By TíPam

Disclaimer: Voyager and all her crew belong to Paramount/Viacom. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit will be made, as this story is just for fun.

Rated PG-15

Part Eight

Tom checked the Delta Flyer over one last time before deciding that everything was in order. Both Sue and Vorik were long gone and BíElanna hadnít even bothered to come back to the shuttle bay to help finish unloading after the debriefing. In fact she had made it quite clear that she couldnít even stand to be in the same turbo lift as him. That had been fine with him. He was finding it more and more difficult to stay calm around her.

He sighed as he climbed out of the Delta Flyer and leant against its hull. What was wrong with him anyway? He was married to a beautiful, caring woman. His best friend in every way and they had a wonderful relationship. He could tell Seven anything. She knew everything there was to know about him. They had a beautiful daughter, who was the light of his life. He should be the happiest man on the ship. So why wasnít he?

BíElanna. The name popped into his head immediately. Why couldnít he get over her? Their relationship had been over for nearly three years. He should have come to terms with that by now. He should be able to look at her without having to struggle for breath, without remembering the way she smiled up at him - her eyes warm and loving, or the way she had felt in his arms.

He gritted his teeth and forced the images away. This wasnít helping. She didnít want him. She hadnít even loved him. She had chosen him for her mate - in true Klingon fashion - and then realized she had made a mistake.

A small derisive laugh escaped him. After two years sheíd suddenly realized sheíd made a mistake. The love she thought she felt was more of a friendship thing. He hadnít believed her then and he still didnít. Sheíd run away when things became difficult, and that left a sour taste in his mouth. He hated her for that.

His legs buckled as he sank down on the floor in the shuttle bay, his head resting against the Delta Flyer. It slowly dawned on him that he was angry with BíElanna - very, very angry. He had pushed that anger deep down within him, refusing to acknowledge it. Tuvok had tried to get him to talk about his feelings regarding BíElanna, saying that it was something that he needed to do. The Vulcan had insisted that he would never be completely well until he could discuss his feelings for her. He had refused point blank.

The sudden awareness of his rage came as a shock. He had been needling her for months, he realized. Sniping at her, trying to provoke her into having the true fight he so desperately craved. He wanted to scream his fury at her. Tom started to shake as his feelings overwhelmed him.

He was mad that she had shied away from him in embarrassment instead of working through their problems. He resented the fact that she had lied to him and told him she needed a few weeks to sort herself out, when she had obviously decided right from the start to run away. He felt furious that she had left him dangling for nine weeks, instead of being honest with him.

His breathing quickened as he remembered how soon she had started a relationship with Chakotay, as if he had meant nothing to her. His fists clenched, as he thought of her getting pregnant so soon and marrying Chakotay and then seeming so content and happy.

He took slow deep breaths as he tried to calm himself when he realized that he still hadnít admitted his full anger. The day that Harry had died, the night of the twinís birth, they had rubbed his face in their happiness. Harry shouldnít have been in that damn cargo bay when the dilithium had exploded. He was operations not engineering. BíElanna was always borrowing him for some project or other, as if she didnít have enough engineering staff. That Harry enjoyed working on the projects was beside the point.

His anger at BíElanna over this may have been unjustified, but it was there, nonetheless. And then she had had the twins and he had been forced to endure her joy.

His anguish and torment had been unbearable. If Seven hadnít been waiting for him outside his quarters that night he truly believed he would have killed himself.

Suicide was not something he had ever seriously contemplated before. Through all of his terrible, dark times over the years, the will to live had been strong. Not that night, or the days that followed it. All he wanted was an end to the suffering and if Seven had left him alone those first few days he would have made it so.

Tears pooled in his eyes as he acknowledged just how much he owed to Seven and he wished with all his heart that he could love her the way he did BíElanna. He wasnít sure if she would return the sentiment or was even capable of it, but she deserved to be loved.

The shuttle bay doors swooped open and he cringed at the thought of someone finding him in this state. Wiping his eyes, he stood up as quickly as he could, his heart sinking as footsteps approached.

"Tom?" It was Seven and he smiled in relief. "We came to see if you required any assistance."

Isabelle squealed "Da da" and tried to jump from Sevenís hip across to him. He grabbed the squirming baby and hugged her to him, rubbing her back to try to calm her. She giggled in delight.

