Title: Against All Odds
Rating: PG-13
Summary: The Doctor can't get that song out of his head.
Disclaimer: No infringement intended. Star Trek Voyager and her crew belong
to Paramount.
Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) belongs to Phil Collins.

Copyright 2001, Susan S. McCrackin. Reprinted with permission of the author.

**

No matter how hard he tried, he could not get that damned song out of his mind. It flitted through his subroutines like an Eglatan gnat. Damn that Tom Paris and his love affair with everything that had to do with the twenty-first century. And damn his own stupid self for indulging in an afternoon of musical escape.

It did not help that the party was only days away. His memories of those last few days on Voyager ran though his daydreams, the song a perverse theme accompanying the pictures that were constantly replayed in his memories.

She would be there. She would be there on the arm of Chakotay. They were still together. Tom and B'Elanna tried not to talk about her when he was around, but other people were not as thoughtful. But, it would have been hard not to know they were still together. The pictures of them were everywhere. Chakotay stood proud, and she stood behind him, almost trying to hide from the holo-imager. He knew how much she hated being in the limelight. How could the Commander keep her in the public eye, knowing how uncomfortable it made her? Why, he would never subject her to…..

He stopped. Why did he do this to himself? Why did her keep thinking about her?

How can I just let you walk away.

Stop!

Just let you leave without a trace.

Please stop.

When I stand here taking every breath with you.

He was starting to hate that damn song.

You're the only one who really knew me at all.

"Stop it!" He walked quickly across the room, turning on Tom's old fashion television as loudly as he dared, not wanting to wake up Miral, but desperate to do something, anything to drown out the sound of the song in his head. He watched the images flicker across the screen, trying to focus on whatever the characters were saying, trying to lose himself in the story – if there was one.

How can you just walk away from me, when all I can do is watch you leave.

He put his arms on his knees and lowered his head.

'Cause we've shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears.

He remembered her walking away from him. He watched as she walked off of Voyager, shoulder to shoulder with Chakotay. She had never turned around to say goodbye.

You're the only one who really knew me at all.

But he had ruined it. He had blurted out his love for her. He had seen the look in her eyes immediately. He had seen how embarrassed she had been. How many times had he wished his matrix had destabilized on the holodeck? Being decompiled would have been better than what he was living through now.

So take a look at me now, oh there's just an empty space

And there's nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face.

Her face. Her face was constantly there. He saw it in everyone he looked at. He imagined it coming toward him, almost every minute of every day. He wanted to see it. Needed to see it. But he could not bear to see it.

Take a look at me now, 'cause there's just an empty space

And you coming back to me is against all odds and that's what I've got to face.

He had to face it. She was never going to come back to him. Come back? She had never been his. Who was he kidding?

Miral cried and he stood. Quickly going into her bedroom, he lifted her from her crib. "Hello, little girl." He pressed her against his shoulder, feeling her head bobble and her mouth work against his shoulder. "Wet and hungry, aren't you, sweetheart. Well, the Doctor is going to take care of you. Let's get you dry."

He crossed to the changing table, laying the baby down and quickly took the wet diapers off of her, mimicking her cooing sounds as he changed her. Picking her up, he moved into the kitchen area and pulled her bottle out of the small refrigerator. Warming it, he placed the nipple in her mouth and watched as she hungrily sucked it.

She had B'Elanna's cranial ridges, but Tom's nose. Her hair was coming in blonde, but he could see it was darkening on the tips. She would look like a blend of her parents. He could already see flashes of her mother's temper, but she smiled as easily as her father did. She reached up and grabbed his finger as he held her bottle. He laughed. He was totally in love with this little child.

Looking around the room, he thought about the fact that he spent more time here than anywhere else. This had become his haven. In the two months since they had returned to Earth, this had become his home. He had his first private living space, yet it was not the home his sickbay had been. He lived without purpose. Except for caring for this child.

He did not know where he would have been had it not been for B'Elanna and Tom. They had pulled him almost kicking and screaming into their lives, insisting that they wanted him around and needed him. That Miral needed him. The three of them had given him a reason for continuing to exist.

It was not that Starfleet had forgotten him. But, he was a computer program. Once they had downloaded his database, they really did not need him anymore. And, they did not want to deal with what he represented. He was a sentient computer program, capable of thinking and acting on his own. Capable of feeling, of loving, of hurting just as if he were human. He was as much his own person as any human, and they did not want to be reminded of that.

The crew had quickly scattered, each to his or her own family. He could not blame them. He would have done the same if he had had anywhere to go. Reg Barclay had offered to let him stay with him. He had almost taken him up on his offer, but Tom and B'Elanna had invited him to stay with them. When he had demurred, they had insisted and the rest was history. He could not say he was sorry. Miral was the brightest spot in his life, and he could not imagine not being a part of hers.

And when she was awake, he almost could not hear that damn song running through his mind.

**

B'Elanna almost burst into the room, her eyes searching for her child as she loudly whispered his name. "Doctor. I'm home."

