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

This story takes place in the middle of the sixth season. There has been some deviation from canon: B'Elanna dumped Paris in the fifth season. I added a fictional account of her history after leaving Starfleet Academy, and how she met Chakotay. Seven's emotional development is closer to what it was at the end of the seventh season. ‘Vulcan Love Slave’ is a holo sex program mentioned several times in ‘Deep Space Nine’ and various Trek novels.

 

Your Love is an Oasis

by Cygirl1

 

 

Voyager glided quietly and majestically on her long journey home to the Alpha Quadrant. Her silhouette outlined by the violets, purples and blues of the nebula, gave one the impression of a night creature, perhaps an owl, returning from the hunt, in an early dawn sky. Captain Janeway stood behind the helm and gazed with the discerning eyes of a scientist at the nebula's image on the view screen.

Tom, reduce speed to warp four. I want our instruments to make detailed readings,” she said and then returned to her command chair, picked up a PADD from the console, and concentrated on the data received so far.

Unfortunately, this nebula, like the Mutara Nebula, stood in the direct path of Voyager's route to the Alpha Quadrant. The radiation levels were much higher than the previous nebula's, thus preventing Seven of Nine from monitoring ship's systems while the crew was placed in stasis. Seven’s remaining Borg implants would not be able to protect her for the four-day journey required to reach the other side. Their holographic C.M.O, better known as the Doctor, was out of the question. The radiation would severely damage his matrix. The only option left was to detour around it. The good news was that it would only add three weeks to their journey.

"Captain, long range sensors have detected what appears to be a Borg signal at mark 255, 1.6 light years from our present position. Its location is the surface of a small asteroid," Tuvok announced, as he continued to study the information on his monitor.

Captain Janeway immediately placed the PADD she was purveying on the console of her command chair and ordered, "On screen."

"Captain, the signal appears to originate from a vessel. It is stationary and on a repeating pattern." Tuvok said in his evenly modulated voice.

Janeway tapped her com badge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."

"Seven here."

"Report to the Bridge at once."

"Yes, Captain. On my way."

Janeway briefly fingered her com badge and announced, "If this is a disabled cube or sphere, we could get our hands on another transwarp coil."

Chakotay, seated in the first officer's chair, voiced his opinion, "This could be a trap."

Janeway dismissed his comment with a snort. "The Borg set traps? I doubt that. That's not their style. They have no need for deceit. They declare their intentions in a direct assault."

A 'swoosh' was heard as the turbo lift doors opened and Seven of Nine stepped out of the lift and onto the upper level, and proceeded quickly down the step, to stop in front of Janeway's chair. Standing straight, with her hands behind her back, she regarded Janeway with her cool Borg stare and inquired, "Captain, you wished to see me?"

Janeway ran her eyes quickly over the long form of her astrometrics officer, noticing how the blue of her biosuit complimented her blond hair and ice blue eyes. "Seven, we may be able to get our hands on a Borg transwarp coil. We are receiving what appear to be Borg signals from a ship on a nearby asteroid. I want you to review the data Tuvok has and give me your analysis."

Seven tilted her head slightly to her left in acknowledgment, turned quickly, went to Tuvok's console, and started assessing the information. Her eyebrows rising in surprise, she quickly looked toward Janeway and informed her, "Captain, the Borg signature is one that was last utilized by the Collective 257.3 years ago. It is from experimental ship 561 which was supposedly destroyed 263 years ago in an early attempt to utilize technology that would open a small singularity for distant travel to various destinations in the galaxy."

Janeway again fingered her com badge and inquired, "In other words...travel through an artificial wormhole. What are the chances that the ship still has information and technology that we can salvage?"

Seven lifted her left eyebrow and stated, "That the technology necessary to open a singularity has survived this long is highly improbable. In the event the technology has survived, it would be incompatible with Voyager's systems. More so than the current problems that a Borg transwarp coil presents."

"We won't know until we try. I want you and B'Elanna to take a shuttle to the area and investigate. If there is technology and information, I want it brought back to the ship. Radiation levels are not so high at this distance from the nebula and should not pose a problem."

Seven nodded once. "Understood."

Before Janeway could dismiss her, Seven turned and headed toward the turbo lift. Janeway smiled wryly and thought, 'That's my Seven. On Voyager for almost three years and still ignores protocol.'

x

x

x

Both women were silent and intent on their tasks as the shuttle maneuvered between various sized asteroids to reach its goal. B'Elanna was piloting and Seven monitored the radiation levels emitted from the nearby nebula.

Ahead was their destination; a small asteroid that resembled a potato with its numerous potholes and elongated ovoid shape. It measured 16,000 yards long and 9,000 yards across.

B'Elanna had donned a Starfleet issue set of thigh length tight fitting black exercise pants, a blue tank top undershirt to wear under her environmental suit, and a black pair of sneakers, that would fit easily in the environmental suit's gravity boots.

Seven wore her black velocity suit and flat soled black velocity shoes.

B'Elanna's hands worked quickly on the shuttle’s controls. "Target in sight. I'll find a place to put down."

Seven did not acknowledge. Her attention was on the remains of the once spherical vessel, now severed in half, the other half nowhere in sight. The exposed walkways and corridors easily identified the sheared section.

Lieutenant, I would suggest that you land the shuttle by the section that is sheared. This would facilitate a more expedite entry into the sphere,” Seven said.

B'Elanna put the shuttlecraft down in a smooth area 25 yards from the vessel. Before leaving her seat to don her environmental suit, she looked out of the cockpit window and exclaimed with awe, "Would you look at that? Cut cleanly in half as if sliced by a knife through an apple. What could have done that?"

Seven's voice was cool and clipped. "Unknown. Perhaps we can discover the cause when we are aboard the vessel."

B'Elanna reached for her environmental suit and began stepping into it and adjusting the fit. She donned her backpack, which contained tools, and shrugged her shoulders to settle it.

Seven also donned her environmental suit and checked the readings on the cuffs of her glove. She reached for her helmet and put it over her head, attaching it onto her suit. She turned and spoke to Torres, her voice clear over the helmet's radio, "I will function as guide when we have entered the vessel."

Torres agreed, "Be my guest, Seven. Just give me enough warning to get the hell out if you see any of your Borg cousins."

"That is highly unlikely. My cousins reside in the Alpha Quadrant and have never been assimilated."

B'Elanna snorted in amusement. "I just don't want to run up against any drones."

"Your concerns are unwarranted. Scans indicate no life form readings."

Both women exited the Shuttle and made their way toward the derelict vessel. It looked to be approximately the size of Voyager's saucer section. Seven took tricorder readings of the hull and walked several yards until she came to an open area, and entered into the darkness, B'Elanna right behind her.

Both women turned on the lights attached to their wrists and helmets to illuminate the darkness. They were walking on what appeared to be a catwalk some five feet across. After several yards, Seven stopped and took tricorder readings. "I am detecting energy readings consistent with tachyon technology on section 2 corridor 5, level 8."

"This is your neighborhood, Seven. You lead the way."

Seven continued walking until she came to an incline that led up to the next level. Taking more readings, she continued up to the second level.

B'Elanna nervously gazed around her. Various conduits and metal pipes hanging loosely from the ceiling looked similar to Borg arms and limbs. Catching them out of the corner of her eyes gave the illusion that they were moving. The enhancing of the illusion was the result of the faint, eerie, greenish glow, of apparently active Borg equipment. 'Great, a haunted Borg ship. Just keep repeating,' "I ain't scared of no ghost."

"I assure you, Lieutenant, no residual energy remains from the deceased drones."

"Hey, Borg. I wasn't talking to you," B’Elanna said sneeringly.

"Perhaps your suit's communicator is malfunctioning."

"Nothing like that. Talking to one's self is a human thing. Not that you would know anything about that," B’Elanna said derisively.

"What purpose does it serve?"

B'Elanna could not come up with a reply and curtly answered, "Drop it, Borg. You can ask the Doc later."

"You are implying that talking to one's self is a medical condition?"

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "No. But you may need the Doc's services if you don't SHUT UP."

Seven raised her left eyebrow while giving B'Elanna a measuring look. She then turned away, and proceeded to walk.

After steadily climbing upward for a while, Seven stopped. She shined her wrist light on a recessed area of the bulkhead and moved her tricorder up and down over the area, reading the results then replacing the instrument back on her utility belt. Even with gloved hands, she quickly and efficiently entered a code into the wall pad. A panel opened to reveal an oblong luminous canister. Seven again used her tricorder to scan the device.

B'Elanna walked up to Seven's side to study the object. "If this is what we're looking for, let's get the damn thing and head back to Voyager."

Seven removed the tricorder and began tapping information into it. "Lieutenant, I suggest we do not disturb this...device, until further study."

B'Elanna sighed dramatically and looked at the Borg through her faceplate. "What's the matter? This device is what we came to get isn't it?"

Seven scanned the wall and area surrounding the device. "I am detecting an anomalous energy signature surrounding the device. Until we determine the origin and nature of the signature, we should not disturb the device."

B'Elanna also scanned the device and surrounding area with her tricorder. "Anomaly? This looks like the decayed trace remnants of tachyon energy to me. It's certainly not anything to get your nanoprobes in an uproar over. Besides, I don't have time to wait for you to analyze every mote of dust in here. I have to get back to Voyager and run diagnostics in engineering." She stepped up to the coil and placed both hands on the object. An intense blue light shot from the device, enveloping both women, and they vanished.

x

x

x

Harry Kim gazed intently at his monitor and blinked in surprise. "Captain, I read a high energy tachyon pulse originating from the coordinates where Seven and Lieutenant Torres are located." He paused to review the information now presented, looked up and announced to the Captain, "It has now dissipated."

Captain Janeway briskly ordered, "Contact the away team, Mr. Kim."

A few seconds passed and Harry Kim, his fingers moving rapidly over his station's com pad, replied without looking up, "I have hailed them, Captain, but they are not responding."

Tuvok calmly replied from his station, "I am not detecting any life signs from the asteroid or signatures from their com badges Captain. The Shuttle remains on the surface. I have determined that the source of the tachyon pulse originated from the Borg vessel. It appears to have opened up a singularity for .75 seconds before dissipating."

Captain Janeway quickly rose from her seat and faced Tuvok, her features and voice stern, and ordered, "Tuvok, I want you and Lieutenant Paris to take a team to the asteroid and search the area, including the Borg ship. Get as much information as you can. I don't need to tell you to take extreme caution."

Tuvok nodding once and replied, "Right away, Captain."

x

x

x

"What the... Where the hell am I?" B'Elanna exclaimed excitedly. She tried to focus in the total darkness around her, her wrist light and helmet light were rendered non-functional. Suddenly, the lights were on again. She saw a beam of light slice the darkness from Seven's wrist light and sighed in relief. B'Elanna directed her wrist light to search the area.

Seven said in a precise voice, "It would appear that we are no longer on the Borg sphere that we were sent to investigate, but on another Borg sphere."

B'Elanna impatiently and sarcastically blurted out, "No kidding. Why I would have never guessed."

Seven looked at her tricorder, her eyebrows arched as if surprised. "We are indeed on the same Borg vessel. However, it is the other half of the vessel. I am reading a strong tachyon signature consistent with that of a singularity."

"You mean we’re in a wormhole?"

"Incorrect. We have passed through a wormhole that has terminated at this point. The singularity has dissipated."

There was silence for a few seconds before Seven heard an intake of breath through her helmet's communicator, and a concerned voice asked, "Tell me we're not stuck here? Wherever here is."

"I will have no answers until I can determine what has occurred, and, where...'here' is."

B'Elanna was about to reply when she noticed that Seven was removing her helmet. She shrilly blurted out, "What the hell are you doing you crazy Borg?" B’Elanna quickly realized that Seven’s removal of her helmet had no ill effect, and deduced that the vessel contained a breathable atmosphere.

Seven, briefly diverted her attention from her tricorder readings, and answered coolly, "I am attempting to conserve the environmental suit's energy and air. It may be required later. I suggest we refrain from utilizing the suit's heating or cooling unless absolutely necessary."

B'Elanna did not answer. Instead, she removed her own helmet and activated her tricorder. "The readings show that the air is very close to that of earth normal." She sniffed audibly. "It sure is musty in here. I'm just glad it doesn't smell like a Borg cube. Is this air being generated somewhere in the ship? I don't hear anything to indicate functioning machinery, nor feel anything. It's just silence and stillness." 'Like a tomb'. She mentally shivered.

"There are no indications that any of the systems remain functional." Seven tapped in information on the tricorder pad. "We are on a planet, or other planetoid object, capable of sustaining life."

"How do you figure that?"

"Analyzes of the air content show minute pollen and spores from various plants. There are as well, other organic traces." Seven swept her wrist light over the deck. "In addition, there is a layer of dust and fine sand particles on the deck."

B'Elanna scanned the area around them, feeling a certain amount of alarm. "No energy. What about the wormhole device?” She took more readings and a few seconds later replied with some alarm, “Oh, no. I'm not detecting that device anywhere. If it is that device that got us here, why isn't it here with us?"

Seven looked at B'Elanna and answered, "Analyzes of the findings indicate that the device opened a singularity that terminated at this location. The singularity then collapsed." She quickly ran her tricorder over an object placed near an empty alcove. "This device appears very similar to the one on the asteroid. These devices positioned at various sectors in the galaxy opened a singularity. In addition, they also functioned as a terminus point. One would have been placed a distance away from another. When one device was activated, it would open a singularity linked to another. When one wished to return, the initial device acted as the terminus. A succession of devices placed throughout the galaxy enabled the Borg to facilitate travel from one sector, or parsec, to another."

"That would take centuries to place these things throughout the galaxy."

"Lieutenant, time is irrelevant to the Borg. Apparently, one of the Sphere’s devices activated a singularity into which the ship entered. It appears the singularity collapsed before the entire ship could pass through, leaving part in the vicinity of the asteroid, and this part in the gravitational pull of this planet, where it crashed."

"That method to transverse space doesn't seem very efficient to me. They could have ended up anywhere in the galaxy."

"Indeed. If the destination were not to the Collective's advantage, the ship, or ships, would continue to open singularities until optimum locations were established. This method was inefficient, and was abandoned once we assimilated species 812, and could use a more efficient method, that of transwarp technology."

"So, the Borg aren't infallible after all?" B’Elanna wryly said.

"The Borg learn from their failings and attempt to perfect a more efficient method."

"Gee, well let's give them a big fat A for effort and an even bigger F for failure.” B’Elanna said facetiously. Then added, “Now, how do we get back? I'm not detecting any energy from this device."

"This device apparently has been rendered useless by our arrival here."

B'Elanna took a deep breath and expelled it slowly through her mouth, "Can we repair this thing?"

"Negative. It appears many of the components are fused. We would need to have a source of components to replace them, and an energy source to charge them."

"Surely there are components around somewhere we could use? Can we remove the power cores from our suits and phasers and use them?"

"Negative. The components would be stored near the device. I am detecting none of the essential components necessary to repair this device. The power from our suits and phasers would not be compatible."

B'Elanna growled in frustration, "Let's find a way out of here and see if Voyager is within hailing range."

"Your attempts at contacting Voyager will be futile. While on Voyager, I scanned the surrounding sector for M and L class planets. None were detected in the area."

B‘Elanna closed her eyes and said exasperatedly, "Great, that's just great. We're stuck the hell who knows where, with no food or water. Not knowing what's outside this ship. Damn it to hell, could it get any worse?"

"Indeed. We are fortunate that the air is breathable. The pollen in the air samples indicates this planet does support carbon based life. This fact alone establishes the presence of water."

"The question is what kind of life is waiting out there? I hope it’s not some giant Venus fly trap or walking mutant tomatoes?" 'Gee, I watched too many of Tom's old mid 20th century horror movies.'

Seven had a glint in her eyes and a small smirk at the corners of her mouth as she glanced at a frustrated B‘Elanna and said, "Perhaps."

x

x

x

"I want them found gentlemen. I'm not leaving here without them. Is that understood?" Janeway's voice held the bark and bite of command, as she stood by her conference room chair, hands on hips.