"Are you all right?" Seven asked him quietly.

He nodded. "I am now."

"You seemed upset when we entered."

"I was wallowing a little, but then I realized how lucky I was to have you. I guess I got a little emotional about the whole thing."

Sevenís eyes shone as he hugged her tightly, Isabelle squirming between them. Tom wondered a little at the look in Sevenís eyes. The look she had given him was one he had only ever seen her give to Isabelle. He pulled away from her, watching her face closely, but she simply smiled at him.

"It is time we returned to our quarters," she stated.

"Okay," he said, still watching her face for any signs of the look he was starting to believe he had imagined. She turned away heading for the exit and he followed her thoughtfully, absentmindedly kissing Isabelleís hand as she brought it up to his mouth.

He tried to remember any other times Seven may have looked at him in that way, but he couldnít. He hadnít really noticed how she looked at him, he admitted to himself guiltily. He was always so totally consumed by his own thoughts and feelings. He was racked with guilt. "Seven," he said slowly as they made their way to the turbo lift. "Iím so sorry. Iíve been a terrible husband to you, havenít I?"

She stopped in mid-stride to look at him in puzzlement. "I do not understand. Please explain."

Tom sighed as he shifted Isabelle around to a more comfortable position in his arms. "Iíve been selfish. Completely wrapped up in myself. How have you stood it all these months?"

"You are incorrect," Seven said sharply. "You have been a more than adequate husband. We have been content. I do not believe that you have been selfish or Ďwrapped up in yourselfí, as you phrase it."

"Youíre just saying that to make me feel better," he replied with a smile.

"I do not say things to make people feel better," she answered with a slight toss of her head and a definite sniff in her voice.

Tom grinned. The Doc had taught her well. "Iím glad to hear it," he said brightly. "But I promise you Iíll be better from now on. You deserve the very best," he told her sincerely.

She eyed him curiously for a moment before replying, "I know." She then headed for the lift once more and he shook his head in amusement. Heíd obviously imagined the look he thought heíd seen, but he would take more notice of her in the future.

Being friends instead of romantically involved meant a lot less pressure in the relationship, but it was still no reason to take Seven for granted. He determined to never do that again.

Three Months Later:

Seven left sickbay clutching the small data padd in her hand happily. The Doctor had downloaded all the information she would need to help her conceive. It would be Tom and her first wedding anniversary in two weeks time and she was planning to surprise him with the news of a second baby on the way.

They had discussed having another baby when Isabelle was a little older, but the wistfulness in Tomís voice couldnít be mistaken. It was obvious that he would love another child as soon as possible but didnít feel he should ask Seven quite so soon.

This would be her ultimate gift to him. Isabelle would be two by the time the baby was born and that in her opinion was an acceptable interval between children.

The past few months had been wonderful. She had finally understood the feelings she felt for Tom were love. A deep abiding love that seemed to grow stronger every day. She had been overwhelmed at first, realizing that she had loved him for a long time, perhaps even before Isabelle had been born.

She had not told him of her love for him, although she believed he may feel the same way about her. She wanted to wait until she was sure. Their lovemaking was passionate and Tom was very affectionate to her at all times.

Things between herself and BíElanna had improved dramatically also. Although she would not call BíElanna a friend in the same way she viewed Sam Wildman or Sue Nicoletti, the children had brought them together and BíElanna was Ďniceí to her and friendly whenever they were together. Which was quite often due to the babies spending so much time with each other.

Tom and BíElanna no longer argued as they used to, either. Tom avoided BíElanna as much as he could and whenever they were together he was icily polite. She had commented to him a few weeks ago that it was almost as if he hated his ex-lover and he had said quickly, "I do." He had then blushed and mumbled. "Iím sorry, I shouldnít have said that. I donít really hate her. I donít feel anything anymore. I just would rather not have to even think about her."

Seven had felt very pleased. Tom was finally over BíElanna and would be ready to fall in love again. The Captain had been right. He would fall in love with her. Sometimes she believed he already was. She just had to be patient. And in the meantime, life was wonderful.