He walked out of Miral's bedroom, holding the powdery-fresh baby out to her mother. "You timed it just right. I just got finished changing her. Five minutes earlier and your would have had a little mess on your hands." He laughed as Miral started cooing in that special tone she used when her mother held her. He watched as the muscles in B'Elanna's face unconsciously relaxed. "I think you are also going to find her hungry again." He reached up to smooth the baby's shirt.

B'Elanna grinned at him and moved to the sofa, unbuttoning her top as she did. He turned to prepare her a cup of hot tea, giving her time to settle herself with the baby. By the time he joined her, she had nestled into the sofa and Miral was contentedly suckling. He placed the cup on the side table where B'Elanna could easily reach it and stood over her, watching as the baby nursed. Finally, he sat down opposite her.

"How did it go today?"

She gave him a slight grimace. "Pretty much the same way it has gone everyday. They ask questions. I answer them." She glanced down at Miral. "Sometimes, if I am lucky, they actually give me something to do." She snorted and gave him an ironic look. "I can't say I'm impressed with the quality of engineers in Starfleet. They are too impressed with what they think they know. Most of them don't even like to get their hands dirty. It's all talking and looking."

The Doctor nodded his head, aware of the frustration B'Elanna was feeling. Voyager had come home, outfitted with technology that no one in Starfleet had ever seen, with Borg technology that no one really understood, and with futuristic technology that they should not have seen, and the reaction of Starfleet was that their scientists and engineers knew more about the ship than the crew who had maintained that technology. He knew it had been extremely frustrating for B'Elanna as she had to watch the ship she loved manhandled by people who did not see it as anything more than an interesting artifact.

The crew had been treated in much the same way. They had been debriefed as a crew for almost two straight weeks, then individually ever since. It had been worse for the Maquis and for Seven. They had been put under twenty-four hour guard at first. It had taken almost a month for the head of Starfleet to decide that the Maquis were not a risk. He knew that Seven was still under suspicion, but was being allowed to move around more freely now. But, he suspected that she did not. He hoped she had something to do to fill her days. He knew how much she hated not having anything to do.

He hoped being with Chakotay was making her happy.

You're the only one who really knew me at all.

"Doctor?"

He jerked his head toward her. "What?"

"I asked how things went today?"

"Oh." He stammered his response. "Things went fine. She was starting to focus today."

"Really?"

"Really." B'Elanna loved hearing about her child's progress. He saw the look in her face and waited.

"I hate I'm not here with her every day."

"B'Elanna, it can't be helped. And I'm here for you."

"I know." She adjusted the blanket over her child, watching as Miral's eyes started to close and as the movement of her mouth started to slow. "It's just that….." Her voice trailed off. He waited, knowing she would eventually finish. Finally, she looked up at him, her eyes sad. "It's just that I can't help but think that, if we were still on Voyager, still in the Delta Quadrant, I would be able to be with her and not pulled away from her every day." She took a deep breath. "We might have gotten home, Doctor, but I can't help but feel as if I lost mine."

He nodded his head, not having any response for her. He understood exactly how she felt. He felt the same way.

**

B'Elanna came out of Miral's bedroom. "Well, she's sound asleep."

He did not look up from the PADD he was studying. "She's a good baby."

"I won't argue with you there." She crossed the room and sat back down on the sofa. "What are you reading?"

"Just a note from the Captain."

"Oh?"

He deactivated the PADD and placed it on the table in front of them. "She was encouraging me to attend her party."

B'Elanna studied his face a moment. "You are going, aren't you?"

He took a deep breath. "No, I'm not."

"Doctor," she hesitated, trying to chose her words carefully, "a lot of people will be disappointed if you aren't there. We've even established a link with Neelix so he can be a part of the evening." When he did not respond, she tried again. "Will seeing her be worse than not seeing her?"

He cut his eyes to hers, then quickly looked away.

just the memory of your face….

B'Elanna tried again. "Doctor, don't let her keep you away from the rest of your friends. You are a part of the Voyager family. You need to be a part of us that night."

…'cause there's just an empty space….

"I don't think I can see her, B'Elanna." He stood up and walked over to the window. "I did try to contact her. I sent her a message." He turned back to look at her. "She didn't respond. I think it's pretty obvious she doesn't want anything to do with me."

"Maybe she won't be there."

He harrumphed. "Oh, she'll be there. I don't think he'll give her a choice. He'll be there, so she'll be there." He turned away from her again, adding, "Whether she wants to be there or not."

B'Elanna did not say anything. She knew he was right. In the days that followed Voyager's return, Chakotay had become a very popular person. His rugged good looks and his bad-boy-turned-hero image had made him a sought-after personality. And, he had the ex-Drone on his arm. She would barely talk to anyone, but he talked to everyone. He had her there with him, speaking for her when she would not speak for herself. They had all heard the jokes. He had taken Seven away from the rest of the crew and into the world. Those who knew her knew that her new environment was overwhelming her, but they also knew she would not ask for help. Anyone who knew her knew she was withdrawing more and more from the world around her.

"You have a few days to think about it, Doctor. Maybe you will change your mind."

He continued to look out of the window. They both knew he would not change his mind.

**

The computer announced Tom's presence at the door. He almost did not allow him in, then laughed bitterly. It was Tom's home he was living in. Tom had more right to come into this room than he did. He spoke softly, ordering the computer to open the doors.

