lead. B’Elanna helped herself to the rice and shrimp and took a bite. Following B’Elanna’s lead, Seven gingerly placed a bite into her mouth. B’Elanna smiled to see the look of surprise and delight on Seven’s face.

 

Seven looked up and said, “This is very good.”

 

“I’m glad you like it. You know, why don’t you come by for dinner tomorrow and we’ll try a new dish.”

 

Seven said, “I do not wish to impose.”

 

“Believe me, Seven, you won’t be imposing. Consider it thanks for babysitting Miral.”

 

“You do not need to thank me.”

 

“I know. Humor me please. Besides, you’re good company.”

 

Seven smiled and replied, “I would enjoy that. Thank you.”

 

B’Elanna found Seven’s acceptance and smile made her feel warm and... yes...happy. “You’re welcome.”

 

x

 

B’Elanna entered her quarters and smiled when she spotted Seven on the floor holding onto the hand of an unsteady Miral. The baby was standing up on wobbly legs.

 

Seven looked up and said, “I believe Miral is trying to walk. She has stood several times already, but has fallen when taking a step.”

 

It was not unusual for Klingon infants to start walking at seven to nine months of age. Miral started crawling at six months of age.

 

B’Elanna knelt on the floor about four feet away and held out her arms and said in an encouraging voice, “Come give momma sugar kisses, Sweetie pie. Come here to momma.”

 

Miral gurgled and started to take a step. Seven let go of her hand and Miral took three wobbly steps before falling onto her well-padded diapered bottom.

 

B’Elanna scooped her up and hugged her, laughingly saying, “Very good. Such a big girl.” She glanced up at a Seven, whose smile was beaming. “I believe this is cause for a celebration dinner. What do you think, Seven?”

 

“I agree.”

 

B’Elanna prepared one of Seven’s favorite dishes; stir-fried shrimp over rice. Over the past few weeks she introduced Seven to more and more food items.

 

It pleased her to see Seven sampling the varied diet she provided. Even if not all were to the Borg’s liking, especially spicy dishes, it warmed her to see the look of anticipation on Seven’s face when she placed a new dish in front of her. She laughed when Seven would frown on tasting something she did not like. The look of delight on the Borg’s face when she liked an item made B’Elanna smile in satisfaction. She liked to please Seven. Seven, when one got to know her, was really like a child herself in her likes and dislikes of certain things.

 

They started their meal and B’Elanna filled Seven in on her day in Engineering. Seven informed her about her day in Astrometrics. Both women helped to feed Miral, who was in her highchair and making a mess with her bowl of rice cereal and mashed cooked carrots and squash.

 

There was a lull in conversation for a moment before Seven sadly looked at B’Elanna and said, “I regret, B’Elanna, that I do not have quarters to invite you to so that I may prepare dinner for you.”

 

B’Elanna felt a flare of anger at the whole alcove and cargo bay situation. She was a little bit angry with herself, too. It would take very little effort on her part to get Engineering to install Seven’s Borg alcove in a single occupancy quarters. Not only that, but Seven was gradually weaning herself off her alcove since she was eating more.

 

There was really no excuse for her not to have her own quarters. Even Icheb, who no longer needed the alcove, had his own quarters. True, he had to share them with crewman Baxter, but at least he had a place of his own and wasn't interrupted day or night with people going in and out of the cargo bay.

 

“You know, Seven, I think you should have your own quarters. Now that you’re eating more solids and regenerating less, you’ll need a place to sleep.” B’Elanna recalled Seven telling her she was able to sleep for 2-3 hour periods every other day. She was using a cot near her alcove, which was not very inductive to sleep when someone sent to retrieve something could interrupt you. Besides, everyone needed privacy. “I think we could install your alcove with very few problems. I’ll talk to the Captain after tomorrow’s staff meeting about assigning you quarters.”

 

Seven looked surprised, and then gave a pleased smile. “I…find that very acceptable.” She paused for a moment and added, “Thank you, B’Elanna.”

 

“Hey, no sweat. After all, what are friends for, huh?”

 

It melted B’Elanna’s heart to see Seven’s mega watt smile. Kahless, and she is my friend. The best friend I have. Willing to step in and help with Miral whenever she has a free minute. Taking the time to help me work out engineering problems. It’s time I show her how much I appreciate her. 

x

 

B’Elanna kept her word and requested to see Janeway in her ready room after the staff meeting.

 

Janeway retrieved a cup of coffee and settled herself behind her desk looking at B’Elanna expectedly. “What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”

 

“It’s not what you can do for me, Captain, but what you can do for Seven. She needs her own quarters.” Janeway looked like she was about to say something when B’Elanna forestalled her. “I know what you’re thinking; that her alcove will be a problem to install in regular single occupancy quarters. I’ve worked out a plan on not only installing her alcove, but also reducing its size. Seven is eating solids on a more regular basis and doesn’t need to utilize it to regenerate as often. This will mean that it could operate more efficiently with the power grid currently used for crew quarters. Besides, if she had a bed, she could learn to sleep and this would mean she could eventually wean herself away from using the damned thing altogether.”

 

Janeway was silent, as in thought, and then said, “I’ll work on arranging acquiring her Senior Officers quarters. She is the head of Astrometrics, which would be headed by a Senior Officer, so no one can cause a fuss. In fact, Lieutenant Bryan Jenkins is marrying Ensign Jemo Gowasaka, and they will require double occupancy quarters, leaving Jenkins’ quarters free.”

 

She took a sip of coffee and looked at B’Elanna over the rim of her cup. “I want to thank you for the way you have been treating Seven these past few weeks. You know, I try to play a game of Velocity with her once a week, and she has been telling me about the times you invited her to stay for dinner after she cared for Miral. If you could see the warmth in her eyes, and the smile on her face, when she tells me about Miral and her dinners with you, you would never think the woman spent eighteen years of her life as an emotionless Borg drone.”

 

B’Elanna felt both happy and sad. Happy Seven was enjoying being with Miral and herself, and sad that it took her so long to see the warm and loving person Seven really was.

 

“Well, Seven is probably the most unselfish person I know, and the most gentle and kindest. Miral is crazy about her. I’m just sorry it took me this long to get to know her. You know, I now see most of that superior attitude of hers is just a facade she hides behind when she is uncertain or hurt. I wish I had seen it sooner.”

 

Janeway smiled sadly. “I’ve known that for a long time; I just didn’t know how to make others see it.” She then gave B’Elanna a measuring stare. “I can’t tell you how to conduct your personal life and your friendships, B’Elanna, but I will be very displeased if you hurt her.”

 

“Hey, I’m not going to do that. I mean, she still comes into Engineering with that Borg ‘Know It All’ walk and talk, but I know where it’s coming from now. We sort of give the others a show with some insults. But Seven and I both know the insults are just jokes now. She can dish out some pretty good ones, too.”

 

“Fine, B’Elanna, just so you know what my feelings are. Take what team you need and start with the renovations.”

 

“Thanks, Captain. I want--”

 

Before B’Elanna could finish, Voyager shuddered and the lights went to red alert.

 

x

 

“Tuvok, fire photon torpedoes. Aim for their weapons array. Tom, get us out of here,” Janeway commanded, watching the view screen as Voyager’s photon torpedoes hit their target, but not before the enemy ship was able to get off one last shot. She held on to the command chair’s arm, bracing for impact. Voyager shuddered mildly from the weapon’s hit on its shields.

 

Tuvok exclaimed, “Their weapons array is neutralized. They have dropped out of warp and the two ships with them have stopped their pursuit of us.”

 

For the past three weeks Voyager was harassed by what appeared to be a rag tag conglomerate of many different vessels from different races and cultures. Most were half Voyager’s size and lacked her firepower and warp capabilities. They were no match for Voyager’s strength, except in one respect, the ability to appear out of nowhere.

 

It was evident that the ships had some sort of cloaking device that allowed them to get within 5000 meters before they would come out of cloak to fire their weapons. A favorite tactic was to have one ship hit from the back and another from the front. They would then peel off, cloak, and reappear and hit again minutes later, or even hours later. Janeway considered them annoying insects that would scatter with a swat, only to return later to harass them. However, she knew that too many stings from these ‘insects’ would eventually cripple Voyager.

 

These ships never acknowledged hails or made any communication attempts, and as Neelix was not familiar with this part of the Delta Quadrant, he was unable to identify them.

 

Seven, on the other hand, recognized several ship configurations as belonging to at least six different species. The Borg assimilated three of the species in the past: The Culliar, Behganlians, and Tilmox, had all hailed from a portion of the Delta Quadrant many parsecs away and their assimilations occurred 150 years ago. Seven speculated that they were remnants of the original species that escaped assimilation, or species that came across abandoned ships.

 

The other ships belonged to three species that occupied this sector of space. The Borg had cataloged them for possible assimilation at a later date. They were the Graegoians, Eonians, and Barzuzans. They were a similarly related humanoid species and were last observed by the collective over sixty years ago at which time they had just developed warp capabilities. The Collective found no technology they wished to assimilate. The next scheduled visit was in 200 years when the Collective would evaluate them for assimilation.

 

“Captain, two ships are approaching at warp six. They are hailing us,” Tuvok said.

 

“On screen,” Janeway barked out.

 

Voyager’s view screen showed an attractive humanoid female with smooth golden skin, brown eyes, and a scalp covered by a short, fine fuzz of white hair. The nose was aquiline, the lips small and bow shaped, the ears small and shaped like those of humans.

 

Janeway stood and stated, “I’m Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager.”

 

The voice that followed was a rich tenor, “We know who you are…Captain Janeway. I am Major Eija Nava, commander of the Black Arrow and leader of the Sixth Phalanx of Pride Talart. We have been monitoring your attempts to contact the Uuinian Consortium’s ships for the past week and your conflict with them.”

 

Janeway’s eyes narrowed slightly in both wariness and consternation. They are definitely military by the sounds of things. “Oh? Why didn’t you make your presence known earlier?”

 

Major Nava lifted her right eyebrow slightly and smiled smugly before replying, “I was curious how one lone vessel would handle the Uuinian Consortium. It is part of my duties to assess any party’s need for our assistance.”

 

“If you surmised that we needed no assistance, why contact us now?”

 

“To collect fees for your passage through this portion of space that is patrolled and guarded by my Pride, of course.”

 

Janeway’s eyes held a hard glint when she asked, “And if I refuse to pay this ‘fee’ what then?”

 

“You will be asked to turn back and go around this sector. Then you will have to fend off even more attacks from the Uuinian Consortium. I believe it would be to your benefit to partake of our protection. If I’m not mistaken, Captain Janeway, your ship could use some maintenance and your crew downtime. There is a large market area at Apulan, on Barzuz, which is two days distance from here. There you will find what you need. And, there is a stationary space dock above the city that can accommodate your vessel. Fees are very reasonable.”

 

“This sounds like an extortion racket to me, Major. What are my guarantees that after we pay this fee you won’t turn around and attack us?”

 

“Captain, we are paid by the merchants and various trade guilds of this sector to guard their interests. If you have come in good faith, to trade and not rob, then you will be under our protection.”

 

“Uh huh, ‘your protection’ for a fee of course.”

 

Major Nava smirked. “Of course, Captain Janeway. The fee is very reasonable and goes to support our Pride. After all, my Pride has many mouths to feed and many ships to maintain. However, you have the added bonus of a personal escort by my squadron. We are heading back to our Pride house in Apulan for a much needed rest after this rotation. I would like to invite you, as my guest, to dine with me on my return.”

 

Janeway considered the invitation for a moment. She could learn much about this section of space by accepting. She gave her trademark uneven smile and said, “Thank you, Major. I accept your invitation and will make arrangements to pay your fee.”

 

Major Nava smiled brightly and nodded. “I look forward to meeting you face to face, Captain Janeway. I am sending you the coordinates of the spaceport. Until later.” The view screen went blank.

 

“Mr. Paris, do you have the coordinates?”

 

“Yes, Captain.”

 

“Then proceed…warp six,” Janeway ordered and went back to her chair where she settled herself into it. She turned to Tuvok and ordered, “Tuvok, be on alert for anything unusual. You know as well as I do that so called Friendly Intentions are anything but.”

 

“Aye, Captain.”

 

Janeway thought with some sadness it was a shame out here in the Delta Quadrant, Trust, was one commodity that was in as short supply as was dilithium.

