Disclaimers: See Chapter I.
Nature of the Beast Chapter X
B'Elanna couldn't concentrate.
She'd read the same sentence on the PADD in her hand at least five times and still had no idea what it said. The engineer gave a sigh of frustration, closing her eyes and leaning back in her chair. Completely unbidden, a smile spread across her features. Visions of alabaster skin and blue eyes danced through her memory. The curve of a hip, the soft supple metal surrounding a rib, the satisfied smile on normally serene features; all of these things contributed to B'Elanna's smile, and thus, her inability to concentrate.
A month had passed since that fateful day in Astrometrics, when rage, pain, and passion had converged within B'Elanna and urged her to take the first steps toward conquering the former Borg. The weeks since, had been as blissful as any the Klingon could remember. The sex was amazing, and the conversations between even more so. Yet, under the surface, this emotional connection existed that B'Elanna was finding more and more difficult to stifle.
She was in love with Seven.
B'Elanna opened her eyes and stared up at the ceiling of her quarters. They always seemed far more empty on the nights that Seven regenerated. The engineer hated being left alone with her thoughts lately. Her heart hammered away at her resolve to keep things with Seven casual, while her mind protested that telling the other woman her feelings would ruin everything. B'Elanna was most terrified that should she make the admission, the blonde would disregard it as "irrelevant."
Nothing in her recent association with the former Borg supported this theory, of course. B'Elanna had come to know Seven as a kind and passionate woman, with a dry, irreverent sense of humor, who deeply cared about her collective of Voyager. But emotional vulnerability did not come easily to the Klingon, and so she remained tied up in knots, not willing to risk the relationship that had become so very precious to her.
Seven stepped from her alcove after completing her regeneration cycle. It was the middle of Voyager's night, a full four hours before the start of Alpha shift. The former borg had come to resent the nights she was forced to return to the cargo bay and regenerate. Any other night Seven would be settled snugly in a warm bed, the arms of the chief engineer wrapped around her. Since the first night she'd been invited to B'Elanna's quarters, the blonde had spent her evenings there. The two women would take their meals together, either in the mess hall or the engineer's quarters. They would work on projects for Voyager, make love, or simply engage in conversation.
Seven looked around at the dark, cold cargo bay, and felt a heaviness in her chest. She regenerated for eight hours every nine days, and upon completing her cycle she would simply head to Astrometrics and get an early start on her shift. This is what she had done since she had taken over as chief of Astrometrics, and even after her affiliation with B'Elanna had been established, she had continued this routine. This option did not appeal in the slightest to Seven on this particular morning. Instead the former borg set out for B'Elanna's quarters, wanting nothing more than to slip into the warm bed with her lover for a few hours.
For Seven it was just that simple. Logic did not have a place in it. The engineer's doors opened for her as soon as she stepped up to them, having been set to recognize her recently.
"It only makes sense," B'Elanna had said, "You're here as much as I am."
Seven made her way through the darkened living room and into the Klingon's sleeping chamber. The soft sound of B'Elanna's breathing immediately soothed her, and brought a smile to her lips.
Seven removed her biosuit and slid beneath the sheets, wrapping her arms around the smaller woman.
"Seven?" B'Elanna murmured half-asleep.
"You were, perhaps expecting someone else?" Seven whispered against the other woman's ear before planting a gentle kiss there.
B'Elanna turned and snuggled closer to the blonde, already asleep again.
Seven felt the heaviness about her chest ease, and allowed her eyes to drift shut, secure in the knowledge that she was were she was meant to be.
B'Elanna walked into the mess hall for lunch. Most of the crew of the Alpha shift was there, and the room resonated will the sound of dozens of conversations. She made her way through the line, and tray in hand, looked for a place to sit. Harry raised a hand and motioned her over. B'Elanna gave the ensign a smile as she took the seat next to him.
"Hey Starfleet," she said, taking a tentative bite of the mystery dish on her plate.
"Hello yourself," Harry returned B'Elanna's smile with a grin of his own. Harry started to say more, but B'Elanna didn't hear him, as just then a certain former borg walked into the mess and caught the engineer's eye.
If Harry had thought B'Elanna's smile earlier had been bright, the one that the woman gave Seven was positively radiant.
The blonde smiled back at B'Elanna and stepped into the line to retrieve her own meal.
"So I guess I don't need to ask you how things are going with Seven?" Harry observed.
B'Elanna felt heat rush to her cheeks. "Um… They're good."
"The fact that you're practically glowing with pleasure was kind of a dead give away there, Maquis."
It's possible B'Elanna flushed even more.
"B'Elanna's glowing?" Tom Paris asked as he set his own tray down opposite Harry. "Why do I have a feeling that this has more to due with six feet of sexiness rather than some kind of radiation accident?"