"Hi, Doc." Tom walked in, casually crossing and sitting in the chair across from where the Doctor was sitting. "Did you and Miral have a good day today?"

The Doctor looked at him, torn as to how to respond. Finally, he said, "We had a good day, Tom." A beat. "But that's not what you came in here to talk to me about."

Tom laughed. "You know me too well, Doc." Tom leaned back and crossed his legs. "B'Elanna told me you weren't going to the party."

"That's right."

"Doc, everyone else is going to be there. Folks will be really disappointed if you aren't there." When there wasn't a response, he said, "I understand how you feel, Doc. But I think you'll be sorry if you don't go."

The Doctor did not look at him. "I think I'll be sorrier if I do go."

Tom took a deep breath. "She's been asking about you."

The Doctor almost sat up straight. "What?"

"Yes. She asked Captain Janeway if you would be at the party. The Captain thought she sounded as if she wanted to see you."

He turned his head, not wanting Tom to see the look on his face. Finally, he shook his head. "I don't think it would be a good idea, Tom."

"Doc, the two of you were friends. You should not give up on that."

"Friends don't embarrass their friends by professing their love in front of a room full of people."

Tom gave himself a moment before responding. "Doc, you were malfunctioning. Everyone knew it, including Seven."

"I made her hate me."

"I don't think that had anything to do with what happened."

The Doctor looked at him for a moment opened his mouth to ask the question, then shut it. He wasn't certain he wanted to hear Tom's answer.

Tom saw the look on his face. Squirming in the chair, he said, "Doc, did you ever get so curious about something, that you had to try it? Try it, even though you knew there was something about it that wasn't you? Something that wasn't right?"

The Doctor lowered his head and waited for Tom to continue.

"I may be wrong, but I think Seven had to try to connect with someone."

It was more than the Doctor could take. "But I was there!" He immediately bit his lip, forcing his words back down his throat.

Tom gave him a sympathetic smile. "But you were the last person she could turn to, Doctor. You loved her. We all knew that. Seven knew that." Tom leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, resting his weight on them. "Seven needed to try to connect with someone, but you were too…" he searched for the right word, but was only able to come up with one, "real for her to risk that with."

"Real?"

"Yes, it would have been too real with you. Seven needed to experiment. I don't think she was ready for real feelings."

"And now?"

Tom sighed, "Sometimes we try these experiments in our lives, and they get away from us. Maybe, if you talked to her, you might be able to help her figure things out."

The Doctor stared at Tom, wanting to find hope in his words, but afraid to even look.

Tom stood. "I'll let you think about things for a little while. But remember, we all want you there."

He turned and left. When he came out of the room, B'Elanna looked at him. "Well?"

Tom shook his head. "I tried, but I don't think I convinced him." He moved to join her on the sofa and pulled her to him. "I don't think he'll go."

B'Elanna rested her head against her husband's shoulder. "I hate it, but I think you're right."

**

"Tom! B'Elanna! Hello!" Harry Kim caught them in a bear hug as they walked through the door. "Where's Miral?" He looked behind them. "And the Doc?"

Tom slapped his friend on the back, "Miral had a runny nose, and the Doc was afraid for her to be out so he stayed home with her."

"Oh." Harry's face fell. "I really wanted to see her. And the Doctor."

Tom pulled a PADD from his jacket pocket. "Don't worry, I've got lots of holo-images and," he dug into another pocket and pulled out a small disk, "and I have plenty of home videos."

Harry laughed. "Why am I not surprised?"

"You know, Starfleet," B'Elanna crossed her arms in front of her, "if you really wanted to see her we don't live that far from here."

Harry gave her a sheepish grin. Before he could respond, they heard Janeway's greeting.

"Hello! It is so good to see you." She swept across the room, her face bright with excitement. Grabbing B'Elanna by the arm, she asked, "Where are Miral and the Doctor?"

"The Doctor thought she was coming down with a cold and stayed home with her."

Oh, no." Janeway's face showed her disappointment.

B'Elanna quickly nodded her head. "I know. I was disappointed also, but she is a little young for parties like this. As a matter of fact, she should be going to bed right now."

Janeway nodded, already pulling the two of them into the large room. "I guess so. But," she cast a look up at Tom, "I imagine you brought plenty of pictures for us to look at?"

"Yes, ma'am." Tom laughed. "You don't have to worry about that."

They walked into a crowd of people. B'Elanna looked around; realizing that most of the crew had managed to make the party. This was the first chance the crew of Voyager had had to join together since their sudden arrival home. Everywhere she looked, she saw people greeting other people, the happiness of being together once again evident. It had taken Janeway almost a full month to make the arrangements. The last week had been spent ensuring that the only people at this party were former crewmembers and their families. B'Elanna knew that Janeway had fought almost until the last minute to keep both Starfleet and the public relations people away.

She looked around, finally seeing Tuvok and his family, standing in front of a view screen. Moving closer, she saw Neelix's face on the screen. As she walked up, her image was picked up.

"B'Elanna!" Neelix's face lit up at the site of her. "It's so good to see you. You are looking wonderful. How is Miral?"

