By Traci Benton

The doors to astrometrics slid open as Marissa Janeway walked in, head bowed, eyes dancing over a PADD. Her loose hair cascading around her slight shoulders, wisps surrounding her face which she pushed back behind her ears unconsciously. A slight frown curved her lips as she concentrated with the problem in hand.
Icheb, gazing at the readings before him, glanced over his shoulder, and on seeing Marissa entering; he quickly turned, straightened his jumper and corrected his posture.  Fixing a beam on his face he watched as she walked slowly over; she muttered slightly to herself, not acknowledging his presence.
"Can I help you?" Icheb asked enthusiastically. Several seconds passed before she looked up at him.
"No. I don't think so"
"Then…" he began, holding up a hand she silenced him and went back to her PADD.  Patiently he waited, gazing at her as she ran ideas and equations through her mind.  A few minutes passed this way, Marissa deep in thought while Icheb watched her a smile tugging at his lips as she sighed again and again as her idea's fell through.  Finally Icheb plucked up the courage to interrupt her thinking: "Maybe...maybe I can help."
She looked up mildly irritated by his presence, closing her eyes and momentarily trying to fight against the fatigue that filled her body.  Icheb's smile faded into a look of concerned, and he reached out and gently placed a hand on her shoulder.  Marissa's eyes snapped open and met with his.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly, his eyes searching hers, trying to witness her thoughts.  Marissa, feeling the comforting hand on her shoulder, closed her eyes again.  The last five days were beginning to get to her - she hadn't slept at all, she was constantly on the go - but at least everyone was too busy to be bothering with her physical and mental state, including the doctor, which was a relief.
She felt her mind wandering, memories surfaced, her childhood, and her mother, comforting her when she was upset or couldn't sleep, humming softly and looking over her lovingly, protecting her. Her strong daddy, his arms would wrap around her lifting her high above his head, poking her gently making her giggle, their bed time ritual - she would curl up on daddy's lap and he would read to her about dragons and fairies, a whole different world that would appear in his words. Christmas in the mess hall, friendly faces all around her smiling and laughing, her daddy lifting her up and spinning her round, her mother by her side when she was sick, comforting her, soothing her to sleep, stroking her face lightly, "Marissa? Marissa? Are you okay?" her mind drifted back to the present and her eyes fluttered open, Icheb held her in his arms gently stroking her face, calling her name, whispering to her, "Marissa? Please…" moaning she tried to stand up right but immediately collapsed back into Icheb's waiting arms, Marissa let the exhaustion role over her, resting her head against Icheb's shoulder she let her heavy eye lids drop once again.
Icheb held her, keeping her from falling to the floor, her steady breathing comforted him somehow, her free hair covering her face restricted his view of her, "Marissa?" he whispered into her ear, thoughts flew through his mind, wondering what to do, shaking her slightly he tried to bring her back to consciousness, "please wake up, please, Marissa?" She stirred in his arms, gripping his jumper slightly at the collar, "You have to wake up" he said into her ear, on hearing him her eyes drifted open,
"Billy?" she murmured, she lifted her eyes to see Icheb looking intently at her, confusion and concern showing in his eyes, Marissa looked around at her surroundings, "w-what? Icheb?" on realising the situation she was in she leaped up, immediately regretting it as she collapsed back into Icheb's arms, her body not responding to her commands, her head began to swim and she felt her eye lids begin to droop, Icheb realised this and touched her cheek lightly with the back of his hand, "lets get you to sickbay", Marissa forced her eyes to focus and she tried to push herself away from Icheb, "I'm fine, I'll be fine…just, why did I come here?" she asked looking around astrometrics a look of puzzlement on her face,
"Okay, come on, lets take a trip to sickbay" said Icheb taking hold of Marissa around her waist, preventing her from collapsing again,
"What? Why are we going to sickbay?" she asked removing his hand from her "I'm not going to sickbay" said Marissa adamantly "I'm not sick"
"Oh I think you are" smiled Icheb taking her arm, guiding her to the door, Marissa allowed herself to be pulled outside of astrometrics, suddenly realising where she was being directed she stopped in her tracks, "I am not going to sickbay!" With this she turned around intent on returning to astrometrics. She walked briskly forward her head swimming, squinting against the lights that pierced her eyes, painfully drilling into her head causing an overwhelming pain throbbing in her temples, trying to ignore the intense nausea she concentrated on her task, getting home, to
her home, her timeline, back to her crew.
