Out in Thirty Days -- Ch. 16-18 by BCBones

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

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

Out in Thirty Days

Chapter 16

"I'm gonna beat the living snot out of that jerk," B'Elanna vented, as the Nokk's supporters began to chant his name.

She was just so livid right now. The lieutenant hated bullies, and whenever she encountered one, she wanted nothing better than to teach them a lesson they wouldn't soon forget. And this shithead was asking for it, big time!

"Who is your champion?!" he shouted at the crowd, to which they responded animatedly.

"That yIntagh! I'm gonna rip his head off and shove it up his�" B'Elanna growled, clenching her fists.

"My lovely,.... Please, don't play his game!!" pleaded Edyn, tossing his hands up helplessly, just before the stamping of the staffs initiated another round.

Again, the maidens came into the ring, bearing the wine in goblets. B'Elanna gulped it slower this time, hoping to slow the potent effects of the liquor. When the young ladies departed, the arena was cleared and the two warriors approached each other cautiously. B'Elanna could see that even Jae'Nokk was not immune to the alcohol, in the way his body loosened up.

The fighting that followed in the round was not pretty. It was a drunken mess of blow traded for blow, tit for tat, with the intent on inflicting as much damage as possible. Neither one of the combatants bother to duck or avoid each other's hits. Inevitably, someone's jersey had to be a torn casualty under the circumstances, but fortunately, it wasn't B'Elanna's. At one point in the round, Jae'Nokk landed a body blow just under B'Elanna's diaphragm, seeming to have stunned the Klingon as she stood frozen in mid-motion. The crowd quieted as Jae, sensing his victory, stepped aside, waiting for the woman warrior to topple over.

-BURP!-

Noisy laughter had exploded from the crowd in response after B'Elanna's inadvertent slip, which had only incited Jae'Nokk's antagonism even more. B'Elanna wiped away the blood that dripped freely down her left brow. If the doctor saw her now, he'd have a field day with her. She knew one of her fingers was dislocated, and she forced it back into place with an audible pop. Jae'Nokk was busy nursing his side after B'Elanna had smashed a wicked forearm into his rib cage. Thinking he was too preoccupied, B'Elanna launched into a jump kick, only to be caught on her lower abdomen by a roundhouse kick from Jae. The Klingon crashed to the floor, but luckily landed unharmed. She rolled away, and managed to flip back onto her feet before Jae'Nokk could stomp his hefty foot on her chest. B'Elanna followed through with a backfist that just caught the Nokk on his cheek. She watched as he backed away with tears stinging his eyes. Finally, the Nokks ended the second round with a resounding smash.

B'Elanna stumbled over to her corner, exhausted by the fighting, and sat on the stool Edyn had stolen. She was aching all over the place, certain there were still a few bones and ligaments out of alignment. Edyn hovered over her pensively, wiping away the blood from her face and smearing some clotting salve into the wounds. He had the distinct impression that a certain pretty, blue-eyed, buxom blonde was going to have his hide when this was all done. He regretted suggesting this foolhardy idea in the first place.

B'Elanna rested her elbows on her knees, trying to catch her breath, knowing the Nokks would start another round soon. She raised her head briefly and looked up at the dais where the EnNokk House sat, watching the match proceedings. The young warriors that surrounded the dais were all speaking excitedly among themselves, mimicking the moves they just saw. But B'Elanna was immediately drawn to the dour expressions on the faces of the EnNokk elders. LenNokk appeared more neutral, but his quietness and posture spoke more volumes. A little confused by her discovery, B'Elanna turned her gaze to EnNokkia, the young lady who had been observing the Klingon for sometime now. The Klingon found a look of slight disappointment in the Nokk's hazel eyes. Dismayed, B'Elanna tore her gaze away from the family.

'Kahless, what a mess this has turned out to be,'

she thought to herself.

She had been so angry at Jae'Nokk that she completely forgot her true intentions for entering the tournament. It was supposed to be a noble ritual, but the match had changed into a drunken altercation. Only she and Jae'Nokk were responsible for cheapening the rich cultural expression into a detestable bar room brawl. She had come here wanting to prove that she was proud of being part Klingon, and to demonstrate her acceptance of her Klingon heritage. Now she had acted dishonorably, and that realization weighed heavily upon her.

At this rate, she would lose, maybe not to Jae'Nokk himself, but to her own past, and the anger she couldn't leave behind. And what about Seven, and her promise to get the Borg back to Voyager. That was the most important thing of all. Suddenly, thinking about Seven brought back memories of the past few days of being with the beautiful blonde, all the obstacles they had face, the laughter they had shared, the touches they had exchanged, and the words they had spoke to each other. At last, her rage calmed, and fell away from her like a broken chain, as it had no meaning anymore. She didn't need her anger to give her courage, though it would always be there. All she really needed was confidence in herself, and knowing the fact that someone else had confidence in her and cared about her. B'Elanna scanned the crowd, wanting so much at that moment to see the young Borg's face, but knowing she would not find her there.

'This was supposed to be a display of skill and honor. And that's what it is going to be.'

B'Elanna swore to herself.

"We should stop this," Edyn told her as he knelt. "Let's stop this, Bey. I mean,...look at what this has done to you."

B'Elanna watched him intently as she toweled herself clean to appear more presentable.

"That's not to say I find you unattractive with the swollen eye and bruised lip. As a matter of fact, it has made you all the more appealing to me, my dear. But I would be wilSeven story. Rated R.

She patted him reassuringly on the chest to let him know she was all right. Edyn noticed the immediate change in the half-Klingon's demeanor, and moved aside when she stood up. The assembly of warriors lifted their staffs once again, and began the third round without further ado.

Edyn placed a hand on B'Elanna's shoulder before she stepped up to take another goblet of wine. "Ani gave me a message to tell you, when she thought you needed it. She said she believes in you,...and to enjoy yourself..." B'Elanna smiled at him with genuine gratitude.

The crowd stood cheering as the warriors took center stage. This time, the alcoholic effects of the wine didn't seem to be as debilitating, and B'Elanna concluded her Klingon liver was finally starting to kick in. Instead, the wine gave her a light buzz. Jae'Nokk, on the other hand, seemed to stumble a bit when he launched out of his corner and moved to the middle of the arena. He found the impassive expression on his opponent's face slightly intimidating. She no longer had the look of animosity or fury, and that made it harder for him to read her. Jae had thought he would have broken her much earlier, but the woman was resilient, or more like a glutton for punishment.

B'Elanna stretched out the back of her hand in invitation, and waited for his response. Recognizing the gesture, Jae'Nokk crossed her wrist with his own corresponding hand, and they circled each other slowly. The resulting fight resembled little of what had gone before. The adversaries grappled and sparred more, rather than resorting to previous attempts at tearing each other apart, trying to snap one another's bones. Subsequently, the match became more of a performance where both of them strived to outdo the other in technique. Even the audience sensed the difference in attitude by the combatants, and they began cheering respectfully at the display of skill, instead of rooting boisterously like people at a Hoverball game. Nevertheless, it was evident as the round progressed, the Klingon appeared more in control of her actions, while the young Nokk was challenged by his intoxication and endurance, or lack there of.

Leaning forward, B'Elanna ducked under a very quick cross chop by Jae'Nokk, and kicked up the ball of her foot like a ballerina, feeling it strike something soft. The Nokk stumbled backwards, while the impact sent her body back up into an erect position, ready to engage again. Jae'Nokk later answered that move with one of his own, a nice dropkick to her chest. And there it went, back and forth, but with each passing second, the Klingon became more stimulated and ecstatic about the whole ritual, grinning enthusiastically at her opponent, who was already dragging his feet and looking back at her in amazement.

