Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek: Voyager and characters.

Author's Notes: This story was partly inspired by the song "The Invisible Man" by 98 Degrees. Lyrics appear at the end of the story. Thanks to Julie for beta reading. :) I've had this idea since the beginning of 4th season (since "Scientific Method," to be exact) but wasn't sure if it would work. Okay, I'm still not sure that it works, but I had fun trying! Many thanks to Kathryn Lucas, whose beautiful story "My Someone," finally convinced me that it was possible to write on this theme convincingly. (it's at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Nebula/7536/Someone.htm if anyone wants to read it) Thank you, Kathryn! This story is dedicated to everyone who has ever experienced unrequited love. (and if you haven't... consider yourself lucky!)

Historian's note: the beginning of this story takes place shortly after "Gravity," then continues on through "Equinox," but there's a lot of reminiscing going on... so don't get lost! :)

The Guy Next Door

by Jennifer Lee

I live next door to the most beautiful woman in the universe.

Perhaps that's a slight exaggeration, but not much. She's certainly beautiful. Dark hair, dark eyes that burn with passion and fire...

I'm in love. Have been for years.

But she doesn't even know I'm alive. Even though I live next door to her, I might as well not exist for all she's concerned.

I'd always hoped that maybe after a few years (or decades, even) of living next door to her, she'd finally notice me. Hasn't happened yet.

I guess I should introduce myself. My name's Greg. Ensign Greg Kronden of the Federation Starship U.S.S. Voyager. I'm a pilot, but I also work in Stellar Cartography.


Uh-oh. I know that sound...

These walls are really thin, unfortunately. Just ask Pablo Baytart, who lives next door to Harry Kim. Harry practices his clarinet all the time, and Baytart can hear every note.

Fortunately, I don't live next door to any aspiring musicians... but I get quite an earful anyway.


I know that sound, too.

The first time I heard it... well...

It was right after that away mission that she and the Doctor went on, when that psycho hologram who hated organic lifeforms tried to rip her heart out. I was so worried about her -- she looked so pale and weak when she finally came back to her quarters. I was going to offer my support, but she went right into her quarters and didn't come out for the rest of the night.

Oh, well.

Later that night, I heard strange sounds coming from her quarters. I thought she might be having nightmares or that she might still be in pain. What happened to her was traumatic, of course. I was really tempted to call the Doctor on the commline... but I didn't.

The next night, I heard it again. And the next, and the next... Night after night, the same thing.

After a few more nights, the curiosity was driving me crazy.

So I put my ear right up to the wall. Just to make sure that she was okay, of course.

I wish I hadn't.

"Ohhh... god yes...yessss...."

"Mmmm... Don't stop..."

Obviously she wasn't in pain.

I had insomnia for weeks. Nothing the Doctor gave me helped. So I would lie awake at night, staring at the ceiling. And every night, the same sounds.

But I still had no idea who the lucky guy was.

Even though I knew I'd probably regret it, I just had to know. One night, I put a glass to the wall -- an old trick, but an effective one -- and endured listening to the entire scene.

Finally, she let out an ear-splitting shriek.... and I heard her scream...

"Tom.... "

Tom? Tom Paris?

How could that be?

My first guess would have been Chakotay. They're very close and spend a lot of time together, after all. I always suspected that there was something between them, something more than friendship. At least on her part. Chakotay was rumored to be involved with Seska, and even Captain Janeway! Who knows?

I've heard B'Elanna refer to Chakotay as her best friend many times. Which makes sense, considering how long they've known each other and how closely they've worked together, in the Maquis and even now. It seemed very plausible to me that they would get together eventually. Especially after Seska left the picture and Captain Janeway distanced herself in the name of protocol. It seemed only logical that Chakotay would turn to B'Elanna and that she would welcome him with open arms.

But no. That never happened. At least not as far as I know.

My second guess would have been Harry Kim. They're also very close and spend a lot of time together. They became fast friends after their ordeal on the Caretaker's Array.

I wouldn't have been all that surprised if she had gotten together with Harry.

But Tom Paris? Impossible.

After all, it wasn't that long ago that B'Elanna was constantly insulting him, and turning him down left and right whenever he asked her out.

So how did he suddenly go from being a "pig" to her one and only?

I just don't get it.

But unless my ears deceive me (and deceiving me consistently, because she screams his name just about every time, which is very frequently)... it's Tom Paris.

These days, they're inseparable.

How did that happen?

Of all the guys on Voyager, why did it have to be him? That... that womanizer. Ex-con. Ex-mercenary.

I thought Klingons valued honor above all else. But then, I suppose B'Elanna's not that Klingon.

At first I thought maybe it was all physical. But as the weeks went by... and the weeks turned into months... and they were still together...

I realized there was more to it than that.

It hurt.

It still does.

And it's even worse because I'm reminded of it every time I see him, which is often. Since Paris is the head con officer of Voyager, I report directly to him.

Every time I see them together, I can't help wondering, what's she doing with a jerk like him?

Okay, he's not really a jerk. I know that for a fact, considering that he's my supervisor and all that. But it'd be so much easier if he were. If I had more reason to hate him.

But I don't.

The day after, I couldn't get them out of my mind. And as it turned out, I couldn't have gotten away from it even if I'd wanted to.

"Greg! Hey, Greg!"

I glanced up to see my best friend Rick Mulcahy headed straight for me. His name is actually Patrick, but he hates the nickname "Pat," so we just call him Rick.

"You won't believe what just happened in Main Engineering," he said conspiratorially.

I had a bad feeling about this, since whenever Rick uses that tone of voice, it has something to do with B'Elanna.

Sure enough...

"Torres was up on the upper level of Main Engineering, making out with Paris on a computer console when Tuvok walked in on them! Can you believe it?! Who would've thought! Paris and Torres... It's all over the ship!"

I tried to look as disinterested as possible, but Rick wasn't taking the hint.

"Rumor has it that they've been making out all over the ship," he continued gleefully. "Hydroponics, the turbolift, the captain's ready room... "

I thought sourly to myself. Rick knows how I feel about B'Elanna, but he enjoys torturing me.

He seemed almost triumphant at having firsthand knowledge of this gossip, but I wasn't all that surprised to hear about B'Elanna and Paris.

And Rick realized this. "Hey... you don't seem surprised at all," he said suspiciously. "Why is that?"

I winced. "Have you forgotten where I live?"

He looked at me, realization dawning in his eyes. "All right!" he hollered. "We'll have inside information for all the bets..."

I could only shake my head in despair.

It was all downhill from there. From then on, they were together all the time. There was no escaping it.

After the incident on the Mari homeworld, he came by her quarters carrying a large box. No doubt some expensive present he had gotten for her.

And she was appreciative. I know because I didn't get any sleep that night, either.

Shortly after that, B'Elanna started working the night shift. Things quieted down for a while, but I was still constantly reminded that they were an item.

For example, early one morning, about 0700 or so, I saw her in the Mess Hall, sitting alone. Puzzled, I went over to her table. She looked tired -- not surprising considering that she had just gotten off duty -- but she showed no signs of leaving.

I got up the nerve to ask if she wanted company, but she simply said, "I'm waiting for Tom."

Why was I not surprised?

Anyway, I hurriedly left her side and sat down with Ensign Ashmore.

But I couldn't help looking over in her direction, noticing that she was waiting very patiently. I've never seen her wait that long for anyone.

He still hadn't shown up by 0724, and she was getting antsy. I watched as she tried calling him on the comm once, then twice... but no answer.

By the time I finished breakfast, about 10 minutes after that, she was still there waiting for him. Wow.