Tom had been given his Lieutenant pips back again the week before in a very moving ceremony. Most of the crew not on duty had been there to offer their congratulations and she had been immensely proud. Tom had been rather quiet and subdued ever since, having trouble sleeping, but she understood why.

It would be the second anniversary of Harryís death the following day and Tom was finding it difficult to cope. He knew she would be there for him and he said that was enough. She sighed sadly and wished she could do more for him, telling herself that once the painful time was past she would have some good news to help cheer him up.

Entering their quarters she felt a keen sense of disappointment that Tom and Isabelle were not there. "Computer, please state the location of Lieutenant Paris," she instructed.

ĎLieutenant Paris is in sickbay.í

She frowned at the answer. She must have just missed him. She slapped her commbadge. "Seven to Paris."

"Paris here. Hi Seven, whatís up?"

"I have finished my duties for the day and will collect Isabelle from the Wildmanís quarters."

"Okay. Iím on my way home now too. Just dropped by sickbay to get something for a headache."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah, the Docís already fixed me up. Iíll see you soon."

"Very well." She frowned once more as she closed the commlink. She hoped the Doctor would not spoil her surprise, although she had sworn him to secrecy.

She walked slowly into their bedroom to put the data padd she was still holding, in one of her drawers. Upon entering the room she winced in dismay. It was a mess. Tom was usually a very neat person, but this last week he had been forgetful and untidy. When not on duty he seemed to be a little dazed. She had left their quarters first that morning, running a little late herself and Tom had said he would clean up the bedroom. Obviously, he had forgotten.

She quickly whipped around the room picking up all the discarded clothes that she found on the floor and went into the bathroom to pick up the wet towels still lying on the floor. Throwing everything into the refresher she hurried back to the bed and proceeded to tidy that as well. Something gray just poking out from under the bed caught her eye and she bent down to pull it out. It was Tomís singlet top and seemed to be stuck, so she reached in further to get it.

She heard the outer door swish open and Tom call out, "Seven?"

"In here," she said, but her voice was muffled under the bed and she didnít think he had heard her. She stood up about to say it again when the door chime sounded. Making her way out of the room she froze in her tracks at Tomís gasp of, "BíElanna!"

If the tone of BíElannaís, "Tom," was any indication she was just as surprised to see him.

Seven glimpsed herself in the mirror and realized that not only was her top wrinkled and hitched up, but also her hair was sticking out everywhere from her scramble under the bed. She couldnít let BíElanna see her like this, just why she wasnít quite sure, but it was instinctual. She moved quickly back to the mirror, determined to tidy herself up before letting them know of her presence.

"I - I didnít know you were here. I thought just Seven was," she heard BíElanna say. It was obvious she must have checked with the computer before coming here.

"I just walked in. Seven must have gone to pick up Isabelle from Samís. What did you want?" His voice was hostile and Seven winced a little. She would prefer him to remain cold and aloof with his ex-lover.

She hastily ran a brush through her hair as BíElanna snarled. "I just wanted to drop this workout program off for Seven. She asked me about it yesterday."

"Why are you so friendly with Seven all of a sudden?" Tomís voice was harsh and she quickly put down the brush.

"Itís not all of a sudden. Iíll leave the program here for her."

"What are you after? Why are you so nice to her?"

"I feel sorry for her if you must know."

Seven, who had been about to step out into the main room, once more froze in her tracks. BíElanna pitied her?

"You feel sorry for her?" Tom repeated. "Whatís that supposed to mean?"

She took a step back and waited for BíElannaís reply.

"Itís obvious to everyone on the ship except you."

She took another step back and then another.

"Sheís in love with you," BíElanna continued. "And youíre just too blind to see it. You need to get over your feelings for me and get on with your life with her."

Seven took three quick steps back and felt the bed behind her. She sank onto it gratefully.

"Well thank you very much for that little insight," Tom said sarcastically. "Coming from such an expert, it must be true."

BíElanna growled. "I donít want to argue with you. If youíd just open your eyes, youíd see it for yourself. I shouldnít have said anything, but ---."

"But you couldnít help yourself," Tom finished for her. "Well for your information, youíre wrong. Seven is not in love with me. Sometimes I think she may love me as I do her." Sevenís heart soared, only to plummet at his next words. "As a friend. Weíre very close. As for anything romantic? It would complicate everything too much. You can love somebody as a friend you know. Youíre the one that told me that. Or had you forgotten?"