During the break before the fourth round, the crowd applauded in appreciation for the way the warriors had handled themselves. And B'Elanna hoped that some of the dignity of the tournament was restored. Edyn tried to assess whether the object of his affection was completely plastered, by the way she smiled from ear to ear. He was almost knocked over when B'Elanna clapped him excitedly on the back, and he concluded that his fiery vixen was just happily drunk. Toasting the House, the Klingon swallowed the wine of Nokk eagerly, raring to get back into the match. When she met Jae'Nokk in the middle of the arena, he appeared tipsy but he too grinned.

"Come, Warrior," she beckoned to him. "Let me show you how we celebrate the drinking of wine in my culture."

Bleary-eyed, she grasped both his arms, and pulled him closer, demonstrating what they were supposed to do. He got the idea, and nodding, clasped her arms tightly as well to prepare himself. On the count of three, B'Elanna gave the young Nokk a Warrior's Headbutt, and both of them staggered back, dazed, but roaring with enthusiasm. This time the Nokk grabbed B'Elanna's arms and return the headbutt, their heads crashing audibly against each other. The lieutenant shook her head clear from the tremendous impact, and when she opened her eyes again, Jae'Nokk had disappeared. Apparently, he had dropped bonelessly to the floor after knocking himself out cold against the hard forehead of the Klingon, where she discovered him a few seconds later. She listened to the crowd erupt with cheer as they finally had their champion.

B'Elanna had a difficult time remembering what happened next, as she stood there numb. She found herself surrounded by the assembly of Nokk warriors chanting and thumping their chests. Edyn gently took her by the arm, and humbly led her out of the throng, back up the ramp to present herself before the House of EnNokk to receive her bestowal of honor. When she reached the dais, LenNokk rose out of his chair to greet her, along with the rest of the intimate family.

"I thought we had lost you both," the graying Nokk murmured gravely, giving the half-Klingon a thoughtful look.

"Forgive me if I acted without honor," B'Elanna apologized, ashamed by her initial behavior.

"Thank you for returning our faith in the end," he answered.

"And thank you," he said a bit louder so that the rest of the House, who were watching, could hear. "For showing our youth what the ritual truly stands for. Over the years, it had become merely a spectator sport that outsiders gambled away their credits on, and the ritual had all but lost its original meaning for my people on this planet. Perhaps now, it will regain some of its cultural significance, if they will remember."

The elders approached their champion, along with a conscious Jae'Nokk, and with benediction, they announced in unison, "Beylanna, Daughter of Miral of the House of Prasba, you have won admiration among our people, and we find you worthy of honor that Nokk himself bestows, with all its privileges."

The circle of Nokks, including Jae'Nokk, bowed deeply in respect for their champion, and B'Elanna, moved by the gesture, returned the bow with Edyn at her side.

"And now, we must celebrate!" declared LenNokk, clapping his hands to summon the wine maidens. "A round of drinks for everyone!"

The audience cheered as the real party started. Music and dancing kept the people busy as the wine and conversation flowed freely. The cloaked figure made its way stealthily through the horde of aliens, unnoticed as it headed towards the unsuspecting Klingon. It was tired of waiting.

Smiling, LenNokk stepped close to B'Elanna, and handed her a scroll. "This contains a poem of your deeds here tonight."

"Thank you, Venerable One," B'Elanna replied, cradling the gift with pride. "I shall value it until the last days of my life."

"There is another issue.... As champion, you have one more privilege. A request, actually, from a lady to spend this evening with our Honored Guest," he added, with a wink, and turned to pull EnNokkia from the circle.

EnNokkia blushed prettily, but moved forward boldly, as the male and female warriors all hushed, waiting for their champion to respond. Before B'Elanna could stop sweating and answer, however, the cloaked figure materialized out from the background, and captured her arm. Everyone, including B'Elanna, tensed at the unexpected threat, but calmly, the figure pulled her hood away, revealing long golden hair that fell softly on slender shoulders.

Seven held B'Elanna's arm possessively. "Your champion will be otherwise preoccupied this evening," she daringly claimed, fixing her patented cool gaze on the Nokk warriors, even as the lieutenant's eyebrows shot up in astonishment.

Edyn hid his grin behind his hand. 'Oh, this just keeps getting better and better,' he chuckled to himself.

The moment of stunned silence that followed was broken suddenly by a gale of laughter from LenNokk, and the rest of the pack joined in lustily, slapping each other uncontrollably on the back. EnNokkia gave Seven a look of jealousy, but even she had to back down from the golden one. She should have known such a warrior would already have a mate.

"This is Annika, my family," B'Elanna introduced, glad that LenNokk found the situation amusing.

"I see," LenNokk replied, as he wiped the tears from his eyes, still chortling, "that you already have a previous engagement. Still, there is one more thing we would like to give you. As the artist for our House, EnNokkia is charged with the task. If your...companion will allow it, please follow her into the Great Hall. She will also show you where you may cleanse yourself."

"That is acceptable," the Borg consented.

Seven arched her brow, releasing B'Elanna's arm, and watched carefully as a befuddled B'Elanna trailed after the young Nokk into the tavern. Hands linked behind her back, Seven approached the big leader of the EnNokk House when she saw B'Elanna disappear through the doorway. There was something she had on her mind that she wished to discuss with the older Nokk.

A little less than an hour later, a fresher looking B'Elanna returned. Seven was in the middle of an arm wrestling match with one of the Nokk youths, when she noticed the half-Klingon making her way through the crowd. She observed suspiciously through narrowing eyes as the lieutenant waddled back from the tavern to the dais, holding her backside with one hand and breathing heavily with pursed lips. Effortlessly, Seven slammed the Nokk's hand down on the table to the young warrior's dismay, ending the match quickly by the time B'Elanna reached her. Several of the onlookers sighed with adoration, as the sight of the obviously strong, statuesque blonde sent their bosoms heaving.

"Are we done here?" the Borg asked, eager to leave.

"Yes, time to call it a night," B'Elanna agreed, once again wearing her simple Rangoon clothing.

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

It was late in the evening already when B'Elanna bid her newfound friends goodnight. She, Seven, and Edyn left the celebration and the drunkenness behind them as they walked out into the cold streets, ready to go home. Edyn had settled the monetary affairs with one of the Nokk elders, as B'Elanna's sponsor, and they asked him to drop off the credits promised to Abcedi in the morning before they parted company. Afterwards, B'Elanna and Seven found themselves alone in the quiet of the darkness as they trudged back to Dannan's house. The ex-drone looked over at B'Elanna who seemed so small at the moment. The remnants of the fight were still plainly evident on her face and her tired appearance. It would not be good if Moka saw B'Elanna looking this way, and the half-Klingon was sure to receive a lecture from both of their adopted caretakers.

B'Elanna didn't know when it happened, but by the time they reached the corner at the end of the block, she found her hand comfortably in Seven's. The moment was broken when they turned the corner. Five hulking shapes were waiting for them.

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

The half-Klingon could just make out the dark silhouettes that stood beyond the cone of light streaming from the lamp above the abandoned street. She could hear the clicks of guns being loaded, and felt the tingling down her spine that told her some of those guns were aimed at her, and the rest at Seven. When the lieutenant tried to backstep slowly with Seven, the figures spread out to cover their escape. B'Elanna released the Borg's hand, setting herself up so that she could pull the disrupter from her holster, hidden at the small of her waist.

The dark figure Seven recognized earlier sauntered forward, though his gun hung loosely in his grasp at his side. The man sniffed insolently at the air before he addressed them. His familiar, yet haunting voice cracked the cold silence, and for a moment, the Borg almost lost herself in the memory of her previous helplessness.

