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.

Behind Those Eyes (Part 1)

by Djinn




Seven Years Ago


Commander Liam Shaw checked the address again on his padd before heading into a place that made dive bars look like tea at the Ritz. He scanned the room, soon saw a woman with wavy blonde hair and a buffer zone around her of empty barstools despite how packed the place was.


He took the stool to her left.


"You're either incredibly stupid or incredibly drunk." Her voice was low and sexy as fuck.


"I'm neither actually."


She turned to look at him and he thought he'd prepared himself for the Borg implants, but he hadn't.


He felt the pit inside him starting to open and began to run through the coping mechanisms, inventorying her outfit, the colors, the fabrics, the weapons—some he could see, most he imagined from where he'd stash a knife or two if he were a Ranger on a hellhole of a planet.


"If this is a come-on, I don't have time." She sounded more tired than angry.


He knew that sound. But he didn't think most would. "I've been told you're the best Ranger, that once you're on the hunt, no one escapes."


"Yeah, tell that to Icheb." She downed her drink, which was some kind of whisky, and pushed the glass toward him. "If you want to talk, buy me a drink."


"Another for the lady, and I'll have a beer."


"Bad choice."


"I'll have what she's having."


"Also a bad choice." But her lips were turning up, and her smile was gorgeous.


"Make them doubles."


"Ballsy. So, who are you looking for?"


"A friend of mine. He's...I don't actually know what he's doing, but I'm about two days ahead of Starfleet security."


"I'm not a big fan of Starfleet."


"I've read your file. I can imagine why."


The rage was immediate. "Oh, fuck you—you're Starfleet?" She started to slide off the stool and he grabbed her, his grip that of an engineer, strong, stronger than he thought she expected.


A collective gasp went up in the room. "Wow, you have these people terrified."


"For good reason. Get your hand off me."


He knew he had to talk fast before she threw him over the bar or across the room. "Wolf 359. USS Constance. One life pod, ten seats, ten survivors chosen at fucking random. I'm ten of ten. My friend is three of ten. We ten look out for each other and he's gone, well, a little bit 'round the bend."


She sat back down so he took his hand off her immediately. "I'm listening."


"He decked a superior officer. He stole some credits from another. And he may have taken some..." He sighed—what the fuck had Brett been thinking? "He might have classified material with him, but I don't know why. If he's going to sell it or if it's an insurance policy. If he saw something and now he's running scared. His name is Brett Neumann. I'm Liam Shaw. Please help me, Annika."


"The last person who called me that is going to die once I find her."


"Oh, so...Seven of...?" He hated calling her that, the nicknames the ten of you had was a joke more than anything. But she was actually Borg, until she wasn't. Why in God's name would she want to cling to the name of the beings who had kidnapped her?


She rolled her eyes. "Just call me Hansen if it bugs you that much. And what's in it for me if I help you?"


"My undying gratitude?"


She shook her head slowly and took a sip of her drink.


"I don't think it's money driving you."


"Correct. You have one more chance before I walk out that door."


He leaned in. "You're out here because Starfleet thought it was okay to let a shitload of ex-Maquis into the ranks as well as another ex-Borg, but not you. I imagine you'd give the world to have someone you served with coming to find you—caring enough to do that."


The pain on her face was evident and he almost regretted saying that. "Fuck you, Shaw."


"Fuck you too, Hansen. I need to find my friend. Are you really as good as they say or is this all an act to cover up how not good you are at your job?"


"Fuck, you're annoying. Fine. But I'm searching for someone myself and if I find her, I'm done with your friend until I kill her."


"Uh, what did she do?"


"She killed my son. Brutally."


"Well, maybe I can help you kill her then." He didn't smile; he wanted her to know this wasn't a joke to him.


She seemed to be searching his face, waiting for the grin, the "just kidding" of it all. Finally she said, "Fill me in and try to do it without pissing me off."


"Is that possible?"


"That's up to you."


"Okay then." And he launched into everything he knew about Neumann, his state of mind, and why he might have run away from Starfleet.




Two Years Ago


Seven sat in the placement center, staring at the woman who could never quite meet her eyes. "You're sure you can't change it?"


Commander Reid shook her head. "You're in the system now as Hansen. And you're very new—do you really want to cause a ruckus over your name right now? When we frankly don't have that much interest in you."


That hurt, more than she would ever admit. She'd had sixteen interviews and only four offers, all for jobs like security or admin. She was a commander with science, engineering, and even command experience. She had expert knowledge of the Borg and a great deal of other things. This should not be all the interest there was.


"I'm sure. I want to go as Seven of Nine, not Annika Hansen."


"Pick a slot then. Once you do, I'll put the necessary requests in. I'll warn you, it's not a fast process. I was divorced from my wife by the time they changed my name to our combined one and now I'm waiting for them to change it back." Her smile was actually comforting—this wasn't a lie to make her feel better; it was the truth.


Her terminal pinged and she turned to it, and then graced Seven with a smile that was actually happy. "Here's a new request for you." She opened it up and her smile faded. "Oh, it's Shaw."




"Liam Shaw. The Titan. I mean he does have the best safety record in the Fleet but he's a personality free zone."


"Is there more than one Liam Shaw in Starfleet?"


"Nope. He has his first officer slot open. That would be quite a coup. But again, it's, well, him."


"I'll meet with him."




"I've asked you not to call me that."


"Commander Hansen, he's..." She shook her head when Seven's expression didn't change. "Fine. Let me see when he can meet." There was a little barrage of chimes as they messaged back and forth and then she said, "He's available right now. He's on his way. Interview room six."


"Not his ship?"


"It's in for repairs. All personnel have been on home leave. He must have just gotten back." She shooed Seven away. "Go, do a good interview, but don't say I didn't warn you about him."


Seven rose and walked into the hall and down to the interview rooms Personnel maintained. She saw him striding down the hallway toward her and stopped.


He had a beard and his hair was gray, but otherwise he looked the same.


"Hansen," he murmured as he waved her into the room.


"Shaw." She took a deep breath and followed him in.






"Is there a reason your buddy Picard wants to inspect our ship?" Shaw thought about that and frowned. "Is there a reason your buddy Picard is doing anything official now that he's retired?"


She walked around the desk and looked at his terminal, standing very close, her perfume wafting into his nose, and he laughed and muttered, "Sure, start something you can't finish."


"Oh, I can finish it. Shut the damn door."


"Later. I've got to go have lunch with engineering and see how bad L'Daren really is."


"He's pure shit. Just like I told you he would be."


"Yep, you did. And you never get tired of reminding me of that."


"You overruled me."


"And it will be the last time I do it, I promise." He rotated his chair, making her move back. He wanted to pull her onto his lap but the door was open.


Even if he was pretty sure everyone knew they were together. "I don't want to deal with Picard. I...can't."


"You've helped me with my demons. Let me help you with yours. But do this with me. We'll present a united front."




"Please...?" It was the please of darkened quarters, and soft music playing, and skin on skin with soft cries of pleasure. It was everything good between them.


"Quit it. Engineering, remember? No seduction talk." He met her eyes and saw the disappointment in them. "Fine. Dinner. That's all I'm going to do. You usher them around for the rest of it."


Her smile was luminous. "Thank you, Liam."






Seven Years Ago


She watched his face as he told her everything he knew about this missing friend. He'd done his research, bringing everything he could find on Neumann's past assignments, his evaluations, everything short of a psych report.


She was happy to see those were still private.


She wondered if he had one.


She heard a stool being pulled out on her right and said, without turning, "Hope that's worth your life."


"My mistake," a voice cracked and whoever it was backed off.


"That was a Silarn," Shaw said almost reverently. "They retreat from no one. Who are you?"


"I thought you'd read my file?"


"Your file detailed a scientist—an engineer too. I'm one so I liked that part. It didn't talk about this side of you."


"The dangerous part?" She looked at him and lifted an eyebrow. "What would I find in your file? A regular joe or someone who'd try to outrace Starfleet Security?"


"You'd find a really boring officer—after I worked out my shit over Wolf 359. The first years going forward were rocky."


She felt the guilt she always did. But she wasn't even at Wolf 359. And it hadn't been her choice to be a Borg. She took three of the calming breaths Tuvok had taught her.


"Sorry to bring up bad memories." He grimaced. "I know the coping mechanism you're doing."


"It's all right. Not all of us get to merrily skip away from that battle, from the Borg."


"You mean like Picard—Locutus—has done?"


"Yeah." She met briefly with Picard, back when the ship was just back, back when Starfleet was saying "hell no" and Kathryn was threatening to resign—until Seven told her not to. There was no logic in both of them going down over this.


She'd met with Picard and asked for his help. He'd been distracted but he said he'd put a word in for her. She had no idea if he had or hadn't but if he had, a word from him wasn't worth much.


She turned back to the case at hand. "The classified info—I don't need to know what it was but did it make sense to you why he would take it?"


"No. And for the record I don't know what it was either. He's always seen conspiracies around every corner, even before Wolf. The Dominion War didn't help, the way the changelings..." He stopped and assessed her. "You didn't have to live through that and you're super lucky so I won't make you now. Suffice it to say it was bad, not knowing who was a real person and who was a changeling who'd taken their place."


"So Neumann is unstable?"


"I wouldn't have said that. He managed his crazy ideas to an acceptable level before. And the group—if we saw it getting too bad—someone stepped in. But this time he didn't reach out to us. He just ran."


"How did you find out he was on the run?"


"When Starfleet Security paid me a visit. I was the last person he commed but it was months ago. I guess they assumed I was his closest friend because of that."


"And the comm? He was normal—for him at any rate?"


"Yeah. Security seemed super intense about this. Whatever he stole..."


"Has it occurred to you that the best path for you might be to return home and let security do their job?"


He swallowed hard and looked down. "It has. Most people who know me wouldn't expect me to be out here, helping."




"But he's my friend. My family. What wouldn't you do for your family?"


"I don't have a family anymore. But I take your point. Fine. I have a ship. I assume you have lodging here?"


He nodded.


"Go back and get some sleep then meet me at the port at 0700. In the meantime, I'm going to put out feelers on the whisper net we use."