"I havenít forgotten," BíElanna snarled. "I think youíre confusing the two."

"No. Youíre confusing the two. You seem to have a habit of doing that. You told me that you were in love with me, calling me your parímach. You claimed me as your mate - in true Klingon style - and then after two years you tell me you were confused. You mistook your feelings for me."

BíElannaís voice was quiet as she said. "I never wanted to hurt you. I can understand why youíd be angry with me. But Tom, why now? Why, after all this time?"

"Iím not angry."

"Yes you are. Itís obvious in the way you look at me. I can feel it emanating off of you in great waves. That makes me so sad Tom. I really wanted us to be friends, but I know now that thatís not possible. But please donít be my enemy."

"Iím not your enemy. I hate what you did. I tell myself I hate you, somehow itís easier that way. But I donít."

Seven clutched the bedspread beneath her as she heard Tomís anguished voice. He still loved BíElanna. Her heart thudded in her chest as the awful truth assailed her.

BíElannaís voice was sad. "We should have talked about this before. Itís obviously been eating away at you the whole time."

"I kept my anger with you bottled up. I didnít want to admit it. A few months ago I realized just how angry I was and dealt with it then."

"I donít think you did. We need to discuss this further."

"Thereís nothing more to discuss." Tomís voice was cold - distant. "We bonded for life, but youíre able to dismiss it and I canít." Seven found it difficult to breathe. He loved BíElanna. He would always love BíElanna.

BíElannaís voice sounded hesitant. "Tom, we didnít bond for life. I know we said that at the time, but it was wrong. Our whole relationship was wrong."

"Tell that to my heart." Tomís voice was soft and Seven had to strain to hear it.

"Iím sorry." BíElannaís voice was also soft. "Iíd better go. Tell Seven that I came by."

Seven heard the doors swish closed and stood up from the bed. Somehow she managed to make it into the bathroom to splash water on her face. She felt faint and was still finding it difficult to breathe. She didnít know what she was going to say when she came face to face with Tom, but stepped back into the bedroom, knowing he would come into the room, any second.

His commbadge beeped instead. "Sickbay to Lieutenant Paris."

Tom hesitated before answering. "Paris here, Doc. Go ahead."

"I know youíre off duty, but I am having some difficulty and require your assistance. Itís crewman Chell."

Tom sighed before answering. "On my way."

Seven heard the doors swish open once more and she stepped out into the main room. It was now empty. She stood silently looking around the room, her mind in turmoil. The chirping of her commbadge startled her.

"Paris to Seven."

She struggled to find words. "Seven here."

"Iíve been called back to sickbay, but shouldnít be too long, I hope."

Seven shook her head, trying to clear it. "I understand," she answered. "I will see you soon."

Tom signed off and she slowly made her way back into the bedroom, opening the drawer and taking out the data padd the Doctor had given her. She looked down at it curiously.

Tom was right, she told herself. Love complicated things. She remembered him telling her that love wasnít all it was cracked up to be. How true those words were. Two tears rolled down her cheeks. Love hurt, thatís what love did. A loud wail echoed around the room and she was surprised to discover the sound was coming from her.

The pain in her chest was unbearable and looking back down at the padd in her hand, she threw it as hard as she could against the far wall.

Tom rolled over in bed and flung out his arm, the emptiness next to him waking him. Seven was already up and about. He could hear her in the bathroom. He frowned as he thought about the night before. Seven had been unusually quiet and even Isabelle had failed to get a smile out of her.

She came back into the bedroom and he sat up. "Good morning," he said quietly, watching her as she went over to the mirror to brush her hair.

"Good morning," she answered, barely looking at him.

He sighed and climbed out of bed, going over to stand behind her. Today would be rough and it seemed that Seven was just as upset as he was. He put his hands on her shoulders and frowned even more when he felt her tense up. "Are you all right?" he asked, watching her face in the mirror.

"I had difficulty sleeping last night," she replied.

He nodded. Heíd tossed and turned right alongside of her. "You miss him too," he said simply.

Confusion showed in her eyes for a few seconds before she nodded. "I find myself wondering how different our lives would be now if Ensign Kim were still alive. Do you not wonder?"