Tuvok, not fazed by the Captain's tone, reiterated again, "We have conducted a thorough search of the Borg ship, asteroid field, and surrounding area, Captain. The probes sent into the nebula do not detect any signs that they are inside. The device, which we believed opened the singularity, is no more than a container of fused parts. I have Engineering examining it. However, Vorik tells me the damage is too severe to effectively separate the various components that made the device operational."

Janeway took her seat, back stiff, and her jaw tightly clenched. "Mr. Kim. What are the results of the simulations you ran in the holodeck?"

Harry had a hangdog expression as he said nervously, “Ah...there is no way we can reconstruct the singularity in the holodeck to see where it terminates. I have run every scenario I know. Even using a holographic Borg transwarp coil. I can't open a singularity. If Engineering can reconstruct even part of the components of the device, I may be able to run diagnostics on them to help determine their function. Other than that, Captain, I don't know what else I can do."

Janeway’s features tightened and her command glare caused Harry to cringe.

Chakotay interceded drawing Janeway‘s immediate attention toward him, "Captain, I suggest we leave a communications marker in this area and move on. If they should return, it would transmit readings from their com badges."

Janeway glared at him for a moment, and then said, "We will hold station for 48 hours. I want every test we are capable of performing, no matter how insignificant, done to either locate them, find out how this singularity was created, and where this singularity ended."

She turned and looked at the EMH. "Doctor, I want you to go over any information you have on Seven's Borg Implants. Concentrate on the information you have on her cortical node. The Borg queen communicated with her over great distances in the past. See if we can somehow communicate with her. Ensign Kim can assist you. Perhaps her Borg Alcove has some feature that could be used to contact her."

"Aye, Captain," Harry answered.

"Very well, Captain," The Doctor replied.

Janeway closed her eyes for a moment and rubbed her brow, feeling the beginnings of a major headache. "If that is all...dismissed." Everyone exited but the Captain. She remained seated, her command mask slipping to reveal the worry in her eyes, her mouth turned down in a frown. 'I'm not giving up on you two. I will do all in my power to bring you both back here to Voyager.'

x

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x

"Damnation, Seven. How much longer until we find a way out? I'm roasting in here. It must be at least 200 degrees."

"99.2 degrees. Perhaps you are malfunctioning. My data on Klingon physiology show that Klingons have a high tolerance for hot temperatures."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "I'm only half Klingon. It wouldn't be so bad if I could take this suit off or turn on the cooling unit. I know. Have to save the energy in case we run into anything worse.” She then added with a slight edge to her voice, “I’m going to be really pissed off if we get out of here and it's a cool spring morning."

"I would advise against removing your suit Lieutenant. Tricorder readings indicate various insect life forms. Some may be venomous and a bite may prove toxic to humanoid physiology."

B'Elanna tried not to brush against any of the numerous spider webs among the Borg machinery. "How much of this ship do you estimate is buried beneath the surface?"

"Approximately 75.21 percent. We have only 400 yards to traverse before we come to an exit."

"At least this thing didn't crash into a sea or worse yet, at one of the poles. Are you sure we're in a desert? With all these insect webs I would think we're in a jungle."

"Tricorder readings show the presence of sand, heat, and low humidity. These factors, combined with the pollen count, indicate that we are in an arid and warm environment."

A rustling sound of wings in the hanging conduits and hoses above B'Elanna's head, startled her, and she and blurted out, "Bats!" She quickly put on her helmet.

Seven, seemingly unfazed, scanned the ceiling above her. "The creature is not mammalian, but an avian species. It appears to be harmless."

B'Elanna's voice, muffled by her helmet, said, "I'm not taking chances. You know bats like to fly into your hair and they carry rabies. Some are even bloodsuckers. Not that you have to worry about that. They aren't attracted to ice water." B'Elanna mentally patted herself on her back for coming up with that one. "Speaking of which, a big glass of ice water sounds good right now. I hope that we can find a source of water nearby. I hear dehydration is a bad way to die. I bet even you need water to survive. Unless those biosuits you wear recycle sweat and urine for drinking."

"Your memory appears to be faulty. I am wearing my velocity outfit under my environmental suit. It is standard Starfleet issue and has had no augmentation added to function as a biosuit. Urination and other bodily waste are unnecessary to the Borg. We do not derive our energy from the ingestion of organic matter. Our implants and nanoprobes cleanse our systems of contaminates and impurities."

B'Elanna huffed and said under her breath, "Figures. Bet you don't fart or belch either.” She saw what appeared to be a patch of light ahead of them and said excitedly, “Hey, is that light I see up ahead?

"Indeed. This exit should lead to the outside."

B'Elanna pushed herself ahead of Seven, in a hurry to get to the opening. Seven reached out her right hand and grabbed the impetuous woman's shoulder in an effort to halt her. "Lieutenant, caution is advisable."

B'Elanna snarled and jerked herself out of Seven's grasp. "Hey Borg, I'll look after my own ass and you look out after yours." She resumed her course, hurrying toward the bright opening, into which the light poured in. Instead of feeling cooler air from the outside, there was an increase in the temperature and the amount of sand and dust.

Seven followed at a more careful pace. She watched B'Elanna's quick progress, unheeding of the tangled mass of cables on the deck. At five feet from the exit she saw B'Elanna trip on a coil of cable and dive head first out the opening with a surprised cry. "Ahhh!"

Seven gingerly picked her way through the fallen cables and coils to the opening. Peering down, she saw one cable wrapped boot sole three feet below the opening, followed by the rest of B'Elanna, struggling to bend her body upward to grasp the cable and right herself. Seven reached down with her left hand, grabbed the booted foot, and quickly pulled the Lieutenant up and into the ship.

B'Elanna sat on the deck, breathing hard, with her eyes closed. Her helmet and backpack had fallen to the desert floor some 35 feet below. "Damn." B'Elanna brushed her hair out of her eyes and stood up facing Seven. "Thanks, Seven."

Seven appraised B'Elanna, looking for injuries. "Thanks are unnecessary, Lieutenant. You are a valuable member of Voyager's collective. Your death would result in a less than optimum functioning of Voyager."

B'Elanna snorted derisively. "Valuable member hmm? Coming from a Borg I guess that's high praise. I guess you would've left me dangling there if I weren't such a 'valuable member'."

"Negative. Voyager is my collective and all members function for the welfare of the whole."

"Hey, next thing you know, you'll be assigning us numbers. 1 of 20." She looked out the opening to survey the area. Pale light gold sand reflected the sunlight, almost blinding to look at for long. Heat rose in wavering sheets. "There is nothing but sand. Not even a dried up bush." She unzipped her suit to access the communicator pinned to her undershirt. "Voyager, this is Lieutenant Torres, do you copy?" She rapped her right index finger on the communicator, as if this would cause the device to function, and tried again. "Voyager this is the away team. Do you copy?" Her answer was silence.

Seven, using her enhanced left eye, gazed out across the desert. She accessed her infrared sight, searching for an area of violet or blue, which would indicate a cooler area that might be indicative of a water source or plant life. She saw only yellows and whites in shimmering sheets. She accessed her own communicator. "Voyager, Seven reporting." Receiving no reply, she informed B'Elanna, "Perhaps the composition of the ship or interference from the sun is preventing our com badges from functioning properly. We should wait until sunset and travel a distance from the ship and attempt communication."

"Good idea, Seven. Let's make a long enough line from all this cable to reach the ground."

Seven inclined her head in agreement and both women set about gathering enough cable to construct a makeshift rope to reach the desert floor. Seven began to tie the pieces together in a knot that wouldn't slip. B'Elanna searched for pieces of cable that would be thin enough and long enough to take with them. She found a one inch diameter cable, hanging from the ceiling, which she pulled down, dislodging debris and dust, which splattered her face and hair. "Ugh." She shook her head and pushed her fingers through her hair to try to rid it of the dust and debris, then continued to pull until the piece hung up. With a strong jerk, she dislodged it. She estimated that the piece was 60 feet long and gathered it up. She took it back to the front opening where Seven was working.

B'Elanna retrieved her phaser rifle, aimed at the middle of the cable, and cut it with a ruby beam. She wound each piece in a loop. She finished her task and sitting across from Seven, watched her knot the cable together. One thing she could say in the Borg's favor, she never minded getting her hands dirty, not even when required to work in the Jefferies tubes. B'Elanna had to admit that the Borg was brilliant and more intelligent than anyone else on the ship was. However, she acted so damned superior. Captain Janeway was always taking her side, too. The Captain's pet: Her golden haired wonder child. B'Elanna mentally shook her head to get back on task. 'What have we got ourselves into? It may be days or even weeks before help comes. No food or water. We won't last long without that. Especially water. I'm already thirsty. One glass of juice at breakfast isn't going to keep me hydrated long. What about Seven and her need to regenerate? What do we do about that?' "Uh, Seven, when do you need to regenerate?"

Seven did not look up from her task. "In 30.4 hours."

"What would happen if you can't regenerate? You know...if we're stuck here for awhile?"

"I would need to ingest nutrients and sleep."

B'Elanna thought about that for a minute. "We'll need to find a source of water and food. Water is the priority though. I'm not sure about you, but I can only go about two, maybe three, days without water, especially in this heat."

"Locating a source for potable water will be our first priority. If I fail to regenerate, my nanoprobes can sustain me for an additional 12 hours before I would require hydration.”

B‘Elanna thought for a moment and said, "Usually, where there is potable water there is something eatable, either animal or plant. It may be a good idea to travel by night when it's cooler than in the heat of the day. Our environmental suits can insulate us against the cold desert nights, and if needed, we can turn on the power in them to warm us. Heating them is less energy consuming than cooling them. I did manage to pick up some usable information in Old Sneezy's survival course while at Starfleet Academy."

Seven looked up from her task and inquired, "Old Sneezy?"

B'Elanna smirked, "Yeah. That is the nickname for my professor who taught survival courses at the academy. Seems he had allergies to various pollens and plant spores. Whenever we went out into the field, he always started sneezing."

Seven lifted her left brow for a moment and then said, "Ah...I understand how he acquired his... 'nickname'" Seven went back to her task and said, "We have approximately three hours until sunset."

B'Elanna tried to suppress a snicker. 'Yeah, 'nickname'...Ice Queen. Be nice, she kept you from breaking your neck.' B'Elanna cleared her throat and said, "Good. I think I'm going to take a nap. If you're unable to nap, I would advise you to rest. Wake me at sunset." With that, B'Elanna stretched out on the floor, resting her head on a coil of wound cable, and closed her eyes.

x

x

x

Seven scanned the horizon for a possible source of water. The light was failing and the desert was already starting to cool as evidenced by the orange seen in her infrared scan. She caught a glint of violet on the horizon in the northwest. She could approximate the distance to 36 miles. B'Elanna was right; it would be easier to travel by night, and out of the sapping heat of the sun.

Overhead, a moon was at half light, and on the east horizon, a large full moon was rising, reflecting a bright blue and green glow. Apparently, this moon had some type of atmosphere to reflect the sunlight more intensely than an airless moon. They would have no problem seeing at night. Not that it mattered to Seven. She could always access her night vision. However, it would make easier going for B'Elanna to have the moons' lights.

Seven knew that a source of water was a priority and if not found in the next two days, B'Elanna would perish. She would be able to survive a few days more before she too would succumb to dehydration.

She turned to B'Elanna, noticing that the smaller woman had put on her helmet with the faceplate open and was carrying the backpack, which contained her tools. B’Elanna also had a coil of cable over her right shoulder and a phaser rifle in one hand. Her hand phaser and tricorder were fastened to a utility belt around her waist.

Seven had her tricorder and a hand phaser attached to her utility belt, as well as a coil of cable over her left shoulder. Both women had discarded the heavy magnetic outer boots from their suits and wore only the light flat soled inner boots over their sneakers.

"Lieutenant Torres, my infrared sight has located a possible source of moisture to the northwest. I shall lead the way."

"Fine by me, Seven. Let's eat up some miles before sunrise."

Seven translated the term 'eat up' in relation to miles and quickly concluded that it met to acquire numerous miles toward the designated time or place. She put this away in her eidetic memory with the dozens of other connotations and euphemisms she had collected from various crewmembers.

They walked at a steady pace making no sound except for the squeaking their soles made indenting the desert sand. The planet's half moon was setting and the full moon appeared to be at its zenith. Stars in the thousands blinked and twinkled in bright whites, muted reds, and yellows. Distant suns and galaxies spun from the great galactic core to fill the void: A siren's call to past explorers eons ago on windswept seas, and now, and in ages to come, explorers that sail between the stars and into the unknown. One day the galactic center will call the stars home again: Only to be reborn, bursting from the fire of a new creation like the phoenix in Earth's myths. For the time being, neither Seven nor B'Elanna contemplated this great mystery in the sky above them.

B'Elanna was concentrating on ignoring the pain in her calves and Seven was mentally performing the logistics on which actions they should take to ensure their survival; based of course, on the data so far obtained. The heavens traveled their westward course. The half moon had set and the full moon was now a beacon in the west.

'Damn, she isn't even slowing down. I'll be damned if I let the Ice Queen outlast me.' A few more minutes and the fatigue and calf cramps caused B'Elanna to stumble and fall.

Seven stopped abruptly when she heard the steps behind her falter from their rhythmic beat. She turned to see B'Elanna fall to the sand, her helmet falling from her head and rolling on the ground. She quickly went to the smaller woman and knelt down beside her. Pulling B'Elanna's pack from her back, she inquired, "Lieutenant Torres. Are you injured?"

B'Elanna sat up, grabbing her right calf, and gave Seven a baleful look. "No. Just got some cramps in my calves. Guess I'm not used to walking this long."

"Can I assist you, Lieutenant?"

'Be nice. She saved you from falling and breaking your neck.' "Ah...No Thanks, Seven. I'll be OK in a few minutes."

"Perhaps we should rest. We have walked for nine hours." Seven sat down by B'Elanna and gazed back toward the east, the implant over her left eye rising in surprise. "Lieutenant, a nebula is rising. Perhaps it is the one where Voyager is located."

B'Elanna viewed the gaseous violet and purple cloud. It covered a good eighth of the eastern horizon. "Uhm, I don't think so. The shape is not the same."

Seven studied it by using different filters in her optical implant. "My infrared vision shows it to have the same spectrum as the other. You are correct; the shape is different. However, if you should reverse the shape, they are very similar. Perhaps it is the same nebula, but we are on the opposite side from it and Voyager."

B'Elanna studied the nebula again. "Perhaps you're right, Seven. Then Voyager's journey around it should bring her to this side in 3 weeks, depending on how fast they travel, and if they don't run into any problems. I'm sure Captain Janeway hasn't given us up for dead. She will be on alert for any Starfleet signatures, and should pick up signals from our com badges, once they clear any interference in the area surrounding the nebula."

"Captain Janeway is persistent and failure is not an option she will accept. She is a most determined and forceful individual."

"Is that your way of saying she's stubborn, Seven?"

"Is that not what I stated?"

B'Elanna laughed humorously, and replied in her best imitation of Seven, "Indeed." She thought she saw a quick flash of a smile and white teeth in the silver moon light. 'Naw, no way. The Ice Queen smile? Just a trick of the light.'

x

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Sand and more sand. With the sun rising at their backs, and already an inferno, Seven looked for a place to rest for the day. She estimated that they had gone 24 miles during the night. She knew B'Elanna would not be able to go on much further. The heat was in waves rising from the desert floor. There was nowhere to get out of the sun's cruel and sapping heat.

"Lieutenant, we should stop and attempt to rest until dusk. I cannot locate a source of shade. It would be advisable to utilize our suits cooling units to keep from dehydrating."

B'Elanna didn't refuse to turn on her cooling unit. She also activated her helmet's sun filter, and placing her backpack and coil of cable on the sand, laid her head on them.