"Thank you." He met her eyes, as if he wanted her to see how much it meant to him.


"I'm going to ask about you too. You better not be lying to me."


"I'm not. I'm not actually a very good liar. I usually just act like an asshole when I tell the truth and people assume I'm lying."


She laughed. "And that works for you?"


"So far. I'm due to make captain soon. Or so they tell me. Maybe not if I get caught interfering with this."


"You won't. I'm very good at what I do."


His smile was lopsided, and it charmed her. "I'm pretty much counting on that."




Two Years Ago


He motioned her to a chair and sat down. "First, I'm super sorry I was so late in getting my request for an interview in. I know you must have a ton of offers, but I was on home leave and wasn't checking my work mail."


"It's all right." She met his eyes and smiled. She looked even better than he remembered. "Better late than never, right?"


"Well, I like to think so. And I want you to know I'm here to do whatever it takes to convince you to be my first officer. But...this is professional. I don't want you to think that I expect...anything else."


"Are you saying you don't want anything else?" Her tone was the one he remembered, cocky as fuck, and so damned sexy.


"I'm not saying that. But not too long ago I was on Risa and I was alone and then I saw you and you weren't."


She frowned. "I didn't see you."


"That's because a goddess came out and joined you and it was clear this wasn't someone you'd just met."


"Raffi. No, she was my girlfriend."


"Was?" Jesus could he sound any more eager? Any less professional?


But she laughed. "Yeah, was. I don't really want to talk about it."


"Okay. But you can...someday...if you want—or need to."


"Good to know." Her voice was subdued and he didn't like it, not when he remembered the firebrand she'd been.


"So what do I have to do to make you forget all the other offers and say yes to me? To Shaw the Boring—don't think I don't know my nicknames. By the Book Shaw is another one."


"You? Mister 'Two days ahead of Starfleet Security'? Boring?"


"Well, that's not my usual state."


She laughed, a soft puff of air. "I think it's only fair to tell you that I don't have a ton of offers. I have four and they suck."


"Well, they're idiots, then. And I hope that means you're going to pick me, Hansen."


"I want to be called Seven."


"Okay, but"—he was doing something to his padd—"your name is logged as Hansen. That means for everything related to Starfleet, you are Annika Hansen—and I know how you feel about being called Annika."


"I know but it was Seven of Nine on Voyager and La Sirena and even the Stargazer."


"Okay, but you weren't technically Starfleet on those. Field commission notwithstanding."




He waited, letting her process, letting her realize there really was nothing he could do no matter how much he might want to.


Finally she exhaled loudly, the way she had when they were looking for Neumann. Her sign of surrender. "Reid said she'd put the name change request in as soon as I pick a slot."


"Well, pick mine and have her do it." He leaned in, letting some of his love for Titan show. "It's a great ship. And the crew—they'll inspire you and you'll inspire them. And we'll be different enough to give them options, to give each other options. I can see the command team you and I can be. I can see that it'll be great."


"Why the full-court press? I told you I had shit offers."


"Because this isn't a shit offer, and I want you to know that."


"I do know that."


"Then you're saying yes?"


"I'm saying yes."


He knew he was grinning like a fool. "Okay then. Let's go tell Reid."






She was on the bridge, reading up on Riker's service record when she heard, "Shaw to Hansen."


"Hansen, here."


"Meet me in Zeta One."


She stood and tried to assess if anyone on the bridge understood that these odd codes he made up meant his quarters. No one seemed to be moving—or even breathing—so she thought they probably did. "Mura, you have the conn."


"Yes, Commander."


She rode the lift down to deck five and palmed her way into his quarters. "I'm about to meet Picard."


"I know. Listen, I called around. There is no inspection."


"It's a surprise."


"There is no inspection." His voice didn't rise, his tone wasn't angry. He was stating a fact.


There was no inspection. "He wouldn't do this without a good reason."


"Your loyalty will be your undoing. But it won't be ours. Stick to the plan but I'm going to be the worst host imaginable at dinner. Prep them for that if you can do it subtly."


She frowned. He wasn't a bad host; he was a wonderful one. He had crew dinners in his dining room twice a week, people they picked together because they looked like they might gel as a cadre after meeting—similar ranks, similar backgrounds.


The dinners were inevitably fun and it was great to see the crew later in the mess or lounge or the Ten Forward holoprogram, continuing the relationships he and she had helped start.


"Why? Why do this when I know you can be so welcoming? Why to my friend."


"Your friend? Does your friend even know you're on this ship?"


"That's beside the point. I'm sure he—"


"Answer the question. Does he know?"


"I don't know."


He pulled her to him roughly. "I knew where you were before you were even on this ship. I kept track of you. I'm who you owe your loyalty to. Baby, please, don't fall for whatever bullshit he's peddling."


She could feel herself tearing up. "Do you know that every time you call me that, I imagine my real name crossing your lips. And it hurts that it never will."


"It's not for fucking ever and it's not my choice—I'm not the one who goddamned registered in a name I didn't like."


She hated this argument because he was always right. When it came down to it, she should have insisted on the name she preferred, but she listened to Janeway and B'Elanna and Chakotay and all the other people who were nowhere to be fucking found.


"Would you have told me to register under it?"


"No. I'd have told you to be whoever the fuck you want to be. Even if it's super weird you want to pick the name your kidnappers gave you."


Her kidnappers. It was so simple for him. What about her parents, who thought it was a great idea to take a child after the Borg? "It's more complicated than that."


"Okay, sure. And hey, if you want to align yourself with a group most people think of as mass murderers, then yeah, it's your choice."


She rolled her eyes.


"As soon as your name is fixed in the system, I will use it. I plan to throw a goddamned party for you. Every single person on this crew will know how to address you. But until then..."


"You won't bend, but you want me to. He's my friend."


"And I'm the man who loves you. And you have to choose."


"He would never ask me to choose."


"You're so innocent, sometimes." He stroked her face gently. "So goddamned naive."


"Don't." She jerked away. "Even if he is up to something. I owe him."


"You don't. You owe him nothing. He's using you."


"Security to Hansen, shuttle with Admiral Picard and Captain Riker is on final approach."


"I'll be right there." She turned to him.


"Prep them."




"You'll find a way. Think of your goddamned name not coming out of my mouth. That ought to do it."


She turned away, but when she got to the door, he said, "Don't let either of them pilot this ship out of space dock. You do it. Let them see how much I trust you."


"I'll do as I see fit since you're going to make me do this alone."




"I'll see you at dinner. Sir."






Seven Years Ago


He found her at the port, her ship small but serviceable. As he followed her on board, she started to laugh.




"How many knives do you have hidden on your person?" She pointed to a bulkhead readout which was glowing.


"Hey, you try getting through the Dominion War without carrying at least one. Plus, I'm an engineer and there a lot of things you can do with a knife."


"But no phaser. No disruptor."


"I'm a shit shot."


"But you can throw a knife?" She looked like she seriously doubted that.


He pulled out the knife at his waist, and flicked it at a picture of a dark haired woman hanging on the wall. It hit right between her eyes. "Girlfriend?" She was pretty enough to be with Hansen.


"The woman I told you I was going to kill. Also nice throw." She walked over and pulled the knife out gently so the picture wouldn't tear. He thought that made it scarier, not less so, how tender she was being. Like she didn't want anything to mar the face so she wouldn't forget it.


"Your knives won't be much use. Her guards use disruptors." She gestured to the cabinet on the ship. "And so do I. How bad a shot are you?"


"I can hit the broad side of a barn. The narrow side..." He held his hand out, fingers spread, and rocked it back and forth in the "maybe, maybe not" way that seemed to be universal.


She laughed and it transformed her face. He liked how the implant over her eyebrow allowed her to lift her eyebrow.


She rolled her eyes. "Just get it over with. I can tell the engineer in you is fascinated by them."


"Seriously? I can touch?"


"Make it fast."


He moved closer, touched down as gently as possible. It was metal but it gave. And it was body temp, not cold. "Huh. Not what I expected."


"They're ugly. People have issues with them. You did at first."


"Won't lie. I did." He studied the one on the side of her cheek. "Don't know that I do anymore. Just find them fascinating."


"Too bad they're there, right? I could have been so pretty without them." She said it as a throwaway line, like maybe someone important had said that to her in the past.


"You're gorgeous. And if you're going to have implants, those are pretty hot ones."


"You don't need to flatter me. I said I'd help you."


"I don't really do flattery. That would imply charm and I lack it."


"Just like that? You lack it. End of story?"


He nodded. "But, I can fix any engine problems you have. I love this model shuttle."


"I can fix my own shuttle, thanks."


He decided not to tell her how utterly hot that was. "So any word on Neumann?"




"Are you going to share it with me?"


"Eventually. Sit, we're leaving."


He barely got into a seat and strapped in before she was lifting them off the padd and away from the city. "Why the rush?"


"You didn't see them?"


"See who?"


"Starfleet security. They just got in. Which means, since Neumann was not on this world, that they're following you."


"Fuck." He caught the scanner she tossed him and began to check his clothes for a tag. He found it on his jacket, which had been hanging by his door when security had visited. "God damn it." He examined the tech. Standard issue Starfleet.


Instead of heading up, Hansen was piloting the thing over a swampy area. Then she hovered over a beach and told him to open the door and drop it down.


He did, watched the scanner hit the sand. Then he closed the door and got to his seat just in time as she roared up and out of atmosphere.


"The local equivalent of a crocodile is all over those waters. Security's going to have fun tracking you down."


He laughed. "Don't make you mad."


"You knew that already. It won't slow them down for long. But at least they won't know where we're going."


"They'll also know we're on to them. Would have been more prudent to let it drop at the port bathroom, like it just got brushed off."


"I'm not known for my prudence."


"I can see that." He laughed at her expression. "Little Miss Reckless."


"One of those labels is right." She put the shuttle on autopilot and began to call up schematics. He didn't know what they were of but figured she'd share once it was important.


"I can't believe they'd bug me. What the hell did Neumann take?"


"A very, very good question."




Two Years Ago


The chime on her door pinged pleasantly and she said, "Come."