That was when I realized that this was serious. Their relationship was serious. At least, she took it seriously. I wasn't so sure if I could say the same about him, but she was most definitely serious.

I don't know why I was so surprised. I mean, B'Elanna's not the type to do anything halfway. I doubt she'd get into a relationship if she wasn't in it for the long haul.

Paris, though, was another story. To tell you the truth, I was expecting him to lose interest after the thrill of the chase was over.

But that didn't happen. If anything, he seemed even more committed than ever.

Amazing. Tom Paris, ladies' man extraordinaire, finally settling down.

And they really do seem settled. They've been through so much... but they're still together.

It's hopeless, I know, but I can't forget about her.


I can't forget about them, either. How could I? I'm constantly reminded of it. Just about every night. Over and over again.

By now I've learned to tune them out for the most part, but some nights they get really intense, and I just can't sleep.


Like tonight.

It's understandable, considering that they've been away from each other. For him it was over two months, for her only two days... but I guess that's long enough. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

Paris, Tuvok and the Doc were trapped on this planet after being pulled into some gravimetric sinkhole. But they made it back to Voyager and even rescued an alien woman named Noss.

Strange, but I've heard rumors about her and Tuvok.

If they're true...

She has better taste in men than B'Elanna does.


Another heavy object meets its demise.


Their happy reunions are always like this.

Whenever there's a shipwide crisis -- and there have been a lot lately -- they don't get to see each other very much. But afterwards...



The last time this happened was right after Voyager was attacked by aliens from another dimension. They actually thought that Paris' "Captain Proton" holoprogram was real.

That's a disturbing thought, don't you think? Can you imagine what life would be like if we were all in the "Captain Proton" universe?

I don't know what all these people see in it. Jenny Delaney tried to explain it to me once, since she's actually been in the program (I think because she was briefly interested in Harry at the time and managed to convince her sister Megan to join her), but I still didn't understand.

But I digress. Anyway, the point is, B'Elanna and Paris always spend quality time together after a disaster.

What's really frightening is that they're only here half the time. The other half of the time, they're on Deck Four in Paris' quarters. So it's a 50-50 chance.

And yet I'm still sleep-deprived all the time.

Don't those two ever get tired?


I guess not.

Things have finally calmed down. For a while, we all thought that Voyager was finally going home... but the wormhole actually turned out to be an alien predator.

To be honest, I don't mind being in the Delta Quadrant all that much. I've gotten pretty used to it. It's an adventure.

Of course I miss my family and friends in the Alpha Quadrant, but...

Voyager is home now. It's where I want to be.

And not just because of my next-door neighbor... though she has a lot to do with it.

Not that it matters. Not with Paris around.

In the Mess Hall during lunch, I overheard them talking about their date for this evening. Apparently they're going on a new holodeck program that he just finished designing. Chicago in the Roaring Twenties. I'm assuming that's during the 20th century.

I see them together later when he arrives to pick her up. They're all decked out, looking glamorous.

B'Elanna looks so happy. The way she looks at him is magical. Her eyes light up, she smiles that special smile... She's absolutely radiant in that short red dress adorned with beads, feathers and fringe.

Paris is talking about dancing the Charleston, and she's nodding.

I can't help picturing it. I've seen them dancing in Sandrine's before. The way they move together... That should be illegal.

They don't even need any words to communicate. Staring into each other's eyes, they understand each other perfectly.

I have got to rein in my runaway imagination. Otherwise I'll be torturing myself with these images all night.

Flight training today was hellish. It was only holodeck simulations, not the real thing, but that was bad enough. I still have a lot of trouble flying the Delta Flyer. Most of us do.

"I swear that Paris designed it that way so only he could fly it," Rollins grumbled.

"No kidding," Culhane agreed.

The rest of us pilots stick to the other shuttles. When we get to fly them at all, that is. We're often stuck with sitting at Voyager's helm only on the night shift... or when we're flying through easy stretches of space.

Voyager's not too difficult to fly. It's fairly standard since the helm controls are like the ones on just about every Federation starship in existence.

But the Delta Flyer...

Nothing is like the Delta Flyer.

It's really frustrating to fly that thing.

Don't get me wrong -- I love to fly. Always have. But I'm the first to admit that I'll never ever be a hotshot pilot. I'll certainly never be as good as Voyager's chief helmsman.

Paris has this intuition, a natural talent for flying.

When we were doing one-on-one flight simulations, he could tell that I was getting discouraged and felt obligated to give me a pep talk.

He likes to use a lot of metaphors in these little pep talks, and he really gets into it. Flying is his greatest passion, after all. Well, one of them. This time he started comparing flying "in the zone" to making love with the woman you love. Apparently, there are a lot of similarities. The connection. The exhilaration. The bond between kindred spirits. The love...

He got this really faraway look in his eyes before he remembered where he was and snapped out of it. Then he clapped me on the back and assured me that I'd get the hang of it someday.

Yeah, right.

I could practice every day for the next 70 years and still crash and burn.

Maybe flying flawlessly really is like being with the woman you love, but how would I know?

It's easy for him to say -- he's got both.

And I have neither.

I don't mind so much about the flying, but the woman...

I know he was only trying to make me feel better, but he has no idea.

Dammit, he's good at everything! Pilot, medic, Mr. Popularity...

But so what? That's all so superficial!

What is it about him? What do the women see in him? Most importantly, what does B'Elanna see in him?!

But I already know the answer.

It isn't any of those things. She could care less about any of that.

He loves her. And she loves him back. That's all there is to it, pure and simple. They understand each other.

Somehow, he managed the impossible. He managed to break through all her defenses.

And now she's his.

He had to run off to meet her right after flight training, so I was left in the simulator to fend for myself. I did a few more practice flights, but my heart wasn't in it.

A little while later, I saw Paris and B'Elanna headed for the holodeck. Going to the beach, it looked like. The Bahamas, Rick told me when I asked him if he knew anything about it. He had heard about it from Nicoletti in Engineering.

I guess they wanted some R and R after the skirmish with the Borg. I know that B'Elanna was really worried about him during that away mission. Paris had to maneuver the Delta Flyer right through the heart of Borg territory. Dangerous.

But he made it back with everything in one piece.

Considering that most of us pilots have trouble just getting the Flyer off the ground, that's pretty impressive.

Tonight is Harry Kim's clarinet solo concert. He's been trying to get his mind off that Varro woman he fell in love with, so for the last few days, he's been composing and practicing new pieces, day and night. Constantly. He needed a creative outlet, I guess.

Baytart's been complaining about it every day. At flight training yesterday, he looked positively homicidal.

I can sympathize. I was woken up around 0230 last night by a different kind of serenade, but it was no less distracting. I could barely stay awake all day. Just like Baytart.

I have to admit, the concert has been spectacular so far, though. Harry even played "Echoes of the Void," that piece he wrote when Voyager was stuck in -- well, the Void. It's a beautiful piece.

It's intermission right now, and my mind starts wandering.

I'm sitting a few seats down from Paris and B'Elanna. They always go to Harry's concerts. Not surprising, considering that they're his best friends.

Rick, who's sitting next to me, catches me staring in their direction and nudges me. I give him an irritated look, but he merely shakes his head in disapproval.

"Stop staring, Kronden. It's impolite," he whispers.

Okay, okay. I know he's right. It's a bad habit of mine. But anytime B'Elanna is in visual range, I can't take my eyes off her.

Megan Delaney, who's sitting on the other side of me, turns to me. "Isn't this a terrific concert, Greg?"


Rick nudges me again, and I jump.

"Why don't we get something to drink?" he suggests.