Feeling Icheb's presence behind her she quickened her pace, Icheb leaped in front of her, blocking her path, she tried to step around him but was stopped by an outstretched hand either way she tried, giving up she stood to face him, trying to look authoritative but found that to be proving difficult with her eyes shutting uncontrollably, "What are you doing Icheb? Please move…I haven't got time for this"
"You need to go to…" his voice trailed off as he looked into her eyes, a mixture of determination, anger, irritation and pain lay there, he took her by the shoulders looking at her anxiously, sighing Marissa looked down at the floor  "You need to get some sleep Marissa" she looked up quickly realising that he was being so informal, calling her by her first name, he didn't seem to notice and she brushed it off, "I will, I just need…" she thought for a second, "I left the report in astrometrics" she said trying to free herself from Icheb's grasp,
"Please go to sickbay…" realising this wasn't going to happen he tried a different suggestion, "well then go to your quarters and get some sleep, please, Marissa I'm worried about you", She looked into his eyes her irritation immediately dissolving into guilt, he was worried sick about her, "I cant sleep" she said meekly,
"You cant or you wont?" he returned, sighing she removed his hands from her shoulders,
"I cant, I have to work, things to do" with this she stepped around him and walked back into astrometrics, Icheb closely on her heel.
Using a consol for support she looked around for the PADD, finding it she picked it up and glanced at it, her eyes beginning to slide closed again, Icheb closed in on her and pulled the PADD from her fingers, Marissa looked at him, her fiery hazel eyes stabbing into his, he momentarily shrunk back from her angry stare, "give it back" hissed Marissa, placing her hands on her hips, and a furious look on her face, Icheb complied gulping slightly, she turned away from him, remembering what she had come to astrometrics for she tapped on the consoles bringing different screens up "you have to sleep, you're making yourself ill" said Icheb refusing to give up, swiftly she turned on him, shouting-
"You are starting to annoy me Icheb, if I don't have time to sleep then I don't sleep, that's the way it works, now I am extremely busy and I would appreciate it if you would get off my back! I have enough people 'worried about my sleeping habits' and I certainly don't need another one". She held his gaze, lips pulled into a tight line, her breathing unsteady, body shaking uncontrollably, Icheb kept her stare with one of sympathy, she broke the gaze, closing her eyes, trying to control her breathing, thinking she would collapse again Icheb reached out and placed a hand on her arm, Marissa let her body slump, giving over to the exhaustion that filled her body, Icheb pulled her into his arms, Marissa feeling warm and sheltered let her mind drift in the direction of sleep, "come on" whispered Icheb taking the PADD from her hand and putting another hand around her waist supporting her limp body, she allowed herself to be helped and Icheb lead her out of astrometrics and to her temporary quarters.
Opening the doors he steered her to the bed, Icheb helped her in and she immediately fell asleep, smiling at her sleeping form he removed her shoes and lifted the blanket over her, placing the PADD on the bedside table he took one last look at her and walked to the door ordering the lights out.

The mess hall doors slid open and William Paris walked in, looking around he saw Marissa sitting with Icheb at the other end of room and bounded over grinning, "captain, Icheb" he greeted nodding at them both, Marissa looked up a broad grin crossing her face, "good morning commander" she replied joyfully, Icheb smiled and nodded his head slightly at Billy. "You seem exited about something," said Marissa pulling at his sleeve slightly encouraging him to sit down next to her, he did so grinning at her, "well?" asked Marissa curiously, "what is it that's made your morning so pleasant?" Billy laughed gently
"I haven't seen you all morning, and I didn't see you much at all yesterday, and now I've found you so I'm happy" Marissa's smile widened, "Coffee?" she asked getting up, Billy nodded,
"That would be nice, thanks" Marissa turned to Icheb, "would you like anything?"
"No thank you" he replied politely, she nodded and walked over to the replicator leaving Icheb and Billy talking about Voyager's long range sensors.
Marissa gave the command and two coffee's materialised in before her, she rubbed her eyes trying to keep them in focus, she hadn't slept much at all last night, she managed to get just under two hours before memories, scientific data and theories crowded her head once again.
Faces from her childhood were bringing back streams of memories, good and bad, the holidays, her first flight in a shuttle, creating stories with Billy and turning them into holodeck programs with Lieutenant Tom Paris' guidance, her mother and father, the memorial services, watching as one by one Voyager's population depleted, all the adults she loved, admired and respected leaving her, but she never cried, she still had Billy, they fed off of each others strengths, supporting each other through everything, Billy crowded her thoughts.