Tom swallowed before answering. "Iíve never really thought about it."

"I found myself reflecting this point last night. I believe things would be very different."


"There is no maybe about it Tom. You and I would not be such close friends if Harry was still alive."

"We were becoming pretty good friends before the - the explosion." He cringed at the memory.

"That is true, but now we are best friends. Is that not correct?"

"Yes." Tom watched her for a few seconds in silence, wondering if he should say what was on his mind. He cleared his throat. "BíElanna came by yesterday evening when you were picking up Isabelle." He felt her stiffen and wondered why. "She said something that made me wonder. Weíve always been honest with one another, havenít we?"

Seven nodded, but her stance had not relaxed. "Can I ask you something?" She looked at him in the mirror, her eyes suddenly wary. "Um, youíre not in love with me or anything, are you? I mean, you love me as a friend, donít you?"

Seven took a few seconds to answer. "Love would complicate our relationship, is that not correct? Do you wish for me to be in love with you?"

"Yes, no," he answered quickly. He stepped back and sat down on the bed. "I just wanted to make sure your feelings hadnít changed, thatís all."

"My feelings have not changed," Seven answered quietly.

"Good. Thatís good," he answered, although for some reason he didnít feel the relief he thought he would. He sat quietly, feeling depression flooding over him.

"You are upset," Seven stated, and there was something in her voice that he didnít understand.

"I suppose so," he said, slowly. "Todayís a bad day."

"You are thinking of Harry." Sevenís voice sounded as sad as he felt.

He didnít really know why he felt as bad as he did at that moment. "I guess I must be." His voice choked a little.

She turned around to face him, her eyes full of concern. "Will you be all right?"

He nodded and took a deep breath. "Itís hard for you too. Chakotay said I could have the day off. What do you think? How about we spend a quiet day here in our quarters? Just the three of us."

"I think that is a sensible suggestion. I will not be able to join you, however. I have too much work to do in astrometrics."

He frowned in disappointment. "Canít it wait?"

"No. I will come home as soon as possible, however."

Tom felt a keen sense of disappointment. Perhaps Seven needed to keep working to keep her mind off of everything. He decided that that was probably the best idea for him too.

"I think Iíll report for duty after all. Working will keep me occupied. Will I meet you at the twinís birthday party?"

"I will be taking Isabelle. You do not have to go, however. I am sure they will understand."

"Probably, but itís not the twins fault that their birthday is on the same day as Harry died. I should put in an appearance, for their sake."

The sound of Isabelle awake in her room made Seven hurry out. "Whatever you think is best," she said quietly over her shoulder.

Tom frowned once more. He couldnít wait to put today behind him.

Two Weeks Later:

A delicious feeling of warmth engulfed her as she awoke to find her neck being nuzzled. She moaned despite the fact that she had promised herself not to give in to the feelings overwhelming her.

"Good morning," Tomís voice whispered in her ear. "Happy anniversary." He nibbled her earlobe and she shivered in response.

"One whole year." Tomís voice was a soft caress. "I canít believe weíve been married one whole year."

He kissed her gently and she responded automatically. The kiss became more urgent until it was Tom who pulled away. "I have something for you," he said with a warm smile.

Reaching under the bed he pulled out a box tied with a bright pink bow.

Sitting up she looked at the box in astonishment. What had he said? Anniversary?

"We have been married one full year," she said slowly.

Tom pretended to frown. "Donít tell me you forgot."

"I do not have a gift for you."

Tom merely shrugged, smiling once more. "Doesnít matter." He placed the box on her knees. "Go on. Open it."

She carefully pulled off the lid and lifted out the bright pink satin pajamas. They were soft and cool to the touch. She ran her hands over them lightly and then placed them against her cheek. They felt wonderful.

"I thought you might find them more comfortable to sleep in. Do you like them?" Tom asked her eagerly.

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "They are more than adequate."

Tomís eyes twinkled. "I take it that means you like them?"

She nodded. "Yes. Very much, thank you. You are very thoughtful."

Tomís smile took her breath away. ĎHe does not love youí, she reminded herself sternly. ĎHe loves BíElannaí.

"What is the time?" she asked. "Isabelle will be awake shortly."