Shaw stood in the doorway, the door bumping against his leg as it tried to close. "You eat already?"




"You want to go to the mess with me? First day and all—welcome you to the ship. Unless maybe you're tired?" He sounded like he was trying super hard not to push her.


She loved that. Especially after how much pushing Raffi did at the end.


"The mess with you sounds good." She finished putting the last of her stuff away and said, "What do I need to know about the mess? They all have their secrets."


His grin was adorable. "The omelettes are good but go to the replicator for scrambled eggs. Crispy bacon also replicator—the cook seems to have two settings: won't stand up on its own or blackened."


She laughed as she followed him to the lift and then out to the mess. She went to the replicator and ordered pancakes with extra syrup and met him at the booth he'd chosen.


"Butter or no butter?" He was watching carefully as she prepped her pancakes.


"I can go either way. It's here, so I'll use it." She proceeded to smear it over the pancakes and then douse the things with syrup.


"Sweet tooth?"


"When I'm this tired, yeah. Also they're easy to eat and then go to sleep. No heartburn."


"That's true. So we wore you out?"


"You did. A lot of names. A lot of faces to go with the names. A lot of departments to keep track of."


"I have faith that you'll be great at it." He seemed to be studying her and she couldn't read his expression.




"I'm just...thinking back." His grin was a mischievous one.


"Fraternization is frowned on."


"Yeah it is. And everyone knows I'm by the book."


"Everyone hasn't been in the outer reaches with you though." She let her smile be as mischievous as his was.


"Bingo. I can't believe I'm saying this but if you don't care then I don't care. But if you do care, then the matter is dropped. If I decide to retire after this tour, my career's coming to a close. Yours is just starting. I don't want to do anything to jeopardize your route upward and onward."


"What if I want you to?" She pitched her voice in the way she'd learned he liked.


"Music to my ears." His look changed. "How long have you and—what was her name?"




"Yeah, how long have you two been done?"


"About two months."


"Do you still talk?"


She nodded.


"Every night?"


"No. More like once a week."


"Do you fight? Are one or both of you wanting to get back together?"


She started to laugh. "Didn't I say during our interview that I didn't want to discuss this?"


"We're not discussing it. Discussing it would be talking about how it went wrong and why it went wrong and how long it was going wrong for. This is me trying to figure out timing. I'm not interested in being your rebound if you're not finished yet. I can wait." His smile was entirely sweet and not at all pushy.


"She's not quite given up."


"But you have?"


"Yeah. I'm never going to be what she wants."


"What did she want you to be?"


"Honestly, that seemed to change. A moving target. Like urging a scared puppy up the stairs. This step, now that one—only the stairs never ended."


"And you're not a scared puppy."


"Maybe I am. Romance and me..."


"No, you're not scared—not of anything, I think. You're a disillusioned puppy at most." He held up his water glass to her. "To not rushing into things."


She clinked her glass against his. "But to not delaying too long." She let her smile turn the slightest bit wicked.


"I've missed you. Stupid, it was a long time ago and we did not spend that much time together. But I missed you."


"I missed you too. I thought I saw you once, in the halls of Command. Only the person didn't have a beard because you didn't when we first met."


"Do you like the beard?"


"I love the beard. It suits you. But...I thought the other guy was you and I was with Raffi and that was probably the beginning of the end."


"She was hurt by you thinking you saw me?"


"No, it was my disappointment when he turned around and wasn't you." She remembered the look of betrayal on Raffi's face, her insistence on knowing who she'd thought the man was.


She'd never told her. She thought it became like a piece of glass, wedged into a foot. Impossible to get out and impossible to ignore when you're constantly walking on it.


"I'm sorry I was sort of the cause of... Actually I'm not. I'm really glad you're free. But, for the record, this job is yours with no expectations."


"Yes, you made that clear. Don't worry: I'll tell you when I'm ready."


"Good. So did anything jump out at you today as weird or unwieldy? New eyes see things we old timers take for granted."


She thought about it and nodded. "You're sure you want my opinion?"


"Hit me."


She spent twenty minutes detailing things that had puzzled or perplexed her. She expected him to get defensive. Instead he pulled out his padd and noted quite a few of them—he left off those that were due to regulations, but he explained the regs and how stupid they were.


She loved the time he was taking, making sure she understood why things worked, not just how.


He looked delighted with her when she finally wound down. "This is great. Thank you. Keep looking. I want to know them all."


She grinned. "I'm not used to people taking critique quite so well."


"Process improvement helps everyone. And seriously, new eyes can't be beat." His enthusiasm for making things better—for keeping the crew and ship safe—was infectious. "Thank you for taking this job. I'm really excited to see where this goes."


His grin was easy as they went back to eating, their conversation flowing from topic to topic.


Easy. This was all easy. It had been a while since anything had felt anywhere close to easy.






He'd put her favorite piece on the player: Chopin's Nocturne in E-flat Major. They'd made love to this piece more than once—was it low of him to use it against her this way? To remind her who she belonged with? Who fucking stepped up when no one else had—where were these bozos when she only had four fucking offers and they were shitty ones?


Nowhere. Meanwhile she had someone who'd step up for her again and again.


He forced himself to calm down, poured some wine, cut into his steak—let it be clear that he was starting before his guests.


So fucking rude. He hoped she'd done her part and prepped them.


He had to bite back a smile at the thought of the bunk beds he'd assigned them. Fuck them both.


She looked like nothing was out of the ordinary when she walked into their dining room with the two legends. "Captain Shaw, sir. May I present Admiral Jean-Luc Picard and Captain William Riker."


"Gentlemen, please. Come join. And, Hansen, there really is no need for intros."


Picard was clearly taken aback. "I apologize, Captain. Are we late?"


"Hardly. Just your reputation preceded you so far into the room that I started early." He'd worked on that line. What Picard might say, how he'd answer it.


"Sit down," he wanted to say but Picard was walking around Seven who he'd seated in the guest of honor position


Picard handed him a bottle and said, "Ah... Well, as a token of appreciation for your hospitality, please accept..."


"Oh, Château Picard. That is... That is terrific." He pronounced Picard correctly, the French way. He'd never understood how this guy could be as French as he claimed with that accent. But it didn't matter—French or British, the man would always be Locutus to him. "I'm much more of a Malbec man myself. Captain Riker, I take you for somewhat of a bourbon-ista." Oh, this was fun. Hansen was acting as if this was normal for him. She was a better actor than he'd given her credit for.


"I enjoy the occasional old-fashioned. What gave you that idea?"


"Well, the bebop that I had to purge from the system when I took the chair. Speaks to your freewheeling, loosey-goosey Kentucky-mash kind of style." He could tell she was trying not to roll her eyes.


"Not a fan of jazz?"


He really was not. Loved rock and roll, though, and Hansen knew it. He also liked whisky in all its various forms—he knew bourbon would forgive him this brief bad-mouthing. "Mmm. No, I am not. I like structure. I like meter. I like keeping tempo and time, which is why you will probably find this inspection boring for the likes of you two."


"It's just all in advance of the fleet exercises for Frontier Day."


"Oh." He nodded, as if what Riker said made any fucking sense at all.


"Ensuring the condition of our starships would be boring?" Picard asked.


"Well, we won't be blowing things up. Taking or engaging in fire. Crash-landing expectedly or unexpectedly. You know, the usual for you boys. Nope. You will find our engines pristine, our hull intact. And you run your finger on pretty much any given surface here, you're gonna find it dust-free."


He looked at her when he said it. She met his eyes and he saw anger flaring so he looked away. He could push her but only so far.


She took a bite of steak so he relaxed a little.


"No doubt," Picard said. "Indeed. Which is why Captain Riker and I would like to change course." He was trying so hard to make the request sound reasonable he was in danger of doing damage to himself—only not, because he was synthetic now or some such bullshit.




"The Ryton system."


What the ever-loving fuck? "That's at the edge of Federation space in the opposite direction of our intended course. Twice the time."


"At half warp, double the speed, it's an even split." Oh, great, now Riker was part of this.


"And why would we do that?"


"Bragging rights," Riker said with the weirdest "I'm not trying to blow smoke up your ass" grin Shaw had ever seen. "You'd show the efficiency of the new Titan. It's a great story for Frontier Day. It's the current, former captain, putting it through the paces. Run a little coal through the engines..."


"Yeah." Shaw pretended he thought that made any kind of sense, even laughed, but Hansen wasn't: she was the only one in the room not laughing.


"And then final engineering inspection at Deep Space 4," Picard said.


He studied Picard. "DS4 has been shut down for a year."


There was a long silence until Hansen jumped in with, "I believe the admiral means DS11. Correct?"


"Mmm, ah... Yes, of course."


"No." God damn that felt good.


"No?" Picard looked confused.


"No. I have kept this train running for five years, thirty-six missions. You don't get where you're told to go by standing in front of it and then moving the track."


"Respectfully, Captain, I am an admiral..."


"Retired. Congrats on that." He didn't mean it; he was sure Picard knew that.


"But I'm still a captain." Riker's shtick was so tired—Shaw was glad he'd never served under the man.


"Without a chair. Titan's mine now." And as Shaw said it, he let his foot touch hers, saying without words: "And so are you."


She jerked her foot away.


He didn't look at her as he continued, "I'm really sorry, fellas. I love you. I do. I love reading about all your wildly exciting and equally irresponsible adventures, but I have orders that come down from actual officers whose pay grade are far above all of ours, so request denied."


And that was, as they say, that.


"Sir," Seven said, "I'm sure if I spoke with La Forge, we could make up the time."


He could feel anger rising—what the fuck was she doing? "Hansen. Your loyalty lies with this ship." He hoped to shit she got the unsaid this time: "And to me."


She kept her expression even, but he could tell she was angry at him.


"Not to old friends, former ex-Borg." His voice shook on the final insult and that pissed him off even more. Why were these idiots even here?


Picard especially. Destroying everything he loved. Again.


Riker's rage was also clear. "That's enough, Captain."


And time for the perfect exit. He chuckled in a mean way. "Yeah. Thank you for the parting punctuation. I'm headed to my quarters. Hansen, you have the conn. Gentlemen, I hope you find your room accommodations suitable. They were the best we could do on such short notice." He patted Riker on the shoulder, two of the most gratifying pats he'd ever given anyone.


