B'Elanna has always struggled with a war of wills; either with herself, her place in Starfleet, members of the crew or her family heritage. Today the war was more intense than usual. She was besieged with her internal struggle of belonging especially since she was so far from home and any remnants of what she could call family. She had been thinking about her abuela being that this was the anniversary of the last time she saw her. She surprised herself that she referred to her using the Spanish word for grandmother which she hadn't done since she was a child. She rarely if at all thought about her Klingon grandmother, L'Naan. It saddened her that she was never close to her Klingon grandmother as she was to her Nana Torres. The rift between her and her mother never did much to make her want to get to know her. She attempted to her L'Naan by singing the ritual funeral dirge at her mother's request but it was always her Nana Torres that she felt close to.
She really didn't have the time for such musings. The captain had ordered a full diagnostic of the warp core as well as the Bio Neural gel paks in anticipation of traveling through a little known part of space in the Delta Quadrant. Neelix had some knowledge of the area of space but only as far as trade and decent space ports to get repairs and some comfortable planetside resting location. He was able to recall that this was a fairly peaceful region of space from his past experiences. Seven of Nine's past experience with the Collective was able to supply even more information about potential hostile encounters but this particular region proved to be of no significant technological importance to the Borg so her knowledge was limited. B'Elanna had a hard time wanting to listen to any of Seven's warnings at first but eventually grew to trust her instincts although she would never mention it aloud to anyone especially to the ex-borg.
"Carey. How are the tests coming on the warp core? The Captain is expecting a report at 1500 hours."
"Chief, we have run into a snag. We…"
"A SNAG! Why wasn't I notified," the fiery chief yelled before Carey had an opportunity to finish.
"Chief, the problem was just discovered. When Seven came into engineering she looked at the preliminary test results and noticed the anomaly in the deflector array. We have been trying…" He was cut off again by the annoyed Chief engineer.
'Why is she always snooping in my business?' "Where is Seven now?" Carey just pointed toward to the direction of the deflector array command station afraid that he would be cut off again in mid-sentence. She followed his finger in the direction he pointed. There stood the tall blond running her fingers quickly over the console not evening seeming to have one strand of hair out of place in that perfect bun of hers.
"Seven do you mind!" said mostly as a statement then a question even though B'Elanna knew she would take it as a question.
"No Lieutenant. I am willing to provide assistance when needed," Seven tried to respond with the best air of cooperation. She had been trying to work on her social etiquette with the help of the Doctor.
"Seven what are you doing here in engineering? Don't you have to do research on the area of space we are about to enter?" B'Elanna replied trying to keep her frustration at a minimum. She was secretly happy that for the first time she didn't have all the answers.
"I have finished my assigned task and provided my report to the Captain." The half Klingon prior smugness regarding her lack of knowledge deflated a little. "I thought I would provide assistance with the diagnostic since Captain Janeway is expecting it at 1500 hours. I detected an anomaly in the deflector dish which would have an adverse effect on the optimal productivity of the warp core. I believe I can help."
B'Elanna didn't have the energy to protest that she didn't need Seven's help as much as she wanted to. It was 1345 and time was quickly running out. She knew that the Captain would understand if she informed her about the anomaly but didn't want to have to tell her that Seven discovered it because she was day dreaming about her grandmother's kitchen and banana pancakes.
"OK Seven so what have you discovered about the anomaly and what do I have to do to correct it," she said emphasizing the use of the pronoun I.
"I believe the problem is easily rectified. It appears to be originating from a conduit located in Jeffries tube 8, section 23. It would require the assistance of two people to be handled efficiently. I can take Lieutenant Carey and…"
"No! I will take care of the problem. After all, this is my engineering department."
Seven thought it illogical that B'Elanna need to claim ownership of the engineering department especially since was the Chief Engineer but thinking it was better to not comment at present, she remained silent. She wanted to help out wherever she could especially in engineering. She liked her post in Astrometrics but found that her task were somewhat mundane when the crew did not immediately need her services or when they were traveling through a peaceful area of space as Mr. Neelix claimed this region to be. She was always dismayed when she realized that Lieutenant Torres believed that she didn't trust her ability as an engineer. She found the Chief Engineer more than capable. She also liked spending time around her to observe how she interacted with various members of the crew and the passion she exhibited in her daily activities. And it was this reason that Seven asked "Lieutenant may I be of assistance in providing the necessary repairs? I believe I have some theories on how to rectify the problem."
