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I Quit

"You know you almost killed poor Harry." was the greeting Seven got as she stepped onto the turbolift three days later. The two had been unable to meet for lunch that day or anything else as they had hoped. Seven's sector report had taken the remainder of that last morning and Janeway had suddenly found several new projects that had required Seven's immediate attention ever since.

They were alone in the lift and B'Elanna's expressions was unreadable. By her comment it was obvious she had heard about the kiss, but her look and tone gave nothing away. Seven was not sure what to do, so she after giving her destination, she fell into her Borg stance. "Good morning Lieutenant." she said with a calm she did not feel. Patience was not something Seven had a lot of. Only a few seconds after the lift began to move, she had to ask. "Are you angry with me?"

"A little." B'Elanna admitted. "But that's my problem not yours."

"I wished to have a comparison so I could form a proper opinion of my reaction to your kiss." Seven said with that false calm. When she had decided to approach Harry it had seemed so cut and dried; gather data and compare the results. Now, she was not so sure. "I was aware that this could cause you some measure of upset." she admitted quietly.

"I know. Harry told me. You were right, I don't like it much, but I do understand." B'Elanna answered but would say no more.

Seven thought back. Where B'Elanna's kiss had affected her immediately and deeply, Harry's had been merely pleasant. Harry had been gentle and obviously skilled in the art of kissing, yet she had felt almost nothing. His touch had been soft, pleasant. B'Elanna had been an electric jolt running up her spine. But, did she truly wish for more of those searing kisses? Before she could say anything to B'Elanna, the lights went out and the turbolift jolted to a halt.

Seven could hear B'Elanna fumbling in the pitch dark towards the manual controls. When she heard the gruff tones of Klingon cursing, she knew they would not be able to get the lift moving on their own.

"What has caused the malfunction Lieutenant." Seven asked with more ice than she intended. In the inky blackness surrounding them, B'Elanna could not see Sevens discomfort.

"So it's Lieutenant now?" B'Elanna asked softly.

"I am unsure how to address you at this time." Seven replied stiffly.

"What you're unsure of is how to react to me when I'm pissed but not yelling." B'Elanna remarked almost casually as she shifted to lean against the wall of the lift. "The turbolift has had a complete power failure. Even if I had the proper tools, I can't rout power to a dead line." B'Elanna added to answer Seven's initial question.

"It is likely that we will be here for some time." Seven remarked, her tone colder than before. "There have been failures in many major systems in your absence. This will be seen as a low priority problem, if engineering is even able to detect it. Internal sensors have been offline since yesterday morning."

"I guess that means we'll have plenty of time to talk about a few things." B'Elanna responded gruffly. Seven's tone had worsened her mood considerably, but she was still determined not to lose her temper with the younger woman.

Seven did not answer and the silence in the cramped space stretched on. After a few minutes B'Elanna became aware of a change in Seven's breathing. The woman was almost gasping for air. "Seven. What's wrong?" B'Elanna asked suddenly worried. "Are you ok?"

"I am functioning within normal parameters." Seven replied stiffly.

"Bullshit!" B'Elanna yelled as the last of her temper fled. "You're practically hyperventilating. What the hell is the problem?" she finished as she fumbled her way towards the spot she assumed Seven was standing. When her hands touched Seven's shoulders she could feel the slight trembling. "Seven, what's wrong?" she whispered worriedly.

"You will laugh." Seven replied as she pushed the smaller woman away.

"Why would I laugh?" B'Elanna asked confused. "You're shaking and you can barely breathe. You're scaring the hell out of me. That is the least amusing thing I can think of."

There was a tense silence in which B'Elanna could hear Seven trying to calm her breathing "This absence of light is causing me a great deal of distress." Seven replied in a small voice.

B'Elanna was dumbfounded. "You're afraid of the dark?" she asked disbelievingly as she began to chuckle softly, quite against her will.

"I have never experienced this before." Seven answered defensively. "In the collective my cortical array allowed me to produce my own source of light if necessary."

B'Elanna immediately sobered. "You never learned to adjust to the dark. It's normal that you'd be very disoriented by it. The sensation will pass in a few minutes."

"It has already been several minutes. I have not adapted." Seven replied with a shaking voice. Now that B'Elanna knew, there was little reason to try and continue concealing her less than pleasant reaction.

"Let's sit down, that'll help." B'Elanna suggested, her anger suddenly forgotten as the need to ease Seven's fears took precedence.

Seven let herself be guided to the floor and was surprised to find herself comfortably held in strong arms with her head resting on the smaller woman's shoulder. After a few minutes of just resting in those arms, Seven found that she actually did feel a little better. She was still afraid but now she could at least breathe normally and she had stopped shaking.

"When I found out you'd kissed Harry I was jealous." B'Elanna stated out of the blue. "You wanted to see how kissing me compared to someone else. It was when I got thinking about it later that I got angry."

Seven felt the sudden stiffening in the smaller woman as she spoke so she began to move away from the protective embrace. She was a little surprised when B'Elanna tightened her hold. "Don't go." B'Elanna whispered, and Seven was glad to return to the safe feeling of B'Elanna's arms.

"I got angry because I know you research everything, gather data and make comparisons. It was my idea that you make an informed decision before you decide to have any kind of relationship with me but there are some things I will not be able to handle you comparing."

"You are referring to sex." Seven commented bluntly.