 

x

 

Chapter Four

 

x

 

B’Elanna Torres walked through the market square in the spaceport city of Apulan, balancing the hefty ten month old Miral on her left hip. She ended her duty earlier and decided to do a little shopping before having to bathe and put Miral to bed. It was nineteen hundred hours on Voyager, but local planet time was ten hundred hours.

 

She stopped at a large booth with an assortment of hand-woven blankets and handmade bolts of cloth piled neatly and displayed on several tables. She was trying to find a colorful blanket or bolt of cloth to make a throw to go over her sofa and a bright coverlet for her bed, having become tired of the monotonous Starfleet blue upholstery and bed covers.

 

She was also on the lookout for colorful sheets for Miral’s new bed. Maintenance had set up the child-sized bed two days ago and the only design for sheets in the replicator buffer was the boring Starfleet blue. Seven had programmed the replicator to create a blanket that had baby bunnies and targlets on it. If she had the time, she would have worked on entering a pattern into the replicator for matching sheets. However, time was spent on working double shifts trying to piece Voyager back together after the many encounters with the Uuinian Consortium, which was actually a loose federation of pirates and other riff raff, who preyed on whatever ship they took to be easy pickings.

 

They had been at the spaceport for two days and the members of the crew were glad to spend their off time on the surface spending their replicated local currency in the booming port’s market place and taverns. The population was friendly and welcomed their visits. So far, all had been peaceful with no disturbances or need for Tuvok to put anyone in the brig for unruly behavior.

 

B’Elanna had to turn down crew invitations to take in the nearest taverns because she had Miral in her care. For the past three weeks, she had hardly had any contact with the child, having to leave her in the care of Neelix and Sam Wildman, when required to work double shifts in Engineering.

 

She had missed her daughter and relished this time to spend with her. She had also missed the several nights a week Seven would join her for dinner. Seven had her duties in Astrometrics and was also working long hours replacing the various gel packs that were damaged in the conflict, as well as helping out in Engineering.

 

Seven was supposed to join her today for some shopping after her duty shift, but Janeway needed a last minute report on other nearby Star Systems.

 

Seven stated she would try to join her later and they would shop for items Seven would need for her anticipated move to her own quarters, which had been delayed by the Uuinian Consortium attacks on Voyager.

 

Now that the problems with the Uuinian Consortium were behind them, maybe things would get back to normal.

 

Miral started wiggling in B’Elanna’s arms, wanting to get down. “Would you be still and let Momma look at these?” Miral started to fuss and B’Elanna put her down on her feet by her side. “Here, wiggle worm. Hold on to Momma’s hand.” She held on to Miral’s hand as she used her free hand to turn back the pieces of material. She saw a piece that interested her and let go of Miral’s hand for a second to pull it out and take a better look.

 

A few seconds later she looked down and Miral was gone. She turned and saw the child toddling into the middle of the paved walkway, which was surprisingly vacant; the people that would normally be on it were now standing on the side. “Miral. Come here.” Miral toddled on until she was stopped by a pair of arms that reached for her and picked her up. B’Elanna hurried up to a small procession, of what looked like dignitaries, and stopped in front of the procession and the tall middle-aged woman who now held Miral. The woman was dressed in an ornate gold and green gown, and surrounding her were around a dozen green clad figures, both male and female.

 

“Here you go. I’ll take her now.” B’Elanna held out her arms, but the woman stepped back and two burly guards, one male and the other female, dressed in green robes, crossed their long staffs in front of her. B’Elanna halted immediately and reached out her arms to her child between the crossed staffs. “Sorry about that. She got away from me.”

 

The woman looked at her haughtily and said, “She came to me willingly. It is as the Gods willed. She belongs to Temple Cothar and will serve the Gods now.”

 

B’Elanna was stunned. She did not hear the murmuring from the bystanders who had been watching. “Hey. Give her here. She’s mine.” She reached again only to be shoved roughly back by the two guards. Two more guards with staffs stepped forward. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t just take my child,” B’Elanna protested vigorously.

 

The woman clasped a now crying Miral to her and declared, “It is decreed that any child that comes to us, whether led by the Gods to do so, or given to us by their parents, is ours and shall be raised by us to serve the Gods.”

 

B’Elanna started to panic now and struggled with two of the guards to reach her child. “What in Grethor is going on? I haven’t given you my child. Give her here,” she demanded and continued to struggle, knocking one of the guards down with a wicked right hook. She was getting the upper hand on another, when one of them slipped behind her and crossed her staff over the Klingon’s windpipe, effectively stopping her struggles.

 

The woman said, “You should be honored that your child will grow up to serve the Gods as a Sacred Priestess”. The woman began walking on with a crying Miral who now began screaming in panic. Members of the Temple, dressed in green, surrounded the woman and Miral.

 

B’Elanna tried to tear the staff off her neck, but the hold was too firm. She felt lightheaded and knew she would pass out. She hit her comm-badge several times rapidly. She hoped whoever was at communications was a former Maquis, as this was the unspoken signal for an emergency beam out. She heard a rushing of blood in her ears, and her vision blurred, then the darkness descended.

 

x

 

Seven of Nine was in Janeway’s ready room having just made her report to the Captain. Janeway thought for a moment and said, “So, if we take the route that Major Nava has recommended, then we should be able to avoid any more attacks by the Uuinian Consortium.” Just then, Janeway’s comm-badge chimed with a hail from Tuvok.

 

Captain, you are needed in Sick Bay. It is Lieutenant Torres. There has been an incident on the planet involving the Lieutenant and Miral.”

 

Seven blanched, and Janeway replied, “On my way.” Both women looked at each other in surprise, and concern, before Janeway hurriedly exited the ready room with Seven close on her heels.

 

They entered the Turbolift and Janeway barked, “Deck five.”

 

Seven found that her apprehension was so great she could not say anything. Janeway glanced at her concernedly and said nothing.

 

As soon as the turbolift doors opened, Seven sprinted the short distance to Sick Bay with Janeway close behind. The first thing Seven noticed was the Doctor hovering over an unconscious B’Elanna who lay on a biobed. Tuvok and two of his Security team stood nearby.

 

Seven rushed to B’Elanna’s side. Her Borg enhanced systems showed B’Elanna was still breathing and she appeared unharmed.

 

The Doctor addressed Janeway, “She’s fine and shows no sign of injury except some bruising and abrasions of the knuckles on her right hand. I would say her right hand connected with someone’s head.”

 

“Why isn’t she awake?" Janeway asked as she walked up to the biobed and quickly looked B’Elanna over.

 

Tuvok stepped up and said, "I had to apply a Vulcan nerve pinch.”

 

Janeway looked at him and said, “What happened? Where is Miral?”

 

“The child’s whereabouts are unknown. Apparently, someone took the child, and Lieutenant Torres tried to free her. I was at communications, received a Maquis distress signal from her comm-badge, and initiated an emergency transport. She was unconscious but quickly regained consciousness and demanded that Ensign Carter transport her back to the surface. She tried forcibly to take Ensign Carter’s phaser from him. He quickly summoned Security. When they arrived in the transporter room, Lieutenant Torres had the phaser turned on Ensign Carter and was demanding to be sent back down to the surface. She refused to drop her weapon when ordered. I arrived on the scene and requested she desist in her current course of action. She refused. I ordered Ensign Carter to do what the Lieutenant ordered. He initiated the transport to the surface but I reversed it. As soon as she rematerialized, I administered a nerve pinch and had her transported here.”

 

“What of Miral? Did you scan the surface for her?”

 

“Yes, Captain. We can find no signs of her on the surface.”

 

Janeway lifted her eyebrows in disbelief, and Tuvok continued, “Captain. There are twelve places on the surface that are surrounded by energy fields that our scans cannot penetrate. Those being the houses of the Ten Prides and Two Temples of religion. I believe she may be at one of these places.”

 

Seven’s voice was strident as she said, “You must organize a search party immediately. You must contact these places and ascertain if Miral is being held by one.”

 

Janeway said, “I’ll handle this, Seven. Tuvok, contact Major Nava. Tell her I request her help immediately.” Janeway then turned to the EMH. “Doctor, wake her up.”

 

Seven stepped closer to B’Elanna and took her left hand as the doctor administered a hypospray to wake her.

 

B’Elanna opened her eyes and focused on Seven, immediately trying to get up. “Miral, they have Miral, they have my baby.”

 

She struggled but Seven held her by the shoulders. “B’Elanna, what happened?”

 

“We have to go get her! Let me go!” B’Elanna struggled to get loose.

 

Janeway interceded, “B’Elanna, calm down. Tell us what happened so we can help.”

 

B’Elanna still struggling, screamed, “Captain, they took my baby, do something!”

 

Seven gently but firmly shook B’Elanna and clasping her by the chin, turned B’Elanna’s face so she had to look her in the eyes. “B’Elanna, please, control yourself. You must tell us what occurred.”

 

B’Elanna seemed to calm, but her breath came in heaves. “We were shopping…she got away from me. A woman…some dignitary with guards, took her. She said she was hers by decree. DO SOMETHING! Use the damn sensors to find her and beam her up!”

 

Janeway stated, “She is not registering on our sensors.”

 

“What the hell do you mean? She’s there, on the surface, I tell you!”

 

“We believe she is being held in a shielded area. I want you to tell Tuvok everything that occurred. I have put in an urgent call to Major Nava. I’ll give her the information and she can perhaps assist us,” Janeway said and looked at Tuvok, “Tuvok. Order all crewmembers on the surface to return to the ship immediately. I don’t want any more incidents. Contact Tom immediately. He needs to know what has happened.”

 

B’Elanna started to cry, “My baby, my baby.”

 

Seven enfolded her in her arms and said with a shaky voice, her right eye tearing, “I will see to it Miral is found. I promise this to you.”

 

B’Elanna wiped her eyes and said, “Thank you, Seven. I know you will. You are the best friend I have.”

 

B’Elanna then turned to Tuvok and began telling him everything she could remember.

 

x

 

Chapter Five

 

x

 

Seven of Nine sat next to B’Elanna at the conference room table, and listened intently as her friend relayed the events of Miral’s abduction to Major Nava, who sat at the opposite end of the table from Captain Janeway. Tom sat on B’Elanna’s other side. Tuvok and Chakotay sat on the opposite side.

 

B’Elanna’s voice was pleading, “Please Major. You have got to help me get my baby back.” Seven placed her hand over B’Elanna’s hand protectively, and looked toward the Major, as did everyone else.

 

Major Nava sighed. “I am sorry. There is nothing that I can do. It is an old and ancient law and goes back to a time of hardship on this planet. During times of famine, families that could not care for their children, sold them into servitude or dedicated them to the service of the Gods in Temple Cothar or Temple Tatheon. It also came about as custom for children to escape abusive guardians and masters and seek protection from the Temples. These children are said to be gifts from the Gods, as it is believed that the Gods directed them to the Temples. The High Priestess of Temple Cothar, Phehere, has apparently taken it upon herself to interpret your child going to her as a sign that the Gods directed her into the Temple’s Care and Service. Temple Cothar is the most powerful faction in this sector. Not one of the Prides will challenge them. The only ones that would speak up against them is Temple Tatheon. But they hold to the same beliefs when it comes to children entering their service.”

 

B’Elanna stood with her eyes ablaze and said in a deep growl, “I don’t care if they’re Kahless, Jesus Christ, or the Prophets. They have my baby, and I want her back. Give me a phaser and I’ll kill every one of them.”

 

Seven also stood, eyes blazing, and looked at Janeway. “Captain. Give them an ultimatum. Inform them that if they do not return Miral, you shall utilize Voyager’s firepower and force them to do so.”

 

Janeway was exasperated but gave her best command stare and ordered, “Please. Both of you sit down.” She looked at Major Nava. “You said that you cannot do anything. But, short of forcefully removing the child, is there another way?”

 

“Yes. A family member related by blood, marriage, or adoption, must challenge the claim within a day of the child going into the custody of the Temple. If the challenge is valid, a contest consisting of unarmed combat, takes place three days after the challenge is made in the 'Champions' Field' outside of the city. There has been no challenge in my lifetime. The last was some eighty years ago. Throughout all of known history, Temple Cothar has never lost. They, after all, are the inventors of the fighting technique known as Tsunkatse and their priests are trained in the art from childhood.”