He wasn't surprised when she palmed her way into his quarters a little later, when she sat down in front of him and said only, "For me?"




"We have something special. You have to trust me to know what I'm doing."


"What they want us to do puts five hundred people in danger. For what?" He stood and pulled her up to him. "They didn't say, did they? Because it's stupid or illegal or both."


"I've served with him."


"You haven't. You were used by him because he needed your skills. He didn't even know you were on this goddamned ship but now that he does, by God, he will use you again. If you let him." He shook her gently. "Don't let him."


"Liam, please..." She pulled him to her, kissed him almost frantically but he pushed her away.


"I can see you're torn."


"Trust me. Please?"


"No. Do nothing. That's a goddamned order."


"Please...?" She had tears in her eyes—why was this so fucking hard for her?


"Let me make it simple, Commander Hansen. Follow my goddamned orders. Pretend you're a mother-fucking drone if you have to. Or everything we have here—everything we've built together—is...over. Do I make myself clear?"


She backed away and wiped her eyes almost savagely. "Crystal, Captain."






Seven Years Ago


She pushed the little ship harder and heard the engine she'd worked on over and over making a worrisome sound.


"May I?"


"It's fine."


"It's not fine. But I can make it fine. Come on, let me earn my keep. We're far enough away to stop for a while, right?"


Sighing, she cut the engine and let the ship drift for a moment before engaging reverse thrusters to bring it to a gentle stop.


"You've got a soft touch on the controls."


"I enjoy flying. It's the best part of this job sometimes." She stood and followed him to the engine room, pulling over her rolling bag of tools.


"Nice selection." He began to rummage through the bins and pull things out. Most of which she would have pulled out too, but some were new.


She decided to watch him work rather than going back to the helm. "Computer, set proximity alert on."


"Alarm set."


"So what's her name?"


"The woman you threw a knife at?"


He laughed. "Way you said it, she's dead once you find her, so knowing her name probably isn't that useful. I meant the ship."


"The ship has no name."


"Wow. Okay." He began to work on a circuit she rarely touched.


"Why are you doing that?"


"Because the problem often starts in here. It's super easy to fix and even if it's not the cause, it gets overlooked and probably could use a cleaning if nothing else. Why doesn't your ship have a name? Is that a Borg thing?"


Normally if someone asked that, the question would be loaded with sarcasm or disdain. But he seemed honestly curious. "I named the last three. They all were destroyed on missions. I decided naming them was bad luck and this one has been flying me around for over a year so..."


"Good call, then."


"I think so." She moved in closer to him to watch. The circuit was full of gunk. "I don't understand. The panel seals."


"Yeah, it's a glitch with this model circuit panel. At certain speeds, the seal relaxes, shit gets inside. This isn't bad enough to cause the problem, though, so let me clean it out and then we'll move on."


"I can clean it. You move on." She kept an eye on what he was doing—so far nothing that she hadn't already done many times—as she cleaned out the circuit.


He stopped what he was doing when she finished, nodded and said, "Seal 'er up."


"This is useful. Thank you." She watched as his fingers fairly danced from circuit to wire to rods. He clearly had been doing this for a long time and loved it. "You remind me of B'Elanna Torres. Her hands moved like yours do."


He stopped and turned to her. "Are you just fucking with me? Because she's one of my idols."


She laughed. "No, I'm not. And you know I served with her."


"Yep. Wow. You just made my day, week, and month."


"You're rather easy to make happy."


"Yeah, tell that to my exes."


"What do exes know?"


"Not much if they leave us. Or they make us leave them. Because we are clearly catches." He grins, his totally lopsided grin, and then he bites it back. "I know. Weird smile."


"No weirder than my implants."


"Yeah but your implants make you look hot."


"And your smile is very appealing. Don't hide it."


"It's goofy."


"It's charming." She pointed past him to a circuit that always gave her issues. "This is never right."


"That's because it shouldn't be there." He suddenly pushed her away as he stared at it. "How do you get ships? Do the Rangers requisition them or do you buy them off whoever?"




"Because your ship should have exploded months ago." He gingerly opened the panel and then started to laugh. "Did you do this?"


"Yes, the way it was originally configured was very inefficient. And to answer your question, we don't have much money, we make the best deals we can."


He carefully unscrewed the panel and pulled it off, reconnecting the wires. He turned it over and said, "Would the woman you're looking for be Bjayzl?"


She grabbed the panel, turned it over, and read you. "Fuck you, Annika. XOXO Bjayzl."


"Did she not know you were as good an engineer as you are?"


"It never came up." She watched as he inspected the rest of the area, making a few adjustments she would have made. "So this was designed to kill me?"


"Yep. But you reconfigured it so it couldn't. It did play havoc with your engines past warp two though."


She sat back, leaning against the bulkhead while he got up and walked out to the front then came back in with the scanner. "I scan for bugs and tracers routinely."


But it had never occurred to her that her engines might be sabotaged. Short sighted on her part.


A mistake she would not make again.


"It's clean. Anything else not working right before I close this up?"


"No. Thank you."


"You help me. I help you. Life is nice."


"If only everyone felt that way."




Two Years Ago


Shaw was sitting in the lounge at the bar, nursing a scotch. He smelled a familiar scent and said, "Buy you a drink, Commander?"


"Yes, please. Bourbon."


"Bourbon it is." He waved the crew member acting as bartender over. "A bourbon for Commander Hansen and a refill for me."


She slid onto the stool next to him. "I remember when you did this."


"Yeah but people aren't afraid to sit next to me." Except at the moment it looked like they were. He had as big a buffer as she'd had when he'd found her that day. But there were plenty of seats elsewhere and it was still early. "How was engineering?"


"Interesting. I like Olawn. She seems to love those engines."


"It's why I picked her."


"So you brought her with you?"


He nodded. "Riker had...well, let's just say this place was kind of Enterprise light for a while. I brought in some new blood where it mattered to me: sickbay, engineering, security." He grinned at her. "Your predecessor and now you."


"And I'm very glad you did. But...why didn't anyone else want me?"


He sighed and turned in his stool so it was clear to anyone watching that they were having a private conversation. "I don't think it's just the Borg thing. I mean Icheb prospered, right?"


"He was doing great." She gave him a sad smile.


"Fenris Rangers make people nervous. No rules. Judge, jury and executioner."


"As well as sheriff and prosecutor." She took a long swallow of her drink.


"Right, those too." He grinned at her, the lopsided smile she seemed to love even though it made him self conscious and he tried for a more restrained closed mouth one usually. "I like to think it's because no one else was supposed to get you."


"That's a lovely thought. But I don't think that's it." She studied him. "What aren't you saying because you think it will hurt my feelings?"


"Okay, if you really want it, to those captains or commanders or whoever they were, when they saw you, you're intimidating. You're a fucking force even just sitting still. Add in the rangers, add in the Borg. Add in that you learned under Kathryn "Let me mind-fuck you just because it's so damned fun for me" Janeway. They were probably fucking terrified."


He expected her to do anything but laugh. "She's not always like that."


"I know her. Well. She is too. And she's basically your Starfleet mom and everyone knows it."


"You forgot Chakotay."


"Oh yeah, you were involved with someone high up in the Maquis before he could hold his own with above mentioned Admiral." He took a drink and watched her face.


"So you're the only one brave enough to take me on?"


"Seems like. However, I consider it this way. I'm the only one lucky enough to know how you operate, to know how smart you are, how hard you will try, how far you will go. I'm the lucky one here. Not you."


She held up her drink to him. "I'd say we're both lucky."


He clinked his against hers softly. "Okay. I won't argue with that."






Seven was shaking from her talk with Liam—and also, if she was honest, from what she'd done despite that talk. She was surprised her guilt hadn't woken him up the minute she'd told the bridge crew to divert to the Ryton system.


He had to forgive her for this eventually. Right?


She paced the ready room until Picard and Riker showed up. "Good evening, sirs. I apologize for interrupting your sleep." She wanted to shake Picard but she tried to channel her best Liam.


"What is it?" Picard asked.


"Permission to speak freely, sir?"


"Go ahead," Riker said, but she wasn't really talking to him and could feel anger boiling up.


"You're going to tell me what the hell you two are really doing here, or I'm about to throw both of you out an airlock and never look back."


"Watch it, Commander. Is that how you speak to an admiral?"


A fucking retired one. As Liam had rightly pointed out. And this dick without a ship. Blowing up her goddamned life. "It's how I speak to a friend."


Picard looked at Riker before answering. "All right. I received a coded distress call from Beverly Crusher, former doctor on the Enterprise."


So far he was not making this better. From two people, they were now up to three she was betraying Liam for. "I know who she is."


"She's wounded," Riker said. "She said, 'Trust no one, including Starfleet.'"


So they came to a Starfleet ship? For fuck's sake. She was suddenly wishing she could undo everything.


Picard could obviously see her internal distress. His voice was as gentle as it always had been—the grandfather she'd never had. "We didn't want you to become complicit, jeopardize your career."


"My career. When I was a Ranger, things were much...simpler." She tried not to think how simple Liam had made it for her: do nothing, follow his orders. Be a fucking drone—that had stung...badly. "Trust my instincts, bring justice to an unjust universe."


She knew her voice was shaking but pushed on anyway. "But then you... You and Janeway convinced me to join Starfleet..."


She made a sound, half sob, half disparagement. "I thought this could be

the right path for me, I thought...I thought I could one day inspire people to follow me, even if it's dangerous. The way that you do." Only not people, one person, one very important person.


Why wouldn't he trust her?


"I can see that you're struggling. But I still think that you're in the right place." Picard's tone was soothing, the way Liam's could be when he wasn't making ultimatums.


Over? The last two years—everything they'd worked for—would be over because she wouldn't do what he wanted? Because she considered Picard important enough to break a rule or two for? Fuck him.


She scoffed to hide the fact that she wanted to cry. "How can I inspire when all I do is take shit from someone like Shaw? How am I supposed to just ignore my gut, ignore my instincts, just to follow orders?"