Seven activated her sun filter, but found it impossible to sleep. Seven's keen sense of hearing picked up B'Elanna's even respiration, which indicated she had fallen to sleep. Seven stretched her body out on the sand. She knew she could not obtain sleep, and used this time going over the data she currently had on her most recent project: That of creating a transwarp coil that would get Voyager home. She pulled up her previous work from her eidetic memory. When they returned to Voyager, she would ask Lieutenant Torres to assist her. While it was true that she and Lieutenant Torres had an adversarial relationship, they were able to put this aside to work together on engineering problems. Lieutenant Torres was the most qualified out of all of Voyager's crew to assist her. Indeed, the Lieutenant had a formidable intellect when it came to engineering, and a propensity to solve complex problems. Together, they would make a very acceptable team.

x

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At dusk they readied themselves to resume their journey. Seven picked up B'Elanna's pack, put it on her own back, and resumed their walk. B'Elanna did not protest. She shouldered her rifle, coil of cable, and fell in line behind Seven. Seven slowed her walk so that B'Elanna could keep up.

Their travel went slower than their first night. It was harder going now that the sand was finer. Each step sucked them down ankle deep. B'Elanna appeared drawn and conversation was sparse when they stopped to rest.

Now, the sun was rising at their backs and Seven knew that the Lieutenant needed water in a desperate way. She scanned the horizon in the early morning looking for a tell tale sign of blue or violet. She saw a lavender hue a few hundred yards ahead. Seven used her telescopic vision to try to see details. She saw what looked to be a long and low sand hill. She increased her eye implant to its maximum magnification, which was, 10X. In the wavering heat she saw what looked like the branches of shriveled bushes. "Lieutenant. I observe what I surmise to be brush or similar plant life .51 miles ahead."

B'Elanna's lips were dry and cracked. Her voice was harsh, low, and barely an audible croak, "Finally." She looked in the direction that Seven pointed. "Where? I see nothing but sand."

"I accessed my visual implants telescopic abilities."

"What the hell are you waiting for? Lead the way." B’Elanna croaked out.

Without a word, Seven resumed walking, B'Elanna struggling to keep pace. They had not walked quite a quarter of a mile, when B'Elanna rushed past Seven, dropping her rifle and helmet.

"Lieutenant Torres, you must refrain from depleting your energy."

Unheeding Seven's request, B'Elanna hurriedly stumbled and ran onward, her breathing harsh. Suddenly, 90 yards ahead of Seven, she faltered and abruptly stopped.

Seven looked through the wavering swells of heat and noticed that the woman was hip deep in sand and sinking fast. She sprinted toward her and stopped abruptly a few feet away from a barely noticeable depression in the desert floor, which was roughly nine feet wide and 12 feet long.

"What the...? Help me. Get me out of here! Help!" B'Elanna was screaming in a full panic, sinking fast, and already chest deep in sand.

Seven took the coiled cable from around her shoulder and quickly unwound it. "Lieutenant, I am throwing you the cable and will pull you out." The Borg's throw was accurate, landing a foot from B'Elanna, who was already sinking up to her collarbone. She managed to grab the cable with both hands and Seven pulled, using her Borg increased strength, wrenching her free from the greedy sand.

B'Elanna lay on her back, her eyes closed, not moving except for the expanding of her chest as she took in deep harsh breaths. Seven noticed a sticky black substance mixed with sand clinging to her suit. She used her tricorder and scanned the substance, discovering it to be raw petroleum. This was evidence that eons ago the desert was perhaps a forest or jungle. Apparently, the sand had settled over a pit of the substance effectively hiding it.

Seven turned up B'Elanna's cooling unit. "Stay still, Lieutenant. I will retrieve your helmet and phaser rifle." Seven sprinted back to where B'Elanna discarded them and snatched up each object. Returning quickly, she lifted B'Elanna's head up, slipped the backpack under it, and gently guided her head back onto it.

After a few minutes, B'Elanna croaked through cracked lips, "Water, Seven, I saw water and trees. Just up ahead. You don't have to walk far. Go and get me water."

"You saw a mirage Lieutenant: The heat waves, nothing more. We have only a few hundred yards to go to where I observed vegetation. Perhaps there is water to be found."

"I can't go on any further. Leave me here and go for water."

Seven pulled B'Elanna into a sitting position. "Lieutenant Torres, you must get up and walk with me. I will lead the way and look for possible areas of danger. You cannot remain here."

B'Elanna said in a harsh and raspy voice, "Damn you, Borg. I can't get up. Go for water. That's an order."

Seven balked, staring down at B'Elanna, and trying to formulate a plan to get her moving.

B'Elanna screamed in fury, "Gods damn you! Do it you piece of Borg trash." She then fell back onto the sand gasping through cracked lips.

"Lieutenant Torres…B'Elanna. Get up. You will comply."

"Go to hell, Borg," B’Elanna rasped.

Seven stood up, gazed down at the prone woman, and said in a voice taking on the affectation of the perfect Borg, cold and condescending, "Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, you are weak and small. You are insignificant, flawed, and not worthy of consideration. You have failed Voyager and her crew. You have failed Captain Janeway. When Captain Janeway retrieves me I shall tell her of your weakness…your insignificance. You are a failure. You are worthy only of pity. I have seen that you are indeed inferior to me. I shall request Captain Janeway to assign me as Chief Engineer. I will ensure that Voyager's operation runs efficiently and flawlessly." With that, Seven turned and walked toward the west and hearing an outraged scream behind her.

"BITCH! I'll take every bolt and screw out of you and melt it down for a plasma scraper. You are dead, Borg!" B'Elanna pushed herself to her feet and stumbled after Seven, her anger a whip driving her on.

Seven used her hearing to determine the distance and stayed approximately 30 feet ahead of the angry woman. She stopped and turned once, giving the Lieutenant one of her superior Borg sneers, then purposely walked on in even strides.

Seven observed small shriveled trees and long skinny limbs of cacti. Glancing down she saw squat gray barrel cacti bristling with fine needles. She scanned a nearby specimen with the tricorder and discovered it to contain a fair amount of watery juice and to be agreeable to humanoid physiology.

B'Elanna had closed the distance to 12 feet. Seven could hear the harsh breathing and she moved on a few yards and crested a small ridge of sand. Below her was a dry gully, which showed signs of running water in the not too distant past, the mud dry and scaling in a mosaic pattern of pale yellow and ocher. Small clumps of dry brown rushes grew on the gully's edge. B'Elanna grabbed Seven by her left arm as she struggled to stand on the crest. Seven used her Borg strength to steady her. B'Elanna quickly forgot her anger and stumbled down the incline and onto the gully's floor. Kneeling, she dug into the caked mud, searching for moisture. Throwing the dried clumps of mud from her, she howled in frustration, and fell full length, cursing and crying.

Seven quickly searched the backpack and removed a small laser cutter. She knelt beside the nearest barrel cactus and sliced off the top. Reaching her Borg hand into the fibrous, moist, pale pulp, she scraped out a hand full. She proceeded down to B'Elanna and knelt with both knees touching the ground. She lifted B'Elanna's upper torso and gently placed her head on her upper left leg. "Lieutenant Torres, I have liquid that will relieve your thirst." She squeezed the pulp in her left hand, causing a small stream of juice to flow down a few of the fibers, and onto B'Elanna's lips. B'Elanna immediately opened her mouth allowing the liquid to trickle in and swallowed. Seven squeezed until all moisture was gone. She threw the fibrous mass to one side and laid B'Elanna's head back against the dry ground.

Seven made several trips to nearby cacti to remove the moist pulp and squeeze the life saving moisture into B'Elanna's mouth. Finally, B'Elanna stirred and sat up on her own. "Enough. Yuck."

Seven had squeezed some of the juice into her own mouth and found the taste to be slightly bitter. 'Taste is irrelevant'. Seven looked around her for shelter from the sun's rays. She saw an overhang on the side of the gully that the rushing waters had carved out. It would offer some amount of shade. "Lieutenant Torres, I have found adequate shelter from the sun. I will assist you in reaching it." She put her left arm around B'Elanna's waist and pulled her to a standing position. "Lean against me, it is only a few yards away." Torres put her right arm on Seven's shoulder as they walked to the shaded overhang. Seven helped her in and to lean against the earthen wall at the back. "I shall retrieve our equipment and return." B'Elanna nodded her head.

Seven retrieved the helmets, backpack and phaser rifle and took them back to the overhang. B'Elanna was sleeping, her breathing even. Seven ran her tricorder over the woman, noticing that while her hydrolytes were still low, she had enough hydration to keep her out of danger for now. She took one of the helmets with her and the small laser cutter from the backpack and left the overhang. She returned some short time later with a helmet full of the murky bitter cacti juice, as well as several small white tubers she had dug from the gully's bank that she had thrust into her utility belt. She lay them aside and leaned against the back wall to rest beside B'Elanna. The temperature under the overhang was cool compared to the oven outside. B'Elanna opened her eyes with an intake of breath and her body jerked as she felt the light brush from Seven's shoulder. "I apologize. It was not my intent to startle you."

"I'm fine."

"I have cacti juice if you require liquid."

B'Elanna sighed tiredly and said, "No thanks, Seven. I just need rest. Wake me when it's dusk."

"Agreed." Seven closed her eyes and took in the sounds and smells around her. She had some concerns that her nanoprobes would be unable to sustain her for long unless she found a source of water and nutrition. B'Elanna was sure to perish long before she would. She would do all in her power to increase their chance for survival. She knew her Captain would do all in her power to find them. She had faith in Captain Janeway. Faith was irrelevant to the Borg. Perhaps she was regaining her humanity more quickly than she realized.

x

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B'Elanna heard a heavy buzzing in her ears and felt something crawling on her cheek. She quickly brushed her face and opened her eyes. She felt warmth against her right shoulder. Turning slightly, she saw Seven next to her, apparently sleeping. Small puffs of breath exhaled from her mouth, blowing against fine strands of blond hair that had come loose from her customary bun. 'Jeez, Sleeping Beauty. Only thing she needs is a kiss to wake her.' The vision that came to mind shocked B'Elanna: Her leaning over to kiss those full lips. 'Oh no, I have heat stroke.'

She saw the rays of the sun starting to creep into the overhang and knew it was well past its zenith. The other side of the gully was now in shadow. The annoying buzzing started again. She spied the winged heavy brown insect, about the size of her thumbnail, as it landed on the edge of a helmet full of a murky liquid. She leaned forward and swatted at it. "Shoo fly." Seven stirred beside her. "Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

Seven blinked in surprise. "You are mistaken. I only closed my eyes for a few seconds."

B'Elanna smirked. "Uh huh. How many more hours until sundown, Seven, or better yet, before noon?"

Seven saw that the sun was way past its zenith and worriedly said, "This is disconcerting. I am malfunctioning as are my nanoprobes."

"Seven, don't forget I know something about your Borg functioning, and your nanoprobes, having assisted the Doc on repairing a few of your implants. Under normal circumstances, that may be true. These are not normal circumstances. Those little devils have to work overtime battling heat and lack of water. As long as you're still able to think, talk and walk, you are functioning. Maybe not at optimum levels, but at acceptable levels."

Seven's expression looked uncertain. "Perhaps you are correct."

"Ok. Let's move to the other side of this gully and into the shade and plan our next move."

x

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The sun was setting when both women climbed out of the gully. Before leaving, they ate the tubers, hoping they would give them energy. B'Elanna said they tasted a lot like water chestnut. B'Elanna still felt drained and tired, but gone were the tormenting thirst and confusion resulting from dehydration. Seven estimated that a permanent source of water lay to the west as evidenced by the blue visible in her infrared vision, which indicated an area of condensed coolness. She calculated that it lay 10-12 miles away. Seven agreed to lead the way and use her tricorder to locate any petroleum pits in their path.

They had not discussed B'Elanna's loss of control, and B'Elanna did not mention Seven's insulting and hateful words. B'Elanna suspected Seven had used those words to goad her into moving. Still, she wondered how much Seven believed of what she said. She found herself caring what the Borg thought about her. Hell, the woman had saved her life at least two times, perhaps three, if you counted Seven pulling her into the ship when she found herself hanging upside down with a 35 foot drop to the desert below.

B'Elanna was wondering how to thank the woman. 'Thank you' did not seem enough. Moreover, would Seven even care is she were thanked? She had made it clear earlier that she saved B'Elanna because she was important to Voyager. Then again, she had called her weak, small, and a failure. Why would she save her if that were true? Perhaps she was a failure, and Seven spoke the truth. Seven was always straightforward. B’Elanna had failed at many things: Starfleet academy came to mind as well as past relationships. Nevertheless, she had also pulled Voyager's butt out of the fire many times. Janeway thought her a miracle worker when it came to engineering. B'Elanna knew she was a damn good engineer. She wondered if Seven thought her a good engineer. B'Elanna decided that later, given the opportunity, she would find out what Seven really thought of her.

Seven was lost in her own thoughts of the recent interactions between her and B'Elanna. It was obvious that B'Elanna did not hold the same animosity as she had earlier. B'Elanna had actually looked at her several times without a scowl on her face. She even conversed with her without the usual disdain in her voice so often evident before. B‘Elanna even tried to assure her that she was not malfunctioning.

B'Elanna had intrigued her from their first interaction. She was a brilliant engineer and an organized problem solver. She was straightforward. She let you know what she thought. What intrigued her most was the dichotomy of logical precision and chaotic emotion. Emotions rolled off in waves from the engineer. When she was in B’Elanna’s vicinity, she could actually feel the force of them in a visceral way: Anger, hate, compassion, empathy, and caring and warmness toward friends. That B’Elanna felt animosity toward her, was of no concern. It was the fact that the Klingon felt anything for her, and so strongly. She thought B'Elanna was a perfection of balance of the two most opposing forces in the Universe: Order and Chaos. One could not exist without the other. Order would have no meaning or purpose if not for Chaos. Chaos would obliterate itself if not contained by Order. B'Elanna Torres was Omega in the form of flesh and blood.

x

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The moons were bright enough for the women to make their way safely. Seven noticed several small species of mammal and reptile scurrying out of their path. She also heard the rustle of wings overhead as well as a small squeal from some unfortunate prey animal.

After walking for five hours, Seven halted for a rest. She was aware that B'Elanna was doing well since their rest and hydration, but Seven did not want to tax her reserves. The going was now easier as the earth was firmer after leaving the gully, and was dotted with more growth in the form of stunted bushes, areas of brown grass and cacti. Seven had scanned much of the vegetation and discovered that it was not dead, but dormant. This fact, and the presence of the gully, indicated a seasonal rainfall in between a longer season of dryness.

Seven took her helmet, walked a few feet to a large cactus, and cut the top off, removing the stringy wet pulp and placing it in the helmet. Seven sat next to B'Elanna and offered her the pulp filled helmet. "Lieutenant Torres, I have prepared cactus pulp for our consumption."

"Thank you Seven." She reached in and took a handful of the mass, throwing back her head and squeezing the juice into her mouth. She continued looking up at the night sky for a few moments, lost in contemplation of Voyager's whereabouts, and if Janeway had resumed her journey. She turned to look at Seven. 'Now is as good a time as any.' She cleared her throat. "Er, Seven. I want to thank you for saving my ass back there." She braced herself, prepared for Seven to brush her thanks off in her usual cold Borg manner.

"You are welcome, Lieutenant." Seven's voice actually sounded warm to B'Elanna's ears.

"Uhm, Seven. Please call me B'Elanna."

There was silence for a few seconds as Seven looked at B'Elanna and saw the sincerity reflected in the woman's face. "Acceptable...B'Elanna." Seven's voice held the hint of a smile, which somehow caused B'Elanna to feel warmth fill her chest.

x

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Captain Janeway stood on the upper deck of her ready room staring out her window at the nebula without really seeing it. Voyager resumed her journey home without her chief engineer and astrometrics officer. She tried not to dwell on the fact that they might never find the two. She felt that something was stole from her. She had battled the Borg queen and Ransom to retrieve Seven. She saved B'Elanna from the Vidiians and from a mind purge by the Mari. She knew that both women were resourceful and if still alive...no. She would hold to the belief that they were alive. More than any other crew, these two women held a special place in her heart. B'Elanna, angry and volatile and wearing her emotions as her best garment. Her bravado and bluster were a means of hiding her insecurities. She had not yet come to terms with who she really was. She remained torn between two cultures, two races, feeling a part of neither.

