The sing-song voice that called her name in the dream was soothing to Voyager’s chief engineer, and so was the gentle wind that caressed her face.
“B’Elanna,” the voice called again. “We have work to do.”
The call was harsher this time, and when something prodded at B’Elanna’s face she snapped awake.
She blinked until the blurry shapes before her came into focus. Seska stood beside her, her smiling face illuminated in blue by the glowing warp core just a few feet away.
“I was just resting,” B’Elanna grunted, rubbing at her tired eyes.
“For five full minutes now,” Seska chided. “You won’t escape that easily.”
She set a mug of coffee before B’Elanna’s monitor, then settled into her own seat at the next console. B’Elanna cupped the warm drink in her hands and tried to shrug the stiffness out of her shoulders.
“Remind me again why we even need to check the power logs manually,” she grumbled.
“Because it’s Starfleet protocol.”
“I meant an actual reason,” B’Elanna said with a snorting laugh. Seska only shook her head.
Engineering was deserted at this hour, and the soft sounds of their tapping keyboards were the only noise, apart from Voyager’s idle hum.
Checking a month’s worth of logs one by one would take them most of the night. B’Elanna had considered passing the chore off to someone else, but decided it would only make an enemy of whichever Starfleet crewman she stuck with the job.
Seska, thankfully, had volunteered to help.
B’Elanna scratched her forehead idly, and was struck by a sudden memory of her dream. She glanced at the woman beside her.
“Did you… stroke my face, just now? When I was sleeping?”
Seska grinned without looking up from her work. “You’re a heavy sleeper… And I’ll admit, I was curious what your ridges feel like,” she said.
Something stirred within B’Elanna, and she was surprised to realize it was not anger.
Since their days on the Val Jean, Seska had developed a habit of getting under her skin, but in a way she actually appreciated.
Living in the tight quarters of a starship, it was easy to form strong bonds with just about anyone. But no one could fluster, surprise, or leave B’Elanna at a loss for words the way Seska did.
Still, a part of her wasn’t comfortable letting Seska know that.
“Next time I catch you nodding off I’ll pinch your nose,” she muttered. “See how you like it.” She tried her best to sound genuinely annoyed.
Seska tilted her chin up, staring down her ridged nose at the other woman.
“You don’t have the guts,” she said with a smirk.
B’Elanna ignored her, focusing on the pages of numbers flashing on her screen in silence for as long as she could bear.
“Getting along with any of the crew yet?” she asked.
“Except Chakotay, of course.”
She peered at Seska over her coffee mug, and caught the corner of her lip curling into a smile.
“We have our good days,” Seska said casually. “But not so many lately. Anyone catch your eye yet?”
B’Elanna shrugged. Seska was kind for asking, she thought, when she already knew the answer.
“Half the crew still can’t bear to speak to a Maquis,” she said. “The other half…” she turned her head and furrowed her ridged brow, “have their own objections.”
“What about that Tom Paris?”
B’Elanna chewed her lip and stared into space, thinking it over. “I can’t really imagine us together, can you?”
The feeling of Seska’s hand pressing softly on her own brought B’Elanna out of her daydreams. She glanced nervously from Seska’s hand to the sympathetic look on her face. The other woman’s dark green eyes seemed to burrow into her.
“Maybe it’s time to admit that the rest of the crew will never understand you the way we can,” she said softly.
“Is- is that how you feel?” B’Elanna stammered. Seska nodded.
Without realizing it, B’Elanna had balled her hand into a tight fist. Seska smoothed her thumb over her taut knuckles, sending a shiver down B’Elanna’s spine.
“All I know is you and I will never really fit into these Starfleet uniforms, no matter how many rules and regulations we follow,” Seska told her.
B’Elanna felt her face flush. She laughed nervously, but it didn’t break the tension as she expected.
“It sounds like you’re trying to get me in trouble,” she said.
Seska quirked an eyebrow.
“I know you, B’Elanna. Only you can get yourself into trouble.”
She pulled her hand away just as casually as she had set it on B’Elanna’s, turning back to her keyboard as if nothing unusual had happened.
“But if you go looking for trouble,” she added with a knowing glance, “you can count me in.”
B’Elanna only managed a shaky nod. She kept her eyes locked on the console in front of her as her mind raced, thinking through countless moments she had shared with Seska on both the ships where they had served together.
Had that touch really come out of the blue, or had this been building between them since they stepped onto the Val Jean a year ago?
The desire welling inside her didn’t offer any answers.
She tried to pick up her mug, but realized her hands were shaking. She set it down again with a clatter that made Seska look her way.
“Maybe,” B’Elanna began, her heart pounding in her chest, “I’ve overlooked you… and the other Maquis, as well, since we arrived.”
She glanced sidelong, locked eyes with Seska, and turned away quickly. Her cheeks felt hot, her mouth was dry, and she struggled to find the words that could explain the mix of emotions roiling inside her.
“I- I-“ she began, before Seska set a reassuring hand on her shoulder. B’Elanna finally managed to return her gaze.