 

B’Elanna immediately exclaimed, “I don’t care what technique they know. I’ll fight all of them and tear their hearts out!”

 

Seven stood and adamantly stated, “I will fight their champion.”

 

Janeway interceded, “Sit down, Seven. There has to be another way.”

 

Seven replied, “As you are well aware, Captain, I am trained in Tsunkatse and have fought in several matches.”

 

Major Nava looked closely at the young woman, and said in a voice that relayed her confusion, “Trained in Tsunkatse? How is that possible? Only the Priests of Temple Cothar have the authority to train…” then she understood and continued, “Ah. You were no doubt trained in a bastardized form of the art. I hear it is a popular form of entertainment in the Narcadian sector. You would have very little chance of defeating a master of the true art form.”

 

“I am Borg. I will prevail,” Seven answered coldly.

 

Major Nava looked her up and down with a twinkle of interest in her eyes and a slight leer to her features. “Not like any Borg I’ve ever heard of--or seen images of. But, regardless, are you a relative of the child?”

 

“What is your definition of relative? Indeed, Voyager is my collective and I consider the crewmembers…family.”

 

“The rules are clear. It has to be a blood relative, a relative by adoption, or a relative by marriage. Believe me; I know what you mean when you say that your shipmates are your family, as is my Pride a family to me. But, by law, they are not a relative.”

 

B’Elanna looked at Seven and said, “I appreciate your offer, Seven, but Miral is mine and I’ll fight for her.”

 

Tom looked at B’Elanna. “She’s my daughter, I’ll fight them. She will need you, B’Elanna, if I should lose.”

 

“I will fight. I’ll die rather than let them keep her.” B’Elanna looked at Major Nava. “Does the combat have to be Tsunkatse or can another method be used?”

 

“You can use whatever method, provided it is unarmed combat. But no method that I am aware of has ever defeated a trained Tsunkatse champion.”

 

Janeway commanded, “Sit down. I’ll not have any of you fighting.”

 

Just then, Major Nava received a hail from her small rectangular communicator on her belt. She removed the communicator and spoke into it. “Yes, Major Nava.”

 

Major. Pride Llesed has informed me that both they, and Pride Hjod, have been called into service by Temple Cothar. They are to escort Voyager from this sector of space. They are moving their fleet into position to escort Voyager now.”

 

Harry Kim announced over the comm, “Captain. You have an urgent message from a Major Pru’eq of Pride Llesed. There are eight ships approaching our coordinates.”

 

“Harry, tell them I will be with them shortly. Janeway out.”

 

She turned to Major Nava. “Why are these two Prides ‘called’ to escort us out? Has Temple Cothar hired them? Can we hire your Pride for protection?”

 

“No, Captain. They are devout followers of the religious principles of Temple Cothar. Cothar's priests often use them as escorts if they have to leave the planet. By law, Prides cannot war against each or interfere with another Pride's work. To be hired by an opposing party would be looked upon as interference.”

 

Tuvok looked at Major Nava. “If we issue a challenge, will this result in a delay of our expulsion from this sector of space?”

 

“Yes. You will be allowed to stay until the contest is settled. But you must issue the challenge now.”

 

Tom said, “I will take the challenge.”

 

Seven of Nine admired him for his courage but knew he could not win. “You will fail. I am the logical choice.”

 

“Yeah. But you aren’t related by blood, adoption or marriage, Seven. So that leaves me.”

 

Seven turned to B’Elanna and looked fully into her eyes. “B’Elanna, I am the only logical choice. I will get Miral back to you. I will not fail. I…see no other solution. Marry me.”

 

There was a collective intake of breath and a split second of silence, and then the whole room exploded with everyone, except Seven and B’Elanna, talking at once.

 

Janeway called for order, “Enough.” She looked at Seven. “Seven…I don’t think--”

 

Seven interrupted, “This matter is between B’Elanna and me.” She turned back to B’Elanna, took B’Elanna's hand in hers and said with conviction, “Trust me. I will not fail.” Her look and voice gentled. “Marry me, B’Elanna.”

 

B’Elanna looked into Seven’s eyes and saw the sincerity and conviction. “Yes. I will marry you, Seven.”

 

Tom Paris blurted out, “I don’t think--”

 

“Tom!” Janeway growled in warning, holding her hand up, palm out, to stop him from continuing. She then turned her attention back to the two women and sighed before nodding and saying, “Very well. I want to see the two of you in my ready room as soon as this meeting is adjourned.”

 

“Captain Janeway,” Major Nava said, and continued, “I think it might be a good idea if I contact a member of Temple Tatheon to officiate the marriage. That way Temple Cothar will not be able to issue a challenge as to the validity of the marriage, since it will be recognized by the laws of Barzuz.”

 

Janeway looked at both B’Elanna and Seven, raising her eyebrows in question. “Do you two agree to this?”

 

“No objections here, Captain,” B’Elanna said and looked at Seven.

 

“I agree.” Seven inclined her head slightly.

 

“Very well.” Janeway turned her attention back to Major Nava. “Do it, Major Nava.”

 

B’Elanna swallowed hard and looked at Seven who was looking back at her with a decidedly nervous expression on her face.

 

x

 

Both B’Elanna and Seven stood before Captain Janeway in her ready room. Janeway glanced from one to the other of them, a look of concern on her face that reflected in her tone when she asked, “Are you sure you two want to do this—“

 

B’Elanna quickly interrupted, “I’m sure, Captain…”she glanced quickly at Seven, and continued, “Seven?”

 

“It is the only logical solution. I am the best qualified to challenge Temple Cothar’s champion.”

 

Janeway sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’ll perform the official Federation ceremony. That way the marriage will be valid under Federation law. Temple Tatheon will perform their ceremony to make it valid under Barzuz law. Tuvok and Major Nava will act as witnesses.”

 

“Thank you, Captain,” B’Elanna said.

 

“After all…this…is over, I will, of course, annul the marriage,” Janeway said.

 

Seven immediately stood more erect and looked at B’Elanna with wide eyes, which reflected her confusion. B’Elanna glanced nervously back at her before directing her attention back to Janeway, replying with a frown, “Captain…I don’t even want to address that… issue…not yet…not until I have Miral back.”

 

Janeway nodded and tapped her comm-badge. “Tuvok, as soon as the representative to Temple Tatheon arrives, I want you and Major Nava to come to my ready room right away and act as witnesses to the marriage of B’Elanna and Seven.”

 

Understood, Captain. The representative to Temple Tatheon is being beamed aboard now. We will meet in your ready room shortly.”

 

“Very well, Janeway out.” Janeway noticed the scared looks on both B’Elanna and Seven’s face, but decided to hold her tongue and say nothing more to try and discourage the two. She could well attest to both Klingon and Borg stubbornness. Her chances of changing their minds had about as much chance of succeeding as an attempt to loot the Ferengi Great Exchequer of all its gold pressed latinum.

 

x

 

B’Elanna swallowed the lump in her throat as she held fast to Seven’s right hand, with her left hand, and listened to Temple Tatheon’s ancient and wizened priest chant out some ancient invocation that the universal translators couldn’t decipher. She wondered how he could move in his heavy silver and blue robes encrusted with thousands of small blue and clear beads in an intricate pattern of swirls and starbursts.

 

He looked from one to the other and smiling, held an ornate gold scepter, first over Seven’s head and then over her head. He stepped back and said in a booming and officious voice, “May the Gods hold this joining in favor. May they grant you happiness and many children.” He nodded and then was silent.

 

Seven looked at B’Elanna and then at the priest and said, “Is the ceremony concluded?”

 

“Yes, my child. You and your beloved are as one.”

 

B’Elanna took in a deep breath and thought, Beloved. If only… She clamped down on the rest of her thoughts knowing that they would lead to even more sadness than she was already feeling. She let go of Seven’s hand and looked at Major Nava. “Major, when can we issue the challenge?”

 

“I will arrange for that right away.” Major Nava took her communicator and spoke into it. “Major Nava, here. Connect me with Temple Cothar right away.”

 

x

 

Chapter Six

 

x

 

Seven threw her opponent to the ground, but he quickly sprang up and shot his right leg out, hitting her below her right knee. She went crashing to her side and he threw himself on her. She was prepared and rammed her left fist into his chin, staggering him. She rolled from under him, got on her knees, and came down with both elbows onto his back. He fell forward and she jumped on his back and twisted his neck until she heard it snap, killing him. She rested on the prone body for a second and took in a deep breath before her next round.

 

Seven was startled by B’Elanna’s voice, “Computer, end program.” The arena faded around her and the holodeck grid appeared. She observed her wife standing some three yards away.

 

She had married B’Elanna some twelve hours before in a quick ceremony performed by Captain Janeway and an even quicker one performed by the priest from Temple Tatheon.

 

Immediately after the ceremony, Major Nava contacted Temple Cothar with Seven’s challenge. Combat was set for three days from when the challenge was issued. Seven had less than fifty-six hours to prepare.

 

B’Elanna handed Seven a towel she found neatly folded on the deck. “Seven, I think you need to rest and get something to eat. You have been going at this for over ten hours. Come with me back to my quarters and let me get you something to eat.”

 

“I do not require rest or nutrition at this time. I regenerated three days ago and will regenerate for eight hours prior to the contest. My time can be better spent training.”

 

B’Elanna placed her hand on Seven’s arm and looked up into her eyes. “Please, do this for me. We need to talk. We didn’t have time to talk before the marriage took place, or afterwards.”

 

Seven was touched by the soft and caring look on B’Elanna’s face and in her eyes, which were warm dark amber. She also noticed the dark smudges underneath them and the redness in the corners of the white areas. She would adhere to B’Elanna’s wishes, as she did not want to add to the woman’s intense worry and grief. However, she was a little apprehensive about what B’Elanna wanted to talk about.

 

“That will be agreeable.”

 

Once in B’Elanna’s quarters, Seven immediately went to the bathroom and removed her black Velocity outfit and shoes. She would recycle them for training, and later, for use in the actual combat. They fit close to the skin and would not allow her opponent to grab hold of a loose fold of cloth, or open sleeve, and throw her off balance.

 

She stepped into the sonic shower and put the setting on high. It had been an intense workout, which had caused her to perspire. Something she rarely did as her nanoprobes and biosuits normally prevented this. She also felt a little soreness in her muscles. This should disappear soon due to her propensity to heal quickly, a gift of her nanoprobes.

 

She exited the shower and noticed that her velocity suit and shoes were gone and replaced with a set of Starfleet standard underclothes and a soft yellow pull over shirt with bell shaped sleeves and a small v-neck. Also, there was a pair of loose drawstring trousers in mint green and a pair of tan sandals. She put them on and exited the bathroom and bedroom, and into the small dining area.

 

Seven observed that the table was set with only one place setting. B’Elanna had just turned from the replicator with a tray laden with a bowl of vegetable soup and a salad.

 

“Take a seat there, Seven." B’Elanna indicated the one with the place setting, which was Seven’s customary seat when dining with B’Elanna. “I know you like vegetable soup and took the liberty of replicating this. What would you like to drink?”

 

“Water will be sufficient.”

 

B’Elanna replicated the water and placed it before Seven. She took the seat across from Seven and looked at her, saying nothing.

 

Seven sat up straight, placing her hands on her lap and said, “B’Elanna. You have not replicated anything for yourself.”

 

“I’m not hungry.”

 

“When was the last time you ingested nutriments?”

 

“I don’t know. I’m just not hungry. Okay?”

 

“I will not ingest nutriments unless you also ingest nutriments.”

 

“I don’t want anything.”

 

“Comply.”

 

“I said I’m not hungry,” B’Elanna replied tersely.

 

Seven stood up, took her tray, and went over to the disposal unit.

 

B’Elanna must have read her intent because she said, “Hey. Okay. I’ll eat something.”

 

Seven returned and placed the tray in front of B’Elanna and then replicated a glass of prune juice for her, and another soup and salad for herself. She placed the prune juice by B’Elanna’s soup bowl.

 

“You are one stubborn and bossy Borg,” B’Elanna declared with a slight frown.

 

“Correct. Resistance is futile. Now you may start ingesting.”

 

B’Elanna snorted, picked up her spoon, and started to eat with Seven watching her every bite. Seven would only eat when B’Elanna ate, matching her bite for bite.