Seven, who could not remember what it was to be an individual or human, as the Collective will was all she remembered, and had ever known since her sixth birthday. She had no tolerance for human weaknesses in others as well as herself. She hid her insecurities behind a false sense of superiority. Janeway knew that beneath her cold exterior and emotional control was a being who very much could feel emotion. Underneath all that Borg behavior was a warm and loving individual. Seven had yet to learn to express her emotions. One could see a glimpse of them in her interactions with Naomi Wildman, a child alone in a ship of adults. Seven was much like Naomi, a child in a ship full of adults and all their emotional interplay.

She cared deeply for these two women. She needed them. They helped her to focus not on Janeway the Captain, but Kathryn, the all too human woman. She learned to look at her own emotions and motivations by counseling B'Elanna.

Seven looked to her for guidance and clarification in a bewildering universe. She was always questioning her motives and morals in their ‘philosophical’ discussions, which had a way of keeping Janeway rooted to her belief in the High Road. She could easily lose control and forget all principles that she believed in given the right circumstances. She mentally shuddered as Captain Ransom came to mind. She would not give them up. Not yet. Not Ever. She would do all in her power to find them. Janeway’s one constant belief as captain was that you never left a crewmate behind.

x

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The larger of the planet's two moons was well past the zenith and half way to the western horizon when B'Elanna hurried up to walk by Seven's side. "Seven, ahead, is that ragged black area silhouetted by the moon really there, or am I experiencing some moonlight mirage"?

"No, Lieutenant...B'Elanna. Your observation is correct, that is no mirage. It is indeed an area of dense vegetation. I believe we may find water and nutritional plants there."

B'Elanna sniffed deeply. "I smell moisture…water."

Seven looked intently at B‘Elanna and asked, "Do you intend to run recklessly toward the source? If so I will need to restrain you."

"Hey, I do have self control you know. That last incident was due to the intense heat and severe dehydration. If you weren't Borg, you would have done the same, probably sooner. I'm fortunate to be half Klingon and can take it better than if I were entirely human."

"Indeed. It is fortunate that I am Borg, or we both would have perished."

B'Elanna stumbled slightly. 'That sounded suspiciously like dry humor to me, very dry, but humor all the same.' "Well, I'll admit, that's true and I owe you a debt for saving my skin. And I always honor my debts."

Seven was on the verge of saying that B'Elanna owed her nothing, but some unknown instinct caused her to reconsider and accept the debt. Out of curiosity, she asked, "Is your honor that of a Klingon?"

B'Elanna sucked in her breath. She had never really thought about herself as truly being Klingon. She felt an outsider to both races. What was she? Both? Neither? One or the other? She always tried to be Human, as that was the culture that first influenced her, and the one she understood the best. However, Humans saw her as a Klingon. Her mother wanted her to be Klingon. But her mother's people saw her as weak and Human. Sometimes, she felt both were pulling her apart. She often thought of a new twist to the Bible story of King Solomon her Nana Torres read her. Her Klingon mother and Human father stood before King Solomon fighting over who should have her. Neither conceded and Solomon cleaved her in half. Then her two halves lay in the dust and both parents turned from her saying, she is not mine, you may have her.

She only knew one honor. "It is B'Elanna Torres honor."

x

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It was early dawn when the two tired travelers reached the first strand of tall willowy palms whose trunks slightly curved and reached at least twelve to thirty feet high. There was actually a small breeze caressing the fronds topping each tree. A few yards ahead stood more of the graceful palms as well as lower squat palms only eight to twelve feet high with clusters of ovoid yellow fruit. B'Elanna examined one of the 3 inch fruits. "This fruit is much like the ones the Pendo Palm produces. It will ripen to a deep orange and is sweet if somewhat stringy."

As the sky brightened, the sounds of birds were heralding the sunrise. Seven took in the plant growth and said, "I believe this area to be what is termed as an oasis."

"I think you're right. It sure looks to be bigger than I thought. My nose tells me the water is in the area of the thickest growth."

Seven was already using her tricorder to scan the area. "My readings show an area of intense H2O concentration 80 yards in the area your olfactory organ indicates. You possess superior olfactory functioning, B'Elanna."

"Is that a compliment, Seven?"

"It is a fact."

B'Elanna smiled and answered in a teasing voice, "Thanks, Seven. Nice to know I have something to impress a Borg."

"You have many attributes that are impressive, B'Elanna."

B'Elanna's eyebrows rose at that comment. 'Attributes? Hmmm, and just what kind of attributes are you referring to? Gee, Torres, get your mind back on track. Seven did not mean it like that. It's been months. I need to run an x-rated holo-adventure when we get back on Voyager. 'Vulcan Love Slave' Yup, that's the cure.' She cleared her throat and said, "That's me, a woman of many talents." 'Maybe I can demonstrate a few... stop it, stop it, stop it.'

"Voyager's Collective would agree with that assessment."

B'Elanna attempted to divert her thoughts to her surroundings. "Hey, look at those grasses over there, they're standing in water." B'Elanna walked quickly to the edge of a large area of waist high grasses, their tops crowned by a ball of small brown seeds. Her shoes squashed down in soft mud. Not caring, she walked to a spot ankle deep and quickly bent down to scoop up the cool liquid and jumped as birds flying from the reeds startled her. “Geez!” She dipped her cupped hand into the water once again.

Seven was right behind her scanning the water. "Do not consume it. It contains organisms and microbes that may be harmful. We shall sterilize it before consuming."

B'Elanna splashed the water on her face. "We'll move on further up the bank and see if there's a better spot. This water is cold enough that I believe it comes from a spring. I can hold my thirst for a while longer."

The sun was now up and blazed orange on the eastern horizon and casting a golden glow over the area. Three green and brown reptiles, resembling iguanas, and ranging from a foot to three feet in length, scurried from the water's edge and up a nearby tree trunk.

B’Elanna quickly moved her hand to her phaser but realized they were harmless and said, "Hey, fellows, what's the hurry, why don't you stay for...lunch?"

"B'Elanna, I do not believe them to be sentient. Therefore, they are incapable of understanding your invitation."

"I don't know, Seven. They may be baby Gorns."

"Perhaps you are correct. I will search my eidetic memory for information on their dietary requirements, if they decide to accept your invitation."

This caused B'Elanna to laugh. Seven really did have a sense of humor. “I was thinking that they could meet ‘our’ dietary requirements.”

Seven raised her left implant in surprise and B’Elanna snickered and said, “Starfleet survival course 101. Learn to utilize all natural resources for survival. That includes consuming what is edible.”

Seven nodded once and replied, “Logical.”

The heat from the sun caused patches of steam to rise from the water's edge. The grasses thinned out and fringed the water's edge around a crystal clear pool. It was some 60 feet across and 80 feet long. The water was clear and showed a pale ivory sandy bottom, slopping to an area that apparently was a drop off, where a small amount of disturbance showed on the surface, indicating a spring.

"Oh Gods, Seven, tell me this is at least safe to bathe in."

"Tricorder readings show it to be free of harmful organisms and microbes. Our inoculations will protect us from any detrimental effects should we consume it."

"Hot damn!" B'Elanna exclaimed, already in the process of stepping out of her suit, and leaving it in a crumpled pile on the shore. Clad only in her blue tank top and black athletic pants, she ran out into the pool and opened her arms wide, falling full length into the clear water. "Eeeeh, damn this is freezing." She stayed in and immersed her head, drinking long swigs of water. Then lifting her head up, she pulled herself up in a sitting position in the water with her legs in front of her, and the water up to just below her breasts. "Come on, Seven, shed that suit and jump in, the water's great."

Seven stood with her hands clasped behind her back, head tilted, staring at B'Elanna. She noticed how the Klingon's wet tank top clung to the roundness of her breasts and revealed the protruding nipples. She felt heat in her lower abdomen and seemed to be slightly short of breath.

"What are you waiting for? Your implants aren't going to rust you know."

Seven drew her eyes quickly from the tableau before her and looked down. "I have never been immersed in water. What is the purpose of immersing one's body in a pool of water?"

"Well, I'm rinsing all the sweat and grime off. Plus, it feels good. Haven't you ever taken a hydro bath?"

"I have not. I understand from Naomi Wildman that a tub is utilized in which you use a cleansing agent to remove particles of dead skin and grime from the body. She actually prefers this method to that of the sonic shower as it allows her to perform an activity of play she refers to as... floating her rubber duckies."

"Since we have no sonic showers or bathtubs, this will have to do. And you won't need a cleansing agent. You can rub the wet sand over the really dirty areas of your skin. I would advise against using that method to clean your hair, as sand is hard to rinse out. Oh. Sorry, I didn't bring my rubber duckies with me."

Seven knew that B'Elanna was being facetious with this last statement. She doubted B'Elanna possessed any 'rubber duckies'. Seven looked at B’Elanna, gave her a small smile, and said, “Indeed. Unfortunate.”

B'Elanna laughed and said, “Well, come on in anyway.”

Seven removed the outer shoes, unzipped and stepped out of her suit, and then bent to remove her velocity shoes, exposing a good amount of cleavage at the top of her velocity top. B'Elanna caught herself staring and looked away. 'What am I doing?' She returned her gaze to Seven as the women stepped gingerly into the water and waded toward her. Seven stopped until she stood about three feet from B'Elanna: The water only reaching her knees.

Seven frowned and said, "The water’s temperature is at 77.8 degrees. I believe any prolonged exposure would induce hypothermia. Perhaps we should forgo our...bath... and heat the water in our helmets for cleaning purposes."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes. "That's not a very efficient method of bathing without a sponge or washcloth. Believe me, Seven. If you immerse your body, it will adapt to the lower temperature quickly and feel good. We aren't going to get hypothermia. You'll see. Just throw yourself in like I did. The shock of the cold only lasts a few seconds."

Seven balked and said with a slight strain to her voice, "I have intense feelings of apprehension and find that I am reluctant to further immerse myself."

B‘Elanna looked intensely at her and sighed dramatically. "Ok. I guess I'm ready to get out now." She reached out her right hand to Seven. "Here, pull me up." Seven leaned over to grasp B'Elanna's hand only to find herself pulled off her feet and landing face first into the cold water.

Seven drew herself up and gasped, but then sat in the water and looked balefully at B'Elanna, who looked back at her, laughing, and said, "See, Seven. It's not so bad once you're all the way in."

"B'Elanna Torres. This incident will be filed in my eidetic memory until such time that I retrieve it to give me incentive to devise suitable retribution."

B'Elanna rolled her eyes skyward in a fake swoon and hugged her arms around her chest, shivered and mockingly declared, "Ohhh. I'm scared."

Seven tried not to smirk and replied, "You are prudent to be...scared. I am Borg."

B'Elanna barked out a short laugh and said, "Since when do Borg let such superfluous emotions as revenge determine their actions?"

Seven let her smirk show. "Since you deceived me."

x

x

x

A short time later both women exited the water and sat on their environmental suits in the sun. B'Elanna ran her fingers through her hair and started bemoaning the fact that she had no comb and her hair would snag up. Seven squeezed the water out of hair and didn't worry about the consequences of it drying in disarray.

B’Elanna decided to remove her clothing and let the sun dry them as well as dry her body. B'Elanna had thought briefly of not removing her clothes due to a sudden bout of shyness. 'We're going to be here a while, and our clothes will have to come off to get them properly clean. So, might as well do it.'

Seven observed B’Elanna removing her clothing and stared in fascination at what was revealed. ‘She is aesthetically pleasing’ She felt heat infuse her and a quickening of her breathing. ‘I am malfunctioning’. She watched as a nude B’Elanna walked over to a nearby palmetto bush and spread her wet clothes out on the fronds.

B’Elanna turned toward her and stopped, noticing Seven‘s intense scrutiny. She felt herself blush, cleared her throat loudly, and said, “Ah…Seven…”

Seven focused her attention on B’Elanna’s face and quickly realized that B’Elanna was displeased.

B’Elanna said, “It’s not nice to stare at a person when they are in a …state of undress.”

Seven blinked in confusion and quickly accessed her eidetic memory. ‘Cultural taboos concerning nudity and sexual mores.’ Her mind quickly processed all known data that she had studied in Voyager’s data bank, as well as some of the information the Borg collective had assimilated. Her eyes widened in both surprise and consternation when she realized that she had violated a major cultural taboo of many humanoid cultures, including those of Humans and Klingons.

Seven quickly averted her gaze and felt a strong wave of heat infuse her face. ’I am experiencing…’embarrassment.’ “I apologise. I…unknowingly have breached a cultural taboo. It was not my intent to cause you…distress.”

B’Elanna realized that Seven was being truthful. ‘I’m probably the first person she’s ever seen a’ la natural.’ “Well…you might as well get used to it. We’ll be here for a while and will have to take our clothes off to bathe and wash them. Believe me, after a few times seeing a person in the buff, the novelty wears off.” B’Elanna went over to her environmental suit, which was in the shade of a palm, and stretched out on it. She glanced at Seven and noticed that the young woman was nervously looking anywhere but at her. ‘Geez, she’s really rattled.’ “Uhmm, Seven. Don’t worry about it. I realize this is probably all new to you. Just chalk it up to a learning experience. Besides, you can’t avoid looking at me every time I take my clothes off. Just don’t stare like I’m some specimen under a microscope.”

Seven glanced at her and looked away nervously. B’Elanna snorted and said, “Okay, here‘s what we‘re gonna do. You remove your clothing, put them over there with mine, come over here, stretch out on your environmental suit, and dry yourself. Believe me, you don’t want to go around wearing wet clothes all the time. Besides, you’re Borg. Nudity should be irrelevant. Especially in the situation we find ourselves in.” B’Elanna grinned and added. “I promise I won’t stare at you.” ‘Peek maybe.’

Seven considered what B’Elanna said. ‘You are being illogical. Nudity is irrelevant within the parameters of our current situation.’ Somehow, Seven felt uneasy that B’Elanna would see her remaining external implants…that she would find them repulsive. Seven suddenly felt disgust at her concerns. ‘Irrelevant. I am Borg.’ She then began to remove her clothing.

B'Elanna tried not to peek. However, resistance was futile, and she stole several glances, noticing the generous but firm breasts, with a thin-banded implant curving along the bottom line of them and around the ribs to the back. Two other thin bands girdled her hips and dipped toward her apex. To B'Elanna, these implants accented Seven’s breasts and small waist, and looked to her like adornments. Seven's shapely hips and long legs were adorned by a few swirling areas of mesh. 'Gods, she's beautiful. Those implants give her an exotic look.' B'Elanna felt a sharp jolt of arousal. This was not the first time she found herself aroused by the Borg. Those biosuits left very little to the imagination. And, despite her now past animosity toward the young woman, there had been a few times when she had had decidedly erotic and arousing dreams about her. Especially, after she had an antagonistic encounter with Seven. Usually, when Seven encroached on her domain, which was Engineering, and would tell her, not ask, but tell her she needed more power to Astrometrics. Or, she would adjust Voyager's systems without permission. B'Elanna would lose her cool, make threats, and chew her out, and not very nicely. Seven would just look down her nose disdainfully at her and produce some stuck up snotty sounding remark. This had made B'Elanna even more rabid in her response. It really disturbed her to have these dreams. She figured there must be some deep rooted psychological meaning to the dreams other than sexual. She just didn't want to explore the reasons and preferred to try to forget them.

Her opinion of Seven was changing. She was actually starting to see her in a more positive light. Seven had a different sense of humor, very dry and subtle. You just had to listen closely and watch the subtle change in her facial expressions to catch it. Seven had been there for her. She would not have survived if Seven hadn't taken care of her. There was a lot more to Seven than just an emotionless Borg drone, of that, she was sure. B'Elanna was actually looking forward to getting to know the young woman inside the Borg drone.

Seven finished spreading her clothes out to dry, went over to her environmental suit, and reclined on her stomach. She was keenly aware of B'Elanna lying only three feet away. She could hear her respiration and the subtle gurgles in her stomach, which gradually were increasing in frequency and volume.

She turned her head away from B'Elanna, but her eidetic memory brought into sharp clarity the woman’s shapely and well toned body. The first thought that came to her was that she would like to explore that body…with all her senses. She eradicated that thought immediately, knowing that B'Elanna would not be pleased and would take offense, even though that particular activity would please Seven immensely.

