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An interesting fact about Jefferies tubes is that they all have a thin piece of wiring running through them that's completely unnecessary to their use. If we're getting technical, removing them makes them a little unstable, which once caused the lift to fall near three levels. Fortunately it only had Harry Kim in it. I told Janeway it was an engineering mistake and quietly put the wiring back.

I took it out again two weeks later. It's more useful in engineering anyway.

If I'm honest (which is rare) I'd tell Janeway that Voyager's falling apart around her. I've stripped it of everything that it doesn't need and some things that it does, all to keep the warp core running. Sometimes I dream about it as a hungry mouth, eating the ship around us. Mostly I love it, though.

The latest crisis is that Hirogen last week who took a chuck out of the matter transporter energy system. Theoretically this means that the transporter is broken and we have to take it to a starfleet base, but obviously that's not an option, so I have to repair it. Currently I've replaced the technology with a cannibalised replicator, an old sock and a chunk of my hair, but that's not going to last forever. So it's back to the Jefferies tubes.

"You're like a vulture," Vorik observes when I walk into engineering with a golden coil or wire on my shoulder. "Picking over the carcass of this ship."

I frown at him. "Would you rather we weren't able to get to any planets for the next seventy years? Even vulcans can get bored."

Engineering glows with a soft blue light as usual. We're cruising at a calm warp 3. I'd built a tiny amount of explosive into the base of the warp drive, which would accelerated whenever it when off. A screen, hanging by a single wire, shows that we're currently at warp 2.5. As I watch, the explosive sent sparks flying across the room and Voyager jumped back up to warp 3. I remind myself to find a more permanent solution to that.

Dumping the wire coil on the ground, I peel off one of the control screens. There was a small fire down here which I haven't been able to put out yet without it restarting. I'm about to replace the covering that keeps it contained, but before I could do anything I'm hailed. I straighten to find myself looking at Tom Paris's hot-but-stupid face.

"There's some sort of ship approaching and it's pointing its weapons right at us. Janeway wants us to go to warp 7."

He says this like it's actually possible, and I feel a flash of klingon temper. "Paris, the warp drive is being held together with a shoestring and a piece of gum. I can't get it above warp 4."

"Isn't there anything you can do?" Hilariously, he thinks I'm exaggerating.

"No, there's nothing," I insist.

Before he can say anything else something behind him starts beeping. He turns away, fingers flying over the control panel.

"They're aiming at us," he shouts to Janeway. "B'Elanna, do something!"

I wrack my brains but come up completely empty. Suddenly I hear a distant sound, then the floor shakes so badly I nearly fall over and have to grab the nearest pole to stay upright. We must have been hit.

"Return fire!" I hear Janeway say.

I still can't think of anything to do but I run towards the warp core anyway. It won't matter if the entire ship blows up but I've installed a extra shield around the core that'll at least protect that…

Before I can get there I hear a colossal explosion and am thrown backwards across the room. I slam into a wall and feel the world around me fading into black.

------

"B'Elanna, what happened?" Janeway asks.

"The mysterious ship managed to completely destroy the warp core. Fortunately no-one was harmed and no other essential equipment was seriously damaged, but I don't know how we're going to fix it. We’re essentially dead in the water until we do, though." I shouldn't say anything more, but I just have to know, "what happened to the other ship?"

"Uh, we shot a bunch of photon torpedoes at it and it went away," Paris says. "We still don't know what it was."

Janeway had put one of her hands on her hips and the other on the table while Paris was talking, and I found myself focusing on that. I suddenly wanted to try and paint her, silhouetted like that against the backdrop of darkness and stars. These stupid uniforms were the worst thing I'd ever had to wear, but somehow Janeway looks amazing in hers.

I suddenly realise that everyone else has gotten up to leave while I've been focused on Janeway, and can feel a blush deepening on my cheeks, though I know that no-one else can see it. I haven't heard a word. I get up to follow the others, but Janeway stops me.

"Can I talk to you alone, B'Elanna?"

"Uh, yeah, sure."

Nervously, I trail after her into her ready room. She sits behind her desk, leaving me hovering awkwardly in front of her. I'm desperate to get back to engineering.

"I know things haven't been good in engineering lately."

"Things are fine," I say, lying.