She laughed at his flurry of words. Putting up her hands, she said to his image, "Wait a minute, Neelix. I want to say hello to Tuvok first." She walked up to the staid Vulcan. "Hello, Tuvok."

He stood straight, almost jerking his head up straighter as he greeted her, "Hello, Lieutenant Torres. You are looking well."

She stood smiling at him, then reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly for a moment. "It's so good to see you, Tuvok."

She felt him freeze, surprised by her impetuous action. Then, she felt his arms go around her, returning her hug. "It is good to see you, also, Lieutenant."

She pulled back, patting his arm, then turned to the view screen. "Now, Neelix, it is good to see you also. And thank you, I am doing very well."

"I don't see that little Miral is with you."

"No, she's at home in bed right now."

"And that is probably where she should be. I've enjoyed the pictures that you and Tom have sent. I'm getting quite a collection."

She laughed. "Good." Patting Tuvok on the arm, she said, "I'm going to leave the two of you to catch up. I'll visit with you both later."

Tuvok stood aside as she moved past. Her eyes were already searching, knowing that sooner or later she would find them. She had already made one tour around the room and was about to begin again when she heard a voice behind her.

"B'Elanna."

She turned, and he stood there, grinning at her.

"Chakotay!" He grabbed her in a bear hug, lifting her off her feet and swinging her around. When he put her down, she grabbed his arms. "You look great!"

"Thanks." His grin widened. "Things are going well. And for you and Tom?"

"We're doing just great. Miral is growing so fast I cannot believe it and things seem to be evening out for us. Neither one of us is really working yet, but we both hope that will change soon."

"So Tom's not able to fly?"

"No. He's finding that hard, but he's managing." She looked around. "So, how are things with you and…..?"

"Seven?" Chakotay pulled her over toward a quieter spot in the large room. "Great! Couldn't be better. Come on. She's over here."

As they approached a darkened area of the room, a figure rose out of the shadows. B'Elanna caught her breath. It was Seven, but she had changed. As she moved out of the shadow, B'Elanna saw that she was thinner than the last time she had seen her, her cheeks sunken, and her eyes dull. She looked lost.

"Lieutenant." The voice was flat.

"Seven. It's good to see you."

Seven gave her a curt nod. "And you."

They stood, uncomfortable, an awkward silence starting to surround them. Suddenly, they heard Chakotay's name called. "Excuse me, ladies, I need to go over here. You two enjoy catching up." He gave Seven a quick kiss on the cheek and walked toward the voice that had called his name.

B'Elanna looked up at the quiet woman. "So, how are you doing, Seven?"

Seven raised her head, jutting out her chin. "I am doing well."

"Could have fooled me." B'Elanna made her voice somewhat challenging, hoping to get a reaction from Seven. She watched as Seven's eyes looked around the room. She saw the look immediately. "He didn't come, Seven."

The eyes locked on her immediately. "What are you talking about?"

B'Elanna laughed. "We may never have been friends, Seven, but I still managed to get to know you pretty well while you were on Voyager. You're looking for the Doctor." When Seven stayed silent, she continued. "He didn't want to see you. Actually, he didn't think you wanted to see him." This time, she waited. Soon, she saw Seven take a breath. She waited for her to speak.

"Is he well?"

"Health-wise?" She snorted. "He's a hologram, Seven. The Doctor doesn't get sick." She waited, baiting the woman in front of her. Sympathy would not work with her. She knew she would have to challenge her to bring her out of herself. She desperately hoped this ploy worked.

Finally, Seven said, "No…I…I mean…." She looked away, struggling for words.

B'Elanna lowered her voice, stepping closer to the ex-Drone. "He is not doing well, Seven. He misses you. Returning to Earth has been hard on him. He lost his family, a lot of the meaning he had in his life, and he lost his best friend."

Seven frowned. "But I thought he was staying with you."

"He is, but Voyager was his family and he misses everyone."

"Then why did he not come tonight?"

B'Elanna lowered her head, deciding that honesty was the best tact. "Because he could not stand to see you and Chakotay together." She stepped even closer. "He's at home tonight, taking care of Miral. He's there by himself. In case you are interested." She backed up and looked away. "I need to mingle, Seven. It was good seeing you again." She turned, stopped, then turned back. "I hope you're happy, Seven. You should be. Life is too short to be miserable." Without waiting for a response, she left, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

**

The Doctor stood over the crib, watching Miral sleep. He loved the innocence of her face; he loved how soundly she slept. It was almost like Seven when she regenerated.

I wish I could just make you turn around, turn around and see me cry….

Oh, damn.

there's so much I need to say to you, so many reasons why….

He turned and left the room.

there's nothing left here to remind me, just the memory of your face.

"Oh, please." He started pacing in circles. "Think of something, anything, Doctor. Do something to occupy your mind." He moved to the television and turned it on. He just as quickly turned it off. No. He would have to learn to turn this off on his own. He could not let this own him any more.

we've shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears.

Concentrate. You can do this. Think about an experience you had. Let's see. Oh, remember the time…. No. Don't think about that one. It involved her. Think about something else.

…'cause there's just an empty space….