Megan and Jenny, who's sitting on the other side of Rick, think that's a great idea. So we head over to the refreshments table for some punch.

I look around, seeing who's there. It's fairly crowded.

What's surprising is that I see Seven of Nine standing in the back corner. Interesting. I didn't know she liked clarinet music. I didn't think she liked social events, either. She always seems so uncomfortable in social situations. But she's here tonight, whatever the reason. Maybe the captain suggested it to her.

Right now she's staring intently at Harry with an unreadable expression on her face.

And then she looks over to where Paris and B'Elanna are standing talking to Vorik, Culhane, and Brooks. Paris has his arm around B'Elanna, and they're both smiling.

A moment later she glances over in my direction. Our eyes lock for one brief second. I turn away from her as I feel Meg tug on my arm.

"Greg? We'd better get back to our seats. Intermission's just about over."


We all sit down again, and the concert resumes.

Half an hour later, Harry finishes off with the grand finale, and the concert ends to thunderous applause. Amazing. I think this was his best performance ever. The audience gives him a standing ovation.

That last piece was especially poignant. A beautiful, haunting ballad. Incredible. The power of love... such feeling... He captured it all so beautifully.

I overhear Paris say to him, "That was terrific, Harry. Especially that last one. You'll have to play that at our wedding someday."


My heart sinks to my shoes.

I'm sure he's only kidding... but still. Those words hurt.

The idea of Paris and B'Elanna getting married... it's more than I can bear.

I don't think that B'Elanna even heard him because he didn't say it very loudly, and besides, she's deep in conversation with Neelix.

But I heard it. And it hurts.

"What's up, Greg?" Rick greets me cheerfully, falling in step with me.

"Hey, Rick." I'm feeling melancholy, and he notices. But he wisely chooses not to say anything.

"What're you whistling?"

I suddenly realize that yeah, I'm whistling. What is it? I hum the next few bars to myself until I recognize it.

"It's from last night's concert -- the last piece that Harry played."


I think Rick was too busy paying attention to Jenny Delaney last night instead of listening to the music.

I certainly enjoyed Megan's company, but that didn't prevent me from listening to all the pieces.

This one's stuck in my head. It was my favorite piece, a beautiful but somewhat mournful melody. Bittersweet.

I'm sure Harry was thinking of his lost love when he wrote it. Feeling so strongly and yet not being able to tell her, see her, love her... Being separated from her...

Well, I get to see the woman I love, but it doesn't do me any good. I can't tell her how I feel about her.

I think that's why I liked that piece so much. I could relate to it. Maybe a little too well.

But I try not to think about that and turn my attention back to my best friend, who still looks a little distracted.

"Busy tonight?" I ask Rick.

He grins. "Got a date with Jenny Delaney."

"Wow... that was fast. Congratulations."

Rick shrugs it off. "Hey, why don't you join us? We'll get Megan to come along too."

But I shake my head. "Thanks, but I don't want to intrude on your date."

"You wouldn't be intruding. It'd be a double-date."

"That's okay. Maybe next time."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. Have fun with Jenny."

He laughs. "You know I will."

"See you later."

We go our separate ways, him to Engineering and me to Stellar Cartography.

Rick and Jenny... hmm.

And to think... we used to laugh that Megan and Jenny Delaney would end up with Paris and Harry Kim.

Things certainly have changed.

I'm waiting outside the holodeck for my reservation. It's driving me crazy, knowing that B'Elanna and Paris are in there. I can't help wondering what they're up to this time.

Moments later, the doors open, and they come out.

They're laughing. Both carrying helmets, kind of like the ones you'd use for orbital skydiving, but those certainly aren't orbital skydiving suits that they're wearing.

B'Elanna looks gorgeous as always. Especially in that outfit. She's wearing skintight black leather pants, white tank top, black leather jacket... and high-heeled leather boots. Wow.

Paris is similarly attired (except his boots aren't high-heeled, of course), but he doesn't look quite as good. At least not in my opinion. But I notice a few passing female crewmembers staring at him, so what do I know?

Still, I'd much rather look at B'Elanna.

Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes sparkling, and her hair is in beautiful disarray, wild and free like her untamed spirit.

I have no idea what they've been doing all this time on the holodeck, but I'm envious. Sometimes I'm so jealous of Paris. That lucky dog. Not only is he the best pilot on Voyager (maybe even in the Delta Quadrant), good-looking (so I've been told by over half the female population on Voyager), charming, friendly... but he has B'Elanna. The only woman I've ever felt this strongly about...

I casually tail them down the corridor a ways. They're talking about some guy named Harley. He must be a holodeck character or something because there's no one named Harley on board Voyager.

It's a stupid name, anyway. Who would name their kid Harley?

As I round the corner, I practically run into someone.

Seven of Nine.

"Sorry," I mutter.

She frowns slightly. Silence hangs between us for a moment before she asks me...

"Ensign... who is this Harley Davidson? I am unfamiliar with that individual."

She must have overheard Paris and B'Elanna talking about their holodeck program too.


Why is she asking me? Like I would know.

I shrug. "Beats me. I've never heard of him either."

Seven gives me a disdainful look that clearly says, "Oh, you're so helpful," and heads off to the computer terminal to access the database. I'm curious too, so I look over her shoulder (which she doesn't like, judging from the look of annoyance she gives me) and catch a glimpse of the word...



"A primitive 20th century two-wheeled motor vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine," Seven informs me, scanning the data files. She taps a button on the console and instantly a 3-D image of a motorcycle appears.

We look at each other. Okay. I guess that B'Elanna and Paris were riding these things on the holodeck. Probably his idea, since he's so obsessed with 20th century history.

I wonder why Seven's so interested?

But I don't have time to worry about that now. I'm supposed to be practicing flight simulations of the Delta Flyer, so I high-tail it back in the direction of the holodeck.

Until Seven stops me. "Ensign Kronden."


She studies me for a long moment. Finally, she says, "Your quarters are located on Deck Nine, Section 12, correct?"

Uh-oh. How does she know that? And why does she want to know where my quarters are? I don't like this...

But I manage to choke out, "Yeah..."

Seven looks like she wants to say something more but changes her mind. "Enjoy your holodeck time," is all she says before walking off.

Okay, that was weird.

I stare at my "Sheer Lunacy" dodecahedron and try not to think about what might be going on next door.

This game has kept me well-occupied for the last few days. Ever since Paris introduced the game on Voyager, everyone's been playing it. He starts a lot of fads.

I never did get the hang of the yo-yos. I've decided that I don't like anything from the 20th century. At least, I have yet to find something that I do like.

Paris certainly has come a long way. From pariah to trendsetter. Amazing.


Damn! I was sure I had it that time.

beeeeep* *beeeeeeeep

Sometimes I would swear that this little dodecahedron is mocking me.

I'm having trouble concentrating on the game, I have to admit. I'm too busy listening to what's going on next door. Or rather, what's not going on.

It's a little too quiet over there, and that makes me nervous. I know they're in there, because I saw them go in a few hours ago. What could they possibly be doing?

I heard that they had another argument, but I haven't heard any yelling tonight. According to ship's grapevine, it wasn't anything too serious, just the usual lover's quarrel, for which they are famous, but...

Every time they fight (which is every other week), I can't help but get my hopes up. Hoping that maybe one day, they'll have a major fight and break up. B'Elanna will be devastated, but I'll be there to provide consolation.

I know it'll probably never happen, but it's a nice fantasy.

