A/N: It's been about 15 years since I last wrote Voyager fic. Please be gentle with me.

Disclaimer: Characters are no mine. They belong to Paramount, the Roddenberry estate, and other assorted important people. I gain nothing out of this but the joy of doing, so please don't sue me.

"Is it too much to ask for you to leave me alone for longer than 20 minutes?" B'elanna Torres growled from under the console in Engineering she was attempting working on. "I told everyone to leave me alone and let me finish this before the captain comes down here wanting to know why it's not done, and, if I have to tell her it's not done because you keep…" She slid from under the console to look up at the intruder.

Captain Janeway looked down at her, a bemused expression on her face. "I'm sorry, Chief. In the future, I'll make a mental note to not interrupt you until after the captain comes down for her inspection."

"Captain!" B'elanna made a move to swiftly stand, only to just miss the console she was still partially under. With a grunt and a few sworn oaths made under her breath, she managed to twist her way up to a standing position. "I didn't realize you'd be down so soon."

"I hadn't planned on it, but repairs to the rest of the ship seem to be going smoothly, and I was getting a little tired of sitting in my ready room going over reports, so I thought I'd take my stroll a bit earlier than normal today."

"Oh," the chief engineer croaked out, managing to sound irritated and embarrassed at the same time. "I… uh… thought you were someone else."

"Obviously," Janeway replied with a chuckle. "Let me guess: Seven of Nine?"

"It's not that we're not getting along," the young woman quickly spat out. "It's just that she's being… well… she's just been more, you know, meticulous than usual. Ever since you two came back from that little 'incident' where she stole a shuttle and decided there was some huge conspiracy on the ship for the Maquis to take over, it's like she's been on some kind of crusade to prove something."

Janeway cocked an eyebrow. "Like what?"

"I honestly have no idea." The brunette let out a heavy huff. "I wish I did because whatever is that she's stuck on now is starting to make working with her worse than when we first disconnected her from the collective."

"That bad?" The captain frowned at the very idea. Seven had been close to nightmarish for the half-Klingon to work with in the beginning. There were pools, of which she wasn't supposed to be aware, on how long it would take before the two came to actual blows. That was a time period Janeway would rather not relive.

"Yeah, it's that bad." B'elanna leaned back against the console and crossed her arms, looking for all the word as if she was rearing up to challenge the older woman in front of her. "Captain, you have to do something about it before the rest of us go crazy."

"I'll have a talk with her." With a grim nod, Janeway turned on her heels.

"Seven?" Cautiously, Janeway stepped into Astrometrics.

"Captain," the young woman turned to face her visitor, hands coming to rest behind her back as she quirked an eyebrow. "I didn't know to expect you. Is there something you require?"

"I just wanted to check in," Janeway replied with her best reassuring smile. "How are things?"

"Everything is functioning within normal parameters. The recent additions to the star charts will be a helpful piece of information as we continue to navigate this quadrant, and the diagnostic…"

"With you, Seven." The older woman gave the tiniest of smirks. "I meant how are things with you?"

"I, too, am functioning within normal parameters." Seven sighed. "Has Lt. Torres indicated otherwise?"

Janeway couldn't hide the chuckle, despite herself. "What makes you ask that?"

"She and I have been having," the blonde paused, struggling for the correct word, "issues recently regarding the inefficies her calibrations in Engineering are causing to Astrometrics."

"I see." Nibbling at the corner of her mouth to try and stop the full on smirk threatening to come out, Janeway moved to lean against the console closest to the other woman. "And what inefficiens would those be?"

"The list is long," the ex-drone dryly intoned. "It would take at least ten minutes to recite it all. I would be happy to do so, or would you prefer I put it into a report?"

"No," holding up a hand to stop any further thought on it, Janeway looked down to compose herself lest she let the chuckle threatening to overtake her win. She recognized what was going on. Her ex-Borg was giving her half-Klingon a hard time for some reason. Realistically, she shouldn't be so amused by the situation, but she couldn't help herself. It was like watching sister bicker, but with a real chance someone was going to Sickbay, which probably should make the whole thing less amusing, but, given the players involved, just seemed to amuse the captain all the more.

