Title: Beginnings (4/7)
Couples: 7 & Nicoletti, P & K (P/T, C/K)
Rating: R (for language)
Disclaimer:  I don‘t own the characters... Paramount does.  I can‘t even
get a micron of Voyager‘s dust for myself.  I made no money off the use
of their characters, and I promise to return everyone when I‘m done,
happier and more sexually satisfied!

This is the *very* first part of the story I began in Welcomes.  As such
I have to establish the *old* dynamic *before* I can establish the one I
came up with in "Welcomes".  Don‘t worry, those of you who enjoyed my
pairings in "Welcomes" will enjoy this story as well.

WARNING! Spoilers for everything I‘ve seen so far (up to "Pathfinder" in
Voyager‘s Sixth Season)... so if ya don‘t want to be spoiled *don‘t*
read it!  

This story begins during the end of Season five... but before the events
portrayed in "Equinox I".

Thoughts of the characters are contained between the double forward
slashes (//).

Summary: The Winds of Change, they are a blowin‘

Just before she leaves Astrometrics for lunch, Seven hears her console beep, letting her know she has a message. She opens the file and notes that, unlike most other communiqués she has received while a member of Voyager‘s crew, this one is marked personal. This intrigues her enough to open it, before lunch.

 Priority: Personal
 To: Seven of Nine
 Frm: Nicoletti, Susan, Lieutenant


   A word of caution.  Lieutenant Torres is hunting for blood.  I 
  *think* I heard her yelling about your "damned Borg modifications" 
  again.  She stormed out of here at 1215 hours, and seemed to be on 
  her way towards Astrometrics.  As my mama used to say, "Keep your 
  ears open and your nose clean!"


Seven has barely enough time to puzzle out the reason for Susan Nicoletti to be sending her a warning message, when the doors to Astrometrics open. Noting the angry footsteps of the Chief Engineer, Seven closes the message she had just received. She turns to face B‘Elanna Torres, her eyebrow raised in inquiry.

B‘Elanna‘s eyes crackle with her barely controlled fury. She hears the doors close behind her, and then lets loose with her anger. "Where the hell do you come off?"

"I am sorry, Lieutenant. I do not know to what you are referring. Perhaps if I knew the nature of your accusation, I could better defend myself."

B‘Elanna stalks across the floor, to stand directly in front of Seven. She glares up at the taller woman. "I didn‘t think you were that dense! If you ruin this for Harry, I‘ll kill you!"

"Ensign Kim." Seven‘s precise dictation of Harry‘s rank and surname show her surprise at this line of attack. "I do not know to what you are referring, Lieutenant. Please state the nature of your accusation."

"I‘m here to warn you off Chakotay! Harry deserves to be happy, and I think he and Chakotay can give that to each other. Those little tricks you learned from the Doctor won‘t help you win Chakotay!"

"You believe I am after the Commander?"

"I don‘t believe, I *know* you‘re after Chakotay! I‘m warning you away because I think you deserve better than what the others might do to you. We may not be as obvious in the crew anymore, but we Maquis protect our own!" With that, B‘Elanna pivots about on her heels, and marches out of Astrometrics.

"That was puzzling," Seven states to the now empty lab. She turns back to her console and decides to compose a personal message to Sue Nicoletti.

 Priority: Personal
 To: Nicoletti, Susan, Lieutenant
 Frm: Seven of Nine

   Thank you for your warning about Lieutenant Torres‘ impending 
  visit to Astrometrics.  I received it in time to be prepared for 
  her questioning, or so I had assumed.  I will advise further when 
  I speak to you again.


Sue just grins and shakes her head at the message from Seven. //If nothing else, this just shows that Seven is more human than everyone gives her credit for. I think she‘s worth getting to know, I need to be sure and let Jenny know I want her in the group.// She saves it in her personal file, and closes down her station for lunch.

Sue leaves quickly, knowing that if she doesn‘t get out of Engineering before Lieutenant Torres gets back, she‘ll be stuck there all afternoon. Taking the secondary exit out of Engineering, near the entrance to the Jeffries tubes, she barely makes it out before Torres walks back inside.

Sue takes the ladder up two decks, then climbs out into the corridor. She walks to the turbolift, waiting for it to take her to Deck Two. It arrives, and when she sees who she has to share it with, she reacts, badly. Her eyes widen upon seeing Commander Chakotay in the ‚lift, obviously coming from a much lower level than hers. She squares her shoulders and walks inside. "Commander." The one word is her only greeting towards him, before she ignores him and addresses the computer. "Deck Two."

"Ensign. Escaping Engineering the old-fashioned way?"

Sue straightens her spine, but remains facing forward in the lift. "I don‘t know what you‘re talking about, Commander. I was on Deck Ten as part of the project we‘re working on down in Engineering."

"No, you escaped to Deck Ten after B‘Elanna decided to take her frustration out on other people." He chuckles a bit.