Even though they fight all the time, they always make up. And I can tell when they're making up. If they're in her quarters, that is. But they definitely *make up*, as I'm sure Deck Four can also attest to. Even when they're arguing over a really serious issue, like the time an alien slug attacked B'Elanna, and the Doctor used Crell Moset's research to save her (a decision Tom supported, but B'Elanna didn't)... they reconciled their differences. Even when B'Elanna was in the worst stages of her depression and was completely withdrawing from everyone, including Tom... they stayed together. Even when Voyager was going through the Void, and they were fighting all the time, snapping at each other, even avoiding each other... they reconciled. Even when Tom was going through a period of restlessness and was subsequently taken over by Steth, that DNA snatching alien... they made up.

Their relationship is incredibly resilient. They've been through their share of trials and tribulations, but they always seem to pull through somehow.

I'm envious of what they have together. They're so... together.

What's it going to take to break them up for good?


Damn, they must be making up again...

I haven't seen B'Elanna all that much lately. She and the rest of the senior staff, along with the Hazarri mercenaries we formed an alliance with, spent most of the last few days brainstorming up ways to thwart the Think Tank.

They wanted Seven of Nine.

Captain Janeway should have told them, "Get in line."

Ever since Seven first came on board, she's been highly sought after. And not just by the guys on the ship. I'm talking aliens. The Cataati wanted her for revenge. Kovin wanted her for her nanoprobes. Arturis wanted her, also for revenge. The Borg wanted her back to help them assimilate humanity. And most recently, the Think Tank wanted her to join their elite intellectual group.

She's a popular gal.

But of course Seven wanted to stay on Voyager.

I don't blame her.

She's certainly come a long way, learning more about humanity, becoming more human every day.

I've been seeing her at quite a few social functions lately. She's also been hanging out in the resort program and eating meals in the Mess Hall regularly. No doubt a result of the Doctor's efforts to teach her social skills.

I've also talked to her a lot more than usual recently.

Last week when I went to deliver some PADDs to Astrometrics, she asked me to help her with a project, which took nearly an hour. I don't think she really needed my help, but whenever I tried to leave, she insisted that I stay. The entire time, she was asking me lots of questions about myself. When do I go to sleep. When do I wake up. What's my duty schedule like. Do I spend a lot of time in my quarters. That kind of thing. I don't know why. I'm not sure I really want to know.

And the other day, we were in the turbolift, and she asked me how life was on Deck Nine, Section 12.

There wasn't much I could tell her. Aside from the exploits of the chief engineer and the chief helmsman, it's not all that exciting. I told her as much.

Guess she wanted to see for herself, because she's been hanging around here a lot lately. Ever since that time she asked me where my quarters were…

That makes me a little uneasy. What's so great about Deck Nine, Section 12? Especially the corridor I live in?

At the moment, I can hear muffled groans coming from next door, and I'm wishing that I lived anywhere on the ship except here.

Maybe I should ask Seven if she wants to switch quarters. I'm sure I could get used to living in Cargo Bay Two. It has to be quieter than Deck Nine, Section 12.


Any place else has to be quieter than this, except for maybe Deck Four.


Sometimes I wonder if they fight so much just so they can make up all the time.

How can they fight so much and still stay together? That's not exactly my idea of a healthy relationship.


The even bigger question is... how do they survive their making-up sessions?

0400. They've quieted down, finally, but now I can't sleep. My mind is going in a million different directions.


The first time I saw her was right before she moved in next door.

Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay decided it would be best to try and integrate their crews as much as possible. That included having Starfleet and Maquis living next door to each other so there wouldn't be any segregation by living arrangements.

B'Elanna didn't look all that happy to be on Voyager, but I did my best to welcome her to the neighborhood.

Harry stopped by frequently, as did Commander Chakotay and many of her other Maquis friends.

I didn't really notice her all that much until she was confined to quarters after breaking Joe Carey's nose. Rick told me all the sordid details. He always says that Engineering is a happenin' place. I'm inclined to believe him. I'd try to get transferred over there (to be closer to the object of my affections, of course), but I don't have the Engineering background for it. Oh, well. Rick is a great source of information, which is some consolation.

I've always had this problem, falling in love with the wrong kind of woman. It doesn't help that I'm the kind of guy that girls want to be friends with, but not romantically involved with. They usually say, "Greg, you're such a nice guy... but let's just be friends."

It's not that I'm an outcast or unpopular or anything like that. Liz Jenkins and I used to go out for a while. We saw each other a lot, since we're both pilots.

I've gone out with Megan Delaney a few times... and I always suspected that Ahni Jetal (may she rest in peace) had a bit of a crush on me. We used to hang out a lot in Sandrine's.

But none of them compare to B'Elanna.

I'm trying to remember exactly when I started falling for her.

I think it was right around when Commander Chakotay was in a coma due to some freak accident.

B'Elanna was really upset about that. He's her mentor and dearest friend, of course.

I remember asking her how Chakotay was doing. "Better," she said. She seemed grateful for my concern.

That was probably the first time I really talked to her. What struck me was how vulnerable she seemed. It struck a chord in my heart.

In the early years, Chakotay used to come by frequently. Actually, sometimes he would even just walk right in because he had her access codes.

But I haven't seen him do that in a long time. Probably because he's walked in on... something he didn't expect. That would be my guess.

Harry also used to come by a lot. Of course, he never walked in. He's too polite to do something like that, no matter how familiar he and B'Elanna are.

Paris also doesn't have any qualms about walking in... especially if they're fighting and she won't let him in.

She gets mad at him, but she gets over it fairly quickly.

These days Tom Paris practically lives there. I see him there all the time.

B'Elanna's been having difficulty controlling her temper lately. She even broke the Doctor's holoimager when he was working on his latest photo-essay, "A Day in the Life of the Warp Core."

Rick told me all about it.

I also heard that Chakotay ordered her to undergo meditation sessions with Tuvok.

Like that's going to help. She resents being ordered to do anything like that.

I know it sounds strange, but I feel the need to protect her. She can take care of herself... but she seems so vulnerable sometimes.

I hate to see her hurting.

I want to reach out to her. Let her know that I'm there for her. That she's not alone.

I know she has Paris to turn to... but somehow that doesn't seem like enough. He doesn't have a lot of tact sometimes. He argues with her, provokes her temper, makes things worse.

I would never do that. I'm a very calm, easy-going kind of guy. I'm not as hotheaded as Paris. I tend to avoid confrontations, as I prefer to resolve things peacefully.

I would make her smile, make her laugh, take her problems away.

I know I could, if only I had a chance.

I really wish I could have gone on that away mission aboard the Malon freighter so I could have been there for her.

She's amazing. Everything I've ever wanted in a woman, and more.

This is an exercise in futility, thinking like this... but I can't help it.

I love her.

But she'll never know. I have to settle for admiring her from afar and hoping that maybe, someday, they'll break up and she'll finally notice me.

"Ensign Kronden. Good morning."

I rub the sleep out of my eyes, trying not to yawn. "Morning, Seven," I mumble before I realize...

Seven? What's she doing here, again? It's 0645! She was there when I returned to my quarters last night...

...and she's there when I get back this evening, too.

This is just too strange. Why does it seem like she's always around these days? I see her everywhere. She's always lingering in the corridor outside my quarters these days, really early in the morning, and really late at night.

It's not just at my quarters, either. Lately I've been seeing her everywhere I go. For example, every time I looked up at dinner in the Mess Hall yesterday, she was staring in my direction. Like she was studying me or something.

Something else occurs to me. In the Shuttle Bay, the day before yesterday... Paris was leading flight training sessions, so I was flying the Delta Flyer under his supervision. As I've mentioned before, it's trickier than a Class Two shuttle, especially with all those damned knobs and dials he installed on the control panel. I just can't get the hang of it.