He was so empty. When she walked away from him, she left him empty.

you coming back to me is against all odds….

And I am going to have to learn to live with that. She will never come back.

"Face it, Doctor." He stopped to look at the window, seeing himself in the reflection. "You never had her in the first place so you can never expect her to come back." He put his hand against the window, trying to feel the cold inkiness of the night outside the window. Slowly, he leaned his head forward to rest it against the glass. "You aren't real and what you wanted with her was impossible." His eyes moved up, and he pressed his palm against the glass. "But I will never get over missing you, Seven."

He did not know how long he stayed in that position. It took him a while to realize that the computer was announcing a visitor. Reluctantly, he pulled himself away from the window, checking the chronometer. Who in the world could that be? He activated the door, opening it. Shocked, he stopped and stared.

"May I come in?"

He nodded, numb and backed up to allow her to enter. "Yes. Of course. Please. Come in."

She walked in. "Miral?"

"She's asleep." He jerked his head in the direction of the bedroom. "She has a runny nose and is a little restless. She…." He stammered to a stop, realizing he was not making any sense.

She walked into the center of the room and turned to face him. "I hope you do not mind that I came."

He stared at her. It took him a moment to be able to focus on her, to see her face, to see her body. She was thin. Her eyes looked weak. He stepped toward her, then forced himself to stop. "No. It's fine you came." He stepped forward again. "Are you well, Seven?"

"Yes."

His eyes squinted. "Are you certain?" When she did not answer, he asked, "Are you getting regular checkups?"

She cut her eyes away from him, and he could see she did not want to respond.

"Seven?"

"I go for checkups." Her hands were clasped behind her back. "But they are unfamiliar with Borg technology. I had hoped…."

She did not finish her sentence. He felt the little hope he had started to feel diminish. She came because she wanted him to check her. That was all. He felt his anger start to spike, and he had to work to control it. He walked into his room and returned with his tricorder.

"I can check you. Please, hold still." He ran his tricorder over her, frowning as he did. "Are you regenerating?"

"Yes."

He tapped a few commands into the tricorder. "Really?" He could not keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

She drew a deep breath. "I probably do not regenerate as much as I should."

"Too involved…in other things to regenerate?" She gave him an angry glare. He backed up a little and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Seven. That was inappropriate."

"No apology necessary." She jutted her chin out. "Regenerating has been…difficult for me. I do not have a private place available to me to regenerate. They try to…study me while I am…in my alcove."

"They what?" He moved toward her, his concern for her obvious in his face. "But, why are they doing that?" He stepped even closer to her. "And why are you letting them?"

"They are working on something to use against the Borg. The federation scientists thought that by studying me they could devise an effective defense mechanism."

"And you find that acceptable?"

She looked him in the eye. "It is acceptable."

He turned his head, finding the look in her eye painful. "Right. So." He walked away from her, finding her close proximity too much for him to take. "You have a number of implants that need adjusting. Plus, the bi-radial clamp in your shoulder is out of alignment. You are in considerable pain from it." When she did not reply, he turned back to face her and asked again, his voice more forceful, "Aren't you?"

Reluctantly, she nodded her head. "Yes. It hurts."

He felt all of the anger flowing out of him at the look on her face. After a long moment, he moved to gently take her by the arm. "Come, sit over here." She sat carefully on the chair, her eyes focused on him, watching as he picked up a hypospray and approached her. "This will give you a little relief." She turned her head to allow him to administer the medication. "Can you regenerate tonight?" She nodded to him. "Good. I want you to come see me in Reg's office tomorrow. I have access to the tools there that I will need to make the proper adjustments. Can you be there about o-ten hundred hours tomorrow?" When she nodded, he continued, "It will probably take at least an hour. Will you have that much time?" She nodded again, and he nodded in return. They fell silent. "Can I get you anything?"

"No. I do not require anything at this time."

He hesitated, then asked, "Are you sure? You look like you have missed a few too many meals." She dropped her head, but did not respond. He stood and moved to the replicator, ordering her a meal. He brought it back and placed it in front of her. "Here, eat this." She started to shake her head. He lowered his voice, "Please."

She bit her lips, then started to eat. He stayed silent, waiting on her to finish her meal. When she had finished, he took the tray from her and placed it in the recycler. He turned back to her, uncertain was to what to say to her. She acted as if there was something she wanted to say, but was unable to find the words. Finally, she stood and he stood with her.

"I should go."

He nodded. "I will see you tomorrow morning."

He walked her to the door, and she turned to him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

She hesitated, her eyes locked on his face, then she slowly turned and walked out of the open doors. He watched her leave.

turn around and see me cry….

**

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure, Doctor." B'Elanna was pushing him out of the door. "Go. I will enjoy staying home with my daughter today. Besides, any day I can spend away from those idiots at Starfleet is a good day."

He nervously pulled at his top. "I'll be back as soon as…."

"Take your time, Doctor." She put her hand on his arm and squeezed tightly. "Good luck. I hope everything goes well."