Seven turned her focus back to the mundane. Soon, they would need to search for compatible nutritional flora and fauna. She herself would need to ingest solids in order to survive, something that she was not in the custom of doing. Sleep was another requirement she would have to accommodate herself to. Sleep. Yesterday's few hours of sleep had been the result of exhaustion, heat, lack of hydration, and her nanoprobes strained to the limit to maintain her functioning. She did not think sleep would be easy to obtain now that she had adequate rest and nutrients. Perhaps B'Elanna knew some method that would help her achieve sleep.

About thirty minutes later, Seven heard a loud and prolonged growl issuing from the vicinity of B'Elanna's stomach. She immediately sat up and gazed at the reclining woman‘s face, who had her eyes open. "B'Elanna, I believe it is now required for us to immediately search for compatible plant and fauna for our nutritional consumption."

"You're right. Our clothes should be dry enough now. Let's get dressed and go and check out that grass in the shallow water. Tricorder readings show the seeds to be edible. We can make a fire and boil the seeds in our helmets. Maybe we can snag one of those iguana looking things. I heard iguana taste like chicken. Later we can scout around for more edibles. Maybe find some ripe dates. You know, you can actually make a wine from Pendo dates."

"Alcohol debilitates my cortical node. I easily become intoxicated."

B'Elanna snorted and said, "Hell, Seven, that's the point of alcohol. If you're not dancing on the table and starting a knock down drag out in the joint, then it's pig swill."

Seven stared at B'Elanna with a quizzical look on her face. It was obvious to the engineer that Seven didn't have a clue to what she just said. B'Elanna sighed. "You know, making wine isn't such a good idea. We don't have the equipment and it would take time. We'll just stick to water and date juice."

x

x

x

The sun was overhead and both women sought shelter under a stand of palms 60 feet from the water. The first order of business was to gather fuel for a fire. Close by, they found dried fallen palm leaves, and what appeared to be the dried dung of an herbivore, which would burn nicely. The large sized patty indicated an animal the size of an earthen milk cow.

They dug out a shallow three foot diameter fire pit. Their shovels were the woody boat shaped pods that had once held the flowering stage of the date clusters. Seven started a fire by igniting the fuel with her phaser. B'Elanna had filled one helmet half full of the wild grass seed, which she termed wild rice. They had also found several of the long white tubers, which B’Elanna named water chestnuts. She set the helmet in the fire. Seven had brought their environmental suits over and they sat on them while waiting for their meal to be ready.

B'Elanna watched the fire. "You know, when I was in the Maquis we had to sometimes live off the land like this while on a mission. Sometimes, we had to eat our food raw, as a fire would have drawn the Cardies right to us."

Seven's interest was piqued. "What were your reasons for joining the Maquis?"

B‘Elanna was quiet for a few seconds, her sight focused on the fire as if she were drawing memory from the flickering flames and reasons from the winding smoke. "Er…, many reasons. It was right after I left Starfleet. I signed on to a cargo ship as the Engineer. Little did I know when I signed on, that the ship was running weapons to the Maquis. A Cardie Man of War intercepted our ship and demanded our surrender. Believe me, I was prepared to die rather than let those evil bastards capture me. My crewmates felt the same way. We were about to set the ship to self-destruct when Chakotay showed up in his ship and crippled the Man of War. I decided to throw my lot in with him, especially, after hearing the eyewitness accounts of the rape and torture of children and murder of civilians in Cardie concentration camps. We had a Bajoran on our ship who managed to escape one of their camps. Tuls Riad. He had that look about him that you learn to recognize as fanatical. He could think of nothing, or talk of nothing, except killing Cardies. He had seen his own children and wife raped before his eyes and then murdered. I had no other plans and decided to do something worthwhile with my life…to free as many prisoners as I could and kill as many Cardies as I could. So I joined the Maquis and did both."

Seven was quiet for a minute, keeping her eyes on the makeshift pot that was starting to boil. "Do you...feel remorse that you...killed?"

B'Elanna looked closely at Seven, noticing how young she looked with her blond hair hanging loose and tangled around her shoulders. Seven‘s eyes not meeting hers, as if she were shy. She was child like in her obvious unease at having asked the question. B'Elanna hesitated. She never revealed that dark part of her soul. She remembered Seven also had her 'dark part' and decided to be honest.

She instinctively knew Seven wouldn't repeat to anyone what she was about to tell her. "No. I never feel guilt, shame, or remorse. When I killed my first Cardie, I felt cheated because it had been such an easy thing. I got him from behind, and killed him quickly. I really wanted to face him in battle and beat him face to face. I wanted him cowering at my feet and begging for his stinking life, knowing that he was going to die for what he had done to the families of many of my Maquis comrades. This was the first time I felt battle lust, or blood lust, and I wanted to feel it again, and did many times. I relished facing them in one on one combat and killing them. It was even better to know that they knew they were going to die. The look in their eyes, knowing that there would be no mercy: To give them that same 'mercy' they had shown innocent men, women, and children. I enjoyed taunting them, of laughing in their faces. I enjoyed every second of it. This was the only time I truly felt what it meant to be Klingon. I have turned away from much that is Klingon, yet my blood boils in battle, as would any Klingon's blood. As any Klingon, I was not afraid to die. Any time I fought a good and honorable fight was a good day to die. If I believed in Sto'vo'kor, I would be welcomed as a hero."

B'Elanna noticed Seven staring at her now, wide eyed, mouth slightly parted, not in shock but in awe and something else, something familiar in a primeval and instinctual way. Seven's eyes burned with a blue fire. She no longer looked like a child, but a woman full of passion and fire. B'Elanna felt a soft growl start in her throat, then quickly reined in the growl and clamped down on her response. 'Oh no. No, No. Not that.' The one blood lust she had never experienced was that of a Klingon who had found their mate. That bout of lust with Paris was Pon Farr from Vorik's brief psychic bond. Of that, she was sure, for she never felt connected with Paris, the way she instinctively knew she would with a mate. That is why she never had any qualms about breaking up with him.

Seven stared back at B'Elanna, taking in her wild and waving hair, and her eyes burning and molten. She swallowed hard. Seven felt a desire to pull B'Elanna against her, to kiss that mouth, and draw out the hot breath deep into herself. Perhaps this was an echo in her subconscious of her experience with the Vinculum, when the thought patterns of 'the Son of K'vok' took control of her actions. She also felt a desire to connect with B'Elanna in other ways that were more subtle and complicated than the physical. This 'desire' lay in the realm of what she thought of as spiritual, similar to her experience with the Omega Molecule. The hiss of the fire as the water boiled over brought her thoughts back to the mundane tasks at hand.

Seven put on one of the environmental suit gloves and pulled the helmet toward the edge of the pit to let it simmer. She handed B'Elanna a long center of a green palm frond that she had stripped clean of the slender pointed leaves. "You shall stir and determine when it is consumable."

B'Elanna took the frond, smirked, and said, "Ok, if you do the dishes."

The dishes consisted of two helmets, two boat shaped date pods for dishes and one stick for stirring. The corners of Seven's lips turned up in amusement. "Agreed."

x

x

x

Their exploration of the oasis showed that it covered approximately 81 acres. They walked around what they considered the perimeter, an area in which the growth of the tall and slender palms stopped their encroachment into the desert. They came across the skeletal remains of a large three-toed herbivore, as evident by the teeth that were for chewing. Except for the large equine skull and three toes, Seven determined that it had closely resembled a camel, llama, or kouya on Trill. They took several of the bones with them, Seven stating she could fashion spoons and other utensils using the small precision laser cutter.

There also were what appeared to be several well trodden trails leading into the oasis. These appeared recently used as evidenced by the various small mammal and reptile tracks.

They discovered another spring that seeped out of the earth and covered about a quarter of an acre. The water was much shallower and had more plant coverage. There were many different tracks around the edge with the ground torn in places. This was obviously a favorite place for the native fauna to water. The only wildlife seen was several lizards and birds amongst the grass. Out of sight, but plainly heard, were the clicking and buzzing of insects. B'Elanna theorized that dusk and dawn were the time to catch wildlife. Any in the surrounding desert would come for water, and those hidden in the trees, like the Iguanas, would drink in the early morning.

B'Elanna did find several nests in the grass that contained either iguana or bird eggs. She gathered these up and placed them inside her pants pockets. She also found a large cluster of orange ripe dates, and broke off the stem that held the fruit, which was a considerable amount. Seven found more of the tubers and a vine, which grew an edible, rough skinned, dark green fruit, the size of her fist. The flesh inside was cream colored and soft like custard. Seven, having very limited experience in consuming food, refused to taste it until B'Elanna did. B'Elanna declared it to have an avocado taste and stated that it would go great with salsa and chips. They had only explored the interior on the south and southeast side where they were camping. They would explore the interior on the north, and west side, in the next few days.

Both women gathered more fuel when they returned to their campsite. There was a large palm, which had fallen some time ago, dry enough to burn easily. B'Elanna had taken her large laser cutter, and sliced off disc shaped pieces of the trunk, further splitting them, so that they would fit into their fire pit.

Their dinner this night consisted of boiled water chestnuts, eggs, and avocado fruit. The dates would follow up as dessert. These had an apricot, pineapple taste similar to Pendo dates.

After dinner, Seven cleaned the dishes by the edge of the pool. It was now dusk, and Seven worked on a piece of bone with the laser cutter. As well as eating utensils, she was working on a surprise for B'Elanna. B'Elanna was weaving strands of palm leaves together for mats. After a few hours, they threw more wood on the fire and went to sleep. B'Elanna dropped off right away. Seven lay awake listening to the night sounds and B'Elanna's even breathing. Unable to sleep, she retrieved the bone pieces to work some more on them.

x

x

x

The next day they explored the west side of the oasis. There was nothing extraordinary, but they did find plenty of ripe dates and a new source of avocado fruit.

The day after their exploration of the west side of the oasis, they spent time around the camp cutting the downed palm into many pieces and taking it back to camp. They also dug up more tubers and harvested more wild rice.

The two women spent the next couple of nights working on their various projects. B'Elanna had made Seven a palm headband that was a simple braided crown with the palm leaves sticking out of the side like sunbeams. Seven's nanoprobes had kept her from blistering in the strong sun light, but B'Elanna noticed her nose starting to redden. Seeing Seven smile, not a slight turning up of her mouth, but her brilliant wide smile with twinkling eyes, when she received this gift, made B'Elanna's heart skip a beat.

Seven had finished two forks and presented them to B'Elanna, who was very appreciative and praised the workmanship. Seven felt pleased that B'Elanna liked them.

Seven still had difficulty going to sleep, only managing a couple of hours of shallow slumber a night. She was beginning to feel some fatigue at the end of the day, something she had never felt before.

Conversations were mostly about Voyager and theories they had on getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. B'Elanna thought Seven was close to making a transwarp coil that would function and agreed to work on the project with her.

Each woman found herself attracted to the other, but they were reluctant to acknowledge it, fearing rejection, and ruining a so far companionable and comfortable relationship. B'Elanna hadn't taunted Seven with cutting remarks nor had Seven provoked B'Elanna with a superior attitude. In reality, neither woman had a desire to hurt the other.

x

x

x

They had been at the oasis for eight days now. They spent the eighth night in companionable silence. Seven was putting the finishing touches on her creations and B'Elanna was working on a second sleeping mat that she was going to give to Seven.

B'Elanna felt like conversation. "I think I will wake up right at sunrise and sneak over to that spot by the water where we saw those iguanas. I bet I could stun one with the laser gun, and dispatch it with our laser tool, by cutting its head off. Clean it out, and skin the thing. Then we can roast it."

"You shall roast it. Your assigned task is to cook. My assigned task is to wash dishes."

B'Elanna chuckled. "Ok. I just don't want any whining and complaining about not liking the food or that it tastes funny."

"The taste of the food you have already prepared has been more than agreeable. Especially, compared to the supplemental milkshakes the Doctor has programmed for me."

"I should hope so. The Doc has no taste buds, which is a pity, as you could give him a dose of his own medicine."

"I do not believe they are for medicinal purposes but for nutritional purposes."

B'Elanna smiled at this. "I heard that they don't taste very good. In fact I heard them described as tasting like a combination of soap water mixed with Milk of Magnesia."

"I am positive that the description of the taste of my supplement originated with Naomi Wildman. She used that description after tasting mine. The description was accompanied by many contortions of her face and uttering of vowel sounds that have no meaning."

"Oh, you mean like, Eeeeh and ughhh?"

"Correct."

"They has a meaning all right. Just not ones you will find in a dictionary. You know, like if you hit your finger with a spanner and you loudly suck in your breath and scream out owee, owee, ouch. Her sounds meant that it tasted awful."

"I have observed you on one occasion injure yourself with a spanner. However, you failed to use those sounds to express pain."

"Sure I did...oh. Err…Those words are to be only used by adults and not in front of children…or the Captain."

"I am aware of that. After my duty shift, I sought out Captain Janeway. I questioned her as to the meaning of your particular utterances. Her face proceeded to turn a curious shade of red and she required me to inform her from where, and from whom, did I hear them. I informed her that you had used these words in engineering when you injured yourself. She informed me that those words were not appropriate while on duty, and considered undignified and uncouth in a public setting. It was a most unsatisfying conversation. My discussion with her was futile as she failed to provide me with the definitions that I requested."

B‘Elanna blurted out in surprise, "Why it was you who got my ass in hot water. She called me to her ready room and chewed me out but good for my use of certain expletives. Not that it kept me from using them again. Many times."

Seven actually had a somewhat stricken look on her face. "I apologize, Lieutenant. It was not my intention to cause you to be reprimanded by the Captain."

B'Elanna laughed. "It's B'Elanna, and I know that now. I'm glad I didn't find out then. I would've thought you were snitching on me to get me in trouble."

"Why would you have believed it then and not now?"

"In the last few days I'm learning a lot about you, Seven. I guess I never took the time before to stick around you long enough to see that I have misinterpreted things you say and do. The more I get to know you...I find that you are actually a caring individual. The way you are with Naomi. Saving my life. I know that many only see the Borg and don't give you a chance. I didn't give you a chance.” B’Elanna looked beseechingly at Seven and said sincerely, “I was wrong Seven. Will you forgive me?"

Seven saw the sincerity and heard it in B‘Elanna‘s voice. She felt elation at B’Elanna’s words and then shame and regret at her own actions toward B’Elanna. She swallowed hard and said, "B'Elanna, I forgive you if you will accept my apology. On many occasions I deliberately antagonized you to make you act angrily."

"Why, Seven?" B’Elanna asked in a perplexed voice.

"Your emotional responses fascinate me. It is difficult for me to express emotions. However, you express them more intensely than anyone on Voyager. I find that my being the catalyst of your emotional response fills a need in me that I cannot explain.”

Dropping her gaze, and then looking back up, and into B’Elanna’s eyes, she said in a pleading voice, “Please, B'Elanna, accept my apology."

This emotional appeal coming from Seven stunned B'Elanna. "I can't begin to understand what you went through as a drone for those 18 years in the collective. I will tell you this, Seven. You do feel emotion. I can hear it in your voice and see it in your eyes. It's subtle, but there all the same. Don't pick me as a role model though. My emotions have gotten me in plenty of trouble, especially anger. Your apology is accepted. I do have one question though."

"You may ask."

"A few nights ago, why did you ask me if I regretted killing Cardies?"

"When we were involved in the negotiations with the Caatati, you asked me if I felt regret at having assimilated them, and similar beings. I told you I did not, as guilt served no purpose. However, that is no longer true. I feel...remorse for killing the individuality of thousands. This part of returning to my humanity is the most painful. I know, logically, that I had no choice. However, this does not relieve my sense of remorse. Like me, you too are part human. I was curious if you felt remorse. I understand why you do not. The principles of Justice and Freedom governed your actions. My actions were to serve the Collective which destroyed billions of lives for their own purposes."

"I shouldn't have asked you that. I don't blame you for what you had to do as a drone. I'm sorry that I hurt you. I have a big mouth and I guess I have a big chip on my shoulder from growing up as a hybrid. You were right when you said back there at that oil pit that I was a failure. I fail at being a Klingon. I failed Starfleet, and every relationship I have ever been in. But, on my honor, Seven, B'Elanna Torres honor, I never fail my friends. Seven, will you allow me to be your friend?"