"If you find that answer, will you let me know? Because I never did."


She didn't find Picard's words as soothing as she thought he meant them to be.


The intercom beeped. "Commander,

we're dropping out of warp.


"Come with me," she said as she led them out to the bridge. "Ensign La Forge, viewer on."


"You disobeyed orders," Riker said as if he couldn't quite believe it.


"Welcome to the Ryton system, gentlemen. The edge of Federation space. We detected a vessel running

at the lowest-possible power levels

approximately two hundred kilometers

inside the nebula's outermost edge. The nebula's properties are interfering with our ability to scan for life-forms."


"Commander," Riker said, "you understand the consequences of what you've done for us?"


No, she was a fucking moron. God, this man was dancing on her one nerve. "In four minutes, and I mean four, the ensign guarding Shuttle 3 will be called away. Understand?"


"Got it," Riker said. If he said one bad thing about Liam she was going to kick him into the lift.


"Thank you, Seven." Picard shared a look with her—what would he have done if Riker had ever betrayed him this way?


She sighed as the lift doors closed, waiting for the storm.


It didn't take long. Liam was still fastening his uniform when he got out of the lift. "Someone want to tell me

what the hell I am looking at?"


She couldn't look at him when he came to stand next to her. And it felt different, like they were strangers—enemies. She'd turned them from something good into something horrible. She hoped to hell Beverly Crusher was worth it. "This is the Ryton system, sir."


He didn't look at her either, only over at comms. "Esmar, lock this ship down." Then he turned to her, menace in his expression, and in his tone when he asked, "And where the hell are Riker and Picard?"


La Forge interrupted their stare down. "Uh, sir? We have an unauthorized launch from shuttle bay three."


The sound he made grated on her nerves—and her guilty conscience. "Son of a bitch."


She could feel his rage when he turned to her. "You just loyaltied your way

to the end of a career." His voice was shaking a little now, but in his eyes there was no mercy. "I want a full report. The ins and outs of everything they just did." Then he walked into his ready room and the door shut behind him.


The bridge crew sat unnaturally still, the silence wasn't the usual good-humored one that went with the two of them disappearing to steal time together. None of them, including her, had ever heard him so hurt.


"I'll be right back," she said, then bounded up the stairs and he doors let her in the way they always did—the way he'd programmed them to unless he had a meeting scheduled on his calendar.


"Get. Out."


She walked far enough into the room so the doors would close. "Liam..."


"Get the fuck out of here. Now." He looked ready to kill her.


She wasn't afraid...exactly. "I had to."


"No. You chose to and that distinction is not lost on me. Now get the fuck out before I call security."


She turned and left, the doors barely opening in time for her not to crash into them.






Seven Years Ago


He woke from a dream about Wolf 359 to the sound of a disruptor being fired up, the feeling of the muzzle of said disruptor being placed against his temple.


"Who are you really?"


"I'm Commander Liam Shaw. I told you that."


He felt fingers tight in his hair, holding him still as the weapon was pulled away and a retina scanner was thrust against his face. "Fuck. Jesus, what is wrong with you?"


"Liam Shaw," the scanner spit out.


"Told you."


The fingers in his hair didn't let up and he was afraid to move, to find the disruptor back up against his face. "Let's talk this over calmly, okay, Hansen?"


A hypospray into his neck was his answer, and she let go of him and let him crumple against the wall. "What did you give me?"


"A very effective truth serum. Who are you?"


"God, you're like a broken fucking record. I'm Liam Shaw." Wow, he sounded no different than normal when he was being compelled to speak.


"How much is she paying you?"


"She who?"




"The woman who tried to blow you to kingdom come? I don't even know her. I only know what she looks like because you have your little shrine to vengeance there. Well, there's not really enough stuff to be a shrine. More like a picture a normal person would hang up—you I know of someone they actually loved, not wanted to kill."


She sat down next to him with a huff of what sounded like frustration.


"I'm pissing you off really a lot, aren't I?"


"You really are."


"Yeah, I get that a lot. I told you what I'm here for. My friend. Brett Neumann."


"Yes, Brett Neumann who works at Daystrom. We don't go near that place. Those fucking security types weren't after you, they were after me, once you set them on me."


"Huh? He works in engineering at Command."


"No, he works at Daystrom."


"You don't even work in Starfleet, lady. I mean okay, you should, and that's super short sighted on Starfleet's part that they said no to you, because you are both really impressive and hot as fucking hell. And smart too and you do engines. You're essentially my dream girl. But you don't work there so you don't get to tell me my friend doesn't work where I say he does."


She started to laugh. "So you're not a spy?"


"Fuck no. I'm an engineer about to make captain. Which is so dumb and I hope they give me a ship they do not expect to get into many scrapes because James T. Kirk I am not." He felt a huge surge of relief when she holstered her gun. "If you'd killed me, could you have brought me back with your nanoprobes? Our group of ten collect info on the Borg and that was a big one."


She shook her head but she looked evasive.


"Now who needs some fucking truth serum?" And hey, the hypo was sitting right between them. So stupid on her part. He slammed it into her neck and laughed. "There, you get to spill your fucking guts now."


"Goddamn it. I'll metabolize this really quickly. You've only served to piss me off."


"Why can't you save someone? You'd have saved your son, right?"


"I couldn't. Nanoprobes degrade the longer an individual is separated from the collective. I learned this when I tried to give hope to a dying ranger. Only...he stayed dead. His family hates me now." She looked super pissed that she was talking. "Fine, while we're sharing secrets—what's your biggest one?"


Fuck, what a bitch. But he found himself answering even though he tried to cut it off. "That the lieutenant that picked me to get on the escape pod made a mistake. That there is not one goddamn thing special about me. That I'm not worth saving."


"That's really depressing. You seem nice."


"Nice. Pffff."


"And...hot. Like, really." She closed her eyes and sighed. "Fuck you for doing this to me."


"I won't ask you about your son."


"Why not? It's the only way I'm going to tell you anything about him."


"Then, maybe he's your secret to keep. What would be another one? A fear you have?"


She met his eyes and he said, "Your eyes...so pretty."


"Yours too."


"No, no, no, answer the fucking question."


"I'm afraid I'll never be free of the Borg. That maybe me getting out wasn't really me getting out—that I was let out. For use later."


"Like a sleeper agent?"


She nodded. "They took me when I was six. I have no idea how much of me is human still and how much of me will never be anything but Borg." She looked super upset, so he took her hand.


"I think, if you were truly Borg still, that would not be your worst fear."


"But sleeper—I wouldn't know. I'd think I was good but not be."


"I'm a good judge of character. I think you're a good person. Do you really think I'm a bad guy?"


"I don't want to. I like you. I don't like very many people."


"If my friend works at Daystrom, then I don't want to get in the middle of that either. He lied to all of us." He reached out, pushed back her hair. "There's so much sadness in you."


She pulled another hypo out. "I'd really like to fuck you right now, but I think a nap is a better idea. I promise not to kill you in your sleep."


"Or dump me somewhere. That would really suck."


"You'll wake up here."


"You sure we can't fuck? I would not be opposed to that."


The hiss of a hypo was his answer.




Two Years Ago


She was relaxing on a lounge chair by one of the many gorgeous pools at Starbase 15, when a tall shadow blocked her artificial sunlight. "Want company?"


Her smile faded when she realized the man wasn't Liam. "No, thank you."


"Oh, come on. I don't bite."


"Yeah, but she does. And if she doesn't, I might." This time it was Liam, coming up from behind her, and the man sighed and moved off.


"Thank you but I could have handled him."


"Yeah but your way of handling things usually involves violence. I'd like to get off this base without a court martial of my first officer."


She rolled her eyes but that was lost on him since she had on sunglasses.


"Can't blame him though. You look like a movie star."


"A movie star with Borg implants."


"Why do you always do that?" He pushed her over so he could perch on the edge of her chair and hand her some sunscreen. "Do my back? I got the rest but..."


She squeezed some out and began to rub it into his skin. "Why do I always do what?"


"Never accept a compliment without talking about your implants."


She sighed. "Because once, on a very weird adventure with Picard, I got to experience not having them. Being fully human. Actually beautiful. People...people related to me so differently." His back was really cold under her hands. "Where have you been?"


"Touring the computer core. I should have brought you with me. They didn't say that would be part of the tour."


"If it was that cold, I'm glad I missed it."


"Don't think I didn't notice how you changed the subject." He turned to her, lifted the sunglasses off her face and just looked, in a way no one but Raffi ever had before. "You're so beautiful. But Picard again. I don't love that he's in your life."


"Well, he's not now. He has a way of...disappearing." She didn't want to badmouth him. She loved him. But he wasn't the kind who kept in touch.


Then again which of her friends was? Even Elnor had transferred his loyalty completely to Raffi after the breakup.


He slipped her sunglasses back on and moved to the chair next to her. "This feels so good."


"It really does."


"Do you have plans tonight?"


She loved that he always asked her that. Like he didn't want to assume she'd save time for him. He was taking this so slowly and she appreciated that. She and Raffi barely spoke anymore and it felt like soon, if she and Liam came together, it would be in reaction to nothing other than their own desire.


"Nope. What do you have in mind?"


"Being with you. Past that, haven't really thought."


"Bullshit. Your backup plans have backup plans."


He laughed, the bark of sound that meant she'd caught him off guard. "Okay, yeah. There's a steakhouse. I may have made a reservation but I can cancel if you're in the mood for something else."


"That sounds nice." She glanced over at him. "I've heard there's a place where you can dance with whoever you want."


"Did you want to dance with someone who's not me? Am I supposed to just sit and watch?" He grinned.


"I know you can dance."


"We can check it out if you want. But don't ever believe that any of those places are as 'what happens here stays here' as they say. They don't control who says what once they leave the place."


"Do you not want to? If it's a risk..."


"It's only a risk for you. And it was your idea. I'm just imparting some Liam Shaw wisdom droplets to my first officer."


"Like pee from the heavens."


"Damn, you can strip romance from anything."


"It's a gift." Raffi had hated it. He, however, seemed to thrive on it.