He nodded at her, then left. The song lingered in the back of his mind, but he would not allow himself to listen to it. He did not allow himself to think about anything. It took him less than half an hour to reach Reg's office. There was a small lab that he had been given access to, but he had not spent much time here lately. He had not had a desire to do anything much. Checking the chronometer, he noted with satisfaction that he had arrived a few minutes early. He knew she would arrive at exactly o-ten hundred hours.

She did not disappoint him.

"Good morning, Seven." He tried to keep his voice even. "Were you able to regenerated well last night?"

She hesitated a moment too long before answering. "Yes."

He frowned, but did not react. Picking up a gown, he handed it to her. "Please change into this, and we will begin." She fingered the gown. He noticed and asked, "Is there a problem?"

"You have never asked me to do this before."

"Well," he turned away from her, "things have changed."

He felt her stop, then move into the small changing room in the lab. After a few minutes, she emerged, pulling the gown tightly around her.

"Please, lie down here." He indicated the biobed in the center of the room. Once she had settled herself, he reached up and pulled the gown down to expose her shoulder. He started to work on her shoulder, aware of how the bones in her shoulder seemed sharper, more defined. He forced himself to concentrate on his adjustments. It was over an hour before he finished.

"You can get up now." He helped her into a sitting position, pulling up the gown over her shoulder. "It would be a good idea for you to get that checked in a couple of days."

"Should I meet you here?"

"What?" He glanced up. "No, I mean have the people who are caring for you check it."

"But they do not know how."

He tightened his lips. "Perhaps I should teach them."

She sighed. "I do not like them checking me."

"What?" He moved closer to her, suddenly concerned. "Seven, why don't you like them checking you?"

"They are impersonal. They do not care about me. I am…." He voice faltered.

"You are nothing more than just an object to be studied."

She nodded, surprised at his words.

"I understand." He turned to replace his equipment. "I have had the same experience." He took a deep breath. "If you would like, I could check you again in a couple of days."

"I would appreciate that. Thank you."

He nodded at her. "You can get dressed now."

He moved around the lab while she changed. When she emerged, he stood in the center of the room, not certain what to say to her.

"When should I return?"

"Day after tomorrow?"

"I shall return then."

"Oh, I will probably have Miral with me."

She nodded, "That will be acceptable."

"Good." He gave her a smile. "I'll see you in a couple of days."

"Goodbye, Doctor."

"Goodbye, Seven."

She left, and he closed his eyes.

How can you just walk away from me when all I can do is watch you leave?

**

He settled Miral in her carrier, giving her the pacifier. Glancing at the chronometer, he frowned. She was late. It was not like Seven to be late. Maybe she had changed her mind. Suddenly, she rushed into the room; her face slightly flushed and strands of hair falling in her face.

"I am sorry I am late."

He looked at her, realizing he did not want to know why she was late. He simply nodded and handed her the gown. "No problem. Here. Go get ready."

She clutched the gown to her and stood for a moment. Then, without speaking, she disappeared into the small changing room. The Doctor checked Miral, making certain she was comfortable. When Seven entered the room again, he straightened and moved to the biobed, using his hand to indicate she should lie down.

She quickly settled herself and watched as he placed a tray near her. Reaching for the gown, he pulled it down to expose her shoulder and activated his tricorder. Immediately, he frowned. "Seven, this is even more out of alignment than two days ago. What did you do?" Then, he stopped himself and shook his head. "No, never mind. I don't really want to know. Just lie there, and I'll fix it."

But she sat up, her face frozen in anger, pulling her gown over her shoulder and holding tightly to it. "Thank you, but no."

"But…."

"I will be fine without the adjustment."

"You have to be in pain."

"I will adapt." She slid off of the biobed and headed for the changing room.

"Seven, please…."

She whirled at him. "My relationship with Chakotay has nothing to do with my bi-radial clamp being out of adjustment! Have you ever stop to consider that the studies that are conducted on me night be the reason my implants are out of alignment? Have you ever thought about…." She stopped.

They stood staring at each other, the anger in her face desolving into a look of pain. He held his ground, her words running through his head. He stepped toward her, uncertain what to say. "Seven?"

She backed up, shaking her head. "No. I was wrong to say anything. I was wrong to come here. I must go."

She turned, but he reached out and grabbed her arm. "No, Seven, talk to me. I want to know what is going on." When she did not respond, he continued, "Why are they doing this to do?" He lowered his voice. "And why are you letting them?"

She dropped her head. "I…wanted to do something to help fight against the Borg."

He watched the muscles around her mouth and knew. "You thought it would help you be accepted."

Her mouth tightened. After what seemed a lifetime, she nodded her head.

He sighed and gently pulled her back toward the biobed. "Come on. Let's get you fixed up." When she pulled back from him slightly, he smiled at her and said, "Please?" He waited, relieved when he felt the resistance drain from her body. He helped her stretch out and started to work. Once he was finished, he offered her his hand and helped pull her into a sitting position.

"So, have you told Commander Chakotay about what is happening to you?"

She nodded, but did not respond.

"And what did he say?"

"He told me it would only be for a little while, and it would help me gain their trust."

The Doctor did not allow his feelings to show. "Anything else?"

"He told me I should let them know when they are hurting me."

"Do you?"

She looked at the floor. "It does not make a difference."

The Doctor's anger flashed. He sat on the biobed near her. "I want you to tell me everything."