"I know you're lying. So, since I have a few free days, I thought I'd come down and help you fix the warp core. I do have some experience in engineering, you know."

At the academy, everyone has to learn all the fields for the first year, but that doesn't mean Janeway knows what she's doing. I want to refuse her, but I'm not sure she'll take no for an answer. It'll be irritating, but fixing the damned core was going to annoy me anyway.

"Ok," I say.

"Great! I'll be down there in two hours, after I check in with Chakotay."

--------

"Hide that. Hide it!" I whisper frantically to Vorik, gesturing at Janeway's watch. Someone stole it a few weeks ago, and I used some of the gears to fix a broken steller manipulation device and left the shell lying around on a table. Vorik snatches it up and thrusts it into his pocket seconds before Janeway walks through the door.

She looks around. "It looks different then usual."

Tell me about it. The blue light that is engineering's main feature is totally gone. Half the warp core lies scattered around the base, shards being collected by a couple of ensigns. The ground around the core has been warped by the heat of the blast and blackened by soot. Everything else is normal for me, but now I realise that Janeway's probably taken aback by the screens on the second level which flicker randomly and the broken replicators lying around.

"Well, we’re going through a bit of a rough spot at the moment. But I'm confident that we can get things back to normal in just a few days."

"Really?" She sits down at one of the workstations. "Do you have a plan, then?"

"Not as such," I admit, folding my arms. "I thought that physically repairing the core would be a good start."

For the rest of the day we focus on fixing the warp core. It's like putting together the biggest and most difficult puzzle ever. When we finally figure out what goes where, we have to melt the edges so that the glass will fuse together. When we finally have the missing section complete, Janeway suggests that we remove the entire glass plating from the core so we can attach it.

I'm puzzling over the titanium wiring inside the damn thing when Janeway finally tells me that the cover has been repaired and is ready to go.

"The inside looks intact as well, but I have no idea how to get it to restart again."

"Well, what's the actual problem?" Janeway took off her outer shirt a while ago, and even though she's wearing long sleeves her arms are still distracting me.

"It needs power. I had a system of times explosions set up to give it some, but it was kind of unstable so I don't want to return to that method."

"So hook it up to Voyager's power centre, like it was before."

I collapse at the base of the core, and Janeway joins me. "Voyager's power centre's been incredibly low for ages. The holodeck only works because it's hooked up to a separate power source, but the central power core's stretched to max just with Voyager's internal electricity."

Janeway frowns. "I was told that Voyager was designed to go forever."

"It might have if it didn't take any damage, but it does. The borg damaged it during their attack, and we lost a lot of power."

It's only then that I notice that most of my engineering staff have started to leave. Checking one of the consoles, I'm surprised to find that it's already 2100 hours.

"You should go with your staff and get some rest," Janeway suggests.

I shake my head. "No, I don't want to leave until we've solved this."

For the next hour we run every simulation we can think of to try and solve the problem, but nothing works. At about 2300 hours, Seven passes through. She casts a disparaging gaze around the room, making me want to punch her. Her expression changes (slightly) when she notices the captain.

"Good evening, Seven. You're working late," Janeway comments.

"Incorrect, captain. I often conclude work at this time."

"Anything of interest today?" I wish Janeway would let Seven leave, but she actually like the borg.

Seven inclines her head a minute amount. "There is a comet approaching. We won't be able to steer around it-" here she pauses for a brief look of satisfaction, the prick- "but we can use a photon torpedo to shoot it down"

"No," Janeway says slowly, "don't."

Seven cocks her head to the side, a silent question.

Janeway looks back at me. "We could use this! If we managed to tap into the power of the comet, we could use the energy to recharge the power centre and therefore the warp core."

I'm a little hesitant. "Will that work?"

"Yeah, I think so. If we could establish a support structure around the comet…"

I catch on. "We could harness the solar power and use it as a temporary means of powering the core! It wouldn't work for long, though."

"Still, it's better then nothing." Janeway turns back to Seven. "How much time do we have before the comet gets here?"

"It should be here tomorrow afternoon." Seven replies coolly.

"Great!" Janeway's face is lit up. I can practically see the gears whizzing past each other in her brain. Seven raises one eyebrow, probably confused at all the humans in the room, then turns and leaves without a word.