 

No words were spoke, and when they were through, Seven took the empty bowls and put them in the recycler. B’Elanna had moved to the sofa and had her arms clasped around her middle. Seven could tell she was distressed. She moved over to the chair that was facing the sofa and sat. She waited patiently for B’Elanna to speak, but B’Elanna did not say anything, her eyes unfocused and far away, and her face a mask of sorrow and worry.

 

Seven said in a determined voice, “I will not fail. Trust me.”

 

B’Elanna looked up into Seven’s eyes. “But if you do not--”

 

“No. I am Borg. Failure is not an option.”

 

B’Elanna continued, “Seven, they invented Tsunkatse. Their Champion will be the best and trained since childhood. I’m not saying you can’t win, I’m just saying what if you fail?”

 

Seven replied, “That may be true, their Champion may be better trained. However, I am Borg. I have the assimilated knowledge of other forms of fighting. I have also been practicing them. I will prevail.”

 

“Seven, I’m just saying if--.”

 

Seven interrupted, her voice strident, “You do not trust me. You do not have…faith in me.”

 

“I do, Kahless, I do. I just can’t help being afraid.” B’Elanna started to cry.

 

Seven left her seat and sat on the sofa beside B’Elanna. She put her arms around her shoulder and B’Elanna turned into the embrace, placing her head on Seven’s shoulder, and cried.

 

Seven felt the great wracking heaves of sorrow and felt her own eyes tear. She must be strong for B’Elanna though. She used all of her Borg reserve to control her grief. She would not fail. Failure was not an option.

 

B’Elanna quit crying and drew back, using the heel of her hands to rub the tears from her eyes.

 

Seven saw in her face the tremendous amount of weariness and inquired, “When have you last regen…slept?”

 

“I can’t sleep.”

 

Seven stood and pulled B’Elanna up by her hand and led her into the bedroom. She turned back the covers and looked expectantly at B’Elanna. “Do you require night clothes?”

 

“I can’t sleep. How about you? I know that since you have been ingesting solids that you have been sleeping some. When was the last time that you slept or rested?”

 

“That is not important. I regenerated three days ago and do not need to sleep or rest.”

 

“Bull crap. Don’t give me that. You have dark smudges under your eyes. That tells me you need to sleep.”

 

“Very well. I will attempt to sleep on the sofa.”

 

“No, don’t go. I…I want you to stay with me, to hold me. Please?” B’Elanna said beseechingly.

 

Seven nodded her head and watched as B'Elanna removed her shirt, shoes and trousers, leaving only her Starfleet issue undershirt and panties on. Seven held the covers back for her as she slipped under them. Seven removed just her sandals, leaving her clothes on, and slipping between the sheets, she settled herself next to B'Elanna. B’Elanna scooted over and Seven opened her left arm and drew her close.

 

B’Elanna placed her head on Seven’s chest and softly said, “Seven, I want you to know that I thank you with all that I have for what you’re doing. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay you.”

 

“Repay me? I do this because I love Miral and because I lo…because you are my friend.”

 

“Seven, you are the best friend I’ve ever had. I never told you this, but I want to tell you now, I’m sorry about how I treated you in the past. I was rude and hateful to you. Will you forgive me?”

 

“There is nothing to forgive. Your behavior toward me was predicated by my actions toward you. I should ask for your forgiveness.”

 

“How can you say that? I didn’t understand that the way you acted was due to the fact that you didn’t know how to relate, that you had really no interaction with others to know how to relate.”

 

“That may have been true when I first came aboard Voyager. However, my behavior to you was not always due to ignorance of polite behavior or the appropriate way to…act. I, at times, deliberately antagonized you to observe your reactions.”

 

B’Elanna sucked in her breath and propped herself up on one elbow and looked at Seven. “Why, Seven?”

 

“You intrigue me. You are emotional in your responses. I found your emotions to be very informative.”

 

“Informative?”

 

“Yes. I spent eighteen years as a Borg drone, with no emotions. When Captain Janeway freed me, I began to feel emotion. At first, anger at Captain Janeway for removing me from the collective. I could not control emotions so I suppressed them by exerting my Borg behavior. I feared that my emotions would consume me and consume others. You, B’Elanna, you do not fear your emotions. You embrace them. You may seem erratic at times. However, I have observed that you channel your emotions into solving problems. Especially your anger. I hoped to learn this technique from you.”

 

B’Elanna smiled tenderly and said, “Oh, Seven, what am I going to do with you? You are so very wrong. My anger controls me. It has gotten me into situations that are pretty bad. Please don’t go there. You're doing just fine in the emotion department. You may be subtle, but that would probably be your nature even if you weren’t assimilated by the Borg.”

 

“You are not angry with me for…antagonizing you?”

 

B’Elanna snorted. “No. I antagonized you just as much to see if you would respond. You know, I found your Borgness a challenge. I wanted to be the one to break through and get some response. Are you angry with me?”

 

“No.” Seven thought, You did…break through. I love you.

 

“Well, let’s forget about all that. I’m glad you’re my friend. I know that you'll get Miral back. Back to me and her Auntie Seven.”

 

“That I promise you. Now we shall regen…sleep.”

 

A few minutes later Seven heard B’Elanna’s even breathing. She could feel the faint pounding of B’Elanna’s heart against her side, the rhythmic pulse lulling her to sleep.

 

x

 

Seven woke disorientated, until she heard the soft breathing of the woman who spooned her from behind. She smiled to herself, and then sobered. This would not last. She would triumph in this contest and B’Elanna would have Miral again. The marriage, in all probability, would be annulled and they would once again return to being friends.

 

Seven knew what the meaning of the word ‘divorce’ meant as it related to marriage, as she had researched the word after learning of B’Elanna’s and Tom’s divorce. However, she was unfamiliar with the term ‘annulment’ in relationship to marriage. She quickly researched it right after the marriage ceremonies, and found it to mean a declaration by a presiding authority that a marriage was invalid. There were many reasons for obtaining an annulment over divorce, those being a diminished mental capacity of the individuals involved to give consent, those under the legal age for marriage, those already married, fraud, and failure to consummate the marriage.

 

The last two, Seven thought, would probably be the reasons used to annul her marriage to B’Elanna. Though truthfully, she would like this marriage to be reality, for B’Elanna to accept her as her spouse. And all that entailed, including sexual relations. She had often fantasized what it would be like to engage in copu…no...making love to and with B’Elanna.

 

B’Elanna turning slightly interrupted her thoughts. Seven stayed still for a few moments and listened to ascertain B’Elanna was still asleep. She checked the chronometer on the nightstand and saw she had managed to sleep for 4.25 hours. Quietly she slipped from the bed and found her Velocity suit and shoes, then slipped into the living room to put them on. She would resume her training.

 

x

 

B’Elanna awoke with a start, her heart racing, and a terrible feeling that something was wrong. Then it hit her. Miral. She looked next to her for Seven, but the bed was empty. Her quarters were quiet. There were no sounds coming from the living area or bathroom. She checked the chronometer. It was twenty hundred hours. She had slept for eight hours. “Computer, lights at half.”

 

The lights went up and the computer informed her, “Captain Janeway has left instructions for you to contact her.”

 

B’Elanna had left instructions she was not to be disturbed unless there was news of Miral, and then she was to be awakened immediately. Apparently, this was not urgent news, so the computer would hold the message until there were indications she was up. Her ordering the lights at half indicated to the computer she was in her quarters and it delivered her the message.

 

“Computer, what is the location of Captain Janeway?”

 

Captain Janeway is in her quarters.”

 

It was still early and B’Elanna knew that the Captain would still be up. “B’Elanna Torres to Captain Janeway.”

 

Captain Janeway. B’Elanna, I need to talk to you. I will come to your quarters.”

 

“Is this about Miral?”

 

“I think we may have found a way to get Miral back without resorting to a physical contest.”

 

“Okay Captain. I’ll be here.”

 

On my way. Janeway out."

 

B'Elanna felt a glimmer of hope that there was a way to get Miral back and avoid placing Seven in danger. She felt some amount of impatience waiting for the Captain and went to the replicator. “Rum and cola, on the rocks.”

 

She took her glass and sat on the sofa, leaned into the back cushion and put her feet up on the coffee table. She felt a slight tension headache coming on and placed the cold glass briefly against her forehead, before lowering it to take a drink.

 

“Computer, what is the location of Seven of Nine?”

 

Seven of Nine is in holodeck one.”

 

“How long has Seven of Nine been in Holodeck one?”

 

Three hours and twenty five minutes.”

 

B’Elanna closed her eyes. No doubt Seven was running her Tsunkatse simulation. How did I get so lucky to have someone like Seven come into my life. She’s amazing and I love her, Kahless help me, I love her. I want her, not just physically; well there is that of course. I want her as my mate. Can she feel for me more than friendship? I want this marriage to be real.

 

There was a chime at her door. “Enter.” Captain Janeway entered and seeing B’Elanna over on the sofa went and sat in the chair facing the sofa.

 

“Captain. Can I get you anything to drink?”

 

“No thanks. I spoke to Major Nava. She informed me that in twenty-eight days the planet would celebrate the Festival of Beginnings. It is a high religious holiday with both main religions participating. Each Temple has all of its members, no matter the age, leave their Temple grounds and go to a spring, which is located in the center of the city. There are several rituals involving the waters from the spring. Major Nava has sector control on that date. She said that if we take a shuttlecraft through her sector, she would ignore it. All we have to do is scan for Miral’s bio-signs, find her, and beam her aboard. Major Nava will also ignore our departure.”

 

“Twenty eight days! No, Captain, I can’t wait that long. Miral can’t wait that long. I don’t even want to think about the emotional trauma Miral is suffering just from all of this. Three days is three days too many. Twenty-eight days. No way.”

 

“Think about Seven, B’Elanna. What if she fails, what if she is…killed?”

 

B’Elanna stood up and distanced herself from Janeway, her anger flaring. “Have you discussed this with Seven?”

 

“No. I intend to, after I talk to you.”

 

“Don’t. Her mind is made up on this. I know her, Captain. She won’t go along with this. For us to discuss this is betraying our faith in her.”

 

“B’Elanna, I know this is hard. But be reasonable. Why take a chance that may end with Seven losing her life?”

 

“She won’t fail, Captain. She will prevail. She’s a very special person. Failure is not wired into her thinking. Look at all she’s done for Voyager… for all of us. She took us through the nebula, alone. She brought Neelix back to life. She even helped defeat the Borg. Shall I go on? She will not fail. I have faith in her Captain. Listen, I appreciated you trying to help. I know you mean well, Captain. Let Seven do this.”

 

Janeway sighed. “If Seven agrees with this plan?”

 

“She won’t. You’ll just waste your time talking to her about this.”

 

“I’ll take that under advisement.”

 

B’Elanna snorted derisively. “You’re the Captain. I can’t stop you from talking to her. Just make sure if she asks what my opinion is, you tell her I believe in her.”

 

Janeway nodded and turned to go.

 

x

 

It was four hours after resuming her training Seven noticed Captain Janeway standing to one side, and said, “Computer, stop program.”

 

The holographic arena and adversary faded away only to leave the holodeck grid. Seven walked the few feet to Janeway and stood at attention, her hands clasped behind her back. “Captain. How may I be of assistance?”

 

“Seven. I want you to hear me out and consider what I’m going to tell you. We have a plan to get Miral away from Temple Cothar without you having to enter into combat.”

 

“Proceed.”

 

Janeway explained to her about the celebration twenty-eight days hence and their plan to retrieve Miral.

 

“Insufficient. I will proceed with the contest.”

 

“Why is it insufficient?”

 

“Twenty eight days is too long. Indeed, every hour that Temple Cothar has Miral in their custody is too long. I shall free her in two days.”

 

“Seven, listen to me…you could be killed. Why do this when we have a solution?”

 

“My solution is more expedient. I shall prevail.”

 

“Seven, I could order you not to participate in this.”

 

Seven gave Janeway a measured and cold look before pointedly stating, “However, you will not.”

 

“Don’t be too sure of that.”

 

“You would not like the consequences of that decision.”

 

“Are you threatening me?”

 

“No, I am informing you. Do not thwart me in this, Captain, or I may not be able to remain your friend, and I will make a formidable foe.”

 

Seven could tell Janeway was controlling her anger by the tightening of her lips and narrowing of her eyes.