Anyway, we got back from our practice runs and finally landed in the Shuttle Bay. A little later than expected, but at least I got us back in one piece. I got out of the Delta Flyer first, only to see... who else but the woman of my dreams.

B'Elanna. The mere sight of her makes my heart sing...

She greeted me politely, and then...

...instantly forgot I was there because Paris stepped out of the shuttle. Her eyes lit up, and the most beautiful smile spread across her face.

Damn, damn, damn. Oh, well... I can dream, can't I?

But then my attention goes to someone else standing nearby. It's Seven, and she looks like she's waiting for someone too.

But we're the only ones there, and it can't be Paris that she's waiting for. She doesn't even say anything to him beyond, "Ensign."

So who's she waiting for? Because she's obviously waiting for *someone*.

Is she waiting for... me?

That can't be right.

I turn away and start gathering equipment, wondering what is going on.

She comes over to me. "Ensign Kronden. How was your flight?"

"Uhh... Okay, I guess." I've never been accused of being a brilliant conversationalist, as you can probably tell.

Still, she seems fascinated in everything I have to say. I start heading for the doors after Paris and B'Elanna, who are thoroughly caught up in each other and don't even notice anything else... and Seven's right at my heels, still asking me all sorts of questions.

She follows me all the way to the Mess Hall, and then even sits down at my table.

Hmm... Strange. I've never seen her around this much before.

Why is that?

And then suddenly it hits me...

She's stalking me! That has to be it!!

It all makes sense now. Seven's been lurking outside my quarters, following me everywhere, always trying to strike up a conversation, always asking me questions about myself, my schedule, my sleeping (How did she know about my insomnia? Has she been going through the medical records in Sickbay?)...

Panic sets in... Oh my god, what am I going to do now?! She's not the type to give up easily when she wants something. Even though I keep trying to avoid her, she's always there! She's after me!

She has to be stalking me. That's the only explanation.

Rick looks at me like I've lost my mind. And he says as much.

"Kronden, you've lost your mind. Why would Seven of Nine be stalking *you*?"

I'm a little insulted by the way he asked that. "Why not? She's been so fascinated with human mating behavior, procreation and all that. Look what she did to poor Harry Kim!"

Rick ponders that for a moment. "That's true. Poor guy... But that doesn't mean she's after you now."

Argh! I should have expected that reaction. Rick kind of liked her for a while, but she never showed any interest in him. Actually, I think he even got the nerve to ask her out once, but she turned him down cold.

Which is amusing considering that he had a kid with her, heh-heh!

Oh, sorry. Just a little joke between us. You see, Seven's nanoprobes and the Doctor's holoemitter once got crossed in a transporter accident, and Rick happened to be working on that project. And the thing attacked him. Sampled some of his DNA... and voila, a 29th century Borg drone was born! Seven was pretty much his mom, of course. She even named him "One." Of course, everyone conveniently forgets that it was Rick who provided the DNA. They always refer to One as Seven and the Doc's 29th century Borg love child.

Rick is still a little sore about that. For a while he believed that he and Seven were destined to be together because of One. He gets some really bizarre ideas in his head sometimes.

Of course it never went anywhere. Seven's never looked twice at him.

I'm completely convinced that Seven really is stalking me, however, and I have the evidence to back it up.

"I'm telling you, Rick, I see her everywhere! She's always hanging around my quarters. Late at night, early in the morning... She's always there!"

"I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation," Rick tells me, sounding exactly like Tuvok.

"Yeah, and the logical explanation is that she's stalking me! She wants to assimilate me into her collective."

He regards me thoughtfully for a moment, changing tactics. "Well... Okay. Let's pretend for the moment that she is. What's wrong with that? I mean, she's a beautiful woman. Intelligent, efficient, sexy... maybe a little intimidating sometimes, but nothing you can't handle."

"Rick, you're being ridiculous. I could never go out with her."

"Why not? It sounds like she's been dropping all the right hints... and you're sure as hell not seeing anyone seriously. Maybe this is the chance you've been waiting for."

I shake my head emphatically. "No way. I'm not interested in Seven. There's only one woman on this ship for me, and it's not her."

He looks at me disbelievingly. "Are you telling me..."

"You know how I feel about B'Elanna."

"Greg... No offense, but you really have to get over your obsession with her."

"I'm not obsessed!" I shout. Well, not that obsessed. Okay, maybe I am a little obsessed, but it's nothing compared to Seven's current obsession with me!

"Face it, man. It's a lost cause," he declares. "You really think Torres is going to dump Paris for you?"

"Anything's possible."

"In your dreams. They're practically married, you know. Hell, they probably *are* married according to Klingon custom."

"Thanks a lot, Mulcahy. Some best friend you are."

"I'm just being realistic. You can't keep deluding yourself."

Maybe he's right. No, he's definitely right. I know he is. But I just can't seem to forget about B'Elanna...

I see them together all the time. Everywhere I go.

Tonight they were definitely headed for somewhere elegant.

Before B'Elanna started going out with Paris, I never saw her go on any holoprogram that wasn't recreational sports. But now, she dresses up all the time. Tahiti, 20th century Chicago, Sainte Claire, Captain Proton, movies, all sorts of roles.

They had their arms around each other when I passed by them.

Which isn't too unusual. They're both off-duty.

But even on-duty...

Ensign Brooks saw them kissing in the middle of the corridor last week.

Uh-oh. I see Seven heading towards me, and I panic.

"Ensign Kronden," she begins in that imposing monotone.

"Can't talk now... I'm in a hurry," I tell her.

She frowns, but I run off.

Seven can be rather intimidating. Not to mention persistent.

I'm getting paranoid, because I'm convinced she'll stop at nothing.

Rick suggested half-jokingly that I report her to the captain and get a restraining order.

Ha, ha, ha.

Like that'll do any good. She'll just find some other way to stalk me. Seven's very resourceful. I mean, she was a Borg for twenty years, after all! They are relentless... and she's no exception.

It's just been getting worse.

Last night (or this morning, depending on how you look at it), I staggered out of bed at about 0345. Yet another night of insomnia courtesy of the lovebirds. I had been planning to go for a little stroll to soothe my rattled nerves.

So, I step out the door...

...and nearly crash into Seven of Nine, who is standing practically right in front of my doorway.

"Seven? What are you doing here?"

She looks at me. "Ensign Kronden. I wish to speak with you."

Uh-oh. I certainly don't want to talk to her. Definitely not this early in the morning. But before I can close the door, she blocks it and asks if she can come in.

"Seven... it's 0345..."

She gives me a "so what?" look.

"Don't you have to regenerate or something?"

"I have regenerated sufficiently."

I shake my head, hoping that this is some sort of nightmare. "Can't this wait?"

"It cannot."

She repeats her request to come in. Well, no... Seven doesn't really ask; it's more of a command. She has this "you will comply" expression on her face.

What can I do?

She pushes her way past me, and immediately heads for... my bedroom.

Now I'm definitely hoping that this is just a nightmare. That at any moment I'll wake up and she'll disappear... and then I'll sigh with relief and swear never to eat pork rinds right before bedtime again.

Unfortunately, it's not a nightmare, and I can't wake up from it.

Seven seems fascinated with my room. She's in there, snooping around. It looks as though she's trying to memorize every detail. And she probably has, considering that she has a photographic memory.

Why is she so interested, I have to wonder?

A loud crash sounds from next door, and I wince. Seven doesn't seem bothered at all by it, though. She merely asks me if the noise doesn't bother me. I shrug and don't bother to answer that, but she presses the issue, pointing out the insomnia is a frequent cause of workplace accidents. In other words, I'm a potential occupational hazard.

