DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2023 by Djinn. This story is Rated R.

Sixteen Steps

by Djinn



It's only sixteen steps from your door to your bed

I should know better with your body next to mine

Can't help myself, help myself (only sixteen steps)


         - "16 Steps" Martin Jensen, Olivia Holt, Ali Tamposi and Liza Owen





The ship is quiet, blessedly quiet for those still aboard. Some plan and plot in the ready room but they also stop for moments of random nostalgia, laughing as they realize what they're doing before getting back to planning. What's left of the actual crew are at station, making sure everything functions as intended, calling for help from a skeleton crew of engineers if they don't.


The captain and his first officer have not spoken since Seven said "Fire," and he told her she had the conn while he went to get his injuries patched up.


That is not precisely true. They have spoken to others, they have just not spoken to each other.


That fight—so stupid to have that fight when they did, in front of a crew who were looking for strength and unity from them, and they know their mistake. The fight still pulses between them, but they do not want to give it more oxygen by talking about it again.


It's done. Everything he's said to her. Everything she did or did not do for Picard—and for him. Saving his life.


Was he really ready to die?


She asks herself the same thing. And the thing is she knows he's right. A Borg would not have hesitated. The loss of one drone is acceptable if it takes out enemies and protects a vital location. Even once she was no longer Borg, Tuvok rubbed off on her, his calm, his way of speaking—and his dictum: The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.


She should have let him die.





She is the first to break the silence, standing and saying, "I am taking a break." His muttered 'Fine" barely registers.


The bridge crew strain to hear their words. They cannot read the dynamic any longer between their captain and their first officer. They used to know it: unrelenting hostility tempered by grudging respect for the other's capabilities. But now, something is different and they are not sure why.


T'Veen would have filled them in on anything important she was able to hear that they could not. She did not consider it gossip if it helped the crew anticipate how their animosity would affect order and performance on the part of the bridge crew.


But T'Veen is not here.


They think both their captain and their first officer blame themselves.


They don't understand this.


They blame the changeling that pulled the trigger.





Seven finds Raffi in the gym, training with weapons in a way that looks natural. Raffi is imagining Worf, his words, his strength—his disapproval when she doesn't do things the way he told her. It is jarring when she hears a cough and it is not him.


"I do not understand why you and Worf used bladed weapons to fight non-solid beings."


There is Seven's disdain, the thing Raffi came to hate most at the end, the emotion wrapped around the words. Raffi doesn't understand why Seven's doing it now, but she accepts it rather than giving in to old feelings. "It worked. We have disrupters to back them up. Why question our methods?"


"Our." Seven feels a surge of jealousy, but not that her ex might have found a romantic replacement for her. Rather that her ex has a partner, someone she can count on. A friend, even. She and Worf are undeniably a team, a collective of two, and Seven wanted that—expected to have that—when Shaw picked her as his first officer.


Or did he not pick her? Was she forced down his throat by Picard or Janeway or some other high-ranking officer.


Does he hate her for more than just having been Borg? Did he never want her here at all?


She could ask him. But she does not want to hear the answer.


"I'm a little busy, so unless you need something?" Raffi says, even though it is not what she wants to say. She would like nothing more than to push Seven down to the mat and kiss her until she lets her back in.


But she is done doing that. She's learned she can make Seven want her, but she can't make Seven want her for long.


"I need nothing from you." So much harshness from Seven—but Raffi hears something else in her voice. Loneliness. Isolation.


And though she fails to identify it, there is awkwardness. Seven knows she needs to talk. She would use Raffi for that purpose if she only got a smile. But Raffi is done being her sounding board if nothing else is included. Seven has been a poor partner, and now she is a horrible ex. They could be friends, if she would only bend.


But bending has never been her strong suit.





On the bridge, Shaw paces, occasionally throwing glances at the closed door of his—his—ready room. He wants to go in there and hide out and think—or maybe be included in whatever the next step of this shitshow is.


But no. He's not welcome.


The only thing that makes that bearable is that his first officer isn't in there either.


"Mura, you have the conn."


"Aye, sir." Mura stays at his post. He knows there is no need to take the conn—the big chair—when everyone is busy at their stations. When they are all routing repair comms, trying to triage without their captain, who is an engineer, or their science officer weighing in.