"Well..." he began, "looks like we meet again." -Sniff-

B'Elanna tightened her jaw. Even in her slightly intoxicated haze, she immediately identified the cowardly scum that held them at gunpoint. The nefarious figure finally walked into the light, revealing the same yellow skinned jackass who had attacked them before - Kal, plus his riffraff band. Gradually, B'Elanna placed herself in front of the young Borg, wanting instantly to keep Kal as far away from her as possible, and remove Seven from his fetid presence.

"You know Orn, of course. But you haven't met the rest of my crew yet, have you?" he carried on, wanting to demonstrate his control over the captives in front of his men.

"What do you want?" B'Elanna demanded, cutting to the chase. She was not in the best mood for another confrontation tonight.

With his crew at his command, Kal remained unshaken by her tone. In fact, he was going to enjoy beating the insubordinate life out of the troublesome female until she became his lap dog. Then he'd take the other female in front of her just to torment her. The brawny Orn sighed internally. He just wanted to get this whole encounter over with, since he couldn't understand what the big deal was, and why Kal was so obsessed with the two women.

"We want you to hand over your winnings, and come with us," replied Kal, leering at them with his crooked smile, caught up in his own cleverness. "I've been expecting you both."

To B'Elanna's dismay, Seven stepped protectively in front of her, facing Kal openly. The Klingon slowly began to reach for her weapon.

"I believe you are mistaken. It is we who have been expecting you," Seven told the offensive man.

With that statement, a swarm of shadows emerged from the background and converged on the street corner, surrounding the group. Kal glanced around him as his men were confronted by more than twenty burly Nokk warriors armed to the teeth with canon rifles.

'And I believe I'm about to swoon for this woman,'

B'Elanna mused, gazing at the young Borg in worship, her heart about to burst with pride.

Kal's men looked around nervously, and waited for instructions. They were completely out-numbered and out-gunned by Nokks, of all people. Kal convinced them that capturing these women would mean a big payoff, but he did not tell them that the women were allied to the Houses.

"This is not your concern!" Kal hissed, peering at the dark shadows left and right. "This is a matter between us!" he indicated pointing to Seven, B'Elanna, and himself.

"That is incorrect," the unflappable Borg informed him. "When you chose to threaten their champion, you challenged the bounds of their honor. You are not in control of this situation."

"Drop your weapons," Seven ordered Kal's men. "Resistance is FUTILE."

The clamor of weapons falling to the ground echoed through the neighborhood as Kal's men disarmed themselves, hoping to avoid retribution. A tall, brownish-redheaded Nokk came out of the darkness and went to B'Elanna.

"I am Mae'Nokk," he introduced himself respectfully. "The Great LenNokk wishes you, our Champion, a pleasant evening. Do not concern yourselves any longer. We will take care of this...problem."

The burly warriors circled the Mewks, and took custody of the lowlife band, even as Kal's loud and annoying protests went unheeded. Then, the young Nokk bowed deeply to Seven before he joined the rest of his noble people as they receded back into the shadows. When he too disappeared into the night, they heard him murmur softly.

"My brother sends his regards, Champion...."

Chapter 17

Seven and B'Elanna made their way slowly back to Dannan's house in the icy night, with nothing heard but the crunching of pebbles under their feet. Though outwardly the lieutenant remained tough, Seven knew she was injured enough so that her normal pace was hindered. The ex-drone could hear the quiet winces and occasional deep breaths in attempt to hide pain.

"I thought you promised me you wouldn't go there," B'Elanna asked, turning her head to glance at Seven.

"You requested that I not go there, but I only promised not to be seen, at least, not during the tournament," answered Seven. "If you recall, I am very literal."

B'Elanna chuckled, shaking her head at how the Borg managed to twist things around.

"How did you know Kal...? What did you say... LenNokk�. How did you..." B'Elanna fumbled over her questions, at a loss for words.

"I...improvised," Seven replied, her lips quirked, as they reached the gate to the house. B'Elanna smiled in return, realizing being with Seven would always involve a bit of surprise every now and then, and she liked it.

The lights in the common room were on, bathing the front enclosure with soft illumination. Quietly, they opened the door to the home, careful not wanting to disturb anyone sleeping inside. Dannan sat alone at the long table, facing the entry, when they walked in. B'Elanna halted just inside the door, wondering what the good-hearted man was thinking. Dannan rubbed the stubble on his chin as he looked at the young woman, ay women, he had come to know well over the past few days. He carefully took in the dark circles under the lieutenant's eyes, one of them swollen, the cut above her brow, and reddened lips, but otherwise, she looked alive and in one piece. He stood up and walked over to the half-Klingon, then wordlessly, embraced her for a brief moment.

Looking away, he whispered to them, "Well, looks like everything's okay. I'll get you some healing packs before you go to bed."

He clasped Seven's hand gently for a second before he left the room. Seven turned back to B'Elanna, and saw wet tears glistening in the half-Klingon's eyes. Without further delay, B'Elanna went straight to their room, weary of the long day, with its emotional roller-coaster, and wanting only to fall into bed. Seven followed her in after obtaining the healing gel packs from Dannan, and closed the door. By then, the Klingon had dropped her holster, cloak, and boots on the floor, and was splayed out on the cot, lying on her belly. Frowning with disapproval, Seven walked over to the resting woman and started pulling her clothes off. Too exhausted to object, she let the Borg remove her clothing, vaguely aware that Seven was not stopping when she reached her underwear. When Seven finally slid the remaining clothing off, she paused.

"I forgot about this..." Seven spoke hesitantly.

"What?" B'Elanna asked in alarm, suddenly remembering where Seven had visual access to, and wondering what exactly she meant.

"This...," she answered, brushing her hand lightly over the triangle.

"Hhsss, ow!" B'Elanna winced, grabbing onto Seven's wrist to keep her from touching the tender area. "It's still a little sore."

B'Elanna had thought she spent an eternity under EnNokkia's ministrations, and afterwards, she felt she could barely walk. The Klingon had to admit, however, she was impressed, and the girl was very skillful. It was one of the most erotic experiences she had ever had in her entire life, though bathing Seven was at the top of the list.

"I'm sorry.... I will be gentle," Seven replied, trying not to grin.

"How did you know I got a tattoo?" B'Elanna uttered through the pillow, letting go of her forearm.

"I was not completely certain, but I did notice your opponent appeared well-decorated on his upper torso."

"Mmm..." came the muffled response.

Gingerly, she placed a healing pack on the tattoo, but after she had gotten a better look at the intricate design of the EnNokk crest, where it had been etched just at the apex of B'Elanna's firm buttocks. She also examined the Klingon head to toe, making note of all the bruises, cuts, and contusions among other things. B'Elanna had a rather large contusion on the left side of the small of her back, and Seven covered it with another pack, hoping it would help speed the mending. Silently, she ran the tricorder over B'Elanna's body, and sighed deeply when she read the reassuring findings. She thought her cardiovascular systems had ceased to function when she watched as the lieutenant was attacked brutally during the first round.

"I did it...," B'Elanna murmured, turning her face toward the edge of the bed.

"Did what?" Seven asked in a hushed voice, as she knelt down, softly stroking the tired woman's back.

"I showed them that I am a Klingon warrior...." B'Elanna opened her eyes for a second and peered at Seven.

"Yes," the Borg answered, nodding as she bent down, and placed a kiss on her forehead.

Seven whispered for her to go to sleep, and watched as B'Elanna's eyelids drooped shut before she draped a blanket over the lieutenant. Had someone told her a couple of weeks ago that she would be making such small gestures of affection and compassion, she would have responded with disbelief and cynicism at her own capabilities. But being around B'Elanna Torres made such thoughts and actions natural, almost instinctual to her now. Turning down the lights, Seven stepped quietly out of their quarters, and heard shuffling noises coming from the common room. She walked through the archway and found Moka busy at the hearth, though the hour was late. The ex-drone took the shawl off the back of a chair, and wrapped it around the shoulders of the small, dear woman that had spent so much of her time caring for their daily needs. Moka smiled, knowing just who the person standing behind her was.