Great. Just great.

Looking back, I'm still not entirely sure how Paris managed to win her heart.

B'Elanna has never been very receptive to any guy's advances. And there aren't too many guys on board who have been brave enough to pursue her. Which isn't too surprising, considering what she did to Vorik when he was going through Pon Farr.

Maybe that's what it was. Maybe Paris just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Damn, I wish I had been on the away mission instead of him.

Would it have mattered?

Well... I doubt it.

Maybe I should have seen the signs earlier.

The two of them working together, hanging out together... and here I was thinking it was only because they were both friends with Harry Kim.

I couldn't have been more wrong.


They're still going at it.

I don't know what he's doing to make her wail like that, and I'm not sure that I really want to know.

You'd think that their ardor would have mellowed out over time, but no. They're still crazy about each other. With my luck, they'll still be like this 70 years from now. And I'll still be living next door.

Seven is definitely stalking me.

At lunch time today, she sat down at my table without even asking if she could join me.

And at the monster movie marathon last night, she was sitting right next to me and kept trying to start a conversation. Kept offering me pork rinds, asking me what I thought of the movies, the characters, everything... I was getting kind of annoyed towards the end there, but I have to admit it kept me distracted. We were sitting directly behind Tom and B'Elanna, and they were getting cozy the entire time. Which bothered me even more. Strange that it bothers me so much to see them together all the time, and yet... I can't seem to stay away from her. B'Elanna...

But back to Seven. Even after the movie marathon, she ended up walking with me back to my quarters for some reason...

And the other day she followed me when I went to Main Engineering to talk to Rick.

She's always there.

What am I going to do?!

This is terrible. I can't tell anyone. No one would take me seriously. No one would do anything about it!

Half the guys on board would love to be pursued by Seven on Nine... but I'm not one of them.

Maybe that's part of the attraction. Seeking the unattainable. Maybe she thinks I'm just playing hard-to-get, and that I'll cave in eventually.

She's so persistent and thorough, it's frightening.

What really scares me is that a lot of the time I see her taking notes on a data PADD, like she's observing me and my habits or something. I bet she knows my entire schedule. Everything about me. How else could she be so accurate, always there, wherever I am?

I'm getting a headache. I really need to lie down.

So I go back to my quarters... and who should be waiting there for me but.... Seven of Nine.

Nooooo! Not again!

I've been so jumpy lately, all because of her. Every time I turn a corner, I half-expect to see her there, coming towards me.

This is starting to get really, really nerve-wracking. Maybe I should tell someone, or file a complaint.

But I shudder to think what she would do to me if I ever did that.

I try not to let it show how nervous she makes me. The Borg can sense fear, I think.

Anyway, I stand there and listen to her as patiently as I can, wondering what she wants this time. If she asks to come into my quarters again, I don't know what I'll do.

Fortunately for both of us, she doesn't ask that.

The conversation starts out innocently enough. She starts talking about tonight's concert. The Voyager Quartet is playing. Of course Seven asks me if I'm planning to go. I think she wants me to accompany her. I tell her that I'm going but quickly add that I already have a date. Ensign Liz Jenkins. We're actually just really good friends, but I don't tell that to Seven. In fact, Liz has been talking about Harry Kim a lot lately. She's very enthusiastic about going to this concert. Maybe a little too enthusiastic.

Hmmm... They've been working together a lot on the Bridge night shift lately. Maybe... ? Who knows.

Seven nods, then finally leaves. Whew. What a relief!

A few hours later after my nap, I'm feeling better. Much calmer. I head over to pick up Liz at her quarters.

At the concert, Liz and I sit down near Paris and B'Elanna. Of course a few minutes later... Seven shows up... and sits down right behind us. Coincidence? I think not.

Rick is sitting next to me, as usual. When he notices Seven's entrance -- and where she sits -- he raises an eyebrow. He's starting to believe me.

I give him an "I told you so" look. He merely shrugs and turns his attention back to the quartet, which is about to start playing.

Sometimes I really can't take it. I've tried just about everything, and yet I still can't seem to get over her.


I see her in my dreams.

The past few nights I've been having this recurring dream. It goes something like this...

B'Elanna and I are strolling along the beach at sunset, hand in hand.

I turn to her, and then...

Paris shows up.

And B'Elanna runs to him, into his waiting arms, laughing with delight.

I'm left standing there by myself... and the two of them start laughing and pointing at me.

They go off together, still laughing at me.

No wonder I haven't told her how I feel about her. She probably *would* laugh at me. They both would.

I see them as they come out of the holodeck arm in arm, both in excellent spirits.

I can't help but follow them down the hall... and overhear part of their conversation. Something about a lion king, I think. What is that, a holodeck jungle program, maybe? I've heard rumors that Paris has a program like that, something like Tarzan... though I have a really difficult time imagining B'Elanna agreeing to play Jane, even for him.

Then again, he did manage to talk her into joining him on his Captain Proton holoprogram, so anything's possible.

No matter how ridiculous the program is.

How can she like him? He's so immature sometimes.

I know he's crazy about her -- who wouldn't be? -- but that still doesn't explain why she's with him.

I have to admit, they don't look like they've been out in the jungle for the last few hours. They're nicely dressed and don't look wrinkled at all. Maybe it was just a movie or something.

Who knows. With those two, it could be anything.

All of a sudden, he starts singing falsetto... "Eeeeee eee eee eee eee ohmohmaway...."

Ouch. My ears are ringing.

"A-wimo-weh, a-wimo-weh, a-wimo-weh, a-wimo-weh...."

What on earth?

"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight..."

B'Elanna's giggling. Yes, giggling. I'd never heard her giggle like that before she started going out with Paris.

He keeps singing in that ear-piercing falsetto, and she seems to be thoroughly entertained. Even though people are starting to stare, she can't stop laughing.

I will never understand those two.

Okay, so Seven wasn't stalking me after all. She was only conducting a research study on Paris and B'Elanna. Which makes sense, I guess.

Boy, do I feel stupid!

No wonder she always wanted to talk about them. And here I was thinking that she was asking because she wanted me to teach her something about human mating behavior firsthand.

It all came out at dinner tonight in the Mess Hall. Paris and B'Elanna were having a romantic little dinner (as romantic as you can get in the Mess Hall)... and Seven kept hovering around them.

At first I was spooked because I thought she was following *me* around again -- I've gotten really paranoid -- but I guess I wasn't the only one to think that.

B'Elanna confronted Seven.... and it turned out that Seven was following B'Elanna around this whole time, not me! Seven's been taking notes on the two of them for her study on human mating behavior.


B'Elanna wasn't too happy to hear that Seven had turned them into a research project. Especially after she read a few detailed excerpts that she didn't like. After that, she demanded all the data... but of course Seven didn't want to hand it over.

I've got to hand it to her; Seven's brave. Or really stupid. No one else would even think of provoking B'Elanna further when she's in that kind of mood.

But Seven did.

Whew. For a moment there, I really thought B'Elanna was going to let loose and break Seven's nose, just as she threatened.

Paris and Neelix attempted to mediate, but it wasn't until Tuvok and Chakotay walked in that B'Elanna backed down. I guess she didn't want to deal with another confrontation with them about her temper.

Crazy, isn't it?

Oh, well. It's actually a relief that Seven's not stalking me. She makes me really nervous. It was weird seeing her around all the time, hanging out in the corridor.

She's stopped doing that now that B'Elanna filed a complaint with Captain Janeway. The captain put a stop to the field study.

I think.

Sometimes I wonder. Because Seven still looks really interested in their activities...