His sandy brown hair, which never stayed tidy for more then a minute, his friendly lopsided grin, his sparkling crystal blue eyes where light seemed to gather, his ability to make even the most dire situation just that bit more bearable, however bad she was feeling inside he could always make her feel better with the right touch, embrace and words, when she was with his her troubles seemed distant and unimportant.
Memories of their childhood together floated to the surface, they would do everything together, however small, walking to school together even though Billy had to make a major detour to meet her at her quarters, they were partners in everything, refusing to work with anyone else in the class. The practical jokes they would devise and carry out and get in trouble together for, they would talk together for hours about the places they wanted to go together when they were grown up, idea's, thoughts, they told each other everything, she would fall asleep in his arms while working late, completely comfortable with each others company and touch, he always had the right word to say, the right joke or sarcastic remark to make her laugh. They had the same tastes in everything, music, and hobbies - even coffee.
A memory from her last birthday entered her thoughts; it had been perfect, just them for an hour, a perfect hour alone in the holodeck walking through meadows and trees, the gift he gave her, a small gold ring with an oval of glass attached, whirls of coloured light swam around in it, all colours imaginable, it was striking, beautiful, he had acquired it several months before on a planet In the
Cramsie system, she wore it at all times on her left index finger, a friendship band. He had taken her hand and guided her through a small wood-the smell of freshly cut grass in the air, birds singing in the tree's, small earth animals in the surrounding greenery- to a small brook, a giant willow tree overlooking the bubbling water, beams of sunlight penetrated through its mass of drooping branched down onto the ground below where the light danced when the gentle breeze caught the leaves of the tree.
Here they both sat, resting her head on Billy's shoulder while he stroked her hair softly, from beside him he picked a small white flower, turning to her he put it behind her ear and kissed her gently on the forehead.
Marissa touched the small ring on her finger, feeling the cool smooth glass under her fingertips, closing her eyes she relived the memories again in her mind.
Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder, startled she spun round to see Billy gazing down at her, "I was getting thirsty" he said his eyes smiling, Marissa sighed slightly,
"I was just thinking" Billy looked down into her eyes smiling, an amused look on his face
"So am I going to get that coffee anytime soon?" he joked, Marissa laughed and removed the drinks from the replicator handing one to Billy, they walked over to their table, sitting down Marissa suddenly realised Icheb was no longer there, "Where's Icheb?" she asked confused, Billy sipped his coffee and grinned at her, "He left, Seven of Nine needed him, he did say 'goodbye' but you were in a different quadrant by the looks of it" Marissa felt a pang of guilt which Billy immediately picked up, "He was in a hurry, I don't think he even noticed anyway" he laughed, eyes sparkling.
Neelix shuffled over, standing opposite them "Can I get you two anything?" he asked eagerly, they both looked up at him and smiled just as Tom Paris sat himself down at the table, "Morning all" he said cheerily, Marissa and Billy nodded their greetings.
"What's on the menu?" asked Billy, Neelix thought for a second
"Now lets see we have
fidarian fried eggs…"
"That sounds alright" Tom Butted in "I'll have some of that thanks Neelix", Neelix nodded and looked at the two younger people at the table "anything for you two?"
"Yes please, it'll make a change to have non-replicated food" answered Billy, at this remark Tom sniggered "yeah it'll make a nice change…give me replicated food any day, less chance of being poisoned" he added quietly.
"Actually I think I'll pass thank you Neelix" Billy said innocently,
"Me too" added Marissa smiling, at their sudden change of mind Tom chuckled lightly, Neelix shrugged and smiled "I'll be right back with your eggs Lieutenant" he said before walking back to the kitchen, Marissa stood up "Well I had better get down to engineering" she gulped down the last of her coffee, "I'll see you later commander, lieutenant" Billy smiled and nodded
"Going so soon?" asked Tom, Marissa nodded, "I have work to do", with this she left the mess hall heading for engineering.
In cargo bay 2 Seven of Nine and Icheb were preparing to start their regeneration cycles, Seven reading a PADD, Icheb leaning against a consol deep in thought, looking up at Seven he opened his mouth to speak but not finding the words closing it again, after repeating this several times Seven still looking down at her PADD said "Icheb? What is wrong?"
"What do you mean?" he asked
"You have been trying to tell me something since you entered the cargo bay" putting the PADD down she walked over to him "can I be of assistance? Do you need to…talk?" she added trying to be compassionate
"Seven, have you ever been in…love?" At this, Seven looked genuinely surprised "I do not believe so, why? Are
you in love Icheb?" Icheb searched her eyes not knowing how to answer her direct question, "I…No…I'm not sure"
"Captain Marissa Janeway?" asked Seven bluntly,
"What? No!" Icheb stated quickly
"Then I am wrong?" she asked sceptically, Icheb sighed and looked away from Seven's piercing eyes, "No you're right, is it that obvious?"
