Part 2 added on 11 July 2000
Disclaimers are in part 1.
Lt. Torres sauntered into the Mess Hall on her break. Fortunately, it was never packed at this time of day since the lunch rotations went through. She wasn't sure what she was in the mood for, but Neelix had better not try to peddle any of his bizarre creations. Besides, she had quite a few rations left this month. She had been hoarding them, hoping to whip up a fabulous dinner for Tom, but that wasn't going to happen. It was still new to her. Being single that is. She chose a seat by the window, while Neelix prattled off the specials of the day. She settled for something safe, a bowl of borsch soup and a Risian salad, complete with cherry tomatoes.
Tom had a whole month or so to get use to the idea that they weren't together anymore, although no one else on the ship knew, except maybe Harry. She wasn't sure if Tom had told him yet. Tom and she were still hanging around each other, so she doubted the crew noticed anything different. The only person behaving strangely these past few days since she was released from Sickbay was Seven of Nine. Seven always seemed to be looking at her in wide-eyed wonder whenever she was in her presence. It made B'Elanna feel awkward, like she had a piece of spinach stuck between her teeth. She was brought out of her reverie when Neelix came by with her food.
"Here you go, B'Elanna. A nice bowl of soup and a roll. When you're done, just give me a wave and I'll bring your salad over."
"Thanks, Neelix." She tore a piece off the roll and was about take a bite when Neelix interrupted.
"And how are you doing, lieutenant? Have you returned to full duty?"
B'Elanna put her roll down, even though she could almost taste it's buttery flavor. "I'm fine, Neelix. But Commander Chakotay seems to think everyone needs to walk on egg shells around me, so I'm only on duty half-time."
"Now, B'Elanna, I'm sure he only wants to make sure you don't get tired out for the first few days. We're all just happy to see you up and around."
"I appreciate your concern, Neelix."
Neelix, gave her a wink and walked over to another customer. She dug into her food, just realizing how famished she was. Swallowing was still a strange sensation after having been intubated. Tom walked into the Mess Hall, and spotting B'Elanna, made his way over to the table.
"Hi, can I join you?," he asked.
"Of course. What are you doing here?"
"Well, I just got out from under the Doc's tutelage, and thought I'd find my favorite gal."
B'Elanna hated it when he was this charming. Before they started dating, it had been so easy to dismiss his remarks, but now, she knew they held more meaning. He looked good this afternoon, despite, and his blue eyes sparkling with a tad bit of mischief.
"Care to be my date this evening to the party?"
B'Elanna sputtered through her soup. "It's this evening?," she asked as Tom began wiping up the spit.
"Yeah. Now don't say you didn't know. Harry's got this whole thing planned. He's even written some entrance music for his clarinet he's going to perform tonight. "
"You don't say."
All of a sudden, Tom put his hand on hers. "So how about it?"
B'Elanna paused and glanced down at his hand holding her hers still. In some ways, it felt so comfortable, like an old glove. But the fact of the matter, the situation hadn't changed. Their relationship was still going to have the same problems. Going together to the party could be simple matter, but Tom wasn't asking simply. B'Elanna looked up, but instead of giving Tom his answer, she noticed Seven out of the corner of her eye. There she was again, standing close enough to them, like the time she was collecting data on them as if she were a primatologist.
"Fine, I'll meet you out in front of the Mess Hall at 2000 hours." With that, she got up and left.
"But, B'Elanna,..." Tom called after her.
B'Elanna got back to her quarters in a huff. It had been slightly exhausting in engineering today, but she'd never admit it to anyone. There was a lot of work, though most of the repairs were done. Everyone in her team kept beaming in her direction, and everyone acted so cheerful to get orders from her. She too was happy to be back at work, but that was just ridiculous. Then, she got all these mixed messages from Tom in the Mess Hall, which made her feel more uncomfortable. She was prepared to face the difficulties of adjusting to the change in their relationship, but she didn't know what to make of what had just occurred. She really did love Tom, and the memories of the last time they had sex were still fresh in her mind. It was just before she had gone on that away mission. Her body flushed at the thought of being close to him, feeling his skin against hers as he kissed her deeply.