She told him. He sat, listening to her words and to the lack of emotion in them. He was not certain which bothered him more – what she told him or the way she said it. When she had finished, he took a minute before responding.

"Okay. I am going to talk to Reg and see if we can do something about this. In the meantime, I want to see you back here tomorrow. Understand?" He waited until she nodded her head. "Now, I take it you have to get back?" She nodded again, so he helped her off the bio-bed and walked her to the dressing room. "Don't worry. We will figure out something."

She did not speak, but went into the dressing room and closed the door behind her. He heard Miral start to stir and quickly moved to warm her bottle to have it ready for her. He went to her carrier and checked her diapers, realizing he would have to change them before he fed her. Talking to her, he quickly changed the wet diapers, then lifted her in his arms and gave her the bottle. He laughed when she started sucking on it and almost grabbing at the bottle with her hands. He looked up to see Seven watching him.

"You are very…natural with her."

He laughed. "Well, I've gotten a lot of practice."

"You enjoy taking care of her."

"Yes, I do." He smiled at the baby in his arms. Looking up, he said, "Maybe you will have one of your own some day."

She gave him a strange look, then moved toward the door. "I will see you tomorrow."

"Yes, tomorrow."

She stopped inside the open door and looked down the hallway. Not even glancing at him, she lowered her head and whispered, "I have missed you."

Then, she left.

but you coming back to me is against the odds….

**

The Doctor worked quietly at his desk, making certain not to make any unnecessary noise. In a new crib in one corner slept Miral. In a makeshift alcove in the opposite corner stood Seven. The Doctor did not think he had ever been happier. From where he sat, he could watch both of them, their contented expressions adding to his own contentment.

Seven had been coming to his lab almost everyday for the last two weeks. As a result, her color had returned, as had her appetite. She was starting to gain back some of the weight she had lost. He had talked to Reg Barclay, who had in turn talked to Admiral Paris. They had investigated Seven's situation and corrected it immediately. He had been there when they apologized to her for her treatment. "Overzealous researchers." Thoughtless and crude was more like it.

His hands stopped working and rested on the keypad of his computer. He watched her while she regenerated. He was more in love with her now than he had been before. What a fool he was to allow that to happen. She would come here every day for the rest of his life, but she would go home to Chakotay at night.

Stupid. Stupid.

but to wait for you is all I can do….

He shook himself. He was a doctor. What he was doing was caring for her. He had to remember that. He would continue to care for her for as long as she needed him. When she did not need him anymore, well, that was the way it was.

He looked at his computer and saw the alcove cycle was about to end. He moved to stand next to her and watched her eyes open.

"Good afternoon." He gave her a big smile, reaching out to offer her his hand. She reached out to take his hand and stepped down from the platform. "So, how are you feeling?"

She gave him a smile that almost made him feel lightheaded. "I feel very good." She allowed him to lead her to the small table he had set up and sat down, waiting on him to serve her the lunch he had prepared for her. When he sat down, she picked up the fork and held it over her plate. Hesitating, she gave him a serious look. "I have something I need to tell you."

His face fell. He knew from her expression that she had something significant to tell him. Clearing his throat, he said, "Why don't you wait until after you eat."

She looked down at her plate for a moment, then lowered her fork to rest it beside the plate. "Chakotay has been offered a job."

"Oh?"

"On Jupiter Prime."

He looked away. "Good for him."

"He wants me to go with him."

"I hear that is a beautiful place. I would think that you would like being there."

She put her hands in her lap, but stayed quiet.

"So, what would you do?"

She shrugged. "I do not know."

He leaned back in his chair. "Somehow, the…idea of you as a doting…housewife is something I have a little trouble envisioning." He crossed his legs and cupped his hands around his knees. "Is that what you want, Seven?" When she did not reply, he continued, "If that's what you want, you should do it. But, I think you should think about what would make you happy. Not Chakotay. You." He turned around to face her fully. "Seven, you can do whatever you think will make someone else happy, but if you make yourself miserable in the process, you end up with two very unhappy people."

She stared at him, her mouth twitching slightly. Finally, she sighed. "You once said you loved me."

"Yes. I did."

Her eyes dropped down. "Do you?" He hesitated, not certain what to say to her. Before he could answer, her eyes came back up to lock on his. "Do you?"

He swallowed. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"But you would let me go."

"If it was what you wanted."

"And if I did not?"

"That's for you to decide."

She looked away, a confused expression on her face. Then, she stood. "I should go."

He stood and reached for her. "Seven, whether you go or not should be a decision you make for yourself. Do not go for Chakotay." He lowered his voice. "And do not stay for me."

He held her arm, and she lowered her eyes to look at his hand. At that moment, Miral started to cry. The Doctor stood uncertainly a moment, then went to pick up the baby. He turned back around to Seven, but she was gone. He stared at the door and hugged the crying baby to him

but to wait for you is all I can do.

**

B'Elanna watched the Doctor as he stared out of the window. Finally, she walked up to him and placed her hand on his back. "Do you want to talk?"

He gave her a weak smile. "I'm fine, B'Elanna. Really. But, thank you."