"Ever since she has been on board you have been distant, uncooperative, frequently late, careless…"
"And that means I am in Love?" Icheb interrupted
"I do not know" replied Seven unhelpfully "We must regenerate", Icheb frowned and nodded stepping into his alcove, Seven doing the same, and they closed their eyes and started the regeneration cycle 
      Marissa paced her quarters occasionally stopping at her computer terminal, looking at the streams of data flicking across the screen, leaning against the desk and closing her eyes she massaged her temples slightly, she winced as the door chimed causing her ears to ring painfully, sighing and straightening her uniform she called "come in" to the unseen visitor and looked back down at screen.
The doors slid open and Icheb strolled in, Marissa looked up and smiled slightly, "what can I do for you Icheb?" he walked over to the desk, standing next to Marissa he glanced at the computer screen, "actually I was wondering if there was anything I could do for you", staring at the screen Marissa mumbled something and then turned to Icheb, "you don't happen to have seen commander Paris have you?"
"No I haven't" Icheb answered disappointedly, "but I could find him for you" he added excitedly, Marissa put a hand on his arm, Icheb smiled savouring the touch, he would do anything for her right now, "no that wont be necessary thank you-I was just wondering", to Icheb's disappointment she disconnected the touch and turned back to tap on the screen. Several minutes past in silence, Icheb's eyes fixed on her slender hands moving across the terminal, Icheb's heart quickened as she moved slightly brushing her hand against his, her arm pressed slightly against his, he dared not move so as not to break the contact between them.
Giving the screen one last irritated jab Marissa returned it to a black screen, folding her arms she stared at the screen exasperated, "I have been working on that for 3 hours straight and I am no closer to finding a solution, I cant even see the problem. Well I think it is time for a break", Icheb nodded his agreement enthusiastically, "would you like something to eat or drink?" she asked Icheb turning to the replicator, hearing no answer she turned a questioning glance directed at Icheb, "well?" she asked pushing her straight brown hair behind her shoulders, Icheb swallowed and licked his dry lips, "Um-please-yes", Marissa grinned and rounded back to the replicator, "what'll it be?" she enquired.
Feeling a warm presence behind her she twisted back round to see Icheb gazing down at her, "Icheb?" she questioned.
Suddenly Icheb pressed his lips to hers passionately. On trying to pull away Icheb pushed her gently against the wall, placing his hands on her shoulders preventing her from moving to either side. Fumbling with her hands and trying to pull away from his now crushing lips she tried to pull her head to one side but Icheb placed a hand on her face, again preventing her from pulling away. Bringing up a hand to his chest she pushed him from her, "what the hell do you think you are doing?" screamed Marissa furiously, her breath coming in deep gulps. Icheb looked at her confusion in his eyes "what do you mean?"
Marissa stepped towards him, her face flushed, eyes wild and intimidating "You-" Icheb stepped forward putting one arm around her firmly he quickly resumed where he had left off.
Billy flashed through her mind, her first officer and best friend, his face flashed through her mind; the perfect moments they had together, and the late nights spent together, his soothing words, gentle touch and warm embrace.
Marissa snaked her hand around Icheb's neck, pulling him closer to her, "Billy" she murmured slightly against Icheb's lips. Suddenly regaining control Marissa snapped her eyes open and ripped herself from Icheb's powerful grip stumbling back against the wall. "I love you Marissa," stated Icheb affectionately not noticing the look of utter confusion and rage on her face. Marissa inhaled sharply, "what?" she asked, this not being the response he had wanted, Icheb repeated himself closing in on her again, "I love you Marissa", reaching out he brushed her face lightly, "why are you shaking?" he asked concerned,
"Get out" Marissa whispered close to tears, Icheb lowered his face intent on kissing her again, quickly Marissa pushed him away from her forcefully, "I said get out!" she yelled her face filled with fury. Icheb stared at her confused and hurt, "Marissa…" he started quietly, Marissa fought to regain control of her emotions, fighting back the tears which threatened to fall, "Icheb-just…leave now". He gulped and nodded slightly, finding his own eyes moist he backed off and departed quickly.
On Icheb's exit Marissa closed her eyes and let herself slide down the wall, placing her arms around her knees and resting her head back against the wall, she sighed and took deep breaths, mentally getting her emotions back under their usual tight control.