Shaw has seen the requests go by in his queue and knows he could step in, but his crew are doing what they always do. Excelling.


Even if he didn't. Even if his first officer didn't.


He stalks to the lift before the space becomes claustrophobic with things said and unsaid.





He and Seven meet on the senior officers deck. By accident—or maybe by fate. They stop and stare and even though both want to break the look, they can't.


"Why couldn't you let me die?" he whispers.


"You know why." She takes a step closer, even though he has never indicated he wanted that from her. Not in words anyway. But there are other signs. Signs she learned to look for as warnings that someone was about to draw on her. Dilation of the pupils, a tightening of the mouth, and increased respiration. Arousal, only not of the sexual kind back then. But what she frequently sees from Shaw—underneath the contempt and dislike—is very much sexual.


"You love me?" he asks, even though he knows the answer. But he doesn't want them going into this with false expectations.


"I hate you."


"Yeah, same."


"Wanting is not the same as loving. Is not the same as mutual respect. As tenderness or knowing your partner has your back." She takes another step toward him. "Wanting is nothing more than a distraction."




"And I desperately need one."


"Me too."


Their quarters are across from each other. Both of them look from door to door. Her lips part, she is breathing faster than normal. He can feel his palms sweating but other parts rise to the challenge.


"My bed's bigger," he murmurs, low enough that she can ignore it—and not lodge a harassment complaint.


Then again, there may be no one solid left at Starfleet to lodge one with.


"Your bed, then." She grabs his hand, draws him to the door of his quarters, slaps his palm over the access panel, and then yanks him inside.


He can't deny it. He likes her this way. He likes that she's the one doing the work.


Not just because he figures she won't lodge a complaint if she was the one dragging him into his quarters.


But also because it's fucking hot.





They don't kiss. Neither of them want to give that much to the other. They instead go to work in some kind of impromptu race to see who can get the other's clothes off fastest.


"We don't have much time," he says.


"And you've just wasted some of it stating the obvious."


"Fuck you," he says as he gets the last of her clothing off and pushes her against the wall. Pushes her harder than he would normally do, but she only smiles.


"Yes, fuck me." She likes this version of him. She wants this version of him. The man who was so cold to her now scalding harsh with his helpless wanting. Of her.


He lifts her, she wraps her arms and legs around him, and before he lets go, he asks softly, "You didn't go to sickbay. Are you sure you're not injured?"


"I am fine." And she squeezes him as hard as she can with internal muscles that got little use as a Borg.


He has to thrust, not gently and not slowly and she bites his shoulder as her breathing increases. She wants to rake his back but only does it with her right hand, with nails too short to do much damage.


It feels unbelievably good to be inside her and he has to shut his eyes and bury his face in her hair. She comes before he does, which is fucking amazing in his book because he cannot sustain this and wants to give her pleasure before taking his own.


He has wanted her for so long. Animosity never got in the way of lust.


Or of who he thinks of when he jacks off.


They are both breathing hard, neither looking at the other, but she doesn't ease the grip of her legs so he carries her to his bed. She crawls off him and he doesn't take his eyes off her now, not when he's seeing her, all of her.


She turns, notices how intensely he is studying her and suddenly feels uncomfortable. "I'm sure you'd rather I didn't have this hardware." She waves her hand at him.


"Shut up. You're fucking gorgeous." And he joins her on the bed and gets to know her body with his lips and his tongue and judicious use of his teeth.


By the time he's reached the core of her, he's ready for her again. "You want to come this way? Or do you want to ride me."


She has to think about it. And she realizes she does want to ride him but perhaps later. "This way. Finish me."


She says it as an order. Nothing subordinate about her in bed. And he complies because he loves doing this, he loves giving as much as taking.


She is not quiet as she comes.


He fucking loves that too.





She lies, coming down, watching him as he runs his hands over her brow, feeling the implant over her eye, the one near her ear. Then he lifts her hand and examines it the way the Doctor would have. Clinically.


"You had more than this, right?"


She nods. "They wanted to take them all off. They could not. Not and sustain my life—or so they said." She has wondered why Picard shed his Borg scales but she was not able to.


He runs his finger down the tendons of the exoskeleton on her hand as he lets her come down from the high he sent her to. The engineer in him has wanted to do this since he first saw her—to figure out what it is, how it feels, why she has it. He also knows the more he touches them, the less self-conscious she will be about them. Once she is ready again, he intends to pull her on top of him. "Can you feel it when I do this?" He strokes so softly it's barely a whisper of a touch.