"Is Bey asleep?" she asked, removing the baked treats from the oven.

"Yes. Did we wake you when we entered?" Seven inquired, worried they had disturbed the woman.

"No, I couldn't sleep knowing you both were still outside, at the tournament." Moka indicated to Seven to sit at the table as she brought over the plate of snacks for them to eat.

"We did not intend to cause you and Dannan any distress. You both have given us much assistance for the past several days, and it has been...comforting to live here," Seven told her sincerely. "I do not know the words to expression our appreciation for all you have done."

"Oh, child, it has been no trouble at all. Enjoyed the company, yes we have," she replied, trying to put Ani at ease. "I'm certain it hasn't been easy for either of you being stranded here on this planet away from your family. Just glad that the two of you were stranded together."

Seven stopped her munching, and glanced at Moka questioningly when she heard the last comment. It was unexpected, and sounded strange to her own ears. It surprised her to no end these past few days how her feelings had changed, or rather grown towards the lieutenant. Moka saw her expression, and knew instantly it was something she had to pursue. She didn't know much about robots, technology, space travel, and such, but she knew how to deal with relationships.

"You are not glad that you are here with Bey?" she asked.

Startled out of her reverie, Seven answered, "No, I am...grateful."

"I thought so. You two seem so close, sometimes practically joined at the hip like congenital twins," joked Moka.

Again, Seven found herself pausing to analyze the observation. "Our relationship would have been described as the opposite prior to our arrival on this planet. Our previous interactions were more...antagonistic." The ex-drone was almost ashamed to admit it.

It was Moka's turn to throw a questioning look. Now her interest was truly peaked. "Antagonistic?... Hmm, so different from each other were you then, ay?...I suppose I can see that," Moka pretended to concede, tugging on a earlobe as she pursed her lips in thought.

Seven quirked her brow, and replied, "On the contrary, Bey and I have many attributes in common. We both have proficiency in engineering, interest in the acquisition of knowledge, and we are both hybrids of two cultures, one of which we share. Human.... However, we each have had problems reconciling our two cultures, and as a result, that has caused us difficulties in our relationships with other members of our family."

She continued, "And Bey is intelligent, outspoken, moral, and truthful, characteristics which I find admirable...."

Seven stopped her herself suddenly, wondering just when she had come to such conclusions about the lieutenant. Despite their argumentative interactions, they often worked on the same projects the Captain assigned them to. And Seven had taken ample opportunity to observe the Klingon during her romantic relationship with Tom Paris. Perhaps, she had discovered a kinship with B'Elanna, one that she didn't cared to admit in the past.

"If you share so much in common, why were you both at odds before?" Moka pressed.

"My family finds the Borg detestable for their ruthless pursuit of the assimilation of millions of individuals and the destruction of species. Many of them have lost friends and relatives," Seven explained, her voice pained. "When I was a member of the Borg, I had participated in such acts, and when I was freed, I had difficulty adjusting to my new life. Some of my behavior and appearance may serve to remind them of the Borg, including Bey."

"Surely, they cannot blame you?" Moka asked, doubtful that her family could not see the young woman for who she truly was. She gazed at the young woman warmly, hoping to ease Ani's own self-incrimination by letting her fondness for the young woman show through.

"I am Borg, and I have done things all Borg are guilty of. I will always be Borg..." Seven said bitterly, as she looked down.

Moka moved her chair over quickly, faster that Seven could believe she was able to, and cupped the Borg's face with a weathered hand so that Seven would look at her.

"See yourself negatively do you? No, not right. Would be an injustice, Ani. You are your own individual. What you choose to do with your life now is the only thing that matters. And I do not think Bey sees you that way, at least, not anymore," insisted Moka. "No, I KNOW she does not. Look in her eyes, find the truth for yourself if you still deny it."

Self-conscious, Seven blushed at the thought of being close to B'Elanna. Even now she felt the lieutenant's absence though the half-Klingon was exactly where she had left her. Moka put her arm around Seven's shoulders. Young love was painful, but it was also exhilarating and passionate if she remembered correctly. And it needed encouragement.

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

The ex-drone crept into the room quietly as not to wake the slumbering woman. B'Elanna laid there on the cot, not having moved one inch since she fell asleep. Seven leaned over to examine B'Elanna's wounds which appeared to have improved in the short amount of time. She brushed her hand over the Klingon's back, feeling the wonderfully smooth coffee skin at her fingertips.

'So...perfect,'

she sighed mentally, despite the scattered bruises that colored the skin.

She wondered what it would feel like to have her bare skin next to B'Elanna's, but she refrained from finding out as she changed into her bedclothes. Without a sound, Seven slipped into bed and placed herself as close to B'Elanna as possible so that she could feel the warm heat that radiated from the strong body. B'Elanna must have somehow sensed the presence of her body because the Klingon turned her face away from the edge of the bed towards the young woman, and shifted her arm slightly until it bumped into Seven's side. When B'Elanna moaned her discontent, the blonde covered the small distance between them and gently lifted the lieutenant's head onto her shoulder, and wrapped an arm around the supple back. Finally, tired herself, Seven fell into contented sleep, holding the woman she was in love with.

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

Lt. B'Elanna Torres, Chief Engineer of the Federation Starship Voyager, half-Klingon was scared witless about what to do next. She woke up on this particular morning, nestled softly on what she thought was a comfortable bedding, for a few seconds before she realized what she was really cuddled up to. A perfumed bosom, a generous one she might add. Cracking open an eye, she gazed down at the cleavage hidden precariously by a low neckline, which brought to mind various uncensored imagery.

'Okay. Maybe I can move while Seven's asleep,'

she considered, up until she felt Seven's hand move, lightly scratching her back in slow circles. 'Damn! Nix that.... Oh Kahless, that feels soooooo good...'

Things would have still been less embarrassing if B'Elanna didn't realize next that she was completely naked, not a stitch of clothing on, and in such a compromising position. She might as well have planted a flag on Seven while she was atop the Borg.

'Why does this keep happening???'

Of course, the fact that her knee was wedged between Seven's thighs didn't help matters all that much either. Well, she guessed it wasn't so bad since Seven had her nightgown on. But then again, the situation might have been salvageable if only the blonde's gown hadn't ridden up her thigh during the course of the night. As it were now, B'Elanna's sensitive flesh was pressed against a very toned leg, and the heat from the connection had generated a great deal of sweat between them, making the area sticky. As if it weren't hard enough for her to keep a respectful relationship with the young woman.

In the meantime, Seven analyzed the multitude of responses she detected from B'Elanna, the quickened beating of her heart that vibrated against her own chest, the increased respiratory rate, and the tensing of the Klingon's abdominal muscles she felt on her hip. When she had awakened earlier, Seven discovered their bodies intertwined, and relaxed into the embrace. She waited in amusement for B'Elanna's reaction, knowing full well the lieutenant would be flustered at the possible impropriety of the situation, a concept she found ridiculous. She did not expect, however, that her own body would respond in kind to the sensation of B'Elanna's hot, wet skin next to hers and to the pressure she felt between her legs, where it had begun to ache.

B'Elanna lifted her head and glanced at Seven, who felt the movement, and returned the look. There seemed to be an interminable amount of silence as both of them wondered if this was what it felt like to wake up to each other as lovers. B'Elanna reached up hesitantly, placing a chaste kiss on Seven's lips. The Borg's eyes widened slightly, expressing her pleasure at the act that spoke of familiarity.