Janeway goes instantly to the console. I know what the one she's using is like, and give it a swift kick to get it started. Together we figure out that we can use a tracking beam to slow the comet down enough to get it tethered to Voyager. It's going to be a difficult operation, but we're confident we can do it.

I'm sketching an outline of the plan when Janeway lets out a long sigh. "You should go to bed," I say. "I'll finish up here. I'm used to long nights."

"No," janeway says. "That's not what I'm thinking about."

"Then what-" I begin to speak, but get suddenly interrupted. It takes me a second to figure out why I can't talk anymore, because the answer is so unbelievably impossible.

Kathryn Janeway is kissing me. It's an embarrassing minute before I start kissing her back. I snake one arm around her neck, drawing her closer. She tastes amazing, like the coffee she's been drinking all day and something sweet that is uniquely Janeway.

She steps forward, pressing me against one of the consoles. For a minute I think of the buttons I could be pressing, but I forget when she pushes one of her hands up underneath my shirt. I respond in kind.

She pulls me closer to her abruptly, causing me to stumble. One foot bangs against a holographic projection prototype. The sudden pain breaks me out of the delirium of the kiss, and I break away from Janeway.

"This isn't a good idea," I stammer. I can't really think of why it isn't, but I've got a very concrete idea that we shouldn't.

"Right," Janeway says, flustered. "I am your superior officer, and we have a job to do and all."

"Yes," I cling to her reasons.

"Well, I'd better let you get some sleep." She hurriedly fixes her shirt and goes to touch me, but stops at the last minute. Instead, she gives me the most awkward wave I've ever seen before turning and walking hastily to the elevator.

I turn around and lean against the wall behind me, knees shaking. I'm such an idiot! What was that? My head's spinning. Should I have pushed her away? Why did she kiss me? Ugh!

My work is my life, though, so I do what I usually do with complicated emotions and repress it. I fall into bed without even getting changed and drift into an uneasy, dreamless sleep.

------

"Do you sleep down here?" Janeway asks.

I roll over, burying my face in my pillow. It's true, I'm currently passed out in a rumpled bed in the corner of engineering.

"What happened to your room?"

I force myself out of bed. "I lent it to a couple of ensigns in return for holodeck time."

Janeway smiles, and our eyes meet. The memory of last night returns to me, and I can feel my face start to heat up. Fortunately I know it's not showing. That's the one good thing about being klingon.

I can tell Janeway's having the same reaction. She shifts nervously from foot to foot, finally breaking the eye contact and marching away. I have to run to keep up with her.

"Seven's told me that the meteor should be here any minute. We don't have much time."

We march down the hall without talking. I hate it, but I can't think of anything to say. When we get there, I notice Seven isn't there. For once I'd actually wanted the borg around, knowing that her no-nonsense manner would help us focus.

"Where's Seven?" I ask.

"This morning Neelix found out that she's only been eating every two days because that's all she needs to stay alive. She won't be leaving the kitchen for a while."

I laugh at the thought.

"It's coming!" Janeway shouts, directing my attention back at the meteor.

I can see the monitors lit up with the approaching fireball. I lower one of Voyager's collection arms, the type we normally use to collect useful space debris. It's difficult, but I manage to get it into position above the meteor's path. We wait with baited breath.

"Three… two… one!" I count down.

As soon as I say one Janeway snaps the arm shut around the meteor. She's a few milliseconds off and we nearly lose it, but fortunately we're able to get it inside Voyager.

"Yes!" Janeway pumps the air in celebration.

To both our surprises I run over and fling my arms around her. In that moment it feels like all my problems are solved.

____

A few hours later back at engineering it's becoming apparent that all our problems are not solved. The meteor is inside Voyager, but I still have to figure out how to extract the energy from it before it dies.

"We probably should have figured this out last night," Janeway says contemplatively, idly twirling a screwdriver in her fingers.

"What, inside of making out?" I ask.

I instantly regret the joke when I see her stiffen up, but then she relaxes and gives me a lazy grin. "No, I wouldn't have missed that for the world."

Distracted, I glance up at her, and we hold eye contact for a few seconds. I can feel the tension building. After what feels like eternity I cough awkwardly and look away.

"Anyway, if we can get an ensign to climb down there and physically attach a wire to it- I can use the ones I'm loaning my room to, they owe me a favour."