B'Elanna scowled at him, but Tom just winked. The helmsman had learned his lesson those few weeks ago, and though he knew some things were firmly off limits, he couldn't resist tweaking B'Elanna a little about her relationship with Seven. The truth was, B'Elanna was obvious in her happiness, and as her friend, Tom took joy in that. Granted, if the opportunity to observe the two women ever presented itself, Tom would take even more joy in that circumstance. The pilot couldn't help but smirk at that.
"May I join you?" Seven asked.
"Of course," Harry accepted for the rest of the table. Seven set her tray down next to Tom and across from B'Elanna.
"Hi," B'Elanna greeted Seven once the woman sat.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant. I trust your day is going well." The words, if spoken by anyone else would have been appropriate in the extreme, but the twinkle in the blonde's eye harkened B'Elanna back to the soft caresses that had awoken her this morning. Seven's lips had already surrounded a dark nipple, and her right hand had been teasing B'Elanna's clit before the engineer had been fully awake. The Klingon had climaxed precisely as the alarm went off. It was a game Seven liked to play. It definitely had begun to turn B'Elanna into a morning person.
"Yes, very well." B'Elanna's voice felt a full octave lower. She moved her leg under the table to rub against Seven's.
Blue eyes widened, lust lighting azure depths for just more than a moment, before the serene mask slipped firmly back into place.
"Ever feel like you might be invisible Harry?" Tom asked with a laugh. The two women had eyes for only each other, and though his ego was slightly bruised, he couldn't really hold it against them. If B'Elanna had any idea how transparent she and Seven were she'd be a little horrified.
"I do feel a little superfluous," Harry responded.
"All right, all right," B'Elanna said. "We get the point." Reluctantly she pulled her eyes from the ex-drone's and resumed eating her lunch.
The four spent a companionable lunch and after taking their trays to the recycler, they headed for the turbolift.
"I'll see you tonight," B'Elanna said as the doors opened for Seven's stop. She grazed her hand across the small of the blonde's back.
"Indeed. I will be prompt." Seven stepped out of the lift. "Ensign Kim, Lieutenant Paris."
The doors closed, and B'Elanna couldn't help the small sigh that left her.
Harry and Tom exchanged a look.
"So, B'Elanna," Harry started. "It seems like you and Seven are… getting along well."
B'Elanna ignored Tom, and simply smiled at Harry. "Yep. We are."
"It seems like things might be getting serious," Harry ventured a little more.
B'Elanna's smile faltered a bit. "I don't know about that Starfleet. I mean, we've only been dating for a month or so. It's very casual. We're just having fun, okay!"
"So you haven't told her then?" Tom's tone wasn't the least bit smug or teasing.
"Told her what?" B'Elanna demanded.
"That you're in love with her."
"Shut up Paris," B'Elanna said through clenched teeth. "What would you know about it?"
"I know you B'Elanna. There's a light in you that I've never seen before." Tom's voice was gentle, and it was at times like these that Harry was reminded that Tom was actually a decent and good man, under all the boyish crap. "Harry's right, you glow. You love her."
B'Elanna felt her anger rush out of her. How could she be pissed at Tom for pointing out what she already knew? "So what if I do? How is my relationship with Seven any of your business?"
"We care about you," Harry ventured back into the conversation. "And your feelings are pretty obvious, B'Elanna."
"Great, just great." B'Elanna ran a hand through her hair.
The doors opened for B'Elanna's stop. She walked past the two men without another word.
"Tell her," came Tom's disembodied voice as the turbolift doors closed.
Seven was tapping the keys of her console at a furious pace when Jennifer Delaney walked into Astometrics.
"Hi Seven," Jennifer greeted the other woman.
"Big plans tonight?" The brunette wagged her eyebrows at Seven. The two had bonded over the last few weeks, Seven coming to rely on the younger woman's insights on dating dos and don'ts.
"Lieutenant Torres and I are spending the evening in her quarters." Seven stated. "I am making a dinner of Chicken Piccata and roasted potatoes."
Jennifer gave a laugh at Seven's monotone delivery. It had become an inside joke between the two of them, after Seven, nervous and full of questions after her date with B'Elanna had started to relay intimate details in an attempt to differentiate between copulation and making love.
"Mmm, that sounds good. I hope B'Elanna realizes how lucky she is. Beauty, brains, and cooking all in one package."
"It is I that am the lucky one," Seven returned. "B'Elanna Torres is both beautiful and intelligent, and she cooks for me as well."
Jennifer just smiled.
"Ensign, what is the proper protocol on declaring one's feelings for another?"
"Well, gee Seven. That depends." The brunette gave Seven a thoughtful look. "I assume that we aren't speaking hypothetically here? You're talking about you and B'Elanna, right?"