"B'Elanna Torres. You are not a failure. It was my intention to use those words as a weapon to anger you enough that you would fight against defeat. The Klingon in you prevailed. As I knew it would. Hold on to that part of you B'Elanna, It may deliver both Voyager and us from destruction. I have great admiration for you. You are intelligent. You possess an ability to solve problems that no one else is capable of doing. You are creative. You are loyal to your friends and honorable. Yes, B'Elanna Torres, I would be...honored to call you friend."

B'Elanna got up, knelt by Seven, and hugged her. Seven returned the hug. They separated slowly, blue eyes meeting dark brown. B'Elanna felt a happiness that she had not experienced in a long time. She went back to her place by the fire.

"B'Elanna, I too have another question."

"Oh yeah? Shoot. I mean ask."

"What are the definitions of the words 'screw it all to hell' and 'dick head'?"

x

x

x

Seven was unable to sleep. She watched B'Elanna, lying three feet away. She had fallen asleep several hours ago. For the most part, B'Elanna did not move in her sleep. However, every now and then her feet would move, or her arms. Several times she groaned in her sleep and muttered words that were hard to understand. Once B'Elanna curled up in a tight ball and muttered, "cold." Seven threw wood on the hot coals, which blazed into a warming fire.

Seven finished a set of eating spoons and one large stirring spoon, as well as a long bone two-pronged fork. She now worked on finishing the comb. She had made the comb from a piece of shoulder bone. It was in the shape of half an oval and followed the curvature of the shoulder blade. The rounded flat convex top would make it easy to grasp. In the edge of the bottom portion of the oval, she carved twenty two teeth. On the handle she carved in Klingon the words "For my friend." On the reverse side, she carved 'B'Elanna' in earth's Roman alphabet. She decorated the edges with vines and flowers and two iguanas.

Seven felt joy that B'Elanna was her friend. She had very few friends: The Doctor, Naomi, and Captain Janeway. Incorrect, Captain Janeway was only her friend when it did not impede her performance as captain. Captain Janeway was also her mentor. Their well being was important to her. She cared for them. Their interaction filled a need in her. However, B’Elanna filled her with a longing for more than friendship, much more. Could B'Elanna learn to feel the same for her?

B'Elanna woke, noticing that it was still dark and Seven was still awake and working on a piece of bone. "Can't sleep?"

"No. I do not know how. I can only maintain sleep when I am very fatigued and for two hours at most."

"Come and lie down anyway. You just need to learn to relax and get your mind relaxed."

Seven moved over to her mat that B'Elanna made for her, and lay down. She held her body stiff and her hands over her chest.

B'Elanna chuckled. "Here, move over next to me. I want to show you something." Seven moved her mat and put it beside B'Elanna's and lay back down, now only a couple of feet away from the Klingon.

B‘Elanna softly said, "I used to love to go camping and sleep under the stars. I would look up at the sky and make up my own constellations. Before I knew it, I was asleep. See that red star in the north and those surrounding it. That's a dragon."

Seven looked at the stars B'Elanna indicated. "They are stars, in a random pattern."

"Use your imagination, Seven. The red star is the dragon's eye and the two stars above are his horns. See that group of stars that look like a trapezoid? That‘s his body and legs. Those five stars that form a curve are his tail."

"I do not see a dragon."

"We have to work on your imagination."

"I possess an imagination. I do not see a dragon. I see Commander Chakotay's tattoo."

B'Elanna laughed. "Chakotay's tattoo? No way! His tattoo is blue, how do you explain the red star?"

"That is his left eye after he has imbibed too much synthehol at one of Neelix's parties."

B'Elanna giggled, "You know ...it does look like Chakotay's tattoo." There was a pause in conversation for a few minutes as both women looked at the heavens. "This really is a beautiful night sky. The nebula has a beauty all its own seen from here. I think it has something to do with the atmosphere. The stars have a more pronounced twinkle. They remind me of jewels or the shimmering dew catching the morning sun beams."

Seven looked at the heavens this time not with the eyes of the Borg. B'Elanna's description invoked in her a feeling of deja vue; A distant memory of looking up at the night sky as if it was magical. She was now seeing the heavens through the eyes of Annika Hansen. "The Borg are incorrect. Beauty is not irrelevant."

Seven's voice was low and soft, almost a caress, causing B'Elanna to shiver lightly in delicious response to the dawning emotion behind the words. She turned her head to gaze at Seven's profile, highlighted by the gossamer radiance from the nebula above them. She was ethereal, carved from silver and cool white marble, her lips slightly parted in a smile, eyes wide and staring in childlike wonder. B'Elanna felt her chest tighten with the sudden realization that she had crossed the line between feelings of friendship to feelings of love. Seven certainly was not at all the unfeeling drone she led others to believe her to be, as B'Elanna had discovered in the last few days. Beneath the cool exterior of implants and indifference, was a caring and giving individual, who would not abandon her shipmates, who would put their well-being before her own. The enigma that was Seven of Nine was a balance of machine and flesh, logic and emotion, woman and child. "Beautiful," she whispered.

She stretched out her hand and took Seven's in her grasp. Seven turned to look at their clasped hands. Her expression perplexed. B'Elanna smiled and squeezed the warm hand she held. Seven's face showed momentary surprise, and then, tentatively, she turned her head to face B'Elanna, and smiled gently, squeezing B'Elanna's hand in return. No words were spoke as B'Elanna slid over against the warm body next to her, turning her back into Seven, grasping her Borg left hand, pulling it, and causing Seven to turn on her side.

B’Elanna continued to pull until Seven spooned her from behind, feeling the beat of B’Elanna’s her heart against her left palm after her friend placed it under her breasts.

B'Elanna felt Seven relax and sigh, feeling the warm breath ruffle her hair and the press of soft breasts against her back. B'Elanna smiled to herself and softly said, "Good night, Seven."

"Good night, B'Elanna."

As B'Elanna slipped into sleep she thought her name never sounded as beautiful as when spoken by Seven of Nine.

x

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Seven woke up to a warm, sleeping woman in her arms. She did not move, enjoying this moment. She had her left hand on B'Elanna's chest, below her breasts, feeling her heart beat in a steady rhythm. She breathed in the scent that was B'Elanna. She found it appealing and ...arousing. She hated to move, but the dawn was lightening the sky to the east, and B'Elanna wanted to waken by dawn. She set up and shook B'Elanna's shoulder. "B'Elanna, cease sleeping. It is dawn."

B'Elanna groaned, shaking off the hand that shook her shoulder. "Not yet, too early."

"B'Elanna, I require nutriment. I shall perish if you do not comply."

B'Elanna opened her eyes and smiled at the humor underlying Seven's words. "Oh yeah, can't have you go hungry. I'm going to invite a few critters over for breakfast." She hurriedly got up and put on her shoes, reached over for a drink of water, grabbed the phaser rifle, and made her way in the disappearing darkness toward their 'rice paddy'.

That left Seven to begin breakfast preparations. She got up and stretched, feeling relaxed and knowing she had slept a sufficient amount, thanks to B'Elanna and her relaxation exercise. Putting on her shoes, she went down to the pool to fill one of the helmets with water. Putting more fuel on the fire, she placed the helmet in the pit to start the water for rice.

A few minutes later, she heard B'Elanna exclaim loudly, "Gotcha." Seven went over to their pile of green palm fronds and picked one with a nice thick and long center. She stripped the pointed leaves off and sharpened the end with the small cutter, then took it back to the fire.

A short time later, B'Elanna came through the light morning mist, bearing a good sized Iguana, head gone, skinned and cleaned. "The mighty hunter has returned after battling a ferocious dragon. We fought for many hours, but I prevailed."

Seven raised the implant over her left eye in amusement. "Indeed. The dragon you have terminated is ...impressive."

B'Elanna had a satisfied smirk on her face. Seven handed her the green stick to skewer her trophy. Seven noticed that B'Elanna's hands were none too clean. "You shall immediately proceed to the pool and wash your hands. I will begin cooking our breakfast. When you return you shall resume your task as cook."

B'Elanna looked at her hands and smirked, and said in a nasal and deferring voice, "Yes dear," before heading to the pool.

Seven knew this to be teasing, as she heard Tom Paris use the same words with the same nasal inflections, when B'Elanna informed him that he was to immediately leave their table in the mess hall and retrieve a drink for her. She knew from their interaction that Tom was teasing B'Elanna for her authoritative request, or what he termed as being 'bossy'. Usually, when Tom would return, he would bow and say, "Anything else your highness?" Everyone would laugh or snicker. She had failed to see the humor in this display. Now, with the changes in her and B'Elanna's relationship, she found it amusing.

B'Elanna came back and held out her hands for inspection, turning up the palms. "See, all clean." Seven coolly assessed her hands and looked into B'Elanna's eyes, lifting her left implant and looking expectant. "What? They're not clean enough for you?"

"They are acceptable. However, you have not rendered me the deference I am due."

"Deference?"

"You neglected to bow and inquire, "Is there anything else your highness?"

B'Elanna was flabbergasted for a moment then burst out laughing. "You had me going for a moment. I see you have noticed more in your studies of human mating habits than just the ah...courtship aspect. That was Tom being a smart ass."

Seven's mouth turned up a slight bit at the corners. "Indeed."

"The ass thought he was being cute and witty. After the cute and witty, there was not much there. Cute and witty wear thin after a while."

Seven had heard that B'Elanna was the one to terminate the relationship. Tom was what Sam Wildman called a 'big flirt'. Soon after the breakup, Tom was pursuing numerous females on the ship. He had even approached her with the promise of a 'good time'. She had looked at him with her cold, assessing Borg stare, and then turned back to her task, ignoring him. He never approached her again for that specific purpose.

"Seven, you need to keep turning the stick over the fire a few times so it won't burn. Let me do it. I will rig up a spit later so we don't have to hold it."

After twenty minutes of cooking, B'Elanna requested a small stick to puncture the meat to determine if it were ready. The smell actually made Seven's mouth water. She handed B'Elanna the two pronged bone fork and spoons. "Wow, Seven, these are really great. Just what we needed. They are well shaped and easy to hold. Thank you."

"You are welcome." Seven felt a warm glow knowing that B'Elanna was pleased. She hoped B'Elanna would also be pleased with the comb she planned to present to her after they bathed this afternoon.

After finishing their meal of rice and roasted Iguana, which B'Elanna stated did taste like chicken, they resumed their explorations of the oasis. Going to the north side, they discovered another spring. This one however, had the bones of many different animals spread about. B'Elanna checked them closely. "These have serrated teeth marks on them, and they weren't made by anything small. It would take a good sized animal to bring down one of those camels."

Seven scanned some of the bones with her tricorder. "The scan shows that the animals died six to twelve months ago."

"I bet you during the rainy season herds of these things migrate, and whatever killed them, follow the migrations. This oasis is more than likely on the migration path."

"These findings indicate that there is a rainy season every six months. Perhaps this planet's seasons of spring and fall. If this is correct, then another rainy season is imminent."

B'Elanna had a decidedly uneasy air about her and said, "Finding indications of large carnivorous beasts complicates things. Let's hope it doesn't rain while we're here. We don't know how soon after the rain they may show up. They may even show up sometime before to lie in ambush of the migrating herds. We'll have to be extra observant and always have a phaser within reach."

"Agreed. We can also use one of our tricorders to alert us to any moving object within 100 feet of our camp. I can adjust my hearing to enhance sound. I should be able to pick up any unusual disturbances."

"You know, I'm glad it's you here with me. With you covering my back I'll sleep a whole lot easier."

Seven was pleased at this statement and gave one of her rare full smiles, eyes bright. "I will not abuse your trust, B'Elanna. I too am fortunate that it is you here with me. I could trust no other to keep me...safe."

B’Elanna, seeing that smile and knowing that Seven put full trust in her, felt that her heart was close to bursting. 'Oh, Seven, I would die for you, and feel honored to do so.'

x

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B'Elanna exited the water with Seven behind, observing the Klingon's muscled back and legs, and the movement of her fine toned rear. When in the water together, she had noticed that B'Elanna often stole glances at her, raking her eyes up and down her body, as she did B'Elanna's. 'I am positive that what I am feeling is sexual arousal. I am unsure how B'Elanna feels. Is it arousal or curiosity?'

B'Elanna brushed the sand off her feet, retrieved her dry clothes, sat on her mat, and dressed. She ran her fingers through her hair trying to undo the tangles. "Damn, I'm going to look like a nasty Kazon by the time we get back to Voyager. Then I'll look worse because I'll have to shave my head and look like a Delton. Bald won't go well with my ridges."

Seven sat on her own mat and dressed. She reached over and retrieved an environmental suit's glove, reached in and brought out an article wrapped in a broad green leaf and tied with a long stalk of grass. "B'Elanna Torres." B'Elanna looked at the young woman's face, seeing a slight blush. "I wish you to accept this gift in appreciation for being my friend."

Seven held out the item and B'Elanna took it from her hand and started to unwrap it. "Seven, I'm honored to be your friend you don't ...Oh my gods. Oh, Seven, it's beautiful." She looked at Seven, her eyes tearing at the gift. "Seven, you did this during the nights, instead of sleeping."

Seven's eyes were shinning with pleasure that her gift pleased B'Elanna. "I could not achieve sleep, until you helped me relax. I decided to use that time to make you the comb."

B'Elanna ran her fingers over the engraved Klingon script. She was embarrassed that she only knew a few phrases of her mother's language. "I'm not that familiar with the written form of Klingon. What does it say?"

"For my friend." Seven looked at her with shining eyes.

"This is the most precious gift I have ever received. I know it came from your heart and that makes it even dearer." B’Elanna’s smile was huge and her eyes bright.

Seven answered B’Elanna’s smile with one equally as big. "It pleases me that you are pleased."

B'Elanna leaned over and kissed Seven's cheek. "Thank you, sweet friend." She sat next to Seven, smiling and turning the comb over to run her fingers over the engravings.

B'Elanna tried to comb her hair, but it was too knotted and tangled. "Uggh, this is a mess. I'll never get the tangles out."

"Allow me, B'Elanna. I have had some experience in combing Naomi's hair."

B'Elanna handed Seven the comb and turned her back to the Borg. Seven sat back on her heels behind B'Elanna and started working the comb from the ends of her hair to remove the tangles. Seven was very careful and tried not to pull the hair to cause pain.

B'Elanna felt Seven's knees press against her buttocks and Seven's arms rub against her shoulders and upper back. It sent tiny delicious tingles down her spine. Finally, she could feel Seven run the comb smoothly through her hair.

"Turn and face me." B'Elanna turned her whole body around toward Seven. The Borg's left hand went under her chin to turn her face up. B'Elanna watched Seven's eyes dance across her face and hair. "Your hair is very esthetically pleasing with the waves. Why do you not allow it to remain in this fashion?"

B'Elanna sighed. "I don't know. That's not true, I do know. I don't wear it like this because it looks too Klingon. I always tried to make it look straight, like my father's people. Kind of stupid of me, huh? Like these ridges on my forehead don't announce loud and clear what I am."

"I find your Klingon visage esthetically pleasing. It suits you B'Elanna. You have the spirit of a Klingon warrior, in that you are loyal and honorable and do not back down from adversity. Why do you deny your Klingon heritage?"

"It's more trouble than it's worth. Being part Klingon has caused me nothing but grief. My father left my mother and me when I was twelve, for being too Klingon. He said that wasn't the reason, but I heard him tell my Uncle Carl that I was too much like my mother. I left Starfleet Academy after four reprimands and a suspension, as I can't control my Klingon temper. When I meet people, they immediately judge me as Klingon, and look at me as if I were a monster about to tear off their heads. They never see the human part."

"Those that judge you are mostly Humans are they not? They too see me as a monster. I have found that Humans perceive their cultures as superior. They apply their own cultural standards to others. Why do you allow their erroneous assumptions to dictate your actions? It is obvious that you are more Klingon in your temperament and emotions. You should claim that which truly suits you best."