"I don't know about that. I don't think we should risk injury."

"Ok, what about using the Doctor then? He can't get injured!"

Janeway smiles. "He'd hate that."

"Sure, but it'd work. And I could persuade him."

I look at Janeway again. "This is stupid."

"What?"

"We can't keep working like this. Was what happened last night really a mistake?"

"You know," Janeway leans closer to me. "I don't know anymore."

"I'm pretty sure you had some very convincing arguments last night," I say, smiling.

I'm pretty sure I've never seen anything as beautiful as Janeway in that moment. "I don't remember them."

I stand up suddenly and my mouth collides with hers in an explosion of sensation. She pulls on my bottom lip, scraping it with her teeth. I moan, deep in my throat. It kills me to break away again, but I do it. Janeway looks as disappointed as I feel.

"Let's get the warp core fixed, then find somewhere a bit more… private."

"Agreed."

We can barely keep it together when we tell the Doctor what he has to do. He's very reluctant and insists we save at least two back-up copies of his mainframe before he goes down there. Still, he agrees.

At the end of the day I gather all my engineering staff together in front of the warp core. We crowd in, filling all available spaces, and lots of people bring food or alcohol so it's a regular party. Janeway and I stand in front of the warp core, waiting apprehensively for it to light up again. I can't shake the feeling that it's not going to work and Janeway must sense my nerves, because she wraps her hand around mine.

When the warp core finally does shine blue again a huge cheer goes up through the crowd. The Doctor emerges triumphantly from a projection matrix nearby and is greeted by applause. He's clearly lapping up the attention.

"Should we stay for the party?" Janeway asks.

"It'll probably look weird if we leave too soon," I say, gaze flickering between Janeway and the rokeg blood pie In the corner. "Let's say we'll stay for an hour."

Exactly one hour later Janeway and I leave through a side entrance. I feel like a giggling schoolgirl again, or at least I would if my schoolgirl days hadn't been spent constantly alone.

Janeway's quarters and warm and subtly lit.

"I like the décor," I comment, getting a smile from her.

"Have you really never been here?"

"Never," I confirm, reaching up to kiss her again. Her lips are soft and warm, and part easily at the slight pressure I put on them.

We fall back onto the bed in a tangled mess of limbs. I may never have been in this room before, but I've never felt more at home.

-----

The first thing I notice when I wake up is how much more comfortable Janeway's bed is then my own cot in engineering. The second thing is Janeway's arms wrapped around me. Her head is resting on my shoulder, and she's snoring right into my ear. I manage to wriggle away from her without waking her, and sit on the edge of the bed watching her sleep.

I gently nudge her arm, waking her. She rolls over with a sleepy smile. "Hey."

"Hey."

I go over the replicator to get us both some breakfast, as Janeway has the uncanny ability to burn even replicated food. I didn't think being domestic would suit me, but there's something appealing about sitting down with Janeway, just talking and eating food.

Half-way through breakfast Janeway's pad buzzes with a message. She glances at it absently, then more intently. Her face is lit up.

"What is it?" I ask.

"Good news! Apparently we've received an invitation to a trading planet which is famous in this area. It might help us find a permanent fuel source for the warp core!"

"Oh, right!" In all the excitement I'd forgotten the comet wasn't permanent.

When we get to the planet Janeway's instantly fascinated by the locals. They're these strange three-headed people who use one head for talking, one for facial expressions and the final for decoration. They have only one mind, which is in their stomach.

I'm more interested in their technology. I drag Janeway away from her conversation with someone selling decorative soaps to a table filled with pieces of scrap. She frowns at them doubtfully.

"You can make something useable out of this?"

"Yeah, absolutely! If I take this piece and attach it here, I can use a replicator chip to top the whole thing off and I'll have the very workable beginnings of a power source!"

I'm not sure if she understands the logic behind what I just said, but she doesn't ask me to explain. Instead, she simply says "So, do you think you can use things here to fix it?"

I turn to her, eyes shining with excitement. "Yeah, I think I can."

"Can I help again?" She asks, taking my hand.

I lean into to her. "I don't know, you might be a bit of a distraction…"

"I think you can handle it," she says.

I smile up at her and lean in to kiss her, unable to believe how lucky I am that she's mine.