Sue turns to glance at the normally stoic First Officer. The turbolift beeps, letting her know her destination has been reached. Before she exits, she turns to look at Chakotay. "You may believe whatever you wish to, Commander. I made it a policy long ago not to argue with my senior officers."

Sue has the satisfaction of seeing a shocked expression cross Chakotay‘s face as the ‚lift doors close on him. She turns around and strolls down the corridor towards the doors of the Mess Hall. She enters them and gets into the ‚chow line‘, already scanning for people she knows to sit with. She smiles when she spots Seven of Nine, Jen *and* Megan Delaney sitting at a table in the corner, with an empty place, obviously for her.

She gets whatever it is Neelix is passing off for food that day, and goes towards the table. "This seat for me?"

"Of course it is, Lieutenant. Did you think we were expecting Ensign Paris to join us?" Seven says.

"Not that we‘d say no if he asked," Jen adds quickly.

Sue slides into her chair, and begins to play with her food. "Seven? Call me Sue, or Susan, if that‘s more to your liking, okay? After all, I *did* warn you about Lieutenant Torres being on the warpath earlier, didn‘t I?"

"You did. Thank you, Susan. Although, she accused me of something I have not done."

"What‘s that, Seven?" Jen knows good gossip when she hears it.

"Apparently, Lieutenant Torres is under the false assumption that I am after Commander Chakotay, and mean to break up his relationship with Ensign Kim."

"WHAT?!?" Jen, Megan, and Sue screech together, thus silencing any other conversations taking place in the Mess Hall. They ask their next questions at the same time, each voice overlapping the others.

(Sue) "Is she crazy?"

(Megan) "Why‘d she think that?"

(Jen) "Can I be you in my next life, Seven?"

Seven answers them as best she can, and knows that everyone in the Mess Hall is awaiting her answers to a conversation they do not fully understand. "That is something best left to Medical personnel to determine, Susan. I am not sure, Megan. Perhaps there are rumors I have not been privy to yet. If you wish Jennifer, but it is a fanciful thought."

Jen takes a sip of her juice, then says, "I concur."

The four women continue eating in silence, thus prohibiting anyone in the Mess Hall from learning who they were talking about. Their group attracts a lot of attention anyway, as no one had ever seen Seven sit with anyone outside the senior staff. From the corner of the room, Tom and Harry are staring across the Mess Hall.

"I tell you Harry, they know something is up." He gives the table containing both Delaney sisters, Sue Nicoletti, and Seven ‚the evil eye‘.

"Why would they care?"

"It‘s gossip, pure and simple. Jen and Megan are the two biggest gossips on ship. You‘d know that if you could get over your little ‚Chakotay loves *me*‘ bubble of existence."

"You‘re being paranoid, Tom. Besides, haven‘t you heard the latest gossip?"

Tom turns his attention from across the Mess Hall to the person across the table from him. "No. Who am I accused of seducing this week?"

"No one." Harry keeps his reply carefully neutral, and watches as Tom raises an eyebrow at him. "Although, the rumor currently going around is that Chakotay and Seven are sneaking around behind my back, and that Jen Delaney is running interference for them. There‘s also some tangent about Jen and Seven actually being lovers, but I‘ve been stuck up at Ops all morning, so I haven‘t heard the fleshed out version yet."

"Gods Harry! Ops should be renamed ‚Gossip Central‘. You folks always know the gossip before anyone else. Maybe you use those powerful scanners for something *other* than wormhole scouting." Tom waggles his eyebrows at his best friend.

"Trou du cul!"

"Je sais que vous êtes, mais ce qui suis moi?" Tom sing-songs back at Harry.

"Faites un long tour outre d‘un pilier court!"

"You provide the pier, I‘ll take the walk."

Both men start laughing, and only compose themselves when they notice a maroon-suited body standing next to them. Harry turns to face her, "What is it, Seven?"

"It has come to my attention that I should talk to both of you, without your ‚significant others‘ in attendance." She notices that Tom‘s face scrunches up at the mention of B‘Elanna. //Puzzling. Perhaps the rumors Megan were revealing to me earlier are more correct than I had thought.//

"Sure. Sit down, Seven." Tom offers her a seat, remembering his manners.

"Thank you, Ensign Paris. I would like to preface my statement by telling you that all rumors concerning my actions of late are the falsehoods that gossip usually is. But I still felt the need to tell this to you both in person." She places her hands at the small of her back, still standing.

Harry speaks next. "Seven, please sit down. I feel like you‘re hovering, ready to flee an attack." That straightens Seven‘s spine, and she sits down. "Thanks. I never believed the rumors anyway."

"As well you should *not*, Ensign. I regard you both my friends, as such I would never endanger your relationships. But I have to ask why your ‚significant others‘ would both behave in an aggressive manner towards me."

Tom‘s forehead crinkles in puzzlement. "What are you talking about, Seven?"