Her voice strident, B'Elanna answered, "You sound like my mother. She was always on my back to be more Klingon. She even showed up in a hallucination I recently had, telling me she was condemned to Grethor because of the dishonor I brought her by not being Klingon enough. Hell, she took me to Qono'S to live with her people, and they thought me too Human and weak." B'Elanna's voice escalated in anger. "I could ask you why you are so averse to accepting that part of you which is Human. You go by a Borg designation: Seven of Nine. Why don't you claim your Human name: Annika Hansen? You disparage that part of you that feels emotions. It is not that you cannot express emotions; it’s that you consider them weak. You fear emotions." B'Elanna stood up, glaring down at Seven, her breasts heaving in anger, her eyes glaring dangerously.

Seven also stood, taller than B'Elanna by half a head. Her voice rose in pitch, harsh and strident, and her eyes flashed with the fire of anger, "Annika Hansen died on her sixth birthday, more a victim of her parents' neglect than the Borg assimilation. They were Human. However, they did not care enough for her wellbeing and took her into danger. They were selfish. They put their goals before her wellbeing. With the Borg, there is no selfishness. Emotions are irrelevant. Billions of minds but with one goal, working in harmony together."

B'Elanna snorted derisively, "Billions of unfeeling metallic suits. Robots programmed to do the Queen's bidding. Some life. Told when to jump and how high, who to obliterate and destroy. I can program a machine to do what a drone does. You can't fool me Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix One. I know why you cling to your Borgness. Fear. You're afraid aren't you Seven of Nine? You're afraid of emotions, as they make you feel things you want to avoid. Abandonment, unworthiness, and anger at what your parents did. You fear them because if you start feeling then you'll know that those eighteen years you spent in the collective were far from 'perfection'. It was an obliteration of the soul and a death to self. Yes, Seven of Nine. The only thing the Borg have given you is fear. They did not take that emotion away. Tell me, Seven of Nine, how does it feel to know that you are not the perfect Borg you thought you were? Your fear and anger have made you flawed and weak."

Seven stepped closer into B'Elanna's personal space. B'Elanna did not budge. Seven's voice, now a low growl, "I fear nothing. Fear is irrelevant."

"Oh yeah, Borg, get out of my face or I will show you what to fear." B'Elanna pushed Seven back. Seven angrily pushed back with her Borg hand, causing B'Elanna to fall back and land on her butt. She immediately sprang to her feet, screaming in rage and rushed Seven, hitting her in the mid section. Seven fell back on the yielding sand, pulling B'Elanna with her, and rolling on top of the enraged Klingon. B'Elanna tried to push her off and gave her a head butt. Seven was momentarily stunned and B'Elanna used the advantage to throw Seven off. B’Elanna sprang to her feet, as did Seven. Both women stood facing each other, eyes blazing, and chests heaving. Seven looked untamed and primal, her hair tangled about her shoulders, mouth curled in anger and eyes blazing. B’Elanna felt a fire in her gut that also engulfed her groin. She had an overwhelming desire to take this woman and make her yield and to claim her as her mate.

Seven sprang forward and grasped B'Elanna by her shoulders. They grappled and fell to the ground. Using her Borg strength, she managed to straddle B’Elanna’s waist, and pinned the Klingon's hands above her head. B'Elanna bucked and growled. Seven looked down at the growling woman, hair wild, and eyes molten. Her anger dissolved into want, desire, lust, and yes, love. She wanted B'Elanna Torres. Wanted to feel her in a physical as well as in a strong and very emotional way. She knew then that she loved B'Elanna, and that the dam holding her emotions had broken. She stilled, and looked into B'Elanna's eyes, pouring all that she felt, and all that she was, out of her soul and through her eyes.

B'Elanna stared back. Somehow, through her blood lust, something in Seven's eyes reached her. She saw passion, and warmth, tenderness and yes, love. B'Elanna stilled, stopping her struggle. Fighting down what she couldn't deny but wasn't ready to fully accept. Blood didn't lie. She was indeed Klingon in her heart and in her spirit. Seven lowered her mouth, not hesitating, and gently kissed her. She removed her lips a few centimeters back and stared back into B'Elanna's eyes. She let go of her grip and moved off the Klingon. B'Elanna sat up and reached out, gently pulling Seven to her, and kissed her tenderly. Seven pressed more closely into her arms, breasts touching breasts. Seven returned her kiss, her lips slightly opening. B'Elanna tenderly touched those lips with the tip of her tongue. She felt Seven's tongue touch hers in response. The kiss deepened and tongue caressed tongue.

B'Elanna pulled away, breathless and trembling. "I love you, Seven of Nine."

Seven smiled, her teeth showing through parted lips and her eyes bright. "I love you, B'Elanna Torres."

They kissed again for several long minutes. B'Elanna smelled the scent of Seven's arousal, which elicited a deep growl from her throat. She fought to control her blood lust. She pushed Seven away and breathlessly said, "I want you Seven of Nine, as my mate. My Klingon part always recognized that you were my mate. My human part though, tells me this isn't right. You deserve more than to be conquered and taken. I don't want to rush things with you. I want you to come to me when you are ready, not because I bully you. We both need to learn to lead and to follow, to give and to take, not one dominating the other. We will know when it is the right time to claim each other as mate."

Seven reached out and caught a tear with her finger as it made a path down B'Elanna's cheek. She felt a lump in her throat and then the tears started to flow. She swallowed hard and said, "B’Elanna, do not deny what you are. You are Klingon. You are now beginning to understand in your heart that you are. However, you do not comprehend what it means to be Klingon. This you must learn to be content. This you must learn in order to be content with me as your mate. You are correct. Patience is warranted. However, I must caution you, I will always remain part Borg. However, I now choose to accept that part of me which is Human. I do not know what it means to be Human and must learn this to be content with myself, and you as my mate. You will assist me in learning to accept and not fear my humanity and my emotions."

"I will my love, I will always be part Human, but I choose to be Klingon in my heart. I need you to help me claim my Klingon Heritage by first teaching me how to write and speak Klingon."

"oH nob jiH bel bang Hlja." (Yes. It will give me great pleasure to do so my beloved)

x

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They established a routine over the next few days that consisted of gathering food, fuel, and exploring. In the late afternoon, they would swim. They touched frequently as they performed their task, giving each other hugs and kisses. B'Elanna was learning patience and control: The patience and control of a warrior. She did not smother her Klingon spirit, but controlled it, as a warrior would. It was hard to dampen down her blood lust, as Seven was a beautiful woman, both inside and out. Touching her, kissing her, seeing the want in her eyes, and holding each other as they slept, made B'Elanna growl deep in her throat. It would soon be time to claim Seven as her mate, as everyday their bond grew stronger, and she was discovering her Klingon Self.

Seven relished the nighttime best…lying in each other's arms. Every night they would play the game of 'Name a Constellation.' Seven named the small moon Naomi and B'Elanna named the blue tinted moon, Chell, after one of Voyager's Bolian crewmember. She said the moon was blue and rotund like Chell.

Seven was learning to be more expressive in her emotions, and not analyze every feeling or thought. And to be more spontaneous. She had learned how to laugh, which pleased B'Elanna, and caused her to smile with a joy close to tears that she had been the first to hear it and see the look on Seven's face.

Seven felt her feelings of love deepen for the Klingon. They shared their hopes and discussed their future together as a couple. They argued good naturedly about which marriage custom they would take; the conventional Starfleet wedding, with Captain Janeway presiding, the ritual Klingon Vow, or the formal Klingon Wedding. Seven wanted the Klingon Vow, as she believed that it should be private with no witnesses. She stated that their crewmates would know that they were indeed married after they saw the bite marks on each other cheeks. B’Elanna had laughed and said Seven was more ‘Klingon’ than many true Klingons for her desire to draw blood. B'Elanna wanted the traditional North American marriage with the friends, flowers, dinner, and dancing afterward. She wanted to see Seven walking down the aisle toward her. They decided they would do both, but then argued about which one would be performed first.

x

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Captain Janeway sat in her command chair trying to concentrate on the various departmental reports. Lieutenant Vorik was now Chief Engineer and Ensign Megan Delaney promoted to Lieutenant to head Astrometrics.

It had been two weeks since Seven and B'Elanna's disappearance. She thought about them every day. Sent her prayers to whatever deity would listen that they were safe. She refused to think of them in the past tense. She imagined, after two weeks with each other, they were literally at each other's throat. Both were opinionated and head strong. She also knew that the animosity they felt about each other would not prevent them from looking out for one another. They were both honorable and would feel it was their duty to do so.

In another week they would be around the nebula and away from interference from the radiation and Voyager would once again resume the quickest route home. This would not keep her from searching along the way. All of her officers had given up hope of ever finding them. They didn't voice it after she bit Tuvok's head off for saying the chances of them finding a wormhole home was more probable than finding the two. She kept hoping that along the way they just might find them. So far, she had beaten all odds of keeping her ship and crew together for six years. She felt that somehow she could beat the odds again and find her two lost sheep.

x

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B'Elanna Torres washed her hands in the shallow water among a thatch of rice plants. She had just killed and cleaned their morning meal and knew Seven didn't appreciate seeing dirty hands. Granted, the water was none too clean here, she would just wash off the obvious stains and do a more thorough cleaning when she got back to camp.

She noticed the darkening around her and realized that she was in the shade. 'A cloud?' She looked up and caught a quick glimpse of two large objects heading toward camp. She rose quickly, grabbing her phaser rifle and ran toward camp hearing a high pitched screaming. "SEVEN!" She burst into the clearing and saw Seven by the pond, her right shoulder clasped in the vise like claws of one foot of a huge brown and Ivory winged creature, at least eight feet tall. Its long brown, snake like neck held a head that resembled a crocodile. It had Seven by her Borg arm and was shaking its head back and forth in an attempt to tear it off. The other creature was maneuvering to hit Seven in the back. B'Elanna screamed in rage and quickly shot the one behind Seven. It dropped dead. However, Seven was too close to the one that held her, and she could not get a clean shot.

It was apparent that Seven was using her Borg enhanced arm to block the beast’s attempt to tear at her face and other arm. B'Elanna charged, swinging her rifle over her head and viciously slammed the butt on the creature's head as hard as she could. It let go of Seven's Borg arm but still held her right arm by sharp talons. It lunged at B'Elanna with its head and she stuck the end of her phaser rifle into the wide open mouth and pulled the trigger. The beast died instantly and fell with its talons embedded deep in Seven's right shoulder, dragging her down as it fell.

B'Elanna quickly knelt by Seven trying to remove the heavy foot, with the embedded talons, from her shoulder. There were two talons embedded in the back of her shoulder, and the hind talon was in the front. Seven was attempting to use her Borg arm to push herself up, but could not manage to do so. B'Elanna noticed that her arm appeared damaged and had been torn open, showing some of the implants beneath. Seven's Borg strength failed her as the arm ceased functioning.

"Seven, stay still, please don't move. I'll free you."

Seven fell back and moaned loudly. B'Elanna removed the small laser cutter that she had dressed out the iguana with and severed each toe from the foot. She rose and kicked the leg and foot away from Seven. B'Elanna noticed that the two talons on the back of her shoulder had come out the front. Blood was starting to ooze from the wounds.

Seven groaned and said in a pained voice, "B'Elanna I was at the pool. I stood and turned. I did not hear them. They...they..."

"Shhh, It's over love. I've got you now." B'Elanna knew if she removed the talons now, Seven would bleed to death. She needed something to stanch the wounds. She thought briefly of cauterizing them with her laser cutter, but the wounds looked too wide and an infection could occur. She needed bandages or a compress. Their clothes were out of the question. Then their two environmental suits came to mind. The lining on the inside consisted of a soft wicking material to soak up sweat, and act as insulation. She went quickly to the camp area and grabbed one of the suits. She used the laser cutter to open a seam on each leg and pulled the insulating material out. She got one of the helmets, ran back to the pool, filling it with water, and then put it on the fire. She used her hand phaser to bring the water to a boil and put the cloth in to sterilize it.

She took one of the grass mats and went over to Seven. If she could get her on the mat, she could drag her to the camp. Seven was still, but her breathing was rapid and eyes staring, her pupils large.

"Seven. Can you sit up? I will help you."

Seven could not use either arm to push herself up. B'Elanna took the front of her black top and pulled her up into a sitting position then got her to scoot over and onto the mat. Seven cried out in pain. B'Elanna eased her down onto her left side, took the end of the mat, and dragged her back to the fireside. She removed the length of cloth from the helmet with the long fork and hurriedly draped it over a palmetto to dry. She cut more insulation out of the suits, putting them in the boiling water to sterilize for a few minutes. She removed them with the bone fork skewer, and hung these up. The sun was hot and the air arid, they would quickly dry.

She had to get Seven's shirt off somehow. The rips from the attack made it easy enough to pull apart in several pieces to remove. She retrieved a piece of hot wet cloth from the helmet with the bone skewer and let it drip the excess moisture out. It was still hot, but she managed to fold it enough to make a compress.

She placed the hot compress on the corner of the mat and turned to Seven "Seven, I'm going to pull the talon out that is in the front first." She quickly pulled out the talon. Seven gave a sharp moan. B'Elanna grabbed the wet compress and quickly placed it over the wound. She kept the pressure on for a minute and then lifted the compress to check the wound. It had quit bleeding and B’Elanna tried to gently clean it with the wet cloth. Seven drew her breath in sharply and B’Elanna ceased immediately. Only a little blood seeped out.

She retrieved the other cloths and went back to Seven. This would be tricky as the talons had an entrance and an exit. She would have to remove one and stop the bleeding before she could move another. "I'm sorry that this hurts."

Seven answered weakly, "It is necessary. My nanoprobes are dulling the pain."

"Good, that's good. Stay on your side now." She quickly pulled one out and applied a compress to each side. Seven breathed in sharply but did not moan. B'Elanna pressed for a few minutes. The blood caused the bandage to stick, which B'Elanna knew was a good sign that it was coagulating. She got another long piece of cloth and tied it in place. "Only one more Seven, that's all." She repeated the same process and held her breath hoping the wounds would not start bleeding.

Seven asked for a drink of water and B'Elanna had her stay still as she spooned the water into her mouth. Seven then went to sleep with B'Elanna watching her closely throughout the night.

x

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The heat roiled in waves over the endless sea of sand. There was no sight of any living thing. The sky was dull and leaden, holding only the sun, her voice taunting. "You are weak, Seven of Nine. Pathetic. Now you are dying. Listen, Seven of Nine; do you hear it now, the sound of one alone, dying alone? We will purge your distinctiveness from the Collective. All that you are, and were, will be forgotten. You are nothing."

"You are mistaken. I am not alone. I have my B'Elanna to guard my back and fight at my side. You cannot defeat me…defeat us. It matters not that I am nothing to the Collective as I am all in her eyes and heart and that you cannot purge."

"Shhh, Seven, I'm here. It was a bad dream, nothing more."

Seven had slept restlessly through the night, moaning in her sleep. She had called B'Elanna's name several times. She had a fever. B'Elanna used a wet cloth and wiped her face, which seemed to calm her. She breathed a sigh of relief that Seven’s wounds were not bleeding. B'Elanna kept the fire burning strong all night. She would have to leave soon and get wood. She would stoke it up hot and high as a detriment to any of those flying bastards. She would also have to drag the ones she killed away from this area before they started to rot.

They had been so sure that any threat would come across land and never thought that death would drop from the sky. It was obvious that these birds hunted in pairs, and perhaps in packs, bringing down prey far heavier than themselves, and then tearing it to pieces to devour on the spot or fly off with their meal. That explained the serrations on the bones they found. They literally cut their prey apart with their sharp saw-like teeth.

It would be dawn soon and she would change Seven's bandages and check for infection. There was not much she could do about that except reopen the wound and let it drain. She was sure Seven's nanoprobes were doing their best, but Seven was days overdue for regeneration and had to depend on sleep and food to sustain her. If things went right, and this was the other side of the nebula, Voyager should be in contact range within a few days. She hoped that Seven could make it until then.

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Seven was dying. She could feel the infection spread in her body. It was just too much for her nanoprobes to deal with. She should have been dead by now but they had managed to keep her alive this long. She tried to fight, but without antibiotics, she would lose. She wanted to live with all her heart and soul. She now had so much to live for. B'Elanna. Her love, her Parmahkie. She wanted more than anything to have B'Elanna as her be’nal. She would wait for her in Sto'va'kor as the wife of a warrior. Perhaps B'Elanna would give her this.