He sat in his chair, leaning forward the way he liked to. Hansen was near T'Veen, staying far away from him, which is where he wanted her.


"Sir," La Forge said, "it's faint, but I'm picking up a third signal by the nebula."


Hansen turned to the science station. "Lieutenant T'Veen, get me a full diagnostic scan."


"I'm reading photonic activity, along with energy signatures I don't recognize. It's definitely a vessel, Captain."


He appreciated her addressing him instead of Hansen on that last bit. A beep from his seat console went off and he checked the readings. "And it's packing. Have they entered Federation space yet?"


"No, sir," La Forge said, "it appears to be sticking close to the nebula."


"It's going for Picard. If we act now, we can intercept. La Forge, how long to reach them?" There Hansen went again, charging in with no fucking information.


"Belay that, Helmsman," he said in the calm voice he knew would piss her off.


The bridge crew began to look around—if it had been tense before it was horrible now.


She was not backing down. "Sir, Admiral Picard and Captain Riker are in danger."


This time he raised his voice. This time he let her feel just a portion of how pissed he was. "Commander Hansen. We are an exploratory vessel.

If that ship decides to engage us, we are outgunned. And I am not going to risk five hundred souls for two relics who think that a couple of brass medals make them golden boys." He let go of some of the energy. Sounded calm again. "They dug their grave, they took you with them. Hold your position, La Forge."


He stared at Hansen. She glared back.


"Dismissed." He said it casually, like he routinely told his first officer, his partner, and the woman he goddamned loved to leave his bridge.


She didn't move, except her eyebrow, which went up. Disdain so clear.


And the rage took him, but it was warring with hurt, hurt so bad he knew he sounded like he was going to cry. "I said dismissed."


She finally left, and he swallowed hard when the lift door closed, as he stared out at the nebula. He almost couldn't believe she'd left, that he'd won that.


He could feel a chaotic energy fill the bridge, the uncertainty of the crew members who knew him best. He sat down and took some calming breaths, inventoried what he saw until he felt his heart rate coming down.


When things felt more settled, he retreated into his ready room, into the comforting familiarity of charts and schematics on his table. He faced away from the bridge, pulling comfort from the space beyond the view screens, and for a moment, he had a sense of peace, until he heard the doors open and her footsteps.


God damn it. Did she not understand the word "Dismissed"?


He didn't turn around. "Am I going to need to confine you to quarters?"


"Lieutenant Mura detected weapon system activity, presumably targeting

Picard's unarmed shuttle." Her tone gave no quarter. And she clearly hadn't taken the lift anywhere, just probably counted to one hundred and then came back in.


He refused to look at her. "So it will be noted in my report."


"Sir, they could die if we don't help."


"Did you assist Captain Riker and Admiral Picard in commandeering my shuttle?" He listened for the tell-tale signs of a lie: her scoffing, and then answering with sarcasm rather than a real yes or no.


"I am more than certain they were able to find the shuttle bay without assistance." And there it was.


"Bullshit." Okay they could probably find the shuttle bay, but knowing which one, knowing when to go in—that was her doing.


He could feel her getting closer. "Sir, you could be the hero who saved heroes or you could be remembered for being the captain who let two legends die. It's your call. Sir." She could not have loaded more disdain into the word "Sir" if she tried.


And then she walked out and he wanted nothing more than to bring his hand down on the table and crack the display but that wasn't who he was. He wasn't a violent man.


And he wasn't going to let her or Picard make him one now.


"Oh, fuck me." He turned, strode out, and she turned to look at him from her chair. "La Forge, you in the mood to short circuit a tractor beam?"


La Forge actually giggled and he sort of loved her at that moment—she was everything he was trying to save. "Yes, sir. But the distance between them..."


"Is getting smaller as we talk. Do it. Everyone brace." He grabbed the handrail.


"What are you...?" Hansen was suddenly thrown back as the ship cut between the big ship and the other, effectively winking out the tractor beam as it shook violently from the effort. "You're insane. You're both insane."


"Isn't that what you wanted, Commander. A heroic play? And it worked."


"I honestly didn't know you had that in you."


"It's fucking named after me. Or it will be if someone else hasn't already claimed it. Someone make sure I'm given credit if I'm not around to demand it."


"Yes, sir," his entire bridge crew said. God damn he loved them.


Question was did they break the beam or just interrupt it and would be caught too?


Mura said, "Sir, tractor beam is broken."


Fuck, yeah. "Red alert. Helm, hold position. Bring those two back on board."


T'Veen was scanning. "Captain, I'm reading four life signs."


Of course she was. These assholes were like fucking tribbles. "Bring them all on board. We're basically a hotel now."






Seven Years Ago


She was sitting at the helm when he came out of the sleeping area. He leaned against the panel and seemed to be studying her; she was beyond tired and knew she looked like shit but at least her hair wasn't doing whatever his was.


"How did you sleep?" she asked. "Those drugs can cause headaches."


"I'm okay. Did you sleep?"




"Was it because of me? I know I talk—call out—in my sleep. And thrash. It's the opposite of restful. Even when you have your own bed." Which she did, she'd put him in the lower bunk across the room from where she probably should have been sleeping. But her hackles were up over Neumann and she didn't ignore them: her instincts had kept her alive out here.


"I was out here working, but I would have heard you. You seemed out for the count, and mercifully not talking. Must have been the drugs."


He laughed. "Might have been the company. So why were you out here all night?"


"I'm trying to figure a flight path to log that'll route us to the nearest port so security can catch wind of it, question us, take us off any suspect list, and we can be clear of them."


"Why do we need to be clear of them? You're pretty much done helping me, right? Neither of us wanting to take on Daystrom."


"Correct. Yet, and forgive me for being cynical, I have a feeling I'll do much better with them if I have a Starfleet commander with me. Starfleet security officers are generally not a fan of the rangers."


"Makes sense." He turned to the star chart on the screen. "This doesn't though." He pointed to the planet she'd highlighted. "That's a long way from being the nearest port."


"It's the nearest port where I have places to go if things get weird. Daystrom people are usually intel, no matter what they say to the contrary. And intel people are not my favorites. I want multiple secure bolt holes."


"You routinely have run-ins with them?"


"No, because I do this. I avoid them."


"But you must have had a run-in with them or you wouldn't be this cautious."


She took a deep breath and looked up at him. "Yes. It was big fun coming back to the Alpha Quadrant as someone who hadn't been assimilated as an adult but grew up in a maturation chamber. They'd only worked with those assimilated as adults. I just couldn't wait to be a lab rat for them." Sarcasm was dripping off her but she didn't care.


"You weren't though...?" He actually sounded concerned.


"Kathryn Janeway made it very clear how many media outlets would hear about it if I was taken."


"She seems like a force of nature. A good person to have on your side."


"She was." Bitterness spewed up inside her. "But I don't see her—or anyone else from that ship—at my side now, do you?"


"Whoa, someone needs a nap." He moved a little bit away when he said it, which made her smile. He was smart as well as a smart ass. "So this bolt hole is just for you or can I fit too?"


She met his eyes. "I doubt they'll care about you. They'll blame me for anything you did. This isn't your normal behavior, out in the outer reaches searching for a friend, right?"


He shook his head.


"If you want to make captain, you'll need to convince them you're not a problem. So think of a reason other than chasing down Neumann for why you retained me."


He sighed. "I'm not big on creative nonfiction."


"Most of us just call them lies."


He seemed sincerely stumped.


"Oh, for God's sake, tell them we met in a bar, got really drunk, and took this sweet little ship out for a joy ride."


"All the way out here?"


"I'm known for being selective. If I say I was enjoying you enough to want you to myself for a while, they'll take it as fact. I have no idea if you generally pick up random people or not but a whole bar of people who view me as unapproachable saw you pick me up."


"That's true, isn't it? And don't be throwing sideways insults at me. Random pick-ups blah blah blah. I'm not the one pulling out truth serum and disruptors on the first date."


She laughed. "This is not a date. But yes, say it is. Say it started with you looking for your friend and then...devolved."


"For the record, I think it evolved—you're better company than he is. Scary as that is." He eyed her mug longingly.


"There's coffee in the galley. Cinnamon rolls and donuts in the stasis box."


"Music to my ears."


As he disappeared into the galley, she wondered if any of her friends would bother to look for her if she disappeared. Then she bit back bitter laughter. She pretty much had disappeared. And here they were not. Why did she even still consider them friends?


Fuck, he was right. She did need a nap.


He came back with a cinnamon roll he'd heated up and found butter for—it smelled amazing—and he had a big mug of coffee. "Mmmm."


"I know. I have a special place I go on Pridaa. Best pastries around."


He paced as he ate, but at least he put his coffee down in the cup holder by the spare seat. "So you're right. I was kind of running away from something. I'm the last of the ten that would normally go off after a runaway."


She studied the tight set of his jaw, the way he had his eyes closed. "Painful breakup?"


He shook his head. "It's my last days as an engineer. As a free man—although that's not how I'm supposed to look at it. This is an honor. Some fool above me recommended me for this."


"Congratulations then."


"Thanks. But I start captain's training very shortly. I'm not command track and I've never been a first officer so they'll assign me a mentor—some other captain or God forbid admiral who won't see the same thing my boss did, probably—and then it's a year alternating between formal training and shadowing other captains and cross training in sections I haven't worked in before. I'll learn bureaucracy—which I'm actually already pretty good at—and then, once I'm done, I'm in charge of a bunch of people's lives. Hopefully they'll give me a small ship to start. Or a drone, I could fly a drone."


She could see the uncertainty in him; it was the same way Icheb had been right before reporting to Starfleet Academy. He'd excelled in his distance classes but had still been worried about making it when face to face with his peers.


"As an engineer, you're already in charge of a bunch of people's lives. Aren't you?


He smiled, a small close-mouthed smile that was sweet and...grateful. "Yeah, I know but..."


"Don't second-guess this. If they want you to be a captain, it's because you're meant to be one."


"But I'm not. I don't look up to a single one of the legends. I look up to Trip Tucker and Montgomery Scott and B'Elanna Torres and Geordi La Forge."