I know because I've always got my eye on them, too. Whenever B'Elanna's around, I can't take my eyes off her. She's so beautiful, so vibrant. The perfect woman.

Seven's there again, waiting for me by the door to my quarters.

What does she want now?

"Ensign Kronden."

Uh-oh. This can't be good. She starts asking me questions about Paris and B'Elanna..

So I was right; she's still conducting her study. Despite the captain's reprimand.

I'm not too surprised. Seven's notorious for disobeying orders she finds "irrelevant."

Or maybe the captain didn't actually order her to stop? I'm not sure. It's possible.

At any rate, she asked me just about every question that you could possibly imagine. She's nothing if not thorough.

Seems like she's noticed that I hang around them a lot too. I told her that I live next door to B'Elanna... and that's all I know.

But she wouldn't let up. She kept interrogating me about their activities... and even went so far as to try and recruit me to be her research assistant.

Yeah, right. Not in this lifetime.

She's driving me crazy!

I keep trying to avoid her, to no avail. She's everywhere.

During the Doctor's weekly slideshow presentation this afternoon, she sat down next to me and attempted to make small talk.

Wait a minute. Paris and B'Elanna weren't even there that time!

Maybe, maybe I wasn't so wrong. About her stalking me, I mean. Just because she's studying Paris and B'Elanna for her "human mating behavior" project doesn't mean that she's not stalking me as well. She could be doing both.

Or maybe... maybe it's worse than I originally thought. Maybe her "project" is actually a cover-up for stalking me!

Oh, no! What am I supposed to do now?!

Rick and I are having lunch in the Mess Hall, catching up on all the latest rumors.

"Bill still hasn't recovered from their 'date.' Every time anyone even says her name, he looks ready to bolt," Rick chuckled.

"And you wanted me to go out with her."

"It's not such a bad idea. You could handle it. You're not as easily rattled as Chapman is. Bill is notorious for his nervousness around women, remember?"

ARGGH! Sometimes I just want to hit him. Don't get me wrong; Rick's my best friend. But sometimes...

Okay. Seven ended up asking out Lieutenant William Chapman for her first date. Not me.

That is a pretty good indication that she's not stalking me after all.

Isn't it?

Rick doesn't seem to think so. For some reason, he's really latched onto this idea.

"Maybe she really likes you but was just afraid to ask. She probably thought you'd turn her down. Because you have to admit, you've been avoiding her a lot lately."

"I don't think so," I tell him doubtfully. "I think she didn't ask me out because she doesn't want to go out with me."

"Nonsense. The two of you would be great together. I'm sure she likes you. You just need to be a little more receptive when she tries to strike up a conversation. You could talk to her instead of running away in the other direction."

"I thought she was stalking me."

"What's wrong with that? Every other guy on this ship would love to be stalked by her!"

"Well, she wasn't really stalking me, Rick, so it doesn't matter."

"Maybe she wasn't exactly *stalking* you, but at least she showed some interest. That's a start."

"I don't think so."

He's not listening. "You should go out with her," he enthuses. "It'd be good for both of you. You could teach her all about human social skills, dating rituals and all that... and she could... she could... help you forget about a certain next-door neighbor of yours."

Oh. I see. This is another one of his futile attempts to convince me that I should get over B'Elanna and get on with my life.

"Not gonna happen, Mulcahy. My heart belongs to the chief engineer. You know that."

He's starting to look really irritated. "You're being stupid, Kronden! Wake up and smell the coffee! Torres is taken, and that's not going to change. You have got to *move on*! Move out if you have to!"

I'm starting to get mad. Who does he think he is, telling me what to do?! "It's none of your damned business!"

"You can't keep moping around, hoping for the impossible!"

That's what he thinks.

This has to stop.

Seven is wreaking complete and utter havoc on my life.

I've made up my mind to go talk to her because I can't take it anymore. I don't exactly know what I'm going to say ("Excuse me, Seven, could you please stop following me?"), but I have to do *something*.

"Computer, what is the location of Seven of Nine?"

"Seven of Nine is in Cargo Bay Two."

I haven't been in Cargo Bay Two in a long time. Not since Seven moved in.

I knock on the doors... and they open.

At first I don't see her anywhere. I don't see much besides the Borg regeneration alcoves and some cargo containers. She doesn't have a lot of personal belongings, I guess. A mirror, some data PADDs, a tricorder...

But one thing in particular catches my eye. It's a picture. A recent one, from the looks of it. I pick it up for a closer look...

...and nearly drop it when Seven suddenly appears at my side.

"Ensign Kronden."

"Uh... hi, Seven," I stammer. Damn, she's managed to sneak up on me again.

Unable to look at her, I look at the picture again. It's of the senior staff. Everyone is gathered around the captain, who's in the center, champagne glass raised in a toast.

This is not how I'm used to seeing the senior staff, but I like it. Everyone looks so happy and relaxed in this picture. Well, except maybe for Seven and Tuvok. But even they look less stiff than usual. Everyone else looks happy: Neelix sitting next to the captain holding the bottle of champagne, the Doctor standing behind him with the usual smirk, Harry, Commander Chakotay... and B'Elanna and Paris, who're hugging in the back row. But I try not to dwell on that.

"What's this from?" I ask Seven, partly to break the awkward silence, partly because I'm really curious.

Is that a hint of a smile I see on her face?

"April 22nd, Ancestors' Eve," she replies simply.

"Ancestors' Eve?" I echo. "What's that?"

"It is a holiday. An evening of reflection and appreciation of our ancestors."

"Never heard of it."

"It was established recently. This portrait was taken at the first celebration of this holiday."

Oh, okay. This must have been one of Neelix's kooky ideas. I wonder what brought this one on.

But I don't voice those thoughts. Instead, I say, "It's a nice picture."

Seven nods, staring at it almost fondly. "It is... a family portrait."

A family portrait? Seven thinks of the senior staff of Voyager as her family? Wow. Who'd have guessed? I mean, she seems so self-sufficient and independent. Not needing anybody. Certainly not a family.

But this picture seems to mean a lot to her.

Somehow, that makes me feel a little more at ease with her.

For the next hour, we talk and talk... well, as much as Seven talks, anyway. Neither of us is much of a conversationalist, it seems.

I feel better now, secure in the knowledge that she's not stalking me. That's a load off my mind.

Maybe I'm a little disappointed, too. It certainly was exciting. Not to mention kind of flattering. But I'm more relieved than anything else.

It's a relief to hear that she's given up on dating, at least for now.

She's not bad, but she still kind of scares me.

So now I have a good reason for telling Rick to back off, at least where Seven is concerned. I doubt he'll back off on the B'Elanna issue.

But... one problem at a time.

The shipwide ping-pong tournament was tonight. It was certainly exciting.

Quite a crowd had gathered in the Mess Hall to watch the final round by the time I finally got there. This was one match I wasn't about to miss, because the finalists were Harry and B'Elanna... vs. Paris and Seven. Interesting, hmmm? Turns out that Paris had been planning to team up with Chapman, but he wasn't feeling too well. So Paris got Seven to replace him.

You know, I wonder if Paris is trying to make amends with Seven, because rumor had it that he and the Doc had some kind of bet about Seven's dates, and when she found out about that, it really hurt her feelings.

She doesn't act like she has feelings to hurt... but I guess she does.

B'Elanna and Harry lost by one point, but they didn't seem to upset about it. Of course Harry is never a sore loser, so that wasn't too surprising, but B'Elanna is so competitive. I wasn't expecting her to take it that calmly. Especially losing to Seven! I thought for sure that she'd be furious that Paris had asked Seven to be his partner for the tournament.