Tom shook his head, a definite mischievous gleam in his eye. "Weíve got at least an hour. I woke up early." He leaned in and nuzzled her neck once more.

She tried to resist. ĎHe does not love meí, she told herself again. She could feel her resolve weakening and she arched her neck back to give him better access.

ĎHe also has never lied to meí, she thought to herself. ĎI knew how he felt all along. He would never deliberately hurt me. The pain I feel is not his fault, it is my own. I must learn to live with it.í

With that thought she succumbed to the growing desire she was feeling and pushed him down on the bed to lay on top of him. "I was mistaken," she said huskily. "I do have a gift for you after all."

Tom laughed in delight. "Well I guess you just better show it to me then."

Over the next few weeks Seven found that actually living with the situation was harder than she thought possible. Every time she looked at Tom she felt an acute sense of loss and found it difficult to react normally around him. She found it hard to understand, as she had never had his love to lose in the first place. She had had the belief that it was possible however, and now that was gone.

It had been six weeks since the terrible afternoon that she had had her dreams destroyed, and it was becoming more and more of a struggle to continue acting as if nothing had happened. She wanted to be near him, to be with him and be engulfed in his warm embrace, but then the pain would also come and it became unbearable. Tomís concerned looks had increased and he was asking her continually if anything was wrong.

She found herself starting to avoid him. Often at night she would find some reason to stay up. She did not need to sleep as much as he did and whereas before she would go to bed with him and when he fell asleep get back up, she now went to bed long after he was asleep.

She knew the situation could not continue but also knew she could not tell him what was really wrong. She could not bear his pity.

Her relationship with BíElanna had also changed. The tentative friendship that had almost began, shriveled away. The fact that BíElanna felt sorry for her was a festering wound that would not heal. She maintained Isabelleís contact with the twins however, and whenever she had any dealings with BíElanna she was polite and cordial.

The relationship between Tom and Chakotay had also altered. Although Tom had worked through his anger and resentment of the Commander with Tuvok, more than eighteen months ago, Chakotay and he were never close. His attitude was polite but professional at all times. That he respected and admired the native American was evident but only Seven and perhaps Tuvok knew of the effort it took him to joke around and treat Chakotay the same as everyone else.

Now that had all changed and she knew that that wouldnít have happened, if it werenít for her. She had let Tom down on the day he needed her the most. Six weeks ago - the second anniversary of Harryís death and the twinís second birthday.

Chakotay and BíElanna had held a birthday party for the twins in the mess hall and she had taken Isabelle. She had still been reeling from what she had discovered the afternoon before and did not stay long. Tom had also put in an appearance, forcing a gaiety he obviously did not feel.

The Captain had come over to them both and told them sadly that she could sense how upset they were. Although it was a celebration of the twinís birthday it also reminded everyone of how badly Harry was missed. She told them she would watch Isabelle. She was sure everyone would understand if they left.

Tom had nodded wordlessly and gone over to give Isabelle a kiss goodbye. She had thanked the Captain and followed him.

Outside the mess hall Tom had taken her hand in his. "Tuvok isnít expecting me back on the bridge. Do you want to go home?"

She had shaken her head. "I have not finished my work. I will meet you there later."

She had hardened her heart at his crestfallen expression. She was still trying to deal with what she had heard. She needed time away from him. She needed to think things through.

Later that evening she had still been in astrometrics when her commbadge had beeped. "Paris to Seven."

She hesitated. "Seven here."

"I was just wondering when you were going to come home. Isabelleís ready to go to sleep."

"I believe you should put her to bed. There are some anomalous readings I must investigate."

There had been a silence. "Canít it wait?" Tom had finally asked.

"No, unfortunately it can not."

"Iíll see you later then?" Tom had asked softly.

"Do not wait up for me," she had answered.

Tom had signed off, a definite catch in his voice and she had winced in dismay, guilt flooding through her.

Someone cleared his or her throat and she whirled around in surprise. Chakotay stood just inside the doors.

"Thereís nothing in here that canít wait."

"I disagree. Did you require something Commander?"

"No. I was just passing and saw someone was still in here."

"I see." Seven turned back to her console, hoping he would go away.

"You should go to him," Chakotay said quietly. "He needs you."