 

Her mentor, friend, and Captain, sighed. “Very well. I won’t stand in your way. Tuvok, the Doctor, and I will witness the combat, along with Tom and of course, B’Elanna.”

 

Janeway’s features softened for a moment and she stepped forward and put her hand on Seven’s left shoulder. “Seven, I do have faith in you. I’m just worried, that’s all.”

 

Seven placed her right hand over the one Janeway had on her shoulder. “Thank you, Kathryn, for your friendship and your faith.”

 

Janeway smiled and Seven stepped back and said, “Computer, resume program Seven two zeta one zero one.”

 

x

 

“Computer, what is the location of Seven of Nine?”

 

Seven of Nine is in Holodeck one.”

 

B’Elanna sighed and shook her head. Damn, fourteen hours straight. Borg or not, she has got to rest.

 

B’Elanna had been checking Seven’s whereabouts every hour. It gave her something to do besides worry. She thought of occupying herself with work, but her mind was too distracted. She had tried working on some Engineering problems but her mind could not concentrate.

 

Finally, she just gave up, did a little cleaning of her quarters, took a long hot tub bath and even attempted to sleep. She later moved to the sofa and just stared out the window to the gold, blue, and green globe shining brightly in the velvet blackness. Watching the ever-changing cloud patterns and the constant change of day into night, now that Voyager had left the spaceport and was orbiting the planet, she thought of Miral. She could see the small speck that was the city where the Temple of Cothar was located. She prayed Miral was safe. She felt like crying, she missed her so much. Did Miral miss her? Of course she did. This must be so confusing and frightening to her baby.

 

She got up from the sofa and put on her discarded Starfleet issue sweater and trousers. She slipped into her boots and headed toward the door, intending to go to holodeck one and bring Seven back to her quarters for food and rest. To my quarters. Our quarters. If only...

 

She opened her door to exit and ran head long into Tom Paris, almost knocking him over. He caught her in his arms and she went to pull back but he held on and said, “Lanna, I need to talk to you.”

 

She pulled free of his arms, glared at him, and surly said, “Can this wait? I have something important I’ve got to do.”

 

“This will only take a few minutes. Can we go inside and talk?”

 

B’Elanna sighed and stood to one side motioning Tom into her quarters. She followed close behind, walked past him to one of the dining area chairs, and seated herself.

 

“Talk,” she growled out.

 

He took a chair across the table from her. “I know I’ve been a less than ideal father to Miral…” B’Elanna snorted derisively. Tom continued, “but, I swear to you, when we get her back, I’ll make it up to her, and you.”

 

B‘Elanna looked at him, the contempt evident in her voice. “Why all of a sudden? It’s not like you cared before. Sandra toss your sorry butt out?” She had heard Tom had moved in with the Ensign a week after their divorce.

 

“No. I moved out and into quarters of my own ten days ago. Look, Lanna, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I don’t have feelings for her. It’s you I love…you and Miral. Can you just give me another chance? I swear to you I’ll be the husband you want, and I’ll be there for Miral and be the father she needs.”

 

B’Elanna looked at him in disbelief. Her emotions were seesawing from anger to satisfaction. Satisfaction that he wanted her and was now getting payback. But there was no way this would ever happen. She loved another. She loved Seven of Nine. If Seven never returned that love, it didn’t matter. She would always love her.

 

She swallowed her anger and said, “Tom, I’m grateful that you offered to fight for Miral. I do think you need to be in her life more and I’m willing to work with you on that. But as far as me and you…I don’t love you.”

 

“Lanna, you loved me once. Let me show you that you can love me again,” Tom said pleadingly.

 

“No, Tom. In a way, I did love you. But it was not a total and complete love. I loved the idea of being in love and convinced myself that what we had could become a complete and deep love.”

 

“It can be like that, Lanna. Just give me a chance.”

 

“No. I’m married now, Tom.”

 

“Yeah, but that’s in name only. Everybody knows it doesn’t mean anything...that it will end when we have Miral back.”

 

B’Elanna stood up, her body tense with anger, her breathing harsh and her face flushed, eyes blazing, she snarled, “Get out of here! Now, Tom! Before I forget that you’re Miral’s father and do something we will both regret.”

 

Tom was stunned. He saw it now. “You’re in love with her…aren’t you?”

 

“Now, Tom. Leave!”

 

“Lanna, listen. I know that worrying about Miral has you confused. But, Seven? I just don’t believe it. For God’s sake, she’s Borg, more machine than human.”

 

B’Elanna growled and grabbed Tom by the neck of his tunic, pulled him up from the chair, rushed him to the door, and tossed him out into the corridor, where he landed on his behind against the bulkhead.

 

She looked at him disdainfully and in a voice with barely controlled rage, hissed, “That ‘machine’ loves Miral and has more honor than you could ever have if you lived a thousand life times. If you ever say anything like that again about my wife, I’ll arrange for you to disappear out of the nearest airlock.” She stepped out into the corridor and he backed up as tight as he could against the bulkhead.

 

She stalked past him without giving him a glance. Her thoughts now focused on her wife, whom she hoped to bring home with her for a much-needed rest.

 

x

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

x

 

B’Elanna looked up at the regenerating form of Seven of Nine. Her features were relaxed and she looked so young and vulnerable. To B’Elanna, she looked like a goddess, one that represented spring and youth, carved from pink marble and creamy alabaster. She wore a soft rose-colored blouse and soft gray slacks B’Elanna had replicated for her after her last practice session. Her regeneration cycle was due to end in a few minutes. The contest was a little over an hour away.

 

B’Elanna wanted this time alone with Seven. She wanted to perform the ancient custom of her mother’s people: The ritual bath that a spouse gave their warrior and the ritual dressing of the warrior before they were to enter into battle.

 

She also had things she wanted to say to Seven. Things that scared her but she needed to say. She wanted Seven in her life, but she lacked the courage to tell her. Until now.

 

Earlier, while Seven regenerated, and she was awake and restless in her quarters, she thought about getting Miral back. She also thought about Seven. She wanted Seven to know she was loved before she entered into this fight. Loved and cherished. Even if Seven didn’t return that love, that was okay. Well, it would break her heart but she knew Seven cared for her and loved her as a friend, and loved Miral.

 

With all the cruelties and injustices she had seen in war against the Cardassians and here in the Delta Quadrant, her belief in the good of sentient species had burned to ashes. She had lost all faith in the decency of others. Love, she wanted to believe in it, but experience showed her that it was just a four-letter word. Until Miral, and she now knew the love of her child. Until Seven, when her faith in another was reborn and love rose from the ashes as a phoenix. Reborn and stronger than before.

 

Yes, she would tell Seven. There was power in love. In addition, perhaps, Seven knowing of her love, would feel even more empowered. Love triumphant. Love triumphs. Yes, she believed that now.

 

Regeneration cycle complete.”

 

Seven opened her eyes and immediately saw her. B’Elanna noticed warmth in her gaze and a softening of her features.

 

“B’Elanna?” she said with some concern and doubt.

 

“Seven. Come back to my quarters with me. I need to tell you something…something important.” B’Elanna said nervously.

 

Seven tilted her head to one side as if trying to read between the lines. B’Elanna noticed a hardening of her features and a rigidness of her body. Seven had returned to her former Borg demeanor and answered in a cold Borg voice, “Very well.”

 

They left cargo bay two in silence.

 

“How was your regeneration?”

 

“Adequate.”

 

“Would you like anything to eat?”

 

Seven answered in her Borg monotone, “I do not require nutritional supplements.” She paused before continuing, “Thank you for your offer.”

 

B’Elanna knew that a lot of Seven‘s current Borg behavior was brought on by the imminent contest. And, perhaps, by B’Elanna’s own nervousness.

 

They finished the rest of the trip to B’Elanna’s quarters in silence.

 

On entering her quarters, B’Elanna said, “Have a seat, while I prepare a bath for you and replicate you a velocity suit.”

 

Seven stood in her old Borg pose, straight and with her hands behind her back. She turned her head, studied B’Elanna dispassionately with her left implant, and then said, “Bath?”

 

B’Elanna walked up to Seven, stopped a few inches from her, and said softly, “It’s an old Klingon custom for the warrior to bathe before a battle and his, or her, spouse to assist in that and help dress the warrior in their battle armor. Well, in your case, a velocity suit. If you’d rather not do this...”

 

Seven swallowed hard and B’Elanna could see she was moved. In a strained voice Seven said, “I accept.”

 

“Good. Please have a seat and I’ll go and prepare things and then come get you when everything is ready.”

 

Seven pulled out a chair at the dining table and sat stiffly in it.

 

B’Elanna left her and went into the bathroom and took a light stick and lit the various candles she had scattered about the room. After running a hot bath, she added the traditional Klingon bath salts, which she was surprised to discover were programmed into the replicator. She had replicated a large towel and soft robe for when Seven stepped out of the tub. Heat flushed her face at the thought of seeing Seven nude, causing her to chastise herself. This is not the time to go there. 

 

She returned to the living room and saw Seven was still seated, her posture stiff. She went over to her and held out her right hand. Seven looked at her hand and hesitantly took it in her left, her Borg hand. B’Elanna could feel the soft warm mesh as she led Seven to the bathroom.

 

Seven stopped and looked at the candles and steaming bath. B’Elanna said, “Let me help you undress.”

 

Seven turned sharply, looked at her, and then glanced down. “I…”

 

“You have never taken a hydro bath before, have you?”

 

“I have not.”

 

B’Elanna smiled tenderly. “I don’t think your implants will be harmed.”

 

Seven nodded, still gazing at the floor, but made no move to undress.

 

“Seven, what’s wrong?” B’Elanna gently asked.

 

“I…I do not wish for you to see me. My implants…they are…”

 

B’Elanna took Seven’s chin in her hand and raised her head, looking into her eyes. “Oh, Seven. You’re afraid I won’t like what I see. You are so wrong, so very wrong. It doesn’t make any difference to how I’ll feel about you. You are a beautiful person, Seven. On the inside where it counts. If you want me to leave, or you don’t want to do this, that’s okay.”

 

Seven looked up at B’Elanna, seeing the flickering candle flames in her dark eyes…deep pools of warmth and caring. “I wish to continue.”

 

“Here then, let me help you.” She led Seven to a small stool and had her sit down. She knelt and removed her soft brown suede boots. She removed Seven’s blouse and folded it neatly, placing it on the floor. She had Seven turn and unclasped her bra, drawing it off her shoulders. Seven turned to face her and B’Elanna swallowed hard at seeing the creamy mounds tipped with coral. She had a strong desire to kiss them, to taste them, and mentally shook herself. “Stand up.”

 

Seven stood and B’Elanna undid the tie that held her pants up and slid them down her legs. Seven stepped out of them and B’Elanna folded them, placing them on top of the blouse. She trembled a little as she removed the white cotton panties, catching a glimpse of the neat golden triangle, and a faint whiff of Seven’s essence. She closed her eyes briefly and fought to contain her decorum, before quickly standing to distance herself from temptation.

 

She couldn’t help but let her gaze travel the length of Seven, noticing the small silver star shaped implant gleam above Seven’s left breast and thinking, A kiss from the stars. She could barely make out the faint scarring left by the removal of her abdominal implants. Seven’s left hip had another star shaped implant and her right leg, above the kneecap, held an area of mesh.

 

B’Elanna swallowed hard, her neck muscles visibly moving, and she said almost in reverence, “Kahless, you are unbelievably beautiful.”

 

She heard a whispered, “Thank you.”

 

“Here you go, just sit in the tub and let me take care of you.”

 

Seven stepped into the tub and sat down, her back stiff. B’Elanna retrieved a nearby sponge and soaped it before kneeling on the floor mat by the tub. Seven had left her hair up so it would not get wet. She stroked Seven's shoulders and back with the sponge, noticing the two implants below her shoulder blades. These were used to draw power from the alcove when regenerating. She washed gently over them and midway down her back. Next, she moved forward slightly, took Seven’s left arm, and gently moved the sponge across her wrist and hands, cleaning the mesh. She moved up past the juncture where her Borg arm was attached, gently cleaning the upper arm and shoulder.

 

She soaped the area above her be’nal’s breasts, noticing the areolae pebble and the coral nipples harden. She tried not to stare as she felt the stirrings of arousal and chastised herself, No. This is not the place or time. She trusts you…don’t betray that trust.