"There really isn't a set rule. When the right time presents itself, you tell her."
"And when is the 'right' time?" Seven asked practically.
"You'll know." Jennifer laid a hand on Seven's shoulder. "You'll look at her, and the words will just come." Seeing Seven's frown, Jennifer laughed. "Seven that's the nature of the beast."
Seven looked at Jennifer quizzically. "What beast?"
As much as Seven was displeased that the other woman could not give her a more precise answer, Seven appreciated the advice. A few minutes later, Seven logged out of her console and bid Jennifer Delaney good evening.
B'Elanna stepped out of the turbolift two hours later than planned. Three power relays had decided to give up on life at the same time, causing a hiccup of sizable proportions within the communications system. She'd hailed Seven, hoping that dinner wouldn't be ruined, and that the former borg wouldn't be annoyed. Seven's gracious response had made B'Elanna smile.
"I will delay dinner to coincide with your arrival. I will use the extra time to contemplate possible activities for tonight."
So, despite being dirty and tired, B'Elanna entered her quarters in the best of moods. Heavenly smells assaulted her sense. Seven stood in the small kitchen, barefoot. Seven had been experimenting with more casual clothing lately. Instead of the usual biosuit the blonde wore a pair of loose drawstring trousers and a tank top. Her hair had been pulled back into a ponytail. B'Elanna felt her breath catch. Seven looked so young and innocently beautiful.
The blonde turned and gave B'Elanna a steamy look that drove all thoughts of innocence from the Klingon's mind.
"Welcome home, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna walked over to Seven and took her into her arms for a searing kiss. It took several moments for the women to separate.
"If this is to become the new greeting protocol I will endeavor to cook dinner more frequently," Seven said with a raised eyebrow.
B'Elanna headed into the bedroom to change and clean up. "It's not just the cooking," she said to herself. When she returned to the living room, she found Seven just setting dinner on the table.
Through out the meal, B'Elanna couldn't help but dwell on what Tom and Harry had said. It was getting harder and harder not to blurt out her feelings for Seven… and yet, the thought of losing this made the Klingon mute.
For her part, Seven kept thinking of the "right" moment. Had it been when B'Elanna walked in and kissed her so thoroughly? Had she missed it already, all chances of telling B'Elanna gone?
Dinner was unaccountably quiet.
Seven leaned against the counter as B'Elanna loaded the last of the dishes into the recycler. When the smaller woman passed her, Seven reached out and drew her into her arms. B'Elanna didn't resist in the slightest, but lay her head against the blonde's chest, and rested her hands on Seven's hips.
"You came home last night." B'Elanna said into Seven's chest.
Seven didn't miss the significance of B'Elanna's use of the word home. "Is it acceptable that I returned after my regeneration?"
B'Elanna nodded. "More than acceptable. Why didn't we think of that before?" B'Elanna thought that perhaps the nights wouldn't have seemed quite so lonely if she'd known that Seven would be returning before the morning.
"I do not know, B'Elanna. As for last night, I simply wanted to hold you before returning to my duties."
B'Elanna lifted her head. "You did a little more than just hold me this morning."
Seven gave a small laugh. "Indeed." She laid a gentle kiss on caramel forehead ridges.
"Seven…" B'Elanna laid her head back against the other woman's chest. "I need to tell you something." The Klingon's hearts beat a furious tattoo against her chest.
"Proceed." Seven answered.
"I…" Fear gripped B'Elanna. She buried her face in the softness before her, drawing a small amount of comfort.
Seven felt the small engineer snuggle closer and gave her a squeeze.
"I'm afraid." Came the quiet statement. "I need to tell you something, but I'm afraid."
Seven felt the pounding hearts of her lover against her chest, and felt her own speed up in response. "You need to tell me something, but you are afraid of my reaction?"
Seven was unsure of what could cause the Kligon to fear her response to anything. What the blonde did know was that she did not like the fear that she heard in B'Elanna's voice. She wanted to reassure her, take that fear away, and could only think of one thing to establish her support of B'Elanna.
"I love you."
B'Elanna's head came up from Seven's chest like a gunshot. "Yes, I need to tell you that I love you, but I'm afraid!" B'Elanna all but shouted. "I just don't know how…" B'Elanna's voice trailed off as the conversation replayed itself in her head.
"Did you just say…"
"That I love you, yes. I was waiting for the 'right' moment to present itself, and apparently Ensign Delaney was correct, it did so naturally." Seven kissed the somewhat stunned engineer on the nose. "Did my declaration alleviate your fear?"
"Then you may proceed."
"Seven of Nine, I am in love with you."
"As am I with you, B'Elanna."
B'Elanna reached up and brought the blonde down for a kiss. "Mine," the Klingon declared between kisses.
"Yours." Answered Seven.