"You are mistaken," she said bitterly. "I am not the one he needs."

Chakotay stood looking at her thoughtfully. "And what about you?" he said finally. "Is he the one you need?"

"That is irrelevant," she answered sharply. "I have work to complete."

"Heís finding it difficult to cope."

"He managed to survive last year with very little support from me. He will again." She stabbed the buttons on her console viciously.

Chakotay sighed. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"There is nothing to discuss."

"I donít believe you."

"What you choose to believe or disbelieve is irrelevant."

Chakotay shook his head. "How long are you going to hide in here?"

"I am not hiding. Please leave. I must continue my investigations."

"You should go to him," Chakotay repeated.

Seven ignored him. The silence stretched.

"Okay," Chakotay said suddenly. "If you wonít go to him, then I will."

Seven looked at him in surprise. "He would not appreciate your company."

"Well then, Iím sure heíll tell me that." Chakotay walked off quickly and she was left standing there in confusion.

When she had gone home much later that night she had found Tom asleep on the couch, a blanket thrown over him.

The following morning, when she had apologized for not being there, he had smiled and told her it was all right. Chakotay had stopped by and stayed with him. They had talked about all sorts of things and Tom told her that it hadnít been awkward at all. The Commander was one hell of a guy.

The following days found Tom and Chakotay starting a tentative friendship that now weeks later was solid and lasting. And although she couldn't help feeling slightly envious of their growing friendship, she was pleased for them as well.

She now found herself wondering if she could hide the truth for much longer. Her love for Tom was not going to go away. The pain had not lessened. He would pity her if he discovered her true feelings. Life would become even more unbearable.

She made her way to the Captainís ready room. She needed to talk to someone.

Kathryn almost dropped the cup of coffee she was about to take a sip from. "Divorce?" she managed to gasp. Seven nodded. "I require some information on terminating a marriage."

"Why? I thought you and Tom were getting along wonderfully. Only a few months ago you told me you were ready to take the relationship one step forward. I thought you were happy." She winced as she realized her last sentence had sounded almost like an accusation.

"I believed we were too," Seven said quietly. "But we made a mistake. We should not have married."

"Why do you say that? Have you and Tom had an argument? All couples argue sometimes, Seven. You wouldnít be human if you didnít."

"We have not argued. Tom and I have a compatible relationship. We get along very well."

"Then whatís going on? What has happened?"

"Nothing has happened. I have merely come to the realization that a marriage without love is not a marriage at all."

Kathryn swallowed and tentatively touched Sevenís arm. "Is this the way Tom feels as well?"

"I have not discussed the matter with him."

"You havenít? Well Seven, the first thing you should do is talk to Tom. If thereís some sort of problem perhaps you can work it out?"

Seven shook her head. "There is no problem. I simply need to know the procedure I must follow."

"Have you thought about this?"

"Not yet, no."

"Well then I suggest you do. After all, you have Isabelle to consider, as well."

"I realize that Captain. I have not decided what I am going to do."

"Seven, I really donít understand. You say that there isnít a problem and that you get along well, but you want to get a divorce. You say that itís a marriage without love, but I donít believe that. I see the two of you together. There have been feelings there right from the start."

"The feelings are one-sided," Seven said abruptly.

Kathryn shook her head. "I donít think so. After all, you do have Isabelle donít you? Tom turned to you in his hour of need and although things got out of hand, he would never - could never - have done that, if he didnít have feelings for you."

Seven didnít say anything to this, so she continued. "Tomís feelings may have been a little confused in the beginning but I know he loves you."

Seven remained silent, but there were tears forming in her eyes. Kathryn patted her arm "Why donít you think about this a little more and talk to Tom? Iím sure you can work things out. Besides, I donít know if I can divorce you. As ships Captain, I have the power to marry people but Iím not so sure about the other. We are in a unique situation here, however. Iíll have to look into it. Promise me youíll think about this carefully."

Seven nodded. "I promise. Thank you for your time. I must get back to astrometrics." She stood up slowly and walked out of the room.

Kathryn carefully put down her coffee cup. "Computer, state the location of Lieutenant Paris."

ĎLieutenant Paris is in his quarters.í

She quickly made her way there before she could change her mind.

End Part Eight