 

She swallowed hard and clearing her throat, said, “Seven, turn a little bit and give me your right hand. You know, this is a very old custom. Some Klingons still perform this ritual. The bath is prepared with special salts that coat the skin and aid in the healing of wounds, should the warrior receive any. The bath is usually done in a large tub in front of the family hearth, which always had a fire going. The fire represents the warmth and love that the warrior’s family and spouse feel for him or her. Since I don’t have a hearth, I used candles.”

 

Seven was silent and B’Elanna glanced at her seeing the half lidded eyes and parted lips through which she could hear the breath escaping in quick puffs. B’Elanna observed the slight heaving of Seven’s chest. She is aroused. B’Elanna felt a jolt of arousal in her belly and core, but squashed it down and softly said, “Lean against the back of the tub, I need to get your feet and legs.”

 

Seven did so and B’Elanna lifted her right leg and started cleaning the bottom of the right foot. This caused Seven to squirm and to B’Elanna’s amazement, she actually giggled.

 

B’Elanna grinned. “Ticklish are you? I’ll try to be more careful.” She soaked the sponge again and traveled up Seven’s calve and shin, then to her knee and slightly above. She tried to avoid looking at Seven’s groin, but did catch a quick glimpse of a patch of pale hair that made her breathing stop for a brief moment. “Here, let's do the other leg and then I’ll help you out.”

 

She finished the bathing and said, “There, all done.” She stood and grabbed the nearby towel and turned to see Seven stand, causing B’Elanna to suck in her breath as the rivulets of water ran down her be’nal’s body, glistening gold and silver in the candle light.

 

“Gods, you are beyond beautiful” Did I say that? B’Elanna quickly said, “Step out now and I will dry you off.”

 

Seven did so and B’Elanna dried her, starting with her shoulders and torso, and then moving down her legs, trying to control her urge to growl. “Turn around.” B’Elanna dried her back, noticing the womanly swell of well-shaped buttocks atop beautiful long legs. She quickly gathered the terry cloth robe she had replicated for Seven and draped it around her shoulders. Seven put her arms through the armholes and turned. B’Elanna reached for the tie and came nearer, taking in the clean warm scent and feeling the heat radiate from Seven’s body. A low growl escaped her that she quickly covered by clearing her throat. “There, now let’s go to the bedroom. I have your outfit all ready.”

 

 

x

 

Seven felt slight shivers and warmth infuse her as well as a feeling of breathlessness, and there was a fluttering sensation in her stomach and a tingling in her groin. She quickly accessed her cortical node for information pertaining to this phenomenon and finding it, realized, I am aroused. When first entering the bathroom to bathe, she felt trepidation. B’Elanna would find her repulsive, then amazement and joy as B’Elanna undressed her and told her she was beautiful. She did not doubt B’Elanna’s sincerity; she could hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes.

 

Then the bathing, B’Elanna’s gentle touches, the way she stroked the sponge up and down her body, and the caressing sound of her voice. Seven knew then what the term ‘sensual’ meant. She had read about this when she studied Lesbian sexuality. But reading and experiencing were universes apart. Now, she was experiencing it first hand and feeling its power and lure.

 

B’Elanna handed her a pair of briefs and a Starfleet issue athletic bra. Seven quickly put them on and B’Elanna handed her the Velocity outfit. Seven donned it and B’Elanna picked up her shoes and said, “Sit on the bed and I will put them on for you. I know this outfit isn’t armor, but that’s okay, it is being worn by a warrior…and that makes it a warrior’s armor.” Seven sat on the edge of the bed and B’Elanna slipped the shoes onto each foot and secured them.

 

She stood and sat down close beside Seven, searching her face, before saying, “I want to tell you something--Seven, what you are doing, well…I just want you to know I think you are the most generous and unselfish person I have ever known.” B’Elanna placed her hand on Seven’s left cheek and looked into her eyes. Seven noticed that her eyes were soft and melting. “Seven. After this is over and we have Miral back--I would like you to consider…staying with me…us, and making this a real marriage…a real home. I’ll not pressure you and I’ll give you time to adjust.”

 

“Explain.” Seven knew she sounded too abrupt. She then stated, softly this time, “You wish to make our marriage valid? Do you have…feelings for me beyond friendship?”

 

“Yes, Seven, I do. I love you. Not just as a friend, but more. I would like for you to be my lover, my be’nal, and a mother to Miral.”

 

Seven felt a joy so great she thought she would burst. She smiled fully and felt her right eye tear. She swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump in her throat, and managed to say, “I love you B’Elanna Torres. My love also goes beyond that of just friendship. I love Miral as well. I too would like for our marriage to be… real…for you to be my wife…my be’nal…in everyway.”

 

B’Elanna leaned over with tears in her own eyes, and said in a breaking voice, “Oh Seven, my be’nal, bang’wI,” before she placed a soft kiss on Seven’s lips, feeling their warm satiny softness start to open to her.

 

They were interrupted by a call from the Captain. “B’Elanna, It is time. I will contact Seven--”

 

“She’s here with me, Captain. We’re on our way.” She stroked Seven’s cheek softly and gave a tender smile that reflected in her eyes and voice. “Let’s go get our daughter, bang’wI.”

 

Chapter Eight

 

Seven stood under the awning with B’Elanna, Janeway, Tuvok, Tom, The Doctor, and Major Nava. Major Nava provided the awning for Voyager’s crew. It was erected in the pale turquoise grass on the edge of a slightly concave round area some 110 feet in diameter. There were large groups of spectators on either side of the awning. Major Nava had stationed several of her Pride members around the immediate area of the awning to keep the crowd back.

 

Directly across from them was a large stand covered with a green and gold awning. It too had large crowds of spectators on either side. Seven could see around thirty followers of the Temple Cothar, dressed in green robes and capes, seated under the awning. In the middle of the stand was a dais on which was seated the High Priestess and three other priests of the order. The noonday sun reflected off their gold and silver encrusted robes and vestments. There was a slight shifting on the dais and a figure holding Miral appeared and took a seat by the High Priestess. Seven heard an intake of breath and felt B’Elanna grab her right arm and squeeze as she uttered, “Miral!” Seven placed her hand over B’Elanna’s and gently squeezed.

 

A stout male figure, in blue, strode into the middle of the arena. Major Nava said, “He is the Master of Contests. He will call the combatants forth and read them the rules and officiate over the contest.”

 

Seven listened as the figure spoke in a loud voice, “As decreed by the Ancient Laws of Barzuz, this contest is to decide the rightful guardians of the child known as Miral Paris.”

 

He looked toward Voyager’s awning and said, “Seven of Voyager. You shall come forward and stand before the people and the ones you have challenged for guardianship of this child.”

 

Major Nava looked at Seven and said, “Go and stand before him. He will then call for Temple Cothar’s Champion.”

 

Seven was quickly grabbed around the neck by B’Elanna who hugged her and whispered in her ear, “I have faith in you, bang'wI.”

 

She looked for a moment into B’Elanna’s warm eyes and said, “I shall not fail.” She walked briskly to the center of the arena, where she stopped some three feet away from the Master of Contests.

 

He nodded to her and then turned toward the platform that held the contingent from Temple Cothar. “Temple Cothar. Your guardianship of the child, Miral Paris, has been challenged. The challenger, Seven of Voyager, wishes to settle this with the honorable tradition of combat. Do you wish to relinquish the child to the challenger without combat?”

 

The High Priestess stood and in a disdainful voice stated, “We do not. We wish to decide this matter by combat. Our Champion is Baratel.”

 

“Send forth your Champion, Baratel.”

 

The wall of priest and guards parted and a male of medium height and build strode forth. He wore a formfitting sleeveless outfit of green, and his feet were bare. As he got closer, Seven could see that he was fit and well muscled. He stopped some three feet from Seven and his eyes met hers. They were bright green and his gaze did not waver.

 

The Master of Contests cleared his throat to get their attention. However, Seven continued to lock eyes with Baratel. She felt no trepidation. Instead, she felt a cold hard anger take her that this man would stand here and defend the kidnapping of a child. She allowed all she felt to show in her stare. He is flawed. Weak. I am Borg. I am superior. I shall prevail. She noticed with some satisfaction that his eyes widened for a moment as if in shock.

 

“Seven of Voyager, and Baratel, Champion of Temple Cothar, you may use any form of fighting as long as there is no use of weapons. You will begin at the sound of the gong.” The Master of Contests stepped back, his left hand raised, and then he dropped it.

 

The gong sounded and Seven immediately launched herself into a flying drop kick at her opponent’s solar plexus. It was done so quickly that the Temple Champion was taken by surprise. He was sent several feet back but managed to maintain his balance. Seven again attacked with a round kick to his left side. However, her opponent was ready for her. He blocked the kick with his left arm and counter attacked with a round kick to her left side. She partially deflected it with her left arm and did two quick kicks to his torso. He was seasoned, however, and easily blocked them.

 

He moved quickly, feinting with his feet and stiff-armed her with a solid blow with the heel of his right hand to her forehead. She staggered back and he moved in with a flurry of kicks and punches. She blocked many of the blows, but a few managed to get through.

 

Closer, I must move in closer, and get him in a body or headlock. She lunged forward, tackled him about the waist, and pushed with all her strength. He fell and she fell with him. They tussled on the ground and separated, both springing to their feet at the same time.

 

He landed a hard blow with his foot to her right shoulder, causing her to feel a knifing pain and then numbness where his hit landed. She rushed in close again. This time he was prepared for her and side stepped, grabbing her by her hurt shoulder and twisting her around to connect solidly with his fist to the back of her head and a punch to her back, which forced the air from her lungs. She gasped to draw in air and tried to move away. He kicked out and hit her squarely in the left kneecap. She felt the cap break. He swung his left leg out and hit her behind her knees. She fell and he immediately pounced onto her.

 

She felt his hands wrap around her throat and close over her windpipe. Black spots danced before her eyes and the sound of her blood rushed in her ears. She feebly tried to remove his hands from around her neck. No. I will not accept this. I will not let them keep Miral. I will not let B’Elanna down. She extended her tubules and felt them brush against his hand in search of a place to enter. They skittered on his hand and wrist until they found the soft under side of his right wrist; they plunged into the large artery. She used her cortical node to instruct that only the pre-assimilation nanoprobes be used, the ones that briefly paralyzed the subject and kept them from ripping the tubules from their necks and prevented them from escaping the grasp of the drone prior to full assimilation. They would be just as effective entering the body here as in the neck.

 

Seven felt the pressure around her neck lessen, allowing her to draw in a sharp and full breath, her sight clearing. She watched as his eyes glazed over and his body sagged. He fell off her and over to one side, paralyzed.

 

Seven staggered to her feet and almost collapsed as she felt the intense pain in her left kneecap. She looked down at her opponent and then turned to the stand, which held the stunned members of the Temple of Cothar, and declared loudly, “I have defeated your Champion. Return the child to us, as is the law.”

 

There was murmuring from the stand. The High Priestess shouted, “You have cheated. You used a weapon. This match is forfeited to us.”

 

“No,...”she extended her tubules and held up her left hand for all to see, “this is a part of my physiology as your hand and fingers are a part of you. I am Borg.”

 

There was a collective intake of breath from the spectators as well as the sounds of fear and excitement. “Borg!” “She is Borg!” “Gods, help us.” She noticed that many spectators were fleeing the area in panic.

 

Seven continued to let her tubules wiggle and snake around. Even from this distance, she could see the fear and the loathing on the face of the High Priestess. The armed temple guards shifted uneasily, their movements showing their uncertainty and fear.

 

After a moment the High Priestess said, “We concede. You have won. The child is yours. Take her and leave quickly. Do not come back. You are an abomination and I will order your death if you step foot on this planet again.”

 

Seven withdrew her tubules, looked over at B’Elanna, and smiled. B’Elanna ran up to her, hugged her quickly, and ran across the arena floor to the raised dais of Temple Cothar. Tom and the Doctor following closely behind her. Seven watched as B’Elanna jumped up on the dais and took Miral from the arms of a priestess, who readily gave the child up. Seven saw her hug the child tightly. B’Elanna stepped off the dais where she was met by Tom and the Doctor. Temple medics were already kneeling by the prone body of their champion. He would recover in a few minutes when the nanoprobes ceased to function.

