Disclaimer: Only the story is mine. Everything else belongs to Paramount. As much as I'd like to say Seven and B'Elanna are mine, 'twould be a falsehood. (sigh) This story contains femslash (yup, women love women here, get used to it) so if that offends you, then read something else. Although if you've read Ghosts, the story before this one, then you're probably not offended by it if you're still reading. And if you haven't read Ghosts—go read it!

Author Notes: Sequel to Ghosts.

Code: T7
Rating: R
Genre: Romance/Drama
Original post date: Feb, 2001

Family, Chapter 1

Seven had not anticipated how much Mezoti might have changed since she left Voyager several months before. But change she had...

She was stubborn, obstinate and willful. She demanded at least as often as she requested and she was now prone to small fits of temper. The captain had helped Seven five weeks ago with finishing the paperwork involved in adopting a child, especially from a non-federated world. Seven had been pleasantly surprised to discover that the Federation still considered her a citizen and therefore, she could legally adopt through them.

Though no actual 'paper' had been involved, Seven had found the process slow and slightly tedious. She read the laws and regulations concerning adoption of non-Federation orphans by Federation members, the laws concerning regular adoption and once through the legal jargon, she signed her name: Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix One, nee Annika Hansen. Upon reaching the third place she had to sign, Seven almost considered using numbers to represent her numerical name, but instead used those for her initials: 7/9 n. AH. She simply began leaving out Tertiary Adjunct...'

But in the end, she admitted that it was worth writing her full name and title a hundred times over if it meant that she would once again see the delight in her new daughter's eyes.

The delight that was not present at this moment.

"I will not comply!" Mezoti declared. Seven did not understand why Mezoti refused to sleep. She no longer needed but an hour a night of regeneration, which she received through a small regeneration unit that had been set up in the quarters designated for Mezoti upon her return to Voyager. "I wish to regenerate with you!"

"We have this discussion every night, Mezoti. Your body no longer needs to regenerate in the manner that mine does. You require sleep. Since you have a bed to sleep in, you should use it for that purpose." Seven looked at the defiant look in Mezoti's eyes and commanded firmly, "Comply." At which, the young Norcadian flung herself on the bed and wailed.

"It's not fair," she howled into her pillow. Then her lungs produced the longest, most drawn out cry Seven had ever heard, followed by muffled sobs and several repetitious cries of "It's not fair!"

"I believe the correct phrase to respond with is, 'life is not fair,'" Seven stated as she had heard Samantha Wildman say to Naomi on the occasions that the half-Ktarian child chose to be unreasonable. However, Mezoti's response was not the quiet compliance of Naomi, it was a violent screaming fit. She kicked the bed and ripped at her pillow, alarming Seven enormously.

Seven stood at the head of the bed, her hands clasped behind her, completely unsure how to handle this situation. She stood and watched helplessly as Mezoti wore herself out and eventually lay gasping, her pillow soaked and her face a mess. Seven walked to the small washroom and acquired a washcloth, dipped it in water, and walked back to Mezoti's side. She sat on the bed and cleaned the exhausted child's face. Mezoti lay still, her swollen eyes slowly shutting, fighting sleep as long as she could.

Seven stroked her hair and back, noting that this calmed her daughter and gently continued to do so until Mezoti drifted off to sleep, still murmuring that it wasn't fair. Seven wondered what it was exactly that Mezoti found so unfair, but had found that asking only led to more frustration on the child's part.

Her daughter, who could understand warp theory and eloquently elucidate the differences between over a thousand or more cultures, couldn't express her feelings about this subject beyond 'it isn't fair.'

Seven felt that wasn't fair. To either of them.

She repressed a sigh and stood. The regeneration until attached to the bed whirred to life and Seven walked out of the small quarters into the hall on deck three. She leaned against the wall for a moment, collecting herself.

"Rough night?" Seven straightened immediately and looked over at Samantha Wildman.

"Mezoti did not wish to sleep." She explained and wondered if she appeared as haggard as she felt.

"Tell me about it," Sam said smiling. "Sometimes I have to drag Naomi to bed, kicking and screaming." Seven's eyes widened as she heard the description of what had just transpired with Mezoti.

"That is just exactly what I did. Except that I did not force her into her bed." Samantha chuckled.

"Kids," she said. "You love 'em to death, but sometimes, they can drive you crazy just trying to get them to do what's only good for 'em." Seven nodded in agreement. Sam smiled at her again. "So how are you enjoying motherhood so far?"

"The benefits outweigh the... disturbances." Samantha outright laughed at Seven's carefully chosen word.

"Yes, they do." They shared a moment of understanding, then Samantha excused herself. "I've gotta get some sleep myself. I pulled an early shift for tomorrow. Nice talkin' to you."

"Good-night, Ensign." Seven replied. Samantha turned around and smiled at Seven.

"Please, call me Sam. Good-night, Seven."

"Good-night... Sam." Seven nodded to the retreating form, whose quarters were right across from Mezoti's and then walked to the turbolift, feeling the need to regenerate early tonight. As a second thought, however, she made a brief detour and found herself pressing the chime to B'Elanna's quarters.