"Yes I am." B'Elanna replied just as blunt.

"Harry explained to me that with each partner our reactions will be different. Even if we are physically attracted to each partner equally, our specific physical reactions to them may still vary greatly." Seven commented. "Is this true?"

"For the most part yes." B'Elanna replied cautiously.

"Then I have no further need to make comparisons." Seven replied as she snuggled further into B'Elanna.

"How come winning arguments with you can't always be this simple?" B'Elanna asked, referring to their legendary cat fights in engineering. With a small chuckle she reached up and tangled her fingers lightly in the unseen blond hair and pulled it out of its bun.

"What are you doing?" Seven asked as she felt fingers slowly begin to massage her scalp. "Are you seducing me?"

"I'm not trying to seduce you." B'Elanna chuckled softly. "I'm trying to help you relax and since you're already curled up so neatly in my lap, I thought it was safe to give in to the urge to run my fingers through your hair. If you want me to stop I will." she finished quietly.

Seven said nothing, merely tilted her head a little to allow the hybrid better access. After a few minutes of the pleasant stroking, Seven offered. "In my research I found that Klingons are monogamous, as are Humans. If we become intimate, I am aware that infidelity will not be an option."

"Thank you." B'Elanna whispered. Seven was completely settled now and so was B'Elanna. With both their fears calmed they just sat quietly and waited for the malfunction to be noticed.

An hour later they were still in the turbolift. Seven was still curled around B'Elanna, her head resting on the hybrids shoulder. B'Elanna was still lightly combing through the soft blond hair while the other wrapped loosely around the trim waist.

They'd spent the time talking and simply enjoying each others touch.

"So, I ignored the last two hails. If the best Kathryn can do it call me to her office and try to order me back to work, there's no point in showing up." B'Elanna finished. She'd been detailing the events in the three days since she'd last seen Seven. "Other than that I've been keeping busy fixing all the crews toys."

"The Captain will be angry that you are ignoring her." Seven observed.

"I know. But until she's ready to deal with the problem instead of trying to order it away, nothing much is going to get fixed." B'Elanna responded.

"What exactly is required for you to work this out with the Captain?" Seven asked curiously.

B'Elanna tightened her grip a little and chuckled softly. "You mean, what are my terms so you can tell Kathryn."

"Yes." Seven answered simply.

"Did Kathryn ask you to talk to me about this?" B'Elanna asked curiously. Seven immediately stiffened in her arms.

"She did not. I am asking this of my own accord. I wish to ...." she started angrily.

"Easy tiger." B'Elanna said as she gave the hair drifting through her fingers a light tug. "I was just curious. Chakotay's been at my door every day and I was just wondering if she'd asked you to talk to me too."

"The Captain has requested the opposite of me." Seven commented.

"Would you care to explain that?" Now it was B'Elanna's turn to feel her body tense.

As she had earlier, Seven began to move away from the suddenly tense woman. As before, she was immediately pulled back into the embrace that she did not really want to end anyway. "I like this feeling of being held by you." Seven commented idly once she settled back into strong arms.

B'Elanna was immediately charmed by such an innocent comment coming from the normally arrogant woman. She also blushed furiously and was privately grateful that Seven could not see her reaction. Lightly kissing the temple so close to her lips already, she said nothing and pulled Seven a little closer.

"You were going to explain?" B'Elanna prompted after a moment.

"I was going to avoid explaining." Seven returned dryly. "I have no wish to be the catalyst... again... in deepening the conflict between you and the Captain."

"I can already make a guess on my own Seven." B'Elanna supplied. "Kathryn doesn't want you talking to me. For the last three days you've been too busy to even meet me for lunch. Kathryn's been giving you all kinds of extra work just to keep us apart. Am I close?"

"There is a great deal of extra work to be done at this time. Many of the ships systems are proving difficult to maintain in your absence. To use Mr. Kim's euphemism, 'the ship is falling apart around us'." Seven answered in as neutral a tone as she could manage.

"But..." B'Elanna prompted. She may be out of a job at the moment, but she was up to date on the current gossip.

"But, I believe the Captain has delegated a larger than necessary share of the extra duties incurred by your absence onto me. When I inquired about this oddity, she denied that it was connected to her previous order to avoid you. I did not believe her." Seven said calmly.

"She ordered you to avoid me?" B'Elanna asked somewhat shocked. "What else did she have to say?"

"Captain Janeway expressed her concern that you were going to harm me emotionally and asked that I avoid you. When I refused, she made it an order. When I refused again, she conceded that it was my right to form my own associations." Seven answered.

"And she's been working you like a dog ever since. If she can't get what she wants one way she finds another." B'Elanna finished letting her head thump back against the wall. "I'm sorry this spilled over onto you, Seven." B'Elanna mumbled guiltily.

"Your guilt is misplaced. This is not entirely your doing B'Elanna." Seven said softly.

"She's doing this just to keep you from spending time with me." B'Elanna grated.

"She is doing this because she does not want me to 'grow up'." Seven returned. "You were correct when you said her role as mentor to me also includes a maternal interest. As with any parent, she is afraid of losing her child. This was something that would have happened at some point between the Captain and I." With an unseen grin, she added, "You were merely the catalyst."

The irony was not lost on B'Elanna. She laughed for a full minute and would have kept laughing... if a meshed hand had not cupped her cheek and soft lips suddenly covered her mouth.