But I guess that B'Elanna doesn't feel threatened by Seven in that respect. Interesting. Because a lot of women on board Voyager are jealous of Seven's beauty... and her assets. With good reason. Quite a few guys lust after her.

But not me. Personally, I think B'Elanna is far more beautiful than Seven is. Seven's too tall, her nose is too large, her face too angular, her eyes too sunken. I'm told she has lovely hair, but who can tell with it always pinned up like that? It's such a severe, unflattering hairstyle. Kind of reminds me of Captain Janeway's hairdo when I first met her.

Seven's certainly sexy, in a cool, unattainable, detached sort of way, but she's not beautiful. She's all ice, and it leaves me chilled. Everything about her is restrained.

It was good to talk to her in her territory, because it did help me understand her better... but I'm not really attracted to her.

Now B'Elanna... B'Elanna's both sexy and beautiful. She's petite but not diminutive. You can definitely feel her presence when she's in the room. Slender but strong, flawlessly proportioned. Wide, dark, expressive eyes... adorable little nose... high cheekbones, perfect heart-shaped face... and those soft ridges on her forehead.

Where Seven is ice, B'Elanna is all fire. She's so expressive. Passionate. Truly alive.

"Passionate" is not a word I'd ever use to describe Seven. She's so... Borg.

Nothing like B'Elanna.

B'Elanna's grace and beauty are matched only by her brilliant mind and tireless dedication...

Seven knows a lot, but most of it's from her time with the Borg Collective. Sure, we'd all be that seemingly brilliant if we had the knowledge of millions of assimilated individuals!

B'Elanna can hold her own, and it's all *her*. It's due to her hard work and effort... and her brilliant, inquisitive, creative mind.

Besides, no matter how much knowledge Seven has, it'll never make up for her lack of social skills. She's got a long way to go on that one.

B'Elanna may have a temper, but she knows how to get along with people most of the time. It's a big part of her job as chief engineer. And she's damn good at it. She has their respect, their loyalty.

Rick always speaks admiringly of her, as do all the other engineers. I'm friends with quite a few of them. Carey, Nicoletti, Chapman, Vorik, Robertson... they all think very highly of her.

She's incredible.

The world seems brighter, more vivid when she's around. She inspires me like no other.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Other than Tom Paris, I mean. Of course I'm sure he thinks that about her... but it seems like quite a few guys have been in love with B'Elanna at one time or another.

Like me.

Except that I haven't gotten over my love for her yet... and it's been four years. A very long four years.

Why do I keep trying? Why do I keep hoping? It's pretty hopeless, after all. It's like Rick says. There's no way in hell that B'Elanna would ever dump Paris for me.

And yet, I can't quite seem to give up that last little shred of irrational hope.

She lives next door to me, after all.

Is it so inconceivable that one day, some day, that just maybe she and Paris would have a fight, and she'd need someone close by to console her? Someone who cares about her, understands her, loves her... the way I do?

I know, I know. Not likely.

But it's still a possibility! It could happen. And as long as there's even the slightest, remotest chance, I'm going to keep right on hoping.

Rick and I finally talked and apologized to each other. Which is good. I hate fighting with my best friend, especially over stupid things.

Deep down, I know he's right. It's pretty hopeless.

Late last night, I couldn't sleep, so I went to the Mess Hall for a midnight snack. I ran into Liz Jenkins, who was on break from Bridge duty on the night shift. While we were talking, she mentioned the latest on Paris and B'Elanna, which she had heard from Harry Kim. I guess it makes him feel all important to be sitting in the big chair, even it's only the night shift.


Apparently it's the second anniversary of their first real date, and they're celebrating in style. Paris even brought her flowers. How romantic.

How predictable. Can't he think of something creative for a change? Especially for an occasion as special as a two-year anniversary.

Two years already. Has it really been that long?

And to think, I've been in love with her for even longer than that.

When I finally went back to my quarters, I didn't hear anything. They were being very quiet for a change.

Actually, they've been really good about that lately. Ever since Seven made her little announcement about how everyone on Deck Nine, Section 12 knew when they were having "intimate relations."

I was so worried about her...

She and Harry were held hostage in Sickbay by the smartbomb that took over the Doctor. I shudder to think what could have happened.

But she's all right.

I think they're in his quarters tonight. It's hard to tell because they've gotten a lot quieter.

But I still have insomnia.

I'm really confused. I don't know what to do. Part of me says that there's still hope, but the more sensible part says I should get over it and move on.

The longer they're together, the more likely it is that they'll stay together. And two years is a long time...

Two whole years. And years of friendship before that as foundation.

Maybe I'm only kidding myself, thinking otherwise.

I think too much.

Voyager encountered another Federation starship in the Delta Quadrant. The Equinox. A Nova class science vessel.

It's amazing that they've managed to survive this long. Especially considering that they've been under constant attack by hostile interdimensional aliens for the past few months.

There aren't too many crewmembers left. I met most of them when they came aboard Voyager.

Including their first officer, Commander Max Burke.

I can't believe that B'Elanna used to go out with him.

Yep. That's what I heard. They used to date when they were at the Academy together.

Paris looks rather uneasy by this turn of events. Good for him.

He gets this strange expression on his face every time anyone mentions Burke.

I know it all too well.


I'm starting to feel kind of sorry for him, strangely enough. But not for long. He doesn't need my sympathy, or anyone else's.

I see them in each other's arms.

B'Elanna looks a little upset. But he's holding her, murmuring in her ear.

She lifts her head to his, smiling a little, and they stare into each other's eyes, completely silent but understanding each other. They are stronger together...

She drops her head to his chest, snuggling against him. Letting him hold her. Letting him comfort her.

And it finally hits me. She's not going to dump Paris. Not for Burke, not for me, not for anybody. She loves him more than anything.

There's nothing I can do about it. I can only watch the two of them standing there together, looking like they belong together...

I suppose they do. As much as it hurts to admit it... they really do.

It's time for me to accept reality.

But it's not easy. B'Elanna's not an easy woman to get over.

I want to be her best friend, her confidante, her lover, her partner for life...

But I'm not.

To her, I'm just...

The guy next door.

~the end~

"The Invisible Man" - 98 Degrees

you can hardly wait to tell all your friends
how his kisses taste sweet like wine
and how he always makes your heart skip a beat
every time he walks by
and if you're feeling down
he'll pick you up
he'll hold you close when you're making love
he's everything you've been dreaming of

oh, baby
I wish you'd look at me that way
your beautiful eyes looking deep into mine
telling me more than any words could say
but you don't even know I'm alive
baby, to you, all I am is the invisible man
oh, you don't see me, baby

you probably spend hours on the phone
talking 'bout nothing at all (talking 'bout nothing at all)
it doesn't matter what the conversation
just as long as he calls
lost in a love so real and so sincere
and you wipe away all those tears
your face lights up whenever he appears

I wish you'd look at me that way (look at me that way)
your beautiful eyes looking deep into mine (deep into mine)
telling me more than any words could say
but you don't even know I'm alive (you don't know that I'm alive)
baby, to you, all I am is the invisible man

(I see you all the time
the way you look at him
I wish it was me, sweetheart
boy, I wish it was me
but I guess it'll never be)

I wish you'd look at me that way
your beautiful eyes looking deep into mine
telling me more than any words could say
but you don't even know I'm alive
baby, to you, all I am is the invisible man

I wish you'd look at me that way
your beautiful eyes looking deep into mine
telling me more than any words could say
but you don't even know I'm alive
baby, to you, all I am is the invisible man

the invisible man

you don't see me, girl
but I love you
yes, I love you

the invisible man

the invisible man

the invisible man

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