Thinking over what had happened she groaned and whispered to herself "well I could have handled that better". After several minutes hunched against the wall Marissa pushed herself up and slid down onto the couch, the outburst of emotions and the lack of sleep finally proving too much she laid down bringing her knees up against her chest into a foetal position, she let the fatigue overwhelm her and instantly fell asleep.   
Billy pressed the consol outside Marissa's quarters, waiting several seconds with no answer he called through the door "Marissa?" still no answer he pushed the consol again and the doors slipped open, walking in he saw Marissa curled up on the couch, her hair a tangled mess around her face, one arm hanging over the side. He stood for a moment smiling at the familiar scene before him, the only difference being she had no PADD resting in her hand. Walking over to the couch he perched on the side brushing his fingertips against her face, flicking the hair from her eyes, she stirred slightly opening her eyes she saw Billy smiling down at her, "catching up on some sleep?" he whispered stroking her face gently, she smiled back up at him and sat up, her body screaming in protest she winced slightly. Dragging her hands over her face she tried to force the weariness from her mind. "What time is it?" she asked "twenty three hundred hours" he replied pulling her into his arms, resting his chin against her head he inhaled the sweet smell of her hair and wrapped his arms around her waist. "I came to see how you were doing" Marissa closed her eyes and mumbled slightly, another perfect moment with Billy to add to her good memories, "Did you see Icheb today?" asked Billy "He was looking for you". Marissa's eyes snapped opened and she tensed up as the memories of the last few hours jumped into her mind. Billy turned her head towards him with a soft hand; looking into her eyes he watched the emotions playing through her mind, "what's wrong?" he asked quietly, Marissa pulled herself from Billy's warm embrace and drew her knees up to her chest, Billy touched her face lightly "tell me" whispered Billy looking into her eyes, concern etched on his face. Marissa smiled weakly and found herself beginning to tell her best friend all that had happened. He patiently listened, his face not revealing his thoughts, nodding when necessary he gazed into her eyes, which couldn't keep his. When she finally finished she inhaled deeply and closed her eyes again pushing back tears, Billy reached out and touched her face reassuringly. At his touch the emotions overwhelmed her and the tears escaped their confinement rolling silently down her cheeks, Billy pulled her into his arms, her head buried in his chest he stroked her hair, holding her shaking body close to his, she clung to him like a lifeline, gripping his uniform tightly, her body wracked with sobs which has built up over the years but has always been forced down until now. 
Billy couldn't remember the last time Marissa had cried. She always came across as strong and unbreakable, to the rest of the crew anyway. They all had to be resilient and detached, but the captain felt as though she had to hide the real her from the crew, and maybe she was right, Marissa was an influence on them all, when the captain was happy the crew were happy. She made them feel safe and secure. The only person who knew the real Marissa was Billy. He was the one she would turn to, he was the one she would tell her deepest most thoughts. Billy felt his eyes sting as her shaking hands clung to him "I'm here" he whispered, "I'm here"     
    Billy cradled her in his arms, cooing softly in her ear. He kissed her hair, Marissa shivered and looked up into his glistening eyes, and smiling warmly he cupped his hand around her cheek, wiping away the tears. Marissa forced a smile, looking down at the ring she turned slowly on her finger "I'm sorry" she whispered, slightly embarrassed at her uncontrolled outburst of emotions, "Hey-No don't be sorry" he said lifting her chin, her eyes again meeting with his "I feel…", tears started to form and her voice deserted her. "Its okay" whispered Billy touching her lips gently with his fingertips, at his touch Marissa closed her eyes and smiled. Billy leaned forward hesitantly; lowering his hand he gingerly kissed her before quickly pulling away. He searched her now open eyes franticly, desperate for a response but afraid of it at the same time. After what felt an eternity with no response he inhaled sharply, regretting his actions he was about to pull away, make his apologies and leave, but Marissa didn't weaken her grip on him, a smile tugged at her lips "what was that for?" she asked quietly, reaching out she ran her fingers carefully through his straggly hair, Billy grinned with relief, taking her hand in his he kissed her fingers. "I love you Marissa," he whispered adoringly. Marissa fumbled for words "you-you do?" she asked unnecessarily. Billy nodded gently and positioned his lips on hers lovingly, Marissa placed a her hand around him caressing his neck tenderly, finally pulling away she blinked back fresh tears "I love you too" she smiled  "but I think we should keep this from the crew" Billy nodded pulling her back into his arms affectionately
"It'll be our secret…for now"