 

Captain Janeway stepped up to her. “You’re hurt Seven. The Doctor will be here as soon as he checks Miral and beam you to Sick Bay for treatment.” She then patted Seven’s left shoulder, giving her a lopsided smile, and said, "Well done."

 

Seven did not answer; her eyes were riveted on B’Elanna and Miral. B’Elanna was hurrying back to her. Seven limped forward a few feet, determined to meet them. B’Elanna walked up to her, holding a crying Miral, the excitement too much for the child. B’Elanna’s tears were freely flowing down her cheeks as she used her free arm to hug Seven and chokingly say, “Thank you, thank you...” Seven held her close with her left arm.

 

Tom had followed closely behind B’Elanna and seeing the two women together, said to Seven, “Thanks, Seven. You’re the bravest person I know--and the best.” He looked at B’Elanna and then back at Seven. “B’Elanna deserves the best, and so do you. I’m happy for you both.”

 

Seven inclined her head and said, “Thank you.”

 

The Doctor came up, ran his medical scanner up and down Seven’s body, and said, “A few contusions, broken right shoulder blade, and a fracture of the left knee cap. We’ll beam you up to Sick Bay and have you up and about in no time.”

 

Seven said, “Is Miral injured? Is she in good…health?” She would destroy the whole temple if they had harmed the child.

 

The Doctor smirked. “To quote you, ‘She is operating within normal parameters.’ She has been well taken care of. Now, let’s beam up to Sick Bay so I can get you treated.”

 

B’Elanna said, “I’m going with her.”

 

The Doctor hit the comm-badge and said, “Four to beam up to Sick Bay.”

 

x

 

Chapter Nine

 

x

 

The Doctor put aside his bone knitter, gave a smug smile, and said, “As good as new. You’re free to go. Try to duck the next Tsunkatse moves thrown your way.”

 

Seven smirked. “I will comply.” She got up from the table and looked at B’Elanna questioningly, feeling suddenly shy and awkward.

 

B’Elanna smiled and said, “Why don’t you come back with me to my quarters and rest? I’ll fix us something to eat and cool to drink. I need to see if Miral is hungry. I don’t know when she last ate. I want to get her out of these priest robes and put her in something comfortable. Honestly, priest robes on a child--”

 

Seven inclined her head. “Acceptable.” Miral stretched out her arms to Seven and B’Elanna handed the baby to her. Seven held the child in her left arm and Miral put her arms around her neck and head on her shoulder. B’Elanna took Seven’s right hand and they left Sick Bay together.

 

On the way to B’Elanna’s quarters, they passed a few crewmembers that did a double take when seeing the clasped hands and the child resting happily in Seven’s embrace. However, the majority smiled, and said, “Glad everything turned out fine. Way to go, Seven,” or something similar.

 

They entered the quarters and B’Elanna took Miral from Seven to change her clothes. “Seven, why don’t you go and bathe while I change Miral’s clothes. I’ll lay out some clean clothes for you and replicate something light to eat.”

 

Seven nodded and entered the bathroom, quickly removing her shoes and peeling off her soiled Velocity suit. She shook out her hair, which had come out of its bun during the fight. She entered the sonic shower and set it for high. She was tired and needed to regenerate for a few hours, or perhaps she could sleep. While it was a little after noontime on the planet they left, it was close to twenty two hundred hours on Voyager.

 

After a few minutes in the sonic shower, she exited, finding a brush on the counter by the sink, she brushed her hair free of snarls. She did not have any pins and would have to leave it down. She saw B’Elanna had placed clothing for her on the stool. She unfolded them, seeing that they were a long nightshirt in ice blue, and a pair of matching slippers. B’Elanna had also included the terry cloth robe she had given her earlier for the ritual bath. Apparently, B’Elanna had plans for her to stay the night. Hopefully, to share B’Elanna’s bed.

 

Her heart pounded hard in her chest when she recalled B’Elanna’s words prior to the fight. B’Elanna wanted to make this a ‘real’ marriage. She wanted her not only as a wife but also as a lover. Both wife and lover indicated that their marriage would include the physical aspects did it not? She would do whatever B’Elanna wished. Her wish was B’Elanna would initiate the physical aspect. She would willingly participate.

 

She finished dressing and went out into the living area, where she observed B’Elanna at the dining table, and Miral in her highchair drinking from a sippy cup. B’Elanna looked up and seeing her, said, “I replicated a cup of chicken noodle soup for each of us and lime Jell-O for dessert. I thought something light would be more in fitting with the day we've had, and the lateness of the hour. If you want more, let me know, and I’ll fix whatever you want.”

 

Seven took her customary seat at the table and answered, “This is sufficient.” Surprisingly enough, she did feel hungry. As she ate, she observed B’Elanna feeding Miral Jell-O. B’Elanna had placed a small bowl of the green gelatin on the highchair tray but Miral appeared to be more interested in squishing it with her hands than eating it.

 

B’Elanna sighed. “Ok Sweetie, guess you’re not hungry and it is well past your bedtime. Let’s take a bath and get you tucked in.”

 

She picked Miral up out of her highchair and said to Seven, “Let me bathe her and I’ll be right back.” She made her way to the bathroom while Seven finished her meal.

 

B’Elanna soon returned and placed Miral in her bed. The little girl immediately started crying and attempted to crawl out of the bed. B’Elanna picked her up and Miral held tightly to her neck. B’Elanna brought the child back over to the table and sat down, rocking back in forth. “There now, everything is fine, momma has you.” She looked at Seven and said, “I believe she is insecure and still confused by what happened.”

 

Seven looked on with concern. “Do you require my assistance?”

 

“When she calms down maybe you can hold her while I take a bath?”

 

“I shall do so.”

 

Seven watched for several minutes as B’Elanna comforted Miral. There was something soothing in this and Seven felt warmed. B’Elanna was so gentle, not only with Miral, but with her. She recalled B’Elanna bathing her a few hours earlier and how very gentle and tender she was. She wondered how many people knew this about the Engineer. Most people watched what they said around her, afraid of her Klingon temper.

 

B’Elanna spoke softly to Miral, “Momma needs to take a bath." She tried to extricate Miral’s hold on her, but the child tightened her grip and whimpered. Seven got up out of her chair and knelt down by the chair B’Elanna was sitting in. She held out her arms for the child and smiled. “Miral, come let me hold you while your mother bathes.” Miral had her head on B’Elanna’s shoulder and glanced shyly at Seven for a moment. She then let go of B’Elanna and held out her arms for Seven, who took her and held her close. Miral put her arms around Seven's neck.

 

B’Elanna smiled tenderly, apparently touched by the sight of how much Seven cared for Miral, and how much the child trusted and loved Seven. She left to take her bath while Seven walked around the small living room to comfort the child. Miral yawned and Seven knew she would soon fall to sleep.

 

B’Elanna returned and Seven noticed the soft rose-colored nightshirt she was wearing and how it complimented her rich caramel skin tones. B’Elanna stopped in the doorway between the bedroom and the living room, and smiled at Seven. She walked up to her and whispered, “I think you can put her down now.”

 

Seven went over to the small bed and gently put the child in it. She kissed the top of her head and then B’Elanna kissed Miral’s head and tucked her blanket around her. B’Elanna stepped a few feet away and said, “Computer, lights to night standard.”

 

B’Elanna did not hesitate to take Seven by the hand and lead her to the bedroom.

 

Seven noticed that the lights were low and there were several lit candles scattered about. B’Elanna stopped by the side of the bed and turned to face her. She still clasped Seven’s hand and then took her other hand, and stepped close, their bodies almost touching.

 

B’Elanna looked long into her eyes, and Seven fell into the warm liquid gaze and leaned forward, placing her lips against B’Elanna’s in a tentative kiss. B’Elanna let go of her hands and then slid them around her neck and pulled her close, the kiss now firm and hot.

 

Seven felt the room spin and B’Elanna guided her onto the bed and straddled her waist, never breaking the kiss. She felt B’Elanna’s tongue flick against her lips, causing her to open her mouth to receive a deeper kiss. Seven put her arms around her wife, bringing her fully against her body, feeling the half Klingon’s higher body temperature. She shivered, both from nerves and from arousal.

 

B’Elanna broke the kiss and searched Seven’s face, with eyes half-lidded and dark shinning pools of emotion, before softly saying, “Seven. I love you. If you have any…doubts…please, bang’wI, tell me now.”

 

Before Seven could answer, there was a frightened and high-pitched cry from Miral in the living room.

 

B’Elanna rolled off Seven and onto her back, flinging her right arm across her eyes for a moment. “I’ll see to her and be back.”

 

She hurriedly left the bed and Seven heard her soothing the child. After a few minutes, Miral was quite and B’Elanna returned, but before she could join Seven, Miral again started to cry.

 

“She has never done this before. Being taken from me has gotten her upset.”

 

“Bring her in here, B’Elanna. Perhaps being with us for a little while will calm her.”

 

B’Elanna left the bedroom and returned with Miral. Seven had scooted up and was leaning against the headboard, and held out her arms for the child, B’Elanna handing Miral to her.

 

B’Elanna joined them, leaning against the headboard beside Seven. “I’m sorry.”

 

“There is nothing to be sorry for. Miral needs you. I understand she is your first priority, as she should be.”

 

B’Elanna smiled. “You are so giving and understanding. I must have done something good in my life to deserve having you in it.”

 

“You are honest, truthful, loyal, kind, and giving to your friends. And you have faith and trust in me.” Seven slid off the headboard and onto her pillows holding Miral against her chest, B’Elanna settling beside her and drawing up the covers around them.

 

They were silent for a moment and Seven said teasingly, “Besides, you were at the top of my list of prospective mates. You are…Ms. Right.”

 

B‘Elanna chuckled and said, “You mean I beat out the Captain?”

 

“Correct. She was number two.” Seven paused before saying, “You will always be number one in my heart and in my life.”

 

B’Elanna moved closer and Seven lifted her arm to allow B’Elanna to snuggle up against her. She put her head on Seven’s chest, beside Miral, and said, “And I intend to hold that place. Forever.”

 

x

 

Seven woke with a heaviness on her chest and a delicious warmth by her side. It was not yet morning watch and a quick glance at the chronometer on the bedside table showed that it was 02:10. She found her left hand resting on the warm back of Miral, who had her head on Seven’s bosom, her small right thumb stuck in her mouth. Seven realized that her right arm held a slumbering B’Elanna against her side. B’Elanna had her face turned toward her, breathing evenly from half opened lips, her right arm draped over Miral’s feet, and her hand resting lightly on Seven’s left thigh. Seven smiled and nuzzling B’Elanna’s hair thought, How could I have believed love to be irrelevant? Of all emotions, love is Omega. You have given me Omega, B’Elanna Torres. I have found what it means to belong--to be a family with you and Miral.

 

B’Elanna stirred and Seven felt her wife’s hand stroke her through the material of her shirt. She heard a groan and felt the moist warm breath on her collarbone replaced by soft lips. B’Elanna moved up and kissed her lightly on the mouth. The kiss deepened and B’Elanna growled. Seven felt B’Elanna leave her side and looked to see her wife leave the bed and bend over her to gently remove a sleeping Miral from Seven’s bosom. She carried the baby out to the living room, apparently, to her own bed.

 

B’Elanna quickly returned and flung her nightshirt over her head and onto the floor. Seven could see the well-toned body in the low light; see the firm breasts made riper by motherhood. She swallowed hard and held her breath as B’Elanna slid in and under the covers next to her. B’Elanna took her in her arms and kissed her, a growl coming from deep in her chest. “Stop me now if you don’t want this or I won’t be able to stop myself from loving you, from taking you, from making you mine.”

 

Seven closed the millimeter that separated their lips and firmly pressed her own lips against those of B’Elanna. She moaned and opened her mouth, inviting B’Elanna to take her very breath. She felt B’Elanna’s tongue slide between her lips and teeth and stroke her tongue. She felt this kiss make its way through her body, causing her heart to beat hard against her rib cage and felt it travel down to her belly and the heat shoot to her groin to ignite the very core of her. She literally ached for more than this kiss. She ached to devour this woman, to take her in and make her a part of herself. She had never felt such an intense emotional or physical hunger as this. She tore her mouth away and gasped, her voice raw with emotion, she said, “I want you B’Elanna. I want to be yours. I want you to be mine. Always and forever.”