"Good morning," the lieutenant murmured, still holding the gaze, relishing the effect of her kiss.

"Good morning, Bey," Seven whispered back, inspecting the Klingon's delicate features and noting with satisfaction that the injuries were disappearing.

"Do I look that bad?" asked B'Elanna with humor in her tone as she sat up, wrapping a sheet shyly around herself, and felt the tight knots in her back.

The shift caused their legs to disentangle, and they both sighed deeply when their intimate contact broke, the cool air drifting between their bodies. Seven felt the sweat on her thigh beginning to evaporate.

"No.... You are beautiful," Seven told her as she sat up too, bring their faces close.

"So are you," B'Elanna replied instinctively, her body flushing in reaction to the entire situation.

B'Elanna rubbed her lips distractedly as she contemplated the words she needed to say to Seven. The Borg seemed to sense her introspection and waited patiently.

"Seven," B'Elanna started, wanting the woman to understand who exactly she was addressing, and not the persons they were pretending to be. "I just want to tell you how much I've come to appreciate who you are, after having gotten to know you better these past several days. I'm just sorry it didn't happen earlier on board Voyager, instead of here, under such forced circumstances..."

"I wish I hadn't been so blind�" B'Elanna couldn't finish as slender fingers stopped her lips.

"I do not want apologies. We have both misjudged each other," Seven answered, not removing her fingers as they traced the sensual mouth.

"I.... I like you, Seven. I like you very much," B'Elanna murmured, looking into large blue eyes with her heart exposed. She didn't want to overwhelm the young woman, and risk losing the bond they had formed so recently.

Seven was stunned for an instant as she processed the words, but slowly her eyes lighted with the smile that touched her features.

"I...like you very much, as well, B'Elanna," Seven acknowledged, moving closer to her objective. Moka was right. B'Elanna had feelings for her, the ones that she had wished her entire human existence for.

"I'm glad we're friends..."

"We're more than just friends," murmured Seven.

B'Elanna retreated slightly. "And Captain Janeway?" she asked, steadying herself for the answer.

Seven gaze curiously at B'Elanna, realizing that the lieutenant was inquiring about her relationship with the Captain. It seemed important to the half-Klingon, so she answered truthfully.

"The Captain and I are friends, and we have a close personal relationship. However, it does not preclude my current relationship with you, B'Elanna. I want to be with you," Seven replied, moving single-mindedly towards those lips again.

This time, B'Elanna didn't retreat as the Borg slipped her enhanced hand behind her head, entangling it through her hair, and pulled her in for a deep, searing kiss. Her heart was filled with indescribable joy knowing that Seven felt the same way and wanted the same thing. She let Seven do the exploring with her usual efficiency, and pretty soon, she felt herself pressed downward towards the pillows. B'Elanna jumped briefly when her back landed on the cot, and Seven detected the movement. Concerned, the ex-drone unceremoniously turned the Klingon over and pulled the sheet down to examine her back.

"Your injuries..."

"I'm alright, Seven. I was just surprised by the packs poking into my back," B'Elanna laughed softly.

Seven peeled away the healing packs, and found that the lieutenant was recovering quickly. The bruises and cuts were only faintly noticeable.

"The swelling from you contusion has decreased, and the skin decoration has healed," Seven noted.

A little of her jealous feelings returned when she pictured the Nokk leaning over her lieutenant, touching such an intimate area. She ran her hand over the intricate tattoo, and asked, "What happened after you followed the female into the tavern?"

B'Elanna reveled in the sensation of her touch. "You mean EnNokkia? She led me to the baths, and I cleaned up before her assistants came and showed me to her studio. All I did was lay there while she marked me."

"Were you unclothed?" Seven asked, gliding her fingertips along the Klingon's spine.

B'Elanna shivered under her strokes. "Where I needed to be," she answered vaguely, remembering how she laid face down on the couch, with only a towel covering her breasts as EnNokkia tended to her.

"Did she sit here?" Seven leaned her upper body over the back of the Klingon's thighs, and pulled the sheet lower, exposing the round derriere. She watched as the shallow dimples on either side of the muscular buttocks pinched when the lieutenant squirmed.

"Yes," B'Elanna whimpered, recalling the seductive, feminine surroundings, the fresh flowers scattered around her, and the attention she had received.

"Did she touch you here?" Seven questioned, placing her warm hands on the pliant cheeks, feeling the firmness under her palms.

"A few times," B'Elanna admitted, lost in the caress. The hands left her rump as Seven stood up abruptly.

"I see," Seven said, her tone hardened. With steel in her gaze, she told B'Elanna, "Perhaps, you would like to obtain more skin decorations while you are here, since you seemed to have enjoyed the experience."

And with that, she left in a huff to the washroom. B'Elanna plopped down into the pillows, half amused, half contrite that the Borg was mad again.

'So, my beautiful Borg's jealous.'

She winced, 'I guess I should have known Seven's not like Tom, who wouldn't have minded a play-by-play of a little girl-on-girl action.... I guess I better try harder to woo Seven.'

B'Elanna didn't mind as she eyed the door where Seven had left through. After all, she was already Seven-whipped. Besides, she enjoyed a challenge.

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

Edyn whistled on his way to Dannan's place. He had just dropped off the credits to the freighter captain, and was glad to hear that the man still honored his arrangements with Bey. He was anxious to see how the half-Klingon was doing after last night's fight. Edyn entered through the gate and knocked on the door until Dannan opened it. He found them all sitting at the table, enjoying breakfast together.

"Hello, hello. What's this? One of Moka's hearty breakfasts?" he inquired, setting his sights on the stack of fresh bacon, and his nose twitched as the smells wafted up to his nostrils. "Mmm...koli fruit crepes with fresh whipped cream, johish sausages, fried gilka eggs, diqui melons, and..."

Dannan laughed at the moocher, and invited him to join them. Edyn grabbed a seat by his prized fighter, since Ani seemed to be sitting a bit farther away this morning next to Moka. He winked at Bey as he nibbled on a piece of bacon, while she rolled her eyes in mirth.

"Morning, my bumpy beauty, and my lush lovely," he greeted Seven as well, wiggling his brows at her. "I gave the money to the pilot."

That caught their attention as all eyes pinned on him. Edyn continued, "He said he'll start the communiqu� as soon as he gets out of orbit."

"That's wonderful news," Dannan noted, even though inside, he lacked the enthusiasm.

"He should be moving through the sectors you think your family will pass through, if they haven't already. He's leaving in another ten parsecs. But he also said that he had room for one more passenger," Edyn added offhandedly, but he knew exactly what he was saying.

Everyone stopped eating while Seven and B'Elanna looked at each other intently. Edyn spied back and forth between the two women.

Finally, Seven answered, "We will leave together or not at all."

Smiling, B'Elanna took another bite of her crepe, and the rest of them resumed eating, and talked about idle things. The laughter and chatter inside the house could be heard from the streets. Even Fessi wandered over to the window, looking inside to find what all the commotion was about.

Chapter 18

Seven and B'Elanna retreated to their room as soon as they were finished with the dishes. The half-Klingon never imagined that she would enjoy the domestic lifestyle that living in Dannan's house had provided, but of course, she was finding that she enjoyed almost everything she did with Seven. The Borg had found her method of washing each dish individually and thoroughly less than efficient, and suggested an "improved" method. Finally, after much debate, they had settled on a compromise, and completed their chore, but not before a little water fight had broken out.