"That's not a bad thing. Keep doing that. Captains sometimes play with lives." Like how Kathryn had snapped her out of a place she'd never been lonely and then forgotten her when it became clear she wasn't going to be accepted, much less excel. "Engineers just want to not blow people up, keep the ship able to run and to fight, and to make things work efficiently."


"Yeah. So just be me? Only in the center seat?"


She nodded and finished her coffee.


"Refill? I'm up."


"Thanks. And can you get me a cinnamon roll? The way you made it, with the butter all melted."


"The secret is to position the butter strategically before you heat it up. So it drips inside the space between the rolls, not over the side."


"Good to know." She laughed at his earnestness. "Don't make a mess."


"Wouldn't dream of it, Cap'n."


She rolled her eyes.


A few minutes later he came out of the galley and handed her the mug and a cinnamon roll.


As she bit into it, his padd went off.


He checked the caller info, then said with a big grin, "Hey, Mom."


His mother came on, looking very little like him. She assumed he took after his father.


But she sounded like him. "Liam, where the fuck are you? I just had the most annoying bullshit visit from security."


She started to laugh, thinking she was out of frame, but his mom said, "And who, my dear, are you?"




"Busted," he murmured.


"I'm Seven," she said, as he held up the padd so they were both on it—why was she being made part of this?


"Interesting name. Seven what?"


"Seven swans a swimmin', Ma." He turned and winked at her before looking back at the screen.


It fit. She'd been what most considered an ugly duckling as a Borg and now look at her. By the number of people who tried to pick her up, she was doing something right, even if she thought a lot of them were doing it for the novelty or danger factor. Bed an ex-Borg who was also a ranger.


She said no to most of them. Especially since Bjayzl.


"You're an ex-Borg, aren't you." Like him, his mother's question didn't sound like it was prompted by fear or hatred, but rather curiosity.


"Mom, lay off her." He turned to Seven again. "She's an engineer. Learned everything I know from her." He gave her the sweetest smile, and she was suddenly on Voyager, showing Icheb how to do something, then holding him, that last time. Before drawing her weapon and...


"Sweetheart," his mom said to her, her tone sounding way too much like Kathryn's, "are you all right?"


"Excuse me," she said and hurried into the galley.


"Sorry, Ma. And sorry about security. It was Neumann and Hans—Seven's helping me find him—or more accurately not, because I don't want to get in the middle of this."


"I bet she's helping."


"Ma." He sounded so embarrassed. "Cut it out."


Would Icheb and she have had conversations like this? Her softly grilling him as to his love life, him just as embarrassed as Liam sounded?


She could feel herself tearing up—damn it all. She needed sleep. She needed to not be in the middle of this. Fuck this guy and his mom and his friends he didn't give up on until he had to.


She went all the way into the engine room and let the ambient noise drown out everything else so she wouldn't have to hear any more of their conversation.




Two Years Ago


"Do you believe in soulmates," he asked as they danced.




"Wow. Zero hesitation." He started to laugh.


"You were right about this place. I see people in here that will undoubtedly snitch on us."


"I'm always right, Hansen. When are you going to get that?"


She felt great in his arms but he murmured, "Do you want to go?"


"No I want to dance. That was just an observation." She snaked her arms a little tighter around his neck. "Do you believe in soulmates?"


"I didn't use to. Right now, I might be convincible."


"That's a very sweet answer." She seemed to realize he was pushing against her in a manner a little more aggressive than usual. It left nothing to the imagination. "Hmmm, someone is trying to send a message."


"It's not encrypted." He laughed at the face she made. "It's pretty damn primal. Me see woman. Me dance with woman. Me decide woman is out of rebound period."


She leaned in, whispered, "Me want to fuck woman?"


"Oh, God, yes. But—and I know this is going to sound weird because I'm the one who started this—it should be on the ship."


"It should? With all the interruptions?"


"Yeah. 'Cause that's how it'll be. I just wanted to get it out there that I'm no longer in the 'we should wait' stage. That if you're ready, I'm ready. But if you're not, then that's okay too. I can wait."


"What if I've decided you're not my type."


"I will go cry in my beer."


"You're drinking Malbec."


"I know but that doesn't have the same snappy ring to it." He laughed and pulled her to him, kissing her gently. "Just a little preview so you don't deny me."


"It's highly doubtful I will deny you. We have another day here, though. We could be doing so many things. Fun things. I don't want interruptions on our first time reconnecting."


"You want me that bad? I mean I am a god, so yeah. But you're a hard sell."


"One of us is going to the other's room, putting the 'do not disturb' sign on, and then we are going to have some fun."


"Okay." He tried to hide how pleased he was at the idea. Parts of him were not hiding at all.


"That's what you really wanted." She whapped him on the upper arm. "You just wanted me to be the one who couldn't stand to wait."


He knew his expression was way too smug.


"Maybe we should wait."






He had a feeling their smiles were matched sets of mischief and passion. "Let's get the fuck out of here."






She stood in the corridor outside her quarters, looking at his door, so conveniently across from hers. His words replayed in her head as he'd dressed her down in front of Picard and Riker.


And you. You are no better. Helping them commandeer my shuttle. Persuading me to engage with a hostile entity outside of Federation space. Wagering five hundred lives against your loyalty to a whopping total of two. You are relieved of duty for insubordination.


Only the sound of his steps coming down the hall drowned out the words. She hated that she had such accurate recall, a byproduct of having been Borg.


He stopped and leaned against the wall facing her. "So, here we are."


She lifted her chin, was not going to go out without a fight. "Here we are. Liam."


She could tell calling him by his name pissed him off. He palmed open his door, stepped into the room, and said, "Computer, remove access to these quarters for Commander Hansen."


"Access removed."


She felt as if he'd punched her in the gut. When she met his eyes, he had tears in his, but she knew she had them in hers too.


His voice was a ragged whisper. "How could you...? You've been so loyal. You are the last one I'd have ever—I'd have bet my life, Hansen. My fucking life that you'd be the last one to betray me. Well, the joke's on me."




"That's Captain Shaw to you, Commander. There is no Liam for you any longer." He hit his chest over his heart. "He fucking died."


Tears fell freely down her face. "We can work through this."


"No, we really can't. Now get in your goddamn quarters and stay there."


She palmed her door and stepped inside, turning to watch him as the doors closed her in.


Then she collapsed into her desk chair and forced herself to stop crying. She'd made her choice.


And she'd hurt him in the process. Hurt them both.


But, as Kathryn would have said, "What's done is done."


Awhile later she heard him over the intercom. "Security alert. A prisoner has escaped the brig. Use precautions. He may be armed."


She was out and into the hallway, calling up reinforcements. "I don't give a damn what rank I do or don't have, I need a tac team to the shuttle bay ASAP.

I'll secure the transporters."


She walked into the transporter room to find Jack with a phaser pointed at the transporter chief. "Get on with it," he was saying frantically. "Get on with it."


She pulled her weapon and he turned his from the chief to her.


"Get him to unlock it. I want out."


Out? The only place to go was space or the ship chasing them. She hit her commbadge. "Hansen to Shaw. I found him."


"You may have just earned your post back. Bring him up."


"He's currently in the transporter

bay with a phaser and a request to unlock the controls." She wanted him to hear what she was saying. That this kid was giving himself up for all of them.


Jack finally lowered his phaser and she lowered hers. They stood a moment, just staring, his look somewhere between resigned and hopeless.


Then the ship began to move, there was the feel of firing.


Liam was running. She smiled as she met Jack's eyes.


"What's happening?"


"Looks like my captain's not giving you up without a fight."






Seven Years Ago


He watched her as she piloted them to a berth in the spaceport. This kind of ship wasn't usually a one-person vessel but she was so fucking efficient. Moving seamlessly from one control to the next, landing with the lightest of bumps.


She glanced at him. "What?"


"Poetry in motion."


She laughed. "I think it's a Borg thing."


"I think it's a you thing." He smiled gently. She was probably right in one sense—she'd be used to doing instead of questioning as a Borg. It was probably not in her nature to doubt that something was possible. But that was what made her a little reckless too. Drones were expendable so they had no sense of danger—there were always others to take their place.


"You're still staring at me."


"You're just so interesting. Your background, what you're doing now. How good you are at it. How much of you must there be to be this much of a ball buster? This much in charge?"


She lifted an eyebrow, a perplexed smile on her face.


"You say your skills are Borg things and okay, maybe some of them are. But I think you—the you sitting next to me—is a lot more than Borg."


"What I was supposed to grow into if I hadn't been assimilated? It's certainly true that my parents were extraordinarily reckless. They thought they could outrun every risk. And they did, for a long time. Until they didn't."


"Do you remember being taken?"


Her whole expression changed. "Yes. It was terrifying. When I have nightmares, they're of that. Or of being reassimilated."


"That makes total sense."


She seemed about to say more when pounding sounded on the exterior door. "Right on time."


"Fuck, they aren't kidding around." He met her eyes.


"I left very good breadcrumbs. Or very bad, depending on your point of view." She gave him the sweetest smile he'd seen from her yet. "Relax. This will go fine. Just follow my lead."




She held her hand out to him, and they walked to the door together. Hitting the panel to open it, her body language changed entirely as she sort of melted into him, her arm around his waist.


"I'm Lieutenant Barker from Starfleet Security. I'm looking for Commander Liam Shaw," a stern looking woman said as the door opened. She seemed alert but didn't have her weapon out.


Hansen's voice was sultry and she laughed in a super sexy way as she said, "Get your own guy, toots. This one's mine." Then she leaned back against him, looking up at him in a way he hoped to God meant she wanted him to kiss her, because kiss her he did.


Fortunately, she kissed him right back. Lovingly. With the perfect amount of tongue. Holy fuck, this woman was just...everything.


The lieutenant coughed as they kept kissing. "I have some questions. They won't take long."


"God, you're a buzzkill," Hansen said, letting him go and walking away, then draping herself over the helm chair in a way he didn't know could be that fucking sexy.


"Come in," he said, motioning her to the auxiliary seat near the wall as he took his usual chair next to Hansen, but not in the sexy way she'd done because he was pretty sure he'd fuck that kind of thing up. "Am I in trouble?"