B'Elanna checked the wounds on Seven's back. They were infected. She had to open them to drain, the stench almost making her retch. It was day number six. She had comforted Seven by telling her some of the happier stories of her childhood and of the sights she had seen on Qo’noS. She described her mother, father, cousins, aunts, and uncles, both Klingon and Human. Sometimes, Seven was lucid and told her how much she loved her. She started calling B'Elanna her warrior. If only Voyager were here.

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"Captain, I am picking up a Federation signal… no, two signals. They match the signatures of B'Elanna and Seven's com badges." Harry exclaimed excitingly.

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"B'Elanna." The voice was barely above a whisper.

"I'm here love." B'Elanna leaned close to Seven to catch her voice that had grown weak. It took a lot of effort for her to speak. Her periods of lucidness were fewer now. She brushed her hand over Seven's cheek and lightly kissed the implant above her eye.

"Take the oath with me. Send me to Sto'vo'kor as your be'nal."

"Oh, love. It will be an honor to be your be'nal. I love you so much." B’Elanna said, her voice breaking,

Seven was able to move her right hand and sought out B'Elanna's. Seven's voice was suddenly strong, "jIH dok."

B'Elanna answered back equally as strong with the words she had recently learned from Seven, "maj dok." She leaned low and placed her left cheek lightly against Seven's lips. Seven bit her, tasting her blood. Seven turned her cheek and B'Elanna returned the bite and tasted her blood. They were mates, here in life and after death.

Seven smiled and gazed long into the deep depths of B'Elanna's eyes and seeing the love they held. She felt fortunate to have the love of this woman.

Hours passed and Seven fell into a coma, her breathing shallow. B'Elanna prayed to every power she knew. Her be'nal was slipping away from her and taking B'Elanna's breaking heart with her.

"Voyager to away team. Lieutenant Torres, Seven, do you copy?" B'Elanna had taken her com badge off and frantically searched for it. "This is Voyager to away team." She found it in the backpack and quickly tapped the front.

"Voyager, this is B'Elanna. Two to beam up to sick bay, this is an emergency."

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Captain Janeway hurriedly exited the turbo lift and briskly walked the few yards to Sick Bay. The first thing she saw when Sick Bay's door opened, was an agitated B'Elanna Torres, frantically pacing and trying to peer into the opaque force field around the surgery bay. The second thing she noticed were the taunt face, dark circles under her red rimmed eyes and disheveled appearance. "Lanna."

B'Elanna turned her head, saw her Captain, and flung herself into Janeway's arms, sobbing. Janeway enfolded her in a hug, ignoring the pungent smell of an unwashed body.

"Captain." was all B’Elanna could manage through her sobs.

"Let's go over here to the Doctor's office."

"No. I'm not letting her out of my sight."

"You can sit facing the window. You need to sit. I will be there with you."

B'Elanna allowed her Captain to lead her to the office, and to a chair facing the surgery. Janeway ordered the computer to activate the privacy shield so no one could see into the office or hear their conversation. "B'Elanna what happened?"

B'Elanna took several shaky deep breaths and related the events of Seven's injury and her attempt to help.

At the end of her story her eyes welled up in large tears, voice shaky, "She...she fought for six days. She was weak from not regenerating. I think her nanoprobes may have helped her survive this long. If she dies, I...I just can't go on without her."

'This is not like B'Elanna to be this distraught, this fragile. It wasn't as if she and Seven were best friends. Upset, yes. Angry? Yes, that a crewmate was injured. But not this agony. What is going on?'

Janeway rubbed B'Elanna's shoulder comfortingly and said, "I want you to use Sick Bay's sonic shower and put on some fresh clothes. I'll replicate you something to eat. This will help with the strain you're under."

"No. It can wait until I know she's going to be alright."

"You'll be just a few steps away and it will only take a few minutes. If the Doctor has any news, I will let you know right away. You don't want her to see you like this."

B'Elanna looked toward the surgery bay for long seconds and then made her way quickly to the sonic shower.

Janeway watched B'Elanna go. She got up from her chair and looked out of the bay window toward the surgery. Wrapping her arms around herself, she sighed. 'I wish the Doctor would come out and give us a status report. Seven. Don't give up. Fight. I just got you and B'Elanna back. I couldn't bear it if ...' She used her will, forged from years of being in control, to force down the 'If'.

B'Elanna quickly exited the sonic shower and tapped her code into the replicator. Instead of her uniform, she picked a simple slip on linen tunic. The tunic was off- white with a V-neck and long sleeves with a simple pattern of green intertwined vines around the neck. She chose a muted salmon pair of loose fitting linen pants and soft tan ankle boots. Dressing quickly, she glanced in the mirror noticing her hair was in disarray. "My comb." She exited quickly and looked toward where the Doctor was tending Seven. She walked back to the office. Captain Janeway stood, looking her over. "Captain, have we left orbit?"

"Not yet. I sent Tuvok with a security team to retrieve weapons and any other items at the place where you were transported from."

"Could you please have him look in one of the environmental suit gloves and bring me the comb that is in there? It’s very precious to me."

"He is to report to me when he is back on the ship. I will have him bring it right away."

"Thank you, Captain."

Janeway studied B'Elanna closely noticing a green and yellow bruise, with a few places scabbing over, on her left cheek. "Let me go and get a dermal regenerator and treat that injury on your cheek."

B'Elanna quickly raised her hand to cover the wound, a warning growl in her voice, "NO. Don't touch it!"

Janeway, taken aback and shaken by the clearly stated warning in B'Elanna's voice, said, "B'Elanna?"

"We have taken The Oath. She is my be'nal."

Janeway was stunned, momentarily silent, as she tried to make sense of what B'Elanna just said.

"Be'nal? Wife? You're...married?"

"Yes, Captain. She is mine and I am hers. I love her with all that I am… with all that I will ever be."

'Oh Boy. I didn't see this one coming.' Janeway went to the replicator. "Computer, coffee. Black. Belay that order. Whiskey. On the rocks."

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For the next 40 minutes, Janeway sat rapt as she listened to B'Elanna's rendition of events on the planet. Tuvok had retrieved B'Elanna's comb and brought it to her. She showed it to Janeway, the pride shinning in her eyes, that her be'nal had fashioned this for her. Several times during the story, B'Elanna would stop and demand to know what was taking so long. Janeway calmed her down by getting her back on the story. She had gotten B'Elanna to drink a glass of milk and eat a few bites of a sandwich.

Finally, the privacy shield around the surgery bay flickered off and the Doctor approached the office with a smug smile on his face. B'Elanna ran past him and to the bio-bed, leaving behind an outraged and sputtering Doctor.

"What is this? A blue light special at a Klingon tavern? Captain, do something. I can't have my patient disturbed."

"I'll handle it Doctor. Tell me, is she going to be alright?"

His smug smile returned. "The Patient will make a full recovery, thanks to my expertise in the Medical Field. She would have died in another few hours. I had to remove a good amount of necrotic tissue from her right shoulder, and I got her infection under control. I have applied bio-gel packs to the wound, which we will remove in three days. I have also repaired her Borg arm."

"What about regeneration? She is way over due."

"Actually, this may be a good time to get her off her dependency for regeneration. Apparently, she was able to digest solids and sleep, or the infection would have killed her much earlier. She is still producing nanoprobes, just not at the same rate she would if she continued regeneration. The present rate of her nanoprobe production will continue without regeneration and be more than sufficient to maintain her Borg implants and keep her healthy. She should be awakening in about twelve hours."

"That's good to hear Doctor. I know she and B'Elanna will be pleased. It would be hard to fit her alcove in their new quarters."

"You mean they're going to be roommates? That's like putting the proverbial cat and proverbial dog in quarters together. All they will do is fight. I have enough to do without having to treat contusions and busted noses every other day."

Janeway tried unsuccessfully to prevent a smirk. "Oh, I don't think you have to worry about that, unless they receive injuries on those occasions when they break their bed. Hmm, which reminds me, I need to request ships stores to put a queen sized bed in their new quarters. Maybe I can get maintenance to reinforce it."

The Doctor felt his electronic matrix flutter and fizzle.

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B'Elanna saw that her love's respiration was deep and even. She checked her vital signs on the monitor over the bio- bed, and cried in relief.

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Seven tried to think of a way to evade the two Hirogen Hunters. They had her trapped in Cargo Bay Two. She had no weapon, and no way out. They advanced on her hiding place behind some containers. They flushed her out and in trying to escape, she stumbled and fell. They loomed over her; taking out long knifes to kill her. She heard a scream of rage and then the two Hirogens turned and fell, dead, to the floor. She looked up and into the eyes of a Klingon warrior, her hair waving and wild, a bat'leth in her hands. She knelt and smiling at Seven said, "You're safe now be'nal. On my honor I will always keep you safe."

"You're safe now. It's ok. You're on Voyager." She opened her eyes, trying to focus. She knew that voice. The blurred outline of a face with dark waving hair gradually came into focus: Her B'Elanna, her love. She tried to speak but her mouth and throat were dry as if full of sand.

"Don't move love. Here, sip this, but not too fast." B'Elanna placed the straw into her mouth and she drew in several small sips. Seven stopped sipping and B'Elanna removed the straw. “I’ll give you more if you want."

"B'Elanna." She felt her love take her left hand and kiss her palm.

"Hey, you're going to be ok. The Doctor fixed you all up and you'll be up and out of here in no time." She brushed the loose strands of hair off Seven's forehead, looking into the bright pale blue eyes. She leaned over and kissed Seven on her forehead. "I've missed you, be'nal."

Be'nal. Wife. She then noticed the oval bruising on B'Elanna's left cheek. She immediately freed her hand from B'Elanna's, brought it up to her own left cheek, and felt a tender area. She then gently touched the bite on B’Elanna’s cheek and gave one of her brilliant dazzling smiles. "It is true. I thought it was a dream."

"It was a dream come true for me love. You do remember taking the oath don't you?" B'Elanna's voice sounded worried.

"I do, be'nal. I requested you to take the oath with me. We exchanged the ritual words and performed the ritual bite."

B'Elanna's whole face lit up with a dazzling smile of her own. Before she could reply, the Doctor showed up and began running his diagnostic tool over Seven.

"You look in good spirits. Must be the company you're keeping. Everything looks ok. Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort?"

"No pain. However, I am experiencing mild discomfort in that I cannot move my right arm and shoulder."

"Well, I'm afraid you'll just have to get used to it for the next two days while the bio-gel packs regenerates your tissue. You had quite an infection and I had to remove a good amount of necrotic tissue. It appears that the claws, or teeth, of whatever attacked you had a substance that destroyed the tissue around the injured area and accelerated the infection."

B'Elanna, concern in her voice, inquired, "Does this substance pose any further danger?"

"Not at all Lieutenant. Unlike venom, it does not travel throughout the system, but only affects the surrounding area." He continued to enter in information on his PADD. "I suggest while you are here, you get plenty of rest and try to eat. I can make you a nutritional milkshake if you like."

B'Elanna snickered at the decidedly distasteful frown on Seven's face.

"That particular nutritional item is no longer on my menu." The Doctor looked slightly hurt by this comment.

B'Elanna interceded, "Doc, do you think chicken soup and a glass of apple juice would be ok?"

"I don't see why not. Just nothing too spicy or rich; chocolate cake, tamales', targ heart, blood pie. And under no circumstances, Neelix's leola root stew."

B'Elanna glared at the Doctor and said, "I think I need to make some adjustments to your sub-routine."

"No need. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your marriage. Qapla."

"Thank you Doctor," both women replied in unison.

The Doctor departed and Seven looked at B'Elanna inquiringly, "Chicken soup. I have not been introduced to that nutritional item."

"Believe me be'nal. You'll like it. It tastes like iguana."

B'Elanna commandeered one of the bio-beds and stayed in Sickbay with her be'nal. The Doctor soon abandoned his demands that she leave when she threatened to reset his matrix to perform medical routines only. She also forbade him to give Seven a sponge bath, taking on this responsibility herself. Seven told her this was her favorite part of the day, having B'Elanna bathe her. The way she looked at B'Elanna when she said this made the Klingon catch her breath and feel aroused. "Seven. Be nice."

"I am Borg. Nice is irrelevant."

"Well. It should be irrelevant then if I let the Doctor take over this duty."

"I shall comply. For now." Seven then smirked and said in a sultry voice, "However, I will not 'be nice' when I am released from Sickbay."

This caused B'Elanna to do something very non-Klingon. Blush. She quickly recovered and gave Seven the once over with a salacious leer on her face. "Oh. I think you will. You'll be 'nice'. Very, very ‘nice‘." This caused her be'nal to blush.

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Word spread quickly about B'Elanna and Seven's marriage. No one saw it coming, except for Neelix. Who cleaned up on Tom's betting pool that B'Elanna wouldn't be able to pair up with anyone on the ship, except maybe for Vorik when his next Pon Farr was due. And that would only be due to desperation on his part.

Neelix bet a whole year worth of replicator credits that B'Elanna would find someone sooner than Tom thought. Neelix was an astute observer of the actions of others. Being cook and working in the mess hall gave him plenty of information on the personalities of others; who they liked, who they didn't, and gossip picked up on everybody from the lower decks right up to the Captain herself.

Ever since Seven came on board, he observed that B'Elanna always followed the Borg with her eyes when both happened to be in the Mess Hall together. She also would talk a lot about the Borg. Granted that it was in a negative way, but he was well versed in humanoid behaviors. What was said was not always what was meant. He also looked up Klingon mating behavior in the Data Base. Antagonism often meant interest. B'Elanna felt an attraction to Seven and was in denial. The more she bitched the more he was sure she was attracted to her. When he heard that Seven would enter B'Elanna's domain and initiate certain unauthorized routines that would provoke the Klingon, he was sure that Seven had an interest in B'Elanna. It would be just a matter of time before the two figured it out.

Neelix was now a very rich man and Tom had to borrow replicator credits from Harry just to get a bowl of tomato soup. Tom hoped that no one told B'Elanna about the betting pool, or, for that matter, Seven of Nine. Assimilation did not appeal to him.

Unfortunately, for Tom, B'Elanna did hear about the pool. When the doctor declared that Seven could have visitors, there was a beeline to Sick Bay. Janeway and Naomi made it at least two times a day. Even Tuvok dropped by for a visit.

It was Tom's best buddy, Harry, who spilled the beans, by saying no one saw this coming and now Neelix was a very rich man. He realized immediately that he had said the wrong thing. However, resistance was futile, when both women started figuratively working him over. B'Elanna wanted to smash Tom's nose, but Seven talked her out of it. She didn't want to spend her honeymoon alone while B'Elanna was in the Brig. B'Elanna agreed but stated she would exact revenge one day on "Mr. Thomas Eugene PetaQ."

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"Well, love, Doc is scheduled to release you in a little bit when he gets through treating half the crew for eating Neelix's latest creation. Is there anything you want to do when you leave here? You know, we have two weeks off and have to find a way to spend them." B'Elanna tried to look serious.

"You are being facetious."

"Wait, I have a great idea. Why don't we go to our new quarters and make sure everything works. There are always adjustments that you need to do to the replicator or the sonic shower. Not to mention rearranging the furniture and decorating the walls. Then we can get with the Captain and plan our Starfleet wedding."

"Acceptable. Will we perform these tasks before or after?"

B'Elanna's teasing look was placed by a puzzled one. "You lost me, love, before or after what?"

"Before or after we spend our two weeks of leave indulging in non-reproductive copulation."

B'Elanna chuckled. "It's called 'Making Love'. Whichever you prefer, love."

"A thought just occurred to me. Two weeks will not give us sufficient time to perform these tasks. We should schedule them to a time when they can be adequately performed."

B'Elanna smiled and bent down and placed a long deep kiss on her be'nal's mouth.

"Uhhm, I agree, be'nal. It may take considerable time to do these tasks. Time we could spend in more pleasurable pursuits."

Seven smiled at her spouse. "There is one task we can perform while we 'Make Love'."

"And that would be?"

"Discover if we can indeed 'break the bed'."

B'Elanna laughed and placed another kiss on willing lips. "That I can guarantee be'nal."

The End.