She had to stop thinking about it, before her body's reaction got out of control. It just wasn't going to work! She couldn't even open up to him in the past several months. All her depression, all her anger was just bottled up. He had the same problem. His answer was avoidance too. His multiple projects, the Camero, the Delta Flyer, and Ailce, just part of the same syndrome. They were just too different. He loved his 1950s holodeck programs, Ford mustangs, and Captain Proton. And she loved her engineering work, tinkering with warp conduits, and her astrophysics research with Janeway. -sigh- Well, Mir wasn't built in a day, so...
Seven of Nine had been working for the past several days in engineering. Though for the most part repairs had gone smoothly, she felt strangely scrutinized, which made her feel more self-conscious than she had ever been. Everyone had heard how she risked her life to save Lt. Torres', and it seemed more than a few people had been surprised. Naomi Wildman had run into Astrometrics the other day after she heard Seven had been released from Sickbay. Seven heard the little patter of feet before turning, only to be engulfed in a mass of tangled hair, arms and legs. She and Naomi proceeded immediately to play three rounds Kadis-kot, before revealing to her small companion some of her recent confused feelings. Naomi laughed and told her she had a crush on someone. She asked Seven who it was, but Seven declined to tell, and then Naomi broke out in a song and dance, teasing her and you-know-who. Seven decided to remove herself at that point.
Seven was back in Cargo Bay 2, grateful for the silence unlike engineering. It's strange how she could feel so differently from when she was first separated from the Borg. This afternoon she saw Lt. Torres and Ensign Paris in the Mess Hall, and they seemed to be fairly intimate despite what Paris told her. At least, that's what she inferred by their hand-holding. Unfortunately, her observations were cut short when Lt. Torres left quite suddenly. And now she couldn't stop ruminating about what she saw and overheard. They were going to the celebration together this evening. Perhaps, they had renewed their romantic relationship. And obviously, they will be consuming alcoholic beverages tonight, and thus leading to another sexual interlude. Oh, it was just frustrating to think about the possibilities, as she tapped furiously on her console! A period of regeneration was required. Without further delay she stepped up to her alcove and promptly went to "sleep," but not before one last thought.
"Harry, I want you to know, this is a great party," congratulated Janeway.
"Thank you, Captain. I just hope the guest of honor shows up soon, or there'll be no champagne left," Harry joked.
"Well, if I ever need someone to plan my parties, I'll know who to call on," said Chakotay.
"And I'll," added Neelix, as he brought out more hors d'oeuvres, "be the caterer."
Tuvok could only raise his brow without comment, as the rest smiled and laughed at his expression. Much of the crew was packed into the Mess Hall, not only to welcome back the lieutenant to duty, but also to get a chance to let loose, after the recent encounters. The Doctor took the opportunity to snap a few holographic images for posterity.
Meanwhile, Tom stood outside waiting for his date, smiling at the others as they moved in and out of the doors. Finally, he spotted B'Elanna coming down the hall. Decidedly, she was not in uniform, but rather a nice, sleek, black leather pants and red tank-top with straps. To say it was flattering was an understatement. Luckily, he was quite spiffy himself, if he didn't mind saying so.
He greeted her with some flowers and his arm. "Good evening, Miss B'Elanna Torres. May I escort you're late, but rather nice butt to the party."
"Why, yes you may, Mr. Paris. But I'll break that arm if you comment on punctuality again. By the way, I'm sorry I'm late," Torres replied jokingly.
They walked into the room with a loud cheer from the crowd, Harry's music and a few blinding flashes from the Doctor's overzealous picture-snapping. Someone clamored for a toast, to B'Elanna's chagrin, as champagne was passed around, one directly into her hand.
"I thank you all for the warm welcome. I am so happy to be back at work. Here's to friendly faces!," B'Elanna toasted.
Since everyone's eyes were on B'Elanna at the moment, no one saw a single figure slip in at the last minute to catch the toast. B'Elanna took one big sip from her glass before she saw Seven. Her eyes bulged, and the champagne went up into her nose, causing her to cough and sputter.
"Geez, what is it with you and liquids today," Tom noted as he began wiping B'Elanna off. She shooed his hands away, and tilted her head in Seven's direction. He let out a yelp, his face full of surprise, when he turned to look.
"Wow, looks like our little borg is all grown up," he said, eyeing her appreciatively.
Seven let her short hair down, and was wearing a lovely light blue, sleeveless dress, that truly accentuated her eyes, as well as other salient features. Harry spotted her too, and walked over to where she stood talking to the Doctor.