"Why are you out here, sir?"


He and Hansen, after him practicing different answers, had decided the truth was better than him trying to lie. "I was worried about my friend Brett Neumann. But then I got out here and saw what it was like. Following him around seemed like a super bad idea when I had no idea why he was here or where he was going, and I met Annika"—he prayed she wouldn't stab him for using her given name—"and she pretty much convinced me that I was right—super bad idea to try to find him. And then one thing led to another..." He looked over at her and gave her the most loving grin he was capable of.


She gave him one back that almost made his heart stop.


"I see." Barker didn't sound like she doubted him.


He forged on. "We've been on the ship this whole time. Just kind of sailing around, tinkering with the engines—I'm an engineer and I thought I'd do some maintenance. Well, I was doing it and then she took off some of her clothes and... Anyway, yeah, I'm sure you can fill in the rest."


"I'm sure I can." The woman walked over to him, put a device around his wrist and asked, "Have you seen Brett Neumann since his last comm to you."


"No." The bracelet turned green.


"Are you looking for him?"


"No." Green again.


"You and this woman are involved?"


"Well, it's new." The bracelet seemed to not know what to do with something that wasn't yes or no. He thought of her kiss, how they'd both injected each other with truth serum, how he'd taught her the correct way to put butter on a cinnamon role, how she met his mom. "Yes."


It glowed green.


"Okay then." She undid the bracelet. Then she turned to Hansen, who stood and walked over to her, pulling her sweater off as she did—her bra was a simple black one but she looked hella good in it.


"Lieutenant, have you ever been in a threesome?" Hansen got right up in her face. "I love hazel eyes."


"Ma'am, thank you but no." The woman was blushing madly. "I'll just be going." She hurried out.


Hansen waited a few minutes, as if more security officers were going to be streaming through the door at any moment. Then she closed the door, walked back to her chair, and pulled her sweater back on.


"You could leave that off."


She rolled her eyes at him. Then she leaned forward. "How did you get it to go green on the us being involved question?"


"You met my fucking mom. I slept in your bed. Well not your bed but one of your beds. And you'd just kissed me. It was a really nice kiss, by the way."


"We're not involved."


"No, yeah, I mean of course not." He looked out the view screen, which had turned transparent so they could see out.


"They may still be watching us," she said.


"Then we should act like I wasn't lying, right?"


She laughed.


"I mean unless you hate the idea of spending more time with me. Because I don't hate the idea of spending more time with you. And like you, I don't like all that many people."


She seemed to be assessing him. Then she got up, walked over, straddled him, and began to kiss him. The way she was grinding on him was making him crazy, the way her lips worked his. He felt like he was losing all control.


Then she pulled away and said, "Stop."


He let go of her, breathing hard, meeting her eyes. He was hard and he wanted to thrust up but he forced himself to stay still, frowning as he tried to figure out what the fuck she was doing.


She didn't move, just watched him, then she smiled and he realized he'd passed a test he didn't even understand. "I can see I've confused you. A lot of people out here don't stop once they start. I have to make them stop. And I don't hold back when I do that." She cupped his cheek with her left hand, the implant soft against his skin. "But you stopped. Even though I can feel how much you want this."


"Well, it's been a while." He laughed softly. "And it's you. I wasn't lying obviously under truth serum. You really are my dream girl. I'm probably not your dream guy though...no prize package here and—"


He had to shut up because she was kissing him, gently though. Then she said, "I'm starving. And the food market here is amazing."


"Well your replicator definitely leaves a little something to be desired and a man cannot live on pastries alone. And I'd get to be with you so I'd pretty much go dig latrines if it meant you'd do it with me."


"There will be no latrine digging."


"Awesome. Food market it is then. But...give me a sec? Get myself under control?"


"I have a better idea." And she was off him just enough to pull her pants down and his and then she was hovering and saying, "Unless you don't want to? Consent works both ways."


"I want to." And then he was throwing his head back and moaning as she settled onto him, squeezing hard and pulling his head back up so they could kiss.


And it wasn't a violent kiss like he expected. She was so sweet and he ran his fingers through her hair and let himself just get lost in her for the moment. And then she was crying out and he watched her, memorizing how she looked as she came, just in case this never happened again until he couldn't anymore because he was coming too.


"Wow," she whispered as she collapsed against him, as he rubbed her back gently.


"Oh, yeah. I wish she'd come ask me that question now. I'd blow that fucking bracelet up."


She laughed and it was such a lighthearted sound that it made him laugh too.


"Food?" she asked softly, getting off him and going into the head then popping out long enough to toss him a washcloth before going back in.


He cleaned himself up and said, "Yeah. Food."




Two Years Ago


She pushed him into his room, engaged the "Do Not Disturb" sign, and then turned, standing still, smiling because...finally, this moment had come.


"You look pretty happy."


"You look overdressed." She moved to him, and he pulled her into his arms, kissing her like she was going to leave him again, even though he'd have to be the one to call this off. She was never going to lose him, not now that he'd found her.


Saved her.


"I didn't say it before, Liam. I couldn't." She knew he'd take that to mean maybe she hadn't been there yet, and she was okay with that. "But now I can. I love you." She stroked his face, the beard she loved so much. "I love you so fucking much."


"I love you." And he scooped her up and carried her the short way to the bed and they just lay there, fully clothed, kissing and easing away to look at each other with no guards up. No having to fool the crew. Just them, safe and warm and together.


And then they began to take items of clothing off the other, slowly, drawing this out, saving the best bits for last, rolling onto and off of each other, moaning almost words, until there was nothing but skin on skin and she wrapped her legs around him.


And they were one.


They didn't move, just stared at each other, both she thought in the same exact place, the same exact feeling, the moment extending backwards and forwards.


"I love you," he said, and then he began to move.


They didn't leave his room until it was time to report back to the ship.






He stood on the bridge, watching his crew go off for some well-deserved rest, but he stayed put until their replacements were settled. Then he went into his ready room and commed Hansen.


He'd decided to send her back to her quarters, decided not to take the charges off just yet but he'd kept them internal only, they were not going to Starfleet Command. Not yet. Maybe, if he kept her in her quarters, Picard couldn't get her to do any more foolish things.


She answered immediately. Mozart's "Ave Verum Corpus" was playing. Her favorite music to wallow in. She cut it off and just stared at him.


"The guard at your door was a nice touch, huh?"


"Fuck you." But her voice was off—shattered even. "Come down here and tell me that."


"I can't. Because if we're in the same room, I'll feel it. The chemistry that's always arcing between us. The chemistry I haven't been able to ignore since the moment I met you. And I need to be able to think. I need to be able to do what's best for this ship and this crew. And you."


"And that means locking me up?"


He could practically feel his heart breaking, her tone was so lost. "Yeah, Babe, it does."


"You still call me that after..." She gestured around the room. 'This."


"Love doesn't die in a day."


"Then why let one betrayal bring us to this when I could be of help to you? After everything we've been through, one betrayal is nothing."


"No, it's worse. If you'd done this at the beginning, when you were first on board, I'd have understood your split loyalties. But I have given you everything and I—" He was choking up, couldn't continue.


She ran her hand along the screen, tracing his face, he imagined. "I love you, Liam. Let me be at your side where I belong."


"And I love you. And now I have to go try to clean up the mess you and your friends have made. Shaw out." He rose because those "friends" had just arrived on the bridge.


And then all hell broke loose. The Shrike was back and firing. Over and over like it had a homing beacon on them. How the fuck was Vadic finding them?


Hit after hit, until he was sailing through the air, until he wasn't, until soft skin and bones not made to collide with railings did anyway. His chest, his legs, slamming hard, his head next, and he drooled blood as he tried to get up, as he realized there was bone sticking out of his leg and his chest hurt really badly.


He could barely think with the pain, had to force himself to speak through it, to angrily transfer command to Riker even though it killed him to give this ass anything. To speak the authorization code. To let himself be helped off the bridge, to let his weight fall on those supporting him as agony overwhelmed him.


He was in and out as Ohk worked on him. Then he felt the pain in his chest ramp up, tried to breath and it hurt and he heard himself rasping.


So many people working on him, arguing, goddamn doctors, and then Jack, holding his hand, calming him down.


He managed to get out, "How—how is she finding us?" Jack was muttering pointless platitudes so he waved him closer. "How does she keep finding us?"


He might be fucking dying. But he would look out for his crew and this ship he goddamned loved.


And he saw Jack get it, saw him looking at the blood spots dripped onto the floors of his normally pristine sickbay. And he was gone and Shaw gave himself over to the drugs Ohk was giving him. And then more drugs that Jack's mother gave him.


Fuck, they were still arguing. "Shut it," he tried to say but it came out gibberish.


And the world went to black.


He woke in another part of sickbay, where the people not actively dying were kept and that made him happy. Then he tried to move and felt his leg and his chest and his head scream.


"Here." A hypospray, a beloved voice.


"You're confined to quarters."


"Jack needed help on your mission to figure out how she was finding us so he broke me out. You were right. We were leaking Verterium. And it was sabotage not something that happened in the attack. It'll be vented soon." She gently washed his face with a damp cloth. "They're a little busy out there with Jack. But he's alive. I think."


"He got hurt?"


She nodded. "I'm not sure by whom but my guess is the saboteur. I need to debrief him. Find out who's doing this."


He approved of her doing that. "Go. Forget my face."


"Shut up and let me do this." And then she leaned in and kissed him very gently and he kissed her back because why the hell not? Odds were good none of them were getting out of this alive.


He pulled her against him more tightly until his chest complained and he had to let her go.


"Good kiss, Captain Shaw." Her smile was the one he loved. Then she went back to cleaning him up.


"Whatever happens. However pissed off I am—and I am pissed off. I love you."


"I love you too." She turned at a sound. "They need me. I'll be back when I can."


He thought she probably wouldn't be. Not when he felt the explosion and knew in his gut where it was, what it was.


His beautiful engines. His beautiful ship. It felt, as the ship rocked and jerked, like the Constance. Fate was finally catching up with him.


He was just sorry it was going to catch up with her too.



Continue to Part 2