B'Elanna being too tired to argue and knowing that with Seven they should be able to correct the problem in no time, "Sure. What have we got to lose? Carey monitor the anomaly and notify me the instant there is any change, Seven and I are going to repair the problem." She was finding her relationship and attitude toward the former Borg mellowing the longer she was aboard Voyager and she was forced to interact with her. She started to notice that all her interactions were not meant to be arrogant and self righteous as she earlier thought. She began to believe that there were things that she even liked about the ex-Borg.
Fortunately Jeffries tube 8 was one of the larger of the crawl spaces so B'Elanna didn't have to be in such close contact with Seven. Once in the Jeffries tube, work proceeded uneventfully. During a lull in the work conversation, Seven asked a question that caused B'Elanna to almost drop the spanner tool she was holding.
"Lieutenant, what do you recall about your early development? The time you spent with your parents and family. I have very limited access to those memories and am curious to how that affects the development of an adult person."
For some reason B'Elanna didn't have a venomous reply to the question and didn't view it as an invasion of her privacy. Her mind went back to her thoughts from earlier in the day of her abuela and the times she spent with her father. Seven looked at B'Elanna with curiosity when a smile broke out on the woman's face.
"Lieutenant is there something amusing about my request?"
"Oh, no Seven, you just made me remember the times I would spend with my grandmother and father."
"Those were pleasant times? Please elaborate."
And without much coaxing B'Elanna began to share times with her grandmother when she would tell her stories about her ancestors and teach her songs in Spanish. She wished she could still remember to still speak in her grandmother's tongue but all those years on Qo'noS and various other places in between, the language was lost except for a few words. "She used to make the most delicious food, especially my favorite banana pancakes. She tried to teach me but I was too small to reach the stove. My father and I would make up the most wonderful games. We would spend hours talking about the stars and taking apart and putting things back together again."
B'Elanna stopped talking and just sat there with this bittersweet smile on her face as more memories flooded back about that time in her life where she felt truly loved and at peace with herself. She was curious as to why she felt so comfortable telling Seven all this but there was something safe in their interaction.
Seven was unsure of how to respond or if she should. She sat there and watched her and soon went into her own thoughts of her parents. 'Is this why I asked her about her parentage?' She remembered the stuffed animal that her father gave her when he told her that they were going on a trip in on USS Raven in search of the Borg. She floated back to the times she stayed with her Aunt Irene when her parents were off working. She liked playing number games with her father and solving puzzles with her mother but after their trip into the Delta Quadrant all her individual memories ceased.
Both women were brought out of their thoughts by the sound of Carey's voice. "Chief, I don't know what you two did but the warp core, impulse drive and deflector dish are all reading at 100% efficiency."
"Thanks Carey. I will prepare my report for the Captain. I guess we are done here Seven. Thanks for your assistance," B'Elanna said with a genuine smile directed toward the former Borg.
"You are welcome Lieutenant. Thank you for sharing your memories of your childhood. I believe after you have prepared your report for the captain your duty shift will be complete."
"That's correct. What did you need?" B'Elanna hoped that she didn't need any repairs in Astrometrics. She was too tired to take on any unnecessary projects.
"I was hoping that you could join me in the mess hall while you fulfill your nutritional supplement for the evening and continue to tell me more of your memories from your childhood. The Doctor states that I should try other food stuffs beside the nutritional supplements that he has designed. You may assist me."
B'Elanna smiled at this request and mused 'Seven really seems to be trying to not be annoying. You know I did enjoy sharing my memories with her. I bet she doesn't have any pleasant memories of her childhood.' At that moment the ex-Borg transformed to a human with a limited past in the eyes of the Lieutenant instead of a rival and ex-Borg. She found herself looking at the girl in a woman's body standing in front of her. She was thankful that she had memories of her Nana and sad to think that Seven had no such memories of her own. She released a quiet sigh. "Sure Seven, I'll meet you there at 1530. Thanks."
After exiting the Jeffries tube, B'Elanna went to her office and Seven went back to Astrometrics. She thought of going to seek counsel with the Doctor but thought she had adequate information to proceed in her meeting with B'Elanna. She wondered why she had a desire to refer the chief as B'Elanna. For now she could only refer to her occasionally by name in her thoughts but when she personally addressed her, she experienced an increased level apprehension. After all, she had been a part of the Voyager crew for several years and grew to think of them as her collective and had been able to refer to some by their familiar designation. She had come to think of B'Elanna as the closest representation of a friend outside of the Captain, the Doctor and Naomi Wildman although that designation had not been officially discussed with Lieutenant Torres. She found the Chief Engineer fascinating and discovered feelings that she was not accustomed to when she was around her. She found herself feeling an increased amount of anxiety regarding her impeding meeting and could not come up with a rational reason why.