She nods, confused. He hates Borg yet he appears fascinated by this.


And gentle. Not condemning. Just curious.


An engineer at his core.


"Do they repel you?" she asks.


"Not anymore." He is not smiling, so she thinks that isn't a joke.


He lets go of her, eases his fingers against her, into her, rubbing gently, making sure she's ready but not too sensitive to enjoy it. "Get on top of me."


"Is that an order, sir?" She smiles, then realizes it is a happier smile than perhaps is wise. This is what it is. She must not make it more.


"Damn well right it is."


She crawls into position, lowering herself onto him, and they both gasp.


"Go slow," he says, articulating what they both want.


She would not have said it though. He is braver than she is—or perhaps he has to be the one to say it. He's been so curt with her, their interactions fast and not satisfying.


But this...?


She goes slowly. And they look at each other this time. Eyes held fast, like they are linked.


"Slower," he murmurs with a smile that is full of...what? She doesn't want to assume it's tenderness. That would be madness.


This is just fucking, right?


He reaches up and runs his fingers over her lips. They are as soft as he always thought they would be. He imagines how they would look if he kissed her. Red. Puffy.


He does not want this to end. "Slower, Seven," he says, allowing her to be who she really is. Annika Hansen died when she was assimilated.


She stops moving. He has finally called her by her true name.


"Not that slow." He laughs, and his grin is childlike but also not. They are fucking and this is fun.


She laughs and starts moving again. "Sorry."


"It happens."


He gives himself over to her, to the way she feels as she moves with him inside her, and he thrusts up when he can no longer take it, losing himself, taking the long slide down and as he hits the bottom, he hears her coming too.





They lie in bed. Both on their side, facing each other. They are not talking. They are just...looking. Learning. Perhaps memorizing in case this never happens again because one or both them has died.


Then he leans in, wanting more than just fucking. "Is it okay to..." he asks, his lips nearly on hers.


She nods quickly, pulling him to her, and they kiss gently, soft, tentative touches at first.


"I've thought about this," he says, wanting to give her something more lasting than an orgasm. "I've wanted you for so long."


She pulls back and lets her finger slide over his lips, then around his face, his cheekbones, so high, like hers. His forehead, the lines he's earned over time. He is smiling so she goes back to his lips, outlining them with her fingers, then her tongue.


He moans and pulls her closer, and their kisses are no longer gentle. They are verging on frantic, and he pushes her to her back and crawls on top of her, bringing her hands up to play with him, to get him ready again, then he goes back to kissing her, her lips, her cheek, her forehead, the implants.


He expected them to be cold but they are warm, like her.





She remembers doing this with Chakotay, helping him come back for more, but that was playful, with someone who had been a friend. This is something more and less. A forgiveness for past slights, but also a connection she didn't expect.


But one that might be temporary.


If one or both of them die.


"You're losing focus," he says, stopping the way he's been thrusting into her hands, helping her help him come back to life.


She feels overwhelmed, by what he's doing to her, by how right they feel together, by how uncertain their future. "I don't want to die. I don't want you to die. Even if this never happened again for us. I would still not want you to die."


"I don't want you to die either." Not now. Not when he's found someone who doesn't look away. Who stares at him with lust and confusion even after she's been kissing him so tenderly.


And he doesn't want to just fuck her anymore. He wants to make love to her. He has no idea if she wants that—he's so unclear on what is going on with her and Raffi—but he doesn't care if this is all they have. He still wants her in the world. He'll watch her and remember this, remember when they connected.


When everything changed for them.





There is an ease that comes when two people let down their personal shields and grant access to each other. Neither of them are good at that, even if they have had lovers who they cared for.


Even if they've had lovers as damaged as they are.


She finishes making him ready and he slides into her, sighing as he goes, pulling her legs up around him, easing her hair back as he moves as slowly as he made her go.


She is not sure she can take this. The way he is watching her, his soft touches on her face, the rhythmic in and out as he watches her accept him, all of him.


She feels as if she was made for him.


He reaches between them, playing and she closes her eyes, her breathing speeding up. He wants to feel her come while he's inside her. Wants to watch her lose control.