The doors slid open as B'Elanna called for her to enter. She looked up from the Engineering reports in her hands and her face lit up. She dropped the ever-hated paperwork and stood up, meeting Seven half way.

"This is a pleasant surprise," she said as she went on tiptoe to kiss the much taller blonde. Seven hugged B'Elanna to her, gaining strength from the contact.

"I missed you," Seven told her. B'Elanna sighed and leaned against Seven's chest, hugging her tightly.

"I missed you, too. How has your day been?" She sat on the couch and glared at all the padds strewn across it, the evidence of her position as Chief Engineer. She swiped them onto the floor with her arm, receiving a raised eyebrow from Seven, who then sat in the proffered seat.

"Astrometrics experienced a power outage for one-point-three minutes that set Icheb and I back five hours on development of a way to increase shield efficiency by seventy-two-point-eight percent. Once we had 'caught up' Icheb was required by Lieutenant Tuvok for his Astronavigation lesson." B'Elanna grinned at the way Seven paused before using any colloquialisms. She made a face at the last part.

"I hated Astronav. I almost failed it both years it was required." Seven raised her right brow, earning a smile from B'Elanna who found this one of her cutest expressions.

"I find it difficult to believe that you almost failed at any course." B'Elanna grinned at Seven.

"That's one of the reasons I like you," she responded.

"After Icheb left, I met Naomi for a game of Kadis Kot during lunch, then I worked with Mezoti on her Literature assignment. She was having difficulty selecting a work from Voyager's library, so I suggested that she look under subjects she was the most interested in."

"What's her assignment?"

"A 'book report.' From any non-federated world in the Beta Quadrant."

"What did she pick?"

" 'Ileb Durorros Uhdu.' "

" 'If I could touch the sky.' I think I read that when I was fifteen. It was too wordy."

"The Zeons are well known for verbosity in their literature."

"Precisely," B'Elanna agreed, grinning. Seven continued to describe her day right up until putting Mezoti to bed. "It's a phase, she'll grow out of it. Though I can't blame her for wanting to spend all her time with you." Seven blushed slightly. "More than just because you're you, you are now her mother and she's probably got some severe separation anxiety after what she's been through."

"I had considered that point, but I am at a loss as for what to do. I wish to give her comfort, but I do not wish to debilitate her. I am afraid that if I give into her whims and let her spend all her time with me, then she will be unable to cope when I leave on away missions or if I die." B'Elanna jumped at the last word. Trust only Seven of Nine to be so blunt.

"You should talk to her about it. Explain your concerns. She's a bright kid, she'll understand."

"I have already attempted to do so. She argued that she was aware that I had to leave for ship's business, but that there is no reason for me not to spend all my off hours with her. I pointed out that Samantha Wildman does not spend all her off time with Naomi, but she simply contended with, 'If Samantha Wildman jumped into a carnivore infested lake, would you follow?' " B'Elanna laughed so hard that tears ran down her face, both at Seven's impression of Mezoti and the child's response.

"What did you say back?" She managed to gasp out. Seven looked perturbed, but responded.

" 'Of course I would, if she required assistance and there were no transporters available. Though I see no logical reason as to why she would do such a thing.' " B'Elanna didn't even try to keep a straight face. Over her laughter, Seven managed to state, "I do not see what is so amusing."

"If you have to explain the joke Seven, then it's not funny." Seven raised an eyebrow and B'Elanna quit teasing her. "Okay, okay. Almost all parents have a variation of 'if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump with them?' But I've never heard a kid use it on their parent." B'Elanna kept laughing and Seven agreed with her: it wasn't funny.

Soon, as B'Elanna began telling of her day, Seven found that she could no longer be upset. Before long, she was laughing with B'Elanna, feeling all her stress leave her body until B'Elanna talked herself to sleep. Seven looked at the sleeping beauty before her and gave into the urge to kiss her, ever so gently. B'Elanna woke to Seven kneeling next to her, her lips pressing against her own and her body seemed to come alive.

Within moments, the chaste kiss had turned into a passionate embrace that left both gasping for air. B'Elanna felt the blood burning through her body at the insistence of her hearts, pounding in her ears and chest and…lower. Seven breathed heavily, her body throbbing and tingling. She suddenly felt too hot and she realized that her hair was disheveled from B'Elanna's fingers.

Though they had been dating for almost three months now, they still were not public about their relationship. Having learned from the reprimands from her relationship with Tom Paris, B'Elanna was discreet and kept Seven all to herself. That is not to say that their relationship was any less passionate, if anything, it was more. More passionate and more precious to B'Elanna than anything she had ever experienced.

So she kept Seven to herself, like a precious gem she must guard from the universe, lest it steal her away. Seven remained as aloof in her work as ever, only showing her more wild and tender side to B'Elanna, Mezoti and occasionally, Naomi. Sometimes she felt like a secret, though, as if B'Elanna was ashamed to be seen with her. As if being in a relationship with her would make B'Elanna a social pariah.

Seven never voiced her complaints, though. She felt it was selfish for her to even think of such things. Perhaps it would destroy B'Elanna's reputation to be seen with her, though everyone on the crew now knew that they were at least friends. Who was she to hurt the person she cared for so much?

To be continued...