She left her hand on his back and stood next to him, looking out at the darkness of the night. "You don't look so fine to me, Doctor. I think even Miral knows something is wrong with you."

He straightened and sighed. "Just give me another century or two and I will be totally back to normal."

She laughed and took his arm, pulling him toward the sofa. Pushing him down, she sat next to him and reached to wrap her arm around his shoulder. "Come on. I think you need a friend who loves you." She pulled him to her.

He gave her a strange look, then smiled at her and allowed her to pull him into a hug. "Thank goodness I have a good friend."

She patted his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Don't forget there are people here who love you very much, Doctor. And, we all want you to get on with your life. It has been a month."

"Are you telling me to get over her?"

"No, but I am telling you to get on with your life. I don't think you ever get over anyone you really love, but you can move on."

Before he could reply, the computer announced a visitor. B'Elanna took a quick look at the chronometer. "Who in the world could that be?" She got up and went to the door. When she opened it, it was all she could do not to let her mouth drop open.

"May I come in?"

The Doctor stood and stared, not believing when he heard B'Elanna respond.

"Seven. Of course. Please come in."

Seven walked in. "I hope it is not too late."

B'Elanna stammered her response, "No. No. It's not too late." She looked at the two people who were now staring at each other. "Uh, I think I heard Miral cry. If you don't mind, I'll go see about her." She back away and quickly left the room, aware that neither the Doctor nor Seven had responded to her.

He was staring at her. He did not know what to say to her. He was afraid that if he moved or spoke she would disappear. As he was trying to decide whether to say anything to her or not, he realized she had spoken. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"

"I said hello, Doctor."

"Oh. Hello, Seven." He coughed lightly. "I'm surprised to see you."

"I imagine you are."

"Why? I mean, how? I…uh…." He stopped. He had no idea what to say to her. Finally, he said, "I thought you left with Chakotay."

She moved around the room, slowly making her way toward him. "I left when Chakotay did, but I did not go with him."

"What?"

"I left to be by myself. My time with you made me realize I had never been by myself before." She stopped to stand in front of him. "You challenged me to do what would make me happy. I realized I did not know what that was. So," she turned and moved toward the window, "I decided to go away by myself. Then, I joined Chakotay on Jupiter Prime."

"Oh." He could hear the disappointment in his voice. "So, what are you doing here?"

She turned back to look at him, holding his eyes with hers for a long time. Then she took a deep breath. "I had to know."

He frowned. "Know what?"

"I had to know what would make me happy."

His frown increased. "I don't understand."

She gave him a sad look. "I missed my friend."

He fought the hope that was starting to build. "But you had Chakotay."

"Chakotay and I were not friends."

He shook his head. "But, you were.…" He stopped.

"We were lovers, yes. But we did not start as friends." She looked away. "I have come to understand how important it is to have someone special in your life that you consider a friend."

"Oh. I see." He tried to cover up his disappointment. "A friend." He reached up to scratch his eyebrow. "I've always been your friend, Seven, and I always will be."

She gave him a smile. "I know that. And I appreciate that more now than before."

"Good." He wanted this conversation to end. He wanted her to leave. He did not know how much more he could take.

"I am no longer with Chakotay."

His head jerked up. "What?"

"We have decided to…go our separate ways." She gave him a steady look. "I decided I did not want to be with him. Chakotay is an admirable person, and he was very kind to me." She looked away. "But I realized he did not make me happy. I knew that staying with him to make him happy would only make us both miserable." She laughed. "A special friend helped me see that."

It took him a moment to find his voice. When he did, he heard it almost tremble. "I…I don't know what to say."

"You do not have to say anything. It was my decision."

They fell silent.

take a look at me now….

He closed his eyes tightly, trying to shut out the song.

"Are you in pain?"

"What? No." He laughed bitterly. "I'm a hologram, Seven. I don't feel pain."

He was surprised at the expression that came over her face. "Do you not?"

"I…."

She walked up to him, moving such that there was barely an inch between their bodies. "Doctor, you may consider yourself only a computer program, but I do not."

He was frozen. He did not know what to do. All he could do was stand and stare at her face and search her eyes, hunting the truth, working desperately not to see that which was not there. She smiled and moved slightly, closing the last inch between them, her body now touching his. He felt his head swim, knowing his emotional subroutines were overloading. He was afraid to move. Afraid to think. Afraid to hope.

She reached up and slowly, gently, placed her hands on his face, holding them there for a long moment. She pulled slightly as she lifted her head toward his, inviting him. Then, she stopped, waiting on him. He looked at her, afraid to give into this moment. His eyes looked at her lips, then moved up to her eyes.

Intense blue eyes met his, and he saw in them a certainty he had never seen before. Gone was indecision. Gone was pain. Gone was loneliness. Her look was confident. And loving.

Leaning forward, he lightly touched his lips to hers, feeling her return his tentative kiss. Suddenly, he felt her hands move from his face and her arms slip around his waist as her body pressed itself to his. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her to him tightly, not quite believing that any of this was real.

In his mind, that damn song played, but he was starting to think it was his favorite song.

And you coming back to me is against all odds, that's the chance I've got to take

Take a look at me now.

The End.