"It has been my observation, and review of past actions, that Commander Chakotay is physically attracted to me. His pupils dilate 11.8 percent when he gazes at me, while both of you only let your pupils dilate to 9 percent. Also he has repeatedly watched me during staff meetings. Last night the Commander acted in what I would consider an aberrant manner. He acted concerned for my well being."

"Being concerned for you makes you suspicious of Chakotay? What, have you been taking lessons from Tom again?" Harry teases her.

"No, I have not Ensign. Also, for some reason Lieutenant Torres felt that she needed to warn me away from Chakotay. She stated this would interfere with *your* happiness, Ensign Kim. Why would this concern her so badly that she would come to Astrometrics to warn me away from you?"

"I don‘t know, Seven. I‘ll talk to B‘Elanna though. This sounds bad, especially in light of certain events." Harry winces in pain.

"I understand. I will leave you to the remainder of your lunch hour then, Ensigns. Good afternoon." She rises and glides out the doors.

Harry and Tom watch her go. Then, Tom turns back to Harry. "I think the problem just increased ten-fold. I think Seven only came over here to talk to us at the urging of the gruesome threesome."

"You better be careful calling them that, Tom. Someone will overhear you sometime, and the ‚girls‘ exact their revenge on you, in the most publicly humiliating manner possible."

Together they rise, and Tom flings his arm over Harry‘s shoulders. "Harry, Harry, Harry. If I‘ve learned nothing else here in the Delta Quadrant, it‘s that Jen and Megan Delaney can‘t stay mad at me, or you for that matter, for longer than a few hours."

//A few hours is all they need sometimes, Tom. But then, you‘d *know* that if you‘d ever really upset them.// Harry doesn‘t speak his thoughts aloud. He merely lets his best friend steer him out of the Mess Hall.

Over the next day, everyone on the senior staff seem to be stuck in a holding pattern. B‘Elanna‘s short temper is out in spades, Tom‘s wicked sense of humor is landing him in trouble, and everyone else has to react to them. For his part, Harry merely observes the actions of Tom and B‘Elanna. //Those two are on the outs. Sure, they may try to patch things up... but it will never be the same again. I wonder how this will affect Chakotay and I, perhaps it won‘t, but I‘m beginning to think that Tom‘s bad luck is contagious.//

Harry stops his musings when his console beeps at him. He opens the incoming message knowing that, while technically a violation of protocol, it would be forgiven. He smiles when he sees whom it‘s from.

 Priority: Personal
 To: Kim, Harrison, Ensign
 Frm: Nicoletti, Susan, Lieutenant

  Clarinet Boy-

    Don‘t forget that the wind trio meets tomorrow night.  But if 
  you‘re in for some *real* music, lemme know and we can work on that 

  duet for the next Talent Night.  In the meantime, rumor has it that 
  there will soon be a female barbershop quartet on board.  My 
  question to you is this: Which is a better four-part harmony? 
  "California Dreamin‘" *or* "It‘s Gettin‘ Around"?

                        --Oboe Girl

Harry smiles at Sue‘s none too subtle hint that *she* is part of the quartet, and is interested in his opinion on song choices. He could also tell that she does *not* want their crew mates to know for certain that the quartet had been formed. //Okay. Seven must be the fourth. It‘s a good thing. Being friends with those three will make Seven more the person she should have been.// He notices that Tuvok is looking his way, and quickly composes a response to Sue.

 Priority: Personal
 To: Nicoletti, Susan, Lieutenant
 Frm: Kim, Harrison, Ensign

  Oboe Girl-

    You would likely drag me by my hair to the next practice, even *if* 
  I was, shall we say "indisposed", at that moment in time.  Singing 
  with you would be an honor and pleasure, and I‘ll leave the choice of 
  song up to you.  Both songs you‘ve suggested are very good examples
  of four part harmony, although given the atmosphere on the ship
  recently, I think "It‘s Gettin‘ Around" is certainly the better 

    In the meantime, I hear that the gossips on the ship have been busy
  once more, and are now putting *you* in the role of Seven‘s lover.  
  Why is it that all the attractive women on the ship have to aggravate 
  *my* lover, then not deny the rumors of being Seven‘s lover?  Is it 
  something in the air?  Or maybe Seven is bringing out the maternal 
  and protective instincts in you, like they do Captain Janeway?

    I leave this puzzle up to your superior female intellect.

                          --Clarinet Boy

End Part Four

Helpful Translations:
< Harry "Trou du cul!" (Asshole!)
< Tom "Je sais que vous êtes, mais ce qui suis moi?"
(I know you are, but what am I?)
< Harry "Faites un long tour outre d‘un pilier court!"
(Take a long walk off a short pier!)

Helpful Notes:

EOF is a computer (programming) term that stands for "End of File". Sorry, that would be my studies as a Computer Scientist coming through.