B'Elanna leaned back against the wall as she reclined on the cot waiting for Seven, who sat in front of the mirror on the night table, to finish putting up her hair. They were going into town today to arrange a new passage off the planet in search of Voyager. The lieutenant didn't know what they were going to do if their search proved futile and Voyager had already determined they were dead after over a week and left. Would they continue to make their way back to the Alpha Quadrant trailing after their ship or return here to live out their lives? The Borg pod was the only Borg system they knew of for light years. B'Elanna couldn't bear the thought of Seven having to live the rest of her life mildly disabled even if her implant functions did not deteriorate any further. Somehow, she would find a way to repair the Borg technology if they were to be stranded on this planet, and heal the ex-drone's condition.

B'Elanna watched through hooded eyes as Seven brushed her hair with long, slow strokes, working out the tangles. If she didn't know better, she thought Seven was actually enjoying the process. The half-Klingon smiled and stood up, moving behind the young Borg. The engineer took the brush from Seven's hand, who looked up at her slightly startled then sighed imperceptibly as B'Elanna began with gentle strokes. B'Elanna drew up the shoulder length blonde tresses and twisted it into a loose bun, leaving some of the end in short wisps to spill freely upwards and out.

"This is not my usual form," Seven noted when the pleasant experience ended, turning her head left and right while glancing in the mirror to examine the bun.

"I know. It's a little more relaxed. We're not on a starship anymore, so I thought you might like something less official looking," B'Elanna explained, liking the way the hair softened the ex-drone's features.

Seven nodded with satisfaction, then froze when B'Elanna caressed the curve of her neck where it met her shoulder. The Klingon loved the baby soft feel of Seven's skin.

"You really are very beautiful, Seven," B'Elanna told her, looking at the reflection of the young Borg.

Seven raised her hand to touch the implant over her brow, wondering if she could see what B'Elanna saw without remembering the pain of her assimilation. B'Elanna didn't mean to make Seven uncomfortable, so she tried a different approach instead.

Leaning down, she grinned and said, "And I'm not just talking about that pretty face of yours, especially when you're jealous," kissing Seven playfully on the nose afterwards.

"You are attempting to make amends for your sexual indiscretion," Seven remarked as she looked up at the lieutenant, trying to keep a stern look on her face, but failing.

"Hey, there was nothing 'sexual' about it!" B'Elanna cried indignantly, hands on her hips.

"You were gone for fifty-two minutes and thirty-seven seconds," Seven pointed out, standing up from the chair.

"I had a tattoo painfully etched on me, remember? Besides, sex doesn't need to take that long," B'Elanna joked.

"Indeed. Sex does not."

Seven didn't seemed to be joking at that moment, as they both gazed at each other. B'Elanna found it difficult to hide her longing, the thought of making love slowly to the young woman crossed her mind.

"Perhaps, I should obtain my own skin decoration," Seven said with a smirk.

Shaking her head, B'Elanna grinned and replied, "Oh no, you don't. If you want a tattoo, I'll give you one..."

Seven pulled the chair between them when she saw the feral expression on B'Elanna's face, her Klingon passion easily provoked. She laughed as she ran around the small room, keeping the lieutenant at bay with the chair, until the woman leaped over the chair and tackled her onto the bed. The bed springs squeaked audibly with effort. Seven let out a squeal as B'Elanna latched onto her neck with her lips and started sucking away like a leech. B'Elanna was attempting to give her a "hickey," if she recalled correctly from her research on human mating practices. It was not as unpleasant as she had pictured from the data. Finally, she was able to push B'Elanna up away from her, both giggling ridiculously like children. B'Elanna tried to shush them both unsuccessfully, peering nervously at the door. Instead, Seven grasped the half-Klingon's shirt by the shoulders and tugged her down for a kiss, effectively ending the giggle fest.

Outside their room, Dannan and Edyn sat at the table sipping a few early morning ales, chuckling at the noises they heard.

"Gods, we're we ever that young?" Dannan murmured, looking into his glass.

"Hey, speak for yourself. I've got a few good skirt-chasing years left in me," Edyn answered, imagining all sorts of things that might be happening behind that closed door which would produce so much squealing and giggling.

"Maybe the skirt of your nurse," Dannan retorted.

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

B'Elanna and Seven stepped out of the sandy streets into Dannan's shop. They both agreed to assist Dannan in the morning and make their way later over to the bar to see if they could arrange a new passage off the planet in search of Voyager. They cranked out the work efficiently between the three of them, and by mid-morning, took an break to stretch the kinks out of their backs.

Dannan walked over to his desk on the far corner of the shop and pulled out a drawer. He picked up the forgotten item in his hand, and brought it over to B'Elanna who was leaning on a elbow across the table, watching Seven polish her recent work.

"Did you want to finish this, Bey?" he asked her as he handed over the small rectangular device.

"No," she replied abruptly, after taking one look at the machine, and handed it back. She seemed almost embarrassed by it.

Seven noticed the exchange and reached out before she could be stopped to see the device for herself, much to B'Elanna's dismay. The device had a small screen with several touch buttons along the sides, but it didn't appear to be functional.

"What is it?" she inquired. When she did not find the answer forthcoming from B'Elanna, she looked towards Dannan.

"Ay,.... It is a game box. Bey was repairing and updating it," Dannan replied vaguely, getting his cue from B'Elanna's body language.

"Is it valuable? What is it's purpose?" Seven took less than a few seconds to size up the simple design.

"It is just for pleasure, Ani, a game which occupies the time," Dannan elaborated.

"Are you selling it, Dannan?" Seven asked, still confused by the concept of the little machine.

"It was for you," B'Elanna answered lamely.

"For me? You spent your productivity on this?" Seven asked, arching her brow at B'Elanna.

"I thought it might have helped with your boredom, before we found the Borg pod," B'Elanna replied flushing, even more embarrassed now. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Seven noticed her discomfort, and wanted to put her at ease, realizing she must have gone to a great deal of trouble fixing the game box for her. B'Elanna reached out to take the game box away, but Seven turned, clutching the device to her chest, worried that B'Elanna would take her gift back.

"Then it belongs to me, does it not?" Seven noted.

"Yeah, I guess it does," B'Elanna told her quietly, wondering what the ex-drone was thinking.

B'Elanna came around to Seven's side, but Seven kept turning from her as if B'Elanna was trying to take the box away.

"Here, let me activate it," B'Elanna prompted.

She took the device and flipped it over, pulling away a tiny panel and snapped something inside. She replaced the panel and pushed the switch at the top of the device to "On." The machine booped and beeped noisily as it booted the game. Seven retrieved the machine, curious as to what sort of game it contained.

"Wait, I have to show you how to play," B'Elanna protested, trying not to laugh at the Borg's eagerness.

"I am Borg. You will not deter me from winning this game," Seven gave her patented answer, her eyes fastened on the screen.

B'Elanna watched as the Borg discovered each of the buttons' particular function for herself. But as soon as she turned away, she heard the dismal sound of the loser's jingle. The knit in Seven's brow told her that the ex-drone did not like that particular sound.

"Seven, the goal of the game is to take the three dimensional shapes and fit them together so that they will form a level plane. The shapes fall from the top of the screen so within that time frame, you may want to turn the shape to the correct axis and move it so that it fits well with the other pieces. Once the shapes form a level plane, that plane disappears," B'Elanna explained. "The point of the game is to not allow the shapes stack up to the top of the screen or you will lose. And sometimes it's better to stack up the shapes in a way so that you can get rid of a bunch of levels when the right piece comes along, rather than rushing."

"Oh, and the level of difficulty increases as you successfully win each game," she added, forestalling Seven's next obvious comment. "And don't use your ocular implant."

Almost wanting to stick her tongue out like Naomi Wildman would, Seven replied, "I understand, and I will adapt."

Seven started the game again and began to play, even as Dannan and B'Elanna watched on, shaking their heads when she became completely engrossed. Internally, however, the half-Klingon was tickled pink that Seven would like something as mundane as what B'Elanna had given her.