B'Elanna finished her report for the Captain sooner then she expected. After she transmitted it to the Captain she just sat there thinking about what had transpired in the Jeffries tube with Seven. When Seven wasn't being arrogant, she reminded her of her grandmother in the way she always listened when she wanted to tell her a story or when the other human children would make fun of her forehead. Seven may not have been comforting like her grandmother but she always appeared willing to listen more now than before. B'Elanna was glad about that because she had few close friends. After her dating attempt with Tom failed miserably and her friends from the Maquis formed relationships with the Starfleet crew, she felt more alone the usual. There was something else about Seven bubbling just under the surface that B'Elanna couldn't quite put her finger on.
Seven arrived at the mess hall at exactly 1530. She had a moment's disappointment when she arrived and B'Elanna wasn't there. She thought 'perhaps she changed her mind and felt that our discussion was futile and irrelevant.' Before her negative thoughts could go any further she was approached by Neelix who always seemed to be happy to see her.
"Seven! I'm so happy that you could join us this evening for dinner. Unfortunately most of the crew has eaten so you may end up eating by yourself. But not to fear I will be honored to provide you with company while you eat."
"Thank you Mr. Neelix but that will not be necessary. Lieutenant Torres will be joining me for dinner shortly."
Neelix grinned from ear to ear. "That's wonderful! I will set up a table by the window."
Seven sat facing the door waiting for B'Elanna. She appeared fifteen minutes after the appointed time. Seven noticed that she had changed out of her uniform and into black pants and a beige shirt. She barely made it to the table and greeted Seven before Neelix appeared.
"Well ladies what I can I get for you two tonight? How about some Talaxian stew?"
B'Elanna sat down across from Seven a little annoyed at his pushiness but didn't let it spoil her mood. "Neelix what I'm in the mood for is some Tamale pie. Do you have any of that?"
"Come to think of it, I do have some. Ensign Salinas asked me to make it for her for lunch. What about you Seven? Talaxian Stew or Tamale Pie?"
"I am not familiar with those dishes."
"Oh Seven my grandmother use to make Tamale pie all the time when I was a small child when my father brought me to visit her. You'll love it!" B'Elanna exclaimed excitedly. Memories came flooding back to her once again of those happy times with her grandmother and father. She was even more surprised at how eager she was to have Seven share her grandmother's dish.
Reacting off the chief's excitement seven replied "I believe the Tamale pie will be acceptable." B'Elanna smiled brightly at her choice.
"I'll be right back with your food and a glass of prune juice for you Lieutenant and a glass of water for Seven." Neelix hurried away to get the dishes for the pair.
"Lt. Torres you were delayed in your arrival this evening. Was there a problem? Anything I can assist you with?" Seven inquired.
"Sorry I was late. I wanted to change out of my uniform into something more comfortable. Hopefully you weren't waiting too long."
"No, only 14 minutes and 25 seconds." B'Elanna smiled at Seven's flair for precision. Seven felt relieved that B'Elanna did not take it as a comment on her punctuality but hoped that she would see it as genuine concern.
"Lieutenant may I ask you a question?" Seven asked hesitantly.
"Of course Seven" 'Hadn't you been asking me questions all day?' B'Elanna mused.
"You speak very fondly of your experiences with your grandmother and your father but you make no reference to your mother. Is there something deficient about your relationship with your mother?"
B'Elanna didn't really want to talk about her mother. Their relationship wasn't very good toward the last time they saw each other. The last time they spoke they fought about B'Elanna's lack of honor and turning her back against her Klingon blood. That was before she joined Starfleet Academy and the Maquis. Even though she felt she was the reason her father left when she was a child, she also secretly blamed her mother for not trying harder to stop him. Their relationship became so complicated and she felt that she couldn't live up to her mother's expectations as she had already failed her father's expectation.
Seven noticed the frown appearing on her face and the sadness in her eyes. "Have I engaged in a sequence of questions that are distressing to you Lt. Torres?"
B'Elanna had not realized how deep she had gone into her thoughts. "Sorry. I just was thinking about the last time I spoke to my mother." Without any prompting B'Elanna begin talking about her last visit her mother. "After I left Qo'noS, I didn't speak to her again. I guess I haven't had much contact with any family since that time. Joining the Maquis became the closest thing to family except after joining Voyager. But there is nothing that can replace your own family I think that is why I enjoyed sharing my happy memories with you earlier today."
"Here you go ladies. Enjoy! Is there anything else I get for you?" Neelix stated with his usual enthusiasm. Seven felt annoyed that they were interrupted just as she began to share her experience with her mother.