She took a few seconds to compose before bringing her eyes up to meet Seven's. "Why are you really antagonizing B'elanna? I've seen the recent reports regarding her recalibrations that affect Astrometrics, and there isn't any indication of any reduction in efficiency. So," she raised her eyebrows and narrowed her eyes just a touch, "what happened to make you decide to egg her on, hmm?"

"I don't know what you mean, Captain." Seven turned back to her console, eyes suddenly glued to the display in front of them.

"Oh, I think you do. I know you, Seven, and I know that, when someone has annoyed you, you like to annoy them back." The older woman gave a shake of her head to stop the obvious protest about to be voiced. "You can deny it all you'd like, but the fact remains, you have a wicked sense of payback when someone has done something to you that isn't worth a write-up but is worth retaliation. I've seen you do it a number of times. Often, it's to Mr. Paris, who I normally believe gets what he deserves, but," she held a finger up in the air, giving it a little way, "every now and again, it's someone else. So, tell me what happened."

The lab was quiet for a few long seconds before the blonde conceded to the determined look being aimed at her from the auburn haired woman beside her. "I do not appreciate being called unworthy."

"Unworthy?" Janeway was struck. That was something she'd never expect to hear B'elanna say of Seven, at least not now. "Unworthy of what?"

"Of the… time you seem to spend with me compared to others on the ship." The young woman looked away, eyes drawn to anything but the captain. "I realize I'm not the only member of your crew you consider a friend, and I have no intention of monopolizing your time, but I thought," she paused, swallowing hard as her hands seemed to move faster over the console, "perhaps you desired to spend the time with me, not because you felt obligated."

Rolling her head back and taking in a deep breath, Janeway mentally counted to ten to stop herself from flying back down to Engineering and flaying her chief engineer alive for being presumptuous, jealous, and setting the ex-drone backwards in her progress toward self-confidence. "I spend time with those I wish to spend time with, Seven," she gently replied. "My obligations to spend time with certain members of the crew stop when I step inside my quarters. Anyone I invite into my inner sanctuary is there because I welcome their company, not because I feel it my duty to speak with them."

Slowly, the young blonde's eyes moved to meet the other woman's. "So you don't allow me to come to your quarters for conversations because you feel I need to be 'petted'?"

"No." Janeway let out a heavy sigh. "I allow you into my personal space because I appreciate our conversations. It's rare to find someone whose conversations and ways of looking at the universe are as unique as yours." She gave a tender smile. "I like talking to you, Seven."

"As I do you." Pulling back from her console, the blonde returned to her usually harsh stance. "I find our conversations invigorating, challenging."

"Exactly." Janeway raised her hand to briefly touch the other woman's arm. "Don't let the ship's gossip get to you. If you're ever in doubt, come ask me. I haven't lied to you yet, and I'm not about to start."

"Thank you, Captain. I will."

"And lay off B'elanna. I think she's suffered enough for her inconsideration, but, if she brings it up again, I want you to let me know so I can have a talk with her about appropriate conduct."

"I would prefer that you didn't. Having interacted with Lt. Torres for well over a year, I feel it safe to say that she would take offensive if someone else approached her regarding issues I have with her. I will," Seven stiffened, "speak to her myself."

"I'm not so sure that's a good idea. From the looks of things, you two are on a war path with each other." Janeway tilted her head in thought. "But you are right about one thing. It's better if you two can work it out together. What if I have Commander Chakotay serve as a mediator?"

"I started this strife because of something I overhead that I likely shouldn't have," Seven stood firm, shoulders squaring. "I will correct the damage."

After a moment's consideration, the captain gave a curt nod. "If you two come to blows, I'm locking you both in the brig where you'll be sharing the same cell."

Seven visibly winced. "Understood."

"Lt. Torres, a moment?" Seven stood a respectful distance from the Chief Engineer, who had moved onto running diagnostics on the system she'd been calibrating when the captain had come by earlier.

"Now isn't really a good time, Seven," she replied without bothering to look up. "Maybe later."

The blonde sighed. "I wish to apologize."

B'elanna's head snapped up so quickly she flinched. "What?"