"Seven, you look wonderful tonight," he commented admiringly. "How about some champagne, and don't worry," he added when he saw the disapprovingly look on the Doctor's face, "I made sure to reduce the alcoholic content in this glass by 65%."
"Ensign Kim, thank you. You have always been very thoughtful," Seven replied as she took the glass he offered.
"Welcome to the party," Tom called out while he and B'Elanna moved over to the circle.
They spent the next few minutes chattering among each other as the party continued. Neelix kept the good food rolling and the ship's band played on. B'Elanna kept stealing glances at the borg, captured by the change in Seven, or at least in her attire. She appeared relaxed even though her face barely betrayed any emotion, and a few times she actually contributed some humorous observations. She looked very lovely when a faint smile would touch her features. B'Elanna made the pretense of needing to refill her drink, and walked over to the bar. She wanted a break from watching the borg, to figure out what was going on in her head.
Ever since the away mission, something had changed between them. They had barely tolerated each other before, even though they had to work closely in engineering on occasion. Seven was annoying, often intentionally irritating she had thought. She was rude, arrogant that she was always correct, and lacked social graces. And everyone excused it because she was new to being human. But since the away mission, B'Elanna had seen a much different side to Seven, a much more desirable side. Seven was so innocent in many ways. She was intelligent, beautiful, and most of all loyal. That surprised her the most, and yet time and time again, Seven chose Voyager and her crew as her collective. And hey, lots of people excused her behavior in many ways as well, because she was Klingon.
My god, this was all so confusing. She had avoided thinking about, but now in the quiet of her own mind, among the crowd and the noise, she had to admit it to herself. Seven had saved her life! She heard footsteps behind her, and was greeted by a pair of very blue eyes that looked back at her with curiosity.
"Lt. Torres, is everything alright?" asked Seven.
"Um,... yes. Why do you ask?" replied B'Elanna.
"You have been standing in this position looking as the various alcoholic beverages for a long time."
"Oh, I guess I wasn't so sure what I wanted."
"And have you decided?"
"Kahless, no," B'Elanna mumbled.
"Lieutenant?... Has the alcohol impaired your functioning?"
"Um, no. I think I'll have some Romulan ale," B'Elanna said quickly.
Before she could reach for the bottle, Seven took it and began pouring for the lieutenant. It appeared the Doctor had been teaching Seven a few more socializing lessons.
"You look nice this evening, Seven," B'Elanna complimented, watching Seven.
"As do you," Seven returned, having already observed early on how well the pants showed off B'Elanna's lean body.
If there had been a Romulan disrupter in front of B'Elanna at this moment, she would have shot herself in the foot. She flushed a little when she noticed the soft, subtle ripple in Seven's shoulder muscles.
"Thank you," B'Elanna said simply when Seven handed her her drink. Seven peered closely when she noted the rosy color in the lieutenant's cheeks.
"Perhaps, you have had an excessive amount of alcohol already," Seven commented with slight concern in her voice.
Coincidentally, Tom came upon the pair just then. Seeing her escape, B'Elanna thanked Seven one more time before leaving the bar with Tom. Seven stood there watching the object of her pursuit walk away. She didn't understand why her method of seduction had not accomplish its objective. Her research of mating rituals clearly stated that attractive attire, alcohol, and good conversation often lead to desired results. Seven decided that the interruption by Ensign Paris must have distracted Lt. Torres from the effects she tried to produce. She reassured herself she would have other opportunities to try again. However, as the night went on, she had been caught up in other conversations with the Doctor, Harry, and Captain Janeway. She kept Lt. Torres in the corner of her eye at all times, and even made eye contact on several occasions. Meanwhile, B'Elanna became even more hot and bothered as the partying continued, watching Seven walk around talking to various people. Finally, she whispered in Tom's ear, and then both of them left the party quietly, unnoticed by the rest of the crew.
Seven rode silently in the turbo lift. The party had been entertaining, she had to admit. Perhaps, celebrations were not irrelevant to the crew's well-being and general function, as the Commander Chakotay tried to explain to her. She had gained more insight into the personalities of her various acquaintances like Ensign Johan and Ensign Suzuki, who had come to the party together. Nevertheless, other thoughts became more intrusive and Seven actually felt pensive when she reached her destination. The lift doors opened and Seven stepped out into the corridor. She made her way to deck nine section twelve and stood there for just a moment. Then she ran.
To be continued....