“We haven’t been looking after you, either,” Seska soothed, stroking her hand down B’Elanna’s arm.
B’Elanna nodded and bowed her head, grateful for the support she had been waiting for – without knowing it - since her encounter with the Caretaker. She brushed away the tears welling in her eyes.
“You’ve been through so much, so quickly,” Seska said. “And we’re still really in enemy territory.”
She gently tilted B’Elanna’s chin up. Despite her surprise at the intimate gesture, the warmth of Seska’s expression made her smile again.
“But you are not alone,” Seska said. “You have your crewmates to rely on. You have the cause behind you. And you have me.”
B’Elanna’s eyes widened. She knew what Seska had meant, really meant by this, but the last traces of her disbelief lingered. They finally faded as Seska smoothed a hand over her cheek, brushing a lock of hair from her face.
B’Elanna’s hands moved on their own, cupping Seska’s face and pulling her close as she shut her eyes.
Their lips only brushed at first, with B’Elanna’s pressed together in the last vestige of her reserve. But their closeness, the longing that surged inside her, set her Klingon passion blazing.
Her hands threaded through Seska’s hair as the other woman opened her mouth invitingly. Their tongues rolled over each other, and B’Elanna tugged playfully at Seska’s bottom lip with her teeth.
All at once she was struck by Seska’s scent – nothing cloying, but something she could recognize from the countless times they had brushed close to each other in their work. She nuzzled her head into the other woman’s neck, breathing deep and savoring the aroma while trailing kisses over her bare skin.
B’Elanna had lost track of where her busy hands had gone, until a rasping breath from Seska shook her out of her lustful daze. She rolled a few inches back in her chair, draping her arms over Seska’s shoulders and gazing deep into her eyes.
Seska’s face was flushed, she panted, her hair was in disarray. But her hands snaked around B’Elanna’s hips, and she leaned forward, grinning, until their foreheads pressed together.
“I’m not going too fast, am I?” B’Elanna asked.
Seska scoffed. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for this?”
Her breath was hot on B’Elanna’s lips. She didn’t need to wait for another invitation.
She hooked her arms under Seska’s shoulders and tugged, and the other woman rose out of her seat laughing. She settled in B’Elanna’s lap, her legs draped over the side of her chair, and was still giggling when their lips locked together again.
Seska only leaned away when B’Elanna broke into her own laughing fit. She stared in confusion as B’Elanna covered her mouth bashfully.
“It’s your ridges,” she snickered. “They sort of… tickle, when you move your head like that.”
She regretted the admission right away, as Seska started nuzzling their noses together, determined to make her break down again. B’Elanna pushed her chest away playfully, and planted a kiss on the ruffled bridge of Seska’s nose.
In the quiet moment that came after, with Seska cradled in B’Elanna’s arms, the Bajoran’s face seemed to fall. B’Elanna studied it carefully in the semi-darkness.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, stroking a hand down Seska’s back.
Seska sighed. “You don’t want me.” Her eyes flicked to B’Elanna’s, then quickly away, as if she was afraid of revealing something. “I’m not… who you think I am.”
They sat in silence, Seska looking sullen and B’Elanna privately worrying, for a long moment. Only the low thrum of the warp core interrupted their privacy.
At last, B’Elanna threaded her fingers with Seska’s. She looked up to find B’Elanna smiling warmly, and a smile of her own flickered at the corners of her mouth.
“You are full of surprises, Seska,” B’Elanna said softly. “But I know I will love every side that you share with me.”
That didn’t seem to cheer Seska much – in fact, B’Elanna thought, something cold passed behind the other woman’s eyes as she listened.
But she pecked B’Elanna’s cheek, muttered, “Thank you,” and drew close to her again.
Carey massaged his temples, staring with despair at his console and re-reading a log for the fifth time as his concentration dwindled.
“I thought,” he said loud enough for B’Elanna to hear at her station across the room, “that you were finishing these last night.”
“That’s what you call an executive decision,” B’Elanna called over her shoulder. “I decided my beauty rest was more important than your boredom. Cheer up, Carey, it should only take you a few more hours.”
She hurried to cover her mouth as the last word broke into an abrupt yawn. In fact, she had ducked into her quarters a few hours before her morning shift started, but sleep had not been on her mind.
“And what’s your excuse?” Carey asked indignantly.
B’Elanna turned around to find Seska with a mug in each hand.
“I decided my sanity was more important than a Starfleet report,” she sneered at the lieutenant on her way by him.
She greeted B’Elanna with sly smile, holding out one of the mugs.
“You’re my hero,” B’Elanna said under her breath. She let her fingers trail over Seska’s hand as she took the coffee. “How are you holding up?”
She shrugged. B’Elanna noticed dark bags under her eyes.
“I’m a little tired, sure. But what’s really worrying is I have a sudden urge to volunteer for more log duty.”
B’Elanna lifted her mug to her lips to hide her wicked grin.
“Well if I need a hand,” she said, “you’ll be the first to know.”