"I have been… antagonistic over the past few days, and I wish to apologize for it. My behavior was inappropriate." The ex-drone took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she waited for a response.

"So you were trying to piss me off?" The brunette's jaw clenched for a second. "What the hell, Seven? I mean… why would you do that?"

"Because you angered me when you told Ensign Drayer that you thought the amount of time Captain Janeway spends with me is more than she ought. I was… offended that you would think I was unworthy of the captain's time."

"You heard that?" B'elanna closed her eyes against their roll. "Well, you apparently heard part of that anyway." She sighed. "Look, that's not exactly what I was saying to Drayer the other day." She paused as if something had just occurred to her. "How the hell did you even hear that conversation? We were in a Jeffries tube on deck 12 when we were talking about all of this."

"I was in an adjacent tube," Seven glanced away, a blush forming high on her cheeks, "attempting some privacy."

"You were hiding in a Jeffries tube?" B'elanna snorted. "From what?"

"Everyone," came the quiet response. "On this ship it is… difficult for me to find any time to myself. My quarters are the cargo bay where many items are stored that need to be accessed on a regular basis and at seemingly random times, and the doctor often steps into any holodeck program I may run to 'check on me,' which leaves me little time to myself. As a drone," she finally looked back at the other woman, "I was accustomed to always being with others, but, now, I find I sometimes need time apart. The Jeffries tubes on deck 12 are rarely accessed, and I found it was a good spot to be alone."

"I guess it's never occurred to me that you'd want any privacy." The engineer winced at her own insensitivity. "Have you spoken to the captain about the possibility of getting quarters of your own?"

"No, I don't wish to trouble her with it, and, with limited space aboard Voyager, it makes logical sense for me to remain where I am." Seeming to shake the thoughts away, Seven turned her focus back to the task at hand. "That is why I overheard your conversation with Ensign Drayer, and your conversation is why I was antagonistic over the past few days. As I said, I'm sorry for my behavior. I won't do it again."

B'elanna signed, giving up all hope of working as she debated explaining her conversation with Drayer to the other woman or letting it go. On one hand, if she let it go, then nothing more would come of any of it, and things would go on as they normally do. On the other hand, the captain was getting testier by the day, and what could it hurt to stir the pot and see if maybe something good could come out of the mess that was, well, everything most days?

Shaking her head at the poor life choice she was about to make, B'elanna took in a deep breath. "Seven, Drayer and I weren't talking about you being unworthy of the captain's attention. We were talking about how Captain Janeway seems to want to spend all her free time with you. Before you came on board, it was Chakotay she spend most of her free time with, but, now?" She shrugged. "If she's not working or sleeping, she's with you."

Seven tilted her head in confusion. "And you think this is a bad thing?"

"No," the brunette slowly shook her head in the negative. "A lot of us have noticed it, and we think," she grunted, not wanting to put ideas in the younger woman's head if those ideas weren't already there. "It's just that it's rare for the captain to be so willing to share her private time with anyone. Even when she was spending most of her free time with Chakotay, I don't think they ever were as close as you two are. It's just… interesting is all."

"Interesting?" Seven seemed to process what she'd just been told for a very long breath. "Do you have a theory as to why Captain Janeway acts this way towards me and not other members of the crew?"

"Ah, well," B'elanna ducked her head and turned back to her work, "anything I'd have to say about it would just be a guess, and I know how much you hate guesses. Look, I've got to get back to work, but… we're good now, ok? I mean, so long as you quit trying to tick me off, we're good."

"We are 'good,' then, as I will not be actively trying to antagonize you anymore," Seven responded with a tick of puzzlement in her voice. After a curt nod from the brunette, she turned on her heels to head back to Astrometrics, her mind running through all the possible reasons Captain Janeway would want to spend time with her and settling on the reason the captain had given herself. She liked to talk to Seven as Seven liked to talk to her.

However, the longer Seven considered both the reason given to her by Janeway and the odd conversation she'd had with B'elanna, the more unsettled she became with the reason she'd been given. She needed to have a better understanding of this type of human interaction, and, since the Captain was not an option to speak with about this because it was about her, that left Seven with only one other option.

She needed to speak with the Doctor.

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