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

The "Hyperdrive" was packed as usual with it's afternoon crowd, most of them having just woken up, hoping to cure their hangovers with what gave it to them in the first place. With their faces hidden by their hoods, B'Elanna and Seven wandered over to the bar and ordered their drinks, mostly for show on Seven's part since the Borg knew she could not hold her liquor from past experience. They eyed an open table along the right wall that was moderately well lit and sat down, observing the band as it played to the audience. It was packed today, probably because a new influx of ships brought along their cooped up crew from the ends of the sector.

B'Elanna looked over the lip of her glass and scanned the room as she sipped her bitter brew. Once again, she stretched back to her old Maquis experience, remembering the times when she and Chakotay made their contacts in similar watering holes, trying to negotiate contraband and information regarding the movements of the Cardassian military. She came to the conclusion that one hole-in-the-wall was like any other hole-in-the-wall; stuffy, dark, seedy, but teaming with possibilities only the underbelly of civilization could provide. She scrutinized one particular alien several tables down toward the stage. The bartender had pointed him out earlier because he ran a transport vessel that traveled farther than most.

Seven fingered her drink, occasionally taking what looked like a guzzle, but in truth her sense of smell had already warned her of its caustic properties. She stared with frank fascination at how B'Elanna was able to swallow the contents of her glass without reaction. She found herself looking at the half-Klingon often, observing her gestures and expressions, frequently surprising herself at the amount of pleasure she took from it. Seven could tell B'Elanna was very focused at the moment, her brown eyes narrowed, her curved nose pinched and full lips pursed. Suddenly, those big brown eyes turned to look at her, caught her staring.

Eyes glinting with humor, B'Elanna asked her, "So, are we in this all the way?"

Seven nodded slightly. "I have responsibilities on Voyager. The children are in my care, and I cannot abandon them."

The Borg suppressed her own emotions on the subject, aware of their effect each time she thought about her own childhood loss. B'Elanna must have sensed the gravity of her admission because she slipped a hand over to cover one of hers. The touched lingered for a minute.

"I'm gonna go and try to strike a deal with that man over there. Watch my back?" the lieutenant requested.

"This time will not be an exception," Seven answered, quirking her brow high.

B'Elanna snorted as she walked away, and Seven indeed watched her back, as well as the fine sway of her hips and the firm shape of her behind. The ex-drone folded her arms and pushed her chair back against the wall so that she might have a better view of the room and all its customers.

Twenty minutes and a couple of beers later, B'Elanna headed back to their table, having negotiated a new arrangement. She wove her way around the rowdy crowd, and discovered an unwanted visitor standing at their table, who was talking to Seven. The Klingon came around to her chair, planting herself down abruptly, and glowered coolly at the alien. The alien was medium height, broad shouldered, with thick arms and legs, but had a pot belly that stuck out too far for his shirt to cover completely. His unshaven angular face, bushy black hair and brows on an otherwise unremarkable humanoid face did nothing to endear him. Neither did his greasy T-shirt and weathered leathery pants. The alien welcomed her presence with a thin smile.

"Is there a problem?" B'Elanna asked, not relenting her glare at the alien as she pressed back into her chair.

"Mr. Rul here offered to purchase another drink for me. I have declined," Seven informed her.

"Well, I guess you'll have to excuse us then," B'Elanna hinted, not so subtly, tilting her head towards the crowd.

"Oh, come on now. What's a little harm in sharing a round of drinks? The more the merrier," Rul persuaded in a deep raspy voice, placing his hands on the table surface and leaning down towards Seven. The brief glimpse of her golden hair had attracted his attention as it was rarity seen in his colony.

"Perhaps another time," Seven proposed, knowing that they would not be back if all went well.

But the alien wouldn't budge. Instead he pushed, "Not later, now."

That was it. B'Elanna tried to be patient, but her temper flared. The man's persistence was definitely getting on her nerves, and her Klingon pride was asserting itself. She stood up and placed her own hand on the table, leaning her face forward to confront Rul.

"Like she said, another time," she growled, grinding her teeth in the process.

It amused Seven to no end that B'Elanna never seemed to give consideration to the size differences between herself and those she challenged. Rolling her eyes, she observed as both of them postured aggressively. To Seven's amazement, the lieutenant seemed to bristle and grow in stoutness as she tensed her Klingon body plating. One of the alien's friends two tables away seemed to notice what was going on, and called over to Rul.

"Hey, give it a break. That's one of the Nokk champions. You might want to listen to her," he laughed.

Upon hearing that, Rul re-sized the half-Klingon, and said, "Next time then."

No one knew exactly how it happened, but as the alien retreated away from their table, he tripped and fell backwards against the next table. His hip must have jostled the surface hard causing the drinks it held to tip over and spill onto the occupants, a bunch of muscular, furry creatures. One of them stood, grasping Rul's shirt with a hairy paw.

B'Elanna's eyes widened as she murmured to Seven, "Better get ready to duck!"

Seven took a second to note the glee in the lieutenant's voice before she had to jerk away from her chair as Rul came flying back towards their table, pinning it against the wall. But he was fairly resilient, having been in a number of these brawls. He jumped back up and joined the fray that his friends and the furry beasts had started. B'Elanna flipped their table onto its side, and pulled Seven behind it as she peered around the edge, watching the skirmish. They heard glass crashing behind them against the wall as those watching on the periphery began tossing their drinks. B'Elanna was about to jump into the fight when they heard weapons fire. A blast from across the room bore a hole through their table, barely missing Seven's nose, and B'Elanna realized that things were getting out of hand. She motioned for Seven to follow her as she drew out her disrupter from the holster at her waist. They ducked and crawled through the crowd, hiding behind the overturned tables, towards the entrance of the bar. A meaty hand grabbed Seven arm and pulled her upright. It was Rul, but Seven had had enough of her experiences with manhandling and knocked the burly man over with a swift jab to the chin. Unfortunately after that, they were stuck in the mix.

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

The door burst open with a kick, and B'Elanna and Seven stumbled out of the opening, running as fast as they could into the alleyway. The half-Klingon was huffing, but her eyes were bright and she had a wicked smile on her face. Seven glanced up and down the alley, and tucked her weapon away when she was satisfied that no one had followed them out of the bar.

B'Elanna looked up and smiled impudently, "Well, that was one way to spend the afternoon."

"I am overjoyed that you enjoyed yourself, Bey," Seven noted dryly.

B'Elanna shrugged, but Seven allowed herself to smile. She stopped when she saw the look that came over the Klingon's face next.

"Ani!"

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

Seven sat up against the rock. They had walked a little distance to the edge of town behind the bar, and took shelter on the ledge of one of the hilly rock formations that enclosed the settlement. The shelf banking above them casted a cool shade. She turned to hear the sound of ripping as B'Elanna tore the helm off her cloak. The half-Klingon looked perturbed as she knelt in front of the ex-drone, and had been silent for a long time. The superficial graze had bled out of proportion to its severity, but B'Elanna had been distraught to discover that Seven had been injured. Carefully, B'Elanna bound the bleeding wound on her left arm with the scrap of cloth.

"Bey?" Seven called out to get her attention.

"Is it too tight?" B'Elanna asked, worry and, perhaps, some anger in her voice.

"No, it is satisfactory. Are you all right?"

B'Elanna stared at her, then murmured finally, "I'm fine, Ani."

"You appear...upset," Seven observed, pulling B'Elanna by the hand, entreating her to sit near her.

B'Elanna sighed as she gazed off into the far distance. "You always seem to get hurt around me."