 

B’Elanna growled and crushed her mouth to Seven’s. She nibbled down to her chin and kissed the cleft. She placed her open mouth on Seven’s throat, licked, and nibbled her throbbing neck vein. She moved her lips down to where her shirt collar was and ordered with a growl, “Take this off. I want to feel you against me.”

 

Seven sat up and reached for the hem of her shirt only to feel B’Elanna’s hands already there, pulling it up and over her shoulders and head and slinging it to one side. B’Elanna pressed the whole length of herself against her be’nal. Seven’s skin was on fire where their flesh met. She heard a moan and realized it was her own. She felt B’Elanna’s teeth and mouth devour her mouth. This felt so right. She felt B’Elanna slide her mouth over to her left cheek, her teeth rasping against her flesh, then felt the quick sting of pain as her be’nal bit her, and heard a guttural growl from B’Elanna, and an echoing one from deep within her own chest. Seven felt a jolt of arousal so intense that all pain quickly fled only to leave behind the deep need to connect to her love in the most primal way. She was pulled into the fire of Blood Lust. There to consume, and to be consumed.

 

x

 

Chapter Ten

 

x

 

B’Elanna was pulled from a heavy slumber by a persistent high-pitched squeal, accompanied by thumps against the bedroom door. “Miral.” She reluctantly pulled herself from the warm embrace of her be’nal. She smiled and felt her heart pound hard in her chest. She even felt the faint beats from her second heart.

 

She put her hand up to her cheek, feeling the soreness from the bonding bite she had received from Seven sometime during their mating a few hours before. Gazing at her sleeping wife with her blond hair tousled and spread on the pillow, she immediately felt a surge of arousal and growled. Her nostrils flared as she drew in the distinct scent of Seven. She would now be able to identify her spouse by scent. There was also the heady scent of sex, and she went to reach for her wife, to mate again, when she was brought to her senses by Miral’s now outraged screams and persistent thumping at the door.

 

She sighed and slipped out of bed, finding a nightshirt she slipped it on, only to realize it was a little large for her. It was Seven’s. She went to the door and opened it, and looked down at a smiling Miral who gurgled, “Ma” holding up her arms for B'Elanna to pick her up.

 

She picked Miral up and whispered, “Shhh, Sweetie pie, you’ll wake your momma Seven.”

 

“Her momma Seven is awake,” A voice declared from the bedroom.

 

Miral squealed and pointed toward the bedroom. “Seb.”

 

B’Elanna smiled and took the child into the bedroom where she noticed Seven had ordered the lights at half. She was wearing B'Elanna's nightshirt, and was reclined against the headboard, B’Elanna noticing that her be’nal’s breast strained erotically against the confines of the shirt’s material.

 

B’Elanna handed Miral to Seven, who promptly kissed and hugged the child. B’Elanna crawled up beside Seven and pulled the cover up over their legs. Seven was laughing and rooting around on Miral’s neck with her nose and nibbling her gently while saying, “Where is my sugar?” and causing Miral to squeal in laughter.

 

B’Elanna noticed the bite mark on her be’nal’s cheek with smug satisfaction. Seven was hers, truly hers. She had not only married the woman under Federation law, but also under the law of Barzuz. And now under Klingon law. The consummation that occurred last night was the final seal on all three marriages.

 

Seven drew back her head from the child, her nose scrunched up and her mouth in a frown and in a displeased voice, said, “You have defecated in your diaper.”

 

B’Elanna snickered and went out to the living room and got a clean diaper and some sanitary wipes. When she came back Seven handed Miral to her and said, “Now that she is walking perhaps we can commence with her potty training.”

 

“She is kinda young to be learning that yet. You need to at least wait another year."

 

“She shall learn quickly. She is, after all, your daughter. My research indicates that Klingon children are potty trained between twelve and fifteen months of age.”

 

B’Elanna finished with the diapering and Miral stood on the bed and flung herself onto Seven.

 

“Miral is only one quarter Klingon. Human children aren't potty trained until they are over two years old. You know, you might want to talk to Sam Wildman about the potty training. My understanding is that it’s not as easy as you think. Miral can be pretty stubborn.”

 

“Indeed. She inherited that trait from you.”

 

B’Elanna snorted and went to dispose of the dirty diaper in the bathroom and wash her hands. She went into the living room and retrieved a Flotter doll, which was a baby gift from Naomi, and one of Miral’s favorite toys. She returned to the bedroom and slid onto the bed by Seven’s side. She held out the toy to Miral. “Lookey here what I have, why it’s Flotter.” She danced the doll in front of Miral, who gurgled and slid off Seven’s lap and onto the bed. She reached for Flotter and B’Elanna placed the doll onto the bed at their feet. Miral scrambled down, grabbed the doll, and started playing with it.

 

B’Elanna took the opportunity to grasp Seven’s chin and turn her head to one side and examine the bite mark, checking it to make sure there was no sign of infection. She turned Seven’s head so she was now looking into the bright blue eyes. She placed both hands on Seven’s head below her ears and asked in a gentle voice, “Are you okay? I didn‘t hurt you did I? You know…last night?”

 

“No. You did not.”

 

“You must always tell me if I’m hurting you…when we make love,” B’Elanna softly said as she stroked tenderly over the bite on Seven’s cheek.

 

Seven turned her lips into B’Elanna’s palm, kissing it before replying, “You did not hurt me. Why would you think you have done so?”

 

“Well, I know it was your first time and I’m afraid that I may have been too…intense.”

 

Seven leaned over and tenderly kissed the bite mark on B’Elanna’s cheek and whispered into her ear, “I love your intensity. I wish to experience it many times.” She drew back and smiled, looking deep into B’Elanna’s eyes. “In fact, I plan on sharing such intensity with you later today.”

 

B’Elanna smirked. “Oh, you do, do you?” Just then, the doorbell chimed. B’Elanna rolled her eyes. “Who in Grethor is that this early in the morning?”

 

Seven smirked. “It is ten hundred hours.”

 

“Oh," B’Elanna said sheepishly. The chime sounded again and B‘Elanna sighed. “Computer, who is at the door?”

 

Captain Kathryn Janeway.”

 

B’Elanna jumped up, retrieved a robe draped over the bedroom chair, and sliding it on, said, “I’ll get it. She probably wants to check up on us to make sure we’re okay.” She went out into the living room. "Enter.”

 

Captain Janeway strolled into her quarters, and said, “Just checking to make sure everyone is doing okay.”

 

“We’re doing fine, Captain. I’m just about to fix breakfast, would you care to stay?”

 

B’Elanna noticed the Captain’s eyes widen and that they were fixated on the bite mark on her cheek. She then shifted her gaze to B’Elanna’s eyes, with a questioning look.

 

B’Elanna did not attempt to squelch her pleased look and smug smile. “Captain? Breakfast?”

 

“No thanks, B’Elanna. Another time maybe.” Janeway had no sooner stopped talking when Seven came out of the bedroom carrying Miral.

 

B’Elanna noticed Seven had donned the terry cloth robe she had replicated for her. B’Elanna also noticed Seven’s hair looked like she had been wallowing around in the bed all night. She tried not to snicker at the thought that they both had done considerable ‘wallowing’ last night. She knew her own hair must look like a rat’s nest.

 

“Captain Janeway,” Seven said, and stood by B’Elanna, putting her right arm around her wife’s shoulder while holding Miral in her left arm. Miral looked intently at Janeway and smiled in recognition. B’Elanna slipped her arm around Seven’s waist and pulled her more firmly against her side.

 

Janeway noticed the matching bite on Seven’s cheek and blushed. She recovered quickly and said, “Glad to see both of you, and Miral, looking good. I want both of you to take the next two weeks off. And that’s an order.”

 

Both B’Elanna and Seven said at the same time, “Thank you, Captain.”

 

Janeway smirked. “Well, if there is anything I can do for you two, just call.”

 

B’Elanna said, “Actually, Captain, there is.”

 

Janeway looked at her inquiringly.

 

“You can give Jenkins' quarters to someone else. Seven won’t need them. In fact, I can install her alcove in… our… bedroom,” she glanced at Seven and smiled. “In fact, from now on, these will be the Torres and Hansen quarters.”

 

Seven spoke up, “Incorrect.”

 

B’Elanna looked up at her, panic in her eyes. Oh no. Please no, she has changed her mind.

 

Seven said, “These will be the Torres quarters. The B’Elanna Torres, Miral Torres, and Seven of Nine Annika Hansen -Torres quarters.” She looked down and gave B’Elanna a megawatt smile. B’Elanna actually felt faint.

 

Captain Janeway smiled. “Duly noted. Now I have to attend to duty. Enjoy your time off.”

 

She went first to B’Elanna, hugged her, and then hugged Seven. “I wish both of you good fortune and the best that this universe has to offer. You both deserve it.”

 

“Thank you, Captain,” They both said in unison.

 

The Captain tickled Miral on the bottom of her foot, turned, and exited the Torres quarters.

 

Both women looked warmly into each other eyes until Miral started bouncing and complaining.

 

“Well, Seven of Nine Annika Hansen-Torres. How do banana pancakes sound?”

 

Seven smiled. “Acceptable.” She sat down at the table. Miral squirmed to get down, but Seven put her in her highchair.

 

B’Elanna placed two glasses of orange juice on the table and a small sippy cup of juice on the highchair tray. She went back to the replicator and brought two plates stacked with pancakes, and a small plate with a plain pancake and half of a banana for Miral.

 

Miral immediately picked up the banana, took a bite, and threw the rest at Seven, hitting her plate, and laughed. B’Elanna looked sternly at Miral and exclaimed, “Miral, no! We do not do that.”

 

Seven lifted her left eye implant and wryly said, “I see she has also inherited that trait from you.”

 

B’Elanna looked across the table through narrowed eyes and said in mock severity, “Hey, I never throw food, but if you don’t watch it, I will practice an old Klingon custom of throwing whatever is handy at the moment at your head, including the plates and chairs.”

 

Seven smirked and replied, “That custom traditionally takes place before the mating ritual. Which, as you recall, was performed very early this morning.”

 

B’Elanna gave a sappy smile and replied, “Hmm, bang’wI, I could never forget that.” She then sighed in contentment.

 

Seven looked at her and said, “I think we should spend the rest of the morning at the ‘Petting Zoo’.”

 

B’Elanna looked at her in surprise. “Well, okay. If that's what you want to do.”

 

“It is not. However, that activity will have the effect of insuring Miral has sufficiently depleted her energy. She will require an extended nap when we return to our quarters. This will provide us with sufficient time which we can utilize for…more enjoyable… activities that we may perform together.”

 

B’Elanna’s grin stretched from ear to ear and she enthusiastically replied, “Be’nal, I like the way you think. No. I ‘love’ the way you think. But can you get the holodeck time?”

 

“Yes. Holodeck one is always reserved at this time for Mr. Paris. He shall give this time to his daughter. In exchange, I will give him some of my replicator rations. He has offered to trade in the past.”

 

“And if he doesn’t want to trade or give up his time?”

 

“I am Borg. Resistance is futile.”

 

B’Elanna grinned and wagged her eyebrows up and down. “Oooh, don’t I know it.”

 

Seven smirked and said, “I have another reason for choosing the ‘Petting Zoo’.”

 

“Another reason? Go on, tell me.”

 

“We shall visit the ice cream stand and you shall procure for me a cone of chocolate ice cream. You may wish to procure a cone for yourself.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Indeed. I have researched the beneficial effects of chocolate. It is reputed to have an aphrodisiac affect and to increase one’s libido. You shall need those benefits for what I am planning for you later in the day.”

 

B‘Elanna barked out a laugh and leered at Seven. “Believe me bang’wI; I don’t need the aphrodisiac effects of chocolate, or for that matter, anything else. Being with you is aphrodisiac enough.”

 

“We shall see.”

 

B’Elanna got up from her seat, went around the table, and sat on Seven’s lap. She placed her arms around Seven’s neck, drew her head to her and kissed her soundly on the lips, before saying, “Indeed, bang’wI, we ‘shall’ see.” She kissed her again, feeling Seven open her mouth and return the kiss, this time for much longer. B’Elanna drew back slightly, separating their lips, and said, “On that you can depend…Mrs. Hansen-Torres.”

 

THE END