"This looks wonderful. Thank you. We better eat before it gets cold Seven," B'Elanna stated becoming very interested in her food and grateful for the distraction.
When they were nearly finished with their meal, Seven urged B'Elanna to continue with her account of her childhood.
B'Elanna slowly put her utensils aside realizing that she couldn't fake still being hungry much longer. She sighed heavily and launched into her story. "You know Seven, the times I spent with my grandmother and father before he left were very happy times for me. I didn't have to think about being different because I was half Klingon. With my mother she was always trying to make me into a better Klingon and we had some of our worst fights about it. I really did try to adapt to the Klingon ways but … Before my father left, he was my shield from her and all things Klingon."
Seven frowned and asked "You are not proud of your Klingon Heritage?"
"I have learned to accept it over time. I have even completed many of the rituals trying to maintain my honor."
Both women sat quietly for a moment. There were many questions Seven wanted to ask but felt that she did not want to seem too intrusive and have B'Elanna cease talking.
B'Elanna broke the silence, "I know you don't have many memories of your childhood but I'm sure you can remember some happy times with your family." She desperately wanted to get the focus off her at that moment and felt it only fair to have Seven talk about herself plus she was truly interested in who Seven was before the Borg.
"I do remember times spent with my aunt. She would prepare a confection named strawberry tarts that I recall being fond of." B'Elanna smiled at Seven's pleasant memory.
'I wonder if that is all she remembers of the people from her childhood' "That's nice Seven. My grandmother used to make sweet cakes that I use to love everytime I would go to visit her. They always made me feel better especially when the human kids would tease me about being Klingon. With my grandmother I didn't feel Klingon and for a time I didn't feel Klingon with my father… until he left because I was Klingon." This last part she said as almost a whisper.
Seven realized that she felt something more for B'Elanna then concern…compassion.
"Lieutenant, it appears that we share some similarities with being caught in two worlds with our respective childhood experiences," Seven said with a genuine smile which received a like smile in return.
"Seven did you enjoy the Tamale pie? B'Elanna asked trying to change the subject to happier topics or at least neutral ones.
"Yes. Thank you for sharing something from your childhood."
"Seven do you mind if we change the subject?"
"Of course. What would you like to discuss?" From there the topic of conversation went from the newest discoveries in Astrometrics to theories on how to get more power to warp drive. They parted company after realizing that they had been talking for over two and half hours. They were unaware of the stares they were receiving from crew because they were so involved in their conversation with each other. B'Elanna wondered silently why it had been so easy to talk to her especially without fighting. She knew she enjoyed the change.
As they walked to the turbolift a satisfied smile fell over B'Elanna face. Seven was feeling the same but experienced in inwardly.
"Thank you for a pleasant dinner Seven. I enjoyed your company and the conversation," B'Elanna softly expressed with a gentle smile.
Seven cocked her head sideways with a curious frown and a slight lift of her ocular implant. "Lieutenant are you attempting to be sardonic with me?" Seven asked distrusting her comments based on their past experiences together.
"Seven, I'm not mocking you. I really did have a good time with you this evening. I know in the past you would expect me to say things like that to ridicule you but I truly enjoyed our time together tonight. I'm sorry that I have treated you so badly in the past but I did enjoy your company tonight," B'Elanna stated with sadness in her eyes and remorse in her tone.
Satisfied with her response, Seven replied, "I enjoyed our time as well."
As B'Elanna exited the turbolift, she smiled warmly at Seven and wished her a good evening before the doors closed to transport seven to Cargo Bay 2. Seven said in almost a whisper to the closed door, "Goodnight B'Elanna."
Before Seven stepped into her Alcove, she replayed the day's event regarding her interactions with B'Elanna and realized that she enjoyed their time together and that she wanted to spend more time with her engaging in various activities. She was puzzled over her desire to spend more time with the fiery half-Klingon engineering chief. Before she entered into regeneration cycle for the evening she recalled the last word spoken to her by the half Klingon, 'I'm sorry that I have treated you so badly in the past but I did enjoy your company tonight.' A slight smile was etched on Seven's face before the computers put her in her regeneration cycle.
B'Elanna could still smell the essence of Tamale pie or thought she did. Maybe she was just recalling the memory of those days in her grandmother's kitchen as she prepared to go to bed. As she began to drift off to sleep, her grandmother's and father's faces appeared in her thoughts. She also saw Seven's smile and her words thanking her for sharing her childhood with her. A flicker of confusion came across her mind as to why she was picturing Seven's face but the confusion was quickly replaced by the gentle blue eyes of the ex-Borg as she drifted off to sleep. She experienced the most peaceful sleep she has had in a long time.