Seven considered her words, noting the double meaning. "You blame yourself for a random series of events. Perhaps we should blame Lt. Carey for assigning us to the away mission, or my ignoring your order not to touch the EPS conduits."

That brought the lieutenant's attention back. "Well, not when you put it that way," B'Elanna mumbled.

"We have the potential to hurt each other," Seven said quietly, delving further into the matter.

B'Elanna could not look her in the eye, her track record being the worst. Seven edged closer to B'Elanna, placing an arm around her waist. Gently, she turned B'Elanna's face toward hers with the tips of her fingers. B'Elanna looked deeply into her eyes, her gaze containing a bit of sorrow Seven had seen before on Voyager, and the Borg knew the lieutenant was far more sensitive than she ever let on.

"I could be the one to hurt you...," Seven told her. "But is that not all part of having trust in a relationship?"

Tenderly, B'Elanna kissed the Borg on her cheek for what seemed like an eternity. "How did you get to be so wonderful?" she asked offering a small smile.

"Perhaps it is easy for me, when I am with you," answered Seven, arching her brows, as she pressed herself into B'Elanna's arms for a kiss.

They seemed to be doing more of that of the late. B'Elanna loved the way Seven's kisses kept reminding her of the sweet taste of fresh mid-summer strawberries. Seven never held anything back in her kisses, not her attention, the depth of her emotions, or her physical contact. It never failed to touch B'Elanna right to the core of her soul and tap into the emotional dam that held her own passion back.

"What I would give for a patch of grass right now," B'Elanna laughed, when she bumped her head against the rocky shelf above them.

"Our surroundings are somewhat uncomfortable," Seven admitted, glancing around their position at the rough floor of the ledge, her arms wrapping the Klingon in a tight embrace.

B'Elanna rested her face in the nook of Seven's neck, nuzzling the smooth skin. "Want to watch the sunset before we head back to the house?"

"I do not understand the appeal of watching astronomical entities follow the natural pattern of their orbits," Seven wondered aloud, feeling B'Elanna's giggling breaths on her neck. "However, I am sure you will explain it to me."

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

Dannan sat on the bench in front of the house, brushing Fessi's belly hair. He had been neglecting the poor animal, not having walked him consistently for the past week, and Fessi had let him know its discontent in a big way. Suffice to say, Dannan immediately began to dote on his beast of burden, who was more like an overgrown, fat pet. Seven and B'Elanna entered the gate just as it had gotten dark, pulling their cloaks off in the safety of their refuge.

"You both are late tonight?" Dannan inquired with a grin for greeting, picking off some of the fur from the animal brush.

"We were involved in an altercation at the 'Hyperdrive,' and thought it would be prudent to avoid the streets," Seven explained.

"Ani!" B'Elanna whispered, in an attempt to stop her.

"Then we decided to 'make out,' and watch the sunset outside the town."

"Ani!"

Of course, Moka chose to walk out of the house to greet them at that moment, wiping her hands on her apron.

"Well, what took you so long? I thought I had to start dinner without you both," Moka asked with an all too innocent smile, even though there was no way she could not have overheard the last few comments Seven made. She just wanted the Klingon to squirm a little more.

Seven opened her mouth to respond, but B'Elanna had come up next to her and nudged her in the ribs. "I will explain later," was all the Borg replied.

"Oh, shit," B'Elanna muttered.

"Bey, not in front of Moka," a surprised Seven chided.

"No, I really mean it...," B'Elanna growled, as she lifted the sole of her foot up, and glowered at Fessi.

Fessi snorted derisively.

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

Berek fiddled with the comm for the third time. There was nothing else to do other than improve the transmission of the message their freighter was sending on all subspace channels. The message was simple enough, only one repetitive phrase in an attempt to contact a deep space starship. They were already on the border of the next sector since their launch this morning. There was nothing much to do on the freighter, other than to keep the ship's systems functioning. He narrowed the band width further and isolated a clearer frequency, at least for the next few light years until they reached another pocket of space with increased subspace interference.

"This is the freighter ship, Teresida, attempting to contact the Federation Starship Voyager. Repeat, this is the freighter ship, Teresida, attempting to contact the Federation Starship Voyager...."

Berek suspected that Abcedi was carrying more information privately, but he was instructed to run no other communications. Apparently, Abcedi expected this starship to answer to the message without question.

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

Ensign Tom Paris adjusted course to new bearings as he piloted the helm of the Delta Flyer. Neelix was off in the back snoozing after his return from Roka Noonan Prime, where he had just finished meeting with the Space Traffic and Trade Ministers. They had no reports regarding their two missing crew members to their frustration. It had been five days since they headed out to meet with the official contacts in this sector, and it had been one disappointment after another. So far, Voyager had no success in locating the whereabouts or news of B'Elanna and Seven.

He tugged at his collar which had been chafing him all day long. In fact, everything seemed to bother him lately, and only Neelix had the patience to calm him every time he vented his frustrations. He heard noises from the aft section, and guessed that Neelix just woke to relieve him for his shift. Either that or he was fixing up a light snack. Neelix's long crest of hair peeked out from the hatchway and the rest of his body followed.

"Okay, Tom. Time for your break," he informed as he stretched out his back.

"Did you have a good nap?" Paris asked, trying to maintain his usual sense of humor.

"A most refreshing nap. I just think back to the Ragosian Waterfalls back on Talaxia, and that makes me fall asleep every time!" he answered cheerfully, as he came up behind the pilot.

"I'm glad," Paris returned. "I've changed our heading to new bearings. Voyager contacted us about an hour ago and told us to meet them on the border of the third sector."

"Understood. I'll hold her steady while you get some rest."

Tom was about to step up from the conn when the comm panel lit up with blip. "It looks like we've picked up a hail on a subspace channel.... I'm gonna patch it through."

-Beep-

"This is the freighter ship, Teresida, attempting to contact the Federation Starship Voyager. Repeat, this is the freighter ship, Teresida, attempting to contact the Federation Starship Voyager...."

Neelix and Paris both exchanged stunned looks before they both scrambled to answer the hail.

"This is the Delta Flyer, from the Federation Starship Voyager. We received your message, please respond," Paris called out anxiously.

"This is Captain Abcedi, on board the Teresida. Who am I speaking with?" the voice over the comm replied.

"This is Ensign Paris of the Federation Starship Voyager. Do you wish to contact our ship?" asked Tom.

"How do we know you are associated with this vessel?" the voice or rather Captain Abcedi asked suspiciously. "I was told to speak to either Captain Janeway or Commander Chakotay or see the vessel USS Voyager herself."

"I can contact my ship and request them to meet us at designated coordinates. It would help if I knew what this was in regards to?" answered Paris.

"We have a message from someone called, B'Elanna Torres. I assume she is your crewmate?"

"Yes, she is. I will contact my ship. Give me the coordinates on where to meet your freighter and I will relay your message," Paris offered happily. Grinning ear to ear, Neelix patted his shoulder enthusiastically at the news.

"Understood," Abcedi replied.

Smiling, Paris keyed in the subspace band, and hailed Voyager, while Neelix adjusted for a new course as the coordinates came through.

"Delta Flyer to Voyager."


Author's Notes:

  1. yIntagh (expl!): The unofficial definition: stupid; dumb as rocks. This is a direct attack at the intelligence of the victim. May have overtones of petaQ and toDSaH as well: soft, spoiled, and utterly useless, with stupidity as the overriding factor.
  2. http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Pines/8152/klingon.html � Klingon Culture: One favorite drinking activity is the Warrior's Head Butt. Two warriors grab each others' arms, and butt their heads together violently. The one that's left standing is declared the winner.
  3. Sorry, but I believe in recycling misused lines of dialogue such as "We were more than friends." in Unimatrix Zero.

Continue to Chapters 19-21

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