She can feel the ride beginning, up and up and up and...there. Sliding and calling out and being held in place by him as she feels like she's breaking apart.


This time he doesn't wait for her to come down. He moves, as fiercely as their first time, plunging, calling her name and she reaches for him, pulling him to her so they are kissing again. She wants him to cry out in her mouth. She wants him helpless to control this anymore.


And he does, his movement changes, and he is moaning into her mouth, held to her by a grip made relentless by her need for both him and this closeness. She wants to be with him in every way possible.


"Fuuuuuuck," he finally says when she lets him go. "Holy fuck."


He collapses on top of her, telling her things, about how he used to watch her, how he wished he could be nice to her, how he would try but his old fear would come back. She takes it in like it is all the sustenance she will ever need. She holds him inside her with her legs as she runs her hands down his back while he tells her everything she's wanted to hear.


"I saved you," she says when he stops talking. "And I would save you again. Every time."





He wants her to take him into her mouth, for her to suck and touch and see if there might still be life there, but he doesn't want to ask for it. So he takes himself in his hand and begins the stroke that always work.


She watches him, then pushes his hand away, sensing he wants more from her than just to watch. "Let me."


He moans as her tongue circles, coaxing, teasing. Bringing things back to life because he's thought of her doing this so damned often. "If you don't want me coming in your m—"


She doesn't stop what she's doing, just manages to get out a stern "Shhhh" as she works.


"Okay, then," he says, giving himself over to her completely and she can tell he has done that.


She laughs softly as she discovers what he likes, what doesn't work as well. He reaches down to stroke her hair and she loves that he is doing that. Lovingly, not holding her down.


Chakotay loved this. At the end sometimes it was easier to do this than to have to look into his eyes and see the disappointment she knew he'd been seeing reflected in hers. But with Shaw, she feels like this is more intimate than the sex had been. Because he didn't ask—she'd just known what he wanted.


As if they are joined. A collective of two.


"Last chance if you don't want to." He laughs when she slaps him, not hard enough to hurt, just, he thinks, to keep him in line. He lets go, stops trying to be polite, and just rides the amusement-park level thrill she's taking him on.


As soon as she's done, he pulls her up, kisses her, wanting to taste himself on her. "That was so good." He frowns. "Are you going to ever call me by my name."


"I didn't know if I should." She hates how tentative she sounds.


He hates how unsure she sounds too. So he pushes her to her back, puts his hands on both sides of her face, and says, "Say it. Liiiiii-am. Liam." He is laughing. He has never laughed with her before this mess of a mission.


He loves laughing with her.





They lie together, both knowing they have to get back up to the bridge. Neither wanting to.


"We need to shower, Liam." She hates that she is being the voice of practicality but thinks he doesn't want to be. That he doesn't want her to think he's through with her.


She loves that idea. She knows she's not through with him.


"Yeah we do." He eases away from her. "I want to do this again. I mean for the record, so you know, so there's no question. I want more. So...you have to survive. Okay?"


She nods. "You too. Me too. Again. And again. And again." Her smile is so delightful. Innocent and knowing, the woman taken by the Borg, the woman rescued, never the same.


His, he wants to think. His and not Raffi's. But he's not sure that ultimately she'll choose him.


Even if right now this all either of them want or need.





The shower should not take as long as it is taking them. Fortunately, the captain of the ship has unlimited water rations. They can kiss under the stream as long as they want.


They do not make love again. There is no time and if they do, they might not ever leave.


As he dries his hair, she pulls him to her, and says, "I need to get a fresh uniform in my quarters. And since you only have one dryer..."


"I'll requisition another if you want." Too bold, he suddenly worries.


But her smile is a delighted one, not concerned that he is moving too fast. "And what will be your reason for needing two when the quartermaster asks?"


"I'm the fucking captain. If I want two dryers, I can have them." He pulls her to him and kisses her for a long time, the air from the dryer blowing on both of them. He has no idea what it's doing to his hair.


It can't be good because she laughs as she pulls away. "Wet it and start over. Please."


He glances in the mirror. Yeah, he looks like a goof. "So you're saying this isn't a huge turn on?"


"Sadly, it actually is." She rests her hand on his cheek. "If I don't go, I will never go."


She does not expect him to say, "Never sounds pretty damn good to me."


It sounds good to her too.





They stop at the mess on their way back up to the bridge, get a huge platter of energy-rich food for the bridge crew. And a large carafe of coffee with lots of sugar and milk on the side.


They are being even more formal with each other than they were before they had sex. Overcompensating, although neither of them realizes that yet. They stand much closer than they used to, though. And smiles break through, lovely, radiant smiles. Surprised ones, too. Until they realize they're grinning like fools and go back to trying to be grim.


If there were anyone else in the mess, they'd see nothing but a stream of mixed messages.


"Do you really not like Picard's wine?" She has wanted to ask him this since he insulted the admiral. "Or were you just being a dick?"


"Can't it be both?" In the past, he'd have said that with an edge to his voice, but he's trying really hard not to laugh, not to stare too intently into her eyes, not to stand—shit they're standing so damn close. "It's dry. Too dry for my tastes because it edges on bitter. Do you like it?"


"No, but he's so proud of it." And she has a huge soft spot for Picard. Not just the shared Borg history but something more universal—while she had a mother figure in the queen, she never had a father.


"And you're loyal." He stops what he's doing and stares helplessly. "I do value that. No matter what I said before. And it's not your fault. The consequences. We both had a hand in some of this."


"Well, ultimately it's Picard's fault. Although this would have come to us eventually. Would you prefer that? To have been taken with no say in the matter?"


"We barely have a say in it now." But he knows what she means. "No, no I wouldn't. And I like this, what just happened. What maybe will happen again. For us."


"I do as well."


Is there anything more to say?





The ready room door is still closed when they get back to the bridge. It pisses both of them off, on their own behalf but also for how disrespectful it is to the other. But it is what it is, and both of them are pragmatic enough to understand that.


They get busy instead with passing out the food and coffee.


"If anyone else wants to grab a shower, now's a good time," Shaw says. "Seven and I can handle it here."


All eyes are on him because no one is used to hearing him call her that.


"He and I have come to an understanding," Seven says, biting back a grin that is a little too seductive for the situation. They had come to an understanding on so many luscious things. "But I'll understand if you forget and call me Hansen."


He thinks her smile is so sweet, so caring and inclusive as she lets the bridge crew off the hook for fucking up before they even do it. He likes how her hair dried. Wants to run his hand though it and may well do that once his people are facing away and she and he are both seated.


She thinks his smile is indulgent. Letting her take the lead on this. Finding such an easygoing man under the porcupine she first met is a delight. She grabs a cookie and a coffee and goes to her chair.


She does not notice LaForge and Mura standing watching her and Shaw. Both of them are wondering why she suddenly smells like his menthol scented shampoo and not like the lemon and honey she normally uses. They arrive at the answer together because they have been working side by side for so long. They both turn around so the captain and the first officer can't tell they have been caught out.


They are happy for them.


Mura meets her eyes. "Go find Crusher. Grab some of that while you can."


"I think I will get a shower," she says as she takes way more cookies than one person needs and another cup of coffee.


Shaw and Seven share a look, then a smile. Why not? Why not be happy if they can?


Who knows how much time they have left?





The doors to the ready room actually finally open. The coffee and food is long gone, but Shaw has no illusions that Picard and his group made full use of the replicator.


"We're going to freshen up," Picard says, with a look at Beverly, as they head for the lift.


Both Shaw and Seven wonder just how lively his new body is. Then decide they really do not want to know.


"Commander, let's see the damage to the ready room." He's up and off, both because he does want to see how much they fucked up his space, but also because he wants to close the door and kiss her again.


She is right behind him. She enjoys the look of him from behind nearly as much as she does from the front.


"Guys, we'll be in here if you need us." Then he closes the doors.


Mura smiles knowingly but does not look around to see if anyone else has figured out their commanding officers are suddenly way closer than they were a short while ago.


In the ready room, two people are already reaching for each other. Their lips meet, their bodies press up against each other. They could very easily have sex.


They don't. People outside these doors may need them.


Hopefully they'll have time, once this is done. Hopefully they'll have all the time in a world free of changelings and conspiracy and people dying.


Neither of them is sure of that though. And when they ease away, it shows in their faces.


"I want to live," he says softly. "I'm glad you didn't blow me to kingdom come. You may get sick of me though and wish you had."


She pulls him close but just holds him, no kissing, no grinding. Just pure